The Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Botton has made a career of bringing high-minded philosophical concepts to the masses with bestselling books like 1997’s “How Proust Can Change Your Life” and 2006’s “The Architecture of Happiness.”
In his quest to help others find what makes them feel fulfilled, he’s of course used himself as a case study. When secular meditation became increasingly popular over the past decade or so, he decided he’d try it, he tells investor and “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss in the latest episode of Ferriss’ podcast.
“I’ve realised that what I love doing at the end of the day… is to just download the thoughts that are buzzing around — slightly shapeless, slightly directionless, and they need a little help,” de Botton tells Ferriss.
Before going to bed, de Botton grabs a pen and pad of paper and spends a few minutes writing down whatever is flying through his head. He doesn’t write stream of conscious, but rather uses single words or short phrases to represent larger, somewhat intangible ideas. The act of making them somewhat tangible, he says, helps him process them, and sometimes those ideas eventually turn into books.
“It’s a kind of housekeeping — intellectual housekeeping,” he says.
De Botton tells Ferriss that he thinks the exercise could benefit someone at the beginning of the day, as well, but it has helped him overcome insomnia, a malady that he considers “a kind of revenge for all the stuff you haven’t thought about enough that demands to be thought about.”
“And if you can do that before bed with a pad and paper, it can be the best sleeping pill you’ve ever had,” he says.
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