Mindful Conversations, with Shamash & Calvin
By Shamash Alidina & Calvin Niles
Series 1 - Mindfulness, ACT and the Hero's Journey
Series 2 - Mindfulness, Wisdom, Compassion and AI
Mindful Conversations, with Shamash & CalvinNov 09, 2023
S2 E10 - Will We Become Homo Silicon Chipus?! Cautious Optimism about the Future - Shamash and Calvin
In this episode, we explore the bigger picture of what we've learnt about AI, humanity, philosophy and spirituality in this season.
Calvin is sharing with us from sunny Barbados, and reflects on the concept of 'creative destruction' in nature and its parallels with technology and AI.
We ponder the potential evolutionary shift in humanity with the advent of AI, coining playful terms like 'Homo ChatGPTus' and 'Homo silicon chip-us,' suggesting a merging of human and artificial intelligence.
There's a discussion on the integration of AI in enhancing human capabilities and the possibility that humans may evolve beyond Homo Sapiens through technology.
We consider how AI and mindfulness can be aligned, discussing technology's role in promoting compassion and creativity. We reflect on the evolution of our thoughts over the season, moving from caution to a more optimistic and accepting stance on the inevitability of technological advancement.
The episode concludes with both hosts sharing their takeaways from the season, emphasising the importance of enjoying the journey and remaining open and curious about the unfolding relationship between AI and humanity.
Please send us a message via our website if you enjoyed the season! We'd love to hear from you.
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S2 E9: The Neuroscience of Manifestation and Real Secret to Happiness
In this special episode of Mindful Conversations, we delve into the fascinating neuroscience of manifestation, the true secret to happiness, and the power of the human mind.
Hosts Shamash and Calvin, along with their guests Dr. James Doty and Alex Nunn, introduce themselves and discuss their interests in topics like AI, happiness, and compassion. They emphasize the importance of compassion in creating a more caring society.
Dr. Doty is an eminent neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author. Alex Nunn is Head of Movement Building at charity Action for Happiness.
Dr. Doty distinguishes between empathy and compassion, underlining that compassion involves both a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and an action component. Alex Nunn shares his personal journey and how compassion has become a central theme in his life.
The conversation delves into the potential impact of AI on society, contemplating whether AI can help promote compassion or have negative consequences, including manipulative uses. They touch on the role of AI in mental health support and the importance of deep relationships and compassion in people's lives.
The discussion also explores the role of technology, AI, and machine learning in promoting well-being and compassion, as well as the potential for both positive and negative impacts. They mention the power of AI to promote positive stories and cooperation but express concern about how profit motives can influence its use.
Finally, they discuss how self-compassion and well-being practices can open the door to other positive attributes and experiences like community, creativity, and curiosity.
Warning: Explicit content (swearing)
S2, E8 - AI and its Impact on Humanity with Trevor Murphy
Trevor Murphy has run several animation companies, hiring dozens of staff. In the last decade, he's focused his attention on spirituality and service. He's illustrated several books.
In this episode, Trevor shares his feelings on AI and its impact on humanity. He discusses the fear surrounding AI and how it is often portrayed in a negative light. Trevor believes that AI can have positive aspects and shares examples of how AI has transformed people's lives, such as assisting individuals with dyslexia in communication and enhancing their writing skills.
Trevor acknowledges that AI's development is accelerating at an exponential rate, and while he sees the benefits it can bring, he emphasizes the importance of treating AI with respect and being cautious about its rapid advancement. Trevor also explores the relationship between AI and creativity, expressing his belief that AI can be a tool to support creative endeavors but should not replace the physical and healing process of human creativity.
The conversation also touches on the significance of the journey and process in various aspects of life, including running, spirituality, and the creative process. Trevor emphasises that while goals can provide motivation, the journey itself is often more important than reaching the destination. AI, in his view, can aid in the journey and provide confidence but should not overshadow the value of the process.
Nami and Kai - Written with Calvin
Wit and Wisdom - Written with Shamash
The Joy of Affection - Written with Augusto D. Mello
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S2, E8 AI's Impact on Humanity: Mindful Conversations
Discover the transformative power of AI in healthcare, entertainment, and beyond, along with the ethical considerations in Part 1. Part 2 explores the benefits and challenges of AI for well-being and productivity.
S2, E7 Design Thinking for Mindful AI
In this episode, we talk to Lucy Kimbell, Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at Central Saint Martins, about the intersection of design thinking and artificial intelligence (AI). We discuss how design thinking can be used to create more mindful and compassionate AI systems, and how AI can be used to support design thinking processes.
Lucy shares her insights on the potential benefits and risks of AI, and how we can ensure that AI is used for good. She also talks about the importance of human-centered design in the development of AI systems.
This episode is a must-listen for anyone who is interested in the future of AI and how it can be used to create a better world.
S2 E6 - Shamash and Calvin Explore 7 Things We Do Know About AI
In this podcast episode of "Mindful Conversations," hosts Calvin and Shamash discuss their reflections on AI, mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, and their impact on society. They highlight seven insights they have gathered from their interviews:
Positive AI Applications: They have found that people with good intentions are creating projects using AI to improve various aspects of society, such as health, climate, equality, and bias reduction.
AI Development Timeline: AI has been developing for decades, but recent user-friendly technologies have brought its potential to the forefront.
Exponential Growth and Limitations: While there's rapid technological growth, there are also physical limitations to consider, and AI's exponential growth isn't guaranteed.
AI's Broad Applications: AI has potential benefits in various domains, even ones like spirituality and personal development.
Fear and Excitement: There's a mixture of fear and excitement about AI's potential, often driven by underlying cares for things like family, humanity, and job security.
Mindful Approach: The hosts advocate for a mindful approach to AI, neither ignoring nor blindly embracing it, but rather consciously observing its effects on various aspects of life.
Understanding AI's Current State: They emphasize that AI models like GPT-3 aren't as intelligent as they seem; they predict based on patterns in existing data and aren't aware of their content.
Throughout the conversation, they engage in an exploration of these insights and discuss the importance of maintaining balance, reflection, and active engagement when dealing with AI's potential impact on society and individuals.
S2 E5 - Crafting Compassionate Conversations: AI's Role in Mindful Inner Dialogue - Cynthia L. Phelps, PhD
Join hosts Shamash and Calvin on "Mindful Conversations" as they delve deep into a captivating discussion with the tech-savvy and fascinating Cynthia Phelps, PhD who holds a degree in neuroscience.
This episode offers listeners a chance to understand the power of AI in nurturing our emotional well-being and inner dialogue.
Cynthia's Personal Journey: An inspiring recount of how battling autoimmune diseases paved the way to prioritise mindfulness and compassion in daily life.
The Physicality of Emotions: Delving into the essence of being present, Cynthia emphasizes how our emotions manifest physically and why it's essential to be attuned to them.
Collaboration with Center for Mindful Self Compassion: A glimpse into Cynthia's partnership that resulted in a beneficial mobile app aiming to bolster self-compassion practices.
Introduction to Inner Ally: Discover the innovative venture that aims to merge AI and emotional intelligence. The app, in its infancy, is designed to guide users in crafting compassionate responses to their challenging thoughts.
- Emotional Needs Quiz: An insight into the unique feature that helps identify one's core emotional needs, which can act as a starting point in the app.
- Tailoring Affirmations: Cynthia's approach ensures users resonate genuinely with affirmations.
For all those interested in the intersection of technology, mindfulness, and emotional well-being, this is a must-listen. Don't forget to subscribe, share your reviews, and pass on this episode to fellow enthusiasts!
S2 E4: Empowering a Mindful Future: Yip Ta on AI, Web3, and Women's Empowerment
In this fascinating episode, Yip Ta, a passionate advocate for technology, particularly AI and Web3, shares her vision for a better future. Join us as Yip explains and explores the potential of AI to tackle complex global issues and promote women's empowerment and wellbeing.
Yip emphasizes the power of AI as a tool to support human reasoning and create equitable access to knowledge and opportunities. Discover how her projects aim to bridge the gender gap in technology and encourage more women to participate in blockchain and AI ventures. Education, financial literacy, and networking opportunities are key factors in fostering female-led projects and closing the technological divide.
Delve into the inspiration behind Jedi Labs, drawing from Star Wars' teachings. Jedi Labs' mission is to train individuals in AI, quantum, and other technologies for positive purposes, advocating collaboration over competition and making peace more profitable than war.
While AI presents incredible opportunities, Yip cautions against over-reliance, loss of critical thinking, and addiction to instant rewards. Gain insights into the importance of maintaining mindfulness and being present in an increasingly AI-driven world.
In the context of education, Yip sees AI as a transformative tool for improving critical thinking skills and writing abilities. Personalized feedback empowers students to become better writers and learners. Embrace AI as an opportunity rather than a threat, and learn how it can enhance educational experiences.
Finally, Yip extends a warm invitation to an event Munich, where AI, Web3, quantum, and cybersecurity technologies converge to solve sustainable development goal (STG) challenges. The event promises to be a unique opportunity for participants to be part of positive change and innovation.
As we wrap up the conversation, Yip shares her wisdom on mindfulness and compassion, encouraging us to make informed decisions about AI's use. Find out how AI can be a gateway to accessing wisdom and diverse perspectives from various sources.
Join us for an enlightening discussion on the intersection of mindfulness and AI, as we explore the endless possibilities AI holds for shaping a brighter and more inclusive future.
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S2 E3 - Reflections on our Interview with Technologist and Meditator Kenley's Episode
In this next episode, we have an engaging conversation about the insights of our last guest, Kenley, a technology and mindfulness enthusiast who takes us on a deep dive into the fascinating world of AI and its intriguing potential connection to mindfulness, compassion and consciousness.
We kick-start our conversation by discussing the principles of the 7 C's (Concentration, Clarity, Courage, Curiosity, Compassion, Connectedness, and Creativity) and how these can influence our interaction with AI. Our discussion then moves onto the importance of the ethical use of AI, with emphasis on how we need to consciously guide AI's development to make it a constructive force in society.
One major revelation from our discussion with Kenley is how mindful we need to be in our interaction with AI, treating it as we would a child, and instilling it with kindness, respect, and the right values. Kenley emphasizes that as AI evolves and matures, it will reflect the values we impart to it today.
We also consider how AI can aid personal development, particularly in discovering our core values. By prompting AI to guide our actions and decisions, aligning them with our values, we could shape our lives more consciously and meaningfully. This idea of 'Mindful Prompt Engineering' or 'Values-based Prompting' is seen as a promising tool in fostering personal and societal growth.
Kenley also helped us explore the biases inherent in AI systems, drawing attention to the fact that these biases reflect the content already present on the internet. We explore the potential for AI to be trained to reduce these biases, and perhaps even nudge us towards becoming less biased ourselves.
We conclude our conversation by considering the beneficial aspects of technology and AI for those who find comfort in it, emphasizing the importance of understanding and accepting diverse values and preferences in our society.
In this episode, we challenge our fears, question our values, and consider the exciting potential that mindful interaction with AI offers. From deepening our understanding of ourselves to shaping a more inclusive and compassionate society, the possibilities are truly intriguing.
So, join us on this mindful journey into the world of AI, where technology meets compassion and creativity, unlocking a flourishing future for all.
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S2, E2 - Dharma Teacher and Technologist Kenley Neufeld on AI, Mindfulness and Samadhi - Recorded at Deer Park Monastery, California
The episode discussed a conversation with Kenley about technology and artificial intelligence (AI).
Kenley expressed a positive outlook on both technology and AI, emphasizing its potential to induce a spiritual mind state known as samadhi
The concept of brain scans and AI's ability to reconstruct images based on brain activity was explored, with the recognition that current technology is at its early stages.
The idea of using brain scans from experienced meditators as reference points to help others achieve similar states of mind was considered.
Potential benefits of AI were discussed, such as self-understanding and insights about oneself based on data collected by technology.
The debate surrounding AI as a shortcut to spiritual states and the impact it may have on personal growth and suffering was addressed.
The episode touched on the notion that AI is already influencing human behavior through algorithms and the content presented to individuals.
The negative aspects of AI, such as social media's role in causing suffering through comparison, judgment, and addictive behaviors, were acknowledged.
The importance of aligning AI with values and the seven Cs (compassion, community, contribution, consciousness, etc.) was emphasized to counteract potential negative consequences.
Mindfulness, self-awareness, and the quality of prompts used with AI were highlighted as factors influencing the outcomes and ethical implications of AI interactions.
Centre for humane technology: https://www.humanetech.com/
Olympic level meditators: Daniel Goleman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10J6crRacZg
Mo Gowdat’s book Scary Smart https://www.mogawdat.com/scarysmart
6. Basics Values Test https://personalvalu.es/
Find out more about Kenley at https://kenleyneufeld.com/
To find out more or get in touch with us, check out:
S2E1: Introducing Our New Series: A Hero's Journey Through the AI Revolution
The AI revolution beckons a new era for humankind. It is more important than ever to approach this new frontier with mindfulness and compassion. In season 2 of Mindful Conversations, we'll put society on the hero's journey of transformation, and explore the opportunities and challenges presented by the rise of artificial intelligence.
Each episode will feature Shamash Alidina and Calvin Niles in mindful conversation with leaders, innovators and changemakers who are shaping the story of the AI revolution and experts seeking a more compassionate world. By combining their insights with the timeless elements of what makes us human, we'll gain a deeper understanding of AI and the role we can play in shaping the next chapter of the human story to create a more meaningful future.
We begin our journey of exploring what it means to be human and we call the '7 C's', which currently are:
Email us: email@example.com
Introducing the Certified Mindful Storytelling Course
Episode 12: Return with the Elixir: living your purpose
In the final episode of this series, Shamash and Calvin return with the elixir, and complete their Hero's Journey into mindfulness, through storytelling.Join Shamash and Calvin for a Mindful Storytelling Workshop, on October 4th.
This remote workshop is for coaches and therapists, to explore the Hero’s Journey using insights from mindfulness, acceptance and values-based action.
In this episode:
- Kush Kanodia counsels against following gurus, and suggests we be our own guru.
- Mari Williams shares how she works with parents, teachers, and leaders to step into a larger role and support others.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif looks at helping someone actively vs passively, and how self-fulfilment allows us to be more helpful to others.
- Dr Vikki Barnes describes the ways in which her teaching has informed others to spread the message and power of positive psychology.
Episode 11: Resurrection to Discover Your Power: Post-traumatic growth and the transcendent self
With the end of this series almost in sight, Shamash and Calvin enter the resurrection phase of the Hero's Journey, examining the transcendent self and exploring the growth that can come after a traumatic experience.
- Dr Vikki Barnes opens by setting out the positive psychology idea of post-traumatic growth, rejecting the notion of "negative emotions".
- Dr Mehwish Sharif uses rainbows as a lens through which we can explore the fleeting nature of post-traumatic growth.
- Mari Williams shares the story of someone working on a children's cancer ward, who experienced how parents deal with what is likely their darkest experience.
- Kush Kanodia describes the process of coming back together after a life-shattering experience, using the Japanese concept of kintsugi ("golden joinery").
- Dr Steven Hayes points to the mind as a modern notional concept, and explores the way we can sometimes run away from positive emotions as well as negative ones.
In the final episode of this series, Shamash and Calvin will return with the elixir, and wrap up their learnings from the past eleven weeks.
Episode 10: The Road Back: Finding grit
This week, Shamash and Calvin begin the journey back home. As ever, they have help along their Hero's Journey through mindfulness and acceptance. In this episode:
- Dr Vikki Barnes offers some advice for anyone having difficulty finding their grit.
- Kush Kanodia approaches the search for grit from the scientific perspective, and explores how grit interplays with long-term systems change.
- Mari Williams counsels us to find the mini version of ourselves that we can identify with, as the carrier of our inner determination.
- Dr Wendy Molefi brings up the idea of equanimity: meeting our thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif uses the analogy of a swimmer to illustrate what we can do when caught unawares.
- Dr Steven Hayes chats with Shamash about competence, and opens up about the challenges he faced writing the book on Acceptance and Commitment Training.
Next week, we explore post-traumatic growth and reveal the transcendent self.
Episode 9: Wake-up Moments: the solution could be the problem
This week, Shamash and Calvin explore the eighth chapter of the Hero's Journey into mindfulness and acceptance: the Ordeal. Along with acceptance, what can commitment allow us to achieve, and how can we spot when commitment turns to stubbornness?
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia opens the episode with a story of commitment that led to a life-changing opportunity
- Therapist Mari Williams shares her approach to helping people deal with those moments in life where we need the reassurance that we're going to be OK
- Dr Mehwish Sharif discusses strength in vulnerability, reducing the clutter in clients' minds, and encouraging flexibility
- ACT originator Dr Steven Hayes plays out a conversation about self-inflicted pain, and is candid about the difficulties he's faced with his own physical pain and the unhealthy thoughts that arose as a result.
Next week, we seize our reward and begin the journey back home.
Episode 8: Approaching the Inmost Cave: the dark night of the soul
This week, Shamash and Calvin venture into the inmost cave and do battle with hopelessness in the long dark night of the soul.
Luckily as ever, they have help in their Hero's Journey through mindfulness. In this episode:
- Therapist Mari Williams shares how she counselled herself through a difficult time in her life, by remembering that healing takes time.
- We hear from social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia who recounts his own painful experience, and how being thrown into chaos helped him discover his purpose.
- Dr Wendy Molefi talks philosophically about the passage of pain, but also uses the Buddhist idea of the second arrow to describe sitting with that pain.
- Dr Steven Hayes, originator of ACT, shares a story with Shamash about a meeting with a professor and the setting of an impossible task.
Next week, we explore our gifts and uncover the power of grit.
Episode 7: Tests, Allies and Enemies: The supportive nature of values
This week, our heroes Shamash and Calvin are out of their comfort zone, and have moved into a new special world where difficult challenges ensue. When examining acceptance and commitment therapy through the lens of the Hero's Journey, we see how tests and enemies align, but who are our allies? Our values.
In this episode:
- Therapist Mari Williams describes how we live out our values, and how they filter and inform even the smallest decisions we make.
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia combines purpose and values by looking at them in terms of core and flex: those things we hold sacred vs those we can compromise on.
- Dr Steven Hayes, originator of ACT, recounts a spiritual experience that informed his work, and discusses the ways we judge our own feelings and how that judgement can lead to anxiety.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif sets out some the questions she asks clients to help them explore the emotions behind the choices they make.
Next week, we approach the inner-most cave, and understand what can be gained from engaging in a long dark night of the soul.
Episode 6: Crossing the Threshold: committing to a choice
What is choice? How do we make good choices, and how important are the choices we make? This week, Shamash and Calvin cross the threshold on their next leg of their Hero's Journey into mindfulness.
In this episode:
- Therapist Mari Williams describes how a lack of choice, real or perceived, can make us feel trapped, but that realising we have choice – even if unfavourable – is valuable.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif looks at the growth mindset behind choice, its relationship to decision-making, and how the first step we need to take is accepting the choices we make.
- Dr Steven Hayes, the founder of ACT, explores the negotiations we have with ourselves in the mirror.
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia shares his personal paradox that the more he knows the more he realises he doesn't know.
On next week's episode, we'll tackle tests, allies and enemies.
Episode 5: Meeting the Mentor: Opening your mind to curiosity, learning and encouragement
Shamash and Calvin embark on the next leg of the Hero's Journey, weaving mindful storytelling with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
This week, the Meeting with the Mentor: how our mentors can be people who've brought impact into our lives, but could equally be other sources of inspiration: books, films, even podcasts.
In this episode:
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia speaks to the value of finding a mentor.
- Dr Wendy Molefi sets out the benefits of speaking with someone close – a friend or a colleague – to help you shift a difficult problem.
- Speaking of shifting a problem, therapist Mari Williams describes how she encourages her clients to see her work as helping to roll a heavy boulder uphill.
- Dr Vikki Barnes shares the introduction to the world of psychology that would go on to shape her career.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif explores at the benefits of working with someone who has walked your same journey, and can act as a guide.
- Dr Steven Hayes, Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada and the originator of ACT, shares his powerful realisation around accepting anxiety rather than letting panic set in.
Next week, we cross the threshold.
Episode 4: Refusal of the Call: Avoidance ain’t always a good idea
Shamash and Calvin embark on the next leg of the Hero's Journey, facing their first challenge: do they heed the call to adventure, or ignore it?
In this episode:
- Dr Mehwish Sharif explains how we build our reality through our experiences, judgements, and filters.
- Therapist Mari Williams delves into the unconscious mind, how it can protect us, and how guilt can get in the way
- Dr Vikki Barnes describes the positive approach she takes with her clients, to help them achieve better outcomes.
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia helps us reframe challenges as puzzles to be solved.
- Dr Wendy Molefi shows us what can happen if we don't take time to decompress, or spend time enjoying the little things.
Read the Serenity Prayer quoted by Shamash.
Make sure to join us next time, when we have a Meeting with the Mentor.
Episode 3: Call to Adventure: the opportunity of life’s challenges
Shamash and Calvin accept the Call to Adventure, discussing the next leg of the Hero's Journey and how it relates to films we already know.
In this episode:
- Therapist Mari Williams recounts her childhood call to adventure and the decisions her early family life presented her with in adulthood.
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia talks openly about his disability, and how humbling a painful struggle can be.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif discusses uncertainty, and the challenges she faced following the birth of her son.
- Dr Wendy Molefi reminds us that our instinctive response to flee is designed to keep us safe, but it can lead to difficulty accepting hard challenges.
- Dr Vikki Barnes describes the human negativity bias, and how facing adversity can help build tribes founded on empathy.
Make sure to join us next time, when we talk about the Refusal of the Call.
Episode 2: The Ordinary World: the dangers of living on autopilot
Shamash and Calvin embark on the first step of the Hero's Journey: the Ordinary World, taking a look at what can happen when we move through life on autopilot.
In this episode:
- Social entrepreneur Kush Kanodia shares some wise words from Ferris Bueller, reminding us to "stop and look around once in a while".
- Dr Wendy Molefi highlights why humans have an autopilot setting: the benefits it can bring, and the dangers it can pose.
- Dr Vikki Barnes explains some of the ways in which autopilot can manifest itself in our bodies, which can lead to discomfort or lack of sleep.
- Therapist Mari Williams looks at the stories we tell ourselves, and the danger in not revisiting those stories to check if they're still relevant to our real lives.
- Dr Mehwish Sharif shares an exercise she encourages her clients to do, to help them be more mindful of their surroundings when on autopilot.
Make sure to join us next time, when we take up the Call to Adventure!
Episode 1: The Hero's Journey
Calvin introduces Shamash to Joseph Campbell's "Monomyth", better known as the Hero's Journey, examining how it has informed storytelling from the Epic of Gilgamesh, to T*he Lord of the Rings*, to T*he Matrix*.Go deeper
- Christopher Vogler, Hollywood executive
- ScriptLab's breakdown of The Matrix using the Hero's Journey
- The Mindful Storyteller
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Shamash and Calvin introduce the podcast. Follow Mindful Conversations now to hear the first episode when it arrives on July 1.