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“Get your heart rate up.”, with Dr. Pedram Shojai

Get your heart rate up — we call the heart our ticker because it manages our perception of time. If you can get your heartbeat to max and get yourself to maximum fitness you learn to slow down and appreciate time in a meaningful way. As a part of my series about “How to Slow […]

Get your heart rate up — we call the heart our ticker because it manages our perception of time. If you can get your heartbeat to max and get yourself to maximum fitness you learn to slow down and appreciate time in a meaningful way.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Pedram Shojai, the New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk and The Art of Stopping Time and founder of Well.org. He is an acclaimed Qigong Master and Taoist Abbot with a practical approach to modern living, using Eastern thinking and practices to help himself and others overcome the Westernized challenges of everyday life.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Frustration, really. I was banging my head against a wall trying to help people as a physician and was getting tired, sick, fat, and overwhelmed. I realize that there can’t be a distinction between your “spiritual life” and your normal one. There’s only time to live one life so do it well.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I call it Time Compression Syndrome- having too many commitments in too little time. Of course you’ll feel stressed if you don’t have enough time to do the things you’ve said yes to. It’s exhausting trying to be in two places at once so we’re never really present anywhere…already thinking of the next gig as you get to the current one.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

You can’t focus- you live in your hindbrain…it’s all fight or flight vs rest and digest. When we’re calm and relaxed, we access higher cognitive function and higher moral reasoning through our pre-frontal cortex. When we’re rushed, we’re actually dumber and less happy.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Do one thing at a time and get it done- stay focused on it and give it your undivided attention. Say you’re writing a document, shut off your instant messenger, skype, and any other alerts so you can focus.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Take 10 breaths every half hour — I always find that slowing down to clear my breath allows me to think more clearly and makes me make better, more informed decisions
  2. Make the morning yours — taking care of your personal development needs to start in the morning, that way you can start the day feeling satisfied and go on in the day knowing you filled your own tank
  3. Get your heart rate up — we call the heart our ticker because it manages our perception of time. If you can get your heartbeat to max and get yourself to maximum fitness you learn to slow down and appreciate time in a meaningful way.
  4. Chunk time — as a filmmaker, I always have a million things going on at once, and will get nothing done if I try to do them all now. Set blocks of time to get a particular thing done — finish it, then move on. It’ll decompress your perception of time .
  5. Evening meditation — although I want to keep going because there’s a never ending to do list by the time the kids go to sleep, I have found that meditating in the evening preps me to get more done in the morning. 15 minutes of quiet sitting can see the tone for the rest of your week, so it’s good to do every night
  6. Do a time audit — it’s important to figure out what your priorities are and handle those things first in line. Doing this allows you to say “NO” to things that crowd out the important “YESSES”. It’ll help you do less of the meaningless crap and do more toward your ultimate goals

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I like to think of mindfulness as a virus scanner on your mental desktop. Most people use it as an app, where they’ll click it when they’re feeling stressed out, but the real trick to mindfulness is to always run it, so you don’t boil over. Constantly check in, slow your breath, and calm your mind, that way you maintain a state of peace and never crash.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Mindfulness is a way of being, so staying focused on your breath every half hour, or every ten minutes, or better yet all the time is the goal. Set an alert on your phone, watch or whatever to keep queuing you to come back to yourself.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

I like to get up from my desk every 25 minutes and do some qigong or a short workout. It sets the tone for my day, gets my blood flowing, and keeps me happy.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

I like the works of Ramana Maharshi and Lao Tzu. The classics are awesome. As far as resources, I have compiled a ton at the urban monk for people and also send people to dhamma.org for vipassana meditation which is excellent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Fall seven times, rise eight, life begins now” — the bodhidharma. To me this is everything because life’s got its ups and down, but it’s really about your enthusiasm and perspective to learn, to grow, and rise again.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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 be to help people heal emotional trauma. So much of the anger, depression, regression we see on this world is caused and inflicted by wounded people. It’s now time for us to heal our wounds and put our best selves forward.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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