Prioritize social connectedness with friends and family. After all, we can’t do it alone. Love and social connection are deeply embedded in the human spirit. Since many of us can’t leave home at the moment due to the Coronavirus, video calls on Zoom or Skype are great ways to connect with others and nourish your soul. Even if you’re an introvert like me, we all need and require social connection to feel our best.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rohan Parikh.
Rohan is a mission-driven entrepreneur, functional health practitioner, and biohacker. He is the Founder & CEO of Fire + Flow which is a modern-day wellness school that empowers high-powered working professionals to transform the way they feel. After learning his biological age was 47 when he was 31, he was able to reverse it by almost 20 years, and is now on a mission to serve millions of others in their quest to live with more vitality and purpose.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
About a decade ago, my health was in really bad shape. I was in debilitating chronic pain, had severe acid reflux above the 99th percentile threshold, and was on my way to developing a precancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. It was a grim outlook. I was living in New York City at the time and my habits had surely led me here. These habits included going out several times per week with friends drinking alcohol and eating things that did not resonate with my body, not exercising, often sleeping less than 6 hours per night, and not caring for myself in general. I had not tapped into mindfulness and other wellness tools at the time. And eventually, my body just caved.
To top it off, I took a specialized blood test that showed my biological age was 47 years old when I was actually 31 years old in chronological age. I realized then and there that I had to make a change, or the price to pay would be my own life. This was a time of desperation for me and I made a commitment to no longer tolerating living this lifestyle. As Tony Robbins says, “Your life changes in a moment”, and this was my moment.
I spent over 10,000 hours of relentless learning and experimentation on transforming my health and wellbeing. I improved things like my glucose levels, inflammation, heart health, vitamin D levels, and testosterone. These are all biomarkers that foreshadow a long, healthy life. I cultivated a strong mindfulness practice that included daily meditation, deep breathing techniques, and time in nature. I also created an amazing support network that I’m incredibly grateful for this today. All this being said, my daily mindfulness practice was surely the most powerful for me and continues to be to this day.
With deep gratitude, I can confidently say that the quality of my life today is something that I never dreamed possible many years ago. And in enjoying the process of my transformation so much, I decided that this is the thing that I want to do with my life. Sometimes it takes our lowest moments to bring us to our greatest realizations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was walking through Madison Square Park in New York City on a Friday summer evening and knew that I had to dissolve a business that I had spent a few years building. It was a company dedicated to helping funeral homeowners modernize their operations which I launched with a good friend and former co-worker of mine.
Our intention in building the company was a noble one in that we both wanted to help improve the lives of funeral homeowners and families who suffer the loss of a loved one. My best friend passed away when I was 29 and I will never forget that day. However, as we were growing the business I realized that my heart wasn’t in it. It was clear that this wasn’t something that was a true passion of mine, as hard as that was to admit at the time. I knew that I did not want to continue growing the business. I view my life’s most precious resource as time, and I wasn’t utilizing it to the best of my ability.
During that summer evening walking in Madison Square Park, I decided to pull the plug on the funeral business. I knew in my heart and in my soul what true my purpose in life was. I had overcome so much adversity over the years in terms of my wellbeing and had transformed myself from the inside out. I had helped dozens of family and friends do the same. It’s all that I would spend my free time on and what I would talk about in most conversations. So many people I looked up to had repeatedly told me that this was my “thing”. With this insight, I made a commitment to have the courage to follow my heart once and for all.
Since making that decision, it’s been the most rewarding journey of my life. When you move forward in alignment with your purpose, you can literally feel your energy shift into a state of love, optimism, and desire to serve others. No regrets here.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Firstly, you must lead by example. Once others see you living what you preach, they will naturally gravitate and follow your lead if it feels genuine. I can’t ask others to be passionate about the business if I am not leading that way first.
You want to create an environment of safety, where your team feels encouraged to give feedback and share how they feel without worrying about repercussions. The best feedback you get is the unfiltered feedback when people can freely express their thoughts without worrying about office politics or losing their job.
Transparency is also key. I have been blessed to have worked with several very successful high-growth startups and one thing that I learned along the way was that the CEOs were always very transparent with what was going on within the company which created a sense of trust within me. I now make sure to follow that lead and be ultra-transparent so others can feel safe and have trust in me.
Lastly, acknowledging others for their greatness and celebrating small wins. Sure, it’s easy to celebrate the moment your company gets acquired, or when you go IPO. But there’s a lot of small wins in between there that got you to that point. Whether it’s overhearing a great call and celebrating a teammate or getting an amazing testimonial from a high-profile customer, it’s important to take moments to celebrate these wins and acknowledge the people who helped make them happen. Those small celebrations accelerate the momentum towards living the mission that your company has set out to accomplish.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins is hands down the best book I’ve read in the last few years. His life story is a true testament to developing a strong mindset during uncertain times. He had an immensely challenging upbringing that included being abused by his father, living in poverty, and being racially harassed by his peers. Goggins found solace in developing a powerful spirit and pushed his body to limits only few humans have experienced. He ended up becoming a revered Navy Seal, an elite ultra-marathon runner, and a motivational speaker that has impacted tens of millions of lives. Can’t Hurt Me may not be your traditional mindfulness book, but it is a powerful true story of reframing your mindset during challenging times and coming out on top. I was deeply inspired.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Mindfulness is being aware of one’s inner state and being in touch with the present moment. It involves disattaching from past experiences or future outcomes. The feeling can be best described as “being here now, as you are, with no judgment”.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Being mindful carries an all-encompassing benefit that enhances almost all aspects of your life. In relationships, you tend to listen better, be more empathetic, and are more present with your company. In your mood, you are more calm, relaxed, and at peace with what is. And in your health, your body responds better to stressful situations.
I personally feel happier, healthier, and more optimistic. For example, when I’m consistently meditating on a daily basis, those bouts of “fight or flight” we’ve all experienced rarely occur. Mindfulness takes me out of my head and into my heart. And when we lead with our hearts, we tend to feel more aligned with our purpose.
There’s also a good amount of clinical research that shows how being mindful, specifically meditating, literally changes the brain. For example, one study found that grey matter (the stuff that connects the two hemispheres of your brain) became stronger and thicker through MRI testing. This same study also concluded that the fear center of the brain shrunk and the parts responsible for happiness, love, and creative problem solving grew.
Mindfulness, stillness, and meditation are indeed powerful tools to change the way we experience life.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Get clear on what you really want out of life, and why. Creating clarity and direction in uncertain times can greatly help us. Many of us go through our human existence not being able to really define what is that we want out of life, and in doing so, we become more vulnerable to uncertainty because we lack certainty within ourselves. I would recommend taking intentional time to determine what you’d love to create in your life over the next 3–5 years. Ideally, these would be things that would make you excited to get out of bed each morning and can be anything from career goals to new hobbies to take up. Once you’re clear on that, make sure to define why these things are important. The combination of knowing what you want and why you want those things is immensely important. Life becomes exciting, even in uncertain times, when you have clarity and direction.
- Start your day on purpose. Now that you’re clear on what you’re about, the next step is to create daily rituals to bring your mindset into alignment with your goals. There is no better time to prime your mind than the morning as it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Personally speaking, I have my goals and my purpose on post-it notes that are stuck on my bathroom mirror so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Other things you can do include meditating to clear your mind and visualizing your ideal day before it unfolds. When you prime your mind with clarity and purpose, it’s much harder to get off track from the stresses that happen throughout the day.
- Eliminate Toxic Distractions. Given the state of the world today, this is a big one. The more we can turn off and tune out distractions from our lives that don’t serve a purpose for us in that moment, the more present and in-tune we will feel. This means turning off the mainstream news and even certain push notifications on your phone. You can still set a block of time every week to get your news updates. The reason we cut out toxic distractions is so that we can be present, stay focused, and be intentional about our time. Time is our most precious resource, let’s spend it on the things that really matter.
- Begin and end with gratitude. You can’t worry and be grateful at the same time. I personally start the day with 3 things that I’m grateful for and end my workday doing the same. Cultivating gratitude in your life creates abundance within you. It’s a habit that’s changed my life and I would encourage others to use it if they feel called.
- Prioritize social connectedness with friends and family. After all, we can’t do it alone. Love and social connection are deeply embedded in the human spirit. Since many of us can’t leave home at the moment due to the Coronavirus, video calls on Zoom or Skype are great ways to connect with others and nourish your soul. Even if you’re an introvert like me, we all need and require social connection to feel our best.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Say Hello. The first step is simply to reach out to those who you care about and see how they’re doing amidst all that is going. There’s a very good chance that the person you reached out to will be delighted that you did. Much of the time, it will even make their day.
- Be present and listen. Many people are having a challenging time right now and taking the time to deeply listen to them can really change the other person’s emotional state. I personally have a tendency to offer solutions, but I’ve learned to catch myself and realize that what some people really need right now is someone to be present with them and listen.
- Be empathetic. We’ve all been through tough times, whether that’s right now, 5 years ago, or in your childhood days. We remember the people that were there for us during those times. One thing I always remembered about the people that had supported me in my toughest of times was that they had empathy for me and that it felt genuine. They were able to put themselves in my shoes and see what I was seeing to the best of their ability. I really appreciated that.
- Offer your support. Feel free to offer your support, but first make sure to ask permission. Some people are looking for someone just to listen without fixing things. Others are surely open to suggestions so they can improve their situation. Once you get the greenlight, offer your best help. Maybe that’s a breathing exercise, a meditation routine, or something fun you do to get your mind off things.
- Check-in often. If you spoke with someone who is really struggling and anxious, make sure to check in with them on a periodic basis to see how they’re doing. Ask them how you can continue to help. This will really help them feel supported as they will know you are truly there to help them through this challenging time in their lives. Trust me, It won’t go unnoticed.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Make a commitment to yourself. If you recognize that mindfulness and serenity are missing in your life, then you must make a choice. And that choice is whether or not you commit to making this a priority in your life. I would strongly encourage others to make this commitment to elevating the quality of their wellbeing.
Find awesome people to follow. The best way I find tools to be more mindful and serene is to follow people who are immersed in the space. A few people whom I love to follow are Emily Fletcher, Wim Hof, and Aubrey Marcus. Youtube, podcasts, and audiobooks are also great tools to use on the go. We’re so blessed to live in this digital age where information is abundant. Take advantage of it.
Put intentional time into your calendar. I have a rule that if my priorities are not in my calendar then they are not my priorities yet. Having a set time dedicated to something that you value and that will change your life is a powerful tool. For example, I have a session of meditation, gratitude, and visualization followed by a cold shower in my calendar for the first thing I do when I wake up. Once we train our brain to do something enough times, we wire new neural pathways and get addicted to doing it because it feels good. Nowadays, I rarely miss a day.
Reflect on a weekly basis to gauge progress. Once we make a commitment to something, it’s important to reflect on our progress. Once you reflect, you can then optimize and tweak the upcoming week’s mindfulness practices.
Lastly, two books that I love in regard to mindfulness are “Stillness is The Key” by Ryan Holiday and “Stress Less, Accomplish More” by Emily Fletcher. They were immensely helpful in helping me create a mindfulness practice of my own that’s allowed me to thrive in life. Feel free to check them out at your leisure.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Life is happening for us, not to us. And it’s our job to see it that way.”
I love this quote because it offers a life-altering perspective that life itself is always working in our favor, even at the times we believe it is not. For me personally, this quote helped me through some of my most trying times when I was rebuilding my health and body after suffering for years, feeling like I was a victim to circumstance.
As an example, any time I would feel overwhelmed or angry at my current circumstance, I would move into the paradigm that life is happening for me in this very moment and then ask myself “what else could this mean?” By asking that question, I was able to reframe my current situation into something empowering. My answer to this question at the time was that this was god testing my will and that with effort and time I will transform my wellbeing to inspire millions of people to overcome similar challenges in their lives. It really helped me tap into what my purpose is today.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would have to be the movement to empower people to have the courage to show up and live as our true selves during our time here on Earth. We’re all weird in some way. We all have different interests and passions. Why not own it instead of hiding it, or feeling shame about who you really are?
I believe that once a person gets past the block of having to conform to the expectations of society, there is a blossoming of freedom and growth into a new journey of one’s life. I believe that this is the journey of the second half of your life where you live intentionally, express freely, and give fully as your true self. I hope that every human can tap into this while they are alive. It has surely changed my life.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Weekly Newsletter: fireandflowco.com
LinkedIn: Rohan Parikh
Instagram, Facebook, & TikTok: @roinflow @fireandflowco
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!