It’s been a while since I’ve transcribed any new material, but I recently came across a clip that was simply too good to pass up. Naval Ravikant’s take on meditation sums up a lot of what I have come to understand through years of experimentation. Meditation, Ravikant asserts, is the art of doing nothing. It does not require a fancy technique to accomplish, as many might lead you to believe. What does it require, according to Ravikant? “Nothing. You just sit.” Meditation, he goes on to explain, is self-therapy. “It’s just that instead of paying a therapist to sit there and listen to you, you’re listening to yourself.”
Pascal famously said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” It follows that Ravikant’s contention–that learning to be alone is a kind of superpower–is no exaggeration. “You leave me alone for a day, it’ll be like the happiest day I’ve had in a while. And that is a superpower that I think everybody can obtain.”
What is the end goal for Ravikant? “The place where I end up the most—that is, really the one that I want to be at—is peace. It’s just peace.”
Check out the fascinating exchange and its transcription below. Do you agree with Ravikant?
Ravikant: Meditation, yeah.
Rogan: Yes, I mean, it’s huge.
Ravikant: It’s been a life saver for me.
Rogan: I do it. And I do it whenever I get, like, spare time. I was at the doctor’s office this morning, and I knew it was going to be 20 minutes, and so I just sat there with my eyes closed for 20 minutes, and I meditated.
Ravikant: You know, when I was growing up, there was this statement. I think it was Pascal, he said, “All of man’s problems arise because he cannot sit by himself in a room for 30 minutes alone.” And it’s very true. I always needed to be stimulated, and when the iPhone came along, boredom was dead. I would never be bored again. Even if I’m standing in line, I’m on my iPhone, and I thought it was great. And when I was a kid, I used to try and overclock my brain. “How many thoughts can I think at once?” The answer is only one. But I would try to think multiple thoughts at once. And I was proud of that, and I was proud that my brain was always running. This engine was always moving.
And it’s a disease. It’s actually the road to misery. And now that I’m older, I realize that you actually want to, again, rest your mind. You want to learn how to settle in to your mind. Now, I look forward to solitary confinement. You leave me alone for a day, it’ll be like the happiest day I’ve had in a while. And that is a superpower that I think everybody can obtain.
Rogan: The superpower of learning to be alone and enjoying it.
Rogan: Well, I think it’s critical. And I do think that these times where we just think about things, just be alone, and think about things, are so rare these days. And I think during those rare times is when you really get to understand what you actually believe or don’t believe.
Ravikant: Yeah, it’s funny. When I first started meditating, it was really hard because everybody—I think a lot of people who listen to this broadcast have heard of meditation. It has a good wrap, so everybody tries it. They struggle, and they kind of give it up. It’s one of those things that everybody says they do, but nobody actually does. It’s like not eating sugar. Everyone talks about how I don’t eat sugar. Then the dessert tray rolls around, and everybody’s going for the cookies. In fact, it’s now even become a signaling thing.
It’s like, “Oh, how much did you meditate?” “I meditated this much.” You know there are people now wearing headbands with [?] that chirp when they are in deep meditation. I don’t know how they make it work. They’ll be like, “I got a lot of chirps today, how many chirps did you get? Oh, your meditation technique is wrong. Mine is right.”
Really, all it is is the art of doing nothing. And it’s important because I think when we grow up, right, all the stuff happening to you in your life. And some of it you’re processing, some of it you’re absorbing. And some of it, you should probably think a little more about and work through, but you don’t. You don’t have time. So it gets buried in you. And it’s all these preferences and judgments and unresolved situations and issues.
It’s like your e-mail inbox. It’s piling up. E-mail after e-mail that’s not answered, going back 10, 20, 40 years. And when you sit down to meditate, those e-mails start coming back to you. “Hey, what about this issue, what about that issue, have you solved this, did you think about that? You have regrets there? You have issues there?” And that gets scary—people don’t want to do that. “It’s not working, I can’t clear my mind. I better get up and not do this.”
But really, what’s happening is it’s self-therapy. It’s just that instead of paying a therapist to sit there and listen to you, you’re listening to yourself. And you just have to sit there as those e-mails go through one by one. You work through each of them, until you get to the magical inbox 0. And there comes a day when you sit down and you realize, the only things you’re thinking about are things that happened yesterday because you’ve processed everything else. Not necessarily even resolved it, but at least listened to yourself. And that’s where meditation starts. And I think it’s a very powerful thing that everybody should experience. And that’s when you arrive at the art of doing nothing.
Rogan: And I think it’s even a problem that most people are getting their meditation from an app.
Ravikant: I will not use an app.
Rogan: I mean Sam Harris is a very good meditation app, I should say that. But you should be able to just do that, and many people can’t.
Ravikant: It’s literally the art of doing nothing, and so all you need to do for meditation is sit down, close your eyes, comfortable position, whatever happens, happens. If you think, you think. If you don’t think, you don’t think. Don’t put effort into it. Don’t put effort against it. [That’s] all you need..
Rogan: Do you concentrate on your breath, or do you have a specific technique?
Ravikant: Nothing. Nothing. You just sit.
Rogan: I think about my breath. That’s all I do. I try to only concentrate on breathing.
Ravikant: I used to do that. But at some level, every meditation technique is leading you to the same thing, which is just witnessing. And concentration is a technique to still your mind enough so that you can then drop the object of concentration. So you can also just try going straight to the end game. The problem with what I’m talking about, which is not focusing on your breath, is you will have to listen to your mind for a long time. It’s not going to work unless you do at least an hour a day, and preferably at least 60 days before you kind of work through a lot of issues. So it will be hell for a while, but when you come out the other side, it’s great.
Rogan: You get rid of the chatter.
Ravikant: Or when the chatter comes, it’s in the background. It’s dimmer, it’s smaller, You’ve heard it before. You see the patterns. It’s more recent. It’s something you need to resolve anyway. And you will get moments of actual silence.
Rogan: What is your ultimate state when you meditate, like is there a state where you’ve achieved rarely, if ever, where you just—you’re in bliss. Or you’re in harmony. Or you’re in enlightenment.
Ravikant: It’s kind of indescribable because when you’re really meditating, you’re not there. When there’s no thoughts, there’s no experience, there’s nothing. There’s just nothing. So it’s hard to describe, but I would say that—every psychedelic state that people encounter using so-called plant medicines can be arrived at just through pure meditation. And I’ve definitely hit some of those states.
Rogan: You’ve hit some transcendent psychedelic states where you’re hallucinating, the whole deal.
Ravikant: I’ve had trippy visuals. I’ve had the lights and colors. I’ve had the so-called downloads. I’ve had the realizations. I’ve had the bliss. I’ve had the light. I’ve had the colors.
Rogan: But not every time.
Ravikant: No, it’s rare. And, in fact, I’d say that’s also an experience you can start craving, which will then take you out of meditation. Where you’re really—and I’m not enlightened or anything close to it, not even the ballpark—but my own experience. And this is just personal experience, the place where I end up the most—that is, really the one that I want to be at—is peace. It’s just peace.
Rogan: Peace, happy.