Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

November 17, 2020

The Author

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and writer who spent 17 years in a home for the physically disabled. His books include In Praise of Weakness. He lives in Switzerland. For more, visit alexandre-jollien.ch.

Freedom for All of Us Cover

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Translated from the original responses in French.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice? Is there a

playlist or album you listen to?

Sils Maria

Meditation really opens me up to write. Walking too. Above is a photo of me walking in Sils Maria, Switzerland, where Friedrich Nietzsche lived at one time. However, in my eyes, writing is never systematic [or methodical]. It’s not a [mere] technique. A writer has to render themself available to messages that come—in some sense—from beyond. Conversations with friends, explorations into the mundane, family life, the readings of the great thinkers, the practice of Zazen … all these things feed my desire to pick up my pen again. I write, or rather I dictate my writings, in silence. However, sometimes I do enjoy techno music, which keeps me going and wards off anything that could poison an idea I have; “the sad passions” as the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, called them.

Send us a photo of you and your pet (and let us know if your pet had any role in helping you write your book)!

Grisette

We have a little hamster at home, Grisette, who is our children’s little darling. For me, he embodies peace and a certain serenity. When I look at him, I see a being that isn’t deep in denial and agitated. [Although] sometimes, when he frolics on his hamster wheel, I have the impression that he’s reminding me that my mind, too, can often run in [unnecessary] circles …

 

 

 

If there is a book that started your spiritual journey, what was it? How old were you, and

how did you discover it? How would you describe its impact?

When I was a child, I didn’t enjoy reading and I thought that wisdom was reserved for the elite. I considered culture to be so far removed from everyday problems that I avoided it completely. One day, I accompanied a friend into a bookstore. While I was waiting for her, I flipped through pages from books by Plato and Aristotle. The book [that made an impact] was L’étonnement philosophique [“Philosophic Wonder”] by Jeanne Hersch, which traces the history of Western thought. In my adolescence, that book gave me a great foundation, a benchmark, a marker, a starting point. It’s an admirable book. Afterwards, I really fell into reading the greats, like Plato, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Epictetus, all of which still inspire me today. I was 14 years old then, and reading had changed my life.

Below are portraits [of some of my favorite philosophers and spiritual teachers] painted by my son, Augustin.

portraits

 

 

 

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Alexandre Jollien

Also By Author

How Does Meditation Liberate Us?

MATTHIEU RICARD: In the beginning, our mind is very turbulent, so it is very difficult to complete an analytical meditation and to cultivate compassion, and it’s still more difficult to observe the nature of awareness. We just have to deal with a whirligig of thoughts. The first step, therefore, as we have seen, is to achieve a certain level of calm. We don’t do this by knocking out the mind the way we would knock somebody out with a stick; rather we give it a chance to become a little clearer, a little more stable.

That’s why most meditations begin with observation of the breath. It is at the same time practical (the breath is always there), simple (a constant movement of coming and going), and subtle (it’s invisible, and if we don’t pay attention, it disappears instantly from our perceptual field). It is, therefore, an excellent object for refining our attentional faculty. This simple training is not necessarily easy, however. We can even be discouraged at the beginning by seeing that “I have more thoughts now than I had before; meditation is not for me.” There are not necessarily more of the thoughts; rather we have begun to perceive what is going on, to be able to gauge the extent of the damages. However, like a waterfall turning into a mountain torrent, and then into a river, and finally a still lake, the mind calms down with time.

After a few weeks or even a few months, I can pass on to the next stage: “Now that I have a more flexible and accessible mind and can direct it like a well-trained horse, I can say to it: ‘Apply yourself to compassion.’” This sequence of progression should be respected, and it is of no use trying to skip ahead. If you try to meditate on compassion when your mind still won’t hold still, you won’t cultivate compassion; you’ll simply be distracted.

I can also ask myself, “In the end, who is meditating? The ego? Awareness?” I can analyze the nature of all that. In a more contemplative and direct fashion, I can deepen my questioning: “What is behind all these thoughts? Is it not awakened presence, the quality of pure awareness that is behind all mental events?” At that point, I begin to glimpse that which, underlying all thoughts, is always there like the unmoving sky behind the clouds. I can then let the mind rest in this pure awareness.

 

A Toolbox for Meditation

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

Meditation is not only a religious or spiritual practice; it is also a form of mind training. It can help us cultivate attention, detachment, understanding, and emotional balance. It can also help us to develop our basic human virtues, which otherwise might lie dormant deep within us and not express themselves. I’m talking about kindness, compassion, generosity, and so on.

Meditation is simple. It only requires us to regularly pause and observe the nature of our experience—our breathing, sensations, emotions, thoughts. Everything starts with that.

Starting with very simple kinds of exercises like those recommended in mindfulness meditation (the kind of meditation we use in health care and education), there are many meditative traditions that are much more demanding and complex. As with the piano, we can very quickly learn to play a few little pleasant tunes; then we can go on to cultivate virtuosity for the rest of our lives.

 

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

Let things pass. If I had to sum up the practice in three words, without hesitation, I’d go for “Let things pass.” In the midst of chaos or deep in one’s inner battlefields, dare to make the experiment of not controlling, of dropping the self. It’s mayhem, but there’s no problem! Far from giving up and far from resignation, letting things pass means distinguishing between the psychodramas (the problems created by conceptual mind) and the genuine tragedies of existence, which call for solidarity, commit- ment, and perseverance.

Meditating is stripping down, daring to live nakedly in order to give oneself, contributing to the welfare of the world, giving one’s share. Why don’t we look at the day that lies ahead of us not as a store where we can acquire things, but as a clinic, a dispensary of the soul, where together we can recover and advance?

 

MATTHIEU RICARD:

Meditation requires diligence, which should be nourished by enthusiasm, by joy in the virtues, by inner peace, by compassion, and by the feeling of having a clear direction in life.

Meditation, in itself, does not have harmful effects. Meditation is not contraindicated unless it is not properly understood or properly used—used in the wrong conditions or at the wrong time. Whether we like it or not, from morning till night we are dealing with our mind. Who wouldn’t want their mind to be functioning in the optimal fashion and to be providing them with inner freedom rather than playing rotten tricks on them?

This is an adapted excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

Copy of MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré©PhilippeDanais2017

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Re...

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Relationships:

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

For this toolbox I’d like to put forward a little bit of theory about how we are supported by relationships — that is, to offer an overall look at what we receive from our relationships with others.

The five benefits of relationships. Studies show that social support can be broken down into several families of benefits:

  1. Material support: Others can help us in concrete ways. If I’ve broken my leg, I will be glad if somebody will do my shopping for me. If I have to move, I will be happy to have my friends help me transport the boxes.
  2. Informational support: Others can advise us, give us useful infor- mation, and play the role of human search engines — as intelligent as Google but alive and compassionate — and they won’t resell our personal information afterward.
  3. Emotional support: Others are the source of positive emotions; they give us affection, love, friendship, trust, admiration.
  4. The support of esteem. Others can remind us of our value and good qualities, tell us what they like about us, and sustain our self-esteem at moments of uncertainty.
  5. The inspiration of their example: This is more difficult to evaluate scientifically, but it’s quite real, as we have indicated.

The four varieties of relationships. Another important point is that it is helpful to cultivate varied social relationships, just as it is important to have a varied diet. There are four families of relationships, distributed in four concentric circles:

  1. Our intimates: the people we live with, whom we touch and embrace practically every day. This means mostly our family and best friends.
  2. Our close relations: our friends and colleagues, people with whom we regularly have close and regular exchanges.
  3. Our acquaintances: the whole network of people with whom we have a connection, even occasional, and who we keep track of and who keep track of us.
  4. Unknowns: those who we might also have relationships with, depending on our character. This includes people we might speak to on the street, on public transport, in stores. They can also be sources of help or information for us, as we can for them.

Specialists in social relations remind us that it is important to draw sup- port from these four circles — not only from our intimate and close relations—and to sustain our connections with these four relational spheres by giving and receiving help, information, support, eye contact, advice, and smiles. Because the idea is not only to receive but also to give, by speaking to unknowns and maintaining warm relations with our acquaintances, neighbors, and shopkeepers, we do ourselves good. And we embellish the world, improve it, and make it more human!

 

MATTHIEU RICARD:

The importance of social connection. We should choose to live in an environment where people are warm, altruistic, and compassionate. If this isn’t the case in all areas of our living space, we should progressively try to establish these values or, if it’s possible, we should leave the toxic environment.

In this connection, I like to cite the case of a community on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which claims to have one of the world’s highest concentrations of people aged a hundred or over. It appears that the main factor in this exceptional longevity is not the climate or the food, but the power of this community, where people maintain particularly rich social relationships. From cradle to grave, they relate very closely with one another. The elderly people in particular get together several times a week to sing, dance, and have a good time. Almost every day they go to schools to greet the children (whether they have familial links with them or not) at the end of the school day. The elders take the children in their arms and give them treats.

Draw inspiration from the righteous, from people who, in our eyes, embody the values of impartiality, tolerance, compassion, love, and kindness. In these times of the migratory crisis, I think of all those who have taken great risks, and I remember those who protected Jewish people during the Nazi persecutions of World War II, particularly those who hid Jews in their homes. These people have since come to be called “The Righteous.” The only common point that emerges from their many accounts is a view of others based on recognition of their common human- ity. All human beings deserved to be treated with kindness. Where we saw a stranger, they saw a human being.

Meditate on altruistic love. Studies in psychology have shown that meditating on altruistic love increases people’s feelings of belonging to a community; it enhances the quality of social connections and compassionate attitudes toward unknown people, while at the same reduc- ing discrimination toward particular groups, like people of color, homeless people, and immigrants.

Draw inspiration from friends in the good and spiritual masters. I recommend that everyone see a historical documentary made in India by Arnaud Desjardins at the end of the 1960s, in which we are shown the most respected of the Tibetan masters who took refuge on the Indian slopes of the Himalayas following the Chinese invasion of their country. The film is called The Message of the Tibetans.

 

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

The audacity to live. Existing, opening oneself to the other, is running a risk. It means dropping one’s armor, one’s protective coverings, and opening one’s eyes and daring to give oneself to the other and to the entire world. There’s no way you can invest in a relationship, so throw out your logic of profit and loss! What if we were to embark on our day without any idea of gain or of using our fellow human beings? What if we stayed attentive to all the women and men it is given to us to encoun- ter on that day, looking to find among them masters in being human? 

Identify our profound aspirations. Helping others can often amount to imposing a view of the world on them without really paying any attention to what they really want in their hearts. A man bought an elephant without giving any thought in advance to how he was going to feed it. At a loss, he was obliged to turn for help to those around him, and what he got from them was, “You never should have bought such a big animal!” What does it mean to help others? Does it mean committing completely to being there for them? Does it mean going all the way with them?

Authentic compassion. A will to power might enter into our move- ment toward the other—a thirst for recognition, a twisted attempt to redeem ourselves. Daring a true encounter means quitting the sphere of your neurosis and walking the path of freedom together. There’s no more “me,” no more “you,” but a coalescent “us,” a primordial solidarity.

Coming out of the bunker. As a result of having been burned in our relationship with another, the temptation is great to put on armor, to completely shut ourselves up in a bunker-like fortress, even to the point of suffocation. Don’t our passions, our griefs, our loves, and the fierce- ness of our desire remind us that we are essentially turned toward the other, in perpetual communication? Is there a way to live the thousand and one contacts of daily life without our ego appropriating them?

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

Copy of MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré©PhilippeDanais2017

 

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

 Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

picture of the book titles Freedom for All of Us

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

The Author

Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and writer who spent 17 years in a home for the physically disabled. His books include In Praise of Weakness. He lives in Switzerland. For more, visit alexandre-jollien.ch.

Freedom for All of Us Cover

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Translated from the original responses in French.

What is one unexpected thing or habit that inspires your writing practice? Is there a

playlist or album you listen to?

Sils Maria

Meditation really opens me up to write. Walking too. Above is a photo of me walking in Sils Maria, Switzerland, where Friedrich Nietzsche lived at one time. However, in my eyes, writing is never systematic [or methodical]. It’s not a [mere] technique. A writer has to render themself available to messages that come—in some sense—from beyond. Conversations with friends, explorations into the mundane, family life, the readings of the great thinkers, the practice of Zazen … all these things feed my desire to pick up my pen again. I write, or rather I dictate my writings, in silence. However, sometimes I do enjoy techno music, which keeps me going and wards off anything that could poison an idea I have; “the sad passions” as the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, called them.

Send us a photo of you and your pet (and let us know if your pet had any role in helping you write your book)!

Grisette

We have a little hamster at home, Grisette, who is our children’s little darling. For me, he embodies peace and a certain serenity. When I look at him, I see a being that isn’t deep in denial and agitated. [Although] sometimes, when he frolics on his hamster wheel, I have the impression that he’s reminding me that my mind, too, can often run in [unnecessary] circles …

 

 

 

If there is a book that started your spiritual journey, what was it? How old were you, and

how did you discover it? How would you describe its impact?

When I was a child, I didn’t enjoy reading and I thought that wisdom was reserved for the elite. I considered culture to be so far removed from everyday problems that I avoided it completely. One day, I accompanied a friend into a bookstore. While I was waiting for her, I flipped through pages from books by Plato and Aristotle. The book [that made an impact] was L’étonnement philosophique [“Philosophic Wonder”] by Jeanne Hersch, which traces the history of Western thought. In my adolescence, that book gave me a great foundation, a benchmark, a marker, a starting point. It’s an admirable book. Afterwards, I really fell into reading the greats, like Plato, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Epictetus, all of which still inspire me today. I was 14 years old then, and reading had changed my life.

Below are portraits [of some of my favorite philosophers and spiritual teachers] painted by my son, Augustin.

portraits

 

 

 

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

 

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Be What You Want to Receive: Three Ways to Experiment ...

At a time when we’re marinating in trauma and dealing with the test of a lifetime, we all wish things were different. When what we want from life is a million mile march from what it actually is, it can seem like we need a massive intervention to keep facing what’s at hand. 

But research shows that small things can make a big difference. Just like stress is cumulative, so are the daily steps we take to grow and give.

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Here are three ways you can experiment with microdosing bravery including journal prompts for reflection.

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BE LOVE. 

Loneliness is being called “the new smoking,” a modern health risk. For some, the global pandemic has strengthened relationships, allowing for bonding and teamwork like never before. For others, it’s wreaked havoc: leading to feeling smothered and stuck. For those living alone, distancing has been brutal, making love feel far from reach. Loss, whether through death, divorce, breakups, or other factors, singes our hearts. We can become avoidant and skeptical of our future potential to love and be loved. 

When we strive to embody love, it’s essential to keep an open mind and heart. Loving connections are protective factors to our well-being. Consider these microdoses of bravery to strengthen your relationships, your sense of belonging, and the co-creation of new love paradigms in your life:

  • Get real. Go through your friends on social media and make a list of all the real people in your life with whom you can be yourself. Make a conscious effort to spend time outside of social media. Thank them for being so real to you and vow you’ll do the same.
  • Spark connection. Initiate a conversation with a partner or friend to see if you can build greater intimacy or camaraderie. To improve your connection, ask them what would mean a lot to them, and offer your own thoughts too.
  • Seek affinity relationships. Write a short poem or essay about yourself to clarify your various identities and then seek an affinity connection. Invite that person for coffee. Don’t shy away from sharing yourself and nudging them to do the same.
  • Be innovative. Create your own bravery microdose to help you be love.

Take note:

Write down what you chose to do and reflect on how it cultivated love in your life. Consider sharing this with someone you trust to help you maximize your efforts.

BE HEALING. 

The level of trauma at hand has ravaged our lives, making healing feel elusive on a good day, impossible on a bad. Given the magnitude of suffering at hand, healing should not be trivialized as a three-step process. Healing requires enormous courage. Microdosing bravery can help us reach out and tap in to the many forms of restoration available to us.  

Understanding how resilience works is a helpful way to begin healing. Gone are the days when it was viewed as a character trait—something you’re born with or not. There’s a lot of hype about being gritty and never letting anyone see you sweat that gets in the way of us finding the right support. Here are some ways to microdose bravery to foster healing and build resilience:

  • Recognize you’re not alone. The biggest lie our difficulties tell us is that we’re the only ones dealing with such intense suffering. All of us are living in a global mental health crisis, with exorbitant pressures and crushing circumstances. Suffering is part of our shared humanity. Finding solidarity and safe community can serve as a catalyst to healing. As we get traction in our own healing process, our acts of courage can be nourishing and healing to those around us.
  • Self-advocate. Healing requires intentional change in our communication. Many of us are comfortable and willing to give help, but few are asking for it. Identify one trusted person in your life that you know has the emotional maturity and skills to listen and support you. Tell them what you’re going through and work with them to identify potential roads toward healing, such as therapy, strategic behavioral change, and targeted self-care.
  • Set boundaries. Untreated trauma and unresolved issues can haunt us and impair the quality of our lives. By paying attention to what we say yes and no to, we can ensure we are leaving space for growth after we’ve gone through significant stressors. Find language to courageously share what you can commit to, and what you cannot. Enlist support to help you firmly protect your time so that you can devote attention to healing and restoration.
  • Identify resources. Take some time to scan your direct environment for things that nurture and sustain you. Select one or two things that can be microdosed to build your bravery.

Take note:

Write down things that help you experience healing. How can you continue to build off this?

BE A LIBERATOR. 

Society can project a lot onto us, caging us into patterns of conformity that can become harmful. Freedom to live as our truest selves isn’t something that comes with safety or ease. The work of unhooking from social prescriptions and ills can be fraught and exhausting. Still, when we find the courage to call out injustice and fight for a more humane world, we can experience exuberance and help change paradigms.

When we strive to liberate, we realize that we must dismantle oppression. That we must advocate for inclusivity and human reverence, particularly for social identities that are marginalized and harmed. Constrained living hinders human progress, individually and collectively. Consider these microdoses of bravery to liberate from social constructs that are harmful:

  • Let go. Take inventory of so-called social “norms” and become less apt to cower in the face of social impositions that are dismissive and destructive toward “difference.” Embrace your own multidimensionality, and that of humanity.
  • Speak up. We all have opportunities to be active contributors rather than passive bystanders in the world. Practicing accountability means that we call out injustice and work to eradicate forms of human suffering and imprisonment—whether based on race, gender, orientation, age, place of origin, or other social identity categories.
  • Practice human reverence. Move from me to we. See the glory and wonder across the human spectrum. Honor varied identities and perspectives. Work to find and engage in diverse relationships, rather than staying insular or spending time with those that look like, love like, and think like you. Become a liberator by standing fervently with those who’ve been marginalized, oppressed, or discriminated against. Seek ways to forge change, bit by bit.
  • Break Free. Create your own bravery microdose to help you liberate.

Take note:

What do you need to be liberated from? Do you know someone who is struggling in a similar way? How might you join forces and work together to become freer?

Author Kristen LeeKristen Lee, EdD, LICSW, is an award-winning Behavioral Science and Leadership professor, clinician, researcher, activist, comedian, author of Worth the Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World, and host of Crackin’ Up. She has over two decades of clinical experience in mental health, and twelve years of teaching and leadership roles in higher education, focusing on underserved populations. She leads the Behavior Science program at Northeastern University. For more, visit kristenlee.com.

 

 

 

 

Book - Worth the Risk

 

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