Sanjay Sabnani

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O: Hi and welcome to Stellar Life Podcast. Thank you for listening, thank you for being here, thank you for being you. Keep being you because you is the most important thing you can do. Today’s guest is Sanjay Sabnani, he’s an accomplished executive with extensive experience in building high growth businesses in emerging markets. His recent transformation story is about recovering from a painful divorce that left him completely disoriented, that left him experiencing anxiety, sleepless nights, and he didn’t know what he could do to handle it. He went to his doctor and his doctor, off the records, turned him into medical cannabis. Because of Sanjay’s interest in emerging markets and because of how this miracle plant helped him recover, he lost weight, he felt back to normal again, and he was able to actually handle his life, he started investing in the cannabis industry. He also really went deep into meditation and all kinds of mystical teachings. He’s the type of person that I can speak with for hours and hours on those topics because he’s so knowledgeable. He also writes for Quora, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Slate, and his articles are amazing. In this episode, I also shared my trans-induced state that happened in Oneness University in India when I received a Deeksha, which is a Oneness Blessing from some of the monks there. I just went and had a completely psychedelic, out of body experience. It was really cool. We’re going to share that, we’re going to share the definitions of words like Nirvana, Moksha, and how to achieve more ease and peace of mind in this really crazy world where there is so much going on and you’re constantly over stimulated and how to calm down your mind and experience mindfulness and experience bliss because you deserve bliss, you deserve pleasure, you deserve to live the best life you can live. Now, are you ready? Onto the show. Hey Sanjay, welcome to the show.

S: Thanks Orion, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

O: Thank you. Let’s start by you sharing a little bit about yourself.

S: Okay. In terms of career, I have more or less evolved into an adviser full time. There are different projects that I either advice or consult to. I’ve learned through a long career that operating a business is not something I’m good at, but knowing things, solving problems, is more of a skill set. Right now, I’m the CEO of my own company called Crowd Gather. We’re focused on the digital cannabis sector, we have a site called WeedTracker that we’re in the process of launching in a whole new way. There’s this startup in San Francisco called Wilbur Labs which is in the ecommerce space. Four ex-Googlers have started it, it’s very exciting. I’m an adviser and shareholder in that company. In Oakland, there is an incubator called Gateway that is a cannabis incubator, I’m one of their mentors. I have other projects as well, but that’s just to give you an idea that I’m fortunate enough that people value what’s inside me and I get to do that for a living.

O: For you listeners, this is going to be a very interesting interview because Sanjay is a very interesting man, and very deep too. You’ve been through a lot.

S: Great, now there’s expectations on me.

O: No pressure whatsoever, it has to be really amazing, okay?

S: Yes.

O: I want you to share a little bit about the times in your life where you weren’t that happy, the challenges you overcame.

S: That’s actually pretty easy. I’m in a process of really being aware of myself in my life. As often, unfortunately, it happens. It takes crisis to get to know yourself and to see yourself. My story is a strange one. At the age of 13, I left my parents in Hong Kong. I was just looking for something that I couldn’t find with my mother and father. I talked my way into living with relatives in the US; two years in Chicago, two years in the Bay Area. I was very introverted and inside myself a lot. I read pretty much my whole life. Slowly but surely, I ended up graduating from UCLA, getting a degree in literature. I wanted to write poetry and be a professor but I met a woman and went on a long, wonderful detour of 26 years. That 26 year relationship with my ex-wife, mother of my three daughters, ended 2 years ago when I was 45. As it was ending, I found myself having unravelled quite a bit. It affected my business, it affected my career, and I was left at a very low point. Slowly but surely, as I worked on myself, I had nowhere else to turn so I started meditating. Something powerful started happening. My life is changing. This is all very recent for me. If you ask about when I have gone through things that were not so good, I would say that the past two years, and more specifically this year, has been the first year in my life where things have been good.

O: Wow.

S: I have not really enjoyed myself. I was very serious, very responsible to everybody except to myself. I guess that’s the lesson. Now, I’ve taken a break from things. I’m getting to see my life in perspective. Meditation allows me to see myself very clearly. It’s helped me a lot. It’s helped me grow and it’s helped me understand the nature of suffering, the nature of me.

O: What was your marriage like? Why did it end?

S: I was young when we got together. I would say the ending is not a surprise, the beginning and the middle was probably the surprise. If I were, and I am out there again, I’m single, I’m dating…

O: Single ladies, Sanjay is single, okay? Just call 1-800-Sanjay — just kidding.

S: Instagram, @crowdgather. That’s the easiest way. Hey, if you’re going to put in a plug, I’m going to make sure they can find me. I’ve been learning about what I like, what I don’t like. I would say that if I were in the same situation, I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten together. It was a combination of a lot of circumstances. She’s Indian, as am I. Both of our parents were arranged marriages, we didn’t even have a model for a romantic relationship. I didn’t have anyone that was a male in my family that I saw date or go out. You’re very much in a vacuum. As you’re growing up, you feel this pressure that you have to end up with another brown person or your person are going to be disappointed. When we met at UCLA, there was a lot of chemistry, but the only thing we had in common was attraction and the fact that we’re both Indians. There’s a billion plus Indians, that doesn’t really mean you’re necessarily compatible or right for each other. There weren’t any real reasons other than just knowing that I’m not in a happy situation. The details never matter, I’ve worked a lot on the stories that you attach to these things. We weren’t right for each other, would’ve been nice to have known that earlier, would’ve saved a lot of pain, a lot of life. I have three amazing daughters, 21, 19, and 16. The lessons that I have learned, although they were painful, are lessons that I value tremendously. Whoever I am today and whoever I become is going to be because of this journey.

O: When was the moment that you knew that you wanted to break free from this commitment and you want to live a different life?

S: I would like to have that exciting resolution. The truth is, Orion, what happened is when I left, when I first separated, I was basically trying to make a statement. I was hoping that there would be a reconnection, an ability to say, “Hey, I’ve tried communicating about what’s wrong, I don’t feel I’m being listened to. I’m exiting now, please come back, please reach out, let’s make this work.” It didn’t work out that way, she moved on very quickly. It happened. I’m glad it happened, but it was difficult because my mind knew for a fact that logically, I should never have been there and I should’ve left every single time I felt like leaving, which was constant from the beginning. But emotionally, this is my first love and somebody that I put everything into. It’s very hard to let go. The ego has a difficulty letting go of its own investment. The longer I stayed, the more I projected things. She was no longer a factor of it, it was just me and my loss.

O: Yes, I love what you said, “The ego has a difficult time..” how did you say it? Getting rid of its own investment?

S: Yes. We believe in our own bullshit, so to speak. I have spent a lot of time realizing that I grew up thinking that I was Sanjay, and that I’m this mind borne entity. As I meditated, I realized that I didn’t name myself. There’s a part of me that wasn’t named that was always there. Watching Sanjay, taking care of him, caring for him, if he hurts saying it’s alright dude, I get it, it’s painful, this is a lot of stuff you’re going through. This process of detachment has really given me a lot of space, and it has allowed me to remedy things that I notice in my behavior patterns triggers why things upset me. The other thing is dating is a wonderful sandbox, especially in this modern digital age where you can go out on four or five dates over a couple of weeks. The highs and lows, it’s like a roller coaster, but again it teaches you a lot about yourself, what you’re willing to put up with, what you’re attracted to, what you don’t like. I’m just in this quest right now to see myself, to heal myself, and to basically try and grow into something better than what I came from.

O: What I know from your story is that you’ve been through a lot of pain, couldn’t sleep at night, had a lot of anxiety. Would you share a little bit about that and what you did to overcome that?

S: 2012, I was in crisis. My immune system had crashed and I was 70 pounds heavier than I’m now, so I’ve lost a significant amount since then. What happened that year was I got shingles twice. Typically, that happens if you’re immunocompromised or over the age of 70. I was 42 and I got it twice, it’s very painful. Then, I started having a growth. My right axillary lymph node, I kept feeling something there and it took a while before the doctors could feel it. I ended up with Tuberculosis at the lymph node. This is the type of stuff, as someone who grew up in Asia, I’m born and raised in Hong Kong, I was obviously exposed to it. But the fact that it was able to take over in the lymph node at that age. What my doctor said to me is, “Sanjay, you’re dying. There’s nothing physically, medically wrong with you. The only thing psychological that can cause true physical harm and even death is PTSD. Talk to somebody.” I started therapy then. The other thing was he asked me how much I’m sleeping. My doctor’s aware that I have some publication credits in the field of psychiatry, specifically on sleep and anxiety. He basically said, “What drug would you want? You tell me, you’re a smart guy. What can I give you? Because three hours isn’t enough.” That’s really what I was getting. I asked him, “Would it be okay with you if I took cannabis?” He said, “Don’t tell anyone, but that’s what I use.”

O: Oh, wow. “Don’t tell anyone but that’s what I use.” It’s so interesting.

S: It’s such a strange dynamic with this particular plant that there’s so much attached to it; guilt, shame, understanding. When he said that, I said to myself well, sure. I went into a dispensary and I realized I had three teenage daughters. If I smoked it, they would know I’m smoking it. I didn’t really—this is before it was recreational in California. I want my children to make their own decisions. At that time, the vapes didn’t exist. My only choice was to eat it, edibles. I started taking it, and again I was in crisis so I was taking pretty high doses in the evenings, about 50 milligrams. I started sleeping for seven, eight hours. What happened was every week, I had been working out for a while. You know when you’re young if you decide you’re going to lose weight, you exercise, you diet, it works. At a certain point, it stops working. I believe a lot of that has to do with this cortisol stress response. I was constantly in battle. I was constantly under stress. By taking the cannabis, I would take it at night to sleep, and that’s really all I would do. I’d pass out. The next morning, I would wake up tired, a cup of coffee would fix me, but the stress response went down and I started losing weight week after week. I started feeling better. When my ex and I would have conflicts, I found the space to be able to see myself and understand that I’m reacting, that I’m not really acting, I’m not making decisions, I’m just letting my buttons get pushed and there’s an automated response. It slowed things down. I would say that even the meditation, when I started doing that intently, I found that space that cannabis I believe easily brings people to, one that slows time down and that allows you to watch the moments in between the moments, to see yourself. It has been a great part of my healing and my journey right now, my usage of it has decreased significantly because I’m not in crisis, I sleep relatively as well as a 47 year old man can sleep. You have to wake up to go to the bathroom at about 5:00AM but there’s not much to help that. It’s been good, it’s been very helpful in me finding peace. As a result, I decided to look at that industry, that’s why I’m mentoring startups in that space. I do feel that people don’t understand it and it has a place. Anyone who’s in a society that enables the drinking of alcohol or smoking tobacco and has a negative opinion on cannabis just doesn’t seem very intelligent. The facts that are available point to a significant public health issue with things like alcohol, 60% of all emergency room visits are from people who drink alcohol. Chronic disease is cancerous, there’s a lot of causality, and cannabis, even though there’s such a negative stigma against it, we’re seeing the data. It’s not doing what alcohol does, it’s not doing what tobacco does.

O: Yeah, what your doctor said, “I’m taking it but don’t tell anyone.” When they ask doctors about chemotherapy, if they will recommend chemotherapy for a loved one, 80% said no yet they prescribe it to somebody else. It’s a two-faced industry. There’s such a disconnect between—I know that cannabis can help kids with cancer, and epilepsy, and a lot of things.

S: Chronic pain, yes, there’s a lot of indications that it’s very helpful for.

O: I know there is, where I’m from, there is very advanced research when it comes to cannabis before they even started researching it here in the US.

S: Israel is number one in medical cannabis research by far. They have used it and they’ve used a very high standard of care. They have studied it so I always look to them for leadership in that specific space.

O: Yeah. Also, as far as investment opportunities, there’s so many out there. This is an industry that is just in the beginning stages, in the infant stages. There are a lot of benefits to cannabis and how it can help some people. I’m not a medical doctor, this is not medical advice, but what would you say will be the benefit for someone who is in crisis?

S: It slows things down. When you’re in crisis, things move very fast at a very fundamental, simple level. The science of cannabis isn’t quite understood. We all have CB1 and CB2, cannabinoid receptors, within our system. What they’re there for, how they work, we’re just starting to discover. But there’s some interesting facts about cannabis throughout history. People who have used cannabis have been not just physically fit but extremely physically fit. If you look at the history of things like extreme sports, the X games, BMX riders, skiers, snowboarders, you look at legendary athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt. Cannabis, historically, the word assassin comes from hashish which is Arabic for basically hashish, smoking, killer.

O: Really? Wow.

S: Even in India, in the Sikh faith, the people that wear the turbans, there’s a sect called the Nihang Sikhs. To this day, they’re allowed to drink bong which is a cannabis infused milk drink.

O: Really?

S: It has this strange history. Cannabis, if you look at its history, goes back historically to one historic figure, Shiva. Shiva is the root of all basic dance, meditation, yoga, and in Asia, Japan, China, he’s known by other names and they do give credit that martial arts also comes from this figure. Cannabis being associated with a person who’s known for being supremely fit and in complete control of mind and body I think is interesting. A lot of people forget that cannabis goes back to 2,000, 3,000 years of continuous use in India. Ron and Nancy Reagan helped to make it illegal and repressed in India which is unfortunately. But culturally, during the Vedic period, it seems like a good time to be around. There was a lot of thinking, a lot of scholarship, understanding of things like self-consciousness, meditation, not spirituality in terms of a theistic sense, but spirituality of a human sense. Seems like it was a good time, they wrote the Kama Sutra during that time, a lot of science came out. We do have a model, it’s just a long time ago in history. What I have noticed, somebody that enjoys watching the world and observing trends, the last time we had a big surge of cannabis usage in this country was during the civil rights era in the 60s. If you look at what happened after that, some of the most wonderful progress that we made was a result of these people that had been exposed to cannabis right now. We have the mother of all generations using cannabis. People don’t talk about it as much because of the stigma but the usage is great. My hope is that it helps turn the world and the country into a nicer place. I think alcohol moves us in another direction. Governments subsidize alcohol, I was in Cuba this year and they’re all buying Rum all day long. The government makes it because it keeps people in check. Cannabis allows you to think and see for yourself. There isn’t enough science for people to make absolute statements about the mechanism of action and what it’s specifically doing, it’s sad because the government hasn’t allowed people to study it. Doctors are stuck too, they’re bound by a system where everything has to be proven or they can get sued. Even if they believe it’s good, their hands are tied. My hope is that this changes.

O: What if somebody is in crisis right now and they’re listening to us and they’re thinking, “Okay, this is interesting,” but they have this stigma around cannabis. When they imagine using it, they imagine this teenager in his living room, wake up in the morning, smoke a bong, watch TV all day, eat everything that he can put his hands on. What’s the stigma, what’s the reality?

S: I would put it this way. I’m undecided about smoking cannabis. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve worked in the drug addiction field. The quicker a drug gets to your brain, the shorter the half life of it is, the more you need it on a regular basis. This works with all things that form habits. When you smoke cannabis, it hits you immediately like smoking nicotine. It goes straight to your brain but it wears off pretty quickly. People who smoke get stuck on this treadmill where they’re smoking all the time. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t want to tell somebody what to do in crisis. What I’m going to say is what I did for me and what I think works. What I think is taking it edibles makes sense, obviously, not at a time when you think you have to leave your home or drive. Couple of hours before bedtime, after you’ve eaten and brushed your teeth. Will you feel hungry? In the beginning, yes. But the way I explain it to folks, because I lost weight and my appetite became under control because of cannabis. If you think about it, when you take any drug or medication, what happens is you end up in the situation where tolerance increases and the effect diminishes. If you take a drug to make you happy over time, you need more and more of the drug to make you happy. Without the drug, you don’t feel happy anymore. I’m just using an example. People think of munchies with cannabis. I think what cannabis does if you use it on a regular basis to heal yourself, I think cannabis breaks your munchie button. That’s what it seems like it did to me. I would say that eating it gives you a full spectrum of effects, you’re getting the whole plant, you’re not just getting oil that’s in some propylene glycol or some ingredients we don’t understand. My first thing is to eat it. A lot of people have difficulty because cannabis puts you inside. It allows you that space that I found is similar to meditation. I coach people on meditation and a lot of them have a similar response. I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work for me. I go crazy when I’m sitting there, I think about all sorts of things. Cannabis have the same profile for people who don’t like it, and generally the ones who don’t like it tend to prefer things like alcohol because it puts them inside their head. My counsel to anyone is use meditation in order to calm your mind to where you’re comfortable going inside. Once you get there, then cannabis becomes a very powerful agent of healing and change.

O: Let’s talk about meditation. I’m just now starting with a client and I do a lot of guided meditations and this type of work with people. With her, I need to take a different approach where she’s like I can’t meditate, I can’t sit still, meditation is really, really hard for me. I don’t know how people do that, I think a lot all the time, what would you suggest doing?

S: My process is slightly different. I was fortunate in November of 2015, something happened to me during meditation. I lost about four hours, I was in my bathtub meditating. I was fully in crisis. I had just left my ex.

O: You were abducted by aliens.

S: Something happened, I just cleared for a while. When I came back, I was very cold. I was in a freezing bath tub. Let’s just say that I remember the feeling, I recognize the place, and I now know that I’m going to spend my whole life as a seeker trying to get back there, trying to lift… My insight into meditation as someone who has been a seeker his whole life, from young age, I read all of the religious and spiritual books, then I would look at religious and spiritual people and I would say they’re nothing like what the books say. I was always conflicted. I hated religion but I loved the books and the sources of religion. I had some of this basis and background and my process for meditating is slightly different than the one that most people go to in the West, or if you’re not workmen with a guru or you’re not working with somebody, your focus tends to be on calming your mind. There’s this concept of no mind that everyone talks about, sitting still, letting the mind be calm. The challenge with that is you can also be just sleepy or in a coma or day dreaming, that’s not necessarily effective if you don’t know why you want to get to no mind. The secret is the reason you want to get to no mind is because your mind is your problem. In my case, my mind is named Sanjay. My mind carries all of the patterns, it stores all of the memories, it’s the thing that hallucinates about the future, it’s what doesn’t allow me to be present and in the moment. Instead of saying I’m going to silence this thing, because I wouldn’t have difficulty with that. How can you silence that which you are? It’s a difficult first step to think hey, the thing that has your name, your brain, your mind, the thing that you rely upon for everything, get it to shut up. The question is why. A lot of people with difficulty with meditating, their minds are racing, they may have anxiety. They’re more comfortable doing crossfit or going on a run. In those extreme sort of disciplines of physicality, they find this piece but that piece doesn’t last. If you can’t find it when you’re sitting still, then it’s too much effort and it takes more and more effort. I ask people, “It’s great if you can’t meditate, can you do two things? Can you get your mind to do a task 108 times?” That’s one question. The other is, “Can you humor me and start referring to yourself by your name and watching yourself?” Those are the only two assignments I give to people. What happens with this, none of this is about sitting and counting your breath. I use chanting as a mechanism for people whose minds are running. In my crisis, my family being a Hindu family, they helped me out financially with some issues that I was dealing with with business, but the price I had to pay was letting their priest come fly in from India to basically—I’m joking—perform an exorcism on me; figure out what’s wrong and what needs to be done. That person encouraged me to chant. He gave me a mantra and I started doing it because I had tried everything else in the past. Alcohol, drugs, throwing myself into work, none of it worked. I said I’ve got nothing to lose. Doing something was better than doing nothing. In the beginning, I couldn’t repeat this thing 108 times, 108 is a number because that is the number of beads in a traditional Hindu or Buddhist Male or prayer necklace. When I first sat down with the beads, I do the chant three times and then it’s like a squirrel, I’m just distracted, I’m running all over the place. I didn’t give myself an assignment of anything complicated. I said I know me well enough to know that sitting still or feeling my breaths go in and out of my nostrils is going to make me want to kill somebody. I’m not going to do that. But I did say hey, if you’re gonna get your stuff together, how come you can’t get yourself to repeat something 108 times? I made the challenge and goal very low. As I started doing this, and the mantra is in a language I don’t understand. It’s in words that are symbolic. What happens is when you chant, don’t pick something where your brain can play with the words or argue with them. This is why weird, ancient mantras are great because they’re meaningless, you’re making the part of you with your name do some work. You’re training it to calm down and do what you want. That’s what everyone should aspire to, controlling themselves. As someone builds up the discipline of being able to just sit still and work at 108 repetitions. The next part is while you’re doing that, pay attention to you. This concept, the way I explain it is we all have this voice in our head, like when we’re driving on the 405 like oh god, the exit, how do I get over two lanes?

O: By the way, I had that voice. I’m not a very good driver. I just started driving a few years ago when I came to LA because I always lived in big cities in the world. I had to go through Topanga Park. It’s like one lane and it’s through the mountains, you’re on the edges, I’m all scared. Everybody is so good at driving and they go super fast. I don’t want to go slow because then the people behind me are going to be mad at me, so I go fast. I was psyching myself up, I was talking, I was like Orion, you’re amazing, you can do it. It’s okay, they’re driving fast, you can do it. I swear to God. I was like I wonder if there’s another crazy lady or gentleman in the car that are driving right now and thinking the exact same thing.

S: Everybody. Their voice might not have been as positive and encouraging as yours was to you, but that voice that I’m referring to. The question becomes when you speak to yourself, Orion, who’s talking to whom?

O: I don’t know, who?

S: Okay. In ancient Buddhist practice, in ancient Hindu practices, this is a question. What the text say is be the watcher behind your eyes, be the listener behind your ears. Step one is saying whatever you’re listening to, the part that’s talking, that’s Orion, that is your brain, that is your mind, that is your ego, that is that collection of memories and things that were assigned to you in your childhood. That’s not you. The part that can listen to that, the part that can see that, that’s you in the spiritual sense, in the meditative sense, that’s the space of higher consciousness, that’s the space of what they refer to as subtle intellect. I’m really good at solving problems and answering questions, and I realized that even as a young person, the answers didn’t come from me. What came from me was pain, confusion, and knowing how to survive, put food in myself. Can you repeat something 108 times if you did it everyday? And can you start now? When you feel pain when you’re chanting, when you’re meditating, if the thought comes up, the key is to look at the thought like you would fishes in the pond. You don’t own them, you’re just watching them. You start out first by watching your thoughts and your emotions, but if you’re watching them as part of you, your identity, then something magical happens. Space is created between the listener and the speaker. Eventually, as you exercise that muscle, the listener speaks. When the listener speaks, that’s a holy thing. That’s what the point of this is.

O: Do you think that somebody with ADD can still do it?

S: Absolutely. ADHD is about not being able to hold onto a thought, about your mind moving. All I’m asking this person to do…

O: Is to watch it?

S: Is to watch it. Now, watching it just raw, just saying I’m going to watch myself can be confusing because you don’t know that there’s a part of you that you can control. If you add chanting to it, you start realizing. When I’m sitting there, when Sanjay is sitting there with his beads and chanting, I have to tell myself if you’re chanting and you’re having thoughts and you’re able to know that you’re chanting and have those thoughts, that’s the part of you that meditation is about, good job. You’re in that space of watching, you’re in that space where your mind is being kept busy performing a task, being allowed to think, being allowed to feel. When I feel pain come over me because I had a lot of sadness with what I went through, I would feel the tightness. You’re observing your body, it’s really clear as day, you feel sick in your gut, your chest tightens up, you feel these things. Your neck feels stiff. As this would happen, I’d say the thought that we just watched, the thought about my ex-wife and her new boyfriend, whatever the thought is caused me to tighten up. Before, what I would do, what we all do is we go to the mind for an answer. That’s called rationalizing, we create a story which is not true but it gives the mind somewhere to file the pain. The problem is why file and save the pain, why not deal with it and go through it? In the process that I’m describing, you allow the pain to wash over you and you give yourself comfort by name. There have been times when I felt really bad and I said, “Dude, Sanjay, I get it, it hurts.” I’ll start crying and all I did was be kind to myself which is such a strange concept that people have difficulty with. I started asking myself, you’re an amazing friend to your friends. Are you that way to yourself? You advice and guide people, you give them love. You advice and guide yourself, you coach people. Are you doing a good job of coaching yourself? Until you can separate your identify from who you really are, you can’t begin to have these conversations. My goal in helping people is not to assign them to sit in a constipated position where their feet are going to sleep, and they’re thinking about everything except themselves. I’m saying hey, sit in it. If you feel something, write it on a piece of paper. Don’t own the problem. I’ll take notes and I’ll put them on my iPhone. The notes are, “Sanjay is in intense pain right now because the date he went on didn’t work out and he feels that he’s eternally doomed to…” I look at it and I’ll feel pathetic but it’s already beginning to disappear the minute I identify it.

O: The moment you acknowledge it, the moment you see it. It’s almost like when you just watch your breathing, it will immediately slow down. I watched a viral video today that was just painful to watch. They had two best friends sitting across from each other and they had to tell each other the negative affirmations they say to themselves about who they are in their bodies. They had to tell each other you’re really ugly, I really don’t like that, your fat thighs. It was so painful to watch. When they said it to themselves, it wasn’t as painful as when they had to actually voice it and tell it to their friend. Then, you can really see the abuse. Sometimes, people abuse themselves so much more than anybody in the external world can do to them. It’s so sad. Just watching that is really very important.

S: You’re right, that’s very insightful. That’s really how it all works, in the watching and in the recognition. This computer that we have, this fantastic brain that evolved to allow us to survive across many seasons and in every geography possible, it’s a survival device. In nature, it doesn’t have too many useless thoughts. In a world where Donald Trump is president and the climate is going crazy, you fill it with—I said that and you felt it. That’s the world we live in.

O: I felt it because we live in a world where people admire idols. You don’t have to be really smart or talented, you just have to have a big Instagram following for people to like you and then you become a leader, not because of who you are, just because of how much money you have, or fame, or glory, or popularity. People are robotically sold into this illusion. It’s pretty sad. I see the young generation and there’s no wonder why there’s so many young kids that are so depressed.

S: It’s true. And empathy.

O: Girls the age of five are starting to say stuff like, “Oh my God, look at my belly. I’m fat.” It’s inconceivable.

S: That sadness comes because of the mind and because of what we store in it. This listener that I was describing to you, this voice, if you can go back to when you were young, and I think many people will associate with this. but when I was young and something bad happened, if my mom yelled at me or a friend made me feel bad, I remember my inner dialogue. It was me talking to me saying, “It’s okay, buddy. We’re going to be fine.” That self soothing, that voice, I made the mistake, what I think a lot of people make the mistake is they have access to the listener when they’re young. The listener is bigger than the thinker and speaker because you’re learning at that age. But they think the listener is a child. The listener is not a child. It’s the universe. It’s what people describe as God, the garden of Eden. The problem is you’re a child so you hear the listener with your own capacity that think and speak.

O: That’s a big one.

S: Exactly. If you can go back as adult and find the listener again, find that friend in you again, everything changes. Everything gets better because nothing matters. The outcomes no longer matter. You realize that you’re here to let the universe dense through you. Let it do what it’s going to do.

O: I love it.

S: Right. Surrender.

O: You’re here to let the universe dense through you.

S: That’s what I feel my life is now.

O: That’s going to be the quote on the episode. Wow, that’s amazing. I wanted to talk to you more about the mantra. What is your favorite mantra?

S: It doesn’t really matter. What happens is…

O: No. I just want to know what mantra do you sing.

S: The mantra that I recite is one to Shiva.

O: Recite.

S: Yeah. You don’t want to hear me sing. That’s not a good thing. But I’m happy to recite it for you.

O: Yes. Yes.

S: It’s… (inaudible).

O: It sounded so good.

S: Thank you. Saying that 108 times will make you absolutely crazy in the beginning. That’s what it is. Look at it differently. Look at it as homework. When we were young, we had to learn stuff for school. We stopped pushing our mind to do what we wanted to. It is undisciplined. We’ve allowed it to take over. When you’re in school, you say to yourself, “I’m going to put my phone down and I’m going to study now.” You have this control. We surrender that control. Chanting, meditating is about taking back that control and in that, there’s a freedom.

O: I do Naam yoga. We do a lot of mantras and one that I really like is (inaudible). Then you breathe and then you repeat it. It’s so good because the moment you go into the mantra, it takes away from your overactive mind. You can just concentrate on the sound and it opens this channel for divine light. It’s so beautiful. I highly recommend mantras.

S: It does.

O: Also, just using our voice as a way of releasing emotions, it’s so powerful.

S: I believe this. I believe if you look at who we are as a species, we’re exactly the same biologically as before we could read and write and before we could speak. It’s hard for people to understand this but all of their problems come from words. Think back to how we were in nature. We still thought. We were still worthy of love. We were good but we did not have words to create definitions that are meaningless. We only had reality. We only had presence. In nature, when you’re surviving, all this stuff they talk about being mindful, that’s your existence because if you’re not mindful, you miss the beautiful rainbow. You don’t see the animal you’re supposed to eat. You get eaten instead. In our society, we’re so removed from reality. We have phones. We have TVs. We have cars.

O: So removed, yeah.

S: Right. We’re never there. You can listen to some of the great thinkers now like Eckhart Tolle that say, “Be in the moment.” All of these tactics, all of those of us that find some peace with meditation, the hope is that there’s something that we can impart to people that are trying that’s helpful and in my case, it’s make your mind do work and learn to see yourself. Be the listener. I collect these pieces of wisdom. I watch YouTube. I read ancient text translated in English and I try and find things that give me peace. The mantra that you recited is a very beautiful one from the sick faith, right?

O: I don’t know if I said it correctly.

S: Your pronunciation in some places may not have been perfect but it sounded great. That’s the point. It’s not magic. It’s the peace. When you go in that environment, when you’re sitting in the hall with other people chanting, I encourage people to just go try this because there’s a peace that makes you realize that maybe when we were ancient, this is what we did in our villages, in our tribes around the fire. We chanted things. We danced, we sang, we looked up at the moon. I’m a poet. I write poetry and it’s how I feel in words. I feel that even though it’s paradoxical to say that words, we rely upon them too much, we give them too much importance, we have to move beyond them to where we are in spirit.

O: They say that kids that are learning to speak too early, it blocks their creativity because already, the world is being formed through the spoken word.

S: There you go.

O: And when kids start speaking later in life, they are more creative because there is infinite possibilities.

S: Yes. That’s a very powerful insight, which is as you learn and you become in one sense, a smarter child, more capable of schooling and going to Harvard, you give up something. You give up something very precious. But the world is competitive. Every parent wants their kid to do well. We’re not looking at people anymore. We’re looking at the game we have to play in a capitalist world that is determined by Judeo Christianity. While that is a model that is held up for 2,000 plus years, we’re watching it unravel and people have a yearning to say, “Hey, there were humans before this religion. There were humans before these ideas. How did they live? Were they at peace?” And we find in history that there are many civilizations. Ultimately, we are people. We are flawed. We end up killing each other at some point, unfortunately. But now, with learning, with the internet, with being able to share values, I’m optimistic. I’m truly hopeful because I look at my kids in the younger generation and while they’re kind of confused about common sense and reality, their heart seem to be in the right place. They seem to care.

O: That is the most important thing because they will be able to see through the illusion eventually as long as their heart is in the right place.

S: Yes.

O: And they are very blessed to have you as their guide, their father. That’s beautiful.

S: Listen, they’re teenagers so they would disagree with me but thank you.

O: Maybe currently. What is nirvana and moksha?

S: These are words that refer to the ultimate goal. Moksha is a Hindu concept. Nirvana is what Buddha used. It is basically the state of not being anymore. It’s a state of no longer existing and no longer being attached. We get hung up on things like eating meat and karma and coming back as a cockroach. As someone who is now swimming in these waters, I know that that’s not the case. Attachment and karma is in your mind. It is what your mind is attached to. If you had pain as a child and that determines the pattern of who you are as a person, that’s your karma. If you can undo those patterns, if you can unlock them, and I feel wonderfully light because even though I’m at the bottom, on paper, I’m not having the best life emotionally, mentally, physically, I’m surrendered and I feel great because the attachments to things are disappearing. When I explain to you the beginning of meditation is when you can be the watcher and you can see yourself as distinct. Because in order to silence the mind, if I know the mind is named Sanjay and I give him love and I make him feel comfortable and I put him to work, all of a sudden, when I say, “Sanjay, be still.” I’m talking to my friend. If I just start there wrestling with myself to silence myself, I’m never getting to the next part.

O: It has so much to do with self acceptance because when you accept those parts of you that you are ashamed of, that you don’t like, and you embrace and integrate these parts of you as like you said, this is me and I love those parts. I am my own friend and so it’s almost like there’s no conflict inside. You work with everything that you are and from a place of acceptance you can create.

S: You’re exactly right. The one step ahead of that is realizing that you’re not accepting yourself, you’re accepting who you are through your mind. Moksha and nirvana are when you are the listener only. Then you no longer exist. My dream for myself is that there is no more Sanjay. There is nothing that is relevant to who I am as an identity and all I am is what’s left, which is everything.

O: I had the experience of everything. I spent some time at Oneness University in India in Chennai. On the very last day, very last meditation that was on a temple that is based on an 800 years old mandala, they created a 3D structure out of it and they say the walls are alive and it’s a very sacred space. I got a Deeksha from the monks and then my soul left my body. I was not me anymore. I was a part of everything. My spirit went and like I was on the top of the temple. I saw a monkey and I started laughing because I knew what the monkey was thinking and then my spirit went out of my body into the body of a stray dog, the gardens around the temple, they had many stray dogs. I saw the world through the eyes of that dog. And then I was in another realm dancing with the monks. There were no drugs involved. This was just an out of body experience. While I’m experiencing all that physically in this physical realm, I’m on the floor of the temple laughing out loud for an hour and a half. Can’t stop laughing like I just listened to the funniest comedian on planet Earth. I never laughed like that in my life. That trance started when I got the Deeksha and it ended exactly when they did that, the gong. I was back in the room. When I came back from India, the most interesting thing that happened was I was so present with my clients like I’ve never been before. I could just be with the person completely and utterly and just block everything around me. Very profound.

S: That’s wonderful that you had that experience. That’s what I’m encouraging people to do, is once you get a taste of what’s possible…

O: It’s like your four hours were like, “How can I get there again?”

S: There you go. That feeling that you experienced, people stumble upon it in many different ways. Psychedelics have often done that to folks. Things like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca. The challenge is that the harder it is to get to that place, the more work you have to do so at the end of it, the [00:53:45] retreat or if you’re taking a substance, those things are fleeting and very hard to build upon and be able to draw upon on command when you need meditation. If you’ve ever had one of those experiences, meditation is about learning how to get out of your own way so you can be like that. The concept in Hinduism is called non-duality and that’s what you experience. That there’s no difference between you and the stray dog.

O: Nothing. It was amazing.

S: Consciousness paints this picture that we see, we just happen to limit ourselves by wanting to see it through the name that we were given by somebody through the lens of all the troubles that were put into us by life, society, and environment that we had no control over. Once you can get you out of the way, that’s my goal. What you experience, my goal is to try and live in that because wouldn’t it be wonderful?

O: Oh God, oh my God.

S: I never understood before. I have a shaved head so I look very monk like but I never understood the appeal. Now, I’m at a place in life where I keep thinking, if I can just take care of my kids, get them set, get them through college…

O: They say that bald men are considered sexier and more intelligent.

S: Why, thank you. I appreciate that.

O: You’re welcome.

S: What I want now is to go and be with myself and try and get there. It gives me a mission that is not about anything external, that I don’t need to be rich to do this. I don’t need to have a comfortable lifestyle. I just need to be present and remember what my mission is, which is to disappear, to not be there.

O: What is your mission for other people?

S: I’ve been trying to figure that out. I would like to take some of this peace that I found and help others with it. In the past, everything I did was seeing something in the future, finding a team where a company that I thought was going to get to that vision and then trying to be part of it. Right now, I find that the money part of it doesn’t appeal to me. What appeals to me is how I can help the most people with what I’m good at. What I believe I’m good at is as simple as communicating. When I speak or especially when I write, I often can make people feel what I’m feeling. Whether it’s humor, whether it’s a love poem, I like to connect to people so I’d like to write. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the type of book I wanted to write. I majored in literature. I tried. I couldn’t write the type of book I wanted. I now understand why because what I wanted to write was wisdom. What I wanted to write was poetry of things like Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, something of beauty. And as a young person that was stuck in his mind and just locked up in patterns, I didn’t have the insights. I feel I have them now. If I can write things or speak to people and help give them peace and help them see that I was just as tortured as they were, maybe even more, and that I’ve unlocked things, that my life is getting easier and free-er. I’d like to be able to do it but the appeal here is while I do believe these techniques are very powerful and can help you succeed financially and just controlling your mind is the key to everything. The challenge is to me, that’s just a preliminary step, controlling your mind so it can disappear. That doesn’t come with fame, fortune, and money. It comes with peace. It’s a little bit harder to sell peace. You want people to seek it for themselves because they connect to you. I’m trying to find the vehicle for me to connect with people so I can share my peace with them.

O: I can totally relate because I went through my own suffering and pain. This is why I do what I do today, share what I share today because if I didn’t through the hell I went through, I would not be able to discover what I discover, overcome what I overcame and have the desire to help others the way I was helped. Sanjay, I know that you have a morning ritual. What is it?

S: It’s one thing to say that you want to meditate but from what all of the text say, you’ve got to put work into it. It has to be a discipline. The word that they use in Sanskrit is Sangha. Sangha is a ritual. It is work that you do towards self awareness, towards finding peace. My process is sort of a modern urban version of it. I have a Bluetooth speaker in my shower by my bathtub. In the morning, I turn it on. I have a chant that I play in the background that’s called the Guru Gita. It’s the first place in history that mentions the concept of the guru. It’s a text from Shaivism, from the following of Shiva. It’s Shiva talking to his wife Parvati and explaining why even as a god who’s supreme among gods, why surrendering to somebody who’s a wise master or a teacher, is a key in learning. I don’t really understand what’s going on. It’s in Sanskrit. It’s being chanted by a guy named Leo Dale. It’s not even a brown person but it gives me peace and it’s 43 minutes long. What happens is I go into the bathroom. I start the music. I do everything I need to do. I get ready. I fill my tub up at the end, about three inches worth of water because I’ve already showered and I just don’t want to be cold. My beads are right there. Through this process, I have about 15 or so minutes left and I find at that point, I just sit down and I chant. In the beginning, it used to take me 12 minutes to do one cycle of my chant, now in 12 minutes, I can do several molas.

O: Wow. It’s like the Olympics of chanting.

S: It’s not that. It just becomes like breathing. It’s just automatic. You don’t have to do anything. You’ve exercised that muscle. I start doing it until I feel that I’m in the zone then I stop doing it and I go inside. Physically, I’m trying to get out of my head, out of my eyes and more into my center. As I do this, if I have stuff that’s bothering me, it surfaces and I’m able to address it and soothe myself. But what I often find is the last five minutes of this, what starts popping into my head is work. It’s such an efficient process, whether I leave the tub with the three things that are the most critical for the day, I’ll do them in 15 minutes and the rest of my life is just waiting for a response or scheduled calls. It helps me. That’s really my morning discipline. I have to admit, when I feel the need, I am guilty many times of going in the tub at all times a day. I’m just comfortable in there. There’s no computer there. Water is the cure to anything digital. When I’m in water, I don’t have my phone with me because trust me, I ruined enough iPads and iPhones trying to keep them close to the tub. I know better. I have no distraction and I’m able to just say, “You wanted this time for yourself. You’re feeling confused or you need some insights. Sit down.” Having the daily discipline has now made it easy for me to get to this place whenever I need to. Rituals are simple things. We go out of our way to think we have to go to some ancient source for them. People can create their own rituals. Things that give you peace. I look at things like the Japanese green tea ceremony.

O: I’ve done that when I lived in Japan.

S: So you’re aware of how transcendent the experience is. It’s beautiful. It’s poetry, literally, right?

O: Yes.

S: I think people should make simple rituals. They should honor the sky, the earth, the plants, themselves, their world, and say, “This is a moment of me remembering.” The feeling that you had when you were at that retreat in India. The word that I used to describe that is a feeling of belonging. It’s not a feeling of separation.

O: Oneness.

S: It’s a feeling of oneness and oneness is belonging. You belong to this world. You’re not distinct from it. Cultivating belonging is what having a sub, having a discipline, having a ritual, that’s what it allows you to do.

O: Sanjay, before we finish and I actually want to speak to you for many more hours but I know you have to go.

S: No, it’s been fun.

O: What are your three top tips to living a stellar life?

S: Realize you’re not who you think you are would be, I would say, the biggest thing. Working on that discipline to be aware of yourself. The other two, let me see. You’ve put me on the spot so I’m trying to think about it. I would say surrendering is another big one. Giving up on things, not wanting things is not surrendering. Surrendering says I will take what comes as it comes and I will be okay with it. Not being attached to things is surrender. The final one is to look beyond the words. It’s been very powerful for me because when I sit there and I think about something painful, that story, the words that come, oh well you know the reason we split is because of this. Those reasons don’t matter. They allow your mind to create a story that allows it to save the pain. Lose the words. Lose the pain. In all cases, it’s about surrender. It’s about surrendering your ego. It’s about surrendering from the outcome and it is surrendering from the need for words and labels and knowledge.

O: Where can people find you, connect with you, and learn more from you?

S: There’s a site called Quora that I have written almost too much on but I enjoy answering questions. I write a lot on Quora. I have over 3,000 answers and a lot of my answers have been published in Forbes for business, Huffington Post, Fatherly for parenting. I’m a generalist so people can go on Quora and actually ask me questions and direct them to me. That’s one vehicle. The other is more for fun. It would be my Instagram, because I do notice people. Everything about me is on there, my family, my life, my business, my poetry.

O: If you’re a single woman looking for somebody like Sanjay, contact him on Instagram and tell him how amazing he is.

S: That would be great. Listen, I’m going to do more podcasts now. I’m a believer.

O: Come again.

S: Definitely.

O: Thank you, Sanjay.

S: It’s been a pleasure, Orion. Thank you so much.

O: Thank you.