Accepting vulnerability

I just published the paper entitled “Accepting Vulnerability: Towards a Mindful Sport Philosophy” in Journal of Applied Sport Sciences.

In the paper I argue that wisdom does not emerge from abstract thinking; instead, it requires that we become attentive to what is concrete: our everyday life and how we spend it. Do we spend our life wisely or not? Answering this question requires that we know ourselves sufficiently — that is to say, have we explored and examined our own life by paying attention to it while we are living it? 

To exemplify this philosophical approach, I refer to examples from modern football coaching that illustrate how they play themselves and their team into certain thoughts, not the other way around. More specifically, I refer to the Danish national football coach Kasper Hjulmand and Jurgen Klopp, the Head coach of Liverpool Football Club.

Mindfulness in sports

I spent the final year delivering online classes to students of sport psychology, philosophical leadership, critical thinking, and mindfulness in organizations.

A few times, I did record a session (or more likely: a part of a session) for those students, who – for various reasons – couldn’t attend. Some of these, I’ve decided to share. I hope you will join me.

A mindful philosophy

“The artist is a seer, a becomer,” wrote the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychiatrist Félix Guattari in their book, What Is Philosophy?

I thought of this quote the other day, when a student of mine asked me, “What are you: a meditator or a philosopher?”

I’m not sure whether there is—or has to be—a difference, I told her, “I’m a philosopher who meditates. I guess like a carpenter, schoolteacher or football player sometimes does that, too.”

“So to philosophize is, in a way, to meditate,” she said.


I’m certain that no one philosophizes without paying attention. The philosopher is a seer, I believe, or to put this in simpler, less romantic terms: To think requires us to be aware of what’s happening inside ourselves as well as outside in society.

Let me share a few thoughts from Deleuze that may show how philosophy is related to mindfulness or meditation. Let’s call it a mindful philosophy.

The writer as artist

The writer as artist has seen something—something that he or she passes on, in a way, that gives the reader enhanced access to this world.

For instance, a novel or a memoir is a communication of experiences that typically involve ethics and knowledge. A novel answers the question of how a person acts, reflects, thinks and feels during certain circumstances. This is why literature can be a way of gaining experiences that make us more mature, as it allows us to experience other forms of life.

Like the philosopher, the writer as artist is a seer and he or she confronts the reader with his or her ethical limitations. Deleuze states that “In the act of writing there’s an attempt to make life something more than personal, to free life from what imprisons it.” (from Negotiations)

To write is to resist

This means, among other things, resisting the urge to follow the dominant fantasies and ideas controlling our lives—just think of status anxiety. And yet, to resist means, first and foremost, to resist death.Report this ad

For this reason, you write to give the unborn a possibility to live freely; that is, to live a healthy life. The writer is affirming life when he or she sets free what lives.

“To affirm is to unburden: not to load life with the weight of higher values, but to create new values which are those of life, which make life light and active,” Deleuze stresses in Nietzsche & Philosophy (italics in original).

To release, set free and create values in life—this is why we want to spend time with certain writers. They extend our boundaries.

Writing and meditation

Now, let me be even more specific. I meditate so that my life can become meditative; that is, so I can let life pass through me while I try to pass on or affirm what lives.

The writer is generous when he or she passes on life. This idea also indicates that to produce art (or think philosophically), there has to be something at stake—a matter of life and death.

“A creator who isn’t grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator,” Deleuze says in Negotiations.

So, just imagine being grabbed by the throat. It’s not necessarily a nice image, but it’s essential. To breathe is to live. It’s basic.

Through meditation or writing (and perhaps other activities, as well), I confirm on a daily basis my intention to affirm what lives, to actualize that which is in the midst of becoming alive. And I do see this as a kind of resistance.

The capacity to pay attention

Today we live in a world in which people exploit themselves in their quest for status, prestige and power. We live in a world in which some repress and discriminate against others due to differences in race, gender, sexual preference and more.

Inequalities are growing. People are scared. The news is fake.

And yet, what I propose is that we, through meditation or philosophy, cultivate our capacity to pay attention to what we don’t want to pass on (for instance, discrimination), but also to what’s worth affirming (such as love and friendship).

Seeing means making contact with what happens and being connected with life. Becoming sensuous is also related to our capacity to be affected, which is crucial to experiencing, but also to experimenting and transforming—creating alternative ways of living, feeling and thinking.

Today, we need to do more than just address inequalities. We need to create lives that are lived beyond any rigid identities, whether we’re speaking of race, gender or some other identifier. It’s here that mindfulness can help people become more sensible and aware.

I don’t wish to claim that we, as artists, meditators or philosophers, are better than others—of course not. We can all learn to “see” and philosophize, with a little help from meditation and maybe some encounters with Kierkegaard along the way.

Once we begin paying attention, we also begin to question things, so it turns out the student questioning me was already ahead of me. That being said, I guess I’m just a student who’s occasionally disguised as a teacher!

First published in The Mindful Word

Kierkegaard: Love, literature & life

“Loving people is the only thing worth living for.” – Søren Kierkegaard

I will be participating in the “Ciclo de conferencias ‘Europa en la cultura'” held at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador.

The conference takes place next week.

Tuesday the 10th of December, I will be given a talk on “Kierkegaard and the concept of love as a political force.”

“Everything I do I do with love, and so I also love with love,” Kierkegaard writes in Either-Or.


The following two days, the 11th and 12th respectively, I will be organizing two seminars or lectures on “Philosophy, literature and a new therapeutical approach to life.

During these seminars, I will relate my thoughts to philosophers such as Deleuze, Weil, Murdoch and Wittgenstein to both problematize our current achievement society, as well as proposing possible escape routes. To strengthen my argument, I will–briefly–refer to artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Karl Ove Knausgård, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf and Roberto Bolaño.

If you happen to be in Quito, Ecuador, you’re welcome!

Haste Makes Waste

“Of all the ridiculous things,” the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard writes, “the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy—to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work…What, I wonder, do these busy folks get done?”

Busyness, unlike what some might believe, does not signal importance, but rather is proof that the busy person does not know where he or she is headed here in life. Being busy is like a robot running around looking for an input. Haste makes waste. It is ridiculous.  

Haste is closely tied to general inattention (e.g. how we relate with care and awareness to what is happening). Do we learn from our previous experiences or disregard them? For example, hangovers or moral scruples can get many people to drink a little less the next time. If not after the first time, then the second. 

Haste becomes waste is intimately tied to the fact that many people have forgotten to inhabit their body. To acknowledge is not a passive activity like digesting a sandwich, but something active. An inhabitation of the body is involved. It moves in the direction of sound, of smell, of touch. The body can help us connect with life by qualifying the extent to which there is a reason to hurry. For example, upon hearing a child scream, I can turn to see whether the child is doing so because her father is swinging her about in affectionate play. 

One of the first Western psychotherapists, Wilhelm Reich, was interested in how the body’s energies influence the mind. Reich believed that the unconscious was not located in the brain but rather flowed through the body’s soft tissue. Although it is possible to feel bodily sensations such as pain, tension, and tenderness, most of us are rarely conscious of our body—until it hurts. In the day-to-day, most of us are unconscious about our bodily sensations: we live primarily from the neck up.  

This can be reminiscent of Mr. James Duffy from James Joyce’s short story, “A Painful Case” (1914): “He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances.” Mr. Duffy lives without contact to his body, which he views askance as if his body did not belong to him. Whose ass is it he sees in the mirror? 

Perhaps, the rushing people Kierkegaard refers to as ridiculous are only chasing their minds. They might not even notice their own busyness. The morale is that all of the bodily sensations that are not felt or registered can be considered unconscious. Thus, the unconscious is not something deeply concealed, but just something as yet unknown. Haste becomes waste because we have no time to explore or examine life—in the here and now. As Plato’s hero Socrates states, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Why not adopt this statement for all aspects of life and suggest: the unexamined friendship, relationship, profession is not worth being in or doing?

To examine requires the opposite of haste such as paying attention potentially. 

Although it is customary to blame the Internet and social media for most wrongdoing, I do not think the concept haste makes waste can be explained by increased speed and technology alone. It is more likely tied to a fundamental lack of attention to and ignorance about what is important. Life today is filled with people suffering from sensory amputation. They rush around without getting anywhere. This may sound arrogant, but next time you meet a busy person, who is always in a rush, ask where he or she is heading. The simple question might shock them to slow down and actually think. 

Like the rest of us, they too come from nowhere getting elsewhere. The point is to slow down once in a while, and do nothing. I do nothing every day. Perhaps—at least, it happens for me—then we realize if it is worth going anywhere—and going there fast. In the end, we are all heading toward our death. 

The question is whether we take the opportunity to live while we can.  

This thing called vacation is a welcome opportunity to slow down, pay attention and examine whether your life is worth living. Most people rush for a reason. Seldom this reason is what makes their life worth living. 

First published in Erraticus, August 7, 2019

What Passes Through Me

After my brother’s death, I wrote, “I need to live double.” That day I became a writer.

My brother died between the 3rd and 4th of October, sometime after the night had ended but before the next day had begun. It was in 1993 that an overdose killed him. He was 26 years old. I learned of his death the next morning. That day I wrote my two first lines as a writer: “I need to live double,” followed by, “Now, it’s up to me.”

Read the rest of the essay here, South 85 Journal.

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