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Meditation, Atheism, and Jedi Apprenticeships.

I was brought up Hindu, but as of now, I’m atheist. I’d like to think that I’m a practical person- anecdotes and dogma have no place in my life. I prefer to practice methods which have been tested and proven, so you can see why blue ten-headed gods might seem a bit far-fetched.

Back to Hinduism though. Our family has known a monk- you could call him our spiritual councilor- for over 50 years. When my grandfather first left India and moved to New York, this monk was there. He was there when my parents met, when they got married, and even when I came into the world. He’s seen 3 generations of my family grow up and get established.

At 90 years old, Swami Purnatmananda Maharaj still surprises me. His thinking is clear. His memory, sharp. He’s up at 4:30 in the morning and works all day, tends to the woes of all the people who come to him for advice, and he leads the daily prayers. Not only that, but he’s also a senior monk in his order- Bharat Seva Ashram Sanga, it’s called. This is an international charity with emphasis on helping humanity- not pushing religion. Their motto basically means “service before self.” So their agenda isn’t converting people- it’s helping the poor. As an organization, they are amazing, because monks don’t get paid. Every cent past maintaining the organization goes towards building hospitals, curing the sick. No one has a financial interest in the whole organization- and that’s really impressive-really rare. No western charity or church can claim that. Here in the US, pastors can be wealthy. Not so much with this organization…no one man benefits from the organization more than any other- and regardless of the fact that they are a religious organization, I like that 95% plus of the money donated goes directly to the people.

Anyways, I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Josh Waitzkin, and they were discussing meditation. So I took some notes and over this past weekend, I brought up meditating to this monk. He’s in Yorba Linda for now so I’m lucky to have access to him. He told me to come down for a week, and he’d teach me all the basics of controlling my mind and my emotions. Anger, fear, insecurity- all of it could be controlled. This is really appealing to me…I mean the guy is basically yoda, despite the obvious physical differences and lack of light saber/ levitation powers. But he knows the Jedi mind tricks- that much is clear. Imagine being able to remain perfectly calm while starting a new business. Or being able to feel fear, lean into it, and turn it into an asset. Imagine being able to suppress all of the “I’m not ___enough” comments in your head, or making all of the self limiting excuses go away.

I’m skeptical as always, but will put effort into this. I respect this man a lot- I’ve never met anyone as selfless, sharp, or alert as he is at 90. So I won’t be writing for a week or so. This is as close as I’ll ever get to a Jedi Apprenticeship, so I might as well take it.

see you in a week.

The Other Side Of The Safety Glass

As a teenager, I used to be quick to point out people who stood out, didn’t blend in. The nerds with their long stringy hair. The fat kids in water polo even though they were bulging dangerously out of their speedos. Alex- the big gay kid who sang opera and did theater. Secretly I was envious that these guys were comfortable in their own skin, just being themselves. By the time I was finishing up college, I had come to terms with who I was and stopped degrading others for my amusement.

I got a taste of that today, except I was on the receiving end. I had finished up a grueling back workout, and wanted to go a little extra- so I jumped on the leg press machine, located next to the large window, an intersection just outside. I put my headphones in, set the weight heavy, and the seat low. My legs were in a squat position- hip flexors straining near the end of their range of motion…really need to work on my flexibility. As I finished out that set, a black car pulled up. Pretty nice, a new Lexus- one of the sportier IS models. The windows were down, and a college aged guy was driving, with a pretty cute girl to his side. He pointed over at me, and said something to the girl. She looked over, and they both laughed. It didn’t bother me, but later it clicked- this is what it felt like to be on the receiving end.

It reminded me of when you see a tiger or a grizzly at the zoo, and some little shit kid jeering from the other side of the glass because he knows he can’t be touched. Except if I had anything to say about you, I’d say it to your face-I wasn’t passive aggressive about it. But, time goes on, and I’ve since learned to deal with this kind of stuff- it was pretty common through middle school and highschool. Kids picked on me, and I took that frustration out on others. Later on I learned to use this energy to my advantage- to internalize it and put it into my work, my workouts, my goals for the future.

Anger is a very powerful and volatile emotion- and learning to channel it is a huge asset. You want that anger to burn less like fire crackers (noisy, inefficient, think temper tantrum) and burn more like coals. It is a deep, hot, sustained burn that holds much more potential.

I will always have detractors. Some will be people close to me, others will be strangers. But the key is not to let it compromise me and instead, to use it to my advantage to further my own agenda and get ahead. It’s equally as important to remember to remain charismatic, respectful, and engaging with everyone, but not to be a doormat. This means calling out the people on their bullshit if necessary.

Carry yourself in this manner and success is all but guaranteed. And success, whether in cultivating your body, your wealth, spirit, or life experiences- hold far more value than what some stranger said about you in passing.

I’m lucky to be living in the US- my setbacks and problems are rarely as big as I ever think they are. Remembering this is key- people in 3rd world countries don’t have time to wonder if they look ok or if there’s a meaning to life- they use every waking moment to survive, to provide food, shelter, and clothing, things most of us hardly ever give a thought.

That keeps me humble. It keeps me hungry. And hopefully it will sink in eventually that the opinions of others really shouldn’t mean a thing to me.