187. Ancient Practice of Non-Duality - James Beshara
Can mainstream success not only be NOT everything it's cracked up to be, but leave us feeling worse than we can imagine?
James Beshara has achieved material success to a degree than many of us can only ever imagine, and he attests that it resulted in the most trying period of his life. James is the founder of Tilt, which was sold to AirBNB. He has been an investor in multi-billion dollar companies. He’s the creator of Magic Mind productivity drink. And he has accomplished all of this at only 36 years old.
In this episode he generously shares about how he feels he had been hypnotized into focusing on material success, at the expense of the spiritual growth which had been important to him since he was a small child. He has been deeply involved in Vedantic studies for the past several years, and has found it has given him back the fulfilment that he was erroneously seeking from outward success.
- Don’t take anything for granted, and question everything!
- The lineage of ancient western philosophy (Greek origin) compared to ancient Eastern philosophy, which predates the former by 8,000 years!
- What is the best use of our energy: to go deeply into where we are naturally drawn or to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone?
- Why was the “failure” of his company a beautiful experience for James?
- What is Vedanta?
Check out James’ podcasts, Yoga for Your Intellect and Below the Line.
Thanks for tuning into the meditation conversation.Hop on over to Karagoodwin.com.You can get a free 10 minute guided meditation right on the homepage to help you experience deep levels of peace.I also have lots of resources to learn meditation and to support your practice.And of course by supporting those services you are supporting my work including the production of this very podcast to assist more souls on their path to awakening.Thank you for your support and enjoy this episode.Hello and welcome to the meditation conversation.I'm your host Kara Goodwin.And today I'm so excited to be joined by James Beara.James is a world renowned founder of tilt which was acquired by Airbnb and the creator of magic mind productivity drink.And he's an angel investor of a few multi-billion dollar companies and the host of the podcast below the line.In addition to his business acumen James is passionate about spiritual development and unlocking the mysteries of existence.And this is the main thing that we're gonna dive into here today.So James welcome.It is such an honor to have you here today.
I'm excited about chatting about the stuff that I spend 90% of my time thinking about and about 2% of my time talking about .Yeah we're gonna talk about that too because um I well first let's let's go into your journey before we get too much into that.Um I heard you on another podcast and I it resonated so much with me that I was really excited to have you come on here and share your journey with listeners because you have a very unique journey um but also very relatable.Um and there is this element of the the success that you have been able to to experience.Um but like you say there's your heart is in a different place than than where the the material success is.So we'll get to that but um let's talk about your journey from tech investor to spiritual seeker.
It probably will be very similar for them and and perhaps for you but it is uh really less of a seeking and more of a return of sorts.And that when I was six I I remember being at church and and wanting to be a priest.And um and I'm sure that that was preceded by different thoughts that four or five were a resonance of of stories.I grew up Roman Catholic of of a resonance with these stories about God or about Christ that that were so powerful that I just thought okay well that's the that's the point of life is to think about these big questions and try to find the big answers to these big questions.And then as as life goes on you're convinced no being really good at basketball is important.Yeah.And and you kind of you're like six or seven and I was and and thought like really is that that important And then you're eight nine.You keep hearing the story or you hear school is really important.Our friends are really important.And and I think it's you know we if you don't believe in hypnotism you know go uh go watch a few YouTubes on it.And it is very very real.We can all be hypnotized.And so you hear a message enough.I remember reading a stat that the average American um comes across is subjected to 2,600 advertisements a day.Oh my gosh.Yeah.Billboards on the highway radios radio ads or um TV for rich American watching four to six hours of TV a day social media scrolling.And so no matter how no matter how much mental fors did we think we have enough of another message hitting us again and again is going to hypnotize us.So I whatever age it was uh maybe 14 15 just kind of got pulled into more mundane types of pursuits that uh my father he taught us to in addition to growing up uh Roman Catholic he taught us to meditate taught me to ed eight and it was it's been a continuous through line in his life to have um this unique unique accommodation of of for him meditation and an Eastern thread along with growing up in Dallas Texas a very uh Bible belt.Um and and and obviously a Roman Catholic kind of background.So it was always an interesting mix of spirituality but certainly got the mundane book.So I went and tried to do as well as I could in school tried to uh to do as well as I could for my community and studied development economics.And um I worked in poverty alleviation for for several years in South Africa.And then I discovered tech startups were were a thing not just a thing to do but also that hypnotism of like oh that can be uh more impactful thing to do.Uh at least building software could impact or the nonprofit I was working for at 34 employees.And we were impacting about um 700 individuals and you know building a software startup maybe you could impact 700,000 individuals and and uh and so continued that kind of pursuit.And then while I was running a company with about a hundred employees and my psychology was just breaking my worldview was not serving me well it was like it was like I had a worldview but it was like my the wheels were going in reverse every time I stepped on the gas.
I think it was this worldview of more or less a very selfish egoistic worldview of let me get mine first. And then from that place of stability even from a background of of development economics and uh poverty alleviation there's still this constant bread.And I would wax, Kara.I could wax with the best of 'em with this uh flowery vision of how we were all gonna collectively benefit.But when I look back at 26 year old who's very much like oh that's the card to play.And that is maybe a portion of the equation but the majority of the equation was very much ego engineering financial engineering software build a software startup and you get to have impact and you get to uh have a financial potential financial outcome that that you would seek with a job.And honestly that's just more more ego was like oh there's reverence in what we're doing.And financial freedom.Okay.That's way better than being an investment banker.So it was actually just a knot of of egoism um and really maximal legalism uh to be honest mm-hmm uh to uh to when I look back at at how I was operating and it was like I said as I was pressing the gas forward um the wheels were going in reverse.So it was actually not just like oh this isn't serving me.Uh it was a bit of a recognition and about 18 months of depression a recognition of oh this is actually this worldview of let me get mine first.And then I'll once I'm in stable ground then I'll be able to help others or let me help others.But let me make sure in some form or fashion it it comes back.There's a halo around me.Um or it was I don't trust that I can exist without a whole lot of effort.I don't trust that I can be happy without immense seven days a week pushing just shoulder to the grindstone pushing unless I sacrifice just um you know body and limb.Then I then that's the only way that I can be happy.And it's probably 10 years down the road 30 years down the road.And um and all of those were pieces of of my upbringing.And and it was kind of like this.I had this grand unified um MIS mistaken theory of how I was going to become happy.It was like pulling on different threads in the most dysfunctional way.You know it's like people trying to find the grand unified theory of relativity and and quantum mechanics and no one's quite done it.I had this grand this misapplied mistaken grand unified theory of like this is how I'm gonna be happy.And it's gonna be 10 years on the other side 20 years on the other side of of a lot of work.And it was just um like I said I was going in reverse instead of forward.It was making me less happy.Mm-hmm uh less hopeful.And ultimately what kind of broke it was I just realized in all of this pursuit to achieve stability for myself I was becoming less useful for those around me my wife um my friends I was just waking up each morning feeling like man I am in a nightmare really at least had the the insight to realize this is a nightmare of my own making.I made these decisions.Um the company was failing.I wasn't serving my employees.Certainly you know if you can't serve the employees and build a sustainable company you're not serving your customers I wasn't serving our community.And so I um in the midst of it just had this this two pieces of insight of okay the purpose of life is to be uniquely useful to you those around you and I'm becoming less useful.And the other um aspect was take full responsibility for this lack of usefulness.There was shifts in the marketplace.We'd gotten uh advice and and really uh victims from our board to do a certain to to do certain things.But I really knew now I I was the the biggest um part of this equation and made most of uh I had most of the responsibility.So those two things that full responsibility and this vision or at least this this feeling that purpose for me and maybe for all of us was to to find where we can be most uniquely useful.And I was not being useful.It was really it was probably the least useful I'd ever felt from the outside.I built a company that worth almost $400 million in three years and it looked like I was useful.Um but I knew deep down the this is these are each year.It feels like it's a a big step backwards with this this programming or operating system.
Well I want to know where you went from there but if we can pause for a moment just because I'm I am very curious with what you were talking about with your dad and that knowing where you're going where you in end up you know as far as the Vedantic studies and things um the Roman Catholic I I wanna pull that thread a little bit with you having this foundation of Catholicism and that real to spirituality um at a young age.And it's interesting that you brought in hypnotism in that thread too because of course um with a lot of like dogmatic religion there is a lot of hypnotism and mind control in that you know where we keep hearing the same things and they're you know they're maybe not to our high.Maybe they're not the highest truth.Maybe they're not the most beneficial for people to grow.Um I wonder what if you can remember back to being young and being so drawn to to immersing yourself in that life as an adult like projecting into adulthood and thinking I want that to be my life as an adult I want to go full in as my you know service.Um was there anything in there like in in that tenderness of that time did what you were learning did it feel did it resonate with you all as true or were there times where it was like well I'm not sure this is quite right.I feel like when we're children even when we're indoctrinated in that sort of environment there's a part of us.That's like well that's not quite right.Or that doesn't feel right.Or I don't know.I'm curious.Did did you have anything like that or was it like yep.Everything you're telling me.
That's such an interesting question.I it would be so hard for me to to really know because it was 30 years ago now um in terms of specifics but in terms of generics yes I there was a um I think a honestly a lot of it resonated with me at six.I I just and maybe it was because my mind was fully formed around that with that as the basis and and to uh great um spiritually oriented parents.Um there was obviously a a lot of it that did not make sense.Um and and to this day it's I now I I it's actually returning to that six year old uh okayness with it not making sense.Mm-hmm now I think in my twenties I think I I need to find something that made complete sense now at you know mid thirties.I I love the wondrous aspects if if there is a source that I trust to be more uh just more wise than myself I'd say if that and that's a big if but if there is a source that through just personal experimentation like okay this feels I've seen this person has been right like and actually encourage questioning like you it it's.My my favorite spiritual teacher is uh is a a guru an author spiritual teacher a Molo India named Swami.Partha he's he's maybe the most uh acclaimed Vedanta teacher and and you know living right now.And he I was just with him two weeks ago in India.Uh and he is 95 years old.And and it's uh it's a blast to to to be with him.It's it's crazy how much vitality has at 95.But uh two of the things that he says for any spiritual practice is that um every day don't take anything for granted and question everything mm-hmm and those are it's a beautiful interplay between the two.Yeah.Because it's don't take anything for granted this time we're having right now Uhhuh um our opportunity to have a conversation.Don't take that for granted but question everything.It's kind of like don't take anything for granted.That's gotten us to this this place you're at the beach.Don't take anything for granted as you look around but then question everything is almost like now going forward the extremely mindful extremely thoughtful extremely aware maybe the best word um of what path you're gonna take question everything question what yeah.What you might wanna say versus what is the truth and and not even prescriptively do one or the other but just question it um or even maybe more deeply um question a philosophy that's being given to you.And don't do not just say okay I'm gonna blindly accept this or that.Um and and having said that the same individual the same uh author might write something that I'm like I man that's a that seems super paradoxical.Sometimes I would just put it out on a shelf fact he'll say put things on a shelf.You don't get it.Mm-hmm but then sometimes it'll actually be this uh wonderment of how can that be true Because I in years that so much of this has ended up being paradox seemingly paradoxal and its so true experientially this probably is another one of those moments now how how could that be true Because I I intellectually it doesn't make sense.And I think going back to when I was six I think it was very much the same and it was it doesn't make sense to me but man this is this is some far out stuff.There's this thing outside of me that created this this world there's this thing outside of me that is permanent and everything around me is growing or dying.It's just in the process of change and there's something that's permanent not only that exists but there's something that's permanent that I could orient my life around and therefore have permanence.I I imagine specifically there were questions but generically um that type of theme that you know hooked me when I was young I'm sure six year old me was like I do not care if Jonah was actually in a whale or not.This larger story is fascinating.Mm-hmm .And I think similarly um today I my wife and I would go to uh a non-denominational Christian Church and here in in Santa Monica each Sunday and much of the sermon might not resonate with me.Mm-hmm but when they start talking about this price figure saying these these paradoxical things that do resonate with me I'm like wow there's probably probably some truth into this uh human this likely more than just human uh maybe maybe realized partially realize who knows mm-hmm but this extremely wise human for us to still be talking about what he said 2000 years ago.Maybe there's something something there and and you go you follow those threads and and maybe a lot of it isn't very interesting but some of it is like the concept of a Gothic love that that I feel like resonates with our DNA.Um no matter who you are.Yeah.And you know remove a figure with baggage out of the equation and and just uh you know Google a Gothic love for a few minutes.It'd be pretty hard to to for it not to resonate within our within our I mean I live quite literally our biology our DNA our how we have operated in our our communities.And mm-hmm seen harming now we've operated in our communities and seen seen conflict.
Well thank you for that.That's very insightful.And it's and and you're right.It's it's hard to go back.It's hard to really immerse ourselves back 30 years and and truly be able to speak to where we are.Um and I think and I resonate with there are threads of things throughout that keep us like okay that resonates that resonates.I I feel like I remember being a child in church and and a lot of the stories getting lost on me like with a historical context a lot of it you know big words that that were not so easy for me to understand the context.
There there's that old adage uh the prophet must speak the language of the people.Yeah.And that's not just English.That's really understanding the language um that that uh will resonate most that will be received best by that audience.Right.And it's part of me says that that's a lot of work.
Yeah.True.And and everybody speaks a different language not meaning literally the language but this is something that I wanna get to in a little bit too.But you know with maybe you know you clearly have more of an intellectual bent and the way to your spiritual nourishment is through the intellect.Like you've got to understand it.There are people as simpler minds who can't go as deeply with the intellect as you can but they can get to it more through the heart or devotion or music or art or you know right.
Um because it is certainly the theme of of my Modus Operandi each each day. And in fact the the uh my iPad is sitting on top of four copies of Vedante.Tru is just the closest the closest thing that uh is my favorite book to give out to people.Um and in that it it's uh by the the author that I mentioned previously but the um within within Indian philosophy which Western philosophy the first Western philosopher was um Bailey's and and uh Greek philosophies Bailey's is largely seen as the first Western philosopher.Um and that was about 600 BC Indian philosophy uh VA the Vatas um the Opana shots.Um but Vata Vata philosophy was it was about 8,000 years old at that point.Wow.At that point at that point.Wow.And we don't really know um east and west uh just it's it measuring dates just wasn't that important to them also being authors of a philosophy was not important to them.It actually goes against it's in somewhat in conflict with the the philosophy to egoistically say like this is my uh contribution.It's more like let me contribute whatever I can.Um but not necessarily with my name stamped on it.So there there was no necessarily first Vadanta thinker there was a culmination of these uh these scriptures and they were translated or they were uh trans essentially communicated orally for thousands of years.We don't really know when they started.And then they were uh written down um about 5,000 years ago.So uh by again five to 7,000 years ago cause we don't really know and written Sanskrit correct.That's right.Written in Sanskrit mm-hmm so uh written in and that's so fascinating uh factoid about it is because the philosophy not only was so thas was uh 600 BC then you have uh philosophers like Socrates that obviously breaks from previous schools of thought yeah.Plato that breaks from Socrates Aristotle that breaks from Plato and this great lineage of people essentially breaking from the previous.It might have been their direct teacher.Um and and you have each philosophy that lasts maybe a few hundred years if it's really lucky stoicism uh Socratic philosophy uh platonic philosophy if it's really lucky a few hundred uh a few hundred years of of a quote unquote lineage but in Indian philosophy ORIC philosophy it's now about 10,000 years in and it's continual and it's not just continual.Um it also and I wonder this question and I had there are a handful of theories but wonder this question all the time of why wasn't until I was 26 before I even heard about Eastern philosophy has had real philosophy's to take seriously you you know study world philosophy um 1 0 1 even today universities it's gonna primarily be Western philosophy.Yeah.And uh and it's quote unquote starts with the Greeks but the uh the other interesting continual thread isn't that it's just these thinkers um expounding and and continually building on previous thinkers within uh the VA philosophy uh philosophical tradition.But it's also like you said it's all the same language sanscript for 10,000 years and it's not oh this is what that Greek word meant in context back then and now it's been translated into like Christ's first words setting translated into first public words translated into uh Greek and then translated again into Latin.And now we know um that St.Jerome when you match um the Greek versions of of Christ's first public words uh met to Noe uh to the Latin version um we all grew up kind of thinking he said repent and actually met to Noe is actual at least the Greek we that as best we know the Greek um translation Mette means transform your mind and repent versus transform.That's actually that's a significant difference.
And Happens because of a mistranslation that may have been completely uh innocuous but ends up with a very different tenor.
But really if you think of the roots you know repent rethink re you know think again which would be transform your thoughts.I hadn't really thought about that because of the way that we use repent in the religious tradition.
And well repent would be yes. Rethink transform your mind or met and can also be translated overcome your mind.
And not Just not just change your thoughts but overcome your thoughts.
And not just change your mind Transform but overcome your mind.
And that's So much and That's so much more powerful Right.For me I'd say.And and maybe that doesn't uh resonate with with someone else but for me
No that gives me full body chills
A very different uh a very different attitude towards Christ first public words.But I say all that to say that within the scriptures uh there's four classical yogas.There's the Hatha yoga which we all know is the the physical yoga uh then there's karma yoga, bhakti yoga and Yana yoga.And maybe your listeners know of of all of these but the three the primary primary I'd say spiritual youngest are karma, bhakti and Yana.Those are just sanscrit words.That just mean action.Even though we think of karma as like a reward system it's it's primary uh use in this context as just action. Bhakti's devotion which you touched on and Yana is intellect but within the scripture it's also very clear that it's a combination of all three.You might might have the simplest mind where the act the simplest scripture would say actually try a really difficult yoga pose.That is a that's for the simplest.And it kind of moves from simplest to most subtle or the the kind of grosses to most subtle.And for someone honestly maybe even like karma action isn't what they need.They need to tame their compulsion.And you know doing physical yoga is a great way to to tame and contain your compulsion.But then you have something like karma action you have BTI devotion and then Yana which might be the intellect but it is it just the the scriptures are very very clear that even the most intellectually wired person requires karma.It requires action.Mm-hmm like the the the I know I always think about the greatest one of the greatest uh saints within the end in philosophy of of the last couple thousand years uh Shara he was known as the the intellect intellect.Like he was the intellectuals intellectual and yet he was building hundreds of schools orphanages like he had immense amount of service.So it was mm-hmm he was both the um you know the Socrates and the mother there of his time.So I I think it's a mix of of all of them.
And this is something that I did want I wanted to talk about as well because I because we have those four branches that you talked about and I think it it would depend well in my opinion it would depend on the individual.We all have our own life path.We have you know like a an a fingerprint perhaps or a footprint that we come in with where if we wanna think about that as past life karma or you know our our life's purpose or what we're here if we wanna think of earth as a school what we came here to learn or accomplish on a soul level.Um some of some people I think are going to like just naturally be able to absorb more of those four or express more of those four each of those four branches.For some people they may be on a different um part of their journey where it's just one you know it's like I'm just here to serve.That is what I'm really focused on.That's why I'm here.Um and I wonder about your How how will they know how to serve best Well I'm this is the thing is that I don't I wonder how much of it is the need to intellectually know for every single person and how much of it is.So we've got you talked about like you may have inherent strengths or you may have inherent like places where you're already taking your um your you know for example if we stay with the service like maybe it just is very natural people like to vol somebody likes to volunteer.It's just a very natural giving sort of way that they've always expressed themselves.So if they're wanting to be more deliberate about their spiritual evolution kind of using the Vedantic philosophy what are your thoughts about whether they kind of stay in where they're comfortable and naturally drawn and sort of go deep in that in that sort of not lineage but that quadrant versus sometimes we get stagnant when we're too comfortable.And we're actually here to expand and to kind of explore out just on the edges of our comfort zone which may take us into more of a like you you gave that example with the Hathe yoga like maybe you know for somebody who has a compulsive nature they need to master their body more.Um I don't know.I cuz I I kind of go back and forth where it's like do you go where you're more naturally drawn or is that part of the evolution with with pedantic studies I don't know.
Well it's uh it is it's a it's a really interesting question because it is um it gets to what to do mm-hmm and that is a question that all of us ask ourselves what to do and you might have the best intentions of I you know it's I think that there is so I we I just started a podcast called yoga for your inlay mm-hmm .And I started with my teacher Joseph who's uh he's been studying and teaching Benon for a couple decades and but he uh grew up in Texas like me.And so it's it is.And he he and I both surf so it is very conversational and yet he and I both the only topic we really uh maybe surfing but then the real topic we wanna talk about is is spirituality and and is uh all oriented towards what is the goal.And the goal for us is uh the goal for myself is waking up.And um and so if that's the goal then everything really ladders up to that.And for someone that might be more service oriented action oriented I'm always building building things.I I can't stop myself from starting companies from building things I'm very action oriented um and action being you know that conduit when it's in the right point in the right direction service.And and I think someone else might be very service oriented that is in the midst of volunteering but actually what I have seen in the nonprofit realm over and over again burnout happens in the nonprofit realm faster than it happens in the tech realm really.Oh it is it is a it's like a cliche that someone is gonna start with a lot of this fervor and excitement to jump in as a volunteer which is the worst because then they really all they have to go on is their idea of how they're gonna just most of the time how they're gonna feel so good from service.And and again it might be the best intentions but it's only a matter of time before two months in three months into that volunteer work where like Hey James I know I had this commitment.I had volunteers um roll up to me and at my nonprofit that I worked on it's like Hey James I know I had this commitment or this Thursday but this thing came up Hey James I know we had this commitment on Saturday but uh so and so in my family is sick and it's just like okay this is this is an arc.I've seen a thousand times and it's happening right now.They're piecing out.So how can you make service energy action energy And this is phonically.This is uh a definit.The definition of right action would be that which generates energy and energy basically action.That generates energy.That takes a lot of devotion and intellect to really know oh this is action.That is gonna generate energy.And part of that is to what you're touching on your nature what action where and that's why I love the question of where can you be uniquely useful Mm.Each word is so powerful.There is.And is by design uniquely useful not where can you be useful today and S 17 different directions but where you Kara can you be uniquely useful in a way that the five people to your to your right the five people to your left oh they're not built that way to be useful in this way.And that takes a lot of understanding of yourself.That actually is a lot of reflection.Mm-hmm that is a lot of listening.And the intellect is that that takes a lot of intellectual horsepower to say you know what I'm so busy doing this morning.I actually am just gonna sit and listen.Mm-hmm I'm gonna listen to whether whether it's a sermon a lecture uh a podcast but I'm actually I'm actually gonna listen to it.And maybe as a podcast you listened to two weeks ago you got you you knew it it hit you like a ton of bricks but you also knew you were driving.You're doing dishes you were working out you were in you were volunteering whatever it was you were.So in the mode of action you weren't able to employ the intellect.I'm happy to tell you the the very quick 32nd line on on what the intellect is but um you weren't able to employ the intellect say you know what this hit me like a a ton of breaks.I'm actually gonna carve out time to really listen to it again and and maybe really listen to it for the first time.Then it's five times more powerful.In fact in in uh some of the Nevada tic scriptures they'd say it's a hundred thousand times more powerful to reflect than it is to listen.Mm-hmm and listening is its own.That it's so difficult.Mm-hmm uh to and its own right.And it's a hundred thousand times more powerful to reflect.Okay.And listen then I'm actually gonna reflect on the three takeaways that I loved in that podcast for three days in a row.That's the intellect being employed to say okay I'm actually gonna stick with I'm not gonna jump from exciting thing to exciting thing cuz I know there was something there was a deep well there that I tapped into mm-hmm but instead of escaping into the next podcast and the next message and the next goodie bag that maybe lights me up inside but I'm not getting much out of it.Cause I don't remember three weeks later much less three years later I'm actually gonna say no I'm gonna stick with this for three mornings in a row.And just reflect after you know that first morning of really listening mm-hmm then that's four days that might help you and your path of realizing okay where can I be uniquely useful And in that orientation it's kind of like a you know the rocket that is misaligned by three inches in at the end headed to the moon it's fine.But the rocket that's misaligned by three inches at launch is a hundred thousand miles off course by the time it gets anywhere close to the moon.So I'd say karma is one of the most action service.Feel free to not use any of the S for terms but action and service.That's one of the most important realms to employ the intellect um or BTI being devotion.What is this service for Christianity's modern.Christianity's very devotional.Um what is this service for if you can't employ the devotional side of oh this is for the Christ that I love that I know and love that I'm learning to love more.That is very much stepping out of service or action plopping food at the food bank and going in and and potentially getting to burnout feeling bored feeling tired feeling like I'm not getting much out of this.Like I used to the first three weeks you dip into devotion or you dip into intellect of oh maybe I could volunteer at the food bank but maybe there's something that I can uniquely do that maybe the people on my left and right can't do.And that might be energy generate.
And I I love pulling it back to like the energetic piece to it because when we think from a physics perspective or from like a a even chemical perspective you know when we make up the the human entity there's an electrical piece and there's a magnetic piece and we can equate those to intellect you know thinking mind and the emotional body.And it is often said that the emotional body is that magnetic piece to us that helps to draw more of what we want.And you know more of that devotion more that juice you know that's going mm-hmm keep us wanting to learn more because there's something inherent that is um helping to feed that drive.
If you really saw that.
Well I'll just say like peon level you know I've been very much like peon level but um but I you know I I have come from you know business degree working for like blue chip companies and and very like material world uh background.And and then you know a few years ago now had an a had a an awakening or kind of a rolling awakening um where I opened more and more and more and more to the the mystery of life and to things like the you know the YOIC studies and the uh Phil philosophical studies and and um and some of the the metaphysical things as well.Um but for me the intellect was almost because I have a very rational mind.There have been times where it has almost been a hindrance because I I have tended to view things as so black and white you know and it's like always this or is it my imagination Or did I just see a flash of light you know in in meditation right.Or was it this or this And you know a really um powerful mentor that I had kept trying to break me of that.And it was like yes you know every time I was like was it this or this It was like yes.
And I love that if I if I ever wrote a spiritual book and be called the gospel of both because I I agree.I think it these things are both.Yeah.And and we are so wired to find no no no it's gotta be one or the other when so much of it is oh no there's some good in here.There's some bad in here.
Yes.And and it is so it's but it's things like that where it's like well you can't it can't be black and white.How can you tell me it can be black and white How can that be my imagination and real you know all of these and I I have a hundred examples like that where I would just bang my head against the wall.Like it can't be both you know Right.But it's because I have this rational logical mind about the the physical laws in which we live in this dimension on this planet you know and how do things work And it's been this softening at the this continued softening and surrender into the the unknown into the mystery into this humility of of relearning of the possibilities and and kind of in a lot of ways wiping the slate clean and saying you know some of this is just gonna have to be trust where like my intellect can only ex like my rational mind can't get there you know with with some of the things you can take that even on the metaphysical where you know some of the things that that they're um that they're looking at when you when you do start going down some of the experiments like how can a particle be a wave and or how can a light be a wave and a particle How can it be both but it's it's just depends on who's observing it and what they wanna see.Like how how can that be You know but it's this suspension of like of what we think we know.And but anyway it's been a relearning for me.A lot of my uh growth has come through having to relax my intellect and and let go a little bit intellectually.And then there's that emotional piece to it or or the feeling piece to it that I've I've had to like open up to and trust more where it's like just this like even if I can't explain it I can feel it.And I know it whether that's a truth whether it's an actual sensation to do with meditation or or whatever it is.Um and so I wonder if if any of that resonates with you with with this because you know when you talk about for example the uh the devotional piece you know it's like for me that would be more of like bringing in the emotion more of bringing in the mag the magnetic of it and just the feeling and kind of surrendering the the need to intellectually understand and just having there be a connection.
Well they it's you're certainly touching on uh areas that I think many of us um have experienced.And that is that is this this place where um in many ways we try to articulate our way through problems and and a lot of times it's experiential.In fact one of the things that that I I think about often is and you you asked about that comfort that that um balance of comfort and discomfort.I think a lot of these things are are very related.And the reason they they seem related to me is uh really actually touching on a very exacting kind of part of what you mentioned intellect.We have a lot of baggage with that with that word here in the west.Um and intellect means oftentimes intellectuals but I'd say intellectuals are more like intelligence.They have immense anyone could have uh immense intelligence and and not be able to pull that into experiential.Knowing you might have the intelligence that there is poison uh underneath your sink with a toddler crawling around.I might tell that to you and you not do anything about it.I'll be like okay James thanks for telling me all right bye.Close the door.Like no no that's there's a lot of anthrax right Under your sink.And that's super easy for a your maybe you got a toddler in the house you have the intelligence but you are not doing anything with it.You may even intellectualize it like wow how much could that how much anthrax is that What could that kill and not have it actually uh flow into your actual experiential knowing of like oh now I get it.And intellect the Sanskrit word is BTI which is similar root for BTA awaken the awaken one and the BDI which is uh is so much more than just inflect.You can think about it also like awareness.So not like you hear like oh uh the which is very NNI.It's very um NNI yoga.It's very uh intellect yoga driven especially um uh the a book likeon treat us.It has all three.Uh it has uh extreme importance for for action service for devotion and for the intellect the intellect isn't the uh sci the scientists in the lab in 1981 that is an intellectual that listens to NPR.Um you could be complete moron in terms of how to design uh your life how to help others and still be an intellectual.This would be more like awareness.In fact one of my favorite definitions of intellect is uh same definition you could give to wisdom is the capacity to see the end in the beginning.Ooh.And so the definition of intellect is far closer to a word like awareness.Cultivating intellect is cultivating awareness.It's cultivating this uh capacity to see oh this thing that I'm doing is not gonna serve me very well within two hours much less two or three weeks us five years.That intellect is the thing that that awareness um growing that awareness it's like a muscle and it needs to be invested in but the more you invest in it the more you build it the more you build that muscle the more you can draw on it to help you with that.Maybe it's related to service.Maybe it's related to action or maybe it's related to okay one drink I'm driving.I really shouldn't have a second drink.It could be related.And it often is so related to the very mundane aspects of our lives of mm.Maybe I shouldn't tell that white lie because it could come back and it could destroy the trust that I have with this coworker.Just not worth it.That's the intellect.It's not the scientist that has uh that has just donated $10,000 to to NPR.It is much more of the awareness of oh wow I have this immense devotion to money and I'm doing all of these things for money.I've got this attachment to to well or name fame status power attachment to this other person.Maybe I should check that a little bit or I enjoy I loved that that sermon or that lecture or that podcast.Maybe I should listen to it again because I I know me and I probably will forget within five days what I loved about it.That's that awareness.That's the intellect.
And it I I would like to follow that thread just with the last few minutes that we have here because you have this unique experience where you know by all Western standards you know you've achieved enormous success um all by the tender age of 35 or are you 36 now 36 right 36.And yet you know listening to you now and listening to the interviews that I've listened to um with you it's it's clear that spirituality is is filling your cup more than anything else.So the majority of our population can only dream of experiencing the type of experience material experiences that you've had with business.Um and yet what lights you up is something that's accessible to every single person.So I don't know what you make of that dichotomy.
And uh and those I really I re I am so thankful for that all of the times where things blew up.In fact that's far more valuable.In fact when I was running my my company that that into this story is in three years take it to a $400 million valuation at 26 and 18 months later we sold it for a basically a fire sale to Airbnb and a fraction of that.And I'm so I haven't learned anything and I've been a lucky investor and I've been a uh a lucky collaborator and a few projects but I haven't learned anything much from investing really.And by being a tip of the spear of creating and it completely blowing up ah it's just the most it was the most beautiful experience because it did highlight.I had all of these things on paper the same things.I uh I guess I might check boxes now but I had them in uh in ways 10 years ago.And I saw how meaningless it really how not even meaningless just how little they did for me in terms of happiness.And like I said I was checking these boxes and external validation or um things on paper but I was becoming less and less useful.I mean it it was noticeable.Mm-hmm like I I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning.Oh wow.Didn't want to go into the 15 meetings.I had just imagine just how someone looks and feels uh vibrationally energetically when they don't wanna be in one meeting much less 15 every day.I was I was uh yeah certainly not being useful and it was getting worse.And I knew it.I I really knew that it was going in the wrong direction.Almost all of Carl Young's uh work and psychoanalysis came down to the observation that people are are uh depressed when they feel stuck and usually stuck in an existential situation.They do not know how to it's okay to be stuck to be in an existential crisis and you know how to get out of it.It's I mean if you have the solution to a problem you no longer have the problem.It's when you're stuck and you do not know how to get out.That's when um when things feel dire it's even worse.I take it a step further than say when every move you're making is making it worse you're getting more and more stuck.Um I'm so thankful that I had that experience in a modicum of awareness to realize uh that this is of my own doing.I probably need to reorient myself.I I didn't finish that that chronology but I started to listen to a lot of Alan Watts um on just on YouTube.
Yeah.26 probably for four years listened to two or three hours a day.So it was a couple thousand hours of listen every one of his lectures 30 times over and uh every audio book and beautiful British philosopher a great bridge uh between intermediary between the east and west and the forties fifties and sixties to British um Episcopalian priest actually and then moved to the us and and uh and then moved to San Francisco was just unbelievable articulate philosopher and intermediary.But then after four years in his last year of his life he was there was an interview and he never talked about his own metaphysics.He never said what his own influence was.And he's uh if you if anyone wants to search Alan Watts on YouTube you could just search by you know view count and watch these unbelievably articulate lectures.A lot of there's this whole like cottage industry of people adding 'em to music and it's beautiful um four or five minute clips of of his melodic voice.And and so you can get lost in it for thousands of hours like I did.And but he and with him never mentioning his own influence influences his right his own um kind of subscription.And in this interview the last year of his life this interviewer asked so what are your influences What are your primary influences Um today And this is the year he died.And he said my primary influences are advice addon and Roman Catholicism.No kidding.Yes.Both of them were were a surprise to me because he spent all of his time talking about Eastern philosophy.So the Roman Catholicism and he was an Episcopalian priest.So that took me by a surprise but the invite to Madon piece I was like wait what is this Madon thing Oh and cuz he talks so much more mentions terms like Z or doism Buddhism so much more.And yet this is you know the latest in his life that you could get a snapshot of.And he's saying goodbye to and he's at that time one of the most prominent uh explorers of all of Eastern philosophy I okay I've gotta check this stuff out.And a month later went to uh a hotel on the little placard in the hotel it said yoga 8:30 AM.And this is in this is four years into this exploration to this rewiring reorientation to um a psychology that was working for me.We ended up selling the company ended up starting to invest.Everything was just becoming far more uh effortless.In fact by that that concept of of material wealth is 10 X.Since I started orienting myself towards uh I think for me a healthier psychology and philosophy.My appreciation of Christianity is also probably 10 X my uh effort full in each day.It's probably decreased by 10 X 10%.I mean I it is uh was it I think it was the row that said whatever you do do it lightly.Everything just feels much lighter because of a much healthier psychological worldview.Um but at this hotel I see uh 8:30 AM yoga 9:00 AM yoga for your intellect.And I was like damn what is what is yoga for your intellect I've gotta go check that out.This is four years into thousands of hours of Allen Watson.And I just knew there was something brilliant there and went there and and uh this the same yoga go to the yoga first and then go to the yoga for your intellect.And the same guy walks over to a whiteboard and say oh you wanna join this class too great sits down.He puts on the board three letters B M I body mind inflect said okay well we'll we're gonna go through yoga for your intellect.And it all starts with these three equipments that all humans have you've been told and you everyone knows that you've got a body a body one knows that you've got a mind the central contribution of this philosophy Viant and I was like holy shit oh this is Viant.This is a month later.I I'm lightly looking into it.And he he says the central contribution of this PHUs ancient Indian philosophy Viant is that you also have this other internal equipment in addition to a mind and it is all the intellect the intellect undeveloped your mind runs wild like a four year old driving a Ferrari intellect.When honed when developed that is someone that can conquer the world.So few people develop the intellect and it's because there isn't a philosophy in the world that even tells you you have an intellect.And yet every one of us knows we use phrases like mindset.What sets the mind uh frame of mind well what frames the mind And so he goes through this and I'm like oh my God not only is each one of these points making sense of body mind like the you know you have these these aspects where you you know you have this higher self telling the lower self what maybe this isn't the right thing to do.And you know it resonated experientially.It also it was this beautiful mix of known and unknown.And that's to your an to your question of comfort and discomfort.I think we always we always benefit from that that beautiful brilliant line right on the known and the unknown.Mm.And that comfort and discomfort in fact flow state is actually designed uh defined as this um ever dynamic challenge of familiarity and novelty of known and unknown.Oh comfort and discomfort.And it's ever dynamic challenge.Meaning the challenge is always right outside your your uh your grasp that's that's when we are the most dynamic that's when we're flowed that's when we forget the world even exists we're just lost in whatever we're writing or the game we're playing or the the conversation we're having.Mm-hmm it's on the right side of healthy challenge.So it's just on the right side of uncomfortability.It's just on the right side of unknown too much of it.And it's overwhelming too little of it.And that comfort six weeks on the beach drinking my ties you'll be as big of a disaster as you would be six weeks into a project that's too overwhelming but all of it came kind of crashing down in this conversation with um or really all of it came talk about grand unified theory of all these different things.I was thinking about loved of Buddhism doism Christianity uh Platonism Socratic philosophy of just knowing service felt so good to me knowing devotion to a cause higher than me felt so good to me.And then it all kind of unified into this body mind intellect intellect is this other internal equipment that um we don't develop and no other school of of philosophy not out of like a narrative thing I'm just kind of wonderment.Why doesn't any other philosophical school talk about this Um and but on's been talking about it for 10,000 years.We do see bits of it in in Western philosophy young the higher self of the capital S self mm-hmm uh Arthur schau ums famous German idealism is basically Viant but maybe 50 years of excavation a hundred years of excavation versus maybe what are the German philosophers like cont or uh or British philosophers like Barkley would maybe they'd figure out in a lineage of a couple hundred more years but it's they're very similar area codes.So we see pieces of this.Um but I had never heard it said so succinctly and and I said okay next step.Next unknown is for me to buy this book Don to trade us.And then from there uh six years later it's every day and and every day it's this beautiful unfolding.
Thank you for for taking us through that.
I I think it's important for us to to make sure we make time for that.
It's really uh It's been my Joy.Like I well it it is a like I said I never get to talk about this stuff and it's all I really think about.So except for that's why I started uh with Joseph who was that teacher that wrote BMI body mind intellect on the the whiteboard chatted with him every week for six years.And then earlier this year we started yoga for your intellect podcast and and just built around our weekly conversations.So um that's when I do get to indulge but the um but yeah the the three minute overview of uh Viant means non-dual end of knowledge.It's just Sanskrit words.It's not um we get I think we can get lost in in foreign exotic sounding words but it just means uh non-dual end of knowledge.And non-dual meaning not not two not necessarily one because one could imply a border.Um infinite isn't necessarily one.That's why one does not equal infinity but it is not two.It's not dualistic and it's not separate.So even previously when I said good and bad things have good and bad into 'em there's this concept that the world is made up of opposites of good and bad or uh hot and cold whatever the opposites are.But ultimately Viant says as you progress through philosophical reflection you realize there is no distinction.There is no black and white.There just is.Um there is no Supreme being that's separate from us Supreme being isn't announced it is a verb and it is that which you can tap into.In fact that is what that is our natural state.
That that is really powerful Supreme.Well and that's that's one of the the ways that you can think about non-dual is that it's it's not necessarily a descriptive an adjective for a noun.It's more of a way of operating to where it is not to there isn't you and me mm-hmm similarly as it ladders up to this concept of a Supreme being it's not only not separate from you and I but Supreme being itself is not announced.
It's an experience.Yeah.
And it's what that that is our natural state.The um it is when we get caught up in dualistic thinking we fall from this there is that fault that separation Diablos uh root of the word uh you know diabolical and uh the root of Greek word for Satan Diablos is actually thrown apart separated.Oh so so the um the three minute overview of of Adonis.So it Vonta means end of knowledge culmination of knowledge.Also it's the end of the VAs where the philosophical aspects of the VAD philosophy VAD scriptures are are held cause Theves has ever ever it's everything from medicines to cooking to hunting.It's basically all culture written in these four BES but the end of the betas is um the philosophy to the worldview how to view the world in which you're going to cook serve hunt.And that philosophy Beon uh basically is three.Think of it like a if it was a metaphorical book and it would have three chapters in it first chapter would basically be that the world uh a life is a stream of experiences.It's all a life is that's what the ancient thinkers really identified or or defined a life is a stream of experiences.And within a stream of experiences you have a unit of an experience and within an experience that you and I might have there is the subject.And then the environment there is you and the room that you're in you and the wave you're surfing the the weather that you know is outside of you know the drive that you're on there's you and the environment with an experience to make it a great experience.You could focus on changing that environment um trying to change the weather trying to change a wave or you could focus on changing that subject instead of going externally and trying to change.I'm gonna get a bigger house gotta get better job gotta basically pushing back away.There's just so many variables in that outside environment to try to change um compared to like trying to straighten the dog's tail.Just always there's more to that's gonna come.You know you might with a lot of energy twenties thirties forties when you're young we can maybe try to get it as good as we as we as we possibly can but then we get older and it just life comes crashing out that wave um cannot be pushed back any further or you can focus on the subject change the subject to improve the experience.And Benon would say it's far more efficient to focus on change that subject change yourself in that scenario um to where instead of just it miserable pushing up that that bar at the gym you're realizing man I'm getting stronger cuz of this resistance that work experience that is so hard is an absolute burden for you that is actually making you more useful for those around you.So that is kind of the first chapters you could focus on the the environment or the subject far more efficient to focus on the subject within the subject.I already mentioned that maybe the central contribution of Edon is um that within that subject within yourself you got a body a mind and an intellect and that you have this other inner equipment beyond just a mind your mind runs wild but you actually have an equipment called the inte intellect to help gather it.And without you'd rather not have a powerful mind you'd rather not have a four year old in the you know driver's seat of a Ferrari.Um you'd rather have like a four year old in a driver's seat of like you know a little pretend car.Yeah.Um than to have no intellect and a powerful mine.We all kind of know those characters.Mm-hmm with no intellect and powerful minds.They end up doing things that are either self-destructive or communally destructive.But the um the development of the insight is a daily a daily exercise a daily investment with just maybe it's two pages a day of uh spiritual texts that you love that speaks to you with X day you're investing in it.I read Viant treatise every morning.Um and that development of the intellect then is the key to developing that subject.That then is the key to making that experience better.If you can kind of go backwards in that in that book.But the third chapter of the book um and the end of this metaphorical book is uh according to Valant is that all of this is an illusion.The whole world is an illusion and Valant because it has its roots five to 10,000 years old more likely to the to the latter 10,000 years of of this concept of all of the world is an illusion.All of the universe our experiences are an illusion.Um it's the source of all Eastern philosophy uh Hinduism as a culture is built on and religion is built on top of it.Buton has no should or shouldn't it isn't a religion it's just here.Viewpoints like you would be reading equals MC square mm-hmm .But um the we can't help ourselves.We humans we wanna add culture add ritual to it add reli religiosity to it.And then you have Buddhism that is uh as they say it's Hinduism made for export as it leaves India.And it can't bring the culture with it.The philosophy gets distilled enters China Z being a Japanese derivation of Buddhism.And and so on.All of it comes back down to ante and all of it really comes down to this uh end of the the this metaphorical book insight that these sages and saints and and awakens um souls tell us that all of this is an illusion and none of it is real.That is not like um it isn't happening on some relative uh scale on a relative scale.We are having this conversation but it's compared to last night you and I maybe you had a dream last night there were walls there was gravity.People were wearing shoes.People were wearing clothes there was light.Maybe it was nighttime.And there was absence of uh of light but that was an illusion.And yet you were you were absolutely convinced it was real while you were in it.And it actually had all of this immaculate detail to it that told you it's real.And in addition what's so wild is you were you now in the waken state you know that that was unreal and you you didn't even know what was gonna happen.There was drama to it and you didn't know what was and you were creating the whole thing and Vonta would say this waking state you have a deep sleep state where no one's dream.You have a dreaming state that a reference to last night you're dreaming.And then you have this third state of waking state where it's an elevated version of that dream.Mm.You can ly just say it's a long it's a long dream.Yeah.But it doesn't mean it's any more real than that dream was that we were so convinced.I was so convinced my dream last night was real mm-hmm and uh Don kind of culminating um point in contribution to or worldview is that there's a fourth state that so people call it by any number of names.So Tori MOIA Nirvana liberation enlightenment um Toia it doesn't really heaven.It doesn't really matter.What do you call it It's just saying there is this fourth state to awaken from this illusion and that's SPTA kind of beginning to end.
Thank you so much.It resonates so much um particularly that metaphor of dreaming you know where it it is.I mean we all it's so relatable where we're we're so convinced when we're asleep and and I tend to write down my dreams.So um just because there's a lot of symbolism in dreams and um it has helped me to be able to remember my dreams more easily as as I've developed the habit of writing 'em down.But so many times I will wake up and I'll be like I don't need to write that one down.I will never there's no way I'll forget.Cuz it feels so real when you're just waking up.And then it's like no idea you know five minutes later.I mean there's a slipperiest things but and and I've had some um multidimensional experiences where I've like popped out you know and then you're you're experiencing exactly what you're talking about where it's like it's all geometry or it's it's you know something it's it's all light but it's like in a dome kind of you know it doesn't it's very uh uh symmetrical and beautiful and it's like it feels like you're witnessing something.It's like I'm you're not imagining it.It's very visceral.Um and and it's clearly not something that we deal with in the physical realm but so so many things of what you're saying totally totally resonate.Um and it's amazing that the this philosophy is so ancient you know that that this is is did you say 10,000 Oh it's 8,000.
10,000 10,000 years old is our is uh our best guess that it's been orally communicated.The debated scriptures have been orally communicated.And that's why I said when I was 26 I was like how did I spend 26 years through great educational institutions here on the west and never come across this And the closest we get um is for the most part in in the west is maybe physical yoga because we obsess about the body.Yeah.And then we get something like Buddhism and Buddhism enters the west um post world war II in a big way.And especially in the eighties and nineties especially Zen in the nineties.And that is almost a direct consequence of Japan economically almost overtaking the us and our obsession with material wealth made us say what are they doing over there that we might be able to learn from And we come across this ancient philosophy that they study.Ah it's actually the most perverse it whether it's physical yoga and and the forgetfulness of or the ignorance the fact that physical yoga is like that's 5% of what yoga is in India.Yeah.Um it's these other yogas that are far more uh far more philosophically and far more culturally important but we're like oh yoga is um you know downward dump.Right.And we think and we think Buddhism oh that's Eastern philosophy and or Zin oh that's the culmination of Eastern philosophy.And it really was our material fascination that even made us uh less ignorant that there was a philosophy.Well Zinn I think over time that Don will we will just our curiosity will continue and it will take us to okay what is the simplest most straightforward Most like you said uh resonant these these concepts might they might sound strange and yet especially in Beon they're presented.So um Excess maybe Excessively that you're like God this there's nothing.Woo woo.About this.I think there's something here.Yeah.And I think that that's why I just uh I think there's uh we're gonna see like a Google trend map over the next 20 30 years of Theon just outta maybe just people's curiosity of people becoming much more curious about it.
Like how are you creating this whole tapestry I've loved how you talked about um with the um Theon or within the the Vedantic texts.
Yeah.It applies to cooking.It applies to hunting.It applies to your life in the culture in that context in such.So it is also with yoga it's way beyond it's meant to be you know just way beyond the body.So we've kind of just explored from a Western philosophy in these last decades where yoga's taken off but we've been focused so much on the exercise the physical exercise it's like we've you know just just barely seen the tip of what's available in it.Mm-hmm .
Well both what is beautiful is we are starting to collectively wake up to okay maybe this we've seen some of the peaks of Western materialism and that isn't it.
And maybe it might be something else and let's uh potentially listen to what the world has to offer.The world has been offering for 10,000 years.And maybe there's something to reflect on there.
And then it's kind of if we relate that back to what you're just saying as a culture as a collective of how we're having that art that experience um of of trying it out.Okay.Here's what we think yoga is.And mm-hmm and let's explore that.And well there's still there's still stuff missing.It's not like taking me as far as I expect it to.And so what is the missing piece Let's keep exploring.
It means to to rejoin yoga is union and to disjoint to disunite us to dismember and become dismember become separated.Therefore union yoga is to remember and at 36 30 at 26 at 52 wherever we are uh in that moment where it might feel like a crisis maybe it is taking you back to when you were six.
Well all right.
I know you have to run but this has really been an honor and a joy.
Likewise honors all mine and really appreciate it.So thank you for having me.
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