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You may have heard that in Feng Shui philosophy, locations can have energy and memory. This energy may also exist in your mind, as certain areas trigger emotions or action inside you. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, “Think Like a Monk” author Jay Shetty and the Amens tell you how you can use these concepts to your advantage to supercharge your environment and keep your head clear, present, and focused in order to stay productive and purposeful.
For more info on Jay Shetty’s new book “Think Like a Monk”, visit https://www.amazon.com/Think-Like-Monk-Train-Purpose/dp/1982134488
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Welcome back. We’re here with Jay Shetty.
In the time we have left, you have so much experience-
I know, this is so good.
… and you have interviewed so many wonderful people. I mean, I just, I love our Brain Warriors audience so much. What are the most practical tools that you can give them? I know a lot of people, when they think meditation, they’re like, “Oh”-
… “I can’t do that.” [inaudible [00:01:21] One of my favorite meditations is the loving kindness meditation. I mean, you can do it in four minutes and where you bring your focus always determines how you feel. But if you could just download for us when you are thinking of, so what are the most practical things that you’ve learned that they can learn in your book, but also by listening [crosstalk [00:01:49]?
Especially they’re not familiar with meditating.
Absolutely. Yeah. One of my favorite … so yeah, and I want to get super practical and I love that. The first lesson I’d say is that, and I talk about it in the book and there’s a whole chapter dedicated to this, is location has energy and time has memory. And what I mean by that is when you do something in the same space every day, it creates an energy in that space. When you do something at the same time every day, you create a memory in your mind where it becomes easier.
Let’s think about location first. One of the biggest challenges we make in our homes is that we do everything in every location. We eat in our bedrooms, we work in our kitchens and we sleep on our couches, right? We have three places for those things. We’re meant to sleep in our bedrooms. We’re meant to work potentially on our couches right now in lockdown and we’re meant to eat in our kitchens or our dining areas.
There’s a reason why homes and feng shui and Vastu, which is in the Vedic tradition, the word for feng shui, there’s a reason why environments are designed to create certain emotion and energy in your body. And so the first thing I would do, which is so practical for everyone, please start only sleeping in your bedroom or being intimate with your partner, of course, but sleeping in your bedroom. When you’re at the kitchen or the dining table, remove laptops, remove phones, remove any work devices and use it to simply eat and connect.
When you’re in the lounge … Currently, I know that our whole space is mixed up. I remember living in a 500 square foot apartment with my wife in New York. We had just corners for everything because we didn’t have rooms or spaces, but we had a meditation corner. We had an entertainment corner. We had an eating corner. I made a working corner. Even if all you have is four corners, if you start to allow your mind to compartmentalize in your space, you’ll feel such a sense of freedom because now when you walk into your bedroom and all you do is sleep there, you naturally feel like you want to sleep. When you walk into a kitchen, you naturally want to eat and entertain and be together.
That’s the first thing that I think is so important, and that works with time. When you do something at the same time every day, it becomes easier. The more you can regulate your eating habits, your sleeping habits, of course … I’m sure Daniel has spoken about these before, but location has energy and time has memories. That’s the first practical thing that you can start today. Stop doing everything everywhere.
Okay. Second one is something that I call the three Ss, sights, scents, and sounds. Sights, scents, and sounds have a remarkable ability to transform how we feel and usually we’re exposing ourselves subconsciously to sights, scents and sounds not intentionally. Let’s start with sights. I would ask everyone who’s listening and watching right now to say, what’s the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning? Might be the ceiling, might be a phone, but I promise you it’s probably not that intentional. What if the first thing you saw in the morning was work of art that inspired you? What if it was a quote that gave you courage and hope? What if it was a picture of a loved one that enlivened you and invoked gratitude in your heart?
Imagine the first thing you saw in the morning was what you intentionally wanted to see for the feeling it gave you. For me, I love waking up to wisdom. I love having a quote that’s the top of my mind that I’ll put there that will just be my intention. You can stick it on a sticky note on your ceiling, on the side of your desk, because guess what? When the first thing you see in the morning is your phone, you’re now allowing 100 messages to define what goes on in your mind.
And the way I like to compare this is, would you let a hundred people walk into your bedroom before you’ve got dressed, ready, and clean? [crosstalk [00:05:43] You would never let that happen, right? You’d have to put your makeup on. You’d have to put your clothes on. You’d have to do your hair. You’d have to brush your teeth. Why [crosstalk [00:05:54]? Why are you letting 100 people walk into your mind?
And I think it’s a Gandhi quote, where he would say that, “I would never let someone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” And you’re letting your mind just open up to, not dirt necessarily, but definitely complexity. That’s the first thing. What are you seeing first thing in the morning? Make it really intentional.
The second one is sound. The reason why sound fascinates me is when I lived in New York, I found that I would wake up, I’d put my armor on, and then by the end of the day, I was exhausted and I was thinking, “Why is this happening?” And I was really looking into it and I discovered something, which Daniel, you probably know again, a lot more about, but I just had a cognitive load. And I found that my sound, my ears were having to process 80% insignificant sound, the sound of drilling, the sound of construction, the sound of cars honking, the sound of cars driving. My mind and my brain was trying to make sense of insignificant sound, so I was being drained by stuff that was insignificant.
For you, when you’re working, what is a sound that you can put on? What is a song that you can put on that you want to hear when you’re in the kitchen cooking? What is the song or the music or the sound accompaniment that you want while you’re working, or do you want silence? Silence is also a sound. I’m someone who loves to work in silence or even drive in silence. My wife loves driving to music. And the beauty is that if you surround sound your environment with sounds that uplift you, it will change your life. When we were monks, we would wake up to natural sounds like water and birds. When we would go to sleep, you’d go to sleep to the sound of water again or you’d go to sleep to the sound of just stillness and silence.
We have to sound design our lives to gain the emotion. How many times do you feel happy when you hear a song from your past, or how many times do you feel angry when you hear a song which is metal or heavy metal?
[crosstalk [00:07:55] Sorry about that. But I just made a connection that I’d never thought of before, because when you’re in New York, we have a clinic in Manhattan that you also hear sirens all day long. And probably nobody’s thinking about the fact that when you hear a siren, your limbic brain or your emotional brain connects that to trauma, stress and tragedy. And so while you were there, part of the cognitive load is this sadness and this fear that is assaulting you on a regular basis. And that’s why after three days in New York, I’m totally ready to go. I love my people in New York. I love my clinic in New York, but the brain works through association. What are you associating to environment that you’re in? This is so good.
It really is.
This is really helpful.
And going back to what Tana said, and Daniel, what you just said now, when we’re watching the news, there’s also a lot of sirens. When you’re watching the news, there’s a lot of that, the trauma that’s seeping in. [crosstalk [00:09:13] Yeah, exactly, exactly. And then so that’s sound.
And also, one of the things that I really believe in changing, so I’ve been fortunate enough to train my body to wake up off to eight hours of sleep no matter what time I sleep. I don’t wake up to an alarm, but I don’t like the word alarm. Why would you want to wake up to an alarm? It makes zero sense. Shocking yourself into being awake sounds like the worst energy to wake up in. What I would recommend to people with sound is change your alarm to not be alarming. Why would you want to wake up to a shock? And a lot of people’s alarm tones are so shocking and so jolting that you wake up in a state of shock.
And the final one is scent. There’s a reason why we love going to a spa or for a massage. And it could be just a room, but when someone has lit a candle or a scent that has eucalyptus or lavender or sandalwood, those have natural calming effects when they’re breathed in. And so when we breathe in scents, you may say, “When I start my work day, I’m going to have a candle. I’m just going to light this candle. I’m just going to breathe for a second with my candle,” or, “I’m going to put on a diffuser.” My wife’s amazing with diffusing essential oils and every room in our home has a different diffuser and a different essential oil and so when I walk into that room, I feel a new sense of freshness.
And if you’re saying, “Jay, I have a small home,” you can do that in your environment, whatever it may be. And so having a diffuser, having an essential oil, even in the shower these days in the morning, I have a little bottle of eucalyptus and I’ll just put a few dips in it into the hot water and that just fills it in and it’s almost like having a personal steam in your own home. And just those simple habits, you can start using your environment to transform how you feel as triggers.
So [crosstalk [00:11:01].
Those are so good, and they resonate so much. I had a mentor say to me one time … I was having a hard time learning how to meditate, so I started off with guided imagery because I couldn’t quiet my mind and now I love meditation and quieting my mind, but it wasn’t easy for me. And so I had a mentor tell me, “Put a chair in your closet.” And it didn’t occur to me why at the time, “Your closet or your three car garage.” And I was like, “What? Why? I don’t understand.” And now it makes sense to me because I don’t spend time there doing other things. That’s why [crosstalk [00:11:31] ear plugs, because I get distracted by outside noise, so for me, I use ear plugs.
Yeah, we treat a lot of people who have ADD of one form or another. And they always say, “I can’t meditate.”
Because they think they have to think of nothing.
What would you say?
Yeah. I would say that, first of all, everything just shared is in itself a meditation. And so whether you’re breathing in the scent of the candle, whether you’re focusing in on the sound, whether you’re being present with a sight, it’s the presence of mind that is meditation, being present with our body, being present with our mind, being present with a thought.
And I would say to anyone exactly what Tana said. The challenge is that we have all these misconceptions around meditation, which people think, “Meditation means to have my mind to be empty.” None of us can have an empty mind. We can have a redirected mind, but we can’t have a … If you try to empty your mind, your mind will just reject it. And so instead of creating rejection, you want to create redirection. And that only comes from having a point of focus.
What I would say to people is there are three types of meditation. There’s breath work, there’s visualization and there’s mantra or sound. Practice all three of them. I talk about the monk method and think like a monk where I give examples of each and see which one resonates with you the best. I’ve been teaching meditation for the last 15 years and I’ve seen certain people just benefit greatly from breath work. I’ve seen certain people that are visual thinkers that find them greatest source of growth when they’re visualizing. And I’ve seen people who’ve gone so deep that mantra and repetition of sacred sound allows them to completely block out any of the noise.
But my recommendation to people is do it in an immersive way. If you can take out an hour to really go deep with someone, either a coach, an app, a friend who meditates, a class online, whatever it may be. When the lockdown started, I did 40 days of live meditation on Instagram and Facebook. And we had 20 million people join over 40 days. And 90% of those people said that they’d never meditated.
It was amazing. And we just did 15, 20 minutes a day and it was just incredible to see it. My recommendation would be find some breath work exercises, find some visualization exercises, find some mantra exercises. Do them [inaudible [00:13:58], just put your mind to it and see which one feels the most natural to you because not everyone’s going to gravitate to the same one.
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