Jack Kornfield — How to Overcome Apathy and Find Beautiful Purpose (#601)

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“We are consciousness. You’re not your body. You have a body, but it’s not who you are. You’re certainly not your thoughts. Oh, my God. If you were your thoughts, we’d be in trouble. They keep changing anyway, one opinion to another. And you’re not your emotions. They come like the tide or the weather. So who are you? Who you are is the awareness itself that was born into this body. You are consciousness.”

— Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield (@JackKornfield) trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. Jack co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein and the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. Over the years, Jack has taught worldwide, led international Buddhist teacher meetings, and worked with many of the great teachers of our time. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology and is a grandfather, husband, and activist. Some of his current projects include MMTCP, a worldwide mindfulness teacher training; Cloud Sangha, a site offering access to expert mindfulness teachers online; and a positive impact Wisdom Ventures fund.

His books have been translated into 22 languages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies. They include The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology; A Path with Heart; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; Teachings of the Buddha; The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace; Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are; and his most recent book, No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are.

Please enjoy!

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#601: Jack Kornfield — How to Overcome Apathy and Find Beautiful Purpose

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Want to hear Jack Kornfield’s previous appearance on the podcast? Listen in on our conversation in which we discuss self-care during times of isolation, the four dimensions of freedom, coping with one’s own mortality, what spirituality is really about, abusing sacred medicines, what suicidal ideation is trying to teach us, underrated ways to access the mysteries around us, and much more.

#414: Jack Kornfield — How to Find Peace Amidst COVID-19, How to Cultivate Calm in Chaos

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Jack Kornfield:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


  • [07:15] Apathy and polarization
  • [08:44] Truth beneath anger
  • [22:40] Ajahn Chah and contractor-ese
  • [26:25] Retuning the tone of rage
  • [33:24] Coping with trauma-induced hypervigilance
  • [41:01] Making group therapeutic models work
  • [47:15] In any effort to make the world better, put on your oxygen mask first
  • [53:19] How can an aspiring Bodhisattva cut through widespread disengagement and apathy?
  • [1:03:57] Thich Nhat Hanh and death
  • [1:15:06] Out-of-body experiences
  • [1:19:40] “A Brief for the Defense”
  • [1:27:12] A guided meditation for recapturing the adventure and joy of childhood
  • [1:38:47] The benefits of loving-kindness meditation
  • [1:47:56] “Last year, foolish monk. This year, no change.”


“We resonate with one another. It’s not a complicated thing. You could call it mystical, but if you put a violin on the table and somebody else plays a violin nearby, the strings of both of them will resonate.”
— Jack Kornfield

“If you really look, underneath anger is hurt or fear or some kind of humiliation where you feel like you’ve been disrespected.”
— Jack Kornfield

“I choose to be on the deck of the Titanic, and I’ll help people in the lifeboats.”
— Jack Kornfield

“We are consciousness. You’re not your body. You have a body, but it’s not who you are. You’re certainly not your thoughts. Oh, my God. If you were your thoughts, we’d be in trouble. They keep changing anyway, one opinion to another. And you’re not your emotions. They come like the tide or the weather. So who are you? Who you are is the awareness itself that was born into this body. You are consciousness.”
— Jack Kornfield

“There’s an enviable spirit in children.”
— Jack Kornfield

“We can’t bear our insecurity and we can’t bear the fact that we’re vulnerable in certain ways and that what’s out there is also part of us.”
— Jack Kornfield

“Meditation is not supposed to be a grim duty but rather more an act of adventure and understanding of opening the mind and heart and bringing a sense of well-being.”
— Jack Kornfield


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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9 Replies to “Jack Kornfield — How to Overcome Apathy and Find Beautiful Purpose (#601)”

  1. On this podcast with Jack Kornfield you spoke of the crucial need for better science around group-based psychedelic-assisted therapy. My PhD–to be defended on August 5–looks at just that from a sociological perspective. I have studied this form of therapy, and undergone an ethnography of a psychedelic-assisted group therapy retreat, for people with chronic, treatment-resistant mental distress and PTSD–particularly women who have experienced sexual trauma. I also have recently received a position at a research university in New York, where I will be crafting a state-of-the-art Psychedelic Cultures course. I’d love to get the information out on this recent study I did, and speak to you about the future of group-based psychedelic therapy.

  2. Hi Tim,
    Thank you for your work and this podcast.
    Not to be a nitpicker, and while a child’s spirit is an ENVIABLE thing, I think the word Jack used was INVIOLABLE.

    1. Hi, JW. And thank you for your comment and careful listen. Here Jack meant inviolable as unassailable. But we agree a child’s spirit is also enviable!


      Team Tim Ferriss

  3. Tim, thank you for once again raising the issue of climate change on your podcast. It used to drive me crazy to listen to your interviews with people like Matt Mullenweg extolling international travel without ever addressing the costs to the environment. Don’t get me wrong, I like Matt and really enjoy the interviews with him and I too really like to get on a plane and go see family or friends, but it would make me tear my hair out and scream, “At least acknowledge the carbon footprint of these activities!”

    I’ve always respected you and your work, but this was always a bit of a sticking point and I’m just so happy to see someone with your massive platform bringing these issues to the fore.

    Also, you mentioned how this leads you to anger. It would be great to interview Jay Butera of Citizens Climate Lobby. He is an inspiring figure who worked four years to get the first Republican in Congress to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, only to fail at the last minute. He rolled up his sleeves and spent another three years slowly, politely, graciously and steadfastly working until he finally succeeded. Seven years to score his first point as it were. Super inspiring guy. I would love to hear an interview.

    Thanks for all you do.

    1. Thanks for this podcast Tim.

      If you or other listeners are interested in therapies that are partly aimed at processing anger/grief, check out Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP).

  4. Hi Tim, I’m a big fan. Thank you for another interview with Jack (my favourite meditation teacher). I have a question. I’d like to get your approval before I publish a YouTube video, which I’m sure will help grow your fan-base. It will be of great benefit to the visitors of my meditation website and will help a lot of people.

    I’ve researched your podcast and found 19 episodes that include good pieces on meditation. From each episode, I’ve taken several soundbites and made what I call a soundbite mix. The video contains focused, very valuable information on meditation.

    I created the soundbite mix to embed in my two websites; one on meditation and one on the mystery of life.

    The soundbite mix is on my YouTube channel, but it’s in an ‘Unlisted’ state (only people with the link can watch it). I’d like to get your approval before I change the status to ‘Public’. In the title and description, I give you credit with links to your website. The description lists the 19 episodes with links to the full interviews.

    Can I send you a link (or place it here), so you can listen to the soundbite mix?
    After that I’d like to ask if I can please go ahead and make it public?
    (I split the soundbite mix into two 57min YouTube videos)

    Regards Keith

    1. Hi, Keith –

      Thank you for asking for permission before republishing Tim’s copyrighted content. As a general rule, Tim does not grant anyone permission to republish any of his works, including his podcasts, and we regularly submit takedown requests to YouTube where we see obvious copyright infringement. As we are not attorneys, we cannot advise you on usage beyond that, so we recommend that you consult a copyright attorney before proceeding further.


      Team Tim Ferriss