OUR PREVIOUS EA STUDENTS INCLUDE PEOPLE WHO WORKED AT
Engaging in a high-impact career isn’t easy
Working long hours, managing tight deadlines, carrying the responsibility of the impact of your work. All of this, on top of the demands of everyday life, can make for a lot of pressure.
The accumulation of stress can have devastating consequences
Not only for your well-being but also for your ability to feel and perform at your best. Alarmingly, for two-thirds of the respondents of the 2023 EA Mental Health and Productivity survey, ‘two out of three hours were lost due to mental well-being or other internal reasons’.
Performance-related stress can lead to a vicious cycle
The more stressed you become, the more your performance suffers, which, in turn, only increases your level of stress. This can happen in both the personal and professional aspects of life, with your well-being in one area often affecting the other.
In this high-burnout culture, we must prioritise our own well-being
Too much is at stake, both for ourselves and those we serve. As someone committed to improving the world, prioritising your well-being is not only something you deserve; it’s an investment that will pay off for all those who benefit from your work.
‘Mindfulness meditation is kind of like this magic bullet technique that science has just recently cottoned on to’
Will MacAskill, speaking on the Tim Ferris Podcast.
A consistent mindfulness practice can completely change your life.
In recent years, this ancient practice has gained recognition in the West, supported by a growing body of empirical findings.
Countless studies have shown significant benefits of mindfulness practice across an array of areas in psychological, cognitive, and physical health.
Included among the reported benefits are:
Slower brain ageing
Better problem solving
As with most findings in psychology, it’s difficult to know how robust these claims are given the “replication crisis”.
Perhaps more compelling are the extensive anecdotal reports from high-achieving meditators such as
Yuval Noah Harari
These practices are even spreading to the corporate world, with organisations such as Apple, Google and McKinsey developing mindfulness programmes for their employees.
The challenges of establishing a consistent and effective practice
On the face of it, the answer is simple: to get the benefits of mindfulness, you just need to practise. However, there are many obstacles beginner meditators can run into:
Finding practices that fit:
There are countless ways to practise. The problem with meditation apps is that unless the techniques on offer happen to resonate with you, you may be stuck with a poorly-optimised practice. The same is true of books, courses and retreats that champion a small set of specific techniques.
Building a consistent practice:
For the 81 meditators we surveyed at EAG London 2023, building a consistent practice was the most commonly reported challenge. Much like physical exercise, when it comes to training your mind, significant and durable transformation comes from an ongoing practice. While momentary breakthroughs do occur, meditation is a skill, and, like all skills, it is best developed through sustained practice.
Navigating through the esoteric:
Between the mystical religious claims and new-age pseudoscience, it can be difficult to discern the signal from the noise when it comes to understanding mindfulness.
Gaining confidence in practice:
Another issue with meditation apps is the absence of feedback between the student and the teacher. Novice meditators are often uncertain whether they are correctly applying their technique, which can lead to confusion and frustration, which in turn impedes progression.
Whilst mindfulness practice can be life-changing, it is not without risks. The level and quality of the guidance available can significantly affect the level of risk a practitioner is exposed to. For those using apps, the risk comes from the lack of a qualified expert to guide them through the possible challenges that may come up in their practice. In other cases, receiving guidance from an unqualified teacher who lacks a nuanced understanding of mental health can increase the risk posed to meditators experiencing challenges in their practice.
A lack of support:
According to Buddhist teachings, being part of a group of practitioners known as a ‘Sangha’ is essential to spiritual development. Many meditators have no such community to find support within, which can stagnate their progression. Whilst you can certainly gain a lot from solitary practice, there are innumerable benefits to practising among others.
The Course: Well-Being Through Wisdom
The Well-Being Through Wisdom course has been designed to help you fast-track your progression through the early stages of your mindfulness journey, gearing you towards long-term success.
Demystify the how and why of meditation:
This course will teach you the practical essence of mindfulness, from a lens of non-dogmatism and epistemic humility.
Fast-track your progress in mindfulness practice:
Through regular feedback from your course instructor, both in one-to-one sessions and small mentorship groups, you will develop, refine and troubleshoot your practice. Having access to this level of guidance will allow you to develop your skills at a far greater rate than would otherwise be possible.
Address problems specific to high-impact work:
This course was built by EAs to address the specific challenges faced by those pursuing a high-impact career. You will be instructed by a meditation teacher who is a long-standing member of the community and who has already helped over 100 effective altruists with their mindfulness practice.
The course was designed with student safety as an absolute priority. Before enrolment, each participant is screened to ensure that the course is suitable for them. As a key feature of the programme, by identifying practices a student is well suited to, the risk of psychological challenge significantly decreases. Students will also have continual access to a qualified meditation teacher trained in a trauma-informed pedagogy developed by two leading figures in the modern mindfulness movement. Although a severe adverse psychological effect is unlikely, given these measures, if a mental health concern occurs, students will also have access to a psychotherapist with specific training in mindfulness-related difficulties.
Discover the right practices for you:
Assisted by the guidance of a qualified meditation teacher, you will experiment with an array of different practices. By the end of the course, you will have developed and fine-tuned a range of practices suited to you.
Build a practice that sticks:
Alongside finding mindfulness practices you love, there are other challenges to overcome in order to establish a long-term practice habit. Whilst many programmes focus on intensive practice for their duration, we are not aware of any that explore the nuances of developing a long-term habit. Well-Being Through Wisdom addresses this issue head-on, helping you unlock the internal and external barriers to a consistent practice habit.
Connect with other altruists:
As well as receiving mentorship from a teacher who shares your worldview, you’ll be connected to a cohort of participants who share your values, and who are embarking on a similar journey.
Your meditation instructor
After 20 years of practice, Ollie earned his teaching qualification under the guidance of Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, two pioneering voices in the modern mindfulness movement.
Being part of the EA community since 2017, Ollie has helped over 100 EAs develop their practice through online courses and private mentorship sessions.
This is the course that we wish we’d taken at the start of our meditation journey.
The innumerable benefits that come with meditation might seem like a big promise, but if you put the time into effective practice, you will become calmer, happier and more productive.
This course will allow you to bridge the gap between your intentions to practise and all the benefits that come with an effective and consistent meditation practice.
During this course, you will receive:
In these pre-recorded sessions, you will engage with the programme's core curriculum. These sessions will include talks on how to effectively practise mindfulness and compassion, guided meditations, journaling prompts, challenges and more. Each session is one hour long and is available on demand.
Weekly Group Mentorship
These small group sessions will give you the opportunity to ask questions, seek clarification and troubleshoot any issues you are encountering in your practice. For these hour-long sessions, you will join a small group of 6-8 people, allocated according to your time availability.
Two One-To-One Sessions
You will also receive two half-hour private mentorship sessions with Ollie, guided by a short psychometric survey, to clarify your practice priorities during and after the course.
Additionally, you will receive:
Quarterly Progress Reviews
On completion of the course, you will have access to quarterly survey reviews, allowing you to track your progress over time. Using this data, you can gauge whether you are still seeing improvements from your current practice habits or whether any course correction is necessary.
A Curated Bank of Expert Guidance
You will have lifetime access to 100s of hours of content compiled from the world’s leading teachers of non-dogmatic wisdom. These talks, practice sessions and pre-recorded retreats from the world’s most trusted teachers will allow you to further deepen your practice.
On-going Community Support
As a course alumnus, you will have ongoing access to our online community space. Here, you will have access to regular online events, ask-me-anything sessions with meditation teachers, practice groups, and the opportunity to connect with other altruists embarking on a similar journey.
Meet your mentor group: share your motivations & intentions for participating. Review course agreements. Blessing.
Guided meditation: tranquillity of mind
Suggested practices to cultivate calm focus/concentration
Talks: Introduction to mindfulness. How and what to practise. How to practise concentration/calm focus.
Journaling: action plan to (re)start a meditation practice
Mentor group: Q&A on how & what to practise. Enabling implementation of practice action plan & journal.
Guided meditation: loving-kindness
Suggested practices to cultivate open-heartedness
Talks: mindful relationships. How to practise loving-kindness.
Journaling: Close relationships inventory & aspriations
Mentor group: Q&A on practising loving-kindness. Unblock implementation of relationship action plan.
Guided meditation: self-compassion (RAIN meditation)
Suggested practices to cultivate compassion for self & others
Talks: how to practise self-compassion. Staying safe & preventing overwhelm.
Journaling: unmet needs that cause you to suffer. Mindfulness of healthy lifestyle.
Mentor group: Q&A on compassion/self-compassion. Sharing about unmet needs; choosing healthy lifestyle options. Enabling informal practice.
Guided meditation: mindfulness of body sensations
Suggested practices to cultivate embodied mindfulness
Talks: embodied mindfulness. Working with obstacles to practice. Wise effort. Retreat.
Journaling: working with obstacles to practice
Mentor group: Q&A on embodied mindfulness. Address obstacles to practice. Enable booking a retreat.
Guided meditation: objects of mindfulness - befriending the inner weather systems
Suggested practices to cultivate vipassana (profound insight)
Talks: vipassana (insight) meditation, equanimity & non-judgment
Journaling: creating a practice resilience action plan
Mentor group: Q&A on equanimity, attitude & insight (vipassana). Enable resilient practice support structures.
Guided meditation: surrender to your highest potential
Journaling: reflections on learning, identity & intentions
Talks: becoming a flourishing altruist
Take the oath of mindful altruism
Throughout the course, you will be encouraged and supported to take a few specific actions that predict long-term practice success. You are free to complete these challenges both during and after the course, or not at all:
Start a meditation practice journal/log
Setup a trigger for daily practice
Join a local practice group
Enter into ongoing practice buddy relationships
Setup triggers for informal practice
Register for a residential retreat
Attend a ½ day at home retreat
Tech hygiene - create a more mindful digital environment
Create a comfortable, appealing practice space
Getting things done - setup a self-management system for mindful productivity
Schedule tasks, with accountability, to complete outstanding challenges
Course fee: £349 (GBP)
We are offering discounts to those working in high impact projects.
Scholarship places are on offer for those with limited financial resources.
This course can be purchased as part of your organisation's mental health allowance.
For more information, please reach out to finn(at)thewisdom.academy
We’re confident that you will find this course extremely beneficial. However, if after completing the course, you believe the value gained is worth less than what you paid, we will refund you the difference.
Kathleen, Coach for EAs, formerly AI Safety Prioritisation Researcher at Open Philanthropy
"I always look forward to Ollie’s meditation groups. Ollie is uniquely talented at creating a warm and nourishing environment. He also seems to be a magnet for people who are thoughtful, intelligent, and kind. I’ve met some of my best friends through his practice groups. Plus, Ollie thinks deeply about AI development and other EA causes, and how researchers and EAs can benefit from meditation practice. 10/10 recommend!"
Frequently Asked Questions
Won’t meditation compromise my motivation & impact?
No. By practising mindful loving presence, over time, your motivational structure will change to be driven less by fear and shame and more by compassion.
At times, it may be hard to navigate these competing motives, and sometimes it may feel impossibly scary to trust your inner wisdom.
Compassion towards yourself helps you to tend to difficult emotions, see your blind spots, integrate the divergent parts of your psyche, and generally become less wrong. As your sense of inner peace and fulfilment grows, so does your capacity to serve others.
Compassion motivates you to act on behalf of the needs of others, and reason supports you to do so effectively.
We engage with dogma from first principles by practising and teaching epistemic humility with regards to worldviews.
We contextualise the insights of different wisdom traditions by appreciating their cultural heritage, and looking for associated historical patterns of healing and harm. We honour a multiplicity of wise perspectives, and aim to hold space for the tension between divergent views, rather than rejecting or reducing a view to fit our preconceived model.
We cultivate mindfulness of our own worldviews, illuminating how the forces of history, culture, and biology shape our core beliefs, values and experiences. We honour the limits of our human ape minds, accepting our default ways of being and knowing as profoundly conditioned. We aim to integrate empirical evidence to become less harmful, and less wrong.
How does your teaching avoid dogma?
Can meditation be harmful?
According to traditional knowledge, the effects of meditation are viewed as net positive overall but entail risks of harm, much like how exercise is generally good for the body but can also result in physical injury.
Most, if not all long-term meditation practitioners experience episodes of psychological distress, traditionally understood as part of a broader process of psychological healing.
We take great care to minimise possible harmful effects of meditation and other wisdom practices. Our harm reduction policy and procedures are being developed in consultation with a diversity of senior wisdom teachers and the available research.
Key mechanisms we are using to minimise harm from this program include:
Grounding all teachings and practices in an attitude and intention of unconditional love
Pre-course screening for contraindications
Trauma-informed course design & teaching
Course psychotherapist, for emergency support
Our harm-reduction procedures are a work in progress, and will go far above and beyond industry standards. If you have suggestions or concerns, please let us know!