The wisdom of Alan Watts: 5 transformative ideas for a more fulfilling life

Let me introduce you to this magnificent man.

Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, renowned for his ability to demystify Eastern philosophy for Western audiences.

His teachings are rich with wisdom and have the power to utterly transform how we perceive life.

If you want to know more about the transformative ways you can be fulfilled in life, then keep reading!

Because Alan Watts has a lot to teach us.

1) The impermanence of life

Life, as you know, is ever-changing, always evolving. Watts urges us to not only accept but to embrace this constant change.

From the seasons shifting, to our daily routines altering, to relationships evolving – change is always around us.

Instead of resisting it, what if we learn to dance with it?

Watts believed that when we fight change, we’re essentially fighting life itself.

Look at what Alan Watts has to say about it:

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Imagine what could happen if you started to see change not as a scary monster to be avoided but as a dance partner to be embraced.

The fear of uncertainty could transform into the thrill of possibility. That sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

So, here’s our first transformative idea for a more fulfilling life:

Dive headfirst into the dance of change, and let the rhythm of life guide you.

2) The power of the present moment

Now, you might be thinking, “The present moment? That sounds a bit cliché, doesn’t it?”

Well, let me tell you, there’s a reason this idea keeps popping up in philosophies and mindfulness practices worldwide.

Watts beautifully articulated this point, saying:

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

Often, we’re so caught up in what’s next—the next meeting, the next errand, the next big life event—that we forget to truly live in the now.

But according to Watts, that’s where the magic happens. That’s where life is.

Imagine treating each moment as a precious opportunity to be fully alive, fully engaged.

Rather than always chasing the future or dwelling in the past, we can enjoy the present moment.

The simple act of enjoying a cup of coffee, feeling the breeze on your face, or even typing on your keyboard—each moment can be transformative if we let it be.

And get this: The present isn’t just a moment to be lived; it’s a moment to be played with.

How liberating is that?

Basically, Watts tells us this:

Treat life like play and be fully engaged in the present moment.

Easier said than done, of course, but imagine the possibilities if we could master this!

3) The illusion of separateness

Now: We’re going to dive into a concept that might just change the way you see the world around you.

Alan Watts often discussed the idea of “The Illusion of Separateness.”

Youu might be wondering, “What on earth is that?”

Well, let me explain. Watts believed that we are all interconnected, that we’re all one. He suggested that the idea of being separate individuals is simply an illusion.

If we truly believe that we are all connected, that your joy is my joy, your pain is my pain, then wouldn’t that dramatically change the way we treat one another?

In Alan Watts’ beautiful words:

“We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves,’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”

In other words, we’re all expressions of the same universal force, just like waves are expressions of the ocean.

Once we grasp this, we may find ourselves feeling more compassion, empathy, and understanding towards others and towards ourselves. We’re all in this together, after all.

Here’s the transformative idea we can glean from Watts’ wise words:

Recognize the illusion of separateness, embrace our interconnectedness, and treat each other with the kindness and compassion we all deserve.

Sounds like a recipe for a more fulfilling life, doesn’t it?

4) Life as play

Alan Watts often referred to life as a form of play. This one’s a game-changer.

This isn’t about disregarding our responsibilities or ignoring the serious parts of life, but rather, it’s about adopting a more playful attitude towards our existence.

Watts once said:

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”

Think about it: we often get so caught up in our to-do lists, our problems, our ambitions, that we forget to enjoy the journey.

But what if we took a moment to step back and see life as a playground, rather than a battleground?

Imagine if we approached our daily tasks with a sense of playfulness and curiosity.

Instead of stressing over a work project, what if we saw it as a puzzle to be solved? Instead of dreading a difficult conversation, what if we approached it as an opportunity to learn and grow?

So what is Watt’s transformative idea here?

See life as play. Inject a dose of playfulness into your daily routine and watch how it changes your perspective.

It’s like putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses – the world just might seem a little less daunting and a whole lot more fun.

5) The paradox of desire

We all have desires, right? Whether it’s the desire for success, love, money, or recognition, it’s a common human trait.

But here’s where Watts offers a surprising insight: 

“When you get free from certain fixed concepts of the way the world is, you find it is far more subtle, and far more miraculous, than you thought it was.” 

This principle can be directly applied to our desires.

Watts talked about the paradox of desire – the idea that the more we chase after something, the more elusive it becomes.

It’s like trying to catch a butterfly; the more desperately we chase, the more likely we are to scare it away.

But what if we stop chasing? What if, instead of frantically pursuing our desires, we calmly and patiently wait for them to come to us?

According to Watts, when we let go of our excessive desires, when we stop trying to force things, life often falls into place more naturally and effortlessly.

Let go of the relentless chase and allow life to unfold as it will.

Final words

In the end, the wisdom of Alan Watts offers us a richer, more nuanced perspective on life, helping us see beyond our routines and preconceptions.

By embracing these transformative ideas, we open ourselves to a deeper sense of fulfillment, connection, and joy in our everyday lives.

Gershom Mabaquiao

Gershom Mabaquiao

Gershom Mabaquiao is a scholar of psychology, oral tradition, and interpersonal relationships. His creative works have been published in Inquirer.net's Young Blood section, The Unconventional Courier, and Tint Journal. He lives in the Philippines with his best friend-turned-partner and their dog, Zuko. Gershom has plans of taking his master's degree in Clinical Psychology to help young adults heal the inner child in each of them.

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