Notes & Quotes: The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai

The following are my favorite notes and quotes from Pedram Shojai's The Urban Monk: Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace.
  1. A householder creates jobs and has the burden of taking care of lots of people in his or her universe. A householder makes shit happen month after month and doesn’t cower when things get tough. A householder must be a survivor first and then learn to thrive.
  2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributes stress as the cause of 90 percent of chronic disease.
  3. “Rest and digest” is where we heal, but what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to go there? Look around you. There’s a trillion-dollar healthcare industry that makes money off of chronic diseases that stem from poor lifestyle and uncontrolled stress.
  4. Possibly the worst on the list of things that happen when we’re chronically stressed is the cutting off of bloodflow to the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of our brains that separates us from the monkeys.
  5. The Buddha...traced human suffering back to two things: aversions and cravings. Either we dislike something and how it makes us feel, driving us to move away from it, or we like and crave it, making us long for more.
  6. He makes good money, but he’s still broke. That’s the system we live in. Money is tied to survival. If you’ve got it, you’re worried about losing it. And no matter what you have, there’s never enough.
  7. An Urban Monk doesn’t worry about status; therefore, she is free.
  8. You are what you eat also applies to the information you ingest.
  9. What the latest drunk celebrity did to embarrass himself has no bearing on my life and is a waste of brain space.
  10. There’s a special feeling we’ve all become distant from, and it’s the tragedy of the modern world: We don’t feel alive.
  11. Attaching emotional qualities to thoughts as they pop up is the way of human suffering. Clinging to past memories keeps us out of the now.
  12. The Urban Monk is constantly scanning his body for feelings and sensations. When discomfort arises, he breathes into it. He senses where this feeling is in his body and turns the light of his awareness on it—not away from it, as is the custom of our culture.
  13. A well-stocked cupboard of medicinal teas can really change your life.
  14. Modern society has come with all sorts of cool things, but it’s also made us lazy and feeble.
  15. Grow or die: It is a necessity of life as dictated by nature and our survival genes.
  16. It is all about swapping rituals and upgrading to better ones.
  17. Simply create an environment where you learn to “scan” your consciousness with a very simple question: “What am I doing right now?”
  18. Still water breeds poison, and this is a huge reason why so many of the people around you are sick and miserable.
  19. Your “later” will always look the same if your “now” is chaotic.
  20. Trading time for money is how the economy works, but that model is deeply flawed. Companies pay for work and results, not dead time. This misunderstanding has hurt the economy and has certainly dulled the minds of millions of people who simply clock in and check out.
  21. Functional MRI studies show increased density of the cortical neurons in the brains of people who meditate.
  22. Four-Count Breathing Meditation: Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Gently start breathing in and out through your nose with your mouth closed. Breathe to a spot about 3 inches below your navel called the lower dantian. Inflate (on inhale) and deflate (on exhale) this area with each passing breath. On your next inhale, slowly breathe down to your lower abdomen for a count of 4, counting slowly and evenly. Hold your breath when full for a count of 2. Slowly exhale for a count of 4; be fully empty by the end of it, and time it so you can do so. Hold your breath for a count of 2. Back to the inhale for 4 . . . Keep following this basic pattern for as long as is comfortable (or desired). Make sure your in and out breaths keep the same cadence with the count. Be particularly aware of the space at the top of the in breath and bottom of the out breath. That’s it. I recommend doing this practice for at least 10 minutes a day. Set the timer on your phone, put it on airplane mode, and go in to nourish your time-compressed brain. Step out of societal time by syncing with your breath. Balancing the breath is key, so make sure the inhale and exhale are the same duration. This will do wonders for your mind.
  23. Having the police and the Army around is great, but handing over all our civil liberties in exchange for “security” is a slippery slope that some darker elements in our society are eager to exploit.
  24. Pick the good stuff, and know that “you are what you eat” also applies to the media you consume.
  25. Time is the most precious treasure we’ve got. Squandering it on TV and social media is insane. Take a month off and see what happens. At first, you won’t know what to do with yourself. That’s fine. You’ll figure it out. Hiking, the gym, time with the kids, reading books, doing night school to get out of that shit job, connecting with friends, and whatever else that’s awesome are all options that await. Life awaits.
  26. When I speak with people and ask them about their priorities, most of them mainly talk about their families, their health, and travel. That’s when I ask them to show me their schedules on their phones. There’s seldom any time allotted that hints at any of the above-mentioned priorities. Most people say they care about certain things, but because those things don’t make it to their calendars, little to no time is spent on them.
  27. We are sitting instead of standing and are driving instead of walking. This shuts off the natural cycle of energy flow that the body knows and flows with. We then begin to stagnate and fall asleep. Our genes stop coding for optimal performance, and we gain weight. We begin to age and fall apart because a robust, healthy system is one that moves and explodes with bursts of energy.
  28. Always give energy an outlet.
  29. Things that are close to nature have a high vibration and carry more nutrients and life force. Manufactured foods are mostly devoid of this. No life in the food means no life in us.
  30. An Urban Monk eats consciously and gives thanks for every meal, every bite. It is an attitude of inclusion and respect that sits atop all strategies and tactics we can talk about with diet. Everything else is secondary.
  31. If you eat meat, then you need to go hunting and kill whatever it is you’re eating. You need to see what goes into taking a life and do so reverently. Hours of hiking up and down ridges and braving the elements gets our blood pumping. It’s a big deal, and once imprinted in your consciousness, you’ll never blindly scarf down another chicken sandwich again.
  32. In the old days, we moved around, and that kept us charged with energy. We got hungry because we were moving all day, not because the clock struck 6:00 p.m.
  33. There are parasitic elements in society that have a vested interest in having us disconnected from our natural vitality. They feed off of life and need us to stay asleep and disconnected so we unwittingly leak our vitality away.
  34. The Buddhist precept of “Right Livelihood” is alive and well, and the good people of the world need to live by it and defend it. Namely, what you do shouldn’t harm the planet or other people.
  35. We are to defend what’s right and beautiful.
  36. We’ve been bred to be zombies. We’ve been bred to not think for ourselves and to follow. We need to be told what to do: Vote red or blue, eat burgers and fries with a Coke, accept reality as it is, and frankly, shut up and keep paying taxes and buying shoes. How exhausting. Maybe we’re tired because we are subdued and unconscious. Maybe we’ve been so lulled to sleep that the “spark” of life is the real missing ingredient.
  37. Below is a list of herbs that have adaptogenic qualities. This means they help regulate the body and give it what it needs; they’ll give you a boost where you need it or sedate you when necessary.
    1. Ginseng
    2. Ashwagandha
    3. Reishi
    4. Astragalus
    5. Rhodiola
  38. Eating soups once a week is a form of fasting—call it Digestive Fasting. It gives your stomach, pancreas, and intestines a little break so they can catch their breath and function better. Replacing solid meals with liquid ones once a week really gives the body the break it needs to recover and heal the gut lining.
  39. Taking a vow of silence once a month goes a long way toward restoring our vital energy. We flow off so much qi talking bullshit all day, so cutting off that flow can be extremely beneficial.
  40. One translation of the word Genesis is “As I speak, I Create.” Think about this and ask yourself how you may be responsible for the life you have. It may not be a fun exercise, but it’s an important one.
  41. Some people find it odd, but the Urban Monk doesn’t care. Do what’s good for you and have them notice your benefits.
  42. News flash: All the electronics around us may be fucking us up.
  43. Most people need to cut the caffeine after noon (or 2:00 p.m. latest) This gives ample time for the body to get the drug (yes, caffeine is a drug) out of your system so you can slow down.
  44. At night, you should have a whole shutdown ritual that prepares you for slumber. Taking sleep seriously is the first step to making it a priority. We grew up around rituals. Our brains understand rituals. Set one up for your sleep shutdown process and make it a nightly habit. It’ll help direct your psyche to go there, and it’ll cue your physiology to follow suit.
  45. Sleep is when we shut down and scavenge for cancer cells, move out toxins, flush the brain, and restore healthy tissue. Melatonin helps us sleep and heal.
  46. Generally, you want your greatest energy output in the morning and want to phase things down as it gets darker. By nighttime, you want to chill out and relax. That’s the basic cycle of life, and it simply works for most people.
  47. Make stargazing a nightly ritual, and if the weather permits, try to sleep under the stars a few times a year.
  48. Herbs and Minerals That Help with Sleep
    1. Chamomile
    2. Kava
    3. Magnesium
    4. 5-HTP
    5. Suan Zao Ren Wan
  49. Life is better when you’ve taken the time to play.
  50. Do what it takes to make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, and for God’s sake, get the stupid TV out of there.
  51. When you step into your body and master the daily rituals, the rest of the social drama means little.
  52. The stagnation of energy and blood is the problem with modern life.
  53. Stop worrying about what people think of you, and get to work doing stuff that really helps you.
  54. What do you want? Create a world that codes for that dream and you’ll get it.
  55. Don’t allow those 8 work hours to get you stagnant. Find a way to activate your body and mind throughout the course of the day and build resilience. Burn calories. Get sunlight and fresh air. That’s the way of the Urban Monk. Don’t let the outside world bully you around.
  56. Normally, the food we’d eat would satisfy the brain by bringing in the needed elements. Because today’s food is depleted of nutrients, however, we just keep eating and eating without the intended benefit of receiving the stuff we need. We keep loading up on empty calories without a “stop” signal from the brain because it is still starving for what it requires.
  57. When you think about sugar, don’t just think of the white stuff. The development of high-fructose corn syrup allowed Big Food to take a monocrop that our tax dollars subsidize and refine it into a super sugar. Food manufacturers put that crap into everything, and it is making us fat.
  58. It turns out that high-starch carbs and sugary foods feed a lot of the unhealthy colonies. Yeast and candida love sugar. So does cancer. The problem with the standard American diet is that it feeds the beasts, and then we take antacids and antibiotics every time the body sends us a sign of this imbalance. The antibiotics keep pressing reset by killing everything in their path, and because we don’t have a diet rich in fermented foods, we simply leave space for bad guys to settle in again.
  59. Food shouldn’t punish; it should energize you.
  60. Reverence is the key concept when discussing the way an Urban Monk eats. It is reverence for what is in front of you and where it came from. After all, our plates are the sacrificial altars where we lay life to ingest for our own benefit. It’s heavy. The plant, fruit, animal, fish, or whatever else has died for you. We take on this life, break it down, turn it into energy and nutrients, and feed the machine that carries us forward. This is why it’s so important to eat things that are or were recently alive and eat only natural things that come from the earth. They carry much more life force.
  61. The central theme of all monastic practices around food is thankfulness. Are you grateful for the life that laid itself down in front of you? Why is your life more valuable than the one you’re eating? What makes you so special, and most important, what are you going to do with your life to deserve it? If the web of life and love that surrounds us is supporting you and your growth, how are you feeding back into it? What’s your role in nature, and how are you helping further support the ecosystem that sustains and supports you?
  62. In the West, our entire culture has departed from this understanding. Without connection to life, meaning, purpose, and our place in the grand scheme of all of it, we are capable of throwing our chewing gum out the window and driving off. We’re more willing to get the Styrofoam cup despite how bad it is for the environment because we’re late and don’t have a mug. We’re happy to buy the cheaper eggs from tortured chickens because we don’t have to see their anguish or abysmal living conditions.
  63. The higher the vibration, the lighter and brighter we are. Things that resonate closer to the purity of the sun and natural systems simply carry a cleaner vibration. This is the essence of the ancient alchemical traditions and is an understanding that’s been lost in the modern world. Life emits light and we are that light. The consumption of food helps keep our light burning, but not all fuel is the same.
  64. When you learn to take “you are what you eat” to the ultimate level, you know that everything we consume becomes a part of us.
  65. Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, Gandhi, and so many more famous people reported deep mystical experiences while fasting. It’s a tried-and-true spiritual tradition and has lasted the test of time for a reason: It works.
  66. The size of our brains increased dramatically after we learned to unlock nutrition with cooking.
  67. Learning to be thankful for everything in your life is a huge part of liberating your consciousness from the delusion of separation, and food is a great place to start.
  68. In functional medicine, we tell patients that they should consume 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. So if you’re 160 pounds, that’s roughly 73 kilograms, so you should be getting about 75 grams of protein per day.
  69. There are lots of ways to eat well and get out of the sugar trap. The key is to have lots of vegetables, some lean meats (if you choose to), legumes, and plenty of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). The fructose in fruit is very fattening, and the body doesn’t metabolize it well.
  70. Now we have guys who walk around big cities drinking fancy beverages that make him thirstier and eating bars wrapped in plastic. We fight wars to secure the oil that makes that plastic, and we fight the cancer that comes from eating the fake food that comes inside that plastic. Then we complain of being tired, fat, sick, and depressed and wonder what doctor or guru has the secret to unlock our problems when all the while we should be looking backward.
  71. We’ve lost the wisdom of the family farm where the animals and plants coexist on the same land. The chickens would eat the insects, and the goats would eat the weeds. Manure came from animals and not petroleum. The dead plants would compost for next year’s harvest, and the animals had names and were honored if they were to be slaughtered.
  72. People are easily leveraged if they are disconnected from the earth. No roots, no home, and no survival skills lead to slaves that’ll do what you tell them for money. Look around you. They are everywhere: wage slaves who are miserable in jobs they can’t afford to leave. They have forsaken their dreams and aspirations and are stuck being a pawn in someone else’s vision. This comes directly from being uprooted from their power, their connection to nature.
  73. Once we let go of our insistence on being the person we pretend to be, we can have fun discovering who we really are.
  74. Millions rally around sports, throwing their passion behind the ups and downs of a team they superficially identify with.
  75. Every moment is an opportunity to wake up and tap into the Nectar.
  76. The key is to not care what people think and do things for the joy of doing them. At first this is difficult, but with practice, you’ll learn to let go of the bullshit and start enjoying life without fear of judgment.
  77. When we dedicate our lives to service and the why becomes greater than the my, then we start to liberate from the delusion of separation.
  78. If you’re off the God word, go Taoist, Buddhist, Shaman, or whatever else calls to you. These are just words trying to make sense of a common reality we share. The exploration of the essence of this reality is where they all come together.
  79. You are what you eat, so ingest the best stuff and wake up. This means taking some time to find books, films, shows, magazines, audiobooks, lectures, or whatever else you feel is going to help you grow. Use your valuable time to enhance your human experience and to learn new things.
  80. Boredom comes from comfort and stagnation; neither of these have any place in the life of the Urban Monk.
  81. What had started with a couple of beers had gotten out of hand. Why? Because something had to fill the void, and in the absence of anything real or interesting, alcohol steps right in.
  82. People don’t understand the value of money as energy and are therefore in a rush to squander it. When we put it aside, it accumulates and grows.
  83. The stuff right under the radar is driving our behavior more than we realize.
  84. Sociopaths love the money game because it gives them a common currency of power and control that helps feed their control dramas. It helps fill some emptiness in them.
  85. Money is a means by which we can trade for value in our society, and it helps us have a common medium of exchange for simplicity. It should buy you food, shelter, water, and freedom to do as you please with your time.
  86. The fact that we have better access to organic foods today is because certain people elected to pay more for the good stuff and helped support farmers to continue growing that way.
  87. It is our energy and power that are banked into these monetary units we swipe and throw down each day. How many real hours of your life went into that 100 bucks you just spent? How much value did you get out of those cute shoes you got to wear once at the party? How many breaths or beats of your heart earned that money that you just squandered on something you didn’t need?
  88. Let’s go back to the concept of “needs” versus “wants." What we need is food, shelter, water, and fire. Everything else is a want. We need food and shelter. We want steak and mansions.
  89. When we disconnect our sense of self from material things, cultural accolades, compliments, and old emotional dramas, we are free.
  90. So where should our money go? Into things that enhance our health and vitality Into useful products that are free of poisons and toxic chemicals Into a sustainable future for ourselves and our families Into companies that are giving back to communities Into causes that help protect nature and our collective future.
  91. From benefit corporations, to nongovernmental organizations, to sustainable co-ops, companies and groups are emerging around the planet that essentially practice the Buddhist precept of “right livelihood.” This means that what we do for money should also benefit our communities and our world.
  92. The essential question is: Who am I in the first place? Then ask: Why am I spending this money? What is driving me? Do I need this, or is it feeding some emotional pain? Is it a habit or a need? Will it actually make me happy? Why and how will it do so?
  93. We are giving power, energy, and influence to the people to whom we give money. Be very clear about this flow and start to control it on your end. If you want to see a better world, vote in that direction. Spend in that direction.
  94. People assign value to products and services and will part with their money accordingly. Where are you in the value chain? What do you need to do in order to improve your value, your offerings, your rate, or your prices? How can you get more customers and generate abundance in your world?
  95. The Internet has revolutionized how we do commerce, and anyone can be a millionaire now with an online business. The only thing in your way is you. Even if you have to haul yourself down to a public library and grow your online business from there, you can do it. The key is in understanding what value you’re generating and for whom. Who is your audience and how are you helping them?
  96. The economy is just an idea, and so is money. Once you become clear on this, you are unbound and can craft the life of your dreams.
  97. When we learn to get out of the way and become an agent for abundance, we live a life of service. When we do so, things magically start to open up for us.
  98. Negation is the key to mastery.
  99. Real freedom comes when you can walk away from your shit job and know you can eat for a (long) while.
  100. Always look at your expenditures as an investment.
  101. A good householder is a community leader who can employ thousands of people and fund several charities. Money isn’t an object for her because she’s mastered it and uses it as a vehicle for good.
  102. We live in a culture where meaning is lost. We look for it in places it can’t be found.
  103. Today, we live in a humdrum reality where nothing is really that interesting, so we crave something else. We search for meaning but come up empty or only partially satisfied. We bought into a worldview that was put in front of us, but it has failed to deliver.
  104. They know it doesn’t work and causes suffering, but the problem is that there’s no great alternative they know of.
  105. We have to clear the path for the brain to fire and activate our higher spiritual faculties. Then we don’t look for meaning; it presents itself to us from within.
  106. Money doesn’t buy meaning if you’ve bought into the false promise of conspicuous consumption. Use money to fuel your dreams and lead you on a life of adventure and inquiry. Use it to help others and make the world a better place. Meaning isn’t bought. It is home grown.
  107. Come back to life, and meaning is all around you
  108. In Eastern culture, there was a strong emphasis on finding your strengths and pursuing your destiny. Who are you, and what makes you happy? How can you walk a path that’s in alignment with what makes you happy? How do you discover yourself and walk a personal path that will be fulfilling and noble?
  109. The problem with the modern world is that the “stars” get to have all the fun. You don’t need to be an Olympian to take a gymnastics course and learn to do a back bend. We’ve lost sight of this fact, and millions of people have given up and been relegated to passively watching shit on TV.
  110. Either we’re impressed, influenced, repulsed, offended, or motivated by people who are vibrantly alive. They rub off on us and remind us of something we long to be, or we resent them for being what we feel we cannot.
  111. We don’t need to go searching for meaning or purpose because our life’s direction starts to become self-evident. We follow the bread crumbs and realize that we’re part of something far bigger than ourselves.
  112. Happiness is the by-product of self-realization and the ignition of our vitality.
  113. If time, money, and place were not a consideration, what would I love to do with my time? Then ask yourself the following questions. Why? What can I do to go there? What stands in my way? Is it a real or a perceived limitation?
  114. How can I transform these obstacles? How can I change my current lifestyle to accommodate this and move toward the goal?
  115. Treat your vacation time as a mini sabbatical. Don’t waste your valuable rejuvenation time on bus tours of yet another touristy town. Pick a place where you can be at ease and get into a book, a practice, or some personal work, or just catch up on sleep. Ask yourself what you need and allow yourself to drink from that fountain.
  116. Take mini trips as often as you can, and make a plan for more extended time off when feasible. Waiting for an extended trip and not taking any small breaks can keep you in the rat race for years. Just know that these mini trips can really help reconnect you with the Source and give you the runway you need back in your daily life to stay clear and balanced.
  117. On a micro level, I treat Sundays as my micro-sabbatical days. I do only what feels natural, and I try not to make any plans. This at least gives me some space to relax and let the day unfold. Because I have kids, the day still involves running around, but at least they can get some unstructured time to play and explore as well. Do it as a family and savor it. You can’t get these years back, and the sense of peace that you will instill in your life is invaluable.
  118. Ramana Maharshi’s Essential Meditation: “The thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and, like a stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise Self-Realization.”
  119. Meaning and purpose come to those who stop pretending and understand their role in the miracle of life. Death happens. It is the opposite of birth. It is time to be okay with it.
  120. Meaning isn’t some abstract thing you find one day. It is a layered feeling and gnosis of your true self coupled with a deeper understanding of nature and how the universe works.
  121. Getting into the habit of listening to our inner child will help us do things that bring joy back into our lives.
  122. Maybe the beauty of watching a butterfly land on a flower in the glistening sunshine is exactly what we need. Perhaps getting back to the essentials of food, water, shelter, and fire can help us simplify and see what we have in common with that butterfly.
  123. The Urban Monk draws inspiration from nature and returns to it frequently to rejuvenate and reconnect. Take the time to do so and go on ample trips where you can freely roam in the wilderness and walk in the fields. Once you develop this practice, you’ll understand its significance, and it’ll become a part of your rituals for the rest of your life. It’ll remind you of what’s worth fighting for.
  124. Seeing herself die and wondering whether it was all worth it became a powerful catalyst for Veronica. It really made her rethink how she was spending her time at work, at home, and with her loved ones.
  125. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Life is hard work, and when we apply ourselves to mastery of the items we choose to engage in, we do what it takes to be good at it.
  126. Look at it this way: Life is going to be hard work either way. Either you’re on top of it and living intentionally, or you’re letting circumstances, weakness, drama, and poor decisions knock you off your perch.
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