I recently attended a workshop at the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) in Berkeley, California. The premise of the workshop was to learn how to apply so-called “rationality techniques” to our day-to-day lives.

Going into the workshop, I figured that the training would be fairly technical, learning about biases, logic, and cutting edge research in cognitive neuroscience.

However, this wasn’t quite the case. For CFAR, it seems, applying rationality is about 20% understanding those things, and about 80% understanding yourself. What that means was hours of exercises in meditation, focusing, introspection, and mindfulness. This wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was extremely valuable.

In these exercises, we were constantly challenged to, for just a moment, truly feel our current experience. It feels like something to be me. And, when I look at someone else, I must remember that it feels like something to be them.

This exercise in mindfulness put me in touch with some internal things that were going on that I didn’t expect.

My biggest takeaway from this workshop was that we cannot underestimate the value of taking five minutes to take a step back and consider our situation, making an effort to actually understand the moment that we are experiencing, and how those moments culminate to make up our human experience. Only when we understand ourselves can we even begin to start understanding what’s going on outside.