Can we trick our brain into attaching a rubber hand as its own? Rubber Hand Illusion, as shown in the video, rewires our brain to accommodate the new rubber hand.
If our brain can be rewired to accommodate a rubber hand, then can we change it to go beyond the limit of its physical body and see all human beings as its extension? In that state, we will be happy on others success, empathize others pain, and not have envy and jealousy. Unfortunately, we don’t operate that way. Evolution optimized for survival and our body is a phantom, an illusion, constructed by our brain purely for convenience to increase our odds of survival. People feeling pain on their phantom limbs is one example to show our body is a phantom.
We always experience pain as projected into the body. When you throw your back out, you say, “My back is killing me!” and not, “My pain system is killing me.” But as phantoms show, we don’t need a body part or even pain receptors to feel pain. We need only a body image, produced by our brain maps. People with actual limbs don’t usually realize this, because the body images of our limbs are perfectly projected onto our actual limbs, making it impossible to distinguish our body image from our body. “Your own body is a phantom,” says Ramachandran, “one that your brain has constructed purely for convenience.” – The Brain That Changes Itself
Most of us will find it challenging to go beyond the limit of our physical body and see all human beings as our extension. Our ancestors understood this well. To change our default behavior, they made us repeatedly chant “Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavantu”— Let the people of the world be happy. All Vipassana meditators will know why we practice Mettā Bhāvanā. The chief characteristic of mettā is a benevolent attitude. It culminates in the identification of oneself with all beings, a recognition of the fellowship of all life.
Understanding the concepts of benevolent attitude and empathy is easy at the intellectual level. Putting it in practice is hard. Recently, I read about the idea of servanthood and the importance of putting teams first from Tom Gayner and Bill Campbell. The insights from Tom and Bill deeply resonated with me.
Tom Gayner on servanthood: The older I get the more I’m able to embrace the idea of servanthood and doing what I do for others, not for myself or solely for my own point of view. By the way, even if you’re trying to do things for others and you completely surrender to yourself to that idea, you’ll end up achieving and accomplishing amazing things for yourself, at the same time, you will not be able to help them. Among the reasons for this outcome is some simple math. I’m only one person. I have only 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If I multiply that out and get some quantifiable number of energy units to represent that, one times 24 times 365 equals 8760 of those energy units, 8784 in a leap.
When you serve others though, other people start to serve you too. At that point, the 24 times 365 starts to be multiplied by some number greater than one. There are roughly 7.9 billion people on planet Earth, if you can get any fraction of them to like you, to be rooting for you, to want to see you succeed and to not hate you, you will be amazingly better off. 7.9 billion times 24 times 365 multiplies out to 69,204,000,000,000 of those energy units. You don’t need to get to the max number of those 69 trillion units compared to your personal 8000 to beginning to enjoy the fruits of serving others. Serving others compounds over time. It multiplies, it works. Let’s embrace that idea.
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell: Bill’s guiding principle was that the team is paramount, and the most important thing he looked for and expected in people was a “team-first” attitude. Teams are not successful unless every member is loyal and will, when necessary, subjugate their personal agenda to that of the team. That the team wins has to be the most important thing. Perhaps Charles Darwin said it best in his book The Descent of Man: “A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”
He looked for commitment, to the cause and not just to their own success. Team first! You need to find, as Sundar Pichai says, “people who understand that their success depends on working well together, that there’s give-and-take—people who put the company first.” Whenever Sundar and Bill found people like that, Sundar says, “we would cherish them.” But how do you know when you have found such a person? Keep note of the times when they give up things, and when they are excited for someone else’s success. Sundar notes that “sometimes decisions come up and people have to give up things. I overindex on those signals when people give something up. And also when someone is excited because something else is working well in the company. It isn’t related to them, but they are excited. I watch for that. Like when you see a player on the bench cheering for someone else on the team, like Steph Curry jumping up and down when Kevin Durant hits a big shot. You can’t fake that.”
The mindset of servanthood and putting the team first is powerful. It is hard to operate this way as we need to suppress our egos. If we keep at it, then we can overcome our egos and go beyond the limits of our physical body. If our brain can attach a rubber hand, then it can be trained to see other human beings as our extension is possible.