George Andersen

Philosophical Counselor

Archive for the 'Examined Life' Category

31 October
Comments Off on On silence

On silence

This is a royalty-free image from

Silence helps us direct our attention inside. It seems easy to understand but there are nuances in this concept. There are various types of silence and we can choose a working definition when reflecting on it. The silence I think about is one that combines physical silence with the mental one. Even the most quiet places on earth are not void of sound but that does not mean they are not silent.

For most of us, silence includes to some extent the existence of sounds of quality, which I conceive of as non-intrusive sounds, like wind, or gentle bird singing, some kind of gently flowing water, or a soothing rhythm. In a strictly physical sense, we can get as close as possible to complete absence of sound in specially built chambers but even there we might still hear the sound produced by the beats of our own heart.

The other, more subtle side, is the mental silence, which is even more important to explore. It is the silence we experience when we suspend thoughts expressed internally with words, or images. To get there, we must work through the mental noise, which might appear as amplified by the silence of the outside, in order to get to the second, more profound silence of simply being.

22 November
Comments Off on Is your soul healthy?

Is your soul healthy?

This image belongs to Pathway Community Church.

Long time ago, Epictetus walked around asking people whether their souls were healthy. People ignored him or, if he continued to annoy them, threatened to give him a beating. In the examination of our own life, let us keep this question in mind.


20 December

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity

When we interact with other people, are we present? Do we let people touch us with their presence? Are we paying attention to the interaction?

Often, we think about what we want to say to our interlocutors, without taking in what they are saying. Sometimes, we are physically there and mentally somewhere else; no wonder miscommunication occurs.

The attention we give others is a form of generosity and respect, as it is when we direct it towards ourselves. When we are attentive to our thoughts and feelings, we learn about ourselves, which helps us improve ourselves.

Paying attention requires taking the time to open up and meaningfully receive.

19 July

On the care of the soul

Created by the Russian artist Sceith.

“And therefore if the head and the body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul; that is the first and essential thing. And the care of the soul, my dear youth, has to be effected by the use of certain charms, and these charms are fair words; and by them temperance is implanted in the soul, and where temperance comes and stays, there health is speedily imparted, not only to the head, but to the whole body.”

by Socrates – as captured by Plato in “Charmides”

The “fair words” that Socrates mentions are to me words that persuade us to be gentle, considerate, and adequate to the situation at hand. These fair words rarely come to us in moments of turmoil and adversity if we did not practice persuading our soul with them in moments of tranquility. In order to charm our soul into temperance, for example, we have to prepare the right “charms” in advance and practice their assertion, so that we remember and use them when needed. In this sense, charming our own soul into any virtue could be a daily spiritual exercise.

14 June

Beauty as motivator

Created by the Russian artist Sceith.

In one of my previous posts I wrote about the fact that people can change to became better human beings. Among the things that could motivate us to change and improve ourselves is beauty. Beauty goes beyond our cultural backgrounds and the environment in which we live; it appeals to that part of our soul that can transform and purify us. Sometimes beauty touches us through the eyes of a loved one, or through the fragility of a flower. Sometimes it is revealed to us through a dream. Sometimes it comes from within and sometimes from the outside.

When we see beauty we may feel the need to look at it, to let her go through us, to understand it, to learn from it, to make it part of our lives, and to let our thoughts and actions be permeated by it. Beauty can be a powerful motivator for change. If we can accept its presence it makes us more human, gentle, and compassionate. In order to be touched and motivated by beauty we have to tend to our soul, open our eyes so that we see it when it appears in the fleeting moments of our lives, and open the door for it.

23 April

We can change

On occasion, we reach a point in our lives when we feel caught in a situation from which we cannot move further. We have a feeling of “being stuck”. Some people realize that in order to get “unstuck” they have to change something and work on specific steps they have to take. Others accept the situation and concentrate on maintaining a level of stability and not falling into despair. It is important to understand that it is up to us to do something to change the situation.

We can change.

28 March

On the importance of meetings

Every now and then we suddenly meet people that have a positive influence on us. Through their way of being, these people inspire us and help us realize that we are not alone in our quest for the life goals we set for ourselves: understanding the world around us, improving ourselves, helping others, etc.

It is important to acknowledge and cherish these meetings as great parts of our lives for they are moments in which we “give and take” from our hearts. It is this exchange that crosses both nurture and nature that shows the beauty in the meetings of the minds.

12 February

The risk involved in presenting ideas for improvement

Even when doing it out of good intentions, sometimes presenting ideas for improvement to other people could be perceived as an affront. Especially in situations when people do not expect to receive advice or recommendations, our intention to help could be misinterpreted.  For example, when we recommend the reading of or reflection on a particular thought, the other person could think that we are showing off, or that we are making a judgment about her or his character.

In real life, we do not always gauge exactly others’ openness to new ideas. If we truly want to help, it might be necessary to take the risk of having our intention misinterpreted. One way of mitigating this risk is to keep in mind that people are different and that a “one size fits all” counselling approach does not work. As much as possible, we have to match the ideas we would like to impart with the audience intended, so that the act of helping unfolds and is perceived as such, and not as an offence.

03 December

Let us be vigilant

“Since the beginning of our conversation, we have come closer to death.  Let us be vigilant while we still have the time.” – a monk’s reflection

I found this quote a while ago and it stuck with me. Thinking about our own mortality brings forth the question of how should we live the rest of our life and encourages us to examine our pursuits, and values. Moving from where we are to where we want to be as human beings requires change, and change requires effort. Let’s make an honest effort to improve ourselves.