Julia and I talk about stress, creativity, yoga, how to come back after multiple injuries and win a gold medal, the role of stress in elite performance, mindsets, frameworks, how to use yoga for injury prevention and a lot more.
Today I interviewed Joey Greiner. I met Joey through a connection of mine in Paris and we met at Station F, a coworking space in Paris, France. Joey is a DJ so he has a lot to say about creativity. He also created a mobile app called Woojo that helps people meet other people before going to an event that both of them are attending.
Anders Jones is the CEO of Facet Wealth. Facet is building the next generation financial services company focused on helping mass affluent Americans lead better financial lives. They provide dedicated human advisors, supporting by great technology, to clients with less than $500k.
Meditation helps him to find balance in the face of rapid change and knowing when to change based on the current circumstances. It also helps him make better decisions and be more empathetic to the people he is managing.
You will like this episode if you want to learn more about empathetic or service based management, how to start something new which results in stress, or some really good tips for maintaining a daily meditation practice while living a busy life.
Ruben Harris is the founder of the podcast Breaking Into Startups. He started the podcast because he had a lot of people asking him via email for information on how to break into startups so he needed something that he could share with a large number of people.
Ruben has a lot of wisdom to share about the difference between prayer and meditation, how to stay calm when the objective conditions around you are in chaos, how to always be prepared for war, yet still remain calm, how to solve the sticky problem of class barriers, a good morning and weekly routine to remain centered and calm, and a whole lot more.
Demian Rosenblatt is a graphic designer who has done design work for both tech startups and larger organizations. He just recently helped the MTA find their core emotional value and put that into their new branding and design. He has some really interesting insights into how to protect the integrity of the design while interfacing with multiple stakeholders in large organizations.
You will like this episode if you want to find out the difference between art and design, if you want insights into how to find your purpose, or if you just want to hear a voice full of joy and creativity (Demian has one of those voices). You will also like it if you are interested in the question: "What is the connection between stress and creativity?".
You can find more examples of Demian's work on his Instagram here
Kari Sulenes is a doctor in clinical psychology and has spent the majority of her life learning how to provide high performers with mental health services that they uniquely need. Most recently she started the Atlas Project which gives founders of high growth companies access to a team of highly trained mental health professionals to get them through the inevitable dark times of entrepreneurship.
We talk about Kari's meditation practice, benefits of meditation, distinctions on work-life balance, how to find your purpose in life, how to focus on high leverage activities, the connections between business and mindfulness.
Why you should listen to this episode:
Andy started taking pictures of yogis around the world in 2012. Anyone who spends time with people devoted to a yoga practice has a lot of interesting stories to share. Andy does not disappoint. The New York times even did a piece on his work.
There is so much valuable info here in terms of yoga's growing popularity around the world. It's like a virus and Andy has a lot of insight into its spread.
Andy's voice is so soothing and melodic. Seriously, listen to this episode just to hear his voice!
If you want to check out more about Andy's work here is a link to his website, which features his new book, Serpent in the Wilderness. The book was recently published by Kehrer Verlag.
Why you should listen to this episode:
Keith Rabois is a tech entrepreneur and investor who has played key roles at PayPal, LinkedIn and Square. He is a contrarian and his views on almost everything are contrary to what is conventionally held wisdom. I find that we can learn the most from contrarians as they have already undergone the cognitive dissonance necessary to find the truth. Why you should listen to this episode:
One of the most powerful lessons I learned from this interview is that Keith is a relentless self-experimenter. Everything he talks about in this interview he has tested on himself. What of the most effective ways to learn is to learn the hard lessons from other people so you don't have to learn them yourself the hard way. Keith offers a lot of wisdom here for you to absorb.
The reason Keith decided to come on the show was because I confronted him about his proselytization of a extreme work ethic and the negative health benefits that comes from that. Keith suggested the book "The Upside of Stress" to me and after reading it I concede that the evidence actually supports Keith's views on stress. This book basically says that the conventional wisdom that stress is harmful is totally crazy. Instead, stress is an inevitable part of being human and that the stress response can be a huge tool for growth when you view stress not as a threat but as a challenge.
We talk a lot about this. We also talk a lot about the evidence behind High Intensity Interval Training and how it can lead to feeling better throughout your life. Keith gives a lot of wisdom about his own HIIT practice and how it helps him to stay productive throughout the day.
Why you should listen to this episode:
Julia has some really great techniques and tips for practicing mindfulness and meditation. She is an experienced teacher and has taught all around the world including in refugee camps.
Julia offers some powerful wisdom about how to operate when surrounded by stress and friction. She does not sugar coat her wisdom and if you value truth you will find it here.
I've found that many people are unaware when they meet truly compassionate and wise people. Julia is one of these people and I ask you to listen closely to the wisdom she has to offer as it is powerful.
Bill Tai is a venture capitalist by profession, a kite surfer by hobby, and he also runs a non-profit dedicated to ocean conservation. He was one of the first people who saw the potential of Bitcoin and is the board director of BitFury. He is an avid KiteSurfer and shares this passion with all he meets. His smile is infectious and he remains humble in his success.
Why you should listen to this episode:
Bill Tai is a very successful entrepreneur and investor. Not only is he successful according to external validators of success, but he is also humble and shares his knowledge and brilliance without expectation of reciprocation. It is a rare gift to be both successful and humble, and our conversation contains actionable wisdom to do this.
Even though my podcast is primarily about meditation and its effect on creativity, we veered into talking about the history of work and how technology is contributing to a lot of change. A fundamental component of mindfulness training is the realization that everything is impermanent and change is the only constant. We are entering a period of rapid change. Bill gives some good insights on how to capitalize on this trend.
I think the most valuable thing I got out of this conversation is that whether rich or poor, you have to find the thing that lights you up on the inside. For Bill, that activity is kitesurfing. It is the keystone activity for which the rest of his life is rejuvenated by. Listen to this episode if you want to find actionable insights into how to find joy in your life.
Julia Plevin is an author and entrepreneur. She is the founder of the Forest Bathing Club in San Francisco. She started studying the mental health consequences that people suffer from when they don't get enough time in nature. After this she decided to dedicate her life to getting people back to a state of nature and thus the Forest Bathing Club was born.
What is Forest Bathing?
She explains how it comes from a Japanese practice called Shinren Roku which literally means luxuriating in nature. It is essentially a practice where you go into nature and do nothing but attend to the present moment. It comes from a period where the Japanese started doing lots of research in the 1980s into the health effects of being in nature and how it lowers the heart rate, levels of cortisol and stress.
When did you first start Forest Bathing?
Julia says she has always loved being in nature, but it was only when she started living in New York that she became aware of the lack of nature and how that would affect her mental health. She started doing her graduate work on the mental health effects of being disconnected from nature in 2015. The forest bathing club was born out of this research.
Is the Forest Bathing club a business?
Forest Bathing is a community organization. They usually do an event that is a co-creative event where people bring something to share with the whole group, an offering back to nature. Sometimes they do charge, but usually it is to ensure that they can afford to make the experience a supportive one for all participants.
When did you first start getting into mindfulness and how does that relate to your love of nature?
Julia says she has been doing yoga since she was 15 years old and was aware of mindfulness, but didn't really know what was. She never wanted to do the meditation at the end of the class. She loved being in nature but she would always be running through. She then started to realize the importance of slowing down and finding that more mindful state of being.
How does it feel to go from spending a lot of time in nature and then back into the city with all its frantic energy?
Julia explains a story of how one day she was running through Sutro park in San Francisco and a guy stopped her and asked her "Do you know why there all these ribbons around the trees here?"She was like "I'm just trying to run here. Don't bother me". He responded by saying that "These ribbons mean they are about to cut down these trees". She became aware of what was going on and realized that someone had to shout at her in order to really pay attention. She says that this man told her about how they planted Eucalyptus in the park 140 years ago and now UCSF (who owns the land) is trying to cut them down. It is feared that they might be looking to build more housing there under the guise of reforestation. She talks about how in order to write her book about Forest Bathing she found a small cabin by Stinson beach and spent time deep in nature every day.
As new communities form new cities or we restore old cities, how do we ensure proper access to nature as a byproduct of living in cities?
Julia says that its important to make space in new cities for nature, but Forest Bathing is actually practiced where the city meets nature. Its the integration of urban and wilderness areas. She brings up an important point that as humans we usually separate nature from urban environments, but we forget that human beings are a part of nature and so is everything we create.
The streets and buildings are all part of nature as well. While in your cabin in Stinson beach, how long would you spend in between times in nature and time spent with other people?Stinson Beach is a beach town in the summer, but Julia was living there during the winter so she didn't have much contact with other people except for a friend who lived up the road. Its also only 45 minutes away from San Francisco so she could also come back pretty quickly.Stewart mentions that the most difficult thing for him when practicing in nature for long periods of time was coming back into an urban environment and being hit by the wave of frantic energy that most people spend their lives in. Most people who live in cities are always on, always under a sympathetic nervous system response.
How do you deal with coming back into the city and the hustle and bustle?
Whenever Julia would find herself coming back to the city and getting stuck in traffic she would look at a tree on the side of the road and this would remind her that she still can find an avenue of relaxation when surrounded by urban chaos.She also mentions that when humans look at nature we go into a soft focus which calms us down as opposed to a hard focus when scanning the environment for danger which many of us are doing all the time. Just looking at nature lowers stress. She would reminder herself that every breath she is taking is nature and all the people surrounding her are part of nature. In times of stress she would continuously repeat this.
In your meditation practice do you use mantra?
Yes she has picked up various practices like this over the years studying with various teachers. One in particular she picked up from Llyn Roberts when working with her for five days in the Hoh rainforest which is the largest temperate rainforest in the world. Llyn wrote a book with Sandra Ingerman. Julia was called to live in the Hoh forest with llyn. She reached out to Llyn about research for the book. There was a synchronicity where Llyn had reserved the dates that Julia wanted to come see her in the Hoh for another client, but that client couldn't actually make it so it worked out perfectly. While in the Hoh rainforest, Llyn gave Julia a few simple mantras. One is "Out of my head, into my body, my heart and the earth". This can be done while putting your forehead into the ground and letting go of thoughts. She has another one that she uses.
She went to Japan and lived with a shegendu monk. Shegendu buddhism is a lineage of Buddhism that holds that nature holds the ultimate truth. If you want to learn you have to go out into nature. The monk asked her "do you feel a connection with the universe?"She said "somedays, but somedays not". This guy also gave her a mantra that she uses with certain hand positions. She says her name out loud and says the date. She says "I'm grateful to be born in a human body. Today I connect to the universe and I aim to use my connection to serve the highest good."This reminds Stewart about the traditional understanding of mantra and how many teachers will argue that you need a mantra in Sanskrit because Sanskrit is a holy language that is able to make all the sounds that a human is capable of making which other languages cannot. Stewart says he doesn't buy into this, but the idea behind mantra was that you connect to a deity through Mantra and Julia's mantra fits this purpose.
Can you describe the feeling you get when you are in nature?
She says she can try and will do so through a story. When she first started writing the book, she was really stressed out about the process of writing and deadlines. She started getting imposter syndrome and questioned who she was to be writing a book about nature when stress was still a constant struggle for her. This feeling of stress became a sort of bullshit meter. She started to use it as a trigger to practice all the techniques she was learning from these people. She learned that its great to learn all these techniques but there is no point where the anxiety will somehow stop for good. It always comes back. Even today when she has a big decision to make she had to go to a redwood grove and just sit on the earth and let it take all the stress. When she uses the practices and techniques they seem to work for what she needs them for.There seem to be two trends for a certain part of millennials: a move back to nature and a tendency to live out of vans.
How do you see both of these trends playing out and connecting together over the next five years?
Julia says that she sees a lot of awakening around the benefits of nature. People are in such a grind all the time. They have stressful jobs and then in order to mask the stress they start drinking or shopping. When people start to spend more time in nature, they realize that they need way less to be happy. All of a sudden instead of stressing out about the job, they find way more joy in what's growing in their backyard. People are starting to wake up and ask themselves the question: What am I doing with my life and why? As people start to move into nature more, Julia questions what will happen to cities.Stewart explains how cities evolved because they centralize knowledge and talent in one geographical location and idea exchange almost happens by osmosis. People are stimulated to innovate in cities. Now with the internet this process is becoming more decentralized. This couldn't happen really with older people because they are used to transmitting ideas person to person, but with people who are younger they are more able to do this on the internet almost naturally. So the necessity of living in a city might change and young people might end up living in nature more. This could be a positive change but might also put stress on natural ecosystems.Julia brings up the point that when people are living in a city they have a much smaller ecological footprint. Stewart explains how self driving cars will also started
What is the main practice or technique you have used the most over the past 30 days?
She says that she does the sun salutation described above pretty much every day.Julia also asks people "What do you get from nature?" People start with saying food, water, and then they eventually realize that they get everything from nature. Then Julia asks people "What do you give to nature?" People usually realize that they never really thought about this.
What do people do when they go forest bathing?
Julia starts by saying that its easier to describe what forest bathing is not. It is not a hike and it isn't being lead in the forest by a naturalist. Some people come regularly, others come just once. Basically on a forest bathing trip they start off with describing where people are geographically. If they are in the Presidio, Julia starts off by explaining what is the cultural, historical and natural environment and its significance. She also talks about where they are cosmically, for example talking about whether we are in a full or new moon. Everyone has an opportunity to share their name, where they are coming from, and an intention for the experience. Throughout the forest bath there is nothing you have to do. You can sit underneath a tree and thats it. As a group, Julia leads different meditations. She leads people into connection with their five senses. There are games and shamanic journeying. It depends on what is going on in the environment. At the end, there is a council where people can share their truth. After this there is a tea ceremony where people drink something from the forest around them. The next one is on the 29th of April with an organization called Kismet.
How did you find your voice on your journey to create Forest Bathing?
Julia says that it has been difficult to find her voice. When you start to share things like mindfulness and meditation, there is no way to do it in without authenticity. There is no other option besides practicing what you preach. Its really hard to find your voice.In the beginning, she would speak one way with someone and then another way with a different person. Part of finding her voice was to speak from a place of authenticity all the time. This is scary.
What is your definition of yoga?
The union of breath, body and movement. Julia says that Yoga is a really powerful way to move energy through her body. She says that Forest Bathing is just one part of the pie. The forest is very grounding and contains an earth energy. She found out that she was actually too grounded and she needed a different energy. She started going to Hot yoga classes to find some more fire energy. This reminds Stewart about the original form of yoga which changed once pictures started to enter the technological milieu. It's pretty clear from the historical record that the yoga we practice today in studios has very little connection with the practice of yoga as it has traditionally practiced. Many people think that the movement side of yoga was actually more of a dance. There was little to no thought put to how the poses looked to an external observer. Julia explains how she is leaving for Guatemala tonight and the retreat she is about to go on.
What will you do on the retreat?
Its a group of reiki healers and there will be a lot of Mayan astrology.
If you have one piece of advice for someone picking up a meditation practice?
Find something that works for you. Its important to find your own voice. When Julia first started training to become a yoga teacher she found that she tried to copy what the instructor said, but instead she realized its important to live the practice so that it comes through you without trying or efforting. That it flows out of you.