Metabolic health and wellness expert Dr. Ronesh Sinha returns to explore the roots of why we are hurting so much, and how we can keep ourselves and our children well. SPOILER ALERT: it ain’t about pills and procedures.
2:08 Working from home and chronic pandemic stress
6:23 Work and our identity crisis
9:27 Emotional suppression and the physical effects of stress (blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, etc)
14:21 Continuous glucose monitors and “white coat hyperglycemia”
17:19 Cortisol as stress hormone, shame, intermittent fasting hazards
25:18 The real roots of job dissatisfaction and the creative impulse
29:38 Stress effects on our children, poisonous parental pressure
31:19 Steve Jobs and the central importance of spiritual growth
40:52 The peril of reductionism in medicine, destigmatizing lifestyle medicine
45:07 The central role of “identity” in human suffering, burnout in healthcare
49:43 The role of vulnerability in medicine, the next generation’s challenges and how to better raise kids
56:02 The role of envy
59:28 Understanding and un-repressing emotion
1:03:00 The Pre/Trans Fallacy
1:07:19 Journaling as a tool, why writing is different than typing
1:12:30 Breathing and posture at work, “email apnea”
1:19:48 A different SOAP note
1:22:30 Dropping into “presence”
1:23:03 Men At Work’s greatest song
1:25:38 Doing exercise right
1:30:09 The role of laughter and breathing
1:32:39 Reconnected with the inner child, accepting emotion
1:38:07 Sleep & Anxiety, Yoga Nidra, Compassion, setting boundaries
1:48:38 The importance of Wonder and the transcendent
– [Zubin] Hey, everyone, Dr. Z. Welcome to my show… Our show. Ron, what’s up?
– [Ron] Not much.
– [Zubin] Dude, dude.
– [Ron] It’s been a long time. I can’t believe it’s been a year, pre-vaccine was when we talked last.
– [Zubin] Pre-vaccine before we talked to each other. So for those who don’t know Dr. Sinha, my introductions are getting sketchier and sketchier as I go on.
– [Ron] That’s fine.
– [Zubin] Dr. Ron Sinha is an internist. He’s the medical director at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, my old haunts. He’s a writer, he’s a corporate wellness expert. You’ve really kind of become an expert on the health of South Asian communities in particular and their metabolic challenges and so on. And you and I have been in cahoots talking about all kinds of things during COVID, because COVID is a metabolic disease, meaning it seems to affect people with diabetes, with insulin resistance, with tendencies to inflammation. And you’ve given us all these tips in previous shows on how we can run the COVID marathon better, even if we get it, right? And this was pre-vaccine, like you said, the last time we talked. So we’re gonna talk… I’ll tell you what, I’m just gonna let people know what the basic scope of what we’re gonna talk about. We’re gonna talk about, again, surviving and thriving COVID, the aftereffects of COVID that you’re seeing in the clinic, but we’re gonna talk about the bigger picture of stress, the connection to something bigger than us that we’re missing that is causing people to get sick, how our mind and our body are one thing, and what you’re seeing on the front lines here in the Silicon Valley with the kids, and parents of the kids, that are in a pressure cooker. And it’s heartbreaking, we were talking off camera about this stuff. And you recently sent a letter to your patients and stuff that really nailed this down. But I think that’s what we’re gonna talk about. What do you think?
– [Ron] Sure, absolutely. I won’t be home ’till tomorrow, so it’s all good, man.
– [Zubin] Even better.
– [Ron] It’s all good, yeah.
– [Zubin] Look at that.
– [Ron] Right, we’re going all night, man.
– [Zubin] We’re going all night.
– [Ron] Let’s do it.
– [Zubin] You know, the audience will be with us, probably. The five of them that watch. So brother, just so people know, your background is internal medicine, right?
– [Ron] Right.
– [Zubin] So you have a full-time primary care practice.
– [Ron] Yep, I did before, yeah.
– [Zubin] So what are you doing now?
– [Ron] So now, really, my full-time job really is corporate wellness. Going out to companies and really teaching audiences how to lead better, healthier lives. So I design a lot of strategy for what sorts of wellness programs we can design. And then really, how do we bring innovative clinical services to busy employees? And as you can imagine, in the stay-at-home world right now, the whole work environment has changed quite a bit, so we’re trying to look for different strategies to keep people healthier. And you can imagine people on the couch and the bed, in awkward positions, trying to work. You’ve got your kids screaming in the next room. It’s like a totally different work environment than it was pre-COVID, right?
– [Zubin] It really is, and the thing is now, we don’t have as much help at home, right? So, for example, right now, I just realized we’re recording, I’m running everything myself, all this equipment, I have to figure out. We’ve spent like, I don’t know what, 20 minutes trying to set it up, get the shot right, get you in focus. And I realized, I forgot to put my acoustic dampener over this, so the fan noise is too loud, so keep you tell these guys what’s up while I get this.
– [Ron] Absolutely, I’ll go on a little soliloquy here. Yeah, totally. No, but the work environment has been very difficult for a lot of folks. I mean, I think, in the initial phases, people were like, “Hey, it’s so great to be with family. “This is wonderful. “I’m away from work.” But now, I think the long-term repercussions of just working from home has been really challenging for folks. And I think I was telling you too, even for me, I find that after a couple of days of trying to work from home, I can start going pretty stir crazy, so I just need to exit the facilities and find a different place.
– [Zubin] If I didn’t have this studio, I would have quit this a long time ago because I find working from home to be very stressful, because, for me, what it is is the attention is divided between, like, say it’s family there, other personal things that you have in the house, and this other mindset of like, “Oh, I have this profession, “I need to do this, I need to do this.” That division can create a kind of inner conflict that manifests physically. It can feel like a tension, it can feel like a headache. Are you seeing this?
– [Ron] My boys are in high school, so they’re not even in the house half the time, but there’s parts of my conscious mind that are thinking about their room or what they have to do when they get back. So it’s just very unfocused, you know? So definitely getting out of that environment’s really key.
– [Zubin] Yeah, and you throw a little OCD in there, like I have, and in the house, I’m just like, “Damn, “my daughter left all her hairs everywhere.” And I’m just picking up these big, long daughter hairs, and I’m like, “They’re not mine. “I know they’re not mine.” Yeah, and it causes that kinda stress. So are you seeing manifestations of this in the corporate wellness space, physically, in terms of how people are presenting with complaints?
– [Ron] Yes, I mean, chronic stress has been an issue all along, even before COVID-19, but definitely, the intensity and the volume of that stress has gotten much greater. And the types of things… As you know, a lot of these patients have been falling for many years, but many of them really just reached a breaking point. Initially, there was that honeymoon period of the pandemic where they felt like, “Hey, I’m connecting with family. “I get to walk in the neighborhood “and do a lot of these things.” But I think it’s reached a point where I think they felt like there was an end point to this pandemic, and now they don’t see that, and they’re really starting to unravel. And I think a lot of folks have really… And now, we’re hearing news about a second surge during the holidays, etc. So people are really feeling pretty helpless right now. So giving them tools to really anchor into stress reduction is becoming critical, ’cause otherwise they just can’t move forward with the rest of their lives.
– [Zubin] It seems that the public policy responses sometimes to COVID have continued to feed a media apparatus that continues to feed a fear apparatus because it generates revenue. And I think… Listen, some of that is very valid, right? I mean, yeah, this is a serious pandemic. But at the same time, we don’t look at things holistically at all. We don’t consider the epi-effects of some of our policies in terms of generating this kind of serious mental health stuff. And we call it “mental health crisis,” but it’s really actually a health crisis because they’re same thing, right? And this is something that struck me in the letter you wrote your patients. It was a very brave thing to do because you connected this idea of physical health, mental health, how we’re treating our children and our expectations for the children, how they’re manifesting disease early and often in a way that they never did, to this idea that we’re even spiritually disconnected from anything larger than ourselves, or from ourselves, our true selves. And if we reconnected with that, then we might actually see improvements across the board. How do you think about this?
– [Ron] I think you nailed it. I think a lot of us are going through an identity crisis, and we’ve had time to think, and pause, and reflect on that a little bit, right? It’s like, so many people at work are like, “What is my purpose? “Am I gonna be working at this company “for the next 10 or 15 years? “Is this really the job that’s gonna fulfill me?” I think people are having an early midlife, or late life, or early life crisis, and they’re asking those big questions. So I think that’s a positive, Z. I think we needed something like this to help people reflect. But I think they’re still caught in the rat race; the expectations that were put upon their shoulders from an early age. Even though I’ve written a book on South Asian health, I see a very diverse population, and they’ve come to this country with a lot of expectations put on their shoulders. And even though they’ve met some of those expectations, they feel even more empty and unfulfilled. So this is really something I wanna put out there so people are aware of that because everything else we talk about, intermittent fasting, exercise, all of that, it means absolutely nothing if we’re disconnected from that self. I have plenty of patients that are athletes, they’ve got six-packs, they could not be more aerobically fit, but they’re miserably unhappy because that foundation of really connecting to their true identity has dissipated.
– [Zubin] There are not a lot of doctors talking about this and I find it really unfortunate, and that’s a real euphemism. It’s really unfortunate because this idea that that aspect of us is separate from this aspect of us is a false dichotomy. It’s not true. I just heard a podcast with Iain McGilchrist, who’s a famous psychiatrist, kinda neuroscientist, philosopher. He’s written books about the left and right hemisphere and how they take on different roles, called… What’s it? “Master and Emissary,” or “Emissary and Master,” I forget what it is. And he wrote a new book called “The Matter with Things,” meaning the idea that we think all this stuff is actually matter, and so on. And what he said is in science, and in philosophy, and in religion, and in spirituality, we’ve created this false dichotomy, that almost is a left-right brain split because the left brain loves to categorize, reduce, simplify, concretize, and the right brain is more like big picture, holistic, emotional, seeing connections. It can only see things in context. You move a context, you take a part out of the whole, it becomes something completely different. But to the left brain, it’s still that little part, just totally isolated. I feel like in medicine, Western medicine in particular, we’ve really left brainified so much of this, that when someone like you comes along and says, “Hey, there’s this whole other part of us, “that the right brain has always known, “that we’ve kind of ignored.” And so, what happens when we ignore it, we feel this weird tension. Sometimes it manifests physically. We used to call those things a “conversion disorder,” right? Now, we call them “functional neurologic disorder.” We’re seeing a lot of it after vaccination. People who are very nervous about vaccine, who’ve been conditioned a certain way. They get the vaccine, they suddenly are numb on one half of their side, the whole body, and neurologists can’t figure out what’s going on.
– [Ron] Totally. I mean, what you brought up, that whole entity of emotional suppression, it is the root cause for so much human pain and suffering. And this is not something… I’m not being spiritual. I mean, you can look at the medical science behind individuals that suppress emotions on a persistent basis. And for a lot of us, that’s become our default status. We’re not even aware of that. So it’s interesting, when I see patients in the clinic, I often will kinda shoot the crap with them, and I’m like, “Hey, what are you up to? “What’s your work? “What’s your family life like?”” And a lotta times they’ll tell me, “Hey, I’m working in a company, “I’m actually going to night school. “I’ve got two young kids.” And then I ask them, after that, “How are stress levels?” And they’re like, “They’re okay, they’re manageable.” I’m like, “That’s impossible for you “to be doing all of that “and not be under high stress,” right? So they’ve created this identity, or this shell, where they’re just suppressing all those emotions. In the meantime, I’m looking at their blood pressure, their weight, their blood sugar, their metabolics, and all the sensor lights are full steam ahead. But they’re not even aware of that because that’s become the norm of their living status and environment.
– [Zubin] So when you say “the sensor lights are full steam ahead,” you mean like they’re off… They’re not good?
– [Ron] No, they’re not good. Yeah, yeah, they’re off. We’ve got red lines in terms of their health metrics, looking at their blood sugar, their blood pressure, all the vital metrics of mitochondrial health that I end up looking at in the practice, they’re off, but there’s no self-awareness around that because this is sort of the new norm, right? To be overwhelmed and be tense, and have these racing thoughts constantly. This has become the default status for a lot of folks.
– [Zubin] You know, you and I have talked about this before and it made sense intellectually. It finally hit home in a truly experiential way for me when… And I don’t know, I don’t think I ever told you this. When I was younger, every time I checked my blood pressure at a doctor’s office, it would be through the roof.
– [Ron] Oh, I didn’t know that.
– [Zubin] Yeah, and every time I would check it at home, when I was completely relaxed, it was fine. When I’d go to a store and check it, at like a drug store or something, it would be borderline high if not high. And my pulse was always… I always had PVCs. Pulse was low because I exercised, I was one of those guys that just exercised all the time. But I could feel something. Like, you could feel there was something not right. And stressed all the time, medical school, residency, all of this. High levels of cortisol all the time. Always had like an extra five, 10 pounds hanging on me. And all of that started to change only in the last few years, when I started really doing what is authentically me. Letting go of this other stuff, that I’m trying to be something that I’m not. And then, something really remarkable… So my blood pressure now is… It was 120 over 80, typically, somewhere in that range. Sometimes it can get to like 130, if I’m having a bad day and I’m at a drug store. But at home, it’s usually quite good. So I went to this meditation retreat, which I’ve talked about on the show, and you and I’ve talked about off-camera, for six days of semi-silent retreat. And I came back, and a couple interesting sensor metrics changed. One is I had lost four pounds at the retreat, eating the same amount of food, if not more, and exercising, not at all. And I normally exercise one or two hours a day at a gym. So that was one thing that was interesting. The second thing was when I checked my blood pressure, it was persistently 100 over 60. So 20 points lower on both systolic and diastolic consistently. And that was not entering a meditative state, that was just the standard presence that I had cultivated. I’ve never… And the third thing that happened was the intrusive thoughts about food that I’ve had all my life, that I’ve been conditioned, “food is comfort,” always thinking about the next meal, they didn’t fully disappear, but when they arise, I saw them as thoughts and not mine. Just like, “Oh, look at this thought. “Hi, friend. “Bye, friend. “Gone.” So since I’ve come back, that weight has stayed off. And the intrusive thoughts… So if you look at my metrics and blood pressure, I haven’t even checked blood sugar, weight, probably cortisol levels, stress, they’ve all plummeted.
– [Ron] In what? Six days, you said the retreat was?
– [Zubin] six days of retreat and that was intensive. It was probably the equivalent of like two years of therapy, meditation.
– [Ron] Imagine what that would do to healthcare costs, right? Just six days of that compared to what we’re doing right now.
– [Zubin] Could you imagine if we actually had insurance companies cover that? Hey, there’s a good scam. We should get into that.
– [Ron] There we go, nice. But hey, you’re not an outlier. I mean, this is what I see over and over. You talked… We’re pretty familiar with this entity, called “White coat hypertension,” right? So blood pressure goes up in the office… Or reverse white coat, where a lot of individual individuals see their blood pressure is normal with me, but when they’re with their significant other, it goes up, so it’s actually worse at home, right? So we often see that. But I also see what I call “White Coat Hyperglycemia” quite a bit, ’cause I have a lot of patients on continuous glucose monitors. I’m actually running corporate programs now, using these CGM sensors, and you’d be amazed at the types of data that I get. So I’ll give you one example of a individual that was in our program who had the best blood sugars I’ve seen. Just, glucose is fantastic, stable as heck. Then, she recorded in her diary, one fight with her father-in-law over politics, COVID, etc.
– [Zubin] Standard.
– [Ron] Exactly, exactly. And the spike of her blood sugar was up to 170 plus. She’d never seen a blood sugar like that. And the interesting thing is she went out, she kind of re-centered herself, came back, had a slice of chocolate cake, the chocolate cake barely touched the blood sugar. So I literally wrote a post on this thing, “Stress is worse than chocolate cake.” ‘Cause we had direct evidence of that glycemic response. And I’ve seen that in my case too. If I’m internalizing a lot of stress, my sensor data is like off the charts. So there are individuals who have what I call, in a simplified language, a very sensitive liver. So some of us, the cortisol has a major impact on the liver. It triggers gluconeogenesis and we see these glucose spikes that are happening, that we’re never aware of, right? ‘Cause because of these sensors, we can see that in real time. Otherwise, you’re getting a once a year fasting blood sugar, some of their A1C tests, but now we can see these impacts in real time. So that’s the first one. The second one I want to highlight is the weight loss. My female patients, in particular, cannot believe the impact of stress on their body weight. It’s only after I have them doing less high intensity exercise, do more walks, taking more breaks, that they start to see that their body starts to shed. But we’ve been conditioned that the more you burn calories, the more you work out intensely, that that’s gonna happen. But like you said, that has a cortisol impact on the body, especially if you’re running a business, you’ve got two young kids, and now you’re doing Peloton high intensity classes, five, six days a week. Your body will not let go of fat. Especially that subcutaneous fat will just be locked in until we get rid of that mindset, so it’s pretty crazy. I wouldn’t believe it. A lot of people listening might be like, “What are we talking about?” But I’ve seen this in countless patients over and over through corporate programs. So getting people to center themselves… And the thing that you brought up is that sense of purpose. A couple of my patients when they’ve found the job or the sense of purpose that they had, their numbers, even without meditating or exercising, they change, just because their mindset, they’re like, they’re doing something they love, they enjoy. So there are just things outside of the traditional eat less, exercise more, things that are happening on a different level that affect your metabolism in ways that are unbelievable, right? Not things you’re gonna find in the New England Journal of Medicine or typical mainstream journal.
– [Zubin] Wow. You know, so many things in what you said… So okay, back to the continuous glucose monitor. This is like a biofeedback device at this point, because you’re seeing directly how your mental state affects your hormonal state, which affects your glucose states, Particularly, like you said, with those with sensitive livers; gluconeogenesis, meaning creating new glucose in the liver. It goes up if you have cortisol as a trigger, correct?
– [Ron] Exactly.
– [Zubin] And the cortisol is a stress hormone. And one thing I want to put an extra punctuation point on is when we use exercise as yet another thing we need to accomplish in the day, it generates cortisol. And that’s why in the absence of that exercise drive, I actually lost weight, right? Because that went away and it was compensated for by my plummeting cortisol levels. Now, this idea of purpose and connection, absolutely key. That’s what we are as humans. We’re meaning-seeking machines. And “The Great Resignation,” as they’re calling it, where people are just quitting their jobs, it couldn’t have come any sooner. People, you know… Listen, dude, I know you do a lot of corporate wellness stuff and you can’t say this, I’m gonna say this. I’ve had corporations reach out to me and say, “Hey, could you give us a talk for our employees “on how we can retain our employees?” And I say, “Well, I’m gonna tell them that “if this is not the path they should be walking, “they need to leave” because now is the time. Now is the time, when the labor market’s tight and all this stuff is like, “Now, you have the most freedom to live your life.” We need to switch from this consumer economy, where we’re all trying to get stuff, to a creator economy, where… And “creation” just simply means living your story. That may be as simple as, “You know what? “I always wanted to be a farmer. “I’m gonna go be a farmer.” It’s that simple. Now, the other thing that you mentioned is in women, you said you have these women patients that when they address the stress, the pounds come off, and vice versa, right? You talked about emotional repression. I think those are tied because part of the vicious cycle of weight gain, you’re stressed, you gain weight, then there’s an emotional component, which is shame. “I’m not good enough. “I don’t have the willpower. “I can’t… “I’ve always struggled with weight. “I’m broken,” right? And shame is one of those emotions where it’s like it’s a shield around a deeper emotion probably. But it says, “Don’t look in here “because what’s in here is “fundamentally corrupt and broken.” Nobody, not even you, even me, I can’t look in there.
– [Ron] I’ll give you an example on that too, is I am a fan of prescribing fasting in a methodical way in my clinic. But I’ve seen a lot of women take fasting to levels that they shouldn’t be taking it to.
– [Zubin] Dysfunctional levels.
– [Ron] completely dysfunctional levels. And actually, did a dedicated podcast on how we’ve taken fasting too far. Because a lot of women, especially when they read about the science of it, one of the things that gets pitched about fasting, which is really powerful, is this concept of autophagy: How you’re basically renewing your cells, right? You’re getting rid of the bad cells and regenerating new ones. If you’ve already got a personal mindset that you’re shameful about yourself and you want to replace this body, then the impact of that is, “Let me just fast longer and longer,” right? So I see some women that… And they come to my office in tears, who are like, “I’m doing 18 sixes. “I’ve done 24 48-hour fasts.” And they’re barely losing any weight at all, which tells you the power of the body’s ability to actually hold onto body fat when you’re under stress. And a lot of this, like you said, is just driven by shame. So I’ve got to really teach them to say, “Just lose the word “fasting” right now. “Let’s focus on nourishing your body again.” And counterintuitively, when they’re actually eating more and in a healthy way, they end up losing that fat. So we have to really be aware of these things because you’re right, that shame itself can just cause so much dysfunctionality.
– [Zubin] Wow. Because fasting has been such a thing, and it can be very… You’ve talked about this. I’m a one meal-a-day type of person. That’s finally settled in, that this is my way of eating.
– [Ron] Yeah, that works for some people.
– [Zubin] It’s a lifestyle I can live with, that works for me. It’s not for everybody. But the shame-driven emotional component of weight is so powerful. And I think, even for me, I remember a story when I was a kid, ’cause I was always a very fat little kid because my mother, typical Indian mother, just feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, and came to the US, and I think she was stressed, and everybody was stressed. And it was fine, right? I mean, this was love, but I would eat a lot. And so, I came to school… I think I’ve told this story. I came to school with a lunch box and I always like hid away two sandwiches in there, because one was not enough, and I would look forward to the lunch. And one time, I remember… And I would eat them kind of secretly. And one time, I remember, the lunch box fell open. I was getting off the bus, and all these girls were around, I don’t know what grade I was in, and they were laughing. They’re going, “Oh my gosh, “Zubin has two sandwiches, oh my gosh.” Oh my God, dude, the amount of shit–
– [Ron] Oh man, that’s a memory you hold with you for so long.
– [Zubin] I still have it! I must’ve been like in fourth grade, I was just like so ashamed. And so, then you overcompensate. Like, in middle school, I didn’t even eat lunch. I was like, “No, I’m not gonna eat lunch. “No, I’m in control of this. “Nope, no, one’s gonna see the dirtiest part of me, “which is constantly thinking about food,” right?
– [Ron] Totally, totally.
– [Zubin] As a comfort, as a solace. How come we can’t address that?
– [Ron] I think we need to. When we talk about, in the… Psychedelics are in the news, right? Things like psilocybin. But there’s a philosophy that we talk about, which is set and setting. What is the mindset and what is the environment that you’re in? Obviously, if you’re raving at a party and doing psychedelic drugs, that’s gonna have a different impact than being in a therapeutic setting, where your mindset is self-healing, and being around the right type of people. Well, with fasting, it’s the same thing. How did fasting originate thousands of years ago? The mindset was for self-purification, to disconnect from the ego, to be in a state of self-healing. But now, it’s like fasting is for shedding body fat and achieving perfect body composition. It’s like the complete… It’s ego-driven now, the whole practice of fasting. So that’s another way that I say, if your intent of fasting is just to shed your old body and bring on a new body that’s got a six pack on it, you gotta be really careful with that mindset. And literally, for some of my patients, just shifting that mindset and looking at fasting as a practice that, “Hey, maybe I’m gonna fast for my late father.” If you believe in a God or a higher spirit, let’s do it with that purpose in mind, and don’t pay attention to the weight scale right now. When you eat and feed yourself during your feeding windows, let’s eat really good quality foods then, because a lot of people that fast are just under-eating, or the rebound eating a lot of junk food during that window. But just again, coming to that mindset and the original intent of fasting, when that shifts, we see a completely different outcome that happens from fasting. And I think that’s a message that we’re not getting out there. Your Instagrammers, whatever, they’re just showing pictures of their six packs after fasting for 48 hours. I think we have to be very careful because fasting is medicine, but like any medicine, you can overdose and get toxicity from it if it’s not done in the right way.
– [Zubin] Man, that’s a gr… No one’s talking about that, man. And I got to say… Well, no one, at least, that I’ve seen. And I got to say this about what you just said: This idea of fasting as a kind of a sacrament is a powerful mindset. One thing that I got out of this retreat was that it feels like, and I’m not speaking about… Actually, even scientifically, everything is energy, meaning matter is just energy, they’re equivalent. And Iain McGilchrist, in this interview on Rebel Wisdom, my friend, David Fuller’s podcast, was talking about this. He was saying, “You can actually consider matter one hypothesis. “Matter is like a condensed form “of energy or consciousness, “and awareness itself is like the water, “the liquid form.” And thought, emotion, sensation is more like the gas form. Actually, I added that part, because I think it’s interesting. These phases of experience are like phases of matter. And so, when you think about your body, it’s really a field of energy. So what you put in it is energetic. And if you put junk in it, if you’re trying to manipulate it to physically look a certain way, that may be the wrong approach. It may be more, “what does it feel like energetically “to you, to do this?” And when I came out of this thing, it felt like, “Oh, I just don’t have an interest “in worrying about food in that way.” And when I eat, I pay very close attention to what I’m eating now. But yeah, again, so much is mindset. You said set and setting.
– [Ron] Yeah.
– [Zubin] It was psychedelics, it’s true. With meditation, it’s true. With living your life, it’s true.
– [Ron] Absolutely, yeah. And you know, with the job thing, I got gotta tell you, I’ve seen a lot of folks coming to my clinic that have shifted between eight to 10 companies. And we got to think about the fact that as much as sometimes people feel like “this is not the right job for me,” if the mindset doesn’t shift, there’s never gonna be a right job, because you’ll be miserable no matter what company you work for. You’ll be miserable even if you’re at home starting your own business. And it’s like, at some point, you’ve got to pause and think about, “How do I really fix the individual structure “so it can thrive in any environment?” And then find the right environment for that.
– [Zubin] This is a key thing. How many people… Like you said, how many people you know that go job, to job, to job, but the same dysfunction is there?
– [Ron] That’s right.
– [Zubin] This fundamental setting. They haven’t… We don’t value, in this society, the work. And even therapy… I’m gonna say something very controversial.
– [Ron] Go for it.
– [Zubin] We talk about therapy a lot. In fact, therapy has been de-stigmatized, which is wonderful. I think it’s powerful, I think it can be an important tool. I haven’t done it myself, but I think I would benefit from it. But I’d say we almost have taken therapy and put it in the place of deeper work that we can do on ourself. That’s more trans-egoic, more beyond thought. Because therapy is thought-based most of the time. There’s some mindfulness-based therapy, but it’s really about like altering thought, looking at thought, dredging up thought, pulling out identity, working on identity, chisel… Not always, but chiseling identity. Okay, that’s all important. But what about questioning identity entirely? What about really looking in, and going, “Okay, what am I really “and what am I here to do?” And when that authenticity happens, presence occurs. And then, you’re you. The real you. Like a hole in the universe, channeling creativity from nowhere.
– [Ron] Exactly. And you brought up the word “creativity” a few times and there are several different types of rest, and there’s a great… I think her name is Dr. Sandra Dalton, it might be Smith, but she did a TED talk on the seven types of rest. And it’s got the usual things like sleep, obviously mental disconnect, digital disconnection, but creativity is a big one on her list. And that’s something I’m actually asking A lot of my patients about when I do high school sessions is, “what do you do throughout your day “that’s actually creative?” I mean, you are blessed with so much creative talent, and I think, in many phases of your career, you felt like that was probably suppressed to some degree, right?
– [Zubin] Severely.
– [Ron] You wanted to just expose that and just put it out there. I think all of us as human beings have that natural tendency to want to create. But sometimes, we’ve suppressed that because that inner child has been squashed. We’re going for the status, we’re going for the materialism. But some of my patients, when they’ve reconnected to music, to art, or even their side business, I tell them, “Don’t attach goals to it, “like “I’ve got to make a billion dollars in 10 years,” “just learn how to create your own media, “or your music, or your website. “Just focus on that.” And that’s a real primal urge we all had, but I think a lot of us have just forgotten. And we get to a certain age, we’re like, “I’m too old to pick up the guitar. “I’m too old to play the piano.” I’m like, “No, this is an ideal time. “This is when your heart and soul need it “more than anything. “You don’t have to be virtuoso, “but just start something that takes you “out of that mindset.”
– [Zubin] That’s brilliant advice, man. And man, these patients are lucky to have you. Really, you’re truly an enlightened being. The more I talk to you, the more I’m like, “We were put together for a reason.” That’s the other thing that you start to notice the more present you become, that these ideas of synchronicities in the world, they’re real. Like, things just seem to click when you’re open. My late friend, Tony Hsieh, who was a great example of both the incredible, transcendent good of being in touch with who you are, and the struggles of ego and social conditioning, and all the other things that, ultimately, took his life; Addiction and substance abuse and all of that. And he had a saying… He changed my life, you know what I mean? He was the one who opened the door to like, you can be you and that’s okay. And he had a saying that, there’s this thing called “return on luck,” where when we think we’re one way, we think this is our identity, we think this is what’s expected of us, we close our minds to what’s actually occurring now. And when you open yourself to that, what we call “luck” is just the universe doing its thing when you’re open to it. Amazing things happen.
– [Ron] Totally agree, yeah.
– [Zubin] Right? And I think so many of our patients, and of ourselves, and our children… Talk about our kids a little bit because you’re seeing these kids…
– [Ron] Oh boy. I need a drink of water before this. This is deep things.
– [Zubin] Oh yeah, me too. This is something that… The media has used these hackneyed phrases of like, “The mental health crisis in kids,” and “COVID’s made it worse and so on.” And we’ve done a lot of things, like closing schools, that have been very harmful to, especially, lower socioeconomic status children. But tell me what’s going on with kids, ’cause this is an epi-phenomenon of everything we’ve just been talking about, I think.
– [Ron] Well, I think, we already try to attach a false identity to kids from a very early age. We asked them to choose role models that may not resonate with who they are. So here in Silicon Valley, I’ll give an example. It’s like as people are raising their kids, this is pre-controversy, but “Let’s try to be like Steve Jobs. “Let’s try and be like Mark Zuckerberg.” “Hey, well, maybe my kid can be like Elon,” right? So we already program our kids into identities that we think will bring them success. And I’m not saying parents have malintent, they just feel like, “Okay, there’s a whole universe out there “and if they follow this specific, programmed path, “they’re gonna achieve that level of success.” But then when these kids achieve it… ‘Cause I see every generation. I see teenagers, I see parents, I see grandparents as well, and they’re always shocked that, “Wow, my kid is on the cover of Fortune magazine, “making all this money, “but they went through a divorce, “they’re dealing with chronic health issues, “they’re a workaholic.” So the thing is we cannot stick to that same playbook. The people that have been most successful had a foundation of self-realization, some spiritual knowledge that they started from, and that pointed them in the right direction. We often… When we think of somebody like, let’s take Steve Jobs, for example, ’cause he’s an icon in Silicon Valley. But what’s the story that people tell their kids about becoming like Steve Jobs? Work your ass off, be just single-focus minded, whatever. We have this path that we pay attention to. But we forget about the foundation of where he’s created his intuition. He had a huge foundation of connection to the east, to Hinduism. At his funeral… I don’t know if you know about this, but at his funeral, when he actually, at his funeral, had all the guests show up, at the end, he basically had placed brown boxes for all the guests that came to his funeral. And when they opened it up, there was a book in there called, “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Yogananda. So it’s like, that’s the last parting gift he gave to individuals. So this is something that we talked about before, I think we’re missing is that left brain mixing with that energetic state that you’ve been talking about. I know we call it kind of like a “woo woo state,” but the old philosophers, the Einsteins, the Teslas, they were mixing with Eastern philosophers because it reached the pinnacle of their knowledge and they wanted to know, “What else is out there? “How could this miracle be created?” And they were open about doing that. But here, in today’s state, you wouldn’t see a scientist necessarily, or a PhD, sitting down with somebody with an orange robe. That just wouldn’t happen. If you were Albert Einstein, I don’t think you would invite somebody in an orange robe to be on your podcast. I mean, now that just doesn’t happen anymore. But I think we have to start infusing a little bit of that Eastern wisdom so people, like you said, can really identify their true self. Not to bash therapy but it is… When people go on these retreats, five, six days, or if they’ve had a controlled psychedelic experience, they often say that this is more powerful than 10 years of therapy. And again, I’m not diminishing therapy.
– [Zubin] You need it too.
– [Ron] But you need a combination of both, because we’re clearly not curing the mental health crisis with the approach that we have right now to mental health.
– [Zubin] Ah, man. Yeah, Ron. So I feel like we take any egoic approach to fixing the ego in some way. These structures… And look, there’s a role for that. Everything is true, but partial. But there’s this… Jobs used to tell his engineers, “Have you done LSD yet? “Have you tried LSD yet?” And this was very irresponsible because he’s not talking about set and setting, but this was obviously the 70s and 80s. But he had done those things, I think he’d gone to India, this was a spiritual practice, a key thing. Actually, one person in his autobiography described him as “An enlightened being who was also cruel.” And I think that was powerful because there’s a false… There’s a false notion that you can have a spiritual awakening, and that’s the end of the path, and you’re good forever, but we all know these gurus who are complete assholes. And Jobs was an asshole to many, many people, very egoic, because that’s not the end of the unfolding, of realization. It’s a constant… You have to integrate emotion, you have to do shadow work, you have to do therapy. All of it is necessary to be as highly realized a human as you can. And the people that I know that are very highly realized, you can feel it. They’re empty of ego, there may be a trace of a fixation here and there, but they’ve done that work. And the people I know who’ve awakened, who have not done that work, all they have now is a spiritually empowered ego that is used to dominate other people. And I think in the Silicon Valley in particular, “Oh, I went on a retreat, man, “so I could get more focused, “so I could just crush it–“
– [Ron] That’s exactly right. Their intent is completely different. It is totally ego-driven, and that’s the big tension that I see. Because especially, here in Silicon valley, we have a lot of CEOs of companies that come from the east, they’re immigrants here, and there’s this complete tension between… They’ve got that Eastern tradition deep down inside, but they’ve also got this material obsession, right? This responsibility to just crush it right now. So my friends, my family back home, will see me on the cover of this magazine, but when you mix that some-level spirituality with that materialism, the conflict and clash that happens, often, that combustion can be worse than having just one of those things, right? So I think it’s kind of sad. In my practice, I see a lot of the folks from the Wast are actually meditating less than my patients from the West, because I think the Westerners have gone through the cycle of material already, and they’re actually at a point now where they feel like, “What else is out there?” they’re more open using Headspace or going on a silent retreat. But it’s interesting because a lot of my patients who are of Indian origin, they’re much more resistant. They’re not doing the practices, they’ve disconnected more. And I’m having to literally say, “Did your grandfather used to do this, “or your aunt?” And they’re like, “Yeah, they used to do this.” I’m like, “How do I reconnect you to that tradition?” So really finding that optimal blend is really critical.
– [Zubin] How fascinating. I did an interview two days ago with a science fiction critic and writer who specializes in story and mythology, Damien Walter, from the UK, lives in Bali now. And he’s quite a spiritual character too. And he said something really interesting, which is in ancient traditions, the story and the mythology of the hero’s journey, the coming of age and the… Usually, often for young boys, especially, because it was a different mythology for women, incorporated the spiritual growth as part of the story. And people often had an identity that was solid before they went on spiritual journeys. He says, now in the west, what we find is people want to do this hero’s journey that they see in Star Wars or something, and it’s an egoic hero’s journey. Like, “I’m the prodigal son. “I’ll go out and do all these things. “I’ll come back and I’ll get accolades at home.” Like the Indian coming here, “I’ll be on the cover of Forbes,” all of that. But when the spiritual side of it, or the trans-egoic side of it, comes in, they don’t have that story-based foundation to integrate that into it, and it becomes disconnected. And in some cases, he sees Westerners going to Bali or to Chiang Mai in Thailand and doing these 30 day silent retreats and becoming destabilized. Their identity becomes so fluid, they don’t know what’s going on and they’ve never had a tradition to anchor it to. They don’t know what it means, and they don’t have help. And it becomes destabilizing. So there’s a lot of nuance even in this journey. Now, another thing you said… And sorry, I talk a lot, but I get excited about this. The other thing you said is that the Westerners have had this materialistic journey and now they’re coming back to this, or they’re finding this spiritual side, because they find it empty, I am a firm believer that, like an embryo… And I said this on the show with Damien. Like an embryo, we recapitulate, we have to go through these phases of our evolution. So we have a tail at one point. We have gill slits at one point. They get reabsorbed because we’ve moved on, but it’s still part of who we are. We’ve transcended and included this unique part of who we are. I think human development’s the same way. We go through these stages and we cannot skip. So we have to really try to focus on optimizing the stages that we’re at, instead of trying to skip through, or trying to deny, or getting stuck in a stage, we need to transcend and include each stage. So that means we do need to go through our materialistic, striving stage, but we need to be supported and understand that it’s not the end. So we do struggle, and we go through that… Like medical school, or going to college, or whatever it is. If we deprive people of that, they end up at that the next stage totally destabilized. And then, you have things like “woke culture” and all this madness that’s going on because people haven’t done that previous work. So I think that is something that we can, as a society, say, “Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. “Let’s try to optimize each stage “and really nurture it.” The inner child, instead of repressing it, leaving it behind, include it. Transcend and include it. One of the weird meditative experiences I had on this retreat was actually experiencing my little, inner Zubin, little child, that was such a misfit, but was so curious and all this… And just going, “Yeah, “why am I denying this little child?” Like “here, come here, come here. “You’re me, you’re me. “You’re okay.” And that’s hard work, and it can be emotional.
– [Ron] I’m getting choked up just thinking about it. Yeah, totally. But I got to tell you, when you say “energy,” and you sent me that clip of when you came back from the retreat, and I told you this, I watched for a couple of minutes and I felt like I was watching a different Z. And actually… And just through watching that, it had an emotional impact on me. It’s like, if that’s not energy transcending boundaries, physical boundaries, I don’t know what is. But it was amazing within those couple of minutes. I was like, “My God, Zubin, “this is amazing.”
– [Zubin] And when I read the email you sent me, I felt it energetically. I was like, “Oh my God.” Through the word, through the ether. We can bash social media and technology all we want, but it’s a tool. If we use the tool the way that humans are designed, which is we are these social energetic creatures… The feeling of transmission of emotion and energy is a real thing that I experienced at the retreat too. 30 silent people in a room together, you start to share… It’s indescribable. And actually, if I start talking about it, people will think I’m crazy, because in the Western model, this makes no sense. But very interesting things happen where you are energetically connected to people, because I do think we’re all one thing. We’re all this… There was a great, I forget who did it, but it was a graduation speech, like water, right? The fish doesn’t even know the water it’s swimming in, but that is what this is. It’s all one thing, one substance. I know. It gets crazy. And okay, let’s bring it back to the concrete. Medicine. You and I share something in that we are frustrated with the standard practice of medicine. We feel it’s either a little too reductionistic, it’s missing a bigger picture, or it’s missing these bio-psychosocial components. And a lot of my guests actually focus on this holistic integration. So Rachel Zoffness is a UCSF pain psychologist, specializes in kids actually, and says, “Hey, pain is bio-psycho-social.” It has biological components, psychological components, and social components. And I think what you’re saying about your patients is it’s the same with everything, right? And you can even say “bio-psychosocial spiritual.” I mean, “spiritual” is really a psychological… Trans-psychological component. And even the word “spiritual,” it’s so loaded with stigma.
– [Ron] Oh completely, completely, yep, yep.
– [Zubin] Whether there’s organized religion, whether it’s weird meditation, whether… But then you look at a guy like Sam Harris, who is about the pinnacle of rational thought, and he’s as spiritual a person as you can ima… Has an app called “Waking Up.” It is becoming okay.
– [Ron] I think, thank goodness we have a new generation of leaders in the space that have just enough of the scientific language and context to pull the skeptics into it, right? As much as I know, sometimes it seems silly to have apps for meditation and things, I mean, let’s use technology for the right purposes. I mean, that, for a lot of people is the bridge to going on a silent retreat, all of a sudden, because you want more. You’re like, “Okay, there’s only so much “I can get out of my phone. “I want to sit with people, “or with people that have been doing this for decades, “and learn from them.” so I think one of the things in the medical system right now is we all know that the pacing is just impossible, right? I mean, seeing a patient every 15, 20 minutes… Luckily, I have a lifestyle practice where I can spend 60 minutes. But once you can find those resources… I have so many resources now, whether it’s books, retreats, or places that you can send patients. And our patients, when they trust us, they really will follow the advice and resources we give them. We have to really extend the care outside of the clinics and connect them to these other leaders, or tools and resources, that can help them achieve, not full self-realization but, some sort of partial self-realization so they know there’s more to life than just the rat race that they’re basically running in.
– [Zubin] Yeah, I love it. Lifestyle medicine is a beautiful thing. And I know David Katz and others in that community that are passionate about it. And whether they’re focused on eating less meat or whether they’re focused on whatever aspect of lifestyle they are, and everyone’s different, I think that that’s a practice pattern, I think, for a lot of us that can be very congruent with what we feel is authentically true. Because I think, even when I was in medical school, I was just like, “This doesn’t seem… “A lot of this just doesn’t seem right. “How can this be?” And it’s the same idea of struggling with like, “Why are we even aware? “How does this matter make us aware?”
– [Ron] Yeah, I mean, I wish we infused some of this in medical training, along with so many other things; knowledge about nutrition, etc. But many of us come out of medical training, we’re pretty damaged because we’re put in a hierarchical caste system, it’s super competitive, we make materialistic decisions about which profession pays more, all this–
– [Zubin] Loans that you have to pay back.
– [Ron] Yeah, loans, all this stuff. And you come out of it, and why do we have 50% burnout rates and all this mental health crisis, and then we expect these products of the medical training system to heal others? So it’s a difficult thing. It’s really tough. I have a lot of patients in my clinic that are physicians, and they’re struggling with self-identity. I mean, they’ve devoted so many years to medical training, and now they’re at the end of that road, and they’re like, “what am I done?” Or “what have I done? “Was it worth me sacrificing my 20s “and 30s to get here?” And I’ve got to reset it. Like you said, all of us have to go through a process, so it’s not like you should think the last few decades were a waste of your life. But now, at least you’re questioning it. That’s a key thing, is all of us, at some point, have to question, “Okay, what is the next stage? “How did that past set me up “for success going forward? “It did still give me the opportunity “to connect with others, “and go through the cycle “of a little bit of pain and suffering.” But just like you’re going through now, because you had told me transparently that, at some point, you were like, “Do I keep doing this?” It’s like, you were like at the edge. But then, all of a sudden, with that awakening, you realized that, “This is a way for me to reach more people “and connect with others.” You just had a different context to everything you’ve been doing for so many years.
– [Zubin] Yeah, it’s… Everything you said is absolutely crucial for people to understand that because we are so… Especially in medicine, we’re so attached to our identities because they were hard won. I told a story in my piece on the retreat, that was, I think, just for my supporters, and I share it with anyone who wants to hear it. They just email me [email protected] and use “meditation” in the subject line, and I send them this clip. It’s an hour and 20 minutes of me talking about this retreat experience, right having come back. And I speak slowly. and I’ll close my eyes, and, I mean, that’s how much of that meditative presence is still there during that, and you can’t shake it. And it’s still there, it infuses my daily activities, but the real world intrudes and it’s kind of a sine wave, of like back and forth. But every time I meditate, I’m right back there, right back there. So there was a story of identity. There was a woman, one of our supporters, at the retreat who had, all her life, run a gym… Been in the health fitness industry. So she wasn’t a healthcare practitioner, but she was in fitness. And she was very… In wonderful shape, but we’re all getting older and so on. And so, her identity of this person, this identity that I’ve crafted for years and worked so hard on, not only to be in physical shape but to help others get in physical shape. And here I am at this retreat, and we’re saying that identity is a story that we’re telling ourselves, like, there’s this bigger identity. And she said, “I had to grieve for this identity, “this thing that I had built.” And she said, she had, because she came from a Christian tradition… And this is the thing, this is non-denominational. It doesn’t matter how you come to it. She said, she, in one of her meditative experiences during the retreat, felt like God come and just cradle this identity that she’d built and said, “It’s okay. “This is not all you are, “but this is also part of who you are.” And that made it okay to say, “Okay, I’m gonna do the next thing now.” So this is powerful for physicians. There was a piece in The Atlantic, and… Talking about healthcare f… Typical clickbait title. “Healthcare workers are leaving in droves.” I don’t know it’s that simple. But there was an ER doc who, after so many years and thought she’d be a lifer, decided to leave because of all the things that are stressing. And she said she found herself in a pumpkin patch with her kids for Halloween, was trying to… This was post leaving. Didn’t have a plan for what she was gonna do. And just started sobbing. Just broke into tears. And then when she introspected, , said “Why am I sobbing?” She said, “because I’m happy. “And I haven’t felt this way in years.” I mean, that was powerful. I mean, in many ways when I left Stanford and went to Las Vegas to start this clinic and do this thing, I had never felt such a weight lifted off me.
– [Ron] I know. I mean, we grew up in a culture where you’re supposed to be in a position for decades and decades. And even for us, in medicine, especially, right? We’re the most faithful profession. We have people around us that are switching companies all the time. But then it comes back to that internalization, we’re like, “I guess this is how it’s supposed to be.” Then all of a sudden, year after year goes by. And that’s where it is important to have that realization that there are a lot of sensations in my body that have been held for a long time. And no matter what shifts I make within this work environment, until I let go, it’s just not gonna happen. You’ve got to put yourself in a position to really be successful and really feel that energy that we’ve been suppressing for so long.
– [Zubin] Yeah, it’s really a… It’s an opening.
– [Ron] It’s not easy.
– [Zubin] It’s not easy.
– [Ron] It’s not easy to make that move.
– [Zubin] And you have to let people know it’s not easy. They have to forgive themselves if it’s hard. It was… I’ve had to do it multiple times. So for me, it’s been like, you leave Stanford, that was traumatic. It’s like… They say having a spiritual awakening is like dying before you die. You actually… You will physically face fear and feel like you’re dying, and it was like that. ‘Cause you’re like, “This was an identity,” and it’s so terrifying. “I’m jumping into the unknown. “I don’t know, how am I gonna make a living? “What am I doing?” But there’s a big, deep part of this thread underlying that’s like pulling you along. It’s like, “This is you, this is you. “Come this way. “Come this way, come this way.” And you turn, you open yourself to return on luck as much as you can, but it’s terrifying. So we have to tell people that.
– [Ron] We do, we do.
– [Zubin] That’s okay. I get a lot of emails, “I’m very frustrated and…” Okay, so feel into that. It’s okay to feel into it.
– [Ron] Totally. But also, in the positions that we’re in, I think you get a lot of folks, probably, that reach out to you and sometimes, they get the perception that we’re living the dream now, right? So it’s like, “God, if I could just be like Zubin” or “maybe if I could write a book like Ron,” all the problems would go away.
– [Zubin] Perfect practice like Ron. Working with cool devices.
– [Ron] Yeah, yeah, with companies and stuff. But I think in the background, I think the more vulnerable you are in opening with how much deep work we have to be to keep that boat afloat, that’s really important. I mean, again, for me, not… I’ve known you personally for some time now, but it’d be very easy for me to say, “Zubin’s living the dream life.” But obviously, there was a point where you needed to be awakened again to realize, “Okay, this is sort of the next stage.” But I think us, especially as males in the physician… In the medical profession, the more of us can really come out and expose that vulnerability, I think we can just heal so many people in this profession. We’ve been used to just having this concrete identity where we don’t want to expose people to our own pain and suffering, and it really backfires. We lose connection with people and we lose connection with ourselves.
– [Zubin] Dude, it’s the central problem, I think, really with our own problems. And Robbie Pearl, former CEO of Permanente Medical Group, written a couple books, and one of them was called “Uncaring,” about the culture of medicine. And in that book, which was quite controversial because doctors, immediately, were triggered ’cause here’s this administrator telling us how our culture is broken. And, of course, he’s a doctor and he’s practiced through that. But the idea that emotional repression, that not showing vulnerability, was a big part of the book. It was like we don’t… We can’t say we’re sorry, we blame ourselves, we have this high suicide rate because we internalize everything. And we’re also afraid to act on what we know is right inside. Like, “Oh, this is not me. “Why am I still doing this? “Why am I still doing this? “Why am I still doing this? “Oh, because the expectation is… “Oh, and I have student loans,” and all these excuses. The golden handcuffs that doctors have. And I think it’s coming to a head now with COVID, and people are just gonna “Wait, wait, what?” And I think part of the frustration that some older doctors have, who train younger doctors, and this is controversial too, but I’ve talked to many who are residency program directors and beyond, and what they find is that the young people are disillusioned already. But the way they manifest it, because they haven’t gone through the acquisition phase of all that work, the actual putting in the dues so that you can go, “God, this is bullshit,” they’ve kind of skipped that a little, they’ve done some of it for sure, but now they’re like, “Well, I just want to be realized,” which means, “This isn’t fitting my educational paradigm. “I don’t want to do it “and I don’t want to work that hard.” And it’s like, “Well, actually, “medicine requires a lot of dedication.” So you do need to put in some of that effort, you can’t skip a stage of evolution. But you should be supported. When we did it, you and I, Ron, we were abused. That was just part of the covenant. That’s not okay. So it just gets really clear that there’s a lot of nuance here.
– [Ron] There is. And when you’re… Coming back to the question around kids, it’s interesting because I have a lot of friends and colleagues that are in medicine, and they’re telling their kids, “Do not go into medicine.” They’re like, “Don’t go into it, okay? “You go work for tech company, “be an investment banker.” But in my head, I’m like, “That’s not necessarily sending “the right message either, right?” Because many of us, again, it comes back to set and setting. We were kind of pushed into medicine as a material objective or a goal setting. We weren’t given the foundation where medicine might’ve been a more fulfilling life, it might’ve been a calling. So I think if there’s kids that truly are interested in it, and then we support them and give them the emotional tools to endure and go through those stages, it could be a meaningful profession. But again, if we’re telling them, “Don’t go into medicine “and be an investment banker because you’ll make “this much more money working less hours.” It’s like, you’re setting them up for failure again.
– [Zubin] Absolutely. What we’re really saying, Ron, if we’re honest, what’s really being said when people say that, is I went into this… It’s either one or two things. It’s “I went into this with “the wrong reasons and expectations, “and I’m disappointed “because I wanted money and stability, “and it gave me that, “but I’m not happy because it’s not me.” That’s one possibility. I think a very common possibility is, “I went into this for all the right reasons, “caring and loving human beings, “and I’ve been given a system “and a situation where I don’t get to do that.” And I think that’s more common. And now they’re telling their children, “Don’t do this,” instead of saying, “Hey, here’s why you would do this. “If this is how you feel, you can do it. “But you’re gonna have to find “a part of medicine where you can do that.” Either you forge your own way or that system has to change, and we work on it to change. And the other thing I have to say is in order for systems to change, individuals have to change. We manifest the world as a collective. So if we don’t wake up ourselves, then the system’s still asleep. We get the system that is an epi-phenomenon of our egoic mind. That’s our healthcare system. It’s fee-for-service, monetized a certain way, assembly line driven, commoditized, private equity-owned, and then you put the raw materials in, which are humans. That’s not how… That’s not the calling of medicine.
– [Ron] Right. Oh my goodness.
– [Zubin] So with kids, what are you telling parents then? Because what’s the action item for kids in terms of your…
– [Ron] Yeah, I mean, the reason I’m focusing a little bit now on giving talks to schools and education systems, and it’s been great because I’ve been able to reach out to teachers who are clearly suffering so much through this pandemic, but also talking to parents, and I guess to perspective I can give them is what is the end product of all of what we’re doing right now. When we’re overstressing kids, signing them up for all these extracurriculars, not giving them time to sleep, not giving them time to play. They’re sacrificing with this expectation that there’s going to be deferred gratitude, deferred success later on in life. But I’m seeing the whole spectrum, right? And I’m not a mental health therapist. It’s not like I’m selecting out these people in my practice. I’m seeing people for just lifestyle, maybe some metabolic conditions. But when I start presenting case studies to parents and families about “Here’s X so-and-so, “who’s at the top of their game, “and these are the types of health conditions I’m seeing.” And that gives me a unique perspective on parenting because I’m like, “That is not the path to optimal health,” mental, physiological, metabolic, all of that. It does start to awaken parents. A lot of parents reach out to me and they’re like, “I’ve got to start thinking about this differently “because I am caught up in the rat race. “What are the neighbors’ kids doing? “What are my friends’ kids doing?” It’s just… Envy is one of those emotions that’s a very powerful one that needs to be conquered. And I’ve done a lot of writing on envy. And it’s funny, the way I write about envy is I tell people, “I want you to respell it E-N-V-I, “because it is Energy that is absolutely Vile.” When you think of envy and what it does in terms of, “What are your kids up to? “How come my coworker got this raise?” It just creates some of the most toxic emotions possible. And I want people to identify that. How often throughout the day, when you’re on Instagram or YouTube, somebody says something about their kid that your kid can accomplish, that divides and separates us more than almost any emotion out there. And I see a lot of that here in Silicon Valley, right? Everybody’s envious of the fact that, “How did so-and-so work for that startup “and make this much money?” “Why is so-and-so kid’s going to Stanford “and my kid’s gonna junior college?” It’s a constant thing that’s happening, and it’s so toxic, and it puts so much pressure on the kids. Yeah.
– [Zubin] Oh man.
– [Ron] It’s hard.
– [Zubin] Nobody talks about envy. Nobody talks about these emotions.
– [Ron] Oh my God.
– [Zubin] Okay… So okay, all right, all right, envy. This one’s amazing because in his book, “Awake, it’s Your Turn,” Angelo DiLullo, the physician that ran this retreat, that’s a friend of mine, that we’ve done some shows, he kind of categorized them into primary emotions, which are just very few. It’s like anger, joy, sadness… I think surprise is one of the primary emotions. There’s a few. Then there’s a more complex emotions that are made up of aspects of these primary emotions, that you can actually drill into. So envy is an interesting one that I haven’t thought about. I feel envy a lot. I feel it when I go on social media and I see somebody more successful than me on social media. I feel it when, again, like kids–
– [Ron] I’ve been through this. Yep, totally.
– [Zubin] Silicon Valley. “Oh, I got a Tesla, “but it’s just a thing.” And I look up how much that Tesla costs and it’s like $150,000. It’s the dual motor whatever-the-hell. I’m like, “How did that guy get that much money?”
– [Ron] Yeah, exactly.
– [Zubin] Every little thing. Every little thing. And in the Silicon Valley, it’s poisonous, because, remember I said at this retreat, there’s this–
– [Ron] By the way, I’ve loved the fact that you called it out ’cause people don’t like not acknowledge that. You could have easily said, “I came back from the retreat and…” but it is a pervasive emotion in so many people. So I love the fact that you’re openly putting out on the table.
– [Zubin] Oh my God! So one of the things I learned at the retreat is just feel these emotions, call them. Everything wants to be seen for what it is. If you deny envy, it internalizes, it manifests as rage, anger, violence, regret; all these other emotional things with repression. So, okay, you feel it. You go, “Okay, what is this? “What is this? “What’s going on? “Okay, first of all, “here’s the raw emotion. “I feel something when I see “this guy making all this money.” Let’s just make it simple. “This guy making all his money.” Or they’re looking at you and me, “ZDogg has got this ideal job. “He’s not even seeing patients all day. “He’s doing this thing. “He gets to sit in his studio that he bought. “He has these supporters who subscribe “and pay him money to so he can talk “to them every night.”
– [Ron] I’m feeling envious right now, actually.
– [Zubin] Me too. I’m envious of the guy I’m describing. “Ron, he’s got an awesome shirt. “He’s got a great… “He’s carved a niche in medicine that he loves “and he’s passionate about. “He’s really good at it. “He’s an expert. “He’s been on Atia’s show “and he’s been on these…” So all the… Envy, envy. So we feel envy. “Goddamit, I’m good. “Why can’t I do that?” Or whatever it is. Okay, now feel into it, feel into it. What are the core emotions here? First of all, what are the thought structures attached to the emotion? Because there’s emotion energy and then there’s thought. The emotion is like a waystation between a physical sensation, which is a certain type of energy, and thought, which is another type of energy. It’s like a way station. It actually shifts a little bit towards the physical sensation side, that’s why we call them feelings. It’s like, “Oh, envy feels a certain way.” Okay, so the first thing is, “Where am I feeling this?” Right here, right here.
– [Ron] Very common area, right here.
– [Zubin] Right here in the heart. And then we see people with chest pain in the ER that is non-cardiogenic chest pain. So it manifests physically, and then what are the thoughts structures that are tethered to it? What beliefs are here? Okay, here’s a belief: that money matters; That’s tethered to that. Here’s a belief: I’m not good enough. Here’s another belief: that I’m separate from that person, that we’re not actually the same thing. Let’s question every single one of those beliefs. That his success is not my success. What is success? That’s another belief. And then, you drill down into the fundamental emotions. What is this? This is sadness. This is grief. This is…
– [Ron] And this, by the way, I just want to interrupt for a second, this comes back to parenting. I grew up with, obviously, immigrant parents that came here. There weren’t Teslas back then, but everybody was fighting to get a Mercedes and a…
– [Zubin] Oh yeah. My dad had a 300E.
– [Ron] right?
– [Zubin] Getting that.
– [Ron] Totally, so it starts early on. And I remember, sometimes, parents conversations about so-and-so having such a big house and their kids doing this. And then, even growing up sometimes… And again, parents’ intentions are good, they’re pure, but it would be things like, “Did you see so-and-so? “He’s reading all the time. “He’s doing this and this and this.” And so, you learn from a very early age… So I’m very sensitive to that. So with the kids, I call it out all the time. Like, “You know what? “I felt that now.” I think as parents, we need to really put those emotions on the table and just acknowledge the fact that we are vulnerable. These are sensations that are ruling our lives often and really help them understand that. And the way I’ve kind of reframed it for myself is when you watch, let’s say, a sports game or something, let’s say you’re watching basketball and you see Steph Curry, you’re rooting for your team, whatever your team is. You’re not really envious of that person, you’re cheering them on. And I wonder, why don’t we cheer each other on like a sports team? Like, if ZDogg has tons of followers, your followers are my followers, man. Yeah, you got a lot more followers than I do, but go for it. And the interesting thing is the more similar you are to someone, the more that envy is even more difficult. We see within ethnic groups, like when I talk to my Chinese friends or my Indian friends, when they see somebody like them that’s more successful, it kills, it destroys them, right? They’re like, “I’m just as smart, if not smarter. “Why is that happening?” But instead, it should be, “That’s somebody from my team. “That’s someone from my team “who’s running Google right now, “we’re doing that.” But there’s something really odd about that sensation. And I dunno, part of its childhood, part of the medical training, conditioning through that. But we, like you said, we can un-wire that. And just the fact that we’re talking about it and we’re acknowledging that we feel that, hopefully some people can acknowledge it. And that’s why journaling is so powerful, tight? I mean, writing that down, “Today, I felt some envy. “I felt some anger.” And sometimes, it’s three or four words, but just writing the word “envy” on a piece of paper can just be so liberating, just knowing that.
– [Zubin] man, that’s beautiful. Everything in the universe wants to be seen for what it is. So when we repress and deny, and we hide, first of all, it generates a perpetuation of shame, which is a powerful and painful emotion, and Brene Brown’s done great work on shame and vulnerability, but it allows the release of that energy. So Angela calls emotion “energy in motion.” Isn’t that interesting? I mean, it’s so obvious when you look at it that way, but I’d never thought of it that way. And when you plug it up, it crystallizes, just like I said matter, before, is like the ice of consciousness. It’s like that phase of consciousness. Well, if energy in motion is a kind of energy, emotion, you feel it as a sensation. Well, when you crystallize it, when you repress it, when you squeeze it, you put it under pressure, what happens? Things solidify. Well, now an emotion is a pain in your neck , or a pain in your chest, or heaviness in your stomach, or nausea. And then we see it in the clinic, and then we say, “Oh, it’s psychogenic.” And it’s not that simple.
– [Ron] That creates shame, in the… Yeah, totally, we just make the cycle worse.
– [Zubin] “I’m crazy, it’s all in my head.” No, we’re energetic beings. And again, you don’t want to get it… There’s this thing that philosopher, Ken Wilber, calls the “pre/trans fallacy.” And I think it’s important to understand when we’re thinking about medicine, because it becomes so confusing. So what this means is this: There’s rational thought, which was lot of the… Since the Enlightenment, where we rely on science, measurement, objective truth as best as we can figure it out. That’s rational thought. So we use the scientific method. That’s great. Pre that, it was magical thinking, the idea that everything is like humors, and spirits, and energy. and magic. And so pre-rational thinking is kind of like that. It’s like a magical… It’s like a child would say, if I wish it, if I pray to it, it will happen. And then, we get rational. We say, “Oh actually, no, “there are certain rules here, “and they’re reproducible, “and they’re actually universal,” and so on. But there’s something that’s trans-rational, which we don’t talk about much because it’s often confused with pre-rational. And that is exactly this: This idea that, “Oh, you know what? “There is this collective feeling “in the Bay Area of energetic tension “around accomplishment.” You feel it. You go to a different place, you go to a farm somewhere, you don’t feel that.
– [Ron] It’s so funny. When you land in the airport here, you just feel it already. You’re just landed, you’re like, “Oh my God.” You know, it’s like, yeah, totally… Even walking into Whole Foods where you’d think that everybody’s organic, I’m like, “Oh my God!”
– [Zubin] Whole Food is the worst! ‘Cause it’s like the upper echelon of people who can afford to go to Whole Foods. They’re just like, “Must get the most organic…”
– [Ron] Got the Yoga pants on.
– [Zubin] Hell yeah, hell yeah. Lululemon, the high end stuff.
– [Ron] Totally.
– [Zubin] Totally. They’ve driven the beater Tesla. That’s $150,000.
– [Ron] Completely.
– [Zubin] Oh my God! And so, the trans-rational is this idea of, “Oh wait, there’s something even beyond rational “that you cannot put words on.” That’s why we say it’s ineffable. That’s why ancient wisdom traditions say you do not name God. Because by naming God, you’ve reduced him to a concept. That’s not what it is, for him, or her, or whatever it is. And forget about God, this experience… So journaling…
– [Ron] Yes.
– [Zubin] So sorry, just to finish the trans/pre thing. So the trans-rational thing, I’m gonna talk about it in a second. It’s this ineffable experience of connectedness and its spirituality, for lack of a better term, and energy and all these other things. So people confuse that trans-rational approach with the pre-rational approach, and that’s the pre/trans fallacy, and it works in two directions. One is someone will come out and say, “Man, I’m not gonna take vaccines “because our ancestors just had it right. “We just got naturally infected. “It was the way of nature, man. “The energy of nature, that shit is real.” And okay, that’s a pre-rational fallacy. The problem with the trans fallacy is people who are trans-rational and will point at this, like, let’s say you and me will point at these bigger picture things, will be labeled as pre-rational magical thinkers by people stuck in rational phase. And so, we sound like aliens, the pre rational people sound like imbeciles, and the rational people are just pointing at both of them, going “idiots.” So it’s a frustrating situation, that’s the pre/trans fallacy. Now, what were we talking about before… You had said something about something that I wanted to follow up on. But yeah, you were saying about, oh, the energy in here and in the Silicon Valley and going to the airport, that feeling. Oh, anyways, it’ll come back to us. Yeah, yeah. Oh, so that’s what it was. So journaling…
– [Ron] Oh, I’m sorry, yeah. I should’ve remembered. Journaling, yep, yep.
– [Zubin] You ask patients to do this.
– [Ron] I do. And I actually lecture on journaling too. And I’ve actually shared some excerpts on slides about the types of things that I write. And it doesn’t have to… This is, again, a shame thing, where people feel like, “My journal has to be publishable quality.” But sometimes, the things I wrote on pages is just… You just have to freeform it. Use four letter words, if you have to. I call it “extreme journaling.” It’s almost better for you to exaggerate the emotions and say, “I really F’ing can’t stand this.” get it all out there because sometimes you read it, you’re like, “Whoa, I can’t believe my ego just…” You’re almost like a scribe for your ego, your hand’s like moving by itself. So I just tell people… And if you’re afraid someone’s gonna find it, just put it in the shredder. Just write it all down, get it out there, look at it with your own eyes, and then just absorb that and process it, and it is so liberating to do that. And for many of my patients who are struggling with sleep, just doing a thought download before bedtime is so powerful, just to write down those emotions. If you have a to-do list, just keep that by the bedside. And they sleep so much better, they feel so more rested. But I think the studies behind journaling are just… It’s endless. I mean, journaling is so powerful. Such a great tool we can use.
– [Zubin] That is so good. Now, here’s an interesting question. Do you have them physically write on paper or do you have them type it into Apple Notes or something?
– [Ron] I would rather have them physically write on paper.
– [Zubin] Why, why?
– [Ron] Because it does slow down the mental process even more. Again, and now we’re spending so much time on screens, just the association with being on a screen is creating a different mental dynamic. But having said that, if people happen to be at work, they don’t have paper, and they want to type it out… I’ve tried that. I’ve used apps for journaling, completely different experience when you put pen to paper, it’s so different. And sometimes, if I’m feeling intense, I mean, literally my pen is like tearing through the paper. You can really put that energy into the writing. And it’s funny, these journals, at some point, I’m gonna give to my kids. Now, I find myself highlighting passages in my journal, ’cause if my dad had a journal, I’m like, “it would be so amazing to just go through “what he was going through as an immigrant.” I know, it would be amazing. So I kind of am keeping… I don’t know if they’re gonna read it or not, but I’m putting that aside. So I think that’s another powerful reason for journaling, is hopefully future generations can see what we went through, and learn from that.
– [Zubin] Man, that’s just beautiful. I wanted to say something about pen to paper. So I think, and this is my own hypothesis but others have speculated about this, part of the grief of the electronic medical record… It’s wonderful on many levels, right? I’m not a Luddite, I love technology. Clearly, you can see all the junk in the room. Part of the grief of having spanned both worlds, you and I both–
– [Ron] Oh, we did.
– [Zubin] We lived in paper, Is that there’s an… If everything is energy, our body is really an energetic thing and it’s connected right to our thoughts and our emotions. The hand that writes is the right hand connected to left brain, and so on. And there’s a… If you’re right-handed. And there’s a way of cognizing that’s embodied it, you feel it in your body when you write. It’s totally different when you’re typing with two hands and it’s very unconscious. And that’s different. So when we write notes about our patients, we’re cognizing those patients in both forms, and it’s very different. When you write it, and when you’re typing it, or when you’re dictating it. So I think that’s why I really like that you’re asking people to do it on paper. Also, it takes that screen association away. That’s really powerful. Any thoughts on that before I tell one story?
– [Ron] No, go ahead, yeah.
– [Zubin] So the story was this, about journaling. So when I went to this retreat, after the first half day, when I first arrived and we were silent for a fair bit of it, I started just going, “This is really interesting. “I need to write everything down “that’s happening because I note…” And I’d been meditating for about eight years, but a kinda amateur hour. The best, I’d got up to an hour a day, and then I backed off because my neck started hurting. But I realized it wasn’t the meditation that was hurting my neck, it was screens. It was this. But meditation did not make it better because you have to sit still and so on. So I was writing it, and in the first day or two… On Apple Notes. So I’m writing… Because we got to use our devices after 7:00 PM when we broke silence. And I didn’t check email or do any of that, but I said, “Well, I’m gonna write on Apple Notes “’cause I don’t need paper.” So I would write things like, “Wow, it’s fascinating how easily “I was able to drop into meditation. “But then, tonight, “it’s like thoughts came back with a vengeance. “It was like a radio station on scan, “just constant thoughts. “I couldn’t sleep. “Just thoughts were going.” So I’m writing this down. The next day, “Strong emotions are coming up “and this…” And I’m trying to get very granular. And I sat next to this person and I could feel this kind of tension, and this… Day three, I just wrote, “There are no words for this.” And that was the end of the journal, and we still had days to go. And what happens is it becomes so ineffable that even putting those things into words feels like you’re not in presence sometimes. So it is interesting. I think the journaling is a wonderful way to connect with our thoughts and emotions. And then, there’s an even more transcendent experience you can have, eventually, and you can combine them. But yeah.
– [Ron] Totally. I think one of the other key concepts for our folks, because I know a lot of this might be over their head, and trying to use the mind to fix the mind is always… Can be a losing proposition, right? But what you talked about, what we both believe in, is those physical sensations, just being aware of that. And it’s a bi-directional thing, where emotional tension and pressure is gonna create physical tension and pressure. But also, if you’re feeling physical tension and pressure, you can find a way to release some of that. It can relax the mind as well too. So that’s one tactic that you can use. So if you’ve got a sore spot… So one of the things we talked about in the last show, and now that I’m following up with patients, they’re saying it’s benefited them so much, is how do you work in positions and ways that can keep your body relaxed? I mean, we spend so much time in front of screens. And a few things is, number one, a lot of people have gotten standing desks, which is great, ’cause you think sitting’s… Obviously, sitting has a lot of adverse health consequences. But also, standing straight like a statue, that’s not necessarily a healthy, optimal position either. It’s like being aware of your muscle tone, some people are just very stiff when they’re standing in front of the computer. It’s creating a lot of neck tension, lower back tension. And that tension is basically signaled to the brain as a stress signal. So then, all of a sudden, when you’re looking at the same volume of work and emails, it’s gonna be much more stressful to do that. So this whole act of basically changing positions, going from sitting to standing, being aware of muscle tone, sort of what I call “yoga at work,” where you’re doing all types of different things to really keep the muscles relaxed, it can be very liberating. So that’s the first thing, is being aware of that physical, muscular body. The second thing is the breathing is huge. And there was one summary article that I saw where it said that “Most people, when they type an email, “actually stop breathing.” So they called it “email apnea,” is what they called it, which is true. I mean, if you pay attention to when you’re on the screen, we under-breathe, we hyperventilate to some degree, and we stop breathing when we’re actually typing. And when you pay attention to that… And so, what kind of signal is that sending to our brain? It’s telling us that you’re running out of oxygen. On top of that, when you’re in front of a screen… So if you’ve ever watched these horror movies, like Blair Witch Product, where somebody is getting chased, usually you can hear their breathing and then, all of a sudden, they’ve got tunnel vision, right? So whenever our visual fields are narrowed for a long period of time, that sends an immense stress signal to the body that this person’s under stress. And when we’re in front of screens, under-breathing and we’ve got a narrow field of vision, that is sending significant panic signals, or even, at least, low level stress signals to the body on a continuous basis. Now, the interesting thing is so visual fatigue is something that we don’t talk about. And again, the yogis used to do something called “ocular yoga,” where they do things with the eyes. They might put warm packs, they warm their hands up with the sun and put their palms over their eyes. I started doing that recently and I’ve realized that a lot of my fatigue is coming from ocular fatigue. And that whole tunnel vision issue, which is interesting is, what do we do when we actually go from that laptop screen, or a desktop, to resting outside? We get our phone out. So we’re literally going from this lens to this, even though we’re sitting outside. So we’re not even resting those eyelids that have become totally fatigued. That’s like you and I go into the gym and we’re doing squats, and getting our legs tired, and I’m like, “Hey, let’s go take a break “and do some deadlifts and lunges.” So same thing, you’re getting in front of a screen. So if you allow the eyes to relax a little bit, and you look at the wide panorama, which is why we feel spiritual when we see like a wide panoramic view, or just look up at the sky and just keep your phone down, and just do that for a few minutes throughout the day, it can really change that overall stress pattern that we’ve just taken for granted. The way we work is just… It’s just sending these signals to the body that, “My God, there’s a lot going on.” Even if it’s a casual email you’re sending and you’re not feeling that way, we’re just sending those stress signals constantly to the body.
– [Ron] Dude, every company on the planet should hire you to come.
– [Ron] You guys hear that?
– [Zubin] Yeah, you hear that? I mean, no formal pitching here. That’s the way we should talk about ergonomics, is really paying attention to what’s happening in the body, feeling it out, and… Okay, so couple things with this. That neck pain that I talked about, and I’ve talked about this before, it’s a screen-based tech neck, really. but it comes with an emotional and a psychological thought based baggage. So, “Oh my God, I’m ruined. “I’ve had this now for years. “I’ve broken, I’ve damaged myself. “This will never get better. “I will never be whole again.” And so, during the retreat… I feel like I’m really perseverating on this retreat, but it was that powerful. So–
– [Ron] There’s worse things to perseverate on.
– [Zubin] There are, like whether I’m gonna get that $150,000 Tesla with the plaid now. Jesus. So…
– [Ron] That envy’s bubbling up even for me, man.
– [Zubin] I feel it now. I feel it now. And then you release it. It’s like a fish. “What a beautiful fish I’ve caught. “It’s a fish, it’s envy. “I’m gonna release it back into the stream “and back into the flow.” And so you see it, you feel it, you forgive yourself for feeling it, you accept it. Another interesting trick with emotion like that is to honor it. And you’d said like “envi,” with a VI, that’s “vile,” right? That’s wonderful. It’s a good way to look at it. I might even say you could take it a step further and go, “Envy, my old friend, you’re here. “You’re trying… “You are trying to keep me safe. “You are part of me. “You’re an energetic pattern “that wants me to be happy “by looking at another and being like, “”You could be happy like that. “”Let’s strive for that.” “Okay great, I love you. “You’re wonderful. “I’m gonna let you go. “You can stay as long as you need. “I’m gonna feel you directly. “I’m not gonna tell stories about you. “I’m not gonna get lost in thought. “And then I’m gonna let you go “when you’re ready to go.”
– [Ron] That’s a compassionate way to approach it.
– [Zubin] It’s compassion. That’s the word, it’s compassion. So speaking of compassion, the neck pain kicks up in one of the silent meditations, I’m there on the chair. And for the first time in the week, I’m starting to feel it because I haven’t used devices. And it’s there, and I’m like, “oh.” And the thoughts start to race around it. “Oh, this is… “Here you are, damaged. “You’re sitting on this uncomfortable chair “in the middle of Monterey. “By the way, why are you here? “What are you, some kind of hippie? “This is bullshit, you know that right?” And then, it’s really starting to… The ego mind is starting to… ‘Cause it knows you better than you know yourself. It’s like, “I know all the tricks to get your attention. “You think this is woo woo, don’t you? “Because you’re actually a skeptic.” And then, so I said, “Okay, what did I learn about sensation? “Shower your attention on it. “Feel what it is without labels.” So I start to feel this energy and it goes from pain and suffering, where it’s an overlay of thought, “This is bad.” ‘Cause that’s the first label that the mind puts on is it feels the raw sensation and then it labels it good or bad. That’s the first pivot of mind, and then all the stories start to come out from that. So I go, “Okay, there it is, bad. “Okay, I see that. “All right, what about the raw energy of it? “Okay, okay. “Okay, dude.” And then something insane happened. It transmutes from an unpleasant label sensation to an ecstatic kind of pleasurable sensation. So this pain was suddenly vibrating with a live energy of just joy, and then it dissipated.
– [Ron] Yeah, look at that, right? Yeah, totally.
– [Zubin] And others had said the same thing. “I had the same pain. “I was sitting, I was so uncomfortable. “When I finally just surrendered to it “and stop labeling it, “it did this thing.” And the goal is not to get rid of the sensation. It’s not to push it away. It’s to accept it on equivocally. To say yes to what is without labels, and it works. It works.
– [Ron] I’m gonna give your listeners and viewers maybe a little bit of a framework for tying a lot of this together. So because I have done a couple of workshops for physicians as well on a very small scale, and there’s something we refer to as our SOAP note, right? So usually, you’re writing a note down in a chart for the non-physicians out there, and we put our subjective, “What’s the patient complaint?” The objective is the vital signs and physical. We got the assessment and plan. But based on our conversation, I want to use that acronym a little bit differently. And the first “S” I want you to think about is sensation. Like, what are the sensations you’re feeling on a regular basis? Really get in touch with your body like it’s a musical instrument. My kids play piano, they play keyboard, and when something’s out of tune, they can just tell. It just makes her skin like writhe because they just know when musical instruments in tune. I want you to develop that level of sensory awareness so you know when something’s off. So sensation’s the first one. The second O is observation. Observe the thoughts like we’ve been talking about. The catch and release. Just watch those thoughts and see what’s happening. Then A is awareness, but it’s also Acceptance. Just like you said, accept the envy and be compassionate to it. So that’s the A part. And then the P is purpose. Purpose and plan, right? So just wrap it up with that. What is my purpose? And it doesn’t have to be a huge meta purpose today. My purpose is to spend quality time with my kids and go for a walk with my dog. So that’s a framework I’m using in my head, and it’s really helped a lot of my patients, clients, etc, but something to think about to wrap up a lot of these concepts.
– [Zubin] That’s really good. That’s really, really good because that’s an actionable way of doing things. Because I think one of the… Okay, this is why I love you, Ron, because you actually… I like to speak in these broad platitudes and I give a lot of my own experience and I say, “Oh, you know this…” But then, at the end of the day, I’m not very diligent. So one of my personality traits is “diligence is not high. “Enthusiasm, very high. “Compassion, quite high. “Diligence, very low. “Neuroticism, quite high.” It’s a toxic stew. And so I often will fall back into patterns of behavior where I’m unconscious again. Now, what you’re saying is, “Okay, well, here’s a way to stay conscious.” Sensation… Starting with sensation. What’s more immediate than your immediate experience? There’s nothing else in the universe that’s happening. It is the universe. It’s this. This cup here is everything, right now, when I shower my attention on it. The sensation of the fingers touching the cold glass, the sight of the water in it. And you talked about peripheral vision, that’s a sensation. It’s a kind of sensation. It’s visual sensation. When you broaden to include your peripherals and you soften your focus, that left brain is no longer grabbing onto things and labeling them. It’s a soft, holistic view that allows you to drop into a presence. And when I say “presence,” it’s a loaded term. It’s a feeling tone. It’s like a, “Oh.”
– [Ron] Yeah, we’ve all felt it, right? Like, you go hiking, you see something, you see the ocean, you see the mountains, whether you’re religious or not, all of us know what that’s… You hear a music, right? Hey, by the way, I have to say that I was listening to some of your podcasts, and there was one thing that you said, which I think was probably the most important, purposeful thing that you’ve ever said, so can I just share that?
– [Ron] I’m sitting on eggshells here.
– [Ron] Are you ready for this? I actually stopped, I got off my exercise bike because I was on the edge of my seat. And it was basically when you said, “What was the best Men At Work song ever written?” And I was really afraid you were gonna say “Down Under,” the usual stuff, and you said “Overkill.”
– [Zubin] “Overkill.”
– [Ron] How could that not be, right? I mean, you hear the first few saxophone notes of that and I’m in that zone. There’s music can do that to us as well, too.
– [Zubin] It brings you right into, right into presence. And post-retreat, I’ve always been emotionally sensitive to music, I’ll cry with like listening to “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” the 2001 theme. There’s a part in it where it goes, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun. And I will just burst into tears. And it feels sublime. It feels like the ascent and the descent of the spirit and all this, and I feel this way. After this retreat, I’ve been so sensitized that any kind of music, I feel it in the body. And sometimes, the emotions will come. So “Overkill” is interesting. I’m glad you picked “Overkill” because “Overkill” is about being mind-identified and trapped in anxiety, the actual lyrics. “Day after day, it reappears. “Night after night, my heartbeat shows the fear. “Ghosts appear and fade away. “Come back another day.” He can’t sleep, and he says, “Okay, so I can’t sleep so time to walk the streets, “smell the desperation.” So he goes out, he takes a walk. And he says, “At least there’s pretty lights. “And though, there’s little variation, “it nullifies the night.” So he’s going back to sensation, from overkill. It’s actually a remarkably deep and beautiful song.
– [Ron] It’s a deep song. It’s incredible. I hope everyone listens to it again.
– [Zubin] I know, I know. And Colin Haye did a unplugged acoustic version for the show “Scrubs.” It is amazing.
– [Ron] I think I recall that.
– [Zubin] “Scrubs” is by the way–
– [Ron] Oh, it’s amazing.
– [Zubin] Talk about envy, when “Scrubs” came out, I was filled with rage. I was like, “These guys did everything I want to do, “and they did it better than I could ever do it.”
– [Ron] Yeah, it was an amazing show.
– [Zubin] Yeah, it really was. When I see Andy Samberg and Lonely Island do parodies of things, or their own funny songs, I’m like, “These guys are the gold standard. “I can’t even touch… “I can’t even come close to this.” And you’re right, it’s that compassionate answer is, “Oh my God, it’s so wonderful “these people are in the world.” What a joy to see creatives do something that you care about, and you try to do, and do it so well. The rising tide lifts all boats. But yeah, you have to be aware. I love it. So you have your SOAP note, you have your journaling. What other sort of action tips do you have for people that take this metaphysical stuff and kind of make it more concrete?
– [Ron] Yeah, yeah. I mean, there’s so many places we can go, right? I think one of the things is just coming back to the physical activity and exercise, because I think people have still developed an all or nothing approach to the exercise part of it.
– [Zubin] Yeah, tell me about this.
– [Ron] I mean, I do have individuals that feel like unless they’re really out breaking a sweat and just raising their heart rate to X levels, they’re not getting a good workout in. And so, a lot of them will just sit all day and they’re not really doing anything else. But I’ve had so much success with patients just learning to implement just regular activity in intermittent spurts that’s so much more doable. And it’s really just a right level of activity where your body can still burn fat, you can stabilize blood sugar. So one hint on the sensor, ’cause I know not everybody’s had the experience with the glucose sensor–
– [Zubin] We’ll do a show where you put it on me, for sure.
– [Ron] I’m gonna put it on you, for sure. But when you put a sensor on, one of the most remarkable things is if you eat something that’s high-glycemic, that raises your blood sugar, like a 15 minute walk without breaking a sweat can just plateau that blood sugar in such a powerful way. It’s not like you have to go out and have a crazy workout to do that. But these little micro-movements throughout the day just have such a huge impact on blood pressure, on blood sugar. And I think a lot of us sort of miss out on that opportunity.
– [Zubin] And how much of it is the mental benefit of exercise that then has an effect on cortisol?
– [Ron] That’s true, I mean, some of that definitely does that, but the more immediate response, because it’s so immediate, is really just pushing some of that glucose into muscles that are being activated. But I agree the long-term effect of that does improve that liver sensitivity to the cortisol too. So it does hit it from both ends.
– [Zubin] What are the effects on general body inflammation of these kinds of activities? Lower level exercise versus higher?
– [Ron] Yeah, absolutely, exactly. I mean, the people that are doing a lot of high intensity type exercise, they do get chronic elevations in cortisol and C-reactive protein, which is a blood marker for inflammation. So often, I will see patients that have had persistently elevated levels of CRP, and we think about what are the different things we can do. And sometimes, it is exercise toxicity. When we get them back to doing just regular exercises, yoga, just light walks, light to moderate walking, things do improve. The other mantra I give around physical activity, because I see so many injuries from patellofemoral syndrome to plantar fasciitis, and my office, I’ve got a window and I see joggers going up and down the street and people wearing knee braces. And first of all, I just don’t understand why people feel the need to have to run.
– [Zubin] To push through, yeah.
– [Ron] A lot of my folks just should not be running at all. I mean, they just need to be walking or fast walking, and that’s all they need. And then when they get into decent enough shape, they can intersperse a little bit of running into that. So injury prevention is a big thing that I’m focused on, and I tell people, first, the number one thing I want you to be is an athletic worker. And what I’m being an athletic worker is doing the postures and positions, opening up the joints, keeping the muscles loose, stretching your hamstrings while you’re standing. And once you’re really good, it’s standing, engaging the core. Now, you become a really good walker. A fast walker. And check your times to see that you’re actually getting faster and faster. And then, you can maybe go on to doing things like sports and running. It sounds like a very slow, methodical way to do it, but this is what really reduces so much injury, pain and suffering, because, otherwise, people go… The couch to 5K is actually decent approach. I don’t know if you know that app, “Couch to 5K.” It’s actually a really good approach because it has people mixing light walking. It gradually gets them up to that 5K level rather than joining a running group and just going crazy yourself, and injuring yourself. But again, I think physical activity, we need to sort of redefine how we get people more active without putting them in a big boot camp or some high intensity class, without doing that. So that’d be another thing that I’d share.
– [Zubin] Yeah, I think that’s very helpful. I know so many people who’ve lost weight just by getting up and walking, and not having to do all this aggressive stuff. And that’s another like… It’s a big Silicon valley thing. Like, “Oh, did you run a half-marathon yet? “Have you?” Or “How many miles did you ride on your bike?” I bought this really fancy bike when I was in Vegas, and I came here, and I used to ride it a lot in Vegas. I came here and there were so many more bikers, and I got the sense, you could feel the energy of competition. If you’re riding out on Kenyatta Road when they close it on Sunday, people are just fricking booking through there. And I’m just like, “Dude, “this is now a game? “I will play this game.” And I’m just grrrrr. And I just got so disgusted. And finally, now, the bike sits in the garage and I’m much happier doing different sorts of exercises.
– [Ron] But you still wear the biker shorts?
– [Zubin] of course. That’s just mainly to get the male camel toe, which is very… It’s very important. Okay, what’s the role of laughter and entertainment in this?
– [Ron] Oh my God. People just aren’t laughing enough, except for the people who watch your show, obviously.
– [Zubin] No, they’re laughing at me rather than with me.
– [Ron] Laughing at you. But you know, it’s all about… Again, we’re kind of waxing and waning between spiritual and physical, and biological and physiological, but if you just think–
– [Zubin] They’re all one container.
– [Ron] They’re all one container. But the diaphragm, if we just focus on the diaphragm. We are not activating the diaphragm enough, right? The division between our stomach contents and our upper thorax, so lungs and heart, that’s where basically the vagus nerve is, which activates and turns on a relaxation system. So everything I talked about, when we’re undergoing email apnea and we’re under-breathing while we work, we’re barely moving that. I mean, obviously, we’re moving the diaphragm, but we’re not really activating that vagus nerve. So it sends a serious stress signal to the entire body. When you laugh, and especially you’re doing a belly type laugh, you are definitely activating that diaphragm. There’s a guy named Madan Kataria, you should check out his YouTube videos. He’s like the master of laughter yoga. He’s like… The WHO’s invited him. But he teaches people how to laugh. Even when things are funny, just a physical act of laughing. So he’s got about a thousand different laughs, like the lion laugh that… All these silly laughs. But he gets people together and without telling any jokes, he’s like, “let’s do this X sort of laugh.” And people have been transformed by that practice because, again, it’s like the body-mind-bidirectionality. You don’t necessarily have to find something funny, but if you just engage, go the other way. So I tell people, even if a joke’s not funny, just laugh like it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard.
– [Zubin] Dude, thank you for telling people that, because that just makes my life so easy. I don’t have to be funny at all. They’re just laughing. I’m like, “This guy’s laughing at nothing. “This is great.”
– [Ron] Yeah, but that’s the diaphragm. And then, the singing is the other one too. I don’t care if you’re a crappy singer, sing “Overkill” today in the car, in the shower or whatever. You just want to activate that diaphragm as much as you can. It just feels so cathartic. When people cry, like when you have repressed emotions, you have a fight with the significant other, you cry it out, and what do you feel after that? You just feel so much release. But again, coming back to emotional suppression, some of us are so suppressed that we’re out in public, we don’t want to laugh too hard. We’re like, “hehehe.” You know, it’s like… Not exactly, but we’re like, we’re singing, I’m like, “God forbid, “somebody hears me sing all these things,” right? All these things, right? And we’re just, we’re sending–
– [Zubin] Welcome to my world. I have to do this shit for a living.
– [Ron] I know, right?
– [Zubin] I can’t get to sleep. Day after day, it reappears.
– [Ron] Totally. So, I mean, what kind of signal? I mean, we’ve just severed the nerve of joy basically by doing all these things.
– [Zubin] We’ve done a joyotomy.
– [Ron] A joyotomy.
– [Zubin] Yeah, exactly. These are real important pointers. And not just for our patients, but for our own lives, as doctors, and nurses, and pharmacists who are all… We’re collectively suffering a bit.
– [Ron] We’re suffering. And all we’re saying is like all these characteristics we’re talking about, we’re just trying to reconnect back to our inner child.
– [Zubin] That’s who we are.
– [Ron] We’re not going for version 2.0, we’re going for our default version 0.0, which started in the beginning.
– [Zubin] Now watch out for the pre/trans fallacy. So yes, take the child, transcend and include the child, do not reject the child. But don’t return to pure child, because pure child didn’t have rational thought. So exactly what you’re saying, and. It’s like in improv, it’s always “yes, and.”
– [Ron] Exactly, that’s right.
– [Zubin] But, oh man… There’s a quote in Angelo’s book on awakening where he… I forget who said it, but it was something like, “Adults are the corpses of children. “And that’s why…” Who’ve then entered polite society, which is one of the nicer names for hell. And we do all this stuff. And he goes, “That’s why sometimes “we’re very uncomfortable around children, “even though we love them. “Because they remind us of what we’ve lost.” So we’ve transcended without including, we’ve rejected and repressed. And so, taking that child along… And actually, that inner child, and therapists talk about this all the time. really just holding it close and saying, “This child is okay. “I love you, you’re good,” is so powerful. It’s such a powerful healing thing. You talked about emotion and crying as a release, yes. And one thing I learned at this retreat is that kind of crying… I had this kind of crying that I don’t really have–
– [Ron] Was it convulsive?
– [Zubin] Convulsive. The whole body was involved. The tears come out without any sobbing or any of that, And it doesn’t have a self-pitying component to it. It’s a pure feeling tone with a physical manifestation. It’s almost like you’re releasing this energy that you’ve been repressing. And that energy felt, to me, like the suffering of the entire world, including me, but including everybody else. You just feel it, that’s what suffering is. Like, let it go, let it go. It’s okay. Suffering itself is beautiful, but you have to allow. You can’t resist. And once that happens–
– [Ron] I mean, by the way, you put yourself in the midst of a battlefield for a very long time, right? I mean, the COVID things that you’ve done to raise awareness, I mean, you’ve really put your mental health on the line by guiding all of us to do this, right? So how many repressed emotions have you built up over that time? I mean, it really needed to be released. So I’m so thankful that you were able to find this opportunity to do that.
– [Zubin] What a generous act of compassion to even see that, Ron. Thank you. It’s difficult, but honestly, my job is… What it was for me, yeah, there was a lot of that, and I noticed things that used to trigger me a lot, like a certain Twitter comment or something from a fellow person in my tribe of physicians would just trigger me to think of all… Just a thought storm of all the different responses I could put and the, but really I’m like, “Was that true? “Do I need to reevaluate?” And now, I’m just like, “Yeah, everybody’s trying to be good in their own way. “They’re doing what they can. “And so, you just got to accept it, “and let it go, and also forgive yourself, “and say, “Okay, yeah, there’s shame. “”I see shame, okay. “”Well, I’m gonna let shame be, it’s okay.”” And then, when you’re meditating, if you start to cry, don’t repress it. I used to demand… Sometimes, those feelings that come up during meditation at home and I would repress it, “What if my wife walks in? “What if the kids walk in? “They’re gonna see daddy “with tears streaming down his face.”
– [Ron] It took me years to even after my dad passed. That’s how hard it’s internalized. It took me a few years to get to the point where I can just cry. I mean, it just shows how pathological this sensation can get, of just internalizing. And that’s a story we hear from older generations, that so-and-so toughed it out. They did X, Y, Z–
– [Zubin] White-knuckled it.
– [Ron] Yeah, they white-knuckled it. But man, there is a major downstream… There’s a big cost to that white knuckling attitude.
– [Zubin] There’s a cost, there’s a cost. And that brings me to this other idea of like… And again, I’m just gonna pitch this meditation thing because, yes, it can be destabilizing if you don’t have support, if you have support, the idea of self work, of introspection, is powerful, not just for you. So this is something that became clear at the retreat, when self started to become fuzzy. Like, “Who is this I?” When that happens, you realize, you’re doing this not for you, you’re doing this for every sentient being that interacts with you and the broader truth. And this became apparent when I got home, and I was as so present for my children, I could feel it. And they had all this stuff to tell me, because it’s a week of repressed, no daddy. No daddy to yell at me. No daddy to be like, “Yeah, tell me about your day,” while he’s looking at his phone, and just splitting his attention. It was just me, wide open, eyes, just “Tell me what’s going on.” And at first, they were disconcerted. And then, pretty soon, they were just like, “Oh my gosh, this guy’s giving me all his attention.” Like when I talk… And so, now what I tell them is… They’ll try to get my attention and I’m doing something, I’ll say, “I’m doing this thing right now. “It’s gonna take me another X minutes. “When I’m done, I’m gonna come and listen to your story.” And they know what that means now. They know that it means that, “That’s perfect, I’m gonna come “and be fully present.”
– [Ron] Fully focused.
– [Zubin] And they open up, they relax. You feel it energetically too, you’re like, “Oh.” and this is why my wife’s like, “Hey, if you want to do another retreat, “no problem.”
– [Ron] Yeah, totally. So true. No, I mean, if that’s the one thing we can get out of this, we’d all do anything for our kids. So when we’re more present… And it’s not a coincidence. I mean, if I were to do a study, there are some times that I get up at night… Sleep sometimes is as an intermittent challenge for me. But, for me, instead of staying in bed, I will go to the room, I’ll journal, and then I’ll meditate and just think about the kids, my wife, and just really just send positive vibes that way, you know? And I do that, and 99% of the time, we have the best day the next day. It’s almost like that energy suffused or perfused the walls and had an impact on them. And then, you try to send that even more widely, to people that need it. And again, I know, like you said, it all comes back to energy, it can really do that. And that’s made… Now, I don’t really… Before, I’d be like, “Oh my God, I got up. “How am I gonna get through the day?” But I’m like, “I’m grateful for the opportunity “to get up and have that time.” And usually, I can come back to bed ’cause now I’m not anxious about that. I can fall back asleep. And on the sleep note too, there is a practice that I used to do a while ago, and I kind of resurrected again, that’s really helped me a lot. And it’s called yoga nidra, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this…
– [Ron] And it’s become super popular now because, again, we need a left brain person to promote it. So there’s a gentleman named Dr. Andrew Huberman.
– [Zubin] Oh, Huberman Lab here at Stanford.
– [Ron] Yeah, the Huberman Lab, right? So he’s been talking a lot about yoga nidra because they’re actually doing studies on it. And the traditional thought behind yoga nidra is when you lay down and do this practice, which is a very passive practice, literally, it’s like self-hypnosis, you lay down and there’s a voice that basically tells you to focus on different body parts. You’re just subtle awareness. You’re not contracting it, like progressive muscle relaxation. But it’s like a body scan that you do while there’s a very subtle messages in the background. And the traditional thinking is that if you can do yoga nidra in a specific way, it can actually mimic some of the sleep cycles. And I found that sometimes when I get up during the night, if I do that for 15 to 20 minutes, I’ll get up and I really don’t feel like I missed out on sleep. I’m wearing an Oura ring. I’m so good at now that my Oura ring doesn’t even know I got up because sometimes, I’ll do it in bed. So it literally registers like I’ve actually slept through the night. And even when I get up, I’m still a little bit tired but I’m in a different state of consciousness where my writing and speaking is different. So now I don’t think about it, “Oh my God, I’m gonna be tired, “I’m gonna be a mess.” I’m like, this is a different version of Ron that might actually produce some things that are very different and creative. But the yoga nidra, just for your listeners out there, since he did that podcast, it’s become very popular. There’s a lot of channels out there, and there’s 10 minute versions, 15, 20 minute versions. Even before I came here, I did a 12 minute version because the morning was super busy with all this stuff. I’m like, “I gotta be centered when I come to Z.” So I literally lay on the floor with a blanket on, turn the YouTube yoga nidra, 12 minutes. And even though I wasn’t asleep, I got up and I was like, “I can get through this day.” You just feel like you’re in a different space. So look up yoga nidra, Stanford’s studying it. And again, it’s one of these things that if I told you pre-studies, people might think it’s woo woo, but because somebody like Dr. Huberman has been talking about it, now like everyone’s starting to do it, which I think is fantastic. These are the types of messages we got to get out there.
– [Zubin] Oh man, that’s great. You know what? I got to say this, an observation. We’ve done a few shows together. Your energy coming in the door today was different. You can feel it. And people who watch my show say, “Oh, your energy has been different since this retreat, “especially the first couple of shows.” Speaking slower, more silence in between. I don’t do it as much when we’re having conversations, but you can drop right into that state with some practice, and that means it is a practice. The yoga nidra is a practice. The compassion part, so this is gonna sound stupid, but it’s absolutely true when they say love is everything. Unconditional love is everything. That’s a cliche until it’s not, until you experience what that is. And there are practices that will connect you to that, and you did it. When you’re journaling and you send out love to your family, and then to the broader… And then, when you send it to your enemies, and people that you really don’t like, that’s when you’re the master of that. And it is so powerful because it opens you. It opens that energetic pathway that you’re now open to return on luck. You’re now open to what is. When you talked about waking up at night and struggling with sleep, I struggle with sleep too. I used to resist and “oh God, “why am I awake now? “I’m never gonna get back to sleep.” But the minute you wake up, if you say, “Oh okay, I’m awake now. “Let me see what’s next. “What’s gonna happen next? “I can do yoga nidra, “or I’m gonna go up and journal.” what happened to me at this retreat was I had an experience where I woke up with substernal chest pain. And I don’t know if I told the story. I think I told it in my supporter show, but I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d had this dream about one of the people at the retreat, having this conflict with her sister. And it felt real. It was like she was there, almost like I was her. And these experiences sometimes happen at these collective retreats. And it was conflict, this repressed anger and all this other stuff. And so, I woke up just like . Laying on my back. I don’t sleep on my back well, ’cause I tend to snore and then I like to roll on my side. This is what my wife tells me anyways. And so, I had this like elephant sitting on my chest and a little tachycardia. And I was like, “Holy shit, am I dying? “Do I need to call 911?” ‘Cause left brain is going, “Bitch, you need to call 911.” This is like, “you’re 48. “This is when you have a–“
– [Zubin] Big LAD.
– [Ron] Checked off all the boxes.
– [Zubin] All the boxes. You’re stressed at waking up with a stressful dream. So what was weird was there was an intuition, then I was like, “No, this is not an MI. “This is energetically something different. “I felt it.” So I just said, “I’m gonna trust what is, “and if it feels different, I’ll call 911.” So I get up from this tiny, little room in Asilomar in Monterey, and I was… It’s not even that I sat in this chair. I was sat in this chair. Something just… I would just sit. I’m gonna sit, closed my eyes, went into a meditative state, and had this sensation of pure energy. A vibrating, just… Again, all the suffering of the entire world passed through this tensity in the chest. And tears and all of this. And it felt like I… It’s indescribable. To try to put words to it would be dumb, so I won’t do it. But I’ll say it was transformative because when I got up, I felt like I was light, like floating. And I just went back to bed, fell asleep. And the next day, I asked that person, “Hey, do you have a sister?” ‘Cause we’d hardly talked. And she’s like, “Yeah, I have a sister.” “Do you have any conflict with her?” And she was like, “Yeah, there’s some conflict.” I was like, “Oh.” Again, now I’m not invoking magical pre-rational thinking. I’m just saying, it was interesting. I think that there’s an infectious energy that happens. But the idea that we repress and that compassion was the source of that. I felt love for everybody who suffers. It was weird. And it was a selfless experience, meaning there was nobody feeling it. It was just this energy. Really interesting.
– [Ron] Yeah, and feeling that for, like you said, “enemies,” if we consider this emotional resistance training, it’s easy for me to send love to my kids, my dog, to my wife, to my mom, and you practice that so you can feel that sensation.
– [Zubin] Those muscles are big already.
– [Ron] Those muscles are big already. But yeah, but if you want to max out and do your one rep max, then you got to go to that person that brings out those other sensations. And can you at least picture that person as being a child or something? I have a specific anecdote from my practice, where there was a receptionist that was going through a very difficult time, and who was mistreating… This is in one of my administrative offices. And was being really angry and cranky with a lot of people that were coming up to her, and just really not treating them well. So all the backyard talk was like, “We need to get rid of her. “She’s just being nasty to our customers and everything.” And then, finally, I put her aside and had a conversation with her, and I found out that her daughter had died within the last week, just tragically at age of 17. But whenever we have these interactions with people, you read those YouTube comments or that person in the grocery store, man, we don’t know the backstory of what the heck’s going on behind that. And if we can just have some awareness of that, hopefully we can send that out, right? And just… Yeah, it’s crazy.
– [Zubin] That’s loving other as yourself. I mean, all the wisdom traditions tell you to do this. It sounds like a cliche until it actually is experienced. And then again, it’s hard, it’s not easy. We’re not conditioned to do this. But when it’s done… First of all, who does it help the most helps you? It helps you. The forgiveness and the energy. Now, it doesn’t mean you let people stomp on you because one of the interesting things about anger as an emotion, as a pure emotion… This was something that I came in touch with recently in the retreat and beyond, is that I have trouble setting boundaries. And many doctors and healthcare people have this. They set boundaries either artificially, like too much, like…, or they don’t set enough boundaries and then they snap when it’s been push, push, push, push, push, push, push, and then anger unleashed. And I’m in that category. So I don’t set boundaries, I try to be nice to people, this and that, and then when they really push me and I haven’t set, “You’re really violating me here,” then I snap in a very unproductive and cataclysmic way. And this has been a pattern of behavior for me. So what I noticed is even at the retreat, there are a lot of supporters there, and there’s some boundary stuff that happens with that. And I realized, I’m like, “You know what? “Anger…” And Angelo wrote about this in his book. “Anger is our emotional energy pattern “that tells us, “Hey, there’s a boundary violation.”” And you can then wrap a lot of belief, and thought, and complex emotion around it, or you can just go, “Okay, that’s anger. “Let me just feel that. “What’s it pointing at? “Okay. “So now I’m gonna act now, authentically, “from understanding this, “instead of repressing and then lashing out.” And so, this person that was working with you, if they add support and help, and could process the emotion of losing a daughter, they wouldn’t have had to manifest it in that way. And if you hadn’t been compassionate enough to take her aside and talk to her, then she would have been fired.
– [Ron] That’s right, exactly.
– [Zubin] And how many people have gone through this now?
– [Ron] Oh my goodness, who knows?
– [Zubin] I don’t know, I feel like we fly blind so much of our–
– [Ron] Oh my gosh. Totally, totally.
– [Zubin] And our society does. We give lip service to a lot of this stuff and we fetishize it.
– [Ron] Totally. That’s why my focus has really shifted. Again, I’m not losing hope in adults and grown people, but I think if we can use kids as a bit of a window to this and see the benefits of that, because nothing gives us more joy than when our kids are in a joyous place. If we can start there, I think that’s a good space, but…
– [Zubin] I’ll quote my homie, JC, Jesus Christ, who said, “Unless you become as children, “you will never enter the kingdom of God.” And I think what he was pointing at was we have to include our childish wonder, our sense of connection to the presence that we had as children that was beaten out of us by society. And that means that you don’t lose hope for adults. You can actually reconnect with that. It’s there still, it’s just we’ve wrapped it in–
– [Ron] Ah, that’s a word that you brought up… I got a… I’ma elevate a little bit, is “wonder.” ‘Cause when you read a lot of these works, especially some of the folks that I talked about, the Vedantic leaders, they say that wonder is one of the most direct paths to self enlightenment. And when I think about my dad too, it’s like, everything he saw in nature was like, “This is amazing.” Like, COVID is devastating, but sometimes, when you step back and you think, “Oh my God, this is a wonder of nature. “The fact that here we have all this modern technology “and one virus comes in…” Again, the sense of wonder, I think a lot of us are kind of missing out on that sensation of wonder, right? There’s so many things we take for granted, and just like a child looks at the world with that sense of wonder, many of us just miss out on that.
– [Zubin] Yeah, and you know what? It’s a non-conceptual experience. And that’s what transcends mind, because wonder is kind of like all wonder, curiosity, without needing an answer. It’s just like, “oh.”
– [Ron] It’s just what it is and there’s nothing else.
– [Zubin] It’s just what it is You said that some wisdom tradition leader had said that wonder is a path to awakening or enlightenment, I agree. It’s an almost necessary step to like, “what is this? “Who am I like?” The present moment, when you really experience it, unfiltered, it fills you with wonder. You’re like, “What is a sound?”
– [Ron] You must’ve had so many moments of wonder on your retreat. I can only imagine.
– [Zubin] Dude, people would have thought I was on LSD. You go out from a break, like it’s silent, and you’re in the state, you walk out into the parking lot. And I would gravitate to, there was this… Beautiful nature everywhere, redwoods, all this stuff. I didn’t care about any of that shit. I would walk to this pile of construction debris. It was chaotic, it was like a piece of concrete here and some wood and a bunch of nails. It was off where it was hidden, a bunch of trucks around it, ’cause I’d walked into the parking lot. And I would just look at this pile of concrete and it was radiating aliveness. Like, this is all there is. It’s as alive as anything else and it’s as present, so it is reality right now, and I felt love for this concrete.
– [Ron] It’s interesting ’cause there was so much for you to be drawn to, but it was almost like a magnet that pulled you in, right?
– [Zubin] I felt compelled. Like, you know what? Life is your teacher and life was like… Reality was like, “Yeah, this is all… “You know this is supposed to be beautiful. “Your mind will label it as beautiful. “But come over here to this piece of shit “and look at this. “And if you can feel the same way for this, “then you’re connecting with what’s actually real, “which is vibrating aliveness “of the present moment.” Pure sensation. Yeah, and again, there are levels of this. You don’t have to live always like that. That’s liberation, all that. If you can at least access it from time to time… Even before you walk into a patient’s room, if you can really center yourself, become present, even with a couple of breaths, and then walk in, the energy you bring in that room is so different, and they’ll open up in a different way. If you’re present like I am with the kids, they’ll feel it. They’ll really feel it.
– [Ron] Powerful stuff, man.
– [Zubin] It is, dude. We’ve talked a long time, bro. Like two hours.
– [Ron] We really got deep in.
– [Zubin] This was so much fun.
– [Ron] It was fun, yeah.
– [Zubin] Yeah, we’re both gonna lose our jobs. It’s great, I love it. Yeah, I love it.
– [Ron] You see all these unsubscribes on my newsletter list, like, “I thought this guy was scientific, “he was talking about metabolism, “and then what the hell is this?”
– [Zubin] And you just respond, you go, “pre/trans fallacy, bro.” Okay, we’re trans-rational. That’s another danger of any kind of spiritual path is… In Zen, they call it “Zen stink.” And it is the stink of spiritual ego. The ego hasn’t quite dissolved, so it’s like, “Bro, I’m so awake, “sometimes I can just drop into presence. “I’m so in touch with my emotional body, “I stared at a pile of trash for like four hours, “and it was just radiating aliveness.” People like shut the f up.
– [Ron] We’re gonna get some of those comments.
– [Zubin] and you know what? They’re deserved. Zen stink is a real thing. You got to wash it off. You got to wash it off. Brother, thank you, Ron. Okay, now here’s the thing, I’m a picture all your things. You got a website?
– [Ron] I do. And the easiest way to find it is just my name, roneshsinha.com. That’ll get your redirect.
– [Zubin] Ronesh, so R-O-N-E-S-H.
– [Ron] S-I-N-H-A. Roneshsinha.com.
– [Zubin] .com, And I’ll put it in all the show notes and links. And that’s where all your things are; Your podcast, your books, how to hire you to speak, other resources, blog stuff?
– [Ron] It’s all there. The only social media that I engage with at some basis is Instagram, so I’m trying to make that more scientific. So I’m posting articles about incident resistance, all that stuff. So that’s Ronesh Sinha MD. And the podcast, If you want to go direct to that, is called “Meta Health.” This is pre-Zuck, by the way. I came up with the name before that.
– [Zubin] That’s awesome. Now, he’s gonna sue you.
– [Ron] I’m hoping he’s gonna buy my URL. And as much as I’m against a lot of his philosophies, I can be bought.
– [Zubin] No you cannot be bought, except with a couple of billion dollars.
– [Ron] That’s right, exactly.
– [Zubin] Oh my God, what’s the URL?
– [Ron] So for the program, it’s the metaprogram.com. I wish it was meta.com. I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d be in that plaid whatever-you-call-it, a Tesla–
– [Zubin] You’d have your Model X.
– [Ron] And your envy levels would be up here because I’d be posting on Instagram and it’d be all over.
– [Zubin] My emotions, I consider them like a graphic equalizer, with different levels that do this. And when I really turned that bass up, that envy bounces, then anger goes up with it, and then shame goes here.
– [Ron] I love that visual, that’s cool.
– [Zubin] The graphic equalizer. Lucy McBride came on the show talking about emotional intelligence. She’s a primary doc on the east coast. And she has an emotional periodic table that she goes through with her patients. Yeah, it was really cool. She was like, “Here’s anger, AN, “and here’s grief, GR.”
– [Ron] This is a cool thing. We talk about burned out doctors, but doctors that are awakening, they don’t have to leave medicine altogether. I mean, look at you. It’s like you’re using your medical foundation of knowledge, you’re infusing all this creativity, laughter, music. She’s using the periodic table, which you wouldn’t have learned about unless you went through science and things. So there is incredible opportunities. So this could be the new generation of healthcare providers that use that scientific knowledge, and then weave in some of that spirituality and wisdom.
– [Zubin] I’m gonna re I’m gonna wrap with… ‘Cause that’s brilliant. I’m gonna wrap with yet another pitch for meditation retreats. And that is this… By the way, this show is sponsored by meditationretreat.com. Meditationretreat.com, only $15,000 and you can be silent for six days with no food. Anyways, back to you, Ron. No, could you imagine if you tried to monetize that? Go full Deepak Chopra, sell trippy lenses that help you get into presence. And so anyways, back to this. There were doc… There were seven or eight doctors at this retreat. There were many nurses, physical therapists, healthcare administrators, and they were drawn because of the show, and because Angela was also a doctor and he made it seem approachable, right? These very difficult esoteric ideas. To a one, day seven… Or day six, they said, “You know what? “This has been the most valuable thing I’ve done. “If every physician could go through this, “we would come back to our practice “with a totally different mindset. “We might change some things, “but we would mostly change what’s here, “and that would change actually, everything.” We all looked at each other with this knowing look, like, “Well, wow, “if the world woke up truly…” Like, we’re only on the path. It’s not like we’re saying we’re awakened beings. We’re saying that just this glimpse of the path. So I think it’s powerful. Now, that’s just one piece of growth. You talk about all the other pieces that are key, and whether it’s therapy, journaling, SOAP notes, and they’re all collaborative. They’re all holistically true. They’re all true, but partial to the whole. And we’re always striving to be a little more whole. So Ron Sinha, you’ve helped us become a little more whole today, as you always do.
– [Ron] Oh, he’s given me the opportunity, man. It’s always great to exchange. It’s a very spontaneous free flowing. Nothing’s held back when I talk to you, which is great.
– [Zubin] Yeah, I feel it.
– [Ron] It’s funny, ’cause people tell me… Family members, like, “I learned more from you “when you talk to Z than you do, “like family dinners and stuff.”
– [Zubin] That’s a testament to you. Finally dinner!
– [Ron] Thanksgiving.
– [Zubin] Dude, dude, my mom watches the show to learn about me because I’m so repressed about minding my own parents.
– [Ron] There’s some weird dynamic with family.
– [Zubin] There is, with family. Especially with Indian parents, it’s like–
– [Ron] Oh, totally. They’re like, “Really?”
– [Zubin] If you say anything, you just want to be careful. You just want to focus on the accomplishments. “Well, I got this much ad revenue this month.” “Oh, that much. “Well, why don’t you have this much?”
– [Ron] Exactly. And if you meet that, they’re like “You can keep dropping F-bombs, “that’s fine.”
– [Zubin] Otherwise it’s like, “Why do you curse so much?” “It gets more ad revenue.” I should use that, that’s great. It’s not true, but I should get that. Ron, thank you again.
– [Ron] Hey, pleasure.
– [Zubin] Guys, I’m gonna link to Ron’s other shows with us that go into the nitty gritty of breathing exercises, metabolic health, insulin resistance. We’ve talked about a lot of different things on the show. It’s always a joy to have you on. It’s one of the reasons I moved back to the Bay Area, despite all the pain and grief.
– [Ron] I’m like that pile of concrete, I drew you back in.
– [Zubin] You’re the steaming pile of feces that I could stare at for four hours. and just feel like–
– [Ron] I thought I saw a statue of that somewhere.
– [Zubin] Oh yeah, it’s right there.
– [Ron] Oh okay, thank you
– [Zubin] My poo emoji concretized, yes.
– [Ron] You called me “Brown Morpheus” last time, that was almost gonna be the name of my podcast; “The Brown Morpheus Show.”
– [Zubin] Oh my God, Brown Morpheus.
– [Ron] My kids got a big kick out of that.
– You know what? Sometimes, I surprise myself at how good I am. “Brown Morpheus” is perfect. I love it.
– [Ron] The ego’s coming up.
– [Zubin] I know, right? Wait ’til the spiritual ego comes up. “Of course, I called you “Brown Morpheus,” I’m so awake, bro. Oh man, I love it. Brown Morpheus, until next time? Oh, we’ll see that new Matrix movie when it comes out.
– [Ron] That should be fine.
– [Zubin] Love it.
– [Ron] I’d be up on it.
– [Zubin] All right, we’re out.
– [Ron] Peace out everybody, bye.