Lessons From A 1 Year Meditation Sabbatical w/ Karan Bajaj
My guest today is Indian-American author Karan Bajaj, who is known for the 3 bestselling novels he has written.
However, that’s not why he’s joining us today.
In fact, Karan is here to tell us about the incredible journey he embarked on a few years ago, after attaining his success. It was a journey of spiritual awakening, detachment from the world of work, and of discovery.
In May of 2016, he will be publishing his third novel, The Yoga of Max's Discontent, inspired by this spiritual sabbatical. I have yet to read it, but The Daily Telegraph has called it “The greatest adventure of our generation” and the Wall Street Journal is saying “This book can change your life.”
My goal for this episode is to help discover how my guest went from being “stuck” in a rut to discovering meditation, and how he used a year away from work to actually advance his career and find greater satisfaction in his life.
In it, we’ll talk about the idea of using a sabbatical or a year off to find purpose and meaning in your life, we talk about the power of meditation, the virtues of practicing poverty, and so, so much more. I really, really enjoyed this conversation and took away a lot of meaningful life tips – and I know you will, too.
By the way, Karan has generously offered a free meditation course, a Quit Sugar in 7 days nutrition guide, a yoga flow video course and other gifts worth $299 when you order his book today. Details at www.karanbajaj.com/yogamax
In this episode, we discuss:
- Who is Karan Bajaj, and what has he accomplished in his career?
- What sacrifices did Karan have to make to, as he put it, “truly be excellent” in his writing?
- How did Karan design his own 1-year sabbatical, and why did he include each component in it?
- What is “conscious goalessness,” and why is it such a powerful tool?
- Why did Karan choose to only bring 2 books with him on his sabbatical?
- What is “willful poverty” and why did Karan and his wife choose to incorporate it into their journey?
- Was Karan “happy” during his 1-year sabbatical?
- Powerful insights into meditation and “preparing” to meditate
- What improvements did Karan experience in his meditation practice?
- Some very intense and earth-shattering insights into the dissolution of self through meditation
- How to transition from “preparing” to meditate to actually doing it? How can you get started?
- What is Karan Bajaj's personal meditation regimen?
- What are Vipassana retreats, and how have they impacted Karan Bajaj's life?
- How will you know when a meditation practice is working?
- What were the unexpected side effects of Karan's increased meditation?
- What would Karan say to someone who doesn't think they could do their own sabbatical?
- Which books has Karan Bajaj given the most as gifts, and why?
- The idea of the “incompleteness” of the human experience, and what that means
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Karan Bajaj's 3 Books (Amazon Author Page)
- Our previous episode with Chris Bailey
- Karan's new book, The Yoga of Max's Discontent
- Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein
- The Yogasutras of Panjali
- A special offer from Karan
- Karan's website and blog, including a free meditation course
Favorite Quotes from Karan Bajaj:
Introduction: Welcome to the Becoming SuperHuman Podcast. Where we interview extraordinary people to bring you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here's your host, Jonathan Levi.
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On to today's show. My guest today is an Indian American author known for the three best-selling novels that he has written. Two of which are being turned into movies as we speak. However, those novels are not why he's joining us today. In fact, my guest is actually here to tell us about the incredible journey that he embarked on just a few years ago, after attaining his success.
It was a journey you guys of spiritual awakening of detachment from the world and really of self-discovery. In May 2016, which should be, if you're listening to this episode, hot off the press right around now, he will actually be publishing his third novel, The yoga of Max's discontent all over the world.
And it's actually inspired by the spiritual sabbatical. Now I have yet to read it, but the Daily Telegraph has called it ” The greatest adventure of our generation”. And the Wall Street Journal is saying “This book can change your life”. So some really, really big words from some really credible sources.
You guys, my goal for this episode really was to help discover how my guests went from being stuck in a rut and feeling just a little bit too comfortable to traveling across the world, discovering meditation, and how he used a year away from work to actually advance his career and himself. And all the while find greater satisfaction in his life.
So throughout the episode, we talk about the idea of using a sabbatical or a year off to find purpose and meaning in your life. We talk about the power of meditation and how to go about achieving it. We even talk about the virtues of practicing poverty and much, much more. I have to tell you guys, I really, really enjoyed this conversation.
And I really enjoyed talking to someone who actually is a fan of the show. I took a ton away and a lot of meaningful life tips, and I just know that you will as well. And so now without any further ado. Let me present to you, Mr. Karan Bajaj.
Karan welcome to the show, my friend. I am so happy to have you not least because I understand that you're actually a fan of the show.
Karan Bajaj: Indeed. Jonathan, thank you for inviting me. And yes, I've been loving all the recent episodes. Thank you for pushing my thinking on a lot of different areas.
Jonathan Levi: Wow. I was so touched to receive your email and just to hear, you know, that you've been tuning in and stuff like that.
And it's pretty great. Pretty exciting. So we're very excited to have you here today.
Karan Bajaj: Likewise.
Jonathan Levi: So Karan, tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey. I know you're a very well-respected novelist. I'm sure our audience is wondering a little bit. How we're going to make the transition from novelist to SuperHuman?
So tell us a bit about that and your background.
Karan Bajaj: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I'll do that. So as a novelist, I've written three books in India in the last seven or eight years. All of them have done pretty well.
Jonathan Levi: Congrats on that.
Karan Bajaj: In parallel. I've also had a. A corporate career in the US predominantly. So I've worked with companies like Procter and Gamble and in the Boston Consulting Group. And I'm now the Chief Marketing Officer of a startup based in Brooklyn.
Jonathan Levi: Very cool.
Karan Bajaj: I kind of see that because for a long time. I took a lot of pride in this idea that I was balancing my writing with my corporate job and doing pretty well in both, but to part of the journey that led to this latest novel and the sabbatical that we'll talk a little bit about was I just kind of reached this conclusion that to truly be able to write words that kind of resonate in eternity to truly be excellent.
I have to kind of dive deeper into. Uh, just like focusing for a period of time, only on writing with greatness, you know, and like just tapping into something deeper than myself to be able to write truly excellent stuff. So I think that was part of the, the seed that led to the sabbatical.
Jonathan Levi: Very cool. So tell us a little bit about this sabbatical and what it was, what it meant and what it gave to you?
Karan Bajaj: Oh, yeah, sure. So as, as I said, the seed was a very tangible goal that I wanted to like, you know, write. But then there was something happening in parallel, which is my mother kind of like died from cancer. She was very young. She was at age 55 around the same time that I was thinking about taking this time to write.
And I had a little bit of an intangible goal linked to my spiritual tradition, if you will, like, you know, I'm from India. So I do yoga and meditation, but I had this very intangible kind of a goal that I wanted to get a very clear insight into the nature of reality. It sounds very lofty, but it was like, I need to know why life that suffering and stuff happens.
So I just wanted to know it in a very visceral way. And I think the combination of these two things led to, I have to take a year off to just step into something deeper than myself and that led to this journey. And in a sense, they were. Three components of the sabbatical. We spent four months going from Europe to India by road, then four months doing yoga and meditation in the Himalayas.
And then like four more months of, uh, kind of our own personal silent retreat, if you will. So then my wife and I, we did three competence of the year, that was the idea.
Jonathan Levi: Incredible. Incredible. And so if I understand correctly, really, you were looking for, what does it all mean and how do I find my place in this life?
Despite the tremendous success that you had before you were looking for something a little bit more meaningful?
Karan Bajaj: Exactly. Exactly. And then part of the VB plan, the journey was also very linked to that. Like, so as I said, the first part was Europe to India by road. The idea, there was this idea of conscious goalessness because a lot of my life has been very driven by goals and achievements and left brain, that analysis on everything.
And I wanted to, like, as again, as I said, I wanted to tap into something deeper. And for four months, the idea was that we won't even plan a single day. So we booked, like the day before I left for the whole year, we just booked the cheapest flight to Europe, which was Scotland. You do whatever reason. And then in Scotland, and we had no idea at all about how the next four months would unfold and we would just let every day just decide based on gut intuition, what to do next.
It sounds kind of romantic, but it was very hard for me because I'm very used to planning. Right. And I want to just let go of all planning completely. Wow. So it ended up with very funny, like we spend just one day in Italy, which is like, Oh, should I be in Italy? So you should spend a lot of time in Italy, but we spend one day in Italy and three weeks in Bulgaria.
Because that's just how the road that is. So it was just very conscious to let go of all goals. So that conscious goal list, this was one aspect of the sabbatical.
Jonathan Levi: I recognize a lot of the tenants of meditation here, where it's just a matter of being present in the moment, not thinking about the future, and really experiencing things to their fullest.
I, which I think you can do if you're seeking a goal in nothing else.
Karan Bajaj: Absolutely. I think that's very true. So that was part of the reason why we made that choice. And then the second choice in the sabbatical, it can be kind of defined a little bit of a principles rather than the activities. The second principle was actually linked to what you said, which was what we said was complete silence.
And what silence meant for me was just saying like, there is obviously the chaos of the world, right? Like working a job and writing books and replying to emails and all that stuff. But I was also consuming a lot of knowledge. And that also leads to a clattering of the mind. So I used to eat a lot, always been this drive for self-improvement, and then in the sabbatical, the conscious choice was no Kindles, no phones.
I just took two books with me and I just kept rereading them through the whole year.
Jonathan Levi: Oh, wow. That would have been the most difficult thing.
Karan Bajaj: Indeed, because I think there is a chaos that comes also from this idea of constantly wanting to learn. Which is also like a chaos in your mind. So I wanted to even let go of that idea that there is learning that has to happen.
Jonathan Levi: Wow. That would kill me.
Karan Bajaj: Yes, I know. And then again, the third choice was also tough, but like again, we made a choice of what we called willful poverty. Because what I was seeing was that my language in New York had become very alien to me because it was very comfort-based. So like, I would say things like, you know, I love whole foods and I love, uh, Sri Lankan cuisine.
And I love there was too many preferences and I was becoming someone that I didn't want to be, who was, I wouldn't call myself materially attached because it was not like I want money or this or that, but there were too many preferences and attachments. And the third idea in the sabbatical was complete willful poverty, which is again hard.
So that's why we spent in four months that we spent in a yoga teacher's training in India. like an OSHA right in the middle of a forest. And then we lived in the Himalayas for two months in very spare living like he was sleeping on the floor of an ashram taking only cold baths because that was all there was in the Himalayas.
And we were like for four months, we would just strip yourself of everything that you think you need. And like just live in complete willful poverty. Like, again, to gain back perspective on what it means to be successful and happy. And again, I think it was like a tough principle, but was very, like, we kind of just practice it every day that like, they would just not choose any limit would have no preferences for a year, almost like except what game.
Jonathan Levi: Wow. That's beautiful.
Karan Bajaj: And the harder it was was almost like the better in a way, you know.
Jonathan Levi: So, I want to ask you on that. A really tough question I think to answer, which is during that time, would you describe yourself as having been happy?
Karan Bajaj: It's an excellent question. I think the relationship with happiness changed a little if I may assume during that time, I think there was more silence than happiness is the right word, because I think what started to happen was I used to meditate before, but what I was doing before was almost preparing to meditate, but in the sabbatical, I truly meditated in terms of starting to realize the arising and passing of thoughts.
So this idea, like in silence, you cut a little bit of the action-reaction cycle, but I took what truly happens in like everyday life is that some action happens and you react to it. So, right. So in the, in a situation like that, you're like I'm sleeping on a cold floor and you're immediately reacting that that's not comfortable.
What started to happen was that this action-reaction cycle broke in which there was this action of sleeping on the floor. And then the reaction was I'm sleeping on the floor, not whether I'm happy and unhappy or uncomfortable, uncomfortable. And I think that was very good for me because there was a lot of silence in that.
And I would say you could call it happiness in its own way, because there was not part of judging, whether that thing was happy or making me unhappy, you know?
Jonathan Levi: Wow.
Karan Bajaj: It's a little complex.
Jonathan Levi: No, but that's an incredible, incredible thing is to experience emotions and thoughts as an observer. And then decide, I think that the power there is to decide, well, right now, I'm feeling enjoyment over the sun, hitting my face.
And you can decide, yes, I will choose to become enveloped with that. Or right now I'm sleeping on a hard floor and I'm just going to experience that without getting into it.
Karan Bajaj: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Jonathan Levi: Karan, I want to hit on the meditation thing again, because as you know, we were a big advocate of meditation here, and we've talked about it a lot on the show, but I think a lot of the wisdom there bears repeating.
So what skills or tools or improvements did this intensive period of meditation gives you?
Karan Bajaj: The biggest thing that happened Jonathan was I realized that my meditation before that was not truly meditation. It was preparing to meditate. So in a way, like when we think of meditation in the yoga sutras or the tomato or the, you know, like the Buddhist and yoga text, we think of a little bit of a lighter, like at the foundation of it is like the morality.
This is like self-help gratitude journals, all that is basically preparing you to be at some ease with yourself. Then you move to more concentration-based approaches in which you're focusing on the breath or focusing on the mantra and all of that stuff. And again, those are, you're not still meditating.
You are teaching your mind a level of stability. And then meditation truly is the act of just knowing the nature of reality as it is. And in the process of knowing you end up dissolving your sense of a concrete self. So it's almost like, I felt like the meditation that I was doing before was building my sense of self. Which isn't true meditation in like when you are in true meditation, your sense of self is dissolved completely in a way, because you start realizing that all you are is a constant active stream of thoughts and ideas and fluctuations of thoughts and idea.
And there is no concrete sense of you at all.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely, yeah.
Karan Bajaj: So for me, that was like a bit of an insight in the journey was that I was doing a lot of concentration-based practices before I was focusing on my bread.
And all of that stuff is like almost giving me a level of stability that required to then shatter all sense of self. Like I think that's where my meditation evolved a lot to insight and mindfulness-based practices, but I think what's happening in the West a little bit is that we are rushing towards awareness base practices are just like being an observing without having the requisite stability that is required to reach those practices. Right?
So a lot of things are getting much together, like practicing gratitude and self-help and all that stuff is getting merged with. Those are almost and the technical because they're building your sense of self versus dissolving it. And so I think I was able to just see a little bit of a distinction between meditation was his preparing to meditate if you will.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. I definitely sense in that second step, I recognize a lot of my own meditative practice, where I'm at the point where I can begin to observe thoughts. I can return myself to the breath.
You know, I've been meditating a under a year now, habitually. I mean, how did you, and how does one get from that second point to that third point where we're dissolving self? How do we break out of the preparing to meditate and actually begin truly meditating?
Karan Bajaj: I think it's a great question. What I've seen is that it happens organically.
So what you can force is the concentration-based approach in which you can focus on the breadth or an image or the mantra. That's something that you can consciously willfully train your mind to do, right in, which is very logical, is that you're training your mind to focus on one object for the period of time, which we call, which is like concentrated attention.
That is what you can force. And after that, what happens is that it takes over. So I never tried to do any mindfulness space meditation or insight-based meditation. It just happened to me. So I think then that my thoughts reached a certain level of stability. I was able to see the nature of part if you will, but I can force myself to do that if you will.
Like, I think you have to force yourself to do the morality practices, which has gratitude journals and all that stuff. You have to force yourself to do concentration-based meditation, to sit for 30 minutes or 45 minutes, and just focus on one object, whether it's your breath or an image. And after that, you just have to let it happen to you.
Like let that idea of you've reached a certain level of stability in your mind in which you'll start seeing. The nature of thought. And you'll just start noting that. Now I'm feeling this. Now I'm feeling that in the act of noting and labeling what you're feeling, that part disappears. And I think that just happens to you almost.
Jonathan Levi: Right. And you know, I think the beauty of meditation is that, especially for goal-oriented people like you and I, and people who want to race to the finish line. There is no racing to the finish line. It's putting in the hours and slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly. Yeah. Reaping the benefits. I mean, three or four months ago, I don't think I could have put my finger on the benefits.
And only in the last couple of months, have I started to say, wait a minute, I'm calmer than I should be in this situation. So Karan, what is your meditation and yoga practice? How much do you do per day? And also at the same time, I noticed on your website that you do offer resources for people just starting with meditation.
So how should they go about and what should their daily practice be?
Karan Bajaj: Yeah, absolutely. My meditation practice now is essentially two things. So one, I definitely meditate before I sleep in the night. So I might be up till two or three in the morning working on something because I get to very like into something and I'm like very focused on it and I enjoy, like, I get completely dissolved in the moment or working on it.
But before I hit the bed, no matter how late it is, I always make it a point to spend 30 minutes willfully just observing. Uh, like closing my eyes, sitting and observing the thoughts arise and disappear. Because without that, I feel like I have a very like I sleep, but it's a very vivid sleep. There is a lot of dreams and there is a lot of restlessness in the sleep, but when I meditate, it's almost like I just completely, um, Uh, completely talk less in my sleep and it's a very deep restful sleep.
So I definitely meditate in the night in the morning. What's started to happen, is that because I have like two babies, one is 18 months old and one is like a month old. You don't have that rhythm. You're just on somebody else's clock, you know, which is also wonderful and so on way, but you're on someone else's clock.
So I don't have this very rigid practice in the morning that I'm able to carve out. But what I do is I try to kind of like, just have this choiceless awareness idea throughout the day in which I'm noting and labeling things like I'm trying to break the action-reaction cycle through the living of the day.
Whenever something happens that agitates me or makes me even happy. I just note that that's happening. And I think that's my meditation practice for the day. And so that's been very powerful. It's just a note and label all the time. Like if some, like, you know, and that kind of breaks the reaction of it.
Jonathan Levi: Absolutely.
Karan Bajaj: And for people who are just starting meditation, as I mentioned the website, I think the best way to start this concentration-based approaches, which is for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the night, just choose an external object, whether it's your breath. Or if it's a, like an image that means something to you.
Like for example, a friend of mine is a musician and he's never gotten into this idea of breadth, a meditation, but he focuses on his guitar for 30 minutes of his time and he closes his eyes and just focuses on the image of a guitar. And I think that kind of trains his mind to become one-pointed and Siebel in a very intuitive way that appeals to him.
So I recommend like just training yourself to get a level of stability by focusing on an external object, whether it's your breath or an image, or even a mantra. And that's, I think the best way to begin. Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan Levi: 30 minutes is quite challenging. I used to try and do 20 minutes in the morning and eventually what I did is I realized that that was creating so much psychological resistance that now I just sit for as long as it's enjoyable. And there was something that Chris Bailey said in one of our episodes with him, and it's completely changed my resistance every morning because I know if I sit, I can sit for one minute or I can sit for 30 minutes and I don't feel that fresher.
Karan Bajaj: Ah, that's amazing. That's a good talk.
Jonathan Levi: I haven't missed a day and I think four months. So some things working well, you know, I definitely benefit from these episodes as much as our audience does.
Karan Bajaj: Good streak. Yeah,
Jonathan Levi: Karan, tell me about the Vipassana retreat that you did. You know, I know a lot of folks, especially in the West are doing these. A lot of people here in Israel are doing these retreats and I have to admit it actually sounds absolutely terrifying to me.
So how was it, what was it? And is this something that you would recommend?
Karan Bajaj: Yes. And I'm a little bit of a crazy person in that way because I did three of them over a two-month cycle. So that's like about 30. Uh, and just so for people who don't know, the Vipassana is a 10-day silent retreat, which is very rigorous.
It starts from four o'clock in the morning and it goes on till about 10 in the night. So that's almost about 18 hours of meditation a day with small breaks in between for breakfast, lunch breaks, I think in total at about two hours. So it's almost like for 16 hours. You are just sitting and meditating in a guided fashion.
So there is somebody guiding you and it's not just all do it on your own. Okay. So that's the cycle of a 10-day meditation retreat. The foundation of it is brilliant is that it's all compassion in the sense that those 10 days are completely paid for. So you don't pay for anything, food, lodging, et cetera.
It's all based on people who've experienced it before, donating for the next person in the cycle, if you will. Right. So the whole organization is completely set up on the principle of compassion. And I think that's a very beautiful thing because what happens, as a result, is that when you're in this 10-day silent retreat, which is very rigorous, you come like a bit of a monk, right?
Since you've not paid for anything at all, you're just there because of people's generosity, you are a monk with a begging bowl, essentially. You just have to take the offerings that are given to you. So you don't complain about. Or I don't like, how big this hole is and the 60 people. And I don't like the fact that I'm meditating with people who are making noises when they are like meditating or like burping or whatever, or snorting like you don't, you just have to embrace the fact that you are a bit of a beggar here.
Like you'll just come here and you're going to take the offering that's given to you. And I think that relaxes a lot of physicians to things, and you truly want to learn as a result of that. But having said that it is very intense and there are moments. And especially the second and the sixth day are moments that you want to throw in the towel and leave, right?
Because you're like, this is not working. This is not right for me. And then your mind is never more chaotic than, than the spirit that you're forced to just observe it. And kind of part of also the greatness of the retreat is that you are asked to not do anything else. Not read, not exercise. Just to meditate.
So if you are again, used to cluttering, clutching exactly what you're used to reading a lot, or like exercising things that you enjoy doing, you're completely asked to strip yourself of that also. So all you're doing is meditating and then you start seeing, you just can't deal with your mind. And like on the second day you want to just be like, this is not an eight for me and you give up, but you know, once you survive through that, I think it just, it's a beautiful experience.
And then like I did like three of them in almost like a two-month cycle and. Some part of me just kind of permanently reset as a result of doing those.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. So how have you and your mindset changed since doing these retreats?
Karan Bajaj: I think the starting of it is like, that's very, but I know a meditation practice is working is that, uh, the starting point of it is very physical things that should start changing your sleep should become extremely deep.
And dreamless almost because the sleep changes, your diet changes. So I never tried to consciously change my diet or lose weight at all. But what I saw after the pasta was that I lost 20 pounds within six months. Right. Without trying it all, like I was quite happy with my weight, but what happened was that.
As I said, the action, the action cycle breaks, right? So you become just my minute, a little bit motivated that I'm having chocolate and chips because I like the taste of it. Not because it's so funny value. So you just note that I like I'm going to enjoy the pleasure of it, which is going to last a minute.
And it's all very on consciousness. All these things are not very conscious. And as a result, you just start making better call it dietary choices. Now for me, what happened was that I and I'm not that I'm recommending that, but I did become a vegetarian and I quit alcohol almost immediately after this two months, without trying to, or without even having a very vengeful stance about it.
It was just that I was very aware now that if I had like two bags of this care at the end of the night, I was very conscious that that would lead to sluggishness in my thoughts. So I was able to observe that was, this becomes a part of it. Like, you know, otherwise you just become a part of it and have regret the next day.
I was just observing that now I'm becoming sluggish in my thinking. So that just led to a lot of like physical changes. First sleep, change, a diet change to dreams disappeared. And then I hate to say it, but like, I was always reasonably good at math. Like I've been an engineer quite analytical, but I could calculate things.
In a way I couldn't believe, I know it sounds very funny, but like concentration improves and you can just see the benefit of it in a very physical way. Like I would be sitting in work and I would be able to calculate is much faster than ever before. Like you could put two numbers together in my head very fast.
And I just saw like, those kinds of things started to happen. So it was very physical first. And then I guess once you start noticing the physical changes, the more intangible changes, a little hard to note, but they start to happen. Right? Like, what I see is that you got a little bit less judgmental, you know like you're not judging all the time.
And then the other funny thing is that coincidence has happened a lot. That's what I've seen with meditators is that they start to have a lot of coincidences in their life because it sounds very metaphysical, but it's actually very physical is that you slow down just a tad, right? So as a result, you're not rushing past every encounter and bourbon people start talking to you.
You start to connect some dots from before. So you start to meet people that you wanted to meet, and they suddenly started appearing in your life. And that's all because, uh, like you're just slowed down just a pat in the leasing past things and activities. So I think that's sort of stuff like that. Like, it's all very physical, other the changes, and then hopefully you become more compassionate and stuff, but those are harder to measure, right?
Like you don't know how compassionate you are in a way people start noting that around you.
Jonathan Levi: Yeah. I've definitely noticed that I've definitely had people comment as well. And I think for me, the first thing that I've started to notice that kind of has encouraged me on the meditation is exactly that I'm so much more aware, not just of my emotions, but the pieces all seem to fit together a little better.
Karan Bajaj: Yeah, exactly.
Jonathan Levi: So came out of this experience, this one-year experience you came back and you must've found what you were looking for, because you're about to publish your third book if I'm not mistaken, The Yoga of Max's Discontent. Tell us about that book. Tell us who is max and why is you discontented?
Karan Bajaj: Oh, sure. Thank you. Yeah. So the book is my, actually, my first worldwide release, so random house publishes it in May worldwide. And the story is about an investment banker who becomes a Yogi in the Himalayas. And it sounds a little more like an alchemist thing, but it's actually not, it's really a novel in its scoreless form and it's an adventure and a trailer through India.
A bit of transformation that happens but at its core, it's like a phosphate adventure story and not like some self-help book. And I just follow the character through his journey of, you know, going from hidden night markets to hidden nostrums and up in the caves and the Himalayas, it's kind of poverty, fast space adventure.
Uh, his discontent is an interesting question because bottom of what happened to me. And I think which kind of sparked a little bit of the, his discontent in the novel is this idea that has become very real for me that we're all kind of choosing the infinite in a finite world. And I think that's the root of his discontent to answer your question.
We know the materialism of it, right? Like we know that like houses and cars are not going to be like, you know, are not going to satisfy our hunger. And I think every rational person realizes that soon enough, but I think there is also emotional materialism in terms of, I guess, choosing growth and friendship and parts and ideas.
And I think you started realizing after a while that there is a very infinite cycle of chasing all the time. And I think the act of choosing the infinite in a finite world is a root of his discontent and realizing that and then kind of choosing to fill that with the infinite is what, uh, has just content about if that starts to make a little sense.
But obviously the novel is not very philosophy. It's very physical.
Jonathan Levi: That's a huge point though, about this idea of emotional materialism and chasing, you know, we all know not to chase. The material, but I definitely see a little bit of myself in that.
Karan Bajaj: Right. And I think that's been good to observe, like, so in the yoga, sutras is a beautiful metaphor about man's journey, if you will, which is it's like even the journey of life overall is like an Eagle who flaps its wings high and then brings the wings down.
So there is a stage of life which is completely evolution. In which you just flap your wings high, if you will like you're chasing every kind of experience and growth. And like, you're just expanding your horizons and it's biggest way possible. But then there comes a natural progression life that you have to bring your wings down.
If you will, you feel that sense of reality that nothing in the finite world is complete and there has to be something infinite that I find within myself. And that's the phase of bringing your things down? I think a lot of the book is kind of based on the realization of both phases happening kind of crazy growth and then crazy growth within if you will.
Jonathan Levi: Fantastic. I'm excited to read it. And when does it come out?
Karan Bajaj: Uh, it's on May 3rd, May 3rd is a worldwide release. Yeah.
Jonathan Levi: Excellent, excellent. Karan, I'm sure a lot of people in the audience probably say to themselves, you know, you had this successful career before writing and being an executive. They probably think, you know, I could never take a sabbatical like that for one year.
What would you want to say to those folks?
Karan Bajaj: Oh, yeah. I would say that you can, but I would say start building the muscle and I think the best way to start building the muscle is to take deeper, more meaningful vacations, which means, I think what I'm seeing is that people work very hard and then they go to a resort on the beach.
And what they're doing is that they're taking a physical vacation, but I would say. Take mental vacations, which means choose vacations that all of the mind completely. What I mean by that is try to strip yourself of all comfort, for example, like, you know, sort of like a 10-day vacation climbing the Kilimanjaro or something like it doesn't require any technical skills.
Anybody can go and climb Kilimanjaro, but in those 10 days, you'll be pushed to your limits in which you're. Uh, mine will dissolve completely because you're so into the act of climbing a mountain or take the 10 days, the, a retreat again, very accessible three. You can take a 10-day vacation. So vacations that are actually our creation vacations in which you take 10 days to live in an artist retreat and just come up with an idea and start writing.
So I think you start taking vacations that are stripping yourself off everything that you know, and then slowly that muscle starts going from 10 days to one month to one year. Because I think he's just become much more comfortable with this idea of what you need to be comfortable if you will. So I would say start building the muscle with meaningful 10 dedications and sort of going to a resort on the beach.
Jonathan Levi: I think that's a fantastic piece of homework and fantastic to give to the audience. Karan, what books besides your own, have you given the most as gifts?
Karan Bajaj: Two books that come to my mind, Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein. And the second one is the The Yogasutras of Panjali. There are many transitions of that English translation is very good.
And the reason I'm kind of mentioning those two books, again, this sounds very like mystical and Eastern traditions or not. But they are the two reasons that are recommended. One, they are very practical guides to life from very ancient traditions and some things have endured over centuries of being human.
And I think they kind of captured that truths in, in very, very practical ways. So I think that's the one reason to recommend them. But the second reason is I think much of what I know your show is very exceptional that way. But much of what's happened to, I think mindfulness in the West has become, it's become very vibrations and chakras and energy fields, and it's become very fulfilled in a way.
And I think these books are very hardcore. Like they don't flinch from the harsh realities of the incompleteness of the human experience. I liked the books that acknowledged first the incompleteness of the experience, and then try to solve it versus ignore that by like becoming grateful and practicing gratitude and all, like, they just acknowledge the incompleteness of the human experience first.
And I think that's why I recommend those because a deeper spiritual inquiry can first begin by acknowledging the limitations of what is possible in the human experience. So I think I like them for that.
Jonathan Levi: When you say incompleteness of the human experience, you're talking about those who live in sorrow.
You're talking about kind of the standard obsession with, with living in the future. What does that meaning completeness of the human experience?
Karan Bajaj: Innovate that like what I was mentioning before that, like in the past, like when you think of the Buddha or Mahabharata or like the spiritual secrets of the past were typically Kings, right?
Because they were Kings who had seen that everything in the finite world. They had a completion yet they were not happy. And they realize that there is some deeper truth within, that would lead to that complete happiness. So I mean like the incompleteness of the human experience without a deep soul full practice, you are a human experience in terms of, as I said, the physical and emotional materialism is always incomplete.
So I think these books acknowledge that and start talking about why that happens and deconstruct that a little.
Jonathan Levi: I love that. I love that. Yeah. Karan, if people want to learn more about you. I know your book is coming out in may. The Yoga of Max's Discontent, where can they get engaged with you and learn more?
Karan Bajaj: I blog on karanbajaj.com my website. Uh, it also has a free meditation video course. Like I give very practical on the steps on meditation and also deepening your creativity and writing with exceptionalism. So I think between writing and creativity, I give a lot of tips on the blog. I think that's the best place to start.
Jonathan Levi: That's fantastic. And I think we should probably do another episode on writing and creativity as well. That would be really cool. One last question I want to ask and we'll close on this question. If people take away one lesson from this episode and they carry it with them for the rest of their lives, what would you hope that lesson would be?
Karan Bajaj: Beyond obviously buying my book. Yeah. And I would say is to strip yourself of comfort very often. I think the attachment to comfort leads to very limiting choices. So every, so often, every three months, uh, take a week off to live very little.
Jonathan Levi: Practice poverty.
Karan Bajaj: Practice poverty, poverty, strip yourself of comfort, and come closer to what truly matters because that will liberate you to make the right choices for yourself.
Jonathan Levi: That is a fantastic note to end on. Mr. Karan Bajaj, it's been such a pleasure chatting with you. I'm so glad that we got to connect and I hope we will keep in touch.
Karan Bajaj: We will, Jonathan. It's an honor. Thank you very much for having me.
Jonathan Levi: Thank you. You have a great day.
Karan Bajaj: You too. Bye-bye.
Jonathan Levi: All right, SuperFriends. That's it for this week's episode. We hope you really, really enjoyed it and learn a ton of applicable stuff that can help you go out there and overcome the impossible. If so, please do us a favor and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. Or however, you found this podcast. In addition to that, we are always looking for great guest posts on the blog or awesome guests right here on the podcast.
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