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[Best Of] Deep Work: Ditch Cognitive Junk Food with Cal Newport

[Best Of] Deep Work: Ditch Cognitive Junk Food with Cal Newport

As I get up to speed in my first semester at Union Theological Seminary, I’m re-launching a few of my favorite podcast episodes from four years of archives: I hope you enjoy some of these oldies but goodies, particularly if you missed them the first time around! Here’s a conversation I loved with Cal Newport from April 2016.

When was the last time you were in the zone?There’s nothing I love more than working with time flying. The sun rises and sets and I barely notice because I’m so engrossed in my work. Cal Newport calls this deep work, and says that contrary to what many assume, it is a skill, not a habit. That means it takes deliberate practice, and is a cognitive muscle that can atrophy with disuse—something we are all prone to as we get sucked into network tools like social media and email. I loved this conversation and I know you will too! Enjoy 

“At the exact point that deep work is becoming increasingly valuable, it is also becoming more rare.”

—Cal Newport

[Best Of] Martha Beck on Enlightenment and Messages our Bodies Send

[Best Of] Martha Beck on Enlightenment and Messages our Bodies Send

As I get up to speed in my first semester at Union, I’m re-launching a few of my favorite podcast episodes from four years of archives: I hope you enjoy some of these oldies but goodies, particularly if you missed them the first time around! Here’s a conversation with one of my author superheroes, Martha Beck, who says “Suffering is a sign you are about to be woken up again.”

This week we tackle a tiny little topic—enlightenment—with one of my all-time favorite authors and thinkers, Martha Beck. I have read all eight of Martha's books (two or three times each) as they helped me through some of my biggest transitions in life and work. Martha is someone who blazes her own trails and has inspired me to do the same time and time again. 

I admire Martha for her tremendous courage. She's been through hell and back, from leaving the Mormon church despite getting death threats and her entire family disowning her, keeping her pregnancy after finding out her baby had Down Syndrome and her Harvard colleagues suggested otherwise, or following her body's signals to turn away from the academic life that was making her sick, and even saying no to Oprah when it didn't feel right to say yes.

114: Illuminating Invisible Privilege with Karen Pittelman (and Why She Gave Away Her $3 Million Trust At 24)

114: Illuminating Invisible Privilege with Karen Pittelman (and Why She Gave Away Her $3 Million Trust At 24)

This is one of my favorite interviews, and a conversation that is crucial for understanding and revealing the hidden influences that shape many of our views on society, wealth and power. I have heard terms like white privilege (which applies to me), but I hadn't thought to look into the notion of invisible privilege until earlier this year. You may think it doesn't apply to you (as I used to), especially if you're not in the "Top 1%."

But as a recent Atlantic article revealed, The 9.9 Percent is the New American Aristocracy, privilege is something that affects more of us than we might immediately self-identify with, particularly for many who see themselves as part of the "middle class." (A necessary note: some of you may be in the Top 1%—and you're welcome here!—and some of you may be struggling to get by, and  you're welcome here too).

After hearing it thrown around quite a bit in social change circles, I got curious. What does invisible privilege really mean? How does it affect me, and others like me? And how does it relate to broader social change? I'm so grateful for Karen Pittleman, who answers these questions with kindness, compassion, and clarity in this week's conversation. I can't wait for you to hear her story of giving away a $3 million trust fund when she turned 24 years old (now she's given over $13 million to activist-led funds), and her input on how we can all work together to redistribute wealth and power as we work toward a more just society.  

113: The Seeker's Journey with Daniel Aaron

So many of us are on a seekers journey—looking for greater knowledge, wisdom, healing, insight and transformation. And may even the ever-elusive holy grail of enlightenment, whatever that means. If you ask me, I believe we have three primary purposes on this planet: to learn, to love and to serve. And of course, to enjoy life along the way :) 

Daniel Aaron is a fascinating fellow seeker who describes his own journey as guided by a divine power, as he explores all variety of mystical and practical practices and shares them with thousands of others through yoga, sangha (community), and coaching. His mission is "to bring in a new era, where the new-normal is love and truth – kindness, authenticity and radiance – for all beings, of every species." I hope you enjoy the this week's conversation! 

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/daniel-aaron. Enjoying the show? Make my week by donating just $1 and episode at Patreon.com/pivot.

More About Daniel Aaron

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Daniel Aaron is a teacher, writer, and human potential coach with a half century of joyous seeking and more than 25 years of experience in yoga and personal transformation for thousands of others.

Creator of the world-recognized Daniel Aaron Yoga Teacher Trainings in 2005, Daniel also founded the Radiantly Alive Yoga studio in Ubud, Bali in 2012. He is a seeker of wisdom, mystical and practical, and how we can apply it to radically upgrade our lives.

From enlightened gurus to the deepest therapists, cutting-edge nutrition, fasting and cleansing Ashrams, centers and caves, Maine to Bali (with a few hundred vistas along the way), he has lived everything from an excruciating childhood (which was also full of love) to helping others find everyday, guaranteed joy and entrepreneurial brilliance (including his own massively painful lessons and mistakes). 

Topics We Cover

  • His chaotic childhood upbringing, a crucial realization at three years old: “There’s got to be more than this"

  • Being orphaned at a relatively early age amongst parents and siblings

  • How he pulled himself out of hopelessness and turned to a path of seeking

  • Discovering astrology in his twenties despite previously thinking it was ridiculous

  • Describing himself as “He is as ordinary as ordinary can be.”

  • We shine and are our best selves when we accept all parts of ourselves

  • What inspired him to start Radiantly Alive—and how he knew it was time to leave

  • Seeker’s mission: awaken, heal, discover, learn

  • Pain and difficulty as a signal to move on, no longer living his dharma (true path)

  • Creating a virtual sangha, or community, to amplify individuals’ vibrant lives - creates an energy unto itself

  • Buddhism, “It’s hard to awaken on one’s own”

  • Satsang: “Gathering of people in the name of truth” - it’s about our intention when we come together

  • To live a spiritual life in a way that is fulfilling and also contributing to the world

  • What’s behind his philosophies that “his religion is his life,” and his passion in studying "The real yoga of life, beyond the physical fitness practices”

  • Patanjali’s teachings of ahimsa, doing as little harm as possible (non-violence), and satya, or honesty and authenticity—the key to it is to live both of those at the same time

  • His mission is to bring in a new era, where the new-normal is love and truth – kindness, authenticity and radiance – for all beings, of every species.

  • "A world where an aberrant act of meanness creates a ripple of alarm that immediately engenders a response of love and understanding so powerful that it melts the pain and meanness and harmony is restored.”

  • What we are all needing to learn as a culture, the gifts of the darkness: we can’t afford to have division, what we need is inclusion

  • The Fantastic 4 of his daily rituals: The importance of daily practices to remember where he’s set his compass coordinates and stay connected to hope and positivity

  • The Sun Breath exercise and why it’s so powerful to raise frequency or vibration

The Seeker's Journey with Daniel Aaron

Listen below or on iTunesSoundCloud, YouTubeOvercastStitcher, or Google Play Music:

Check out other episodes of the Pivot Podcast here. Be sure to subscribe via iTunesGoogle Play or SoundCloud, and if you enjoy the show I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review! Sign-up for my weekly(ish) #PivotList newsletter to receive curated round-ups of what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and new tools I'm geeking out on.

Want to support the show and become a founding member of the Pivot Podcast community? Join us on Patreon here.

107: (Un)Medicating Grief—Recovering Feeling After Decades on Anti-Depressants with Brooke Siem

I'm so grateful to Brooke Siem for opening up and sharing her story with us this week. Not only is she a woman of many talents (ballerina! chef! Chopped champion! bakery owner! crossfitter! writer!), Brooke has spent the last two years sober. Sober from medications that doctors, the assumed authority figures of her life, had been prescribing for the last fifteen years and an estimated 30,000 pills.

It all stemmed from an attempt quell her initial grief at the sudden death of her father when she was just a teenager. Brooke assumed she was broken, that she couldn't function in society without the drugs. It was only recently that she began to question what life would—or could—be without these medications driving modulating her emotions. Listen in to this week's conversation for how Brooke is navigating her newfound life—re-learning what it means and how to be herself, if not truly figuring it out for the very first time.

Check out full show notes from this episode with links to resources mentioned at PivotMethod.com/podcast/brooke-siem. Enjoying the show? Make my week by donating just $1 an episode at Patreon.com/pivot.

More About Brooke

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Brooke Siem is a speaker, writer, and chef who spent a eight years in the New York City food and wine industry before an opportunity to travel around the world with Remote Year fell into her lap. Despite a career that included honors such as being named one of Zagat's 30 Under 30, becoming a Food Network "Chopped" champion, and co-founding Prohibition Bakery and authoring the book of the same name, Brooke's "successful" Manhattan life also fueled a lifelong battle with depression. Prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs at 15 years old after her father's sudden death of pancreatic cancer, the opportunity for a life abroad sparked the realization that she had been heavily medicated for half of her life. She decided to make a massive change.

First, she booked a one-way ticket to Malaysia.

Then, she got off all the prescription drugs.

Two years and 17 countries later, Brooke's primary focus is on advocating for mental health and wellness without the use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Though she believes that these sorts of drugs can have their place on the road to healing, her own experience has taught her that these medications are often poorly monitored by doctors, prescribed without thought of the long term consequences, and prioritize the notion of "existing" versus thriving. Brooke's goal is to show that it is possible to live a joyful, centered life without the use of antidepressants, no matter how far down the rabbit hole we once were.

As of May of 2017, Brooke sold her half of Prohibition Bakery in order to continue working and writing remotely. She is currently working on her second book, a memoir, and is currently based in Vancouver, BC. You can also say hi on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

Topics We Cover

  • Deciding to detox after realizing she had been medicated for over half her life

  • Pivot points of her inner landscape: being put on antidepressants to manage her grief "on a timeline that worked for everybody else.”

  • Don’t remember much, "living under the impression I was broken”

  • In her Legacy Show talk she shared, “When they first put you on the drugs, they don’t tell you that you’ll forget how to feel."

  • Taking 4-7 medications at any given time, 30,000+ pills over the course of her life

  • New York Times article: Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit (and the ensuing backlash)

  • Detoxing at 30 years old felt much like going through a second puberty; became extremely sensitive to sounds, crowds, pain, tastes, music, clothing, everything - “I have no idea who this person is”

  • Jealous of children who could express their feelings and anger out loud

  • Sleep had always been the antidote

  • What carried her through the down moments of detox when it could’ve been easier to go back to the meds

  • Buying a one-way ticket to Malaysia, aha of starting to feel again - raindrops on her skin - little things to hold onto, started painting - felt creative for the first time in her life

  • Finding a spiritual therapist - working with Edward Mannix; compassion key healing process

  • Growing up in a very spiritual environment - picking angel cards as a child

  • “He didn’t try to teach me how to cope, that my brain was broken or the solution was in a pill - he told me he thought it was possible to heal. We have all these experiences in this life and past lives that converge together and influence all of our decisions.”

  • On clearing past karma, wipe off the lens of our life through self-compassion and feeling some of the things we’re feeling

  • Silver lining doesn’t always work, on wondering about the why of all this

  • All the issues of my life that I believed were permanent

  • Self-compassion process: start with the phrase, “I’m so sorry . . .”

  • Now approaching the two-year anniversary of getting off her last drug

  • Living in Vancouver with her boyfriend, move around every four weeks or so; priorities have really shifted, don’t feel the need to look for validation in external things when it’s so much more important to spend time with the people who are important to her

  • Created a much smaller life - love the idea of a tiny house

  • On winning Chopped with chocolate, crabs and caviar

(Un)Medicating Grief: Recovering Feeling After Decades on Anti-Depressants with Brooke Siem

Listen below or on iTunesSoundCloud, YouTubeOvercastStitcher, or Google Play Music:

Check out other episodes of the Pivot Podcast here. Be sure to subscribe via iTunesGoogle Play or SoundCloud, and if you enjoy the show I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review! Sign-up for my weekly(ish) #PivotList newsletter to receive curated round-ups of what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and new tools I'm geeking out on.

Want to support the show and become a founding member of the Pivot Podcast community? Join us on Patreon here.

My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired with Benjamin Spall

My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired with Benjamin Spall

Although many of us aspire to rewarding morning routines (and enjoy geeking out on the best of what others come up with), on some days just getting out of bed is a victory. To this end, one of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander's new book, My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, comes from Ana Marie Cox, a political columnist and culture critic.

Cox says, "When you come up with a morning routine, understand that you’re undertaking it in order to do something good for yourself, not to meet some stranger’s standard of productivity."

With that in mind, I invite you to this week's conversation with Ben where we discuss common themes across morning routines, and how to take some pressure off of trying to meet impossibly high Inner Critic Morning Routine Police expectations. I'm also honored to be featured in My Morning Routine, with a subtitle for my chapter that made me chuckle: "When your evening routine starts at 3:00 in the afternoon." Listen in to find out what I do with all that wind-down time :) 

Adulting to Win: Powerful Questions and Pivotal Plot Points with Paul Angone

Adulting to Win: Powerful Questions and Pivotal Plot Points with Paul Angone

What is fear keeping you from doing? Is it worth it? Are you afflicted with an additional form of OCD, Obsessive Comparison Disorder? What are the pivotal plot points of your story, the triumphs and the tragedies? What sacrifices are you willing to make to honor your soul values?

These are the powerful questions that my longtime friend Paul Angone asks and collects in his new book, 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties. The book covers four categories that we also dive into on the podcast: adulting to win, careerish, relationshipping and finding your signature sauce. I love Paul's humility and humor, and I can't wait for you to see which of the questions we cover might just change your day, your week, or your life :) 

Turning Pain Into Purpose: Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer on Kayaking the Grand Canyon, Climbing Everest and Building No Barriers

Turning Pain Into Purpose: Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer on Kayaking the Grand Canyon, Climbing Everest and Building No Barriers
"My father had been like a broom, constantly sweeping me out into the world, and my mother was like the dustpan gathering up the shattered pieces and rebuilding me, only to have my father sweep me out again."
—Eric Weihenmayer, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon

This week's guest, Erik Weihenmayer, needs no introduction beyond his incredible life story and mission, and I cannot wait for you to meet him. Erik is an adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker, who has also become a celebrated and accomplished athlete despite losing his vision at the age of 13. 

He was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001, and completed the Seven Summits the following year, joining 150 mountaineers at the time who had accomplished that feat, but as the only climber who was blind. In 2005, he co-founded No Barriers, a nonprofit organization with the tagline, “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.” The organization helps others with diverse backgrounds and abilities attack challenges head on, problem solve, build winning teams, and serve others. In September 2014, Erik and blinded Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Grand Canyon, considered one of the most formidable whitewater venues in the world.

That’s the focus of his recent book, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon. In the foreword, Bob Woodruff said, “Erik is simply one of the most remarkable men I have ever met.” I agree, and not just for what he has accomplished, but for who he is—full of heart, soul and inspiring hustle. This episode is one you won't want to miss. 

Musician Trevor Hall on Karma, Healing, Soul Maps From the Stars + Fruitful Darkness Song Premiere

Musician Trevor Hall on Karma, Healing, Soul Maps From the Stars + Fruitful Darkness Song Premiere

"Mama well she told me time / is such a wonderful gift / You're not running out / You're really running in."
—Lyrics to You Can't Rush Your Healing, by Trevor Hall

I am absolutely elated to bring you this week's guest—one of my favorite artists, singer/songwriter Trevor Hall. Trevor's divinely-guided music is infused with soul and spirit, and lifts me (and so many others) up who crave connection to meaningful lyrics and exquisite melodies.

We talk about the inspiration behind his new album, The Fruitful Darkness, with a special song premiere of "Karma" at the end of the episode (I got to choose my favorite from the new batch—which was not easy to do)! We also dive deep into astrology as a guide to our inner blueprint, how he "hears" songs before he even knows exactly what they mean, staying in flow while touring around the world, and finding blessings in the dark, unwanted, or unknown times of life. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did :) 

How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t — With Andrea Owen

How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t — With Andrea Owen

"I stopped following, bypassing my inner critic, knowing full well the future of my total physical and mental health was not dependent on Ms. Bendy Six Pack Von Instagram."

—Andrea Owen, How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t

Although it seems like the holidays should be nothing but rosy and bright, filled with gratitude and good cheer, sometimes being back in our home of origin (with family, longtime friends, and/or in-laws) can send us into a personal growth regression machine. In past years I’ve caught myself reverting to my worst habits—whether it’s using the tone of voice of a high-schooler, layering on guilt for not being my best self, or not taking care of myself in the ways I know that i need in order to recharge and stay sane amidst the extraversion and people-immersion this time of year. 

So I purposefully scheduled this awesome episode with my good friend Andrea Owen for this exact week. A time when, despite your best intentions, you might find yourself falling into the familiar traps of perfectionism, people-pleasing, controlling, and about 10+ others that get in our way and make us feel like sh*t. I hope you enjoy this conversation and find as much relief in it as I did!