/Sam Harris, Ph.D. — How to Master Your Mind (#342)

Sam Harris, Ph.D. — How to Master Your Mind (#342)

Photo by Christopher Michel

“The goal of meditation is to uncover a form of wellbeing that is inherent to the nature of our minds.” — Sam Harris

Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D in neuroscience from UCLA. Sam is the host of the Waking Up podcast, and he is the author of multiple books including The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz).

This experimental episode came about because a few months back Sam asked me to be a beta tester for his Waking Up meditation app that he was creating at the time. It was recently released, and I highly recommend it. I anticipated it would be good because Sam’s work is always good, and he’s one of those rare humans who seems to think and speak in finished prose, and he has a voice that can very easily lull you into a semi-psychedelic state while you are completely sober. You’ll hear what I mean soon.

Sam has a unique combination of experiences and areas of expertise, and his approach is that of a logical progression of layering on different types of training for learning the skill of meditation. In this episode, Sam will discuss his experiences with MDMA, his spiritual exploration, contact with so-called gurus, duality versus non-duality, and lots more. If you want to dive right into a beginner level guided meditation, skip to [52:32].

Make sure to check out the bonus episode (also found on this page) if you enjoy what you find here and want to jump straight to the guided meditations. The bonus episode also features additional content from Sam not found in the longer episode. Enjoy!

Here is the companion episode if you want to jump directly to the guided meditations from Sam:

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Website | Waking Up (app) | Waking Up (podcast) | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube


  • What you can expect from this episode (and why you probably shouldn’t listen to it while you’re driving a car). [07:21]
  • The Waking Up course app differs from other meditation apps. [08:39]
  • Sam’s background, and the journey his first foray into psychedelics would set in motion. [09:22]
  • Sam explains his views on religion and profound experiences some would call “spiritual” — which he set out to explore after that first experience with MDMA. [19:46]
  • Gradual versus sudden notions of realization or awakening, enlightenment versus cessation, and the distinction between meditation and psychedelics as tools. [22:09]
  • The meeting that led to a switch in Sam’s perspective on meditation after lengthy attempts for enlightenment proved unsuccessful. [31:05]
  • The dangers of guru Poonjaji’s “all or nothing” approach, the main difference between Advaita and Dzogchen teachings, and what it took to unravel one fellow student’s apparently confirmed enlightenment. [37:12]
  • Exploring Dzogchen and the context behind Sam’s current view of meditation. [42:32]
  • Perceiving the optic blind spot: the difference between being utterly misled by false information, being nudged in the general direction, and being precisely guided by an expert. [45:42]
  • One does not simply drop out of Stanford: Sam returns to college after 11 years away and finds himself uniquely qualified to unite his philosophical, scientific, and secular perspective with meditation. [50:24]
  • Why Sam believes the Waking Up course app and its guided meditations will benefit beginning and veteran meditators alike. [51:38]
  • Sam shares a 10-minute guided meditation from the course designed for a relative beginner to the practice of mindfulness. [52:32]
  • Sam shares a lesson from the course on the topic of death. [1:03:24]
  • Sam shares a lesson on the mystery of being. [1:10:33]
  • A 12-minute guided meditation from a little later in the course. [1:19:54]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:33:49]


  • Day 2 guided meditation. [00:56]
  • Day 17 guided meditation. [11:23]
  • Day 31 guided meditation. [25:13]
  • Why does Sam think you should meditate? [35:17]


Posted on: October 29, 2018.

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