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“Why you should meditate.” With Beau Henderson & Ellie Shoja

The state of stress and fear also weakens the immune system and compromises the physical health of the body. It is the birth place of all disease. When you feel clear, calm, and creative, we don’t just find better solutions with positive results, you also improve your body’s health, slow down aging, and boost your […]

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The state of stress and fear also weakens the immune system and compromises the physical health of the body. It is the birth place of all disease. When you feel clear, calm, and creative, we don’t just find better solutions with positive results, you also improve your body’s health, slow down aging, and boost your immune system. But to attain such a higher state of being, you must saturate your minds with positive messaging.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellie Shoja.

Ellie Shoja is the CEO of Peace Unleashed, a Los Angeles based mindfulness company dedicated to helping individuals and teams level up holistically, even through the many plot twists of 2020.


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?

Thanks so much for having me.

Like most people who teach mindfulness and spirituality, I backed into this career path out of personal necessity. I had an unconventional and often violent childhood that left me suicidal, angry, and with severe nervous tics by the time I was just twelve years old. My teens and twenties were spent in a near constant state of internal agony.

In my mid twenties, I was given a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power Of Now. This book marked the start of my journey back to my True Self, even though it would take another decade of studying various spiritual text and learning from mindfulness teachers, psychologists, and researchers from around the globe before I was able to consistently access and maintain lasting inner peace. Today, I’m one of the most at-peace people you might meet. Nothing rattles me. I’ve found the source of fulfillment within myself, which means, regardless of what’s happening around me, my peaceful, joy-filled state of being never changes.

In 2016, I teamed up with my childhood friend Neloo Naderi to create and share meditation courses and host in-person meditation parties. By 2018, these simple acts of service had turned into a business. Peace Unleashed was born, and it’s been a magical adventure of expansion since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

On the path into one’s True Self, there inevitably comes a time when a homeless person shows us our purpose in life.

I was living in a second-floor apartment in Hollywood, California, only a few blocks away from the store where I filled up my one-gallon water jugs every week. As I poured the last of the filtered water into a glass, I decided that I would walk, rather than drive, to this store. This was an unusual decision, because I knew I’d be carrying jugs of water back with me. Still, I reasoned that the store was only a couple of blocks away, and I could use the exercise. I grabbed four empty one-gallon bottles (clearly under-estimating the weight of a gallon of water) and left my apartment.

Everything went smoothly and as planned until I had three of the four jugs filled. As I put the third full bottle on the ground next to me and grabbed the last empty one, a disheveled homeless man who seemed to be in his late fifties stumbled toward me. It was a hot day, and this man looked like he had seem better days. He moved his hunched body laboriously across the sidewalk, his long, dirty hair a mess of tangles, his face and hands caked with dirt. He didn’t seem to see me as he b-lined to the water dispenser and banged on its side. Then realizing something, he stumbled to the trashcan that stood only a few feet away and dug through it. Not finding what he was looking for, he stepped into the bushes behind it, and re-emerged with an empty soda can, crunched up and smeared with dry mud. He then returned to the water dispenser, placed his can into it, and preceded to bang on the sides of the water machine.

I had stepped aside and was watching the scene unfold from just a few feet away. I grabbed one of my full water jugs and walked toward him.

“Hey,” I said. “Are you thirsty? Would you like this?”

He did not look at me as he grabbed the bottle from my outstretched hand and clutched it tightly to his chest. Then, without a word, he turned and wobbled away.

I stood there for several moments, watching him disappeared around the bend of the building, feeling the stirrings of sadness and gratitude. I did not fill the last empty bottle. Instead, I grabbed one gallon in each hand and headed home. As I walked, I looked up, feeling grateful that I had been used in this marvelous way. How intelligent this universe was that had inspired us both to rendezvous in this profound way at the water dispenser. As I walked, I realized how heavy one gallon of water was. I noted that I wouldn’t have been able to carry four gallons — what was I thinking! I recognized the perfect timing of the man’s interruption, too. Had I filled up all four bottles before his arrival, the weight I carried now would not have been so evenly distributed. I was able to walk home, perfectly balanced, because he had chosen to meet me after I had filled three and not four jugs.

“Thank you,” I said, looking up. “Thank you.”

That’s when I knew that my purpose in life was to be of service. And how incredibly humbling it was to be given an opportunity to fulfill my purpose in such a simple and profound way.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

This is a tough question, because there is no such thing as a mistake. The only mistake, in life and in work, is catering to fear and doubt, and allowing these killers of creativity to keep us from living life. Fortunately, I’ve never found much value in acting out of fear or being paralyzed by doubt. Eventually, I discover the good sense to take action. And this action creates clarity, and this clarity leads me into new places.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In 2019, we published a stunning deck of oracle cards called Your Heart Knows The Way (https://amzn.to/3hguXge). This deck features 53 paintings by the internationally-acclaimed fine artist Chris Dellorco and is designed by the Design Director Mariola Bruszewska. But I can honestly say that this card deck would not exist today if it wasn’t for the Peace Unleashed COO, Neloo Naderi, who single-highhandedly corralled a group of creatives and focuses their efforts, while allowing them the creative freedom they needed to remain inspired. This is the beauty of working within a team. Projects that are much greater than the sum of the individual parts can come into existence.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

The world of spirituality, in particular, is filled with coaches and solo-preneurs who feel they must do everything on their own. This, unfortunately, is an easy way to deplete one’s energy and to limit one’s reach. Because this type of work relies heavily on providing service, it can easily lead to burnout.

My advice for those starting out in this industry is to not do it alone. Partner with someone, hire an assistant, build a team. It’s true that there are a certain things only you can do, but this list should be very short and limited to the tasks that no one else can accomplish. In reality, even your emails can be delegated.

If you do nothing else, do this: make a list of every task that you perform in your business, and then go through each item, really scrutinizing it. Ask yourself: “Am I the only person who can perform this task, or can I delegate this to someone else?” Once you’ve gone through the list once, go through it again, this time looking only at the items that you said only you can do, and ask this question again. Keep knocking things off your list. Once you can’t delegate anything else, go through all the tasks once again and identify those that are non-essential, those that can be eliminated, or postponed. Then make a list of all those tasks that can not be postponed or eliminated. Now, you have a job description for one or more people that you can hire.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Culture trickles down from the top. Let me say it more bluntly: the culture of your organization is always a reflection of how you, as the leader, are showing up. This can be hard for some leaders to hear. Especially if your organization is struggling with low morale, lack of accountability, lack of trust, or cultures of shame or laziness. If a negative culture is prevalent at your place of work, and you occupy one of the C-suite seats, you are responsible for this negative culture. There is great power in recognizing this and taking responsibility. The sooner you do, the sooner you can begin to implement the changes that are needed to turn things around. And these changes have to be implemented at the leadership level first before they can trickle down into the rest of the organization.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

One of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal when trying to improve our mental health is mindfulness because mindfulness is about awareness. Awareness of self. Awareness of others. Awareness of our emotions, thoughts, and sensations. The following recommendations may be simple, but they can have profound impact on your life and mental well-being. Just try them for a few days, and see how your life improves.

1. BREATHE

This is perhaps one of the most annoying suggestions you might receive while in the thick of a stressful situation. But as frustrating it is to hear, “Just take a deep breath,” there is real science behind the recommendation.

You see, when you are in a state of stress or anxiety, your heart rate shoots up, your breathing becomes shallow, you might even hold your breath for multiple seconds at a time, and your brain waves shoot up into the high beta ranges, from whence it is very difficult to think clearly, let alone make good decisions. In this state, you’re ready for a fight or to retreat into a cave. Couple this with emotional triggers that evoke feelings of worthlessness, unlovableness, a lack of power, or being out of control, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a quickly escalating battle that leaves everyone feeling angry and ashamed for hours, weeks or maybe even years.

When you feel your heart rate accelerating and your face flush with anger, instead of doing anything at all, excuse yourself to the bathroom or to a quiet corner, and take several deep breaths. Taking deep breaths rushes oxygen to your brain and to your heart. It begins to regulate your heart rate and slows your brain waves down so you can make better decisions. When you take those deep breaths, make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. This mimics the breath you normally take during times of relaxation, and sends your cells the signal that everything is going to be okay, allowing you access to solutions.

2. DRINK WATER

Water and air are essential for your body to function optimally. If you think about it, you can’t survive long without either of these. You’ll live only a few minutes without taking a breath, and if you cut off water, you might live a week.

When we are in a state of stress, however, we withhold both water and oxygen from our body. Suicide prevention speaker and 2020 Miss Utah USA, Rachel Slawson, calls this a subconscious form of self harm and urges those thinking about taking their own life to drink a big glass of water instead. This simple recommendation might sounds strange or even ridiculous, but it does work. The same way that we hold our breath when we feel stress, we also dehydrate ourselves by not drinking enough water. And worse, the more stressed we get, the more likely we are to replace water with dehydrating beverages such as coffee or alcohol.

Every cell in your body contains water, including your brain, your heart, and every organ. Especially during times of great exertion, it becomes vital to replenish the water that is being lost as a result of the heightened activity. But times of exertion go beyond physical exercise. When you’re studying, for instance, you’ll need more water because you’re exerting your brain. When you’re in a stressful situation, where your entire body is on high alert, you definitely cannot afford to withhold water from the body. In these instances, your brain, your heart and every internal organ is being exerted. So, at the next family gathering or business meeting where you might get triggered and fly into a rage, you might want to limit your wine or coffee intake and drink double the water instead. Doing so will keep you more clear-headed and emotionally grounded.

3. MEDITATE

What if I told you that there is a pill that significantly reduces stress and anxiety, reduces PTSD symptoms, improves insomnia, improves your memory and mental functions, makes you more alert and energized, slows down aging, and has ZERO negative side effects? Would you take it? Of course, you would.

Well, this magic pill exists, and it’s called meditation. The benefits I listed are only a fraction of the countless benefits experienced by those who meditate just ten minutes per day. Meditation is a focusing and a training of the mind. It’s like a gym for your brain. Those who meditate are much better at regulating their emotions and responding to situations consciously and from a place of inner peace. If you’ve always wanted to meditate but don’t know how to start, check out www.peaceunleashed.com for our free video masterclass.

4. SATURATE YOUR MIND WITH POSITIVE MESSAGING

What we consume determines the health, stamina, and energy level of our bodies. This is why processed, heavy foods will make us feel sluggish and low energy, while fresh, nutrient-rich foods increase our stamina, and help our bodies operate optionally. This is also true for our minds. Saturating the mind in negative, fear-based messaging creates the mental climate of fear, anxiety and confusion. In this state, the body is far away from operating optimally. There is no clarity, and therefore no effective problem solving. In fact, every solution we discover from this low state of being is reactive and is sure to create more problems.

The state of stress and fear also weakens the immune system and compromises the physical health of the body. It is the birth place of all disease. When you feel clear, calm, and creative, we don’t just find better solutions with positive results, you also improve your body’s health, slow down aging, and boost your immune system. But to attain such a higher state of being, you must saturate your minds with positive messaging.

This means stop watching the news! News and negative messaging drops your state of being into the vicinity of fear and confusion. It triggers anxiety and heightens mental instability. This is opposite to the state of clarity and creativity that gives birth to wellness and great ideas. To optimize your mental and physical health, make it your job to consume good-feeling content every single day.

5. PRIORITIZE FUN

We live during an unprecedented time of spaciousness. Unless you’re an essential worker, there is literally nothing you need to do other than tend to your own internal wellbeing. One of the most effective ways to shift your inner state out of instability and into wellbeing is to take action that bring you joy.

Every day when you wake up, ask yourself, “What would be fun for me to do today?” And then do that (as long as it’s within your state’s regulations for the pandemic). If you want to bake a cake, bake. If you want to paint a portrait, paint. If you want to call a friend, call a friend. If you want to write a novel about an alien invasion, sit down and write.

You have the time and the space, so why not just do it?

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

As humans, we are wired for creation. We’re constantly coming up with ideas about what else we want to create. We give form to these creations in our minds until they become so real that their physical manifestation becomes an inevitability. And then, we figure out how to bing it all into the physical world, where our creations can be seen and experienced by everyone else.

Where this becomes tricky or limiting is when we falsely believe our creative powers or abilities are tied to a job or a career. This is particularly true when we see those who retire. If the act of creation was tied to the job, the retiree loses his purpose for living. Without the demand for creativity and production upon him, he might rapidly start aging and even become reclusive. If the act of creation was not tied to the career, however, the retiree might discover a new zest for life along with some new projects through which to express his purpose. He might pick up new hobbies, visit new places, learn new skills, and make new friends.

My greatest recommendation for those who retire is to use this opportunity to revisit that powerful question: “What’s fun for me?” And really give themselves permission to answer this question. This is a great jumping off point that will allow them find new forms of self-expression.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Teenagers, if they have not yet been trained by their parents to ignore their natural instincts, have an innate sense of their interests. My recommendation for teenagers is to find the things that they feel excited by and spend the endless hours available to them honing their skills. Teenage years present the perfect opportunity to learn, experiment, sift and sort. Whatever they find interesting — whether it’s writing, philosophy, music, math, sports, or video games — can be a jumping off point for them to discover their own unique preferences.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

In the Peace Unleashed Book Club, we are currently reading Viktor Frankl’s Man Search For Meaning. It feels oddly fitting to be reading this book during this time into ur collective history. The story of how Frankl was able to find meaning and inner connection while living inside Nazi concentration camps feels both relevant and deeply inspiring. It’s a book that, I believe, every person struggling with the events of 2020 should read. Visit www.PeaceUnleashed.com to learn more about this book and our book club.

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. 🙂

At Peace Unleashed, we believe that peace in the world is a reflection of peace internally. The path to world peace is paved through our own individual hearts. This is why we have dedicated our lives to helping individuals find inner peace. We know that until we can find inner peace on an individual level, we cannot find it in the world. If we can inspire you to look inward and seek out the tools that will help you discover the peace that’s already within you, we’ve made the world a more beautiful place, because your inner peace will inevitably trickle out into your family, into your community, and into the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Your entire life journey ultimately consists of the step you are taking at this moment. There is always only this one step, and so you give it your fullest attention. This doesn’t mean you don’t know where you are going; it just means this step is primary, the destination secondary. And what you encounter at your destination once you get there depends on the quality of this one step. Another way of putting it: What the future holds for you depends on your state of consciousness now.”

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

I think this quote beautifully sums up the secret to a full and fulfilling life. Most people, most of the time are unhappy. This is because most people spend most of their time either in the future, where they experience anxiety, or in the past, where they experience regret, guilt, and shame.

If you’ve made it this far into this interview, you are not like most people. Or at the very least, you don’t want to be. The best, easiest, and most effective way I know to be happier is to live in the present moment. Enjoy what you have now, and more of what you enjoy will come to you. This is the law that governs our world. More joy will bring more joy, and more misery will bring more misery. Why not choose more joy?

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

The best way to reach me is through our website: www.peaceunleashed.com or Instagram: instagram.com/peaceunleashed. Be sure to send me a note and let me know what part of this interview resonated with you most.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work.

Thank you! It was a pleasure to participate in this interview.

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