If You Want to Change, Act

26 January 2023
A picture of a person wearing sunglasses in front of a graffity wall to show the empowerment of a life well-lived.
By Ben Schoelzel
As the soul and the brain of Samaṇa, Ben focuses on changing his being in the world via a 2-hour daily meditation practice, authentic relating and interpersonal meditation, as well as in an ongoing IFS-practice. He started writing poems in his teenage year and rediscovered his joy for writing with the newsletter and articles for Samaṇa.

What's worthwhile doing?

One of the central tenets of the Samaṇa Program is to help each of us find an answer to the question "what's worthwhile doing?". For me, that question has been a reliable companion for the past couple of years, leading me to interesting insights and helping me "do more of the things I deem important" (relationships, presence, being in nature, engaging in ways to protect our environment ...) and less of the things I deem unimportant (having a career, making serious money, being liked, ...).

Most of us just "do" things. We're patterns unfolding over and over again. Even when we intend on not doing anything, we make a choice to "do nothing" and "not do something else".
A picture of a wodden sign with an an arrow and the words never stop exploring written on it

The idea behind the Samaṇa program:

The idea behind the Samaṇa program is in order to figure out what's worthwhile doing, one needs to:

  • have harmonious relationships with others and learn from them by growing up
  • have ways and means to skillfully deal with emotions by cleaning up
  • be still to see what comes up via waking up

Lastly, once one has gone through multiple cycles of all three of the above, one has to embody that change.

As so many things in life, positive feedback loops take time to build:

  • after having found to oneself a bit more ...
  • ... one can start embodying more responsibility in the world ...
  • ... with each action one takes, that sense of meaningful responsibility and real-life enacted change grows ...
  • ... and so on.

"If you want to change, act"
- Heinz von Foerster

Heinz von Foerster was an Austrian physicist, systems theorist, radical constructivist, and philosopher. He was a polymath, traversing different disciplines seamlessly and effortlessly.

Right after I had finished my Abitur (the German A-levels), I spent a fair bit of time branching out, reading up on topics I didn't have the time or energy to read up on when I was a high-school student. It was a wonderful time that brought me in touch with a lot of different perspectives and ideas, one of them being Heinz von Foerster's way of thinking.

To me, his work is characterized by a deep sense of responsibility and playfulness. His research had brought him to the conclusion, that perception is not independent of us acting in the world: in order to see, we need to interact with the world. Our actions affect our way to see the world, which in turn affects our actions. Perception and action are thus intricately linked, something that is scientifically shown via Molyneux's problem (see the box below).
Molyneux's problem: the question
A blind person is given two spheres made out of different materials and with different surfaces, e.g., a smooth metallic sphere vs. a spiky rubber one. Now this person is able to see.
Can this formerly blind person only by looking at the spheres - without touching them even once after having been able to see - distinguish which sphere is which?

Act to change

Based on this insight - that perception and action are linked, the fourth facet of the Samaṇa Program is to show up. To help people take over responsibility for how they spend their time. To live meaningful lives. Doing more of this, affects the way one looks at the world, which in turn catalyzes more action. In this area of the program, we look at what is meaningful to us individually and how to be efficient and effective agents in the world.
Molyneux's problem: the answer
The fascinating bit about this thought experiment, is that medical advances allowed exactly this problem to be tested. People who had been blind since birth, were given spheres to touch before undergoing a new medical procedure that allowed them to see. After the procedure they were asked to identify the spheres without touching them again. No participant was able to distinguish the spheres purely by looking at them: all of them needed to touch them, to connect the tactile with their visual sense.
If you're looking for ways to live more meaningfully and to take over more responsibility, head over to our website and sign up for a cohort of the Samaṇa program!

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The information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult a professional for guidance about a specific condition.