Secrets to Zen Stress-busting strategies from Pedram Shojai, author of The Urban Monk.
A: Author of the bestselling books Th e Urban Monk and Th e Art of Stopping Time, Pedram Shojai addresses the real-life issues that people deal with every day: Money. Time. Energy. Sleep. Family.
e Urban Monk philosophy is about applying the lofty lessons he learned in years of practice as a Taoist monk to the down-and-dirty nittygritty of real-life problems. Far from being an esoteric spiritual practice, “urban monk ism” is all about finding practical solutions to everyday challenges that will free you up to be everything you’re capable of being, everything you’re capable of dreaming. “Your family needs you to be more aware, present, and loving when you are with them,” he writes. “Your business needs you to step in and bring more abundance to the world. And most importantly,” he adds, “you need you back.”
e book is based on an ancient Chinese practice called a 100-Day Gong, but applied to modern life. A gong is a designated amount of time that you allot to perform a specific task every day. So for example, meditation is a gong.
Here are just a few of the 100 “gongs” from Th e Art of Stopping Time.
Practicing gratitude is healthy. It helps paint a worldview of optimism and hope. “Gratitude is good medicine,” says Shojai. “Multiple studies have shown that people who practice it are consistently happier.”
“Step outside today and learn from the ultimate teacher,” suggests Shojai. “Nature is our guiding light when it comes to cycles and rhythms. Nature has all the wisdom you need, packed into plain sight. We’ve simply forgotten to look.”
Email is integral to our lives, but it’s become one of our biggest tim000e-wasters. “We’ve become slaves to the inventions that were created to make life easier,” says Pedram. He suggests setting up chunk time for checking email, preferably 30–60 minutes in the late morning and another block toward the late afternoon. “e key is to get in, handle it, and get out,” he says.
When people have a whole backlog of stu hanging out in their psychic space waiting to be processed, it creates stress. As Shojai puts it, you have stu on your mind, yet life keeps coming at you. How do we fi x this? Simple. We allow time for
diegestion—mental digestion. “You have to honor the fact that it can take some time to process certain information,” notes Pedram. “Exercising and hiking are great places to do this. ey get the body moving so you can integrate your thoughts and process them in a healthy way.”
Chunking time is assigning segments of time on your calendar for specific activities— and then keeping to the schedule. Email time (see above) is for checking and responding to email. at’s it. Family time is for family, with no other distractions. If you’re out to dinner, be with the person you’re eating with (texters and phone-checkers, I’m looking at you). If you’re working on a report, work on the report. “e key to getting this is to let go of the false notion that multitasking somehow makes us better,” Pedram says.
“One of the main reasons people in modern cultures can’t sleep is the velocity they carry into their evening hours,” says Shojai. In the deceleration gong you pay close attention to your evening rituals as they slowly blend into sleep. Pay attention to what you’re doing the 3–4 hours before bedtime. He suggests looking at your evenings and seeing what changes you could make to slow things down a bit. Can you hang out in candlelight for a bit? Turn the TV o for a couple hours before bed? Maybe get into a book instead of binge watching Netflix? Start doing this, Pedram asserts, and you’ll start to see improved quality of sleep. “Your days will begin with more energy and enthusiasm, and your stress levels will begin to come down.”
Pedram is above all a qigong master, and qigong is your interaction with your environment, and the people around you. What kind of energy are you putting out into the world? “Smiling is really the simplest example,” Pedram told me. “It lights up someone else’s day and makes you feel good too. It’s unbelievable how much di erent the day can be if you just start smiling at people.”
In the end, it’s really about the little things. Like smiling. Or spending ve minutes in gratitude. Or taking some time to think about the day. Or hanging out with candlelight before bed. Says Shojai, “e little things make a remarkable di erence in people’s lives.”