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Getting from where you are to where you want to be involves putting your armor on each day and putting in the work, chiseling away to get to the masterpiece beneath the unformed stone. In this second episode in a series with On Purpose host Jay Shetty, Jay and the Amens discuss the philosophies of some everyday practices you can use to lead a happier, more productive life.
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.
You know, when we give you the tools, it’s not like you do them once and expect, miraculously, the depression goes away.
It’s a practice. Like, I’m going to see an Olympic athlete next week that I’m really excited about, and he didn’t become that way by training once.
Like brushing your teeth, or exercise.
… over and over and over again. How did you learn that practice as a monk? What was the training like?
Yeah. I was actually speaking to one of my monk friends the other day. This example that you’re mentioning, he was quoting Michelangelo, who was asked how did he create these incredible sculptures, and how did he create these incredible designs? And he would say that the design is already there, I just have to chisel around it.
It’s that daily chiseling that we’re all doing with our minds, and our brains, and our bodies that needs to be done to excavate, to discover what’s already there. And so, it’s a chiseling process, it’s a daily process. If you paint one day and never paint again … There’s a beautiful story that I love sharing that I talk about in the book. It’s an allegory that was created years ago around the life of Picasso.
And so, this woman sees Picasso in a marketplace and she walks up to Picasso and she said, “Picasso, can you draw me a portrait?” And he says, “Sure, I’ll draw your portrait.” He whips out a pen and paper, and in 30 seconds he paints an identical portrait of this lady. Handing it back to her he says, “That will be $30,000.00.” She said, “Picasso, how can that cost $30,000.00? It took you 30 seconds.” He said, “It took me 30 years to be able to do that in 30 seconds.” Obviously, it’s not a true story. It’s a story with a message, but the point being that it’s that 30 years of practice.
In our lives, our daily practice was waking up at [4:00] AM every single day. The reason for rising early was not to create pain. The reason for rising early was that there was less traffic in your mind. If you look at the traffic on the road, if I’m trying to drive to your home at this time, when we’re nearly approaching noon right now when we’re recording, the traffic is nearly growing to its highest point. As it goes later in the day, the traffic gets worse and worse. But if I’m driving at [4:00] AM from where I am in Hollywood to Marina del Rey, or San Diego, or wherever it is, I’ll get there quicker. So, the access point to calm your mind in the morning is much more prominent than it will be as the day gets busier. So, that’s one thing.
We started our collective meditations at [4:30] until about [5:15], and from [5:15] to [7:15] was our individual meditations. From [7:15] until [8:00] was again collective meditations, and [8:00] to [9:00] was a class, kind of like this. Like, a discussion and a Q&A and a conversation about these themes. Then, from [9:00] AM onwards after breakfast, our days were different.
But the point was, every day you started by putting on your armor. You started by putting on your shield. You started by … what you said. You don’t just show up on fight day kind of, in your book that Daniel was just mentioning. That’s such a beautiful way to think about it, because you don’t even start the day before you put on your shield.
And so, half our day was self, and the other half was service. Today, in a lot of our lives, we’re trying to spend a lot of our time trying to help people, but we haven’t yet put our own shield on. We haven’t yet put on our own armor, and therefore we get wounded very easily.
I love this. I’m finding so many parallels to what you’re saying, which is really interesting, because I’m a fighter and you’re a lover, obviously. You’re a monk, and I’m a martial artist. But martial arts actually has roots in meditation and being able to still your mind.
Oh, for sure.
I’ve got a black belt in TaeKwonDo-Do and a secondary degree black belt in Kempo, and people often say to me, “Well, that’s so hard. You must be so tough.” And I’m like, “I’m really not. I mean, I’m 120 pounds. I’m really not a tough person.” But we have a saying that I love: “Black belt is just a white belt who shows up every day.”
Like, I just showed up long enough, and they finally put a belt on me, right, because you train long enough. And you add so many parallels to how we train. I used to get up at 4 o’clock every morning. I sort of figured that out intuitively when I was a teenager, which is weird for a teenager. But I was super-anxious, and so I used to go to the gym.
I would get up really early because no one else was awake yet, and all the stuff couldn’t start. People couldn’t bother me, so I could go to the gym and get it done and then just start my day right. And so, that time in the morning that is yours to exercise, to pray, to meditate, to really get your day started before everybody needs your time, before everybody is interfering with what you’re doing. It’s so important. I love what you’re saying.
Yeah, absolutely. I fully agree with you. I love that your background in martial arts, because if you look at the Shaolin monks, who are known to perform incredible feats, and I write about them in the book. If you look at their ability, their ability doesn’t come from strength or just dealing with pain. It comes from mind control.
When they looked at some studies when they placed a … and Daniel will know far more about this than I do, but here I go trying to explain something to an expert. They had a plate almost like this, that would gradually heat up on monks and non-meditators. And they found that when a non-meditator touched the plate and it gradually heated up, they would start to see physical pain in the brain, but also emotional and mental pain in the brain attached to that physical pain.
Whereas when they looked at the monks’ scans, they found that there was only a physical trigger in pain, but no emotional and mental pain attached to that physical pain. And so similarly, in martial arts, it’s so much more about discipline. There’s a beautiful story. I’m sure you’ve told it.
It’s one of these old tales that I love telling. It’s a martial arts story, and it’s a story of a young karate kid who wants to be a karate kid and goes up to his sensei and says, “I really want to learn karate and self-defense, because I don’t have a left arm,” because he’s lost his left arm. And the sensei says to him, “Sure. Come back here tomorrow, and we’ll start training.”
They start training, and for the first seven days they do the same thing every day, and the karate kid’s going, “Why am I learning every day the same thing? I keep paying the sensei. He doesn’t say anything.” And then, they do the same thing for the next week, and the next week. Then after a month, the kid comes up to the sensei and says, “We’ve learned the same thing every day. How is this helpful to me?”
The sensei says, “Well, you’re ready for a tournament.” And the kid’s feeling completely insecure, going, “How am I going to be useful in this tournament?” They go to the karate tournament. The kid without a left arm is in the tournament. They start fighting and the kid now forgets all of his training, and just tries to use his mind to manipulate the situation. And he loses every time. He says, “Look, I’m losing. You haven’t taught me enough. We’ve just been doing the same thing.”
And the sensei says, “Just do the thing I taught you. Just do that one thing.” So, he does that in the next game, and he wins. He does it in the next one, and he wins. He does it in the next one, and he wins. And so, he goes up to the teacher afterwards, the sensei, and is perplexed. He says, “How is it that I am winning when I was losing in the beginning?” And the sensei says, “Because if anyone wants to counteract that one move, they’d have to grab hold of your left hand.”
“You don’t have one, so I taught you the only move that no one can counter.”
I love it.
It’s a beautiful story that I love sharing, because it reminds us that sometimes in meditation, or in our good habits, it’s like Dr. Daniel Amen who keeps saying every day, “Take this. Do this. Take this.” He says the same thing every day, but the funny thing is, it’s the day that you don’t do it that you feel the lack, and sometimes that’s how we learn that habits are good for us.
I know the difference when … We all eat every day. You feel the difference when you don’t eat. You don’t notice it when you’re eating every day. When you eat every day, you feel full every day and you don’t realize what that sensation feels like. But if you skip a meal, or you skip a day of eating, you will feel different. And that’s what good habits are like. You only feel their benefit when you stop doing them.
Yeah. And likewise for those of us that eat really clean. When you don’t eat clean, you feel it. In our house, we practice gratitude. When this pandemic first hit and we were out of town I came home, and I’m sort of a prepper so I had lots of stuff here. But I went to the store, and all the stuff I would normally get was not there. So, it’s like, “All right. Well, we’re eating bread and rice, I guess.” Because we don’t normally eat that, right? So, it’s amazing how your gluten allergies suddenly are like, “Well, I’m going to deal with it.”
But it’s interesting, because I really didn’t feel like myself. I was very grateful, and we talked a lot about it in our house. It’s like, you know, war-time rules are different than peace-time rules. You just do things differently. And so, we are going to be grateful for what we have. We have plenty, so we’re going to be focusing on that. But I felt it, and so when I was able to get back to my normal routine, I really felt good. Like, I was really grateful for that. So, I really like what you’re saying about that.
We’ll be right back.
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Dr Daniel Amen:
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