Our brains are programmable, and we are the programmersSocially and culturally, the knowledge of our own capacity for self-creation is a fulcrum, the differentiator between two stages of development.

Thanks to science and the discovery of neuroplasticity, we know that we can train our brains. This a matter of empirical fact, not opinion. Thanks to the contemplative traditions, we know how to train our minds. The knowledge that we are doing so all the time whether we like it or not – in other words, that we are always active agents in our own self-creation – can be felt to confer a deeper sense of moral responsibility (as well as power). It is a new freedom and a new burden, depending on how we relate to it.

Read more: Self-creation as a cultural fulcrum

One of the major perks of this job is seeing the beneficial impact of mindfulness training on people's lives.

First, you make a connection with reality, with what is. You simply meet it. That requires letting go of two old companions who have been impersonating reality, holding you by the hand and guiding you: what you fear, and what you hope for.

Their palms are clammy and familiar, and letting them go to meet with reality is not a particularly glorious feat. It is totally ordinary, even mundane, because what is will not entertain you or accommodate your hangups. It has no bias towards you or against you. That is why it is reliable.

Making that connection is the first step towards making friends with reality. Over time, that friendship can become a deep love affair, and a love affair with what is has no end.

 

Jacques looks something like this In what will hopefully be the first of many interesting interviews I'll publish on this site, I talked to Jacques Rousseau about the aims and philosophy of the Free Society Institute, a South African non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting free speech, free thought and scientific reasoning.

Jacques describes himself "as a voluntary exile from professional philosophy, where having to talk metaphysics eventually became unbearably irritating. He now spends his time trying to arrest the rapid decline in common sense exhibited by his species, both through teaching critical thinking and business ethics at the University of Cape Town."

Read more: Interview with Jacques Rousseau

We like precision. We like to know starkly and precisely where things end and begin, so we can draw the boundaries of this and tell it apart from that. Language depends on it, so does science. We distinguish key from keyboard, petal from flower, word from sentence. Working at the human scales of granularity is natural to us; we do it all the time without thinking too much.

Read more: Change and Systems Thinking: Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm working on a project that’s sometimes thrilling and sometimes terrifying, depending on how I happen to be thinking about it at the time. Watch this space, and don’t hold your breath. Without giving too much away, it has a lot to do with innate brilliance, the idea that within every person is a reservoir of brilliant potential. It doesn't have to be contrived, because it’s already there. It has to be discovered, appreciated, cultivated and applied. And then great things can happen.

Read more: Precision as Brilliance