Dr Shankardev Saraswati returns to Unstress to discuss a big question – finding life’s purposes. A big question, I know! Shankardev is a Western medical doctor, yoga authority, therapist and teacher with over 40 years of experience. He is also a psychotherapist, author and runs many live and online workshops. Shankardev integrates Western mind-body medicine and psychotherapy with Eastern methods of mind-body development and awakening consciousness, making him a unique person to explore this big question.
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Dr Ron Ehrlich: Hello and welcome to Unstress. I’m Dr. Ron Ehrlich. A theme we are going to be exploring this year, actually we did it last year and hopefully will next year, is the theme of potential, fulfilling your potential, whether that is an individual, a partner, a friend or a family member, community, a member of a club or a business. You take your pick or just all of the above. So, today we are going to explore finding life’s purposes. Why muck around. That’s a big question. And on the way, we’ll also explore truly knowing yourself. An issue that has challenged philosophers for thousands of years. Well, my guest today is my good friend, Dr. Shankardev Saraswati. We spoke early last year to him, in episode 13, and we called that Mind and Body Connections. Now, Shankardev is a Western medical doctor, a yoga authority, therapist and teacher with over 40 years of experience, and he is also a psychotherapist, an author, and runs many workshops both live and online. His work integrates Western mind-body medicine and psychotherapy with Eastern methods of mind-body development and awakening consciousness, which makes him a great person to help us explore today’s topic. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Dr. Shankardev Saraswati.
Welcome to the show, welcome back to the show.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Thanks Ron, always great to see you.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Listen, you’ve got so many great programs going on. One of them was Finding Life’s Purpose, and I wanted to get to that.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: But before we do, and just before we started this, I was mentioning to you that arguably over history people have always said it’s really important to know yourself. Whether it was Aristotle or Plato or Buddha or Christ or whoever. Philosophers over the last thousands of years have always said it’s really important to know yourself.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: And I was saying that arguably it’s never now been important than ever before because technology, actually we’re gonna get to the point, and this is an argument from that great philosopher-author Yuval Noah Harari, technology will know us better than we will ourselves.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: ‘Cause like yesterday, I got a reminder about Facebook, something happened in 2012. So, it reminded me of what I did. If I went through technology, it would know exactly what I’ve bought, where I’ve been, how I’ve travelled, where I’ve gone, what I liked, what I didn’t like. So, we’re coming to a point in history where actually technology may know us better than we know ourselves. So, now it’s really important to know ourselves. How do we go about doing that? What do you think? Big question.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Big question. The essential question. I would say the main thing that has to be sorted out before we even talk about that is which self are you talking about?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, there are several selves and … So, when the philosophers talk about a self and when we talk about a self, that word, that’s an umbrella term for a whole lot of different bits of us. And you can say that we have a conditioned self, a created, an artificially-constructed social self which has many parts, multiple bits. So, there’s a professional self. You’re a different person when you’re at work, you’re a different person with your family. Different bits of your ego structure come out, and that’s an egoic self.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And the self that philosophers point to is called an authentic self or an essential self, or a true self, or the real me. Who am I really?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the whole quest for self-awareness, self-knowledge, is a kind of peeling the onion of who we are back to this core consciousness which the philosophers have always said is the true self. The true self is consciousness and the egoic self is a concept that we live out, it’s an idea in our head that we’ve been … I think I am Shankardev, I think I’m a doctor and so on, or a yoga teacher or a yoga therapist and psychotherapist, all those identities that I’ve got, they’re only valid while I’m doing those things. But when I’m down at the beach, I’m not a psychotherapist, unless someone comes up and says, “Hey doc, what’s going on?”
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, “What do you think?”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: “What do you think.” Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Or, “What’s the meaning of life?”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And I can do that, then I can transition into that bit of me. When we started chatting you said we wanna talk about meditation as well and is that part of the whole quest for self-knowledge, and it is the essential tool. It is both the tool and the state of being in which one realizes who one, who we are. So, that is a long way from where most people’s awareness is. And that opens a huge philosophical, psychological, existential, and scientific kind of discussion about all these …
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, what I would say, is a journey we take from an egoic state that’s created from birth up to a certain age, and then a point comes where we wake up and we think, “Is this all I am? Is there more to me? Because I feel it’s a bit repetitious, I’m doing the same thing, I use the same toothbrush every morning and then the same family, the same route to work, the same work and work’s the same more or less. I’ve got a bit of variety here and there but … And life’s going on, and I’m just being pulled by society and by demands of the world to respond. But there’s a different part of me that’s calling. Something inside me is calling, what is that call?”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: As soon as you hear the call, then you start to have to turn your attention away from all the triggers, all the stimulus that’s pulling into the world, social media and family and responsibilities and finances and so on, and you’ve gotta take some time and look within. And it’s only that that enables you to know yourself, to give yourself the attention and the time you deserve.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: We were talking about the subconscious, so much of what goes on in our lives is actually subconsciously happening.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: And I know last year we talked about the psychology of an approach, but we also … I talked to Bruce Lipton, and Bruce, of course, is very big on, as a lot of people are, says, “Show me the boy … ” Or let’s call it person. “Show me the person at seven and I’ll show you the adult, or the man.” And those first seven years are really important.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah?
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Would you-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Sure, yeah. The ego forms between the age of about zero to five. You bring your genetics, and philosophically some traditions would say you bring a past-life shadow. You bring the shadow of the past life into this life. So, there’s something you carry. If there is this concept of a soul or a self that reincarnates, then you bring some karmic residue that you’ve gotta … You’re here for a purpose, so part of what we’re talking about is what is the purpose of it all?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you have a purpose. You’re born with this purpose. You’re born with some kind of, you know, you’re either gonna be born into wealth or you’re gonna be born into poverty or you’re gonna be born with certain intellectual or financial or emotional strengths or weaknesses and so on, and you’re gonna have to live with that, those limitations. You’re not a blank slate in the majority of philosophical and scientific approaches.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then you live in a soup of a family. You’re boiled in the soup of your family and you absorb all of those nutritional elements that cultivate strengths, but there’s also maybe a few preservatives in there and a few toxins, so that you absorb those into your system as well, and over that time you are conditioned. And you’re conditioned to form what the Jungians would call an ego and a shadow.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, your parents will work with carrot and stick to try and get you to conform to their ideas of how you should be in the world. So, if I poo on the floor I get a frown. I have to make a decision now because I can see my mother’s frowning at me, I have to make a decision, which is better? The poo? Enjoy that warm, very interesting texture and it’s very useful for walls and stuff, or do I try-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: We’re talking about the first five years of life here though, we are.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: We’re not actually. I’ll explain why as this metaphor goes on. Or we go for the smile. Personally, I chose the smile. I’ve stopped pooing on the floor. But a lot of people choose the poo and continue to shit on themselves throughout their life and they shit on the world. And they don’t look to try and support the world being happy and so on.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, in therapy, we’re dealing with people who’d made a decision early in life not to look after their own stuff, their own shit.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: This is what intrigues me, and whether it’s five, seven years, whatever, those early years, really important. I can’t remember the first one, two or three years. Is this important? If we’re wanting to learn about the influence that these years had on us, and going back to the metaphor of the poo and the smile of the mother or the anger of the mother to teach us a lesson, presumably the reaction of that informed how we viewed the world in future?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, it’s really important for us to understand what was going on at that time? How do we do that?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, we see the past in the present. You see whatever behaviours you’re engaged in in the present moment are often a reflection of what you learned back then. You can’t really know fully previously-egoic structure what’s going on. But just wanna complete the-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: The metaphor, go on.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But just what happens, how the ego forms. So, the ego forms and everything that’s not, doesn’t feel right for you, is pushed into the shadow. That’s both biological and cultural. So, we have to learn there are certain boundaries around which we can’t go, society will penalize us if we do things.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And you can see in the news all the time people who are doing terrible things to other people and that is often the shadow, that’s the society’s shadow. You’re not allowed to rob banks, you’re not allowed to kill people, you’re not allowed to drive drunk, if you’re in a bank you can’t take people’s money if they’re dead. Pedophiles, the pedophilia, the child abuse, all that stuff. That’s all the shadow. All these things that don’t function, that don’t enable us to live as human beings in a society where we support each other’s growth and development.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the development of an ego is a contraction of the original state that we’re born into … We’re born into a kind of oceanic state of being in which we’re connected to the whole universe, there’s no ego, we’re just this squishy bundle of matter forming, growing and forming.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So the ego is a biological as well as a psychological process. And we’re born into this condition, into a limited form that is genetically differentiated and limited by our parents’ genes and so on, and then we start to contract. And we form a contracted consciousness, a small conscious mind, and that’s when we start to get the reflection. That’s when we start to be able to say, “This is me, and that’s something different.”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then I’ve gotta work out what those things are, so I go around exploring, putting my fingers into different holes in the wall, those electric holes and that doesn’t work. Or, you know, hot water, “Okay, that’s interesting.” And so on. And good things. You start to discover the world.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you start to form this object relationship with things, you start to work out who you are and what other things are.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: That’s the formation of an egoic self. Just to finish this off. Your ego develops over the first half of your life. So, you start to, “Who am I? What’s my identity?” You go through school and you study and you take on a profession and then you form a family. As a stereotype, as a general principle for human life. The arc of development. And then at a certain point, you’ve done most everything. Hopefully, you’re making money, you’re supporting yourself, you’re supporting a family and you’ve got some freedoms.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then at around about the age of 40, and this is a very Jungian concept, where everyone needs a bit of a crisis. And the crisis is this mid-life crisis. “Who am I? What’s my life all about? Is this all there is?” That often comes in the form of something erupting out of the unconscious that makes us act in a way that doesn’t work for us or others, and we suffer those repercussions. The classic is the middle-aged man who runs off with his secretary and she’s 20, and buys a sports car and leaves his family and then usually that doesn’t work out really because what’s coming up is a residue from the unconscious that is not understood or integrated into who we are.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, we go through this crisis and then we start to go on a journey to discover ourselves. And that self-knowledge that you started off talking about is something that’s hard-won. That takes a lifetime at least to get to, and each one of us that starts on that journey realizes how hard it is. It gets harder and harder as you go on in some ways, but it’s very, very rewarding.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you can say enlightenment is a gradual process of waking up to who we are, and self-realization is the ultimate, is a term used in certain philosophical traditions as to who you really are. This is the final evolutionary step in self-knowledge. You get to a point and then you, you’ve moved from an animal through the human condition and you get to some kind of superhuman state or supra-human state. And then the next stage of evolution takes you into a different …
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, humanity is a stage in the evolution of consciousness.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: In Ayurvedic medicine, or philosophy, there are chakras which are seven-year cycles. Can you give us a little bit about chakras 101?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Okay, sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Because this is about development isn’t it?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It is, absolutely, chakras are my favourite topic of course.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: What a coincidence.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Isn’t that interesting? Just to clarify, Ron, Ayurveda is traditional Indian medicine. It does not deal with the chakras. Just because we need clarification.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: No, that’s a good one.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s a good one.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: That’s an important one.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s an important one. These are big topics. Indian philosophy-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: That’s okay, we got as much time as you want.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Okay, great. Indian philosophy has certain branches and those branches deal with things like medicine, architecture, warfare, politics, spirituality and so on. And Ayurveda is purely a medical system. And of course, it has a language that … The fundamental concepts of Ayurveda are universal and are shared amongst a lot of philosophies.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, certain things, so for example the elemental forms, earth, water, fire, air and space, which make up the three fundamental Ayurvedic humors or doshas, the things that form the human body and mind – Vata, Pitta and Kapha; Vata’s made of space and air and forms the nervous system and so on, and more, much more. Pitta is fire and water and Kapha is water and earth.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: These elemental forms, these are the building blocks of a complete system of medicine. And those building blocks are also used in other philosophies which are designed to take people on a journey towards self-realization.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the chakras are a part of what’s called the Yoga Tantra system. They come out of that system. That is a process of a system that’s main practices and based on a theoretical basis, but it’s mainly practices designed to awaken an experience of more of us, how do we get to more of us?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And the human body’s divided, in these systems, into three parts. The physical body, a subtle body, and a causal body.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, say it again, physical-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Physical-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: … subtle-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Physical. The subtle, let’s think of that as the psychological. And the causal, or the spiritual. So, body, mind and spirit. But they have a very sophisticated way of categorizing these concepts of body, mind and spirit, into a structured, ritualized approach to guide you on a journey inward so that you have a safe, stable ground on which to dive into the unconscious and the chaos of the psyche and the spirit, these parts of us that are often shut off from us, and to come back into our egoic identity and maintain our awareness.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you can say in this concept that the ego lives mainly in the outer world, it’s sensorially-stimulated. The ego is nourished by sensorial stimulation and thinking. Then there’s this other part of us, the unconscious, the psyche and the spirit, that people know about, talk about, write about, but to actually experience the power of that, that’s a quantum leap of power, of who we are.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the chakras as a spiritual path are based on the concept that within every human being coiled potential is this cosmic power.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Okay. Give that to me again, the coiled potential.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: There’s a potential in us. Cosmic power is potential in us. And that’s what drives and animates this, keeps us alive. Look, we have to think that being alive is an amazing thing, having a body is an amazing thing, the more we study it, the more we, you know, the mind and so, we go, “Holy shit, this is, we are … ”
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah. We’ve been in the healthcare game for over 40 years, each, and I think we’ve often reflected on the more we learn the more we realize we don’t know, which makes it really interesting.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Wonderful. And then there’s so much more. So, this philosophy says that there’s this huge power in us, and it’s given terms but it’s kind of a force. You can say it’s a drop of God if you think in those terms. So, it’s a drop of spirit. You can imagine if you think of those as a metaphor, something that is the essence of what creates us. The sperm and the ovum meet when we’re being conceived. I think conceived, which is a pretty interesting thought in itself. And I don’t like to think about that moment of conception too much, my parents, but no-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah. We never really have an image of it, do we? But we should hold it as being so sacred.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Not going there.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: No, let’s not go there, let’s not go there.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Anyway.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: But let’s move on from that moment.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But that power of that. And then somehow this whole organism grows and goes through its life arc from that couple of cells into an egoic structure, becomes a child, adolescent, an adult, and then gets old and withers and things drop off and then finally we leave. There’s something animating that.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And so all philosophy about knowing one’s self is about saying, “Well, who am I? Where did I come from and where am I going?” So, we take it back to the original premise. And so I was born and I’m gonna die. And all philosophy about self-knowledge is really predicated around death and change. If everything stayed pretty stable and we weren’t gonna die, we wouldn’t bother.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: You’ve got all eternity to sort this one out, we’ll get there eventually.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: That’s right, you’d just keep moving forward. So, it’s that predicates and contextualizes philosophical search of self-knowledge. So, the journey towards self-knowledge and, “Who am I?” is saying, “Well, where do I come from and what is it in me?”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I don’t wanna just understand it in my head. That’s a problem. If you only try to understand things in your head, it’s a difficult thing because it doesn’t satisfy, it doesn’t take you on the journey. It’s like you read about the journey, you read about the orange, but you don’t taste the orange, you don’t taste the life. So, you’ve gotta dive into the journey. And for most people, reading and getting knowledge and understanding is the first step. But you’ve gotta dive in.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the chakra system is one of the great systems of Indian philosophy that’s preserved and available in the world today. One of the great things about India is that its tradition was preserved and is still intact to some degree. Not everything, we’ve lost a lot. And the chakra system is one way that we can use.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The chakras exist in the subtle body. The only way to get into the chakras is to meditate, is to turn your attention inward and to begin to perceive and cognize these things in your spinal cord, ’cause they’re in the spine, and to feel them. And then they take you into a state of being, so that opens a doorway into the psyche. So, the chakras are a portal into the psyche, and then true self-knowledge starts to arise.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Okay. Let’s go back to some basics here, because you’ve mentioned chakras. Give me chakras 101.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Okay. So, chakras are psychic energy centres in the spinal cord. There are six main chakras that regulate the body, mind and psyche. One is on the pelvic floor, which is ruled by the earth element and it governs the excretion of products from the body and its part of the sexual system, the survival instinct. It’s the fundamental basis of human life, in a sense.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Above that is a chakra in the sacrum, the sexual chakra, which governs the whole urogenital system and it governs the pleasure principle. So, sexuality. So, the two chakras in the base, earth and water, the pelvic floor and the sacrum, govern sexuality both as an instinctual need to preserve the species, we’re driven by sexuality and the need for family and so on and to preserve life, but also the pleasure that comes from it.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then in the naval, naval, behind the naval in the spine there’s another chakra which governs digestion. It’s governed by the fire element, so digestive fire is the principle that operates. It’s a transformative principle, it transforms things from one state to another and it gives health and vitality.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Just to say, if any of these chakras are in the [inaudible 00:27:25] state then they don’t function well, and if they’re in an optimal state then you can digest anything for example, if your digestion is potent. And if you’ve got digestive problems-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Metaphorically as well as literally.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Literally-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: And metaphorically.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: You can’t digest life.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: No.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: You can’t digest life. You can’t digest food, you can’t digest emotions. You don’t have the power. You don’t have vitality. You’re fatigued, you’re down. So, the chakras are a good metaphor for this.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then behind the heart in the spine is the heart chakra, which governs feeling and compassion and empathy. It’s the first human chakra. The chakras below that are much more primal, energetic principles, they have the fundamental animal drives to survival, procreation, food, pleasure principle and so on. And then once you get to the heart you get to the connected, empathic, relational need and drive.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then behind the throat is the chakra of communication, which I’m using right now and you’re using, because it governs both speech and hearing. So, right now my chakra is functioning and I am transmitting sound waves through the ether into your ears. And they’re penetrating into your brain, and you’re nodding so I know you’re present and I know you’re hearing this and you’re translating my sound vibrations into meaning. So, that chakra, communication, very powerful.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then the eyebrow centre, the sixth of the chakras, is the chakra that governs all brain-mind function. It’s for thinking, it’s for intuition, and it has a higher function. They all have higher functions as well.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: For example, the throat chakra would take all my thoughts. I’m not thinking now, I’m just in free-flow, this is just coming out, I don’t know where it’s coming from, I’m just saying stuff. It’s stored in the unconscious and it’s coming through.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: It’s a beautiful thing.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, good. It’s great. Isn’t it wonderful?
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Amazing.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And so that’s coming out. So, the thinking chakra is sending information out through my throat, but I’m also putting my heart into it so I’m trying to feel what I’m saying and make it happen.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, the chakras are these fundamental things in the spine that rest in an unconscious state for most of us, and we wanna make that more available. We wanna feel the spinal cord and its role, not just as a physical, neurological structure that’s controlling each and every single part of our sensation, movement and internal autonomic nervous, organ functioning, heart, lungs, whatever, but we wanna feel the spine as the basis of consciousness.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Because all that electric energy there is keeping this brain alive and holding a continuous and coherent sense of reality. And that reality will change depending on how much power you have in your spine. And so the energy, the coiled potential energy lives on your pelvic floor according … Let me say, they say there’s a goddess there, so the goddess lives right down there. And if she is awakened and raises up through the spine, all the chakras, all your spine is super-energized and your brain, which usually only uses say 10 or 20% of its capacity, moves towards a hundred percent. And that is a concept that is incredible.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, we’re not just using drugs and nutritionals and so on to do it, we’re actually trying through this process, these ancient techniques, Yogic techniques – this is yoga, not just postures, this is the true, the deep yoga – to awaken this energy and to power and to connect all the various neurological connections in the brain so that things are connected up internally. And that concept of connection is the true meaning of the word yoga. Yoga means connection, and connection in each every sense, no matter where it is, in you or in the world, whatever. Connection.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: You mentioned meditation is also about connection, and you mentioned meditation was a way for us to engage with, tap into these chakras?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Tell us a bit about that. One of my questions was gonna be why is meditation so important, and I think you’re heading in this direction right now.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, yeah. Great.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, give it to me, tell us, why is meditation so important?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Okay. So, again, what does the word meditation mean? It is an umbrella term for a number of different processes by which one turns one’s attention to contemplative acts. The word meditation and the word yoga are synonyms. Yoga means connection and meditation means connection. So, in simplest terms, there’s a meditator, or a meditator, and an object of meditation, and an act of meditation that unites the subject, the meditator, with the object of meditation, whatever that object is.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: There’s only one subject. And in the room right now, in my opinion, even though I’m aware that you have the subject in you, I am the subject, you’re the object. But in deeper meditation, if we connect and we’re unified, so then you and I are one and the subject merges. There’s a merging.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, meditation basically is this process of where I sit and I place my awareness onto something. It could be myself, could be a flower, could be the breath, could be a sunset, it could be a concept.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And I aim to become at one which that so that I really get what’s going on. What is that flower? How do I experience the flower fully? How do I really bring it into me so that I get to know each and every part of that flower in my being? Or, how do I experience the beauty of a sunset and allow myself to have that wonderful feeling of beauty at nature and the sun, this giver of light, this massive ball of plasma that’s keeping us going for the time being?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And so meditation is both the state of connection, true meditation is the connected state.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: With what you are focusing on?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, with whatever it is-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Without distraction?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, it can be actually-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Because distraction is the biggest enemy of meditation, so-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: In the beginning.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: In the beginning.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But later on, you can be both connected and distracted at the same time. You can be connected to distraction.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: What a liberating thought.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I may have already reached that point.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I think a lot of us. But the thing is, you’ve gotta be conscious. You’ve gotta have an expanded awareness that enables you to feel multiple things simultaneously, and that’s something that’s not easily achieved. That needs a mastery of the mind.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, in the beginning, meditation and relaxation are synonyms. Most people use meditation as a way of relaxing, of calming the nervous system and bringing themselves back into balance. Most of us are in sympathetic overdrive, we’re stressed. And I just gotta say I read a great book called Unstress recently.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Life Less Stressed.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Life Less Stressed.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: You listened to Unstress.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I listened to Unstress, there it is.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: This is Unstress, let me just pause for a commercial right now.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And a great book, Life Less Stressed. So, most of us are stressed and stress is the killer, it is the number-one killer. That’s what most people are coming to meditation for. They’re worried, they’re caught-up in the day-to-day grind, they’ve got problems, debts, financial, relational or internal, they’ve got some issue. They’re just worried about life, existential issues or whatever it is. So, they come to some sort of meditative process. Could be through music, can be movement. It can be through doing yoga postures which can be a meditation, that enables you to calm your nervous system and relax and come back into your body, and you do that in a very meditative way, so there’s a meditative way. That’s how most people start off.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then to achieve that state of relaxing, or relaxed meditation, this initial state, you need meditation techniques. Just to complete that. Meditation is both a technique, or multiples, endless types of techniques, ways of connecting, and a state of connection. And the state of connection is what most people are after. And that’s what’s fulfilling, life-affirming, rebalancing. Allows you to have a deep, intuitive sense that there’s more to you and you feel more connected to that self.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then you’re more connected to your purpose, then you start to feel and understand your purpose. Your purpose isn’t just coming from outside of yourself. You’re not thinking, “I should have that purpose,” or, “That sounds like a great purpose, I’d love to have that purpose.” You’re connected to a deep and true, to your purpose. And it may not be the purpose that you want, so that’s the issue.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Wanting.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: That is the battle between the ego and the self. My ego wants this, I’d love to have that purpose, but myself, my deeper unconscious, the bigger part of me says, “You’re not here for that.”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And every time you try to go for that purpose that you’ve artificially, you’ve thought through, it doesn’t work and it doesn’t give you satisfaction.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: You keep butting your head up against it and it’s just not doing it for you, and then finally you surrender and you think, and suddenly you find that deeper purpose and you think, “Yeah, this is what I’m meant to do.”
Dr Ron Ehrlich: These chakras, these six chakras, part of meditation is about focusing in on those-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: … or is that just a flow-on effect, a benefit that through the deeper calming of the mind and the focusing on a particular thing, whatever that may be, it allows for the flow through the chakras to rebalance them? Is that over simplistic?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: No, I think that’s perfect. I think it’s both.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Thanks for joining me today. No, there’s still more to discuss.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: There is, there is, yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: No, no, but that is how we use meditation in the chakra system?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah. What happens is that because these are natural structures in the physic energy centres contained within a physical matter or embodied in physical matter, every time we meditate we turn on our third eye, our eyebrow centre.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Every time we meditate that part of us is relaxed and brought back into a degree of balance and so we can think a bit more clearly, our emotions, our heart probably feels a little calmer and we get some insight. And then we have to dive back into life and carry that with us back into life.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: What I was saying is you’ve got these initial stages of meditation which are relaxation, and then you go onto these more advanced levels if you’re interested. And chakra meditations would be called an intermediate level of meditation technique, where having learnt to relax and calm the mind to a degree, and you’ve developed a lifestyle, your lifestyle’s in balance and you’ve got everything in place, so you’ve got a bit of mind.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then you can go in and you start to focus on these chakras, and that awakens the subconscious mind, or the unconscious mind and brings, so you start to move into a relationship with your unconscious. Your unconscious starts to become more informative. So, you start to listen to your deepest self, and that deepest self, as you remove the impurities, they’re called impurities, but as you bring things back into a more integrated state the signals that you’re receiving from your unconscious have greater clarity.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s like you’ve tuned the radio, so there’s not so much noise, and you’re getting these clear signals from the deeper you. Then you no longer look outside of yourself so much for information and understanding.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And you realize that all the great knowledge that’s in the world has come from within another human being, and that’s all available in you to some degree, depending on your nature and capacity and so on.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: This is great because I think a lot of people would have a meditation on their to-do list. They think, “Yeah, I’m definitely getting, this year I’m getting into meditation for sure.” And they sit and they do whatever form of meditation, whether it’s focusing on the breath or … A mantra is another thing. Is the sound important-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: … aspect there?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s a technique.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Just another technique, a mantra.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, I wouldn’t say just another technique.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: A very powerful-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I would say one of the great tools. Now, there are different systems and there are siblings and so they have a little rivalry. So, some systems say don’t do mantras and some systems say-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, this is the politics of-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The politics of-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: … meditation.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The politics of spiritual stuff.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Okay. So, well, I was gonna say something else but you’ve grabbed my attention there.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: What’s the story there? Some people think the sound, and I would think the sound does add another dimension to the meditation.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It really takes us down another track, but I just say-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: [inaudible 00:42:11].
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Just to give you a quick … I think what happens is that you have knowledge, you have knowledge in its purest form, and then that knowledge has to be embodied in a human being.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And each one of us has strengths and weaknesses and we have certain biases. Some people are very intellectual and rationale and some people are very emotional. And so I would say that when the knowledge, when people teach all these different types of these systems they teach it from within their own inherent structure, their own bias, their own prejudice, their own understanding of the world, and that’s always limited.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Every human being is limited and all teaching is limited. And probably the most critical thing to come out of this particular question you asked me is listen to everybody, but look within yourself and find the answer for yourself. ‘Cause you’re gonna find your own truth, you’re probably gonna write a book and you’re probably gonna add to the confusion, and that’s all good.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah. You’ve been teaching meditation for many years. Do you personalize, can you talk to somebody and hear their story and look at them and think of them as a certain, say, “I think this form of meditation, the use of a mantra would be powerful for you, but for you, it may not be”?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Are you able to do that as a teacher, do you feel you-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I think so.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, yeah. Well, I assumed so, but can you give us some insight?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: How do you make that call?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Again, it’s like any profession, you learn all the tools of your trade. This also leads back to what you were saying before. Some systems have only one technique. For example, TM, transcendental meditation, just uses a mantra, that’s it. And they do have some other techniques, more advanced.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: That has now morphed into a, they call it Vedic do they, or is that a different one again?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: There are branches. There are branches of the tree, yeah. They pass on a style, kind of comes out of a certain Buddhist tradition of meditation, only uses mindfulness and they’re anti-mantras as a general … Some of their branches, some of their schools will say, “Just do mindfulness. Just sit quietly.” And that’s a technique, and that’s an approach, and that’s valid within that school.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you do have multiple different approaches to meditation. Look, for example, you can divide meditation into passive and active. Passive you just sit quietly and observe your mind or observe your thoughts, or open your eyes and just look out into space which is a Buddhist technique. Or you’ve got active techniques in which you create a visualization, you use breathing, you’re actively trying to change the state of your being.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, as a yoga therapist, psychotherapist dealing with mental illness or with physical illness, I would advise people to use certain techniques that enable change, enable an intervention that moves them from a state of suffering of health and well-being as quickly as possible.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And then, depending on their nature, so if they’re very emotional then we work with one way if they’re very intellectual another. Some people are very active, they don’t like to sit still. They can’t sit, so we need to find a meditation that suits their personality, and we can just take different tools.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Is this part of assessing? ‘Cause what I was gonna say that I’m finding rather interesting and exciting actually about this, is that meditation which moves towards unblocking of the chakras and increasing our, all those six points, which are clearly in a well-balanced body, is a really interesting goal to aim for.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Whereas if meditation is about just sitting still for 20 minutes and being quiet, well, my mind, and I think, “Yeah, okay, no, no, it’s good. Maybe this is just a question of practice,” and it is.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: But if when I get really good at this step then I can move to the deeper step of exploring my chakras, that peaks my interest even more. Because I’m kind of, maybe I’m just goal-oriented or something, but I think, “Wow, this always explains how powerful meditation can be.”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah. And it’s a very intelligent strategy to think about how do we apply these things in a way that keeps us moving towards, on the spectrum away from illness, through to optimal health.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, basically what happens is most people start off with a short practice. I have business people come to me. I give them a 10-minute meditation.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I was gonna ask about time.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: 10 minutes, plenty. That’s a minimum for me. You can take a breath and relax a little bit, but to meditate you need at least 10 minutes. Then what I tell my patients is that, if they wanna progress on the path that suggested towards greater well-being, that they add 10-minute increments, or maybe five minutes at first and then 10 minutes. And each 10-minute increment gives you a little bit more depth, takes you a bit deeper.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And the majority of people will go to 20 minutes or 30 minutes. 20 minutes is I think, in a busy world that’s pretty good. And they’ll get tremendous benefits from that and that’s all they’ll need.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: For another group of people who come to me and say, “Look, I’m really interested, I wanna go further,” then we add more increments. And each time you add a little bit more time on, it enables you to set up a ritual in which you open up various parts of yourself.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you get one bit to feel good, but you can feel there’s another bit that’s not quite as good. So, then you wanna work on that bit. The level of joy and bliss in the body is exponentially, it’s an exponential curve. It’s not linear. You get the sense of tremendous well-being, and then you add on a bit more.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And so chakra meditations require time and there’s a ritual you go through. You go through a process. You sit down, you have to become comfortable, you’ve gotta relax. Then you’ve gotta get your mind out of all of the day-to-day stuff and thinking. And distraction ’cause, you know, we’re thinking.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Then you’ve gotta turn your attention inward. And depending on how prepared you are will depend on how long it takes you to get rid of the debris and to get down and to experience the chakra.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: That takes time. For the majority of people, it takes years of training.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: What is the self? What is meditation? What is the purpose? And what is the mind? These are fundamental things that we have to talk about in order to have this conversation.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The mind is an enormous power. Within the Yoga Tantra traditions, the chakra traditions, the mind is seen as an enormous power. What we experience in our daily life is a small fragment of that mind. We think with it and we apply it a little bit, but a lot of the time we don’t have the energy to really think. We’re tired from busy lives, sometimes poor diet and stressful environment and pollution and stuff.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Let’s come back to purpose for a bit here. What is purpose? Everything in life has a purpose. I have a purpose for being here with you. And purpose can be divided into three parts. I’m here with a purpose, and my purpose aligns with your purpose so we have what’s called common purpose. That’s one form of purpose.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The second is life purpose. My life has a purpose. Like some people are born to be musicians, some people are born to deal with illness. It can be, “My purpose is to manage my multiple sclerosis. I’ve got MS and my purpose is now to learn all the body and the mind and how do I manage this disease? It’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s here.” Or cancer or something.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And the third form of purpose is what I call an ultimate purpose. We run a course on this on our website, about how to find life purpose. But the third form of purpose, which is this self-realization that everybody on the planet in my opinion, and within the opinion of certain philosophies, is to find out who they are. And that journey is facilitated by chakra meditations.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The initial driver is the sense of well-being, but ultimately even that leaves an emptiness, a spiritual vacuum. And that spiritual vacuum is only filled by connection to self, and that self lies deeply, deeply, deeply buried at the very heart of who we are. And to touch that is to change the totality of your understanding of who you are and what life’s all about.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And the chakras are an immediate stage that give you a platform, a structure in the psyche, that enables you to improve your health, improve the functioning of your digestion and your heart and your thinking and all of that so you live a better external life, but also to create this deeper internal connection to self.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: There are cycles within that chakra system, am I right in saying there are seven-year cycles, is that … Go on, I’m, you know …
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, that’s good.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: That’s good?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I’m with you. Look, I think there are traditions that talk about these different cycles. But-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: But the key is what they signify physiologically, emotionally-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: … and keeping that energy flow?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Look, the concept of cycles is very interesting. And there are seven-year cycles, there are nine-year cycles, there are 12-year cycles, there are 30-year cycles, and so cycles within cycles. And so there are cosmic cycles as well.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, I think of the spinal cord as an antenna that enables me to feel the universe around me, because it’s processing billions of bits of information constantly and they’re coming in from sensorial input, the external world, as well as internally generated from my psyche. So, there’s this meeting place of the inner and the outer in the spine. And that enables me to tune into whatever I want to tune into.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, I can tune into seven-year cycles or nine-year cycles. And I can focus on seven-year cycles and I can create a whole system based on seven-year cycles. Or I could create a whole system based on nine-year cycles. It’s up to me. Infinite potential, infinite.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And just let me say, all systems are a form that arises from infinite, unformed potential. So, every time we get enmeshed in a system we’re caught up in a limited form and it’s always good to remember that that form has limitations. Every system, chakra systems, everything.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, in terms of where we started this conversation, ’cause we were saying knowing yourself is actually, I think, arguably there’s never been a more important time because we’re gonna get to the point where our technology, our smartphones, our Siri or whatever is there, going, “Should I do this Siri?” and they go, “Well, based on all of the information that I have available to me going back to 2007 when you first had a smartphone, some of which, most of which you wouldn’t remember yourself, I think you should do this.” And you’ll go, “Hmm, that’s an interesting point. Siri knows a lot more about what I’ve done in the past than I do. Maybe … ” And at this point, knowing ourselves is gonna be really important.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I’m gonna hand myself over to Apple.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Well, well, I-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Or to Facebook. Or to that guy, what’s his name who runs Facebook?
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, yeah, Mark Zuckerberg.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, and he’s in charge of the world.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, yeah.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So that’s a scary thought to me.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: That is a scary thought.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The mechanization of the world, the technological advancements that we have are fantastic. But we’re creating a web, a mesh. It’s Terminator kind of metaphor that if we’re not careful we’re gonna lose ourselves. We’re gonna lose ourselves and this concept … As long as you have yourself, you can do anything you like. You can use Siri. But if you’ve lost yourself and you’re looking for yourself in Siri, you’re looking for yourself in the wrong place. If you’re looking for yourself in anything outside of yourself …
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Well, the argument goes that in all of human history while we’ve been encouraged to explore ourself more and find out who we really are, that’s been a great goal because ultimately we knew no one actually knew us better than ourselves. Maybe our mothers might claim to or our wives, partners, whatever.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: But now there is a new kid on the block, and that new kid on the block is a technology with a history of us that is unprecedented. So, this kind of knowledge of ourselves is really important.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And all of our information is being channelled through, I don’t know if I’m getting into the realm of conspiracy theory, channelled through cables into computers which are beyond our capacity the imagine, that are holding an infinite amount of data. They’re trying to trap all information within these various systems and use that to manipulate the world. So, I worry about that.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I think justifiably. And I think at the very least it’s targeted towards selling you something because ultimately that is what … And while Facebook is free, the ads that come up there are scary sometimes because it’s like for example-
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s like they know what you’re talking about.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah. It’s like for example, just recently my sister-in-law was visiting with us, and she’d sent a message on WhatsApp to her stepdaughter, and the next day there was an ad on Facebook which had something which was really unusual but related to that conversation. And when we explored it, we realized that Facebook had actually bought WhatsApp for about $19 billion.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, and it’s all commercial.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: And it’s all encrypted.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s all encrypted.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I know it’s all very safe and all that. But was that just a coincidence and it was an ad?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Sure, sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, look, we could go down that rabbit hole too.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But I think the key-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: The key about knowledge, self-knowledge, what I’m saying.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The self is you, it’s in you.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yeah, yeah. And the interesting one, when you were talking about the chakras and you were talking about the throat chakras, and saying, “I’m speaking,” and I’m listening. “You’re sitting here and talking to me and I’m listening, and there’s the chakra of the mind as well.” When we communicate via text messages, how do text messages I wonder fit into the chakra system?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, I don’t think-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I don’t think they do, do they?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I don’t think they do. Well-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Or could they be a blockage.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: No-
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I don’t know, I think that’s a challenge. ‘Cause I think we miss various signals when we aren’t … I mean, communication is a huge thing that has made us what we are today.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s a very two-dimensional form of communication compared to the face-to-face and so on, the human interaction.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Yes, which is a real challenge.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah. But look, I think the key is if you’ve got yourself, use everything wisely. That’s the key. But the problem is there’s a lot of people who don’t have themselves running the world and they are, they have, look, power. So, if we look at the world from a chakra system, power, in the belly chakra, in the naval chakra, when it’s … This opens up another, we’ve got time, we can go over. It opens up this other philosophical doorway.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you can say the chakras can have three states. Luminous, activated and dark. Dark, ignorant, and unconscious. Luminous, fully conscious. And activated an intermediate state. If your chakras are dark, they function under the influence of this dark matter, this dark energy in us. You’re an ego driven by forces, you’re a tool, you’re a pawn of the psyche.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: It’s like World War II. World War II was the rise of totalitarianism and fascism and these. Hitler was a pawn for the dark physic forces of the shadow, the world’s shadow, to emanate, to come through. And this is happening today again.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, you’re not in control. You’re just hungry for power. You’re empty. You feel empty internally. I think Trump is empty of power internally and he seeks power. He projects, he looks outside of himself for power in order to feel worthy. And a true politician should have the power in them, and use that power wisely. They should have luminous wisely.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The problem is that if we’re unconscious, the chakras are functioning all the time and we are simply lost. We’re lost, souls. We’re looking for answers outside ourselves and text messaging and social media and all of these things fill, give us a tool to stay connected at some level, at least at this level, and that’s good.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But as soon as your chakras, as soon as you start to activate them through mediation and as soon as you make them luminous, then you feel full internally.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: See, if they’re dark you feel empty, you’ve gotta fill them from outside. “I need more money to feel my root chakra, more security. I need more sex to feel that I’m a worthy human being. I need to dominate others to feel that I’m okay. I feel empty in my chest, my heart. I’ve got no love. So, I’m gonna really work with these lower chakras. So, power is gonna be the dominant force. I’ve got no real love. I don’t feel much really. I don’t feel the other, I don’t feel your pain.”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: But if my heart’s awake and I feel your pain, how can I do anything that would hurt you? ‘Cause it’s gonna hurt me.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, when your chakras become luminous, and we’re meditating and we’re connected, I’m gonna do everything I can to support you to be as happy as you can be. It’s gonna make me very happy.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, I’ve got extra to give. I have more to give. If my head is full of knowledge I have more to give. If I’m empty, I’ve gotta fill it. If I can’t think clearly, you’re in deep shit. If you can’t make a decision, you’re gonna make really bad decisions, you’re gonna make really stupid decisions and you’re gonna have to live with the consequences of that.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The aim of chakra meditations is to learn how to use the outer world, use everything you’ve got to fill the inner world and use the outer world well and to bring more of yourself into the equation.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Now, we’re going to finish up.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Yeah, sure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I think what we’ve been talking about today has been fantastic and given me a greater motivation to explore meditation more deeply. If our listener was listening to this and thinking, “Yeah, me too. That’s what I wanna do.” I mean, we’re obviously gonna have links to your website, and I know you’ve put together some terrific programs exploring a lot of these things we’ve discussed today. But for someone to get started, what would you leave our listener with and say, “Look, I think this is a great idea, how do I get started?”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Well, I think two things. One is look within yourself. Everything is within you. It’s not that you neglect what’s going on in … You listen to everybody, take as much information as you can. As soon as you think you know something you’ve blocked yourself. Just open up to knowledge from all different people, listen. But then go within and try to see what, how do you bring together your rational and your feeling centers and so on?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And to do that, I think you just start with 10, 15 minutes of any form of meditation. Doesn’t matter what it is. From any school, anywhere, they all bring you to a certain calm internalized state. It’s like brushing your teeth. You’d say brushing your teeth is something you should do daily, wouldn’t you?
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Twice a day.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Twice a day.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: And would you say meditation is something you should do twice a day?
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: I’d say if possible.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: No, no.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Once is enough. Once is enough for meditation. But twice is ideal, because you wanna do it when you wake up to tune your brain for the day ahead, and you wanna do it before sleep so that you take out as much stress as you can so you sleep as deeply and as … So, often before meditation people are very tired, but a lot of stuff will come up and they’re thinking and they’re confused. They think, “I’m not meditating.” But they’re actually cleaning out a lot of garbage, and then they go to sleep.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: The other thing is people should realize the perfected state, the state of calm, thoughtless meditation, is an ultimate ideal. Meditation, every time we start off you’re gonna have a lot of stuff coming up. You’re gonna feel restless, you’re gonna feel distracted, you’re gonna find it hard to focus, all sorts of things.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And you probably need a good teacher to keep you, to support you, saying, “Well, look, that’s okay,” or, “No, you need to tweak this or that and then move forward.”
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, I think to find a practice, find a teacher, someone who can guide you who is useful, share their experience. And remember to find out what’s within you and bring more of yourself into your life and more connection.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: And whatever’s going on, see, this contextualizes everything, it will improve your health. But it also may be that it doesn’t. But even then, so you can take what’s an illness and convert that into something that brings a tremendous amount of fulfilment and meaning. ‘Cause when we’re dealing with death and dying, we’re dealing with terminal illness, and those people who meditate, they die well.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: So, there’s a whole lot of stuff that comes out of this. Start small. If that’s enough, keep going with that. If you wanna go further, read, talk, inquire, go online.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Great. Shankardev, thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: No worries.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I will, of course, have links to your website and all that great resources, so thank you.
Dr Shankardev Saraswati: Pleasure.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Big questions, big challenges, but as we have said, arguably there has never been a more important time to know yourself and to find life’s purpose.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Like many of you, I am sure meditation has always been, well, I know it’s been on my to-do list and I have drifted in and out of it for many years. But talking with Shankardev again reminds me of why working with a teacher can be so hopeful; offering tips, encouraging you not to be too hard on yourself, the importance of practising and explaining various techniques and benefits and challenges that you will face as an individual.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I really like the concept of chakras. Shankardev is actually writing a book on this very subject. What I love about it is that it views the body as a whole, interconnected, in balance or out of balance. And that what we do should try to restore and maintain good energy flow.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Einstein said every atom in the universe, and that includes your body, is both energy and matter, and yet so much of our Western approach seems to be focused on the matter, the symptom, and ignore the energy.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Look, we’ll have links to Shankardev’s website where he runs some fantastic online courses on meditation, yoga therapy, and finding life’s purpose, and more.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: I think his 40 years of experience in this area, while also being a trained medical practitioner with a practice focused in psychotherapy, puts him in a very unique position.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: Now, don’t forget, the Unstress app is also available, making it easier for you to find and listen to this podcast and of course stay in touch.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: So, until next time, this is Dr. Ron Ehrlich. Be well.
Dr Ron Ehrlich: This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you, or any other person, has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences and conclusions.