Mindfulness, happiness and existentialism

This is my last post on talks from the EQ Summit last week. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Alan Wallace on this topic. What was meant to be a talk on mindfulness became talking about stress, challenging what we accept for ourselves, a challenge to the overload of information, and talking about our happiness. It was philosophical, existentialist and pretty expansive.

He started by talking about conative intelligence which he defined as this…


His ask is that we get wise to our desires, listen to them and really understand what are they for. That he explicitly calls out the need to consider one’s own and others wellbeing is really interesting to me. I understand this as accepting we all have desires and intentions. When we consider the impact of fulfilling those desires, does it actually help us be better?

In the realm of human attraction and relationships this makes sense to me. In the realm of addictive behaviour this also makes sense to me. And in the realm of destructive and harmful behaviour this also makes sense to me.

In relation to addiction he identified three broad areas where behaviour can become addictive…


This was pretty excellent. I completely get it. Alan made an excellent insight here. He talked about the card game Solitaire and called it one of the most pointless games that has been created. Yet people would rather play a pointless game than sit with their own thoughts. This is hardly a modern phenomenon and you can replace Solitaire with previous pastimes. But it’s interesting isn’t it? Are we so addicted to action and being busy in various ways, that we would rather do an activity which is non-productive than just sit alone with our thoughts?

He then went on to talk about the enigma of human existence as he sees it…


Which was another highly pertinent thinking point. It’s a great question and challenge to us as a people. If we’re smarter than we have ever been, with modern medicine and technology at our disposal, with ease of communication and travel like never before, and with creative and innovative endeavours that push what it means to be human, why aren’t we all feeling happier as a global community? Why are rates of depression, divorce, suicide, obesity and terrorism so high? What’s happening with people that they aren’t availing themselves of the multitude options for being better and are instead being subjected to or succumbing to behaviours and actions which are clearly harmful?

One of his final points was that we should all be seeking to find happiness in our lives. Both Albert Einstein and the Dalai Lama have expressed this in different ways…


He built on this by encouraging us to be mindful that happiness comes from both hedonic means and genuine means. He defined hedonic as by seeking stimuli for happiness. He defined genuine as that which we give others. Life isn’t about one more than the other. As described earlier, it’s about understanding your own desires better so that you’re more mindful and aware of how acting on these can affect your own and others wellbeing.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Mindfulness, happiness and existentialism”

    1. Appreciate you taking the time to read them! There was a lot of ace content from the day which will require further reflection and further development of thought. Be happy to pick any and all of it up.

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