Why I started Intermittent Fasting

These days I have water for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll get a little fancy and boil the water. I won’t eat a bite of food until 1pm and will stop at 8pm. This leaves a 17 hour window of fasting. Which isn’t so bad considering I stop eating in the evening and the majority of fasting hours are spent sleeping.

I wouldn’t be sharing my experiences if I didn’t think you could benefit from it. It’s something more people are gravitating towards because it’s improving all aspects of health.

Today I will share:

  • Why I started intermittent fasting
  • Problems I encountered with intermittent fasting
  • Benefits I’ve gained from intermittent fasting
  • How to start + sources

Before I begin to share my experiences, it’s important to note that intermittent fasting can come off as rather extreme, but I assure you, it’s safe.

Intermittent fasting ( also referred to as “IF” ) is where you cycle between periods of fasting and eating.

I’d strongly encourage consulting a physician before trying it – even more so if you’re addicted to caffeine, have health problems, not eating a healthy diet already and/or taking medication.

I’m an advocate of fasting because it has given me great benefits but do understand our minds and bodies work differently.

Please proceed with caution.

Now that I’ve protected myself against any legal issues (I think), let me entertain you briefly with my past relationship with food.

Buckle up!

Back in the day

I’m not geometric by nature and don’t believe many of us are. Let me explain. Nature brings us peace while the concrete jungles of skyscrapers, mini-malls and paved roads brings us chaos. Just my opinion. I rebel against social norms and repudiate against the conformity that comes with our generalized society. Eating 3 meals a day is one of these generalizations I wanted to challenge. My intent was to see what I could learn about my mind and body if food were just a mechanism to sustain energy (imagine that) and not a psychological dysmorphic act of never-ending gluttony.

Whether it was the buttery aroma of a warm and crispy croissant or a rich and fatty cut of prime rib and everything in between, it’s safe to say that I “fucking” loved food!

I’ll go as far as saying it was an illness of the best kind!

I dined at the trendiest, expensive and most popular restaurants. Money was never an object when it came to eating out. I insisted on meeting chefs after a nice meal.

I was a full blown foodie, a student of french gastronomy and a pleasure seeker guided by the tongue. I’d read yelp reviews like I was studying for the MCAT’s.

Not only did I indulge at restaurants….oh no my friends..my passion stretched into my kitchen. I would by premium ingredients, cooked up a storm daily and exclusively watched food shows. Anthony Bourdain was a personal favorite! I also thought that vegans were the Hezbollah of the food industry.

I’d purchase the best smoked salmon money could buy. I had a relationship with my butcher. Not sexual relations mind you, I just bought my meat there (lol). I even had olive oils from specific vineyards.

I understood the complexities and subtle art behind wine. For example, how you’re suppose to let a glass of wine breathe so it can settle and deepen it’s flavor and open up different aromas, or how swirling the wine gives it legs around the mid rim of the glass showing us its age, clarity and body or better yet when tasting it and being able to pick out the tannins which gives wine its bitterness and complexity. Yes, I loved food and it loved me more.

My love for food was like one of those beautiful lifetime partnerships – like Dinero and Scorsese – but to my surprise it ended, and rather abruptly might I add.

Paradigm Shift

About 5 years ago a radical transformation occurred. I was introduced to the world of spirituality and mindfulness. Through a series of events – some as sad as torrential rainfall and some as blissful as an infants gaze, I changed.

I changed my diet to one without meat and started to contemplate my existence on this giant rock that’s spinning at 1000mph in the cosmos.

I retreated from the outward world for answers and came inwards. I became a voracious reader in the subjects of philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, science and spirituality.

I started to re-introduce the eastern wisdom that I negated and fought against as a child. The Bhagavad Gita became a father figure, Thoreau and J. Krishnamurti – my companions and the Greek Stoics became my mistresses.

I learned the art of meditation, experimented with drugs that society shunned (psychedelics) and used all my savings to become a student of life again.

However, I’m eternally grateful for my gluttonous past because it served as a barometer to compare my new found indifference for food.

For me, intermittent fasting was not just a change in eating behavior but more so an undying desire to understand what this world is, why we’re here and where we’ll go after we die (if anywhere).

Why I Started Intermittent Fasting

I wanted to see how the body would react if it was given just enough to function. I wanted to connect with my primal self. For the majority of the animal kingdom -excluding humans and domestic pets, food is survival. Although I’ll never know true starvation, a part of me was beckoning to understand what it means to go without food for long periods of time.

Intermittent fasting was a way for me to connect to our common ancestors.

I’ve also read and saw videos from celebrities, health advocates and YouTubers that had tremendous benefits from fasting. Terry Crews, for example has been doing it for about 5 years and the dude is ripped and aging gracefully. Check out what he said about intermittent fasting on business insider (<~~~link).

The science behind fasting can be comprehensive, but I’ll break it down as if you’re a second grader – not because I think you’re dumb, in fact you’re probably a genius, but I need it broken down in this way – so if it’s too simple for your Newtonian mind, then please have a bit of mercy, “aite” (aka alright)!

Our bodies constantly burn glycogen which is a fancy word for sugar. Everything we eat turns into sugar, and if we have an excess of it, the body stores it as fat. Also, our bodies are in constant survival mode so giving it 3 meals a day + snacks in between, during a 12-16 hour period makes it feel safe and sane.

When you practice intermittent fasting, the body panics because it’s used to getting a constant dose of glycogen, so after initially pleading and begging you to give it food in the form of hunger pains and headaches, it will eventually start eating stored fat. Can you say WEIGHT LOSS! 

In essence, intermittent fasting helps our body become a fat burning machine.

Think about animals in the wild. Their bodies constantly burn fat because they are usually a meal away from starvation. Wild animals live for the day, but we humans don’t have that problem. We have Netflix and eclairs.

After I did a 10 day meditation stint in the woods I felt enormous confidence. Meditating in silence for 15 hours/day will do that to you. Fasting was another way to experience the limitless boundaries of the human potential.

The Problems I encountered with Intermittent Fasting

Fasting wasn’t all raindrops and roses. The Sound of Music would be terrible if Julie Andrews and those kids fasted. They wouldn’t be so happy and I’d probably find the sing along more amusing.

The first week was uncomfortable because I’ve been accustomed to eating three square meals a day. Some problems I encountered:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Hunger pains
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crankiness
  • Mild headaches

Now you might be thinking, why the hell keep going on and putting myself through this torture. After-all, no one is putting a gun to my head and saying don’t eat. I continued because I’ve found that everything that’s good in life comes with sacrifice.

The problems were short lived. After a week, I started to feel the benefits.

The Benefits I’ve gained from Intermittent Fasting

More energy – This is the single biggest change in my life. I can’t sleep more than 5-6 hours a day. Although, 8 hours is the medical consensus, my eyes open bright and early and I have long and sustained energy throughout the day. I usually have to find ways to tire my brain out so I can get some rest. I’ve brought old math books out in my attempts to learn astrophysics. Wishful thinking perhaps, but I got dreams too! I try to do flips as well, but can’t seem to find my flexibility. I’ll let you know when it turns up.

Food tastes better – I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed food this much. A simple apple tastes like heaven. A boiled potato with a bit of salt is a damn near religious experience.

I don’t need as much food as I thought – I’ve grown up with the idea that you need 3 meals a day to function, but fasting has taught me that eating less and in a time restricted window is actually more. The food that I do eat is better utilized now.

I haven’t gotten sick – This could be purely coincidence, but it’s also common sense. Because I eat less, the body has more energy freed up to repair itself instead of constantly digesting a constant stream of food.

Mental Clarity – I’m retaining more information, feel more creative and am sharper! I’m finding my voice with writing and the words are flowing like crisco.

Stronger – I’m actually increasing the amount of weight I lift. I go to the gym in the mornings and feel energized and stronger. I’m increasing weight on every powerlifting exercise. Stamina has improved as well! A 6 mile run about 3-4 times a week is a breeze.

I get full faster – I feel more than satiated with small amounts of food. Somehow fasting has strengthened the communication that tells the brain when the stomach is full. Also, my stomach has shrunk to its normal size.

I feel lighter and more agile – I’m not over weight, yet I did lose some fat pounds. I’m not scientific or analytical by nature, but I’ll break out the calipers and update this article with some metrics on actual fat % in the future. It feels great to wake up to a trim and fit body.

Bowel movements have improved – I’m not trying to gross you out, but I’ve been told as you get older, a good bowel movement is like falling in love. Mine are quite beautiful. I hope you’re not in the middle of a meal while reading this 🙂

I appreciate eating out – I used to be a food snob. I was an elitist, ego-filled douchebag that didn’t have enough stomachs to fill my precious little pie hole, but that’s changed. Food is sustenance. Quality food that’s nutrient dense trumps everything. The occasional meal with family/friends is amazing because I don’t go out that often, so when anyone cooks for me it’s like the second coming of Christ!

I don’t worry about breakfast – It’s just one less thing to worry about. I’ll only have water until I break my fast. It turns out that even coffee or herbal tea takes away from the true fasting experience because the body uses its digestive enzymes for everything but water. ( See Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Time Restricted Eating video ). I’ll write about caffeine in another article. I’ve pretty much reduced my need for all caffeinated beverages. Last week I had decaf coffee and it gave me wings. That’s a red bull joke.

Tips on How to Start + Sources

Through my research, I’ve been told that my eating window is too small (7 hours), so you might want to increase yours to 8-10 hours.

Start Slow – I break my fast at 1pm and eat until 8pm. When I first started intermittent fasting I did it 3-5 times a week, but now am going strong 7 days a week. If you’re new to fasting I’d recommend trying it a few times a week and easing into it. 

Get it all in – Within that 7 hour time frame I make sure to get as much nutrients as possible within reason. I don’t have one single meal that is balanced, but I consume the needed fats, carbohydrates, and proteins throughout my eating window. Since my diet is almost primarily plants, I have to eat more than the typical omnivore because plants digest quicker than meat.

Foods that I consume regularly include potatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, lentils, beans, rice, and avocados. I use seasonings like cumin, turmeric, salt, coriander powder, and pepper to give flavor to my dishes. With the addition of garlic and onions, any meal can transform into awesome deliciousness. I still enjoy cooking but now cook healthy foods. My blog veganswamy.com has a bunch of recipes with more to come.

Prepare your foods – After you break your fast, you’re going to want to eat anything you can get your hands on. You’ll act like George Forman at McDonalds after a sparring session. Prepare or even cook what you’ll eat the night prior if possible. Pick foods that you can easily carry on the go. Eat plenty of fruits. If you work in an office setting then tupperware will become your new best friend. 

Eat Slow –This is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to people that are starting. You’ll feel ravenous during your eating window, but eat slowly because you have a huge window to get in your calories.

It’s all temporary – You will encounter hunger pains and it will be challenging, but this is a process to improve upon your mental dexterity. Also, those hunger pains are your bodies final cries for help until it has to start eating stored fat. The body is primed for an apocalypse at all times. Don’t worry too much because the benefits start to kick in within 1-2 weeks.

Have fun and don’t stress – Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s just eating less. It doesn’t come with the stresses of changing your entire kitchen wardrobe. Just make sure you add in more healthy stuff and indulge minimally.

———————————

Check out this great video from Dr. Josh Axe. He dives more in detail about the benefits, but in short you can expect the following:

  • Anti-aging
  • Promotes natural human growth hormone ( HGH )
  • Improved Sport Performance
  • Normalizes insulin sensitivity
  • Regulates gherlin levels which is your hunger hormones
  • Detoxification
  • Weight Loss

Check out these quotes from doctors who praise intermittent fasting! It’s the world’s most ancient and natural healing mechanism.

Now that you’ve heard my experiences and are more informed, I hope you give it a try! You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

Other than switching my diet to plant-based one and adopting a daily meditation practice, intermittent fasting has been one of best decisions I’ve made for my health and overall spiritual growth. I can’t see myself eating the way I used to.

I’d love to hear about your experiences and please message me or write a comment with any questions!

If you know anyone that would benefit from this article please share, tweet or forward via e-mail.

Sincerely,

Anand

How to Find Inner-Peace

I got out of bed at 3:30am to the smell of fire. I walked outside to my balcony and noticed the sky had a pinkish hue. Falling down was bits of debris. I felt ash on the wooden ledge, but could not see any evidence of a fire. I proceeded to the internet and saw that Napa/Sonoma county are currently experiencing forrest fires. My heart is with them.

This was an extremely unsettling week for me. I was not affected personally, but those close to me were – so I guess you could call it personal.

A friends brother committed suicide, another friend was close to Mandalay Bay during the Vegas shooting and nearly lost his life, a few friends/family members are going through rough patches in their life that I cannot comprehend even if I tried and another close friend opened up to me about his father committing suicide and growing up with a mother who was a drug addict. If that wasn’t enough, he was an innocent bystander at an event and was shot with inches spared that would have paralyzed him for life.

These are real problems that those that I love experienced, and although my problems are not the same, they’ve been important in fostering my spiritual growth.

Today I wanted to share some ways to find, cultivate and practice inner-peace. My reasons are all through direct experience. They are authentic and every bit a part of me as my heartbeat.

Meditate – First off, meditation is not a session that you do once in a while, it’s a state of mind. It’s NOT to recount past lives, reduce karma or touch some unknown cord that is beyond the empirical senses. That is nonsense. Meditation helps clear the noise in our head and make room for mental clarity. It is a practice to think about nothing. The reason it is simplistic and profound is because all the noise we have in our head is of the past and future – both of which are not here. Meditation helps us hone in on this moment. It is only through attentive and consistent practice that one can find inner-peace, even in the most dire of situations.

Tip – download headspace  – It’s a meditation app with a free trial period. I have not gone beyond the free trial because I’m at an intermediate level of meditation, mainly through my practice with Vipassana. Headspace is awesome for beginners. Please take advantage. 

Reminding the Self – When anxiety, worry or any feeling of unease presents itself, I literally tell myself, “there is nothing going on in the world except where I am right now.” I know I’m just stating the obvious, but it’s easy to forget that the noise in our heads are just clouds in our mental sky. Even if you want to think about the past and future, you can only do it now. Allow this moment to be your entire world. This is not new information, but just like water – we constantly need it to replenish our spirit. To live in the past and future robs us of energy, but being in the present facilities a path for more of it.

Listening to others – Many people confide in me. I listen. They tell me personal things. I listen. When they ask for advice, I ask them, “what do you think you should do?” I’ve come to a place in my life where my best vehicle to heal another is through listening. My problems can never be someone else’s, but by listening I am letting another vent and they are healing. The very act of doing this is service. You feel alive when you help others and subconsciously you are healing yourself. When Mother Teresa was asked, “how can I change the world.” She said, “go home and love your family.”  There is no shortage of people in our lives that can use our ear. Give them all your attention – unencumbered with the slightest notion of advice. All advice is predicated on our experience. It’s as if you’re trying to give directions to someone, but they have the map. Check out this article I wrote for elephant journal earlier this year for more context on this.

Listening to what is – When what you see becomes what you hear, then true freedom, healing, love, growth, etc.. take place. Think about this statement for a second because it’s rudimentary in nature, but unlocks huge potential for us. As you go about your day, be completely attentive in what you are doing. As I’m typing these words I am completely engaged and a sense of euphoria is over me that is hard to explain. This feeling is available to all of us. It takes practice because the chatter of the mind persists, but eventually it will subside – but you have to give a tremendous amount of effort and many don’t want to expel this type of energy. Many are content with the endless chatter in their minds. It’s a sad way to live when turning the light switch on is very easy. Practice active listening by being fully aware in the most mundane activities of your daily life. Enjoy the taste of your food and savor it. Try to drive home without the radio and completely focus on the act of driving. When you get home to your family put away on the phone and be engaged in any conversation.

You can’t help anyone – You can be a tool to guide others in their healing, but you cannot walk the path of another. This can be hard because we want those we love to be okay. Although we are experiencing life collectively, our journeys are alone. We can only be a lampost for those we love. Smile because you don’t own their problems, but also smile because you know you can help them without taking on their baggage.

Eat more veggies/fruits and drink more water – Inner-peace has a lot to do with diet. I practice a plant-based diet. Although I’m not perfect, eating this way about 98% of the time has its benefits. Our bodies pH hovers around 7.35-7.45. Waters pH is at 7. We must be as close to water as possible for the body to run efficiently. Since fruits and veggies are comprised largely of water, they help the body maintain a state of homeostasis. Eating this way makes the heart work less. Foods high in cholesterol thickens the blood and makes the heart work harder. Too much caffeine does this as well. Take care of your health today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. There will never be a perfect time to start. Just start. If you are interested in changing the way you eat, please see my blog veganswamy.com. I have new content coming soon.

Anicha – This word means impermanence in Pali – a language that’s dead now, but was spoken 5000 years ago. If you learn nothing else in this lifetime, please learn anicha. If more people understood that every feeling or sensation you feel will come and go, more would adopt better mental health. The knowing that all things are in constant flux helps you not attach to any one feeling for too long. The 4 seasons are a reminder of this. Even if we are attached to spring, the winter will force us to feel her cold. We might rejoice in the anticipation of summer but it will give way to autumn – but if you can love each season for what it is, then no matter what time of year – you will not be dispirited.

Breathe – Although we all breathe, when we are in our minds and thinking about events that are not in the present, our breathing patterns change. They become shorter, less oxygen comes into the body which means blood flow is restricted and the heart works harder. Closing your eyes and removing yourself from the world temporarily and taking deep breaths will help. Breathe deeply for about 1 minute right now if time permits with eyes closed. Count your breaths and focus on how the air comes in and out of your nasal passages. How do you feel?

I sincerely hope some of these tips help you. Our world is full of beauty and turmoil – and although everyone complains about the turmoil – if you can see it with a certain amount of beauty, this life that you’ve been gifted can become more enjoyable.

You are your thoughts, but also the entity looking at the thoughts. Your thoughts are the clouds, but the limitless sky – beyond the veil of blue into the infinite cosmos is you as well. We all have the capacity to understand this.

Written with Love,
Anand Swamy

The 38 Bus Ride

Whenever I have to run errands in the city I take the bus. Although having a car in San Francisco, CA is convenient, it doesn’t help me arrive in the same way in which the bus does.

Let me Explain. 

So when I got to the bus station, I had the choice of getting on the 38 or 38r. The latter being faster with less stops. Yesterday, both buses came at the same time with the 38 (slower bus) being in the front.

Not surprisingly, everyone took the 38r. I wasn’t in a rush. These days I never am so I gladly took the 38. I often think about why people rush because no matter where you run off to, the earth will keep on spinning. If you think about it, we are actually going no where.

Most folks aren’t in a rush because a loved one is on the brink of death or trouble. Shouldn’t these be the only reasons to rush?

I’m usually on time for things, but if I’m late, fuck it! The world will still move on, my appointments will understand and I’ll still be okay.

When I see people rushing, I see anxiety. I see the world riddled with it and don’t think anyone deserves it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I write. I don’t like to see people suffering from problems that they can control.  I’m not sure if it helps others, but I do hope so.

Anyways, I digress. So I got into the empty bus and started noticing my neighborhood for the first time again. I choose to see everything I encounter, even if somewhat familiar like it’s brand new. It makes every day exciting and intrinsically blissful.

I saw Darryl during my ride – a middle aged white man, bald head, grey scruffy beard, faded light blue jeans and a blue hooded sweater. He was skinny, but healthy. He was also homeless. I know him by name because while going to Subway one hungry evening, I asked him if he wanted a sandwich. I gave him the sub and we started chatting. We didn’t talk long, and even the times we do talk, he’s always in a rush and today was no different. I sincerely hope that wherever Darryl goes, he gets there.

I saw Russian grocers selling meat, fish, vegetables and other Russian delicacies to their fellow comrades. A taste of home makes us feel like we’ve never left, doesn’t it?

With the exception of a few passengers the 38 was still empty. I got off on Spruce st. to get my computer repaired. The letter G came off.

I noticed that the 38r – the bus with fewer stops and more people was only now in-front of the 38. I looked at the crowded bus. People standing, crunched up against one another in discomfort and disarray.

Sometimes going faster means bombarding ourselves with more problems and keeping the mind cluttered. As humans we will never be complete.
———
If you look at life like a race, you will never finish, but if you’re aware of this whole spectacle of creation – the not knowing why we are here – you can truly see life for what it is. It’s important to enjoy the ride.

There is no finish line. You have to enjoy every moment and give them all equal attention and admiration.

Enjoy the good, enjoy the bad, cry your ass off when shit goes sour, and cry again joyously when they get better. All these events are just bus stops. They will change.

Enjoy the ride my dear friends, and whenever possible, opt for the slower ride. The ride that will make you contemplate existence..the ride that will make you smile as the sun shines on your cheek from the heavens.. the ride that makes you see a stranger as a lost sister or brother.

As far as the eyes can see, we will never have another.

Sincerely,

Anand Swamy

The Dumps of Our Life

This week I’ve been spending the majority of my time helping family move.

If given a word for every time I’ve moved or helped another I could very well write you a sonnet, but today I’ll attempt to give you more with limited wording so to keep in the spirit of this topic.

Helping others move has become an exercise in the observation of the human condition. It has helped me access my very own nature as a consumer.

I visited the city dump many times to trash the material items that brought me so much joy. In this observation I can and with confidence say that material items even those of sentimental value bring temporary pleasures, so to neglect earthly possessions is an act of virtue.

I’m in awe that we’ve created a multi-billion dollar industry just on shit we waste (no pun intended).

The human who has tasted riches but can still live in poverty or the poor who has had the ability to become rich and continues to live the way in which he/she had is a pursuit many will not undertake.

Minimalism has become a way of life . In the past few years I’ve opened myself up to the world of mindfulness and philosophy and a tectonic shift has occurred with an earthquake of high magnitude. The life that I led previously contains a crack so wide that I could never go back to the former.

Minimalism has taken on many different definitions, but to me it’s living with what you need, being extremely guarded with every new purchase that does not derive sustenance and the awareness that everything you purchase will go back into the earth.

To see the world for what it is – temporary, rented, short and constantly changing has given rise to gratitude and eternal joy – or at least until this bodily frame will allow me.

Visiting the dump, seeing an excess of technological gadgets, the amount of wasted clothes/shoes – brings me to Walden Pond where Thoreau speaks to me through recycled trees and carbon black ink. About minimalism he said, “we have become tools for our tools.”

The more things we have the more we become a slave to them. The sojourner cannot begin to seek if he/she has so much “material crap” to constantly manage.

Written with Love,
Anand Swamy

The Floods of Our Life

This morning my step-mother and I watched the aftermath of the floods in Houston. So many lost, hurt, displaced and even dead because of natures wrath.

It’s a stark and meek reminder that natural disasters bring out our vulnerabilities without permission.

I don’t know if good thoughts transcend to others but I will continue to send them to those affected by this tragedy because what else can I do.

My step-mother started telling me stories of hurricanes in Fiji. They have happened so many times that she has gotten used to them.

Her experiences are similar to many Fijians. Most have proper flood emergency protocols down in memory. She said the hurricanes don’t necessarily pose hardships these days but instead become a nuisance that simply needs to be dealt with.

I have attempted to take her stories and see what lesson I could extrapolate from it.

———–

The hardships in our life are the floods. The more floods we get the more experiences we have to deal with them. Makes sense.

If this is true, then the hardships are good.

I have been following this advice in my own life. I have been chasing hardships. The pleasure in pain has become more enticing than the pleasure that comes from pleasure.

Some examples

    • I take cold showers. When I first started it was unbearable, but through time it’s gotten easier. It’s helped me become creative, attentive, alert, resilient in the face of adversity and in awe of this thing called life
    • I fast 16-20 hours everyday. By putting myself in a state of hunger, the mind is more alert and seeking nourishment. It’s the closest thing that I have practiced that allows me to connect with my primal ancestors. It also has some scientific benefits. My body has become a vehicle that is burning fat instead of short term sugar storage. It’s amazing how little food the body needs to run efficiently
    • Drugs/Alcohol – The occasional joint and cold glass of beer still grace the lungs and pallet, but I’m slowly departing from these mind-altering substances. I’ve tried almost every drug under the sun, but none have left me more happy, challenged and at peace than meditation………and avocados
    • I’ve given away the material things that mean the most to me.Everything material has molecules. The less molecules you acquire, the more space you have. This space allows for clarity and the expansion of conciseness

The people of Houston will come out stronger, more resourceful and united. In a really fucked up way I’m a little jealous.

Tough times bring out the best in people. It brings out the truth and the essence of who we are.

I urge you to think about the things that are hard in our life. Do you negate or face them?

When it’s a flood you have no choice but to act. Take this same urgency and act now.

The things that cause us hardship is usually what makes us stronger when confronted.

Fear carries a mighty roar from a distance, but when faced, it is silenced as if it never existed.

Written with Love,
Anand Swamy

Changing Before My Eyes

I’ve been working out of Illana’s coffee shop for a few years now. It’s a small, quiet joint in a city where shops like this are a dime a dozen – often in business for less than 5 years, but there is something oddly special about this place.

I don’t know if it’s the brawny, aggressive and loud Irish construction workers that come in every morning and order their patented combination Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, or George, an elder millionaire psychologist/lawyer that walks around with his light grey sweats, loose maroon shirt and obscenely large gold necklace with a medallion that reminds me of Flavor Flav’s clock chain, or maybe it’s all the Asian business owners that congregate in the mornings while gossiping about their customers as if they’re trading war stories.

I’ve grown to love my neighborhood in the Richmond District. I’ve made this place home for the past 3 years and have many friends – some even became close to kin. I moved a lot growing up, but I intend to stay here for a little while.

I first laid eyes on this older vietnamese couple 3 years ago. They would come in at about 11:00am every morning. I’ve seen them so many times but have yet to share a conversation, but when we play tic tac toe with our eyes and smiles – it’s vividly apparent that we know each-other more than we think.

They are nice to each-other. He would read his books. He recently got a kindle which I think he loves because it’s never not by his side. She is always gossiping with Lan – Kevin’s wife and the head-honcho of Illana’s. I obviously don’t understand what they’re saying, but the moments they crack up in laughter I can’t help myself and do the same. Lan usually tells me what they were laughing about, and I laugh harder finally understanding the joke.

Lately the husband has been sick. He’s in a wheelchair, he doesn’t read as much. Instead he looks at the wall, sometimes at me, sometimes I don’t know where he looks. His granddaughter comes sometimes which gives him energy and his woes of not walking are temporarily lifted as he lives vicariously through her.

As I am writing these words he’s sitting at the table across from me. We just shared a glance and a smile.

Their story speaks heavily to my heart because I know what is to become of him. I know what is to become of me and you.

Like many of us, I feel lost at times. I don’t know if I’m doing the right things, but because I know this journey will end one day – I live and continue to progress, I keep moving.

The somber contemplation of death gives rise to living another day with vigor.

Below I have listed what death has taught me

  • Kindness and Love – Everyone that I hold close will leave soon. I can only be kind and show love now.
  • Someone else’s problems are not yours – This is very hard for me to put into practice and I am still trying, but we will all die with our own problems. We can be there for people and help them, but should never take on another’s sorrow as our own.
  • Compassion – I will never know the struggles of my family and friends. Although many of us look at the sky the same way – we perceive it differently. I have compassion for all views because they are intrinsic and unique to us. Compassion is the closest we can get to putting on another’s shoes. Think of this when talking to others who open their wounds to you.
  • Ego – I don’t know what the ego is, but if it’s a need to be right at the expense of calling someone wrong, then I am slowly leaving that because at my death bed I will not care who is right or wrong. In essence, I’m living in my death-bed now.
  • I don’t care for things – I know I will not take anything with me so having enough is not just a minimalistic clique of new age thinking, but rather a way of life. I care for people because once they depart, something leaves with them. This is the mystery that fuels my love for the unknown and my dismissal for the material.
  • Urgency – I am not an ambitious person. I will die, so I have a sense of urgency to complete things for the sake of completing them.
  • Every moment is special – If you knew you had one more meal for the rest of your life, how would you eat it? Would you eat it fast, or would you enjoy every morsel? I’d pick the latter. Take this example to life – what if life was your last meal? The thing is, that life is our last meal. It’s ending with each moment. My showers, conversations, walks in nature and almost every thing I do have taken on a new meaning because they are ending.

Death has given me the strength to dust myself off and try again. I leave you with one of my favorite movie quotes from, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” A great movie if you haven’t seen it yet.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” 

I am not perfect and screw stuff up sometimes, but because I know I’ll die soon (relative) I’m not hard on myself. I can always try again.

After-all, we can’t go anywhere, we can’t escape. We can only see moments like we feel our breath – slowly coming and slowly going. Be attentive, take the time to observe, and contemplate more. Cherish time with others and experiences, even the most uneventful ones. The small things in life will always be the big things.

If you enjoy my work and want to see more please subscribe to my newsletter below or click here. 

With Love,
Anand Swamy

The Joy of Work

It was another sunny day in December in California. A few months ago a good friend of mine who moved from Minnesota remarked how the great weather in the Golden State made it hard to live elsewhere in America. I’ve never known the difference..perhaps I need to spend some time in another state or country so I can appreciate how the sun shines yearly?

Today I was at Stanford University. It had been about a year since I’ve worked a traditional corporate job. Much of my time was spent in free-lectures offered by various universities, online classes, books, writing, cooking and going on long expedition like nature walks. Don’t you remember as a child how we use to explore the world and find a certain amount of fascination with the simplest things? Why does that leave us? Does it have to be this way? Aren’t we all still children? With that being said, I quite loved my wanderlust lifestyle. It made me feel like a kid. I intend to keep it up for as long as life allows me.

Today I was looking forward to hearing Sadhguru speak. He’s somewhat of a spiritual celebrity in the West. I’ve grown to enjoy his teachings, especially while cooking – it makes cutting the onions slightly more pleasant. I first read his book, “The Flowers on the Path,” after my cousin from Canada gave it to me – well I actually took it from him. Have you ever been so close to someone that everything they own automatically becomes yours? This is my relationship with him. Put his personality on Halle Berry’s body and I’ll put a ring on it with the quickness.

Anyways, I was on campus waiting for Sadhguru. I got there a little early to enjoy the new surroundings – something I do everywhere I go. As I got to the front of the building I saw him finishing up a conversation with a few folks. He looked at me with eyes that pierced my soul while removing everything from existence. He was dark skinned – with impeccable clear complexion and his patented turban and garb. He signaled me to come over as if he knew me and had something important to share.

I put both my hands together in Namaste fashion to greet him – but he opted for my hand and gave me a sturdy handshake while holding my forearm. I said, “nice to meet you” and told him I read his book. He looked at me with intensity and said, “That book is too easy for you, read something more complicated.” I thought it was funny and endearing how someone can insult me while giving a compliment.”

I share this story because during his talk he shared a valuable piece of advice that I feel will benefit you.

Our Work

It’s no surprise that our work will take much of our lifetime.

  • 8 hours of work
  • 8 hours of sleep
  • 8 hours of friends/family

Total – 24 hours in a day

Give or take a few hours depending on how demanding your job is, about 1/3 of our life is devoted to work. If we live till 90 – that’s 30 years.

I’ve come to understand that life is not about finding the perfect job/career. We should still strive for the best if the ability and means presents itself, but it’s far more important to Work Joyously.

Almost all self-help books, advice from titans of industry and the majority of the verbiage around the west resonates with working hard, but few talk about working joyously.

Working hard can be stressful, but working with joy takes the stress out of it. It helps you enjoy life moment to moment.

This is not only helpful for spiritual well-being, but also psychological well being. If our life can be an expression of our joy then it doesn’t matter what we do and where we do it.

5 Ways to bring Joy into your life Today

  1. The chance of your existence – The probability of you existing at all comes out to 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000th power  — yes, that’s a 10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes! To give you context, there is said to be 10 to the 80th power of atoms in the known universe. In hindsight the probability of us being here at all is 0. We don’t know why creation took place, for what purpose and we know eventually this ride will end so lamenting on anything for too long is trivial. If we can understand the sheer joy of being alive – then we can bring that joy to work.
  2. Life is Leela – “Leela” is the sanskrit word for “play”. When you think about the world objectively, without emotion and for what it is you come to some interesting conclusions. Everything humanity has created will one day perish. When our sun runs out of energy in the next 4 billions years this planet will be null and void and unless Elon Musk finds a way to propel us to a different planet – we won’t be worthy of even a memory. It’s as if our time here is a night club. We all know that the music will end sooner or later so instead of agonizing over when it does, just dance. At times we tend to fall into our problems as if they are forever. Everything will pass, but while you’re in situations that seem insurmountable to come out from – invite Joy into your life by understanding impermanence.
  3. Gratitude – It’s a practice. The practice of gratitude makes the mind stronger. Everyday I wake up with the same prayer.“Thank you for another day. I don’t know why I’m here or where I’ll go, but I’m thankful for the air in my lungs, the friends and family around me and the ability to experience this day once more.” Gratitude is infectious because through my smiles and acts of kindness I am able to see the same in people, In essence my gratitude for life gives others permission to unlock the joy that they have inside.
  4. You will die and that is lovely – If you’ve been reading my blog or you know me personally then you know how candidly I talk about death. Knowing that my time is limited has opened the floodgates to love. My heart hurts with every new person I meet because I know we will all share the same fate of leaving this place, and while it hurts I choose to be kind, smile and show love. Your worst enemy can become your brother and sister instantly.
  5. Service to others – You don’t have to be part of an organization or join a soup kitchen to show service to others. Service is given from the moment you wake up. The way you interact with people, the thoughts you have about them and inevitably how you treat others is service. Everyone in our life will perish, and by giving them the best in us we both find ourselves in unity for one kind act begets another – even if briefly.

—————-
Our time here is short. Let this be a beckoning call to yourself during moments of strife.

I sincerely hope that whatever you do, you do with Joy. Practice gratitude, know that your life was a stroke of luck, contemplate death and let service to others be the epitome of character.

Written with Love,

Anand Swamy
Blogger – Subscribe Below 🙂

I Went to Prison

The cops pulled me over. I knew it was bad, although I didn’t know exactly what I did. It was dusk and the air was restless. The mood of that evening reminded me of the first episode of the Wonder Years when Kevin went for a walk, only to find Winnie in the forrest after her brother had just died in Vietnam. Except with this story there is no comforting end and no Percy Sledge to ease my woes.  Continue reading “I Went to Prison”

What is Spirituality

I decided to try something a little different and share a video where I briefly talk about spirituality and what it means to me.

I meet new and interesting people constantly and somehow the conversation always gets steered towards life and its purpose.

In my interactions I see many derivatives. Almost all problems are centered around the past and future. Although the term presence is ubiquitous and sort of a cliche, people who practice is still far and few because it takes an extraordinary amount of patience and awareness to be in this moment.

In this video I share how you can start practicing spirituality right now.

With Love,
Anand