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Episode 144
The Doctor's Farmacy

How To Align Your Attention With Your Intention

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

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In our unpredictable and continually changing world, figuring out how to create a happy life means tending to the needs of our health, career, relationships, passions, and desires. Unfortunately, time can often feel like our biggest enemy, often seeming to be out of our own control. But what if it isn’t? What if you had the ability to take control of how you trade your energy for time, and knew how to increase your body’s “energy budget” to live your fullest life?

On this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I was happy to sit down and talk with Dr. Pedram Shojai about how to find focus and make meaningful change to create the life we desire. 

During our conversation, Pedram shares his experience as a taoist monk, what he learned about himself and the world during that time, and why he eventually decided to leave monastic life. We also discuss a concept Pedram refers to as “life gardens.” By examining how we spend our time and our energy as a metaphor for how we tend to our life garden, we gain insight into the things we are helping to grow, and can recognize what areas we may be neglecting. We are all juggling giving our attention to everything from our careers and relationships, to finances and health; Pedram offers specific tools to help bring our attention to these various areas of life in line with our intention for each of them. 

We also talk about how the pandemic has forced us to halt as a society. As Pedram describes it, this is a meta-moment for focus. We delve into why this is a crucial time to evaluate our lives and hit reset, how to balance doing versus being, and why saying “no” and setting boundaries is so important. 

This episode is brought to you by ButcherBox, Four Sigmatic, and Starseed.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. Pedram’s experience as a monk why he eventually chose to leave monastic life
    (1:58 / 5:27)
  2. The benefits of learning to still your mind by controlling your breath
    (5:35 / 9:04)
  3. Our societal crisis of consciousness
    (8:35 / 12:04)
  4. Tending to our life garden
    (10:57 / 14:26)
  5. Managing your time to reflect what's most important to you
    (14:54 / 18:23)
  6. Instilling focus in our daily lives through brain training, consistent practice, and personal integrity
    (19:50 / 23:45)
  7. Reflecting on the life lessons we’re being taught during the coronavirus pandemic
    (26:17 / 30:12)
  8. Saying no to others as a way to say yes to yourself
    (30:53 / 34:48)
  9. The three fundamentals of an effective meditation practice
    (35:36 / 39:31)
  10. Pedram’s “100 Day Gong” practice to achieve your goals
    (40:22 / 44:17)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. Pedram Shojai

Dr. Pedram Shojai is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Master Herbalist and Acupuncturist. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk, and The Art of Stopping Time, and the founder of whole.tv and Well.org. He is an acclaimed Qigong Master and Taoist Abbot with a practical approach to modern living, using Eastern thinking and practices to help himself and others overcome the Westernized challenges of everyday life, and to wake up and live their lives fully. His latest book, Focus: Bringing Time, Energy, and Money into Flow, was just released and is about bringing your attention in line with your intention to get the life you want.  

Transcript

Pedram Shojai
There’s billions of dollars being leveraged and made on our attention, our eyeballs. So our attention has become the currency of the information age. And our attention is everywhere except on our own lives, on our own priorities, on our own families. And so if you take back your attention, you’ve taken back your power.

Kaya Purohit
Hi, everyone. I just wanted to let you know that this episode contains some colorful language. So if you’re listening with kids, you might want to save this episode for later.

Mark Hyman
Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy, I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, that’s farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, a place for conversations that matter. And if you have trouble focusing and concentrating and paying attention and feel distracted all the time like I know I do often, this is probably the podcast you want to listen to because it’s with my friend and Pedram Shojai, who’s an incredible man. He’s a leader in the field of rethinking how we approach our health. He’s a doctor of oriental medicine. He’s a master herbalist and acupuncturist. He’s also written an incredible book, which I love called The Urban Monk and the Art of Stopping Time. He’s the founder of Whole.TV and Well.org and he’s an acclaimed Qigong Master and Taoist Abbot, with a pretty practical approach to living in a crazy modern world, which is getting crazier all the time. And he uses the thinking of Eastern philosophy and practice to help himself and others to overcome some of the challenges we have in the Westernized world and to wake up and live their lives fully. And it’s what we all want to be doing.

Mark Hyman
So I encourage you to check out his latest book, Focus: Bringing Time, Energy and Money Into Flow. It was just released and it’s about bringing your attention in line with your intention to get the life that you want. So welcome Pedram.

Pedram Shojai
Hey, great to be here. Nice to see you.

Mark Hyman
All right, so here’s the deal that most people find kind of bizarre. You were actually a real monk. You were actually a real monk for a number of years, then you decided you could serve your real mission by being in the real world, but I don’t know what that is. So how did you come to do this? What did you learn about yourself and the world during your time as a monk? And what has it been like after leaving a monastery, which is a very different kind of existence?

Pedram Shojai
Very different kind of existence. Look, the privilege I had of being a monk, being able to focus on oneself, really focus on one’s breath, find the inner stillness, it’s the treasure that most of us don’t get to even taste because we’re so busy in the whitewater tumbling around trying to live this thing called life, we’ve never had a chance to slow down, to examine, to think, to question any of it. And so I got that. And once I felt as clear as I had felt in my life, I started to have doubts while up there. It felt really decadent. What was happening is-

Mark Hyman
Wait, being a monk felt decadent?

Pedram Shojai
It did. It’s the weirdest thing. People say, “What are you talking about? That sounds like a lot of work.” No, for me the honor of having the privilege and the space to sit in some beautiful setting and breathe to my belly and just recharge my batteries and feel full of life, it was amazing. And what was happening was the Western world was splashing against the beach, shall I say, of these Himalayan mountain top monasteries. And I realized people were running from our world there and the more I sat there, the less I felt like I was contributing to the world’s problems and the more I felt disconnected with what was happening up there. It’s like, okay, you’re over here, you do this monk thing and poor humanity, they’re never going to get it.

Pedram Shojai
And I felt like… You know what? I grew up in Los Angeles, California, I think of all my friends and my family and all the people that are suffering and there was just a juxtaposition of lifestyles that I couldn’t reconcile. And I spoke with a couple of the Abbots and the masters that I trained with and they’re like, “No, man, you don’t belong here.”

Mark Hyman
Get out.

Pedram Shojai
Get out. Yeah, back down the mountain.

Mark Hyman
You’re fired.

Pedram Shojai
That’s it.

Mark Hyman
You’re fired as a monk.

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. They’re like, “We let you in, you drink from the well, now take this back. Take this back to your place because that’s where it’s needed.” I got to be honest, I didn’t want to hear that. And I knew they were right. And so I came down and then had the rough re-entry of then saying, “Okay, I’m shifting from ascetic,” which means I renounced the world, I’m up here breathing, doing my thing, enjoying the inner realms to householder, which is where the rest of us live now. Which is I got bills, I got payroll, I got taxes, I got traffic. Now, take what you learned and apply it to the life of a householder and see if it works. A lot of it was lofty theory and the stuff that remained was the stuff that I know works because I then became CEO of a medical group, we had multiple offices. I had a lot going on. And that’s where you know your meditation works. Not when you’re on some yoga retreat on day four, feeling good about yourself, it’s when the bullets are flying.

Mark Hyman
Yeah. And that really is a technique that you’ve used to help you navigate life and teach others how to do the same thing. So, what are the lessons that you learned as a monk that may seem a little abstract, but actually help you deal with life in the real world?

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. The real world is stuck on a story. And it’s this narrative and this fast moving river. And we never stop to even question the cadence of how fast life is moving forward and how life circumstances get us tumbling up and down onto these rocks. And when you learn how to tap into your breath and we can get into the neurophysiology, there is all sorts of cool stuff about this that we can talk about. But when you get into the practices and you can still your mind by anchoring your breath and dropping into that place of no time, then you stand a chance, then you start to power the prefrontal cortex, you have agency, you have higher moral reasoning, you have negation of impulses, which is big when we start talking about lifestyle. How do you say no to the cheesecake? There’s a part of your brain that’s responsible for that. And just applying-

Mark Hyman
Wait, wait. So if you meditate, you can say no to the cheesecake? That’s pretty good.

Pedram Shojai
Yes. Yes. That is part of my premise, is the people who learn to empower the part of their brain and water this field have much more capacity for negation of impulses and are in a moment where they can pop in the clutch and say, “Wait a minute, is this cheesecake going to serve me versus being in just reactivity and hunger and whatever drives you to just eat the cheesecake before you know what happened?” And I think a lot of that is also predicated on this function of awareness, of focus. And all of that, look, it’s our birthright. But we think yoga is this 90 minute class that you feel guilty about not getting to and meditation is this lofty thing that is this super Zen state that is blissful. And these are all just misreads. Yeah, there’re stories of Zen masters being in these deep meditative states.

Pedram Shojai
But that’s not the day to day, the day to day is fetching water and chopping wood and just being in the moment with whatever you’re doing. Whether that’s working in a medical office, whether that’s being a paralegal, digging ditches, it’s still a question of whether you are present and where you can access that presence. And I think a lot of people have misread this. It’s just this lofty spiritual thing, versus what I consider like an operating system that we should all tap into.

Mark Hyman
So, instead of meditating to get better meditating, you meditate to get better at life.

Pedram Shojai
Bingo. That’s the literal translation of kung fu, is hard work. And it applies to everything. It applies to all your practices. So when you’re meditating to get better at life, that’s also your Kung Fu. It’s creating a circumstance within you that allows for you to roll with the punches and to be more adaptive and agile with whatever life is throwing at you, instead of getting knocked off your perch. So, that’s 100% the case.

Mark Hyman
Powerfully. So you said in your books that we’re experiencing as a society a crisis of consciousness. So what does that mean?

Pedram Shojai
Well, the Buddhists called humans hungry ghosts. We’re stumbling around looking for something outside of ourselves to fix us. “Tell me what to do. Oh, I bought all these weights, but now I need a trainer because I can’t just pick them up and start lifting them. I have 150 recipe books, but I still can’t cook. Tell me what to do.” It is outside in and we’ve been trained to think that. So, the doctor fixes me, the police protect me, the politicians make decisions for me. And we’re all just back on our heels basically without any agency. And the crisis of consciousness is we’ve evacuated, we are not here in our own bodies to be able to make decisions for ourselves in any capacity that’s going to be sustained. Like you say, “Oh, I want to lose 40 pounds.” Well, that’s probably going to take a minute. And so do you have the consciousness and the focus to stay on path to lose that 40 pounds and turn that into a lifestyle instead of just a yo-yo weight loss effect. That’s not just intent. And that’s my premise.

Pedram Shojai
Everyone’s banking up intention and willpower and blowing it by January forth or fifth, because they can’t hold the resolution. Is it a lack of willpower? Sometimes, but most of the time, I would put to you that it’s a lack of focus. Because without that focus to get up and do the same thing every day and understand the why of why you’re doing these things, you’re going to just get distracted and then you’re going to blow your willpower and you’ll be right back in some circumstantial thing in life, wondering why you gave up on another diet or forgot about the workout program. And we see this every day in healthcare.

Mark Hyman
So true. And we do have a crisis of consciousness. I think we’re not really awake to what’s happening a lot of the times for ourselves and really how to design a life that brings us closer into connection with things that matter for us, that we care about, that we want to do and be. And this book is really important, because if you can’t focus, your new book Focus, if you can’t focus you really can’t do the things you want to do in life to feel the things you want to feel and love the way you want to love and do the work you want to do. And one of the things I loved about your book was you talked about something called life gardens, which is kind of a novel concept, I never heard of it before. And why it’s important that we attend our gardens in life and how it affects everything from our careers, our relationships to our finances and our health. So what are life gardens and how do we get one?

Pedram Shojai
Well, so here’s the thing. The tricky part is we all have one. But the question is, when you start looking at your life garden, are you watering weeds or plants that you say you value. So if you took a look at your health, your family, your career, your passions, all these things that are important to you in life that you say are important and then you look at how much water each of them will take to thrive. And to me water is kind of the blended currency of time, money and energy. We’ll exchange those three for each other all the time. A lot of people trade their time for money, we put our energy into our work. And so you have a finite amount of water at any given point. So you talk about work-life balance, where’s the date night with your wife? Where is hanging out at the kid’s soccer game? Are these things on your calendar? Where are the things that you say you value and are you watering them enough?

Pedram Shojai
And if you start looking at this landscape of your life as a garden, first off, any good gardener knows you could plant a seed and it takes 90 days to see the harvest. And so it teaches us to be patient and it teaches us to methodically stay focused on what we said we want. I just planted a tomato plant here, tomorrow I’m planting broccoli right next to it, what’s going to happen to the tomato plant? That’s what we do in life. Oh, I’m on this diet, now I’m keto, now on this, now on that. It’s just like you don’t even put the seed in the ground and you stop watering it. Right?

Mark Hyman
Yeah.

Pedram Shojai
And so, looking at the life metaphor of the life garden, then it’s on us. We get to decide where our water goes. And so if you find yourself having stated goals and not getting there, it’s almost like accounting. It’s like, are you allocating enough budget of time, money and energy there? Are you being realistic with what you say you want? If you’re 150 pounds overweight, you’re not going to be in modeling underwear in a month. You might be there in five years? I don’t know. But you got to be realistic about where you want to be based on your other commitments. Like I’ve made it… We were just talking about this before we got on is, I made a lot of adjustments in my life and stop travels. I was traveling 80 days a year because of all the films I was making and my kids were starting to be like, “Man, that dad guy’s never around.”

Pedram Shojai
And I was like, “Wow, if I have a stated goal of being a great husband and a great dad, I got to change this.” And I shifted my entire lifestyle around to being more remote and watching my kids grow up, because that was important to me. And when you look at that on paper, you’re like, “Ooh, I’m lying to myself.” Like, “I’m kidding my self right now.”

Mark Hyman
Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s very honest. I think a lot of us do that. We say we value X, but we actually do Y.

Pedram Shojai
Yeah, follow the money. Follow the money, where’s your energy going? Where’s your time going?

Mark Hyman
Yeah, it’s so true. And we only have time and energy and money and where we spend those really reflects our values. And our stated values aren’t often the things that we focus on, we focus on things that just take up our time and it’s really true. And things are really changing right now. We live in a very unstable, very unpredictable world, we’re trying to figure out how to be happy in this time of COVID and everything else that’s going on, the economic stresses and how to focus on our health and our career, our friends and family, our passions our desires. But the biggest problem is time. I base this all the time, there’s a million things I want to do. I wanted to take a long walk today, but I have too many things planned and I didn’t manage my schedule very well and feel disappointed that the thing that matters most to me, I’m probably not prioritizing.

Mark Hyman
How do we manage our expectations for our time right now, versus time in the future? How do we balance this between doing, doing, doing and being, being, being? And I think I’m trying to figure out how to be more of a human being and less of a human doing because I’ve been doing so much for so many years and I’m like, “Wait a minute.” It doesn’t mean that I need to create a different balance for myself.

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. For me, first thing I do is say, “Hey, open up your calendar, let me look at your phone.” And if it’s call, call, call-

Mark Hyman
No, you’re not.

Pedram Shojai
Exactly.

Mark Hyman
You’re not looking at my calendar.

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. You asked that. And people it’s like you’re asking to look into their lingerie. People are so protective of that because they’re like, “Wow! Yeah, that’s not really a good reflection of what I say I want.” And so for me, I’ll block like. From 11 to 12, every single day, it’s my workout time. And that’s it. And if I have to move it, then I’ll look at where it needs to get moved that day and that time and because we’re homeschooling, it’s also PE time for the kids. But if you don’t hold the wall, if you don’t man that gate, it’s going to get taken. It’s like, “Oh, Dr. Hyman, there’s so and so calling, there’s this, there’s that.” And if you don’t hold the line, your calendar is going to basically reflect that and then all of a sudden, it’s going to be three calls on top of your workout hour or-

Mark Hyman
Yeah, schedule yourself first, right?

Pedram Shojai
You have to schedule yourself first and then you have to hold the line. And you have to remember why it’s important, because work has this tendency to demand, because work is technically where you get the money part of that equation. And so it’s like we’re spending money faster than we’re making it and half the time and people are so lost in the debt income cycles of how America works. And so, I have to work because I have all these notions that I’m the breadwinner or whatever it is that that makes you say, “Look, I got to do this. And so I could work out tomorrow, I could take a walk tomorrow.” Tomorrow has its own walk planned, so it’s not like you’re walking double to make up for the time you lost today.

Pedram Shojai
And it’s not like you’re not getting the time. Just for this example, the cross crawl and the breathing and the three dimensional movement and the dropping into parasympathetic nervous system and allowing the leftover thoughts to digest while you’re moving your body and integrating what happened yesterday or yesterday year, is a really important part of why walking needs to be there for your mental indigestion and your spiritual indigestion and your emotional indigestion. But because it’s not an appointment, we skip it. And so the first thing is hold the line with your phone, make sure you schedule yourself first, make sure you assemble your day around the things that you need. And look, sometimes you got to make… Sometimes I’ll take a walk and talk to somebody and be like, “Hey, listen, I need to go take a walk right now, throw in your earbuds, I recommend you do the same, let’s walk and talk.” You double down. Sometimes you got to make that deal, but at least you’re walking.

Mark Hyman
Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I definitely do a lot of walking meeting. People are like, “Oh, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.” I’m like, “I don’t want to be on my camera, I’m just going to go for a walk and have a conversation.” I can focus and pay attention. It’s great.

Kaya Purohit
Hi, everyone. Hope you’re enjoying the episode. Before we continue, we have a quick message from Dr.
Mark Hyman , about his new company Farmacy and their first product, the 10 Day Reset.

Mark Hyman
Hey, it’s Dr. Hyman. Do you have FLC? What’s FLC? It’s when you feel like crap. It’s a problem that so many people suffer from and often have no idea that it’s not normal, or that you can fix it. You know the feeling, it’s when you’re super sluggish, your digestion is off, you can’t think clearly or you have brain fog, or you just feel rundown. Can you relate? I know most people can. But the real question is what the heck do we do about it? Well, I hate to break the news, but there’s no magic bullet. FLC isn’t caused by one single thing, so there’s not one single solution. However, there is a system-based approach, a way to tackle the multiple root factors that contribute FLC. And I call that system, the 10 Day Reset. The 10 Day Reset combines food, key lifestyle habits and targeted supplements to address FLC straight on.

Mark Hyman
It’s a protocol that I’ve used with thousands of my community members to help them get their health back on track. It’s not a magic bullet, it’s not a quick fix, it’s a system that works. If you want to learn more and get your health back on track, click on the button below or visit getfarmacy.com. That’s get farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y.com.

Kaya Purohit
Now back to this week’s episode.

Mark Hyman
Speaking of focus, your book Focus is just fabulous. Everybody should definitely go and get a copy right now. Because we all need more focus and we are really unfocused as a society and as individuals. And I noticed it’s something I struggle with as well. And in order to actually do the things that you want, to have the life you want, to be in service to do the work that you care about, to show up for your family and friends, to learn the things you want to learn, to just be yourself, you have to focus. And the problem is, it’s tough. How do people get focus? And how do they make change so that they build focus into their life?

Pedram Shojai
So, here’s here’s the funniest part about this story, is we’ve already known the answer this for years. But because we live in a culture that is dominantly selling sugar cereal to children, we sidestep the answer and say, “Okay, I can’t wait till there’s another shortcut.” We already understand that mind-body practices like meditation, qigong, yoga, breath work, all these things are absolutely proven to help with all of the things that we’re saying we’re lacking in life. There’s the NF-kappa B pathway and the inflammatory cascades and all sorts of wonderful medical stuff that we could geek out about. And then the empowerment of the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that allows for you to stay focused and say no to impulses and stupid things that come by like, “I was going to go to the gym, but the guy said let’s get a drink.” You got to be sitting in the perch of focus to get that. And I ask people, “So, what are your daily practices to instill focus?” And they don’t have it. Right?

Mark Hyman
Yeah.

Pedram Shojai
I meditate… The problem meditation is what happened to meditation is it got basically supplanted for a healthy alternative to a Quileute in our culture. It’s like, “Oh, you’re so stressed out, you’re about to have a panic attack and now you’re going to do that meditation thing.” That’s not what it’s for. It’s about doing it every single day to lengthen your fuse, so that when the bullets start flying, you don’t freak out and become non adaptive and run for the hills and you stand your ground and you make a conscious decision with your rational mind, instead of getting knocked off your perch. And so I teach a lot of practices to say, look, you do this every day for 10 minutes, 15 minutes a day, you’re going to get better at life’s Kung Fu, you’re going to be more calm, more resilient, you’re going to manage your inflammatory cascades better, you’re going to be more parasympathetic, rest and digest.

Pedram Shojai
You’re going to be doing all these wonderful things that support your immunity and help. And the list is so long and you know this better than anyone. The list is so long of benefits. And all you got to do is do it. But we’ve been trained in our culture to have someone give us a pill or tell us what to do, but not do the work that we know works and then wonder why our life doesn’t work.

Mark Hyman
It’s actually interesting, because to me this is one of the paradoxes of medicine, is that we know you have to eat better to be healthy, you have to exercise, you have to sleep. But the fourth leg on that table is learning how to train your brain as brain or size, basically, in a sense of how do you work with your mind in a way that allows you to be more human, more engaged, more loving, more present more happy or happier. And when you look at the effects of meditation, it’s actually like I said, it’s helping you be better at life, not just better at meditation. And the the brain function that we have, needs to be trained.

Mark Hyman
We have very lazy, crazy, monkey minds that don’t have the ability to really be present and focus. And by using these techniques, it literally trains your brain in a way that it’s like exercise training your muscles, but we don’t value that in the society, we don’t focus on that. And I think that’s what’s so beautiful about your book and it helps us connect to the science around it, but also the value to improving the quality of our overall life.

Pedram Shojai
Amen. Listen, you’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t sugar coat. And I’m just a no nonsense guy because I’ve seen thousands of patients in my career. I’ll tell you the ones that get better are the ones that decide they’re going to get better and do what it takes to get better. And the ones that are waiting for me to say some sort of magical thing that’s going to suddenly solve all their problems without them having to do anything, or the ones that go from doctor to doctor, shopping from solution to solution, listen to very podcast, having notebooks this big, and still not being well.

Mark Hyman
Right, not doing it. Not doing it.

Pedram Shojai
You got to do it. It’s action. And so in the life garden, everything that you say you want, there’s a column that says the action I will take to get there. And if you don’t associate what you say you want with an action to get there, you’re running around a circle, you’re just talking smack. And so it’s about reconciling. The word integrity comes in. Personal integrity. If you don’t have integrity with yourself, if you say, “Hey, I’m going to get up and I’m going to do this morning.” And you’re like, “Nevermind.” You’re more likely to flake on that lunch. Who goes to lunch anymore? But you’re more likely… You know what I mean? You’re more likely to flake on some person and be late because you can’t even hold the line for yourself. And so it really is about establishing integrity with your own word and doing what it takes to get where you say you want.

Pedram Shojai
I don’t tell people what to do with their lives, that’s not my position. My position is to give people tools to say, “Hey, I want this.” Okay, great. Here are some ideas about how you can get there. But where I’ve seen in my 20 years of doing this life garden work, is people just look around them and say, “Well, everyone else is doing it.” And they lose their integrity. And if you look around the world we live in right now, you can’t even trust the news, you can’t even trust anything. Because there’s a lack of integrity. Tat doesn’t start with fixing the political system, it starts with fixing what you said you were going to do this morning and then establishing that core integrity with yourself and then rippling that out. And it’ll reflect in your health, it’ll reflect in your life, it’ll reflect in your finances. Once you are back in the driver’s seat, then you’re not the one tumbling around the whitewater of circumstances asking what happened, you’re at the rudder. And that’s the difference between a master and someone who’s making excuses for their life.

Mark Hyman
Yeah, that’s powerful, Pedram. Thank you. One of the things that’s happening right now we’re all in it together is COVID-19. And the way it’s changed all of our lives, it’s trapped us back in our homes, stopped us from running around and traveling, which you seem like you’re on the bandwagon before. And it’s forced us to really look at our lives and how we spend our time and what we want and to reset things. And I think a lot of people are struggling with this. So how do you suggest people really reset and wake up to what’s really happening that allows them to get more connected to what they want, what matters to them, how they want to live their lives. I know for me, it’s been a huge change because I spent half my life on the road and not just 80 days, probably more than that.

Mark Hyman
And being home for the first time in many years, it’s really kind of connected to me the things that I really missed just being in the same bed every night, being able to have a routine and a schedule and a rhythm to eat food that I cook, to workout in a more regular schedule, to actually have the nourishment of the kinds of things that really make me happy. I don’t want to go back to being on the road. So, how do we help people wake up and reset?

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. What a gift in a lot of ways! Listen, I know people… I lost one of my groomsmen, my wife lost her grandma. COVID is obviously serious. But it’s also a very interesting time. If you are doing what you’re doing banging around running your life and you get this really bad flu or fever, it knocks you down. And you don’t have enough energy to do anything, but just lie around and think about your life. When that’s happened to me in my life, I started thinking how the hell did I get here? Okay, I’ve been traveling too much, I’ve been on airplanes, I had that dairy at lunch, I had this, I had that. And I started thinking about going back following the breadcrumbs of what led me to stumble and get sick and fall. And look, the world’s thrown a fever right now. Literally, everything came to a crashing halt and we have an opportunity, not just to think about how we run our own lives, but how we run our economy, how we burn fossil fuels, all of it.

Pedram Shojai
And this to me is a very important time for humanity to take a proper accounting of where we are, what we value and basically change things to stay there. Like for me, I’m not going back, I’m not going to travel 80 days a year, that was insane. I don’t care. I’m on a couple shows right now, you’re Zooming in and that’s the new normal and thank God, I’m so happy. But to go to New York for four hours of TV time and fly back, that’s just insane, you’re burning all this fossil fuel. I’m done with it. And so anyone who’s listening right now, what is happening that you’re valuing more now? Are you getting time with your kids? Are you having more access to healthy food in your kitchen, because you don’t have to go to Denny’s for lunch. There’re so many wonderful things that are now part of the new normal that you can keep. And then there’s a lot of things that are stressing people out.

Pedram Shojai
For me, a lot of people in my academies and stuff, they have terrible boundaries, there’s kids everywhere, there’s noise, they don’t have the work-life balance and they don’t know how to adjust and say, “I’m at work, or I’m at home now.” These are skills that you got to pick up. And you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can just learn. There’re ways to learn to do this. But to me, I see this as a gift. I really do. I see that COVID has slowed us down to get us to be introspective as a culture. You watched the political debates and stuff, they’re insane. It’s just a bunch of insanity on all sides. It’s people just screaming at each other. So you look at that and you’re like, “Wow, the world is catching fire and it’s all over.”

Pedram Shojai
And the lesson there is peace, stability, community, they all start with you, they all start with how you’re living your life every single day. Have you walked over to talk to your neighbors lately? Have you [inaudible 00:30:20] your own garden, have you gone out and cleaned up your yard. These are all opportunities we have now to hunker down and reset and think about how much we consume and where energy goes. If you don’t take this chance right now, I think it’s going to lead to much more mental health issues downstream for people who don’t take this opportunity to think through what they want in life.

Mark Hyman
It’s true. You said very wisely, “I am not going to get on a plane 80 days a month anymore.” And you know what I’ve been thinking a lot about is we all have these giant to-do lists. And I’ve been thinking about my to-don’t list. I’m working on my to-don’t list because I think I have a bad habit of saying yes. One, because I’m excited to do many things and I want to contribute. Two, because I want to help my friends. Three, because I feel like it’s important to help people, but I’m also having trouble saying no. And I think you talked about saying no, as a really important way of actually helping yourself. Often, when your heart says no and your mouth says yes, there’s a huge cost to that for you personally. And I think many of us struggle with that. And so we have to learn how to be in integrity to be able to say no with love and kindness but to really take care of ourselves.

Mark Hyman
And I think that’s… Like I said saying no to someone else is saying yes to yourself. So, How do you recommend people to do that? Because I know it’s a challenge for me. People are now even having more difficulties working from home and trying to balance school and work and many more things. So how do you get people to the polite and loving no?

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. And I find that it’s easier for East Coasters than West Coasters. We all come from a people pleasing culture in America in general. But no, is a very difficult word. We want people to like us, we want to help our friends, we want all those things. And I would say that, for me the filter I put all of those questions through becomes my life garden. And so once I visualize my life garden, how much water it takes to manifest all the things that I do. You do a lot, I do a lot, we’re busy people. So it’s like I’m constantly watering a number of films and books and all these things take a lot of time, energy and effort. And so when some new opportunity comes up, I look at all the things I’ve already said yes to real quick, including my wife, my kids, my fitness, even my dogs. I have so many things that take time during my day.

Pedram Shojai
And then I have to ask myself, what do I have to say no to, to make this a yes? And if this thing is so important, to supplant one of my former yeses and stop watering it to allow for this to happen, then that’s a conscious decision. And look, life brings new things and we have opportunities to go in directions, that’s fine. But I have to make room somewhere else in my garden. And in keeping that visualization, it helps me from impulsively saying yes to everything. And you don’t have to be like “No.” You could just be like, “Hey, listen, you know what? We’re really busy this quarter, I think sometime in three months I’ll just pass you off to my assistant, I would love to do this as soon as time opens up.” And so it could be no for now, yes, later. But not yes, right now.

Pedram Shojai
And so we have this thing, this cushion called time. And because we’re also like… I’m a quick start, where I’m just like, “Hey, yeah, let’s go, let’s go.” And it doesn’t have to happen today or tomorrow. It could be a yes, maybe later And let’s book that six months from now, that’s fine. And then I will adjust my life garden accordingly then, but the problem is we don’t know how much is flying out of our pocket right now, and so we just spend money really, in terms of time and we don’t have it.

Mark Hyman
Well, it’s true, I haven’t found myself going, “You know, cheese, I’ve nothing on the schedule in November, so sure, why not? I’ll do that it sounds fun.” And then November comes around, I’m like, “The entire day is full. I got this… I thought I had Friday afternoon, I’m going to be getting a ride back to my house from Boston where I’m at. And I think I’m going to get to edit my book, because I have two hours to just focus and no interruptions. And the next thing I know, I’ve got the entire time booked with phone calls. This is important and that surgeon and this one wants to talk to me now. It’s stuff that I want to do or that I care about, but it’s like, “Wait a minute, what happened to that time?” And so it’s just really [crosstalk 00:35:00].

Pedram Shojai
When I’m writing a book, my team knows. If I say writing a chapter, they know that that is sacred time, unless something’s on fire they’re not allowed to put something on top of that. And I’m willing to take a call at 5:30 in the evening if it’s urgent, to get that out of the way. But I’m not going to let the book time go, because what’s going to happen is then every time I’m on a phone call with someone, there’s a subtle amount of resentment that I’m here and not where I said I was going to be. And after a while, that leads to anxiety, that’s stressful.

Mark Hyman
Yeah. So, we talked a little bit about meditation as a tool to hook. And we’ve talked a lot about that on this podcast. How do you start to do it? People are like, “To get a meditation cushion, it has to be perfectly quiet, I have to be in a monastery, [inaudible 00:35:50] the right music-

Pedram Shojai
I got to wear Lululemon.

Mark Hyman
I got to have the right cushion. How do we start to build this in a really practical way in our daily lives?

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. I think what’s happening is there’s a lot of fluff, everyone’s taking meditation and trying to brand it in their own way because Lord knows Instagram needs constant feed posts and stuff. And my whole thing has been reductionist. I don’t really think that you need to make meditation fluffy, you don’t have to change your shirt, get a tattoo or any of that crap. You just need to breathe. So the three fundamentals that we know that will basically switch from sympathetic dominance to parasympathetic dominance is you want to relax your gastric muscles. So either be seated or bend your knees in a standing position, you want to do low diaphragmatic breathing down to your lower belly and you want the tip of your tongue touching the roof of the mouth. Those three things to me are the trifecta of coaxing your nervous system back into parasympathetic dominance.

Pedram Shojai
And the more you do that, the more you train your body to go back to and live in rest and digest. And look, at first you might get 30 seconds out of five minutes of actual applied time there. And eventually you get better and better at it. And then you find yourself doing it throughout the day. And eventually that becomes home. And when that becomes home, that’s when people go, “Hey, Mark, what are you doing? You look good. You have different. What’s up?” And you’re just in a different time zone, because you’re not in that real reactive phase. So literally, it’s low diaphragmatic breathing, relax your gastroc, tongue to the roof of the mouth. That’s the trifecta from basically any meditation system [inaudible 00:37:37]. There’s different breathing techniques-

Mark Hyman
Why tongue to the roof of your mouth?

Pedram Shojai
So in the Chinese system, what that does is it allows for the dumai and the redmi meridians to circulate. So it creates an electromagnetic circuit of connecting the dots basically. In Western physiological model, what it does is it shifts and it opens up the airway, so you’re doing more nasal breathing, getting more nitrous oxide and all sorts of wonderful things that happen with nasal breathing and it puts you in that position where you’re breathing and moisturizing the air coming in and out of your nose. And we don’t know, we just see it happen.

Mark Hyman
It works.

Pedram Shojai
It works, it works. And so, I’ve been at this for a very long time and I can tell you, anecdotally, it works. And I can tell you there’s a ton of studies coming out now showing that these things somehow are shifting nervous systems, they are helping the sensory motor strip relax, they’re helping the limbic system move the blood back up to the prefrontal cortex. And so I don’t know how these guys knew this stuff. I’m not going to pretend I do. They knew it. And now we’re starting to understand that it actually physiologically is doing what they said it does. Right? And again-

Mark Hyman
Well, what’s interesting is that the tech revolution has just guided us to so many extraordinary discoveries and the amount of intelligence and diligence and hard work applied to understanding that our physical world and our outer world has just been staggering. We send people to Mars and the Moon. It’s mind boggling. But what we’ve neglected in our culture is a real deep investigation into the technology of interspace in our minds and the workings of them and cultures like Tibet, I’m reading a book now called The Way of the White Clouds about this pilgrim in Tibet in the 1930s and the practices they did and the ways that they developed their mind. So, they were experts at the inner technology. And these tools are something that you can use to start to get into that in a way that actually enhances the quality of your life. Because it’s all about at the end of the day, the quality of your life, the quality of your interactions with other humans, your ability to show up in your life fully, to be connected and present and alive.

Mark Hyman
And if we don’t have that, we don’t really don’t have our life. We’re just rushing through headlong doing one thing after the other and not really connecting to the things that matter. So I think it’s important for us to understand these are little doorways. We know about exercise, we know about eating, but this is an important book because it helps us to draw back to some of those ancient practices that take us to a place that allow us to live better and feel better. Okay, so last question. You talked about your life being broken up into sprints, you call these 100 Day Gong. So what the heck is 100 Day Gong? What is it and why does it work for you and why does it work for all those people that you use it with in your practice?

Pedram Shojai
So, we know that it takes about 90 days to develop a new habit. And so people say, “Hey, I want to do this multi year goal of becoming a whatever, whatever.” And there’s not enough focus. Most people I know do not have the mental fortitude to keep focused on something for five years, let alone five minutes. And so what we start doing is breaking it down into these little sprints, so you get three of these sprints a year and you have something that you want to get to. Okay, so what are you going to do every day for the next 100 days to improve your vitality, bring down your inflammation, have more energy to then invest into this goal? Because a lot of us… What’s the point of being healthy? What’s the point of being fit? And we lose track of all those things because we just gas up the car and then it just sits around or we parade it around not having a destination or a journey.

Mark Hyman
Yeah.

Pedram Shojai
So once you start understanding what you need this energy for, what you need this clarity for, what you need this drive to take you to, then you start working towards it and remembering the why. And so 100 days at a time, every day you’re 1% closer. And I found with 10s of thousands of patients and students at this point, that… And I’ve always had them give us feedback of what worked for them, is it takes that long to instill new habits. And people are like, “Well that’s a long time.” I’m like, “Yeah, okay, so 100 days from now you’re going to be 100 days older, one way or another. What did you do?” It’s like, don’t be so short sighted to think that you’re not going to live another 100 days. So how are you going to change your operating system? And what actions are you going to take towards the goals that you stated, not that I gave you, but that you said are important to you to actually get there?

Pedram Shojai
And these 100 day sprints have been really effective, we break them down into 60 and 30 day goals. But then it just kind of boils down to what are you doing every day? If you want to write a book and you say, “Okay, I have 100 days to do it,” then you better be 30% of the way there by day 30, or else it’s going to be a rough end of the month. Or you better move things around later in the month and take care of other plants in your life garden right now to make room for it. But just looking at how to budget your time, energy and money is something that we weren’t taught. I was taught that in school.

Mark Hyman
No.

Pedram Shojai
And so, we run around just shooting our cannons, wondering why we’re tired when we’re eating calories and we’re borrowing more calories with coffee to get through today. We’re tired and so you got to look at how your energy is going out? Where are you spending all this? And without focus, you’re never going to get to where you said you’re going to be? And so 100 days is really the magic number I found in 25 years of doing this.

Mark Hyman
So any last thoughts, wisdom for those listening about how to be more engaged in developing their focus, which really determines everything about your life? Right?

Pedram Shojai
Yeah. Yeah, I think what you were saying in the previous segment is really the moral of the story, which is, it’s about inner space, it’s about understanding who you are. If you don’t ask who I am and what’s this all about and what I want to do with 150,000 or 150 million heartbeats I have left on planet Earth, then you’re just taking up space and eating food and being fed media. And so the real question is, who are you? What do you want out of life? And I don’t know if there’s reincarnation or not. And if this is your only chance on planet Earth to be Dr, Mark Hyman, or whoever’s listening to this, what do you need to get out of it? And then what do you have to do to get there? And those are deep personal questions. And we live in this thing called the information age, where there’s billions of dollars being leveraged and made on our attention, our eyeballs. So our attention has become the currency of the information age. And our attention is everywhere, except on our own lives, on our own priorities, on our own families.

Mark Hyman
So, true.

Pedram Shojai
And so, if you take back your attention, you’ve taken back your power.

Mark Hyman
So, so true. Well, Pedram, thank you for the work you do in the world and movies you make, the books you write, the teaching that helps people just get connected to what really matters with not just the grand abstract idea, but really practical tools. And I think everybody needs to pick up a copy of Focus: Bringing Time, Energy and Money Into Flow. It’s out now, you can get it wherever you get your books, Amazon, whatever. I also encourage you to recognize if you buy the book, you’re going to get this amazing course called the 21 Days to Focus with the purchase the book. So you’ll have a real practical set of tools guided by Pedram, to help you do that. And then please, if you loved this podcast, share with your friends and family on social media, leave a comment, we’d love to hear from you. How have you been able to focus and what tools have you learned? Maybe you can share those with us if learned some new things. And subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next time on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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