The Well Said Podcast

The Well Said Podcast by Indigo connects you to the trusted voices in well-being to help you live with purpose and intention. Hosted by Indigo CEO and Chief Booklover Heather Reisman and journalist Shivani Persad, Well Said invites you into meaningful conversations about the art and science of living well. Episodes feature experts, authors, and thought leaders who offer a wellspring of ideas and insights for everyday life. Whether you want to sleep better, cultivate calm, or live more sustainably, you can create the life you want today. Listen, learn, live well.

Ep. 005 | Feb. 24

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Transcript

Heather Reisman:
Hi, I’m Heather Reisman, and this is Well Said, a podcast on the art and science of living well. This podcast is brought to you by Indigo. Today’s episode is hosted by Shivani Persad, a wonderfully curious journalist and a fellow booklover.

Jay Shetty:
Your breath is connected to every emotion. So when you learn how to master your breath, you learn how to navigate life.

Shivani Persad:
That’s Jay Shetty, an author, host of the podcast On Purpose, and a former monk. Through his social media community, Jay is on a mission to make wisdom go viral. Living in a world that can sometimes feel chaotic, that sounds like a pretty good idea. In his book, Think Like a Monk, he takes readers through lessons he learned along the way and weaves in ancient wisdom on how to clear out negativity and create a life that’s full of purpose. Jay, welcome to Well Said, and thank you so much for being with us today.

Jay Shetty:
Thank you so much for having me. And it’s so nice to connect with you, Shivani. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.

Shivani Persad:
So, what do you think people would find the most surprising about life as a monk?

Jay Shetty:
The thing that people would find the most surprising is that monks have a sense of humour, and that monks do laugh, and they are normal people, and that they have normal thoughts and normal challenges, like all of us. But the humour part is really important. I remember having so many days and nights where we would laugh together about the mind, and deep and profound topics, as well as how bad people’s snoring sound was. It was so easy to just laugh and let go about so many things in the monastery. So yes, that’s probably one of the most surprising things.

Shivani Persad:
So Jay, what does a monastic life look like?

Jay Shetty:
Yes. So, what it looks like is you live communally; so you share space. Now, if you were in a room which slept, say, 10 people, sometimes 20 people, whichever room it is, no space is yours on the floor. So your space changes every night. You have a mat on the floor with a little sheet or a little covering, or sometimes a sleeping bag in the winter when it gets a little cold. You wake up at 4:00 a.m. every day. You’re meditating from between four to eight hours on any given day, depending on what that day looks like. All your possessions fit into a gym locker. So if you imagine that everything you own. And generally you have two sets of clothes: one that you wear, one that you wash. And so it’s very easy to decide what to wear in the morning, because everything looks the same. And it’s a life that’s really dedicated to two things. One is a life of self: self-mastery, understanding your mind, understanding how you work. And the other is service: how you make an impact on the lives of others. And so it’s perfectly balanced between these two pursuits of self-mastery and service.

Shivani Persad:
How have you incorporated these teachings into your life on a day-to-day basis? And what do your days look like now?

Jay Shetty:
Yes. That’s such a great question. So, some of these principles are living in my life today very practically. So they’re almost like that’s what we did, we do the same thing today. Some of these principles are now lived more mentally; they’ve now become a mindset and an approach to life. And that’s why the book’s called Think Like A Monk not Live Like a Monk, because I want people to understand that we can actually practice some of these mindsets without big lifestyle changes.

So, I’ll tell you about some of the stuff that has stayed the same. So, when we woke up in the morning, we would wake up at 4:00 a.m. That hasn’t stayed the same; I wake up at about 6:00 a.m. But I still start my day off with meditation. Meditation is the first practice that I do of the day. And I meditate for a total of two hours every single day. Another thing that’s really, really stayed the same is the idea of trying to have limited noise in my life. So when we were monks we never watched the news. We didn’t watch TV shows. We didn’t watch movies. Now of course I talk a lot about my passion for movies today. But I try and reduce how much noise and negativity I allow into my morning especially and the mood in which I start the day.

In terms of mindsets that have stayed, the idea of detaching from space has given me this renewed mindset of I can wake up at my parents’ home in London, I can wake up in the ashram in India where I still visit, or I can wake up in my bedroom, or I can wake up in a hotel bedroom when I’m travelling, and I don’t feel any different. I feel like my life is exactly the same. So it’s … that’s more of a trained mindset that stayed with me as time has gone on. And the part of service hasn’t left me. I still look at all of my actions and activities in the day as service. I still look at the work I do as purpose-based, not business-based. Or even though I am an entrepreneur, I still see my entrepreneurship as an extension of my service. So, as I said, some of the things are more practical, some of the things are still mindset.

Oh, I want to share one more. So, I often talk about this one because I really enjoy fashion, but I talk about how in my wardrobe I have lots of things that are pretty much exactly the same just in every different colour. So I have tons of the same tops that fit the same way, in different colours; I have tons of the same jackets, in different colours. So in some sense I’ve tried to maintain that uniform-like approach to getting ready in the morning—to simplify it. And of course, there’s deep scientific reasons, as well as monk reasons, as to why we live that way. Simplifying what you wear, what you eat. And when people hear that “simplifying,” they think, “Oh, I have to wear simple clothes” or “I have to wear the same thing every day.” That’s not the point. The point is that you want to remove difficult or insignificant decisions in the beginning of the day, and so making them the night before. Making them a week before. Planning in advance. All of those things are just great ways of not having decision-fatigue in the morning. So most of us, by the time we’re at work, we’re already tired of deciding, “What do I want to wear for … ah, have for breakfast?” “What do I want to wear?” “What am I going to do today?” And by the time we get to our first meeting we’re already exhausted. So I think some of these practices allow us to avoid decision-fatigue.

Shivani Persad:
When we think about simplifying our morning, to a lot of people, meditating for an hour or two hours is not simple to do in the morning. So you know, you describe in the book it takes years to practice mindfulness and meditation, but are you able to walk us through the basics of how to breathe?

Jay Shetty:
Yes, absolutely. And I like what you said about … You know, I don’t recommend anyone starts at an hour. I certainly didn’t. I started with 10 minutes a day. And I talk in the book about how there are four habits that made up my morning routine as a monk. And those are a morning routine that has stayed today. There’s four habits, and I recommend everyone does them for at least 5 minutes each, then raise it to 10 minutes each, and then 15 minutes each. And so the four habits are: thankfulness, inspiration, meditation, and exercise. So it comes in the form of an acronym: time, T-I-M-E.

So thankfulness is truly the best quality to wake up with, because you’re fully grounded in gratitude. And you know, studies show that 80 per cent of us wake up in the morning and the first thing we see is our phones. And if you think about waking up to your phone, you’re waking up to notifications, negativity, news, and noise. Whereas, when you replace that for a grateful thought. And so what I have is I have this Post-it Note that I’ve stuck next to my bedside table, and on it, it says, “What are you grateful for?” So every morning when I reach for my phone that’s the first thing I see, and it allows me to take a breath and take a moment to remember what I’m grateful for. And I promise you, if you do this in the morning, your day will just start off on a different front.

“I” stands for “Inspiration.” I think a lot of us wake up every day, or we’re at work, and we say, “Oh, I don’t feel motivated today” or “I don’t feel inspired today” or “I don’t feel like I’m growing today.” And the truth is that if you woke up and felt hungry, you’d eat. If you woke up and you didn’t smell good, you’d shower. And so if you wake up and you don’t feel motivated, you go get motivated; you go and fuel yourself with inspiration.

The third is Meditation, so talking how to breathe. Ah, I was introduced to a breathing practice, which today in the modern world is known as diaphragmatic breathing. And the first time you do it, you’ll realize how none of us have been trained to breathe. And the most amazing thing about breath is that athletes are trained to breathe; musicians are trained to breathe. And I believe that each and every single one of us, in our own way, are like… we’re like singers, we’re like musicians, we’re like athletes; we’re using our body, our minds, our voices to do different things. Now you may say, “Jay, I work in an office all day. Well, not anymore, I work from home all day. How does that make sense for me?” Because you’re still using your body. And so, talking about breathing, I’m going to ask you, and everyone who is listening, to place their left palm on their stomach. And what you’re going to do, in a moment, is as you breathe in you’re going to feel your stomach come out. I know it’s not flattering, but go with me here. When you breathe in, you’re going to feel your stomach go out. And you’re going to breathe out through your mouth and feel your stomach go in. So breathe in through your nose and feel your stomach go out; and breathe out through your mouth and feel your stomach go in. Once more: breathe in through your nose and feel your stomach go out; and breathe out through your mouth and feel your stomach go in. How… how did that feel for you, Shivani? And be honest about it. It could have felt terrible, and that’s OK.

Shivani Persad:
It’s quite relaxing, considering, you know, sometimes we’re just running around really scatterbrained but also … it gives you something to focus on when you’re breathing—which is nice, because we can daydream a lot.

Jay Shetty:
(laughs)

Shivani Persad:
So yes, definitely helpful.

Jay Shetty:
Yes. And holding your stomach and feeling your stomach change is really where I’m making it tangible. And… and breath is so powerful because, as I talk about in the book, I speak to a little Monk that I guessed was around 10 years old. And he said something really profound to me which I extended towards this thought that, you know, breath is connected to every emotion in our life. When you’re crying, your breathing changes. When you are ecstatic and happy, your breathing changes. When you’re running late for a meeting, your breathing changes. When you’re about to go onstage in front of thousands of people, your breathing changes. Like, your breath is connected to every emotion. So when you learn how to master your breath, you learn how to navigate life. And that’s so important that we don’t forget that something as simple as breathing has such a profound impact on how we feel.

[music]

Shivani Persad:
In the chapter on relationships, you mention that when you came back to London, after leaving the ashram, you found that you had gotten better at relationships. And right now everyone is so isolated. What can we do in this time, when we’re forced to be apart, to make sure that our connections are even stronger when we come back together?

Jay Shetty:
One of the things that I learned in the ashram—which I never … I don’t think we were taught this intentionally, I think it is something that we learned along the way—is you built much more powerful relationships when you grew together. And what I mean by that is a lot of the time today we think about just talking to each other. So we’re like, oh yes, let’s just … I’ll call someone up and I’ll just talk to them and ask them how they are. We’ll probably throw around some small talk. We’ll probably be sad about something that happened on the news. We’ll maybe complain a little about someone that we know. And then we’ll put the phone down. And no one really walks away from a conversation like that feeling like excited and energized. You usually walk away thinking, “All right. OK. At least I spoke to someone.”

And so the idea of doing something where you grow together. Like if you and your friend are taking a class together online, and you take the class together and then you discuss it. If you and your friend are doing a virtual workout together. If you and your friend are playing a game together that you then discuss. If you and your friend are bonding over a course or a program that you’re going to. Whatever it may be, the idea is that when we’re growing together, our relationship grows as well. But when we’re just statically, stagnantly just connecting with the level we’re currently at, none of us are feeling any growth. So to really build … I find that the best friends I have are the people I went through pain with, are the people I grew with, are the people that we took on a challenge together with. Like people are closer when they run a marathon together. People are closer when they travel together. People are closer when they solve something together.

Shivani Persad:
You talk about in the book how monks are pretty much technology-free. But now your platform depends a lot on social media and podcasting, so how do you square that?

Jay Shetty:
Yes, it’s been an interesting thing for me, where I’ve just had to draw really clear boundaries on my social media usage. So I made a commitment that I wouldn’t look at my phone until I finished meditating in the morning. And I’m guilty, I’ve broken that several times as well. So I mess up all the time. Ah, but I tried to at least set that as a boundary, that I will look at my phone when I go to the gym. So that’s about 8:00 a.m. every day; so I won’t look at it before that. And I also try to make a commitment that I won’t be on social media after I finish my workday. And so, for me, I think I’ve just set really clear boundaries and guidelines. And when someone says to set a boundary, you can only set a boundary if you know what value you’re setting it around. And that’s why knowing your values is so important, because it helps you make better choices about the people, the projects, and the places you want in your life. That’s the biggest takeaway I’ve learned is: what are you going there for? If you find yourself on your phone and you ask yourself, “Why am I here?” and you don’t know why, put it down.

Shivani Persad:
Right. Because, in many ways, if you don’t do that, it can turn into a situation where you’re comparing yourself, and all these negative sort of things can come out of it—when really social media can be a tool for good if you go about it with purpose.

Jay Shetty:
Yes, absolutely. And that’s with anything, right? Like anything can bring you down. And I always describe it as we either idolize or demonize things. So we idolize social media, or we demonize it. And monks try to neutralize everything. So monks go, “This is not good or bad. It just depends on how I use it.” And you approach it with that understanding.

Shivani Persad:
One thing I really enjoy that you do in the book is that you make it very clear that things are not necessarily black-and-white. And so counterintuitively, you say that uncomfortable and unpleasant situations can teach us something. What are the greater lessons we learn from physical or emotional pain?

Jay Shetty:
I think one of the biggest things to realize is just no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter how successful you are, no matter how many followers you have, pain and suffering and challenges are something no one in the world can avoid. And that’s what unpleasant and uncomfortable situations teach us, is that let’s not try and stop having uncomfortable and unpleasant situations. That you can’t actually stop them forever; that’s not possible. And it’s actually our obsession of trying to stop them is what makes them so painful in our lives. And so what do you do?

What you do is you change an unhealthy fear into a healthy fear. So if you have an unhealthy fear of, like, “I don’t know when I’m going to see my family again,” turn it into a healthy fear of, “I want to call them up and tell them I love them every day.” Right? Like try and transform or upgrade the unhealthy discomfort into a positive discomfort. There are some challenges that we can’t control and we can’t have an impact on, and those are the ones where you start learning that the best thing you can do is train your muscle. So when things are bad, work hard; but when things are good, work harder. And I think usually we do the opposite: when things are good, we get complacent. But it’s in those times that we need to realize that we need to train the muscle more—strengthen it—so that when a challenge comes our way we feel stronger.

[music]

Shivani Persad:
And so before we end each episode, we like to ask our guests a few short questions.

Jay Shetty:
Let’s do it.

Shivani Persad:
What book changed your life?

Jay Shetty:
Oh, I’ve got so many. I’d say my favourite one, probably—apart from The Bhagavad Gita, which is obvious—is, ah, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s unbelievable to really understand the mind and how it works. I love that book.

Shivani Persad:
And what are you reading now?

Jay Shetty:
Good question. I’ve been reading a few things right now. I was reading a book called Measure What Matters. Ah, it’s all about measuring things inside of an organization and a business. As I said, my entrepreneurial career is a big focus for me, and I love learning and trying to get things as right as I can. So I’ve been reading that book, Measure What Matters.

Shivani Persad:
And what brings you joy?

Jay Shetty:
If I’m completely honest, you know, the work that I get to do every day does fill me with tons of joy. I’m obsessed with it. I love it. I’m grateful to everyone who watches, listens, and is part of the community. I really do get joy from it. But, ah, I also get joy from= seeing people change their life based on some of these habits and ideas. And so when I get a review, or I see a message, or I see someone post something and it’s a positive change they’ve had in their life, it fills me with joy.

Shivani Persad:
And my very last question, because this podcast is really about living well, what does purposeful living mean to you?

Jay Shetty:
Purposeful living means to me to use your talents and gifts in the service of others. Everyone has a talent, everyone has a gift. And you just have to use that to help other people and your life will be sublime.

Shivani Persad:
That was such a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much, Jay. It was awesome having you.

Jay Shetty:
Thanks, Shivani. Those were fantastic questions.

[music]

Shivani Persad:
Thank you for tuning in to our conversation with Jay Shetty. For more ideas to help you live well, including Jay’s book, Think Like a Monk, visit indigo.ca/podcast. You can also visit Indigo’s new Wellness shop, in-store or online, and enjoy in-store pickup in as little as three hours. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us rating on Apple Podcasts. You can subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts. Well Said was produced for Indigo Inc. by Vocal Fry Studios and is co-hosted by me, Shivani Persad.

[music]

The information provided in this podcast should not be relied upon by our listeners as medical advice, even where it has been presented by physicians or medical practitioners. Any information presented in this podcast is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The views expressed throughout this podcast represent the views of the guests and do not necessarily represent the views of Indigo.


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