Everyone’s end goal is lasting happiness. Not all realize this, but we wrongly assume the means (home, job, partner, promotion etc.) as the end. The means (disguised as ends in our mind) only provide short-lived happiness and we continue the rat race.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajesh Sengamedu.
Rajesh’s life mission is to help people live happy & healthy.
Rajesh Sengamedu is a yoga practitioner for over 30+ years combining body-work (hatha-yoga), breath-work (pranayama), mind-work (meditation) & diet. He coaches yoga, breathing & meditation techniques to family, colleagues, friends and helps in changing to sustainable and healthy food habits. Rajesh is also a student of Vedanta philosophy, seeing the ‘oneness‘ & ‘connectedness‘ everywhere. His goal is to integrate the Vedantic teachings along with the yoga, pranayama & meditation techniques and help people live healthy & happy.
Rajesh is a business development executive for a consulting IT services company and based in Bay Area.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am a sales & marketing professional. After three years of working in manufacturing plants, I felt I wanted to be closer to the customer. Manufacturing seemed routine — same plant & shopfloor, lifeless machines, production orders and shipment. I realized that I was interacting with machines that make monotonous noise, than with people. What I was doing was not what I wanted to do. This was the biggest a-ha moment and I decided to make a change.
I am a lifelong student of human behavior making my small little mental notes about each interaction and trying to decode what drives a person. (as a side note, hopefully this study will yield enough material to write my first fiction book!). It was only natural that I choose sales as my profession because it provides ample opportunities to interact with many people, understand their stated & unstated needs, wants and provide solutions to contribute to their success. Consulting services was a natural fit for me because I can go beyond the technology stack, shape the customer needs and deliver a solution to create their business success and personal wins.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are many interesting stories but one that comes to my mind is how I met Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Sons, who run global businesses from steel, automobiles to software. I was in the airport lounge when I saw him get off his car and sprinting up the stairs. I took my chance and stopped him, asking him a question, “Sir, are you Ratan Tata?” and he smilingly said yes. He was almost benevolent that a rookie young kid recognized him! I think I asked him another yes or no question and we both went our ways. His humility attracted me. He had no bodyguards around him, no secretary to carry his briefcase and surely was not flying in private jet! I came to realize later that by design Tata Sons is a trust that distributes all profits to the society and Mr. Tata, though was a Chief Executive of several companies, was a trustee of the wealth generated, not taking more than what he needed for his living, despite running huge multi-billion dollar business empire.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
In the first two decades of my career, I was primarily driven by the capitalism credo — make more money and make it fast. My decisions were driven primarily by money as I subconsciously gave a higher weightage to money. It became a goal. Strangely, I had separated life and work in my mind and had a different philosophy for life which was to be good, do good and to stay humble. At times, I was conflicted that these two goals did not align.
The last decade has been driven by the philosophy of the famous Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad Gita.I understood that money was just a means to an end. I knew with unfailing certainty what the ‘end goal’ of my life was. This clarity in understanding what the means & end are, gave meaning to all the work I was doing — at workplace, in the community and for my family. The clarity also meant that I was able to fit the puzzle of life, viewing work as ‘part’ of my life rather than seeing work & life as distinct compartments with the weekdays devoted to work and weekends to life!
I hope to summarize Gita’s profound philosophy in a few statements as I have assimilated it. This is secular, highly practical and applicable to everyone, irrespective of what their beliefs are.
- Everyone’s end goal is lasting happiness. Not all realize this, but we wrongly assume the means (home, job, partner, promotion etc.) as the end. The means (disguised as ends in our mind) only provide short-lived happiness and we continue the rat race.
- Lasting happiness can come only to a mind that is equanimous, calm and accepting.
- To develop such a mind, one should train it to serve others, and never our selfish interests. One should make decisions always using the principle of the ‘larger good’. To train the mind, we use our current life-situations and make the various roles (parent, neighbor, professional at work, friend etc.) we play as mind’s training ground.
- Such training expands the mind and makes it inclusive, ultimately seeing the unity in diversity clearly. The training is also a conscious daily attempt to correct the wrong assumptions about ourselves. This develops a new vision of who we are.
- When wrong assumptions are removed, the mind naturally becomes equanimous because its cravings & our desires are no more about the means. Then the life goal of lasting happiness is realized.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
My idea is to encourage people to fast regularly and eat mindfully, attuning themselves to natural cycles.
Fasting has been proven to improve health, and a positive side effect is we also save money! The money saved can be donated to charities who deliver food to the hungry.
Nature moves in cycles — monthly and annual cycles being two important ones. The waxing and waning of the moon form the monthly cycle. We see the effect on large water bodies like the oceans. Given our body is 70% liquid, it is only natural that even we are impacted by the moon. Therefore, it is recommended to fast once a fortnight to rest the body and bring it back in tune with nature. This is a time-tested ancient practice known as ekadasi (to fast on the 11th day of waxing /waning moon to neutralize ill-effects of the changes on our body) that millions follow since age immemorial with positive benefits.
Food acts like a natural medicine when we intake right quantity and quality of food. It is only when we overeat or eat the wrong type of food, we fall sick and need to consume medicine as food!
Fasting and eating mindfully saves money too! The money can be donated to charities who are working to solve hunger.
I want to create a platform that would help people track their eating and fasting habits, estimate money saved and connect them to charities of their choice to donate. They can choose to donate part, or all the money saved to help the needy.
This simple idea will improve health and lifespan of people. It will also be a great way of uplifting those who struggle with food scarcity.
How do you think this will change the world?
About 700 million people go hungry every day. On the other hand, over a billion people suffer chronic health issues primarily due to the wrong foods consumed, overeating & incorrect eating habits. According to World Health Organization, studies have shown that unhealthy diet is one of the key reasons in development of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and some types of cancer. Not giving sufficient rest to digestive system to recuperate is known as the root cause of many illnesses.
If a billion people can fast once a fortnight, and eat only what the body needs, that is a lot of money saved which can be donated to charities delivering food to needy.
It is said that food is medicine. When we are careful about what we eat, how much we eat, we don’t fall sick that often and it also improves our immunity, flexibility and overall wellbeing.
When people adopt fasting & healthy eating habits, they automatically become conscious of what they eat, how much and the quality of food. This will reduce their consumption on essentials, that would likely disrupt the food chains because of reduced demand. Restaurants and grocery stores may see lower footfall as people attune themselves to the changing lunar cycles by fasting once a fortnight.
As people become healthy, and immune, they also make frequent trips to doctors and hospitals, reducing the undue demand placed on these institutions. In addition, research money to develop new drugs can be redirected towards sustainable farming and living practices.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Since many years, I fast once a fortnight. For the last five years, I also practiced mindful eating during the four months of big seasonal changes corresponding to the period — mid-July to mid-November (annual solar cycle and this period is known as chaturmasa — ‘four months’). I have experienced improved health and mental well-being and was able to rid myself of several chronic issues like frozen shoulder, asthma and improved body flexibility and immunity. I found myself increasingly happier and contented. Moreover, I was fortunate that I did not take any medication to stay healthy!
In 2020, a few friends joined me to practice regular fortnightly fasting for a whole year as well as adapting to mindful eating during July to November. Some of them had led a consumerist lifestyle where food was central to their life and enjoyment and each one had some health issue or the other. The health benefits and personality transformation they saw in themselves by fortnightly fasting and seasonal mindful eating was awe- inspiring. We also discovered that we were saving money too. Then one day, we connected the dots when we asked ourselves, “What if we encourage others to live healthy, save money and donate?”
Excited with our personal transformation stories, we decided to encourage friends and family to fast and join in mindful eating. We co-authored a book, “Wellbeing through Food & Discipline | The Chaturmasa Diaries” to share our experiences of aligning our food habits to the changing monthly lunar and annual solar cycles. In 2021, we have doubled the number of participants who have signed up for Chaturmasa mindful eating!
That’s how the idea of the platform to encourage fasting and mindful eating came about.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Presently, we are influencing friends and family through word of mouth. We also wrote the book to demystify fasting, mindful eating and provide scientific explanations (where possible) to encourage people to make lifestyle changes. We feel that our ambition of encouraging people to live healthy while contributing to reduce food scarcity is not overly ambitious. It may take time for it to become mainstream, but once we create a platform, it can spread faster.
The platform itself is a simple mobile and web-based application that would encourage people to fast, save and donate. We explained in detail what the platform would do in our book.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
This is a great question. Let me summarize my 5 wishes:
- I wish someone had told me that food is primarily for nourishment.
- I wish someone had told me that when faced with a choice between nourishment and indulgence, one should choose nourishment.
- I wish someone had scientifically explained the interconnection of the nature’s lunar and solar cycles on our body & mind and connected the power of fasting, or mindful eating attuned to changing seasons to our health.
- I wish someone had explained that we all are so intricately interconnected, and our habits have a long cascading reaction on the food chain and nature’s ecosystem. Positive food habits will create positive reactions while consumerist habits creating ecological imbalance.
- Finally, I wish someone had told me the mind-body connection and explained that holistic health means not just physical, but includes sensory, emotional, intellectual health as well and food plays a key role in our wellbeing.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Definition of success is person dependent. I would encourage the readers to first spend a few minutes to daily reflect on what success means for them with three timeline horizons in mind — the day, the month and the year. If one journals this for a few weeks, one will see interesting thought patterns, that are current habits. Then, one should critically ask if they need to change any of the habits. Usually, we would know what to do to become a better version of ourselves — no one need to tell us!
Second, we must make a resolution to change and become better version daily. Sticking to our resolution improves our self-esteem. When we respect our word to our own self, it shows in our interactions with others and that would make others respect our word too. This creates harmony and plants seeds of mutual success.
If one notices predominance of a streak of selfish interest in their thinking pattern, then one must deliberately focus on replacing it with the principle of ‘larger good’ and drive their decisions, big and small based on that.
Like the Jim Carrey movie — Yes Man, one of the key success habits is to say ‘yes’ to helping others anytime and spread the goodness without expecting anything in return. We can choose to help materially, or by devoting our time or sharing our knowledge. Be assured that nature has a strange way of returning what is due to you, not necessarily from the same person you helped!
Finally, focusing our energies one hundred percent into the efforts we can control and accepting the outcomes cheerfully — whether they meet our expectations or not is important aspect of developing a peaceful mind.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown that the world is a living, breathing interconnected organism. Ripple effects of what one does in one part of the world will be felt in the opposite corner of the world, sooner or later. Our consumerist actions can cause icebergs to melt in the poles, make snakes & tigers extinct, cause exploitation of children, women and weaklings in sweat shops, make rainforests vanish. On a smaller scale, we can see increased thefts, violence and assaults in the neighborhood when extreme inequality on food will force people to go to all means.
VCs should focus on investing in socially conscious startups who will commit to make a difference at ground level to improve lives. VCs must see that startups are a way of not just creating wealth for shareholders but also can be used as vehicles for societal change. Investing in sustainable, ethical practices will create that positive spiral to uplift society from the deep challenges we all face — homelessness, climate change, poverty and hunger.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.