HEALTH Q&A

Se­crets to Zen Stress-bust­ing strate­gies from Pe­dram Sho­jai, au­thor of The Ur­ban Monk.

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - — Sam B., New York

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.

GRAT­I­TUDE

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.”

NA­TURE

“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

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.

DI­GEST­ING THOUGHTS

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

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.

DE­CEL­ER­A­TION

“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.”

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