David speaks with Jonny Miller, Founder of Nervous System Mastery and host of the Curious Humans Podcast.
Nervous System Mastery is a 5-week online training that will equip you with a custom toolkit to regulate your nervous system, build resilience, reduce stress & feel more aliveness.
If you’re interested in joining the next Cohort, use the code “KNOWLEDGE” to get a $200 discount.
They talked about:
🚶♂️ Embracing curiosity, and learning from elders.
🌀 Dissolution of self, interconnectedness, and compassion.
☯️ Tools for regulating our nervous system
💊 Psychedelics and the impact of transcendent experiences.
🎭 The power of moderating our responses to external stimuli.
⚖️ Balancing risk, shifting perspective, and cultivating serendipity.
🎙 Listen in your favourite podcast player
📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Jonny:
📄 Show notes:
0:00 | Intro
5:02 | Jonny Miller's journey to Boulder
8:25 | Wisdom from Rolf Potts and David White
10:54 | Balancing old wisdom and adapting to change
13:42 | Jonny's transformative 11-month journey
19:57 | Eastern and Western Philosophers
26:03| Nodes of consciousness experiencing itself
28:22 | We're all kinds of neurons in the brain
38:40 | Emotion regulation and mindfulness
37:29 | Sam Harris' view on meditation
46:59 | How to build a consistent meditation practice
55:33 | Complementary cognitive artefacts
1:14:58 | Altered states vs. Altered traits
1:17:32 | Psychadelics and perception
1:33:32 | Even the average human goes through grief
1:49:27 | Risk, perspective, and serendipity
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
The Pathless Path | https://amzn.to/3ORAsVi
David Whyte | https://davidwhyte.com/
Vagabonding | https://amzn.to/3qozQ03
Rolf Potts | https://rolfpotts.com/
The Lindy Effect | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_effect
David Perell | https://perell.com/
Mitch McConnell | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitch_McConnell
Stephen Jenkinson | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Jenkinson
Zach Stein | http://www.zakstein.org/
Alan Watts | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts
Swami Ramdas | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Ramdas
David Stendhal Rast | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Steindl-Rast
Viktor Frankl | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl
Man's Search for Meaning | https://amzn.to/455k4GA
Sam Harris | https://www.samharris.org/
Adlerian Philosophy | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Adler
The Courage to Be Disliked | https://amzn.to/453Jm7S
Epictetus | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epictetus
James Clear | https://jamesclear.com/
Habit Stacking | https://jamesclear.com/habit-stacking
Complementary Cognitive Artifacts | https://www.theknowledge.io/issue41/#:~:text=Thepower of cognitive artefacts
Tim Ferriss | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Ferriss
Johns Hopkins | https://www.jhu.edu/
Michael Pollan | https://michaelpollan.com/
Joseph Campbell | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell
Existential Kink | https://amzn.to/3DRbhvZ
Paul Millerd | https://think-boundless.com/
Joe Hudson | https://jhcc.com/
Seth Godin | https://seths.blog/
Andy Weir | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Weir
Adam Grant | https://adamgrant.net/
A Challenge Network | https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-you-need-a-challenge-network/
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist, and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
🌐 Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com
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🎙️ Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge
📖 EBook: https://delikwu.gumroad.com/l/manual
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[00:00:00] Jonny Miller 2: What are the areas of your life that you are looking to explore, learn, go deeper in. If it's entrepreneurship and building businesses, then you'll probably want to be around other people in that space who are maybe a few months or years ahead in that game.
And I have this quote in my course where I say, "We design our environments and then our environments design us in return." And I think the same is true with people. So being as deliberate about choosing who you wanna spend your time with and making sure that it's aligned with the ways that you're looking to grow as a human. And at the same time accounting for the fact that there is gonna be bias no matter what group you're in and doing what you can to burst those bubbles to pop the echo chambers and ways that you can do that, travel to a new country, travel to japan for a month. And you will have many of your preconceptions and your biases just shattered.
[00:00:52] David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week I'm speaking with Johnny Miller. Johnny is the founder of Nervous System Mastery and the host of the Curious Humans podcast, which is a very good podcast and I would highly recommend you listen to it.
So this is probably one of the longest podcasts I've done so far, but it was so, so good. And I mean, even taking a step back, first of all, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone that tunes in to listen to this podcast every time we release a new episode and to all the people that support. Both by watching on YouTube and by listening in your favorite podcast player, because genuinely I've been thinking about the immense benefit that I've had, not just in my intellectual life, but also in my personal life, just from being able to have so many of these incredibly interesting conversations and I think it's a benefit not just for me but obviously for a lot of people that listen to this thousands and thousands of people. And so yeah I'm very grateful that people continue to listen and I continue to get opportunities to speak to incredibly interesting people from around the world.
So Johnny and I had an incredibly wide ranging conversation.
We talked about moving around the world and the power of travel and how it transforms us and the way that we see the world. We also talked about following our curiosity, chasing the pathless path and the people that we meet along the way, some of those being friends, some of those being mentors. You'll also hear us talking about how to cultivate serendipity and how to modulate our relationship with external stimuli.
And that sounds complicated, but the essence that you'll hear us speaking about at length is essentially how we manage the relationship between, how the world affects us and how we respond to the world.
And the extent to which it can be so easy to be trapped by not just the external circumstances that we're in but the emotional relationship that we have with the circumstances that we encounter and so this is where things like nervous system mastery which is something that Johnny has spent a ridiculous amount of time studying. So don't just listen to this, but also go check out his stuff. He has an amazing course and a lot of other resources that I'll link to in the show notes and in the description below.
But things like breath work, meditation, a lot of these different tools that we can use to be able to modulate our nervous system.
And you're going to hear us talking about exactly why and how that is so important for being able to shape the way that we respond to our day to day lives.
You can get the full show notes transcript and read my newsletter at theknowledge.io.
Every week, I share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io.
And you can find Johnny on Twitter at Johnny Miller with a one instead of the I. And I'll leave the link in the show notes.
So, that's enough said. If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend, and in particular, please feel free to leave a review on Apple Podcasts because it helps us tremendously to find other people just like you.
I was interested to know what made you move to Boulder specifically, because I've seen, I know that you've hopped around, you've lived in quite a few places.
[00:04:09] Jonny Miller: Yeah, it was nomadic kind of on and off for about seven or eight years and initially we were actually going to move to California that was the plan. And then we came here cause a bunch of our stuff was left here with a friend and Kelly's, my wife's car was here as well. And then we met some amazing people.
And we're like, wow, it's really great here. There's amazing climbing, adventurous community, entrepreneurial community and yeah, we were just like, let's stay. So, I mean, for me, I miss the ocean, that's the one thing that I do. I surf, I've been a surfer all my life and that's something that I do miss, but besides that, really loving climbing, cycling, the national parks around here, the hikes, the people, I'd say mostly the people, above everything else, I think it's our home for now, really enjoying it.
[00:04:50] David Elikwu: Okay, awesome. I want to ask you some more questions about that in a bit, but I think the nature point, that feel was intuitive to me. I love living and being around nature. I was on a walk this morning that ended up taking around two hours and it inspired me to write something for my newsletter because I think the point was something I do quite often and I think I would generally like to encourage a lot of people to do is just walking without intention and not trying to go to a specific destination, but just heading out and then going somewhere slightly beyond the path that you already know, you come to a crossroads, I've been left a thousand times, let me go right and see where that leads and what is off down there. And inevitably, as has happened quite a few times, you get lost, but I think that's part of the beauty of it.
I just get lost in my own area and lost as in, Oh, I haven't been down this street before. And now I know that I'm a few streets off the last road that I know and I'm trying to get back around to somewhere close to where I know and I ended up on a path where I know I needed to take a right turn because I was on the other side of these train tracks that I knew I needed to be if I wanted to get home and there was no turning so I just had to keep going and see where I ended up and I ended up in a completely different area and I was in like at the next train station. But once I got there, I actually know my way back a different way from there. But yeah, so I couldn't turn, I just had to figure out and, end up in this new area. But I think the interesting piece just comes from like how well I've been able to learn my area and know my area just by being willing to get lost. And I think it's a massive contrast to the last place that I lived. I remember pretty much every day. I'd go to work or I'd go to do other stuff and I live not far from the station and it was actually only during the pandemic that I realized, you know, if you're in the pandemic, you can't go anywhere, you can't see anyone, it's a national lockdown.
I just realised, now that I can actually walk around my area, I don't know anything beyond from my house to the train station, from my house to the shop like, I don't actually know anything else. And I was figuring stuff out for the very first time, and I think that's what took me down this route of actually starting to explore a bit wider.
[00:06:52] Jonny Miller: Yeah. I love that. I mean, it's a perfect metaphor for The Pathless Path, which is something that my friend Paul and I have talked about since we were both inspired by David White. And I mean, that's kind of the metaphor for curious humans, honestly. It's like, wondering without, following that aliveness, following that interest.
And at the same time, not having a kind of fixed end in mind and just trusting that it'll lead somewhere interesting.
[00:07:13] David Elikwu: Yeah. One question. Oh, actually, okay. So you mentioned David White. Was it him that wrote the book Vagabonding?
[00:07:20] Jonny Miller: That was Rolf Potts, but he was another hero of mine. Yeah.
[00:07:24] David Elikwu: Okay, what stood out to you about both of those people? Both Rolf Potts and David White?
[00:07:29] Jonny Miller: Oh gosh. Well, Rolf Potts for me, he was my kind of role model when I took a year out between school and university. Planned like this 11 month trip around the world. And his was the book that I took with me, Vagabonding. And at the time it was just such a completely different mindset shift. I first heard the term of time equals wealth from him and he was like we're all time millionaires and this completely different kind of philosophy not only to travel but honestly to life and his own curiosity and at the time I wanted to be a travel writer and he'd made his living from going to interesting places and telling great stories and I was like, whoa, this is such a departure from the world of work that I'd known from school where it's like you can be a banker, you can be a lawyer or you can be a medic. And you can't be a medic if you haven't done biology. It's like and his book. I mean, I've read it dozens and dozens of times, and I think the philosophies have definitely kind of embedded themselves into my life and then David White I discovered much later when I was going through a period of grief. And I'd never really understood poetry before then like poetry just didn't make sense to me.
But when I was in this much more kind of open part of my life, his words really spoke to me and they spoke to me because they appeal to both my intellect, but also a kind of a deeper part of me. And I actually ended up doing a walking tour with him on the West Coast of Ireland and spending seven days with him and interviewing him for my podcast. And it was a really special moment for me because I think I viewed him as someone who is a genuine elder. We don't use that word much, but I really view him as this wisdom keeper with this profound capacity to articulate things which I really struggled to articulate and I haven't seen other people and then his idea particularly of The Pathless Path of kind of Embarking on a work which you struggle to articulate to yourself and to others and that being a good sign that that's actually you're kind of on the right road.
Also writing poetry after being inspired by him and publishing or self publishing a poetry book of my own a couple of years later. It's like whenever someone has a life challenge, my wife actually gets annoyed with me sometimes where I'll be like, "Oh, remember this thing that David White said?"
She'll be like, " Shut up about David White." Like, she doesn't say that, but that's what I project she's thinking. Yeah, but I mean, I could talk about them both for a while.
[00:09:42] David Elikwu: Okay, fair. You mentioned a few really interesting different parts I could dive down, but I just wanted to pick up on the last one. Which is around this concept of elders and I guess like wisdom keepers. What do you think is the role of elders or wisdom keepers? I think there's a few different paradigms now and ways that people think about how we should keep and pursue knowledge.
So on one end, I'm thinking of the people that talk about The Lindy effect very often, right? And you want to be focusing on old ideas and I think David Perel talks about the never ending now, and there's always new ideas, there's always things being shared, there's always new TikToks, new tweets new bits of information, fake news, real news all of this stuff, and you know, what's the extent to which we can focus on ideas and concepts that are enduring, and knowledge that is enduring, versus things that are recent and new.
But on the flip side, I also think in popular culture generally, there's the idea that we have, let's look at government, for example, people have been talking about Mitch McConnell, who is in his 80s. You have all these politicians that are in their 80s, even in their 90s now, who, yes, they may have a lot of institutional knowledge, but they are almost so old that the wisdom that they have is now so old that they are completely out of touch with the reality for a lot of people today. And there's an extent to which knowledge can almost age out of usefulness if you're not willing to adapt you're not able to adapt your, your mental models, adapt the data points that you have based on the new information that comes along. I'm interested to know how you contrast those two ideas.
Like, okay, the old wisdom and the old knowledge that we have can be perpetually useful, but then on the flip side, if we're not updating the knowledge that we have, how useful is it really?
[00:11:20] Jonny Miller: Yeah, great question. The first thing that comes to mind for me is something that Stephen Jenkinson, who I also consider to be an elder, he talks about the difference between Olders and Elders. For me, it's not even about necessarily transmitting information or even knowledge, but I think wisdom. I think I draw that distinction and the role of elders certainly in indigenous cultures in the previous lineages was to kind of hold adolescents, both to a higher standards and to create initiations for them essentially. I think there's many, like many of us are kind of longing for this, initiation and to be seen by an elder and kind of shepherded into wisdom, into full adult maturity. And I think that that is like one of the fundamental roles that elders should have in society. And we don't have many of them unfortunately. I think you're definitely right that the role of the youth or like the hero in hero's journey is to question the kind of established way of doing things and to innovate and to kind of create forge their own path, but at the same time, if there isn't that direction or like teacherly authority, Zach Stein talks about. Then it's very easy to get lost and it's very easy to just never go through that kind of initiation or ego death, which is required to some degree for a full level of maturity and a sense of like home in the world.
[00:12:39] David Elikwu: Okay, that makes a lot of sense to me. I guess one part that I'd also be interested to know more about is, you mentioned the gap year that you took and how informative that was for you and how much of a great experience that was. I think I know that you traveled around like Australia, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, etc.
I'm interested to know, I guess it's two parts. One is, What you learned or got out of that experience specifically, like what you learned along the way, but then also after that, I think you ended up studying philosophy when you would have previously studied economics, if that's correct.
So I'm then interested to know, you know, you've spent a lot of time since then. Studying philosophy in a sense through life and learning about all these, you know, the elders and people that have knowledge, wisdom keepers, all of this stuff, like what lives in the gap between the philosophy that you learn in school versus the philosophy that you've learned through life and what have you discarded and what have you kept?
[00:13:32] Jonny Miller: Mm. Wow, that's, wow, that's such a good question. I mean, I returned from my 11 months travel fundamentally a different, person to the one that I left. I think when I'd spent most of my teenage years reading about adventures, you know, reading fantasy, science fiction, this kind of thing, but ultimately very like unhappy and trapped in the school, the school system that I was in. And that year for me was just such a formative adventure, honestly, where I really pushed myself and met myself mostly through surfing was the main thing where I went from having never surfed in my life to becoming a kind of fairly proficient in relatively big waves. And that process, like flying to remote Indonesian islands to find these kind of secret spots that I could surf 15 foot waves. And something about that gave me, it like taught me that I had this innate sense of courage. And that I could trust myself and that even the biggest wipeouts Yeah, they'd hurt but I kind of come out the other side and i'd be okay. It really taught me what kind of confidence and courage meant and that then translated into life on land I also just appreciated the kindness of strangers.
I think that was a big theme of getting lost, getting in trouble at certain times and just being kind of, being a recipient of just acts of generosity. And I think I started to make more generous assumptions of the people and places that I went to and as a result of that, had amazing experiences that I couldn't have predicted ahead of time and Rolf Potts also talks about like the difference between, planning is essential, but plans themselves are useless. And that kind of like having an intention, but being willing to divert from that path, if another opportunity appears and so I think those are some of the things that I learned from travel and honestly, just like a love for the world and like fascination for other cultures, other ways of seeing things that I'd taken for granted. An interest in history, like I'd done history at school and it was, you learn facts and figures and it's boring as hell.
And then you go to like Cambodia and The Pol Pot tunnels with like bullet holes in the walls. It's like, Oh my God, this is fascinating. So I think it like stretched my mind and brain in ways that it didn't return to its original proportions. From that leading into philosophy, I really enjoyed aspects of philosophy at University, particularly things like, like Nietzsche and learning about Aristotle and like virtue ethics that was definitely formative for me at the time. And in hindsight, the gap that I see that you speak of, I think is this gap between intellectual ideas versus what I now call embodied wisdom and I think that was something that was really missing from a lot of the philosophers that were typically kind of like enlightenment era philosophers where they were Descartes like worshipping, like rational thinking, rationality. Seeing that as like the highest form of human development and I think the journey that I've been on in recent years has been more of like the wisdom of the body, the wisdom of the nervous system and what do embodied virtues look like and also how do you bridge the philosophies of the east with the west and I'd say, since I left university, I discovered Alan Watts, Ramdas, all of these kind of eastern teachers and I lean more towards their teachings than Western philosophers, but there's certainly a lot to be gained from both. And had I read Alan Watts when I was like 20, I don't know if it would have landed in the way that it does today.
[00:16:48] David Elikwu: Okay, that's really interesting. I find it really fascinating that more and more, it could just be my own personal bubble, but it seems like a lot of the intellectuals that I know and interact with now, or actually, no, maybe it's a subsection. I would say the people that kind of follow The Pathless Path analogy are more leaning towards the Eastern philosophy and a lot of the people that maybe hold to some of the traditional rubrics and a lot more maybe on the text side still look at the Enlightenment philosophers. But I saw a meme that was really funny, I think just a few days ago that was talking about Philosophy and the concept of nothingness and I don't know if you've seen it, but I think in the top half It's like okay Eastern philosophy is nothingness is peace So nothingness is like looking out on like
[00:17:31] Jonny Miller: Oh, yeah, I have seen this
[00:17:32] David Elikwu: oh, this is then the Western philosophy is nothingness is the soul eating monster that's trying to destroy you
[00:17:39] Jonny Miller: That's like destroying the guy.
[00:17:41] David Elikwu: Yeah, Yeah.
[00:17:43] Jonny Miller: saw that yesterday.
[00:17:45] David Elikwu: But it's so interesting how I guess it's the same central concept. And actually, when you think about it, it does make a lot of sense. It's, the Western philosophy is you're wrestling with trying to find The meaning, and I guess maybe part of the difference is that in a lot of Western philosophy, and I could be wildly oversimplifying, I didn't study philosophy, I've just studied it for myself, but there's a sense in which a lot of Western philosophy, at least as it pertains to religion, let's say, involves externalizing meaning. And the meaning comes from the way in which you interact with the world. And a lot of the Eastern philosophy, to the extent that I've read, comes from your internalizing the meaning. And the meaning comes from the way in which you interact with yourself. And the way that you interact with the world is almost a byproduct of that. Like, the more you interact internally, that guides your actions. Versus, finding an external source of meaning and that source of meaning tells you what to do and shows you the way in which you should interact. So your relationship with society or your relationship with God or with religion, that is what guides your interactions and how you should act and treat others.
Versus you just wrestling with things yourself and whatever you figure out is whatever you figure out. I don't know how both of those characterizations land with you.
[00:18:54] Jonny Miller: I think that's very well articulated and it's really interesting.
My experience of this was, I would have described myself as an atheist, like a rationalist, materialist for most of my twenties. And in that place, I actually felt incredibly lonely at times and also struggled with this question of meaning of like, what is the point in all of this?
There was this question that just like came over and over and there was a moment where I actually thought of the, this is a bit might seem like a bit of a tangent, but the way that Starlings, a flock of Starlings is called a memoration and they kind of do this like beautiful dance that looks like smoke in the sky. And I remember asking this question of like, well, like why? Why is it so beautiful? It was kind of the essence. And the answer that came was just like, of course. And what I realized that what I took from that was that, meaning, it wasn't a question to be answered. It was more of a state to be inhabited. And as soon as I realized that and like so much shifted for me because I had been searching for my why, my purpose like, what is the meaning of all of this? And I think what eastern philosophers are pointing to is that through meditation other various practices you can reach a state where you feel connected with everything. And in that state, the question of, what is the purpose is completely pointless. Like it would not make sense to ask that question when you are in this state of deep connection to all things and where the self essentially just falls away. And I think that is the experience that a lot of the Western philosophers never had. And so they were stuck from this false premise in a way, this false premise that we're living in a meaningless world and trying to answer it from the intellect.
So that's my sense. I'm enjoying this, this armchair philosophy. This is fun. Yeah.
[00:20:36] David Elikwu: No, but what you just said is extremely, use the word interesting a lot and I'm very conscious of it, but I don't have another word in this moment, but I loved just what you were saying. And it's funny because it reminds me exactly of what we were talking about in terms of the Eastern versus Western philosophy dichotomy from the perspective that, so I grew up religious, so I would call myself a Christian in a sense.
But I have come to an answer in the sense of, okay, what's the meaning of life? And it's not necessarily, it's not a religious answer, and I can give... how I would characterize my answer in a moment, but I think your answer to that is very much, characterizes this version of Eastern philosophy and I'm just trying to think about it for myself and maybe you can help me bridge the gap here between what you've just shared and how I might espouse things. because to me, When I found the answer, to me, it just makes perfect sense, and it seems crystal clear, and I can't understand why other people, well, I know why a lot of people maybe struggle with the answer, I think very often, and this is just me sharing my own personal opinion, I hear people talking like, oh my gosh, what's the meaning of life, and I think part of the issue, and maybe this is the complete opposite to what you're saying, and you can let me know where we differ here, but it's because it's completely personal.
People only ask, what is the meaning of life for me, as though me is the only reason for life and for the universe, like, we only think about, through the lens of my, the qualia of my existence, how can I derive meaning from that, and I think, the answer that I found for myself is that each of us is here for the rest of us. I would think of humanity as one large project and we are all participants in that project. And anyone is born like, I've been meaning to write an essay about this, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while. And I think it's essentially this idea that, all of us are data points for the rest of us, every single person that you've ever interacted with, even without speaking. to people or interacting with people physically, you have taught people something about the world. Even if you didn't do any of the amazing work that you've done, even if you said nothing to no one, just by someone seeing you on the street, they have learned something about the possible states of human existence. If you have seen homeless people, you have seen people that work in restaurants, you've seen athletes, you've seen philosophers, you've seen loads of different types of people, and every single one of those people, even if you've never met them, they've taught you something about the possible states of human existence.
Oh, life could be like this, life could be like that, I could have this kind of family, I could do all of these different things, and through all of the people that you see and interact with, that is how you form your conceptualization of the world, like that is what shapes your existence. And so each of us is one of those data points for everyone else that has ever seen us And ever interacted with us And all of the things that we learn are as a result of the cumulative experiences of all the people that came before us, right? Every single thing in my house, I have no idea how to make a curtain. There's a curtain covering my window. I don't know how to make that. But someone figured that out a long time ago, and then they taught it to hundreds of thousands of people. And now... those hundreds of thousands of people, someone eventually figured out how to make a machine using techniques they'd learned from someone else, and then they learned to apply that to, curtain making, and now everyone has curtains, you can go to Ikea, you can just buy a curtain.
And there's so many things in life that are like that, I think there's a famous analogy that, no one person could build a pencil, or knows how to build a pencil, because... there are so many pieces like if you have to go and mine granite and you have to cut the wood and you have to sand down the wood to do all those different parts and then you have to get the rubber the rubber that's on the end of the pencil where does that come from how is that made that's how i would kind of conceptualize the answer to that question is that your individual experience on this earth is both full of meaning for you But it's more meaningful for everyone else.
Like, the benefit that you have by being here is actually for everyone else that has ever seen or interacted with you. it doesn't necessarily have to come from an internal place like, you don't actually have to like it. I don't know. Like, there's an extent to which. Like you don't have to derive a personal benefit, but you benefit so many other people just by existing and so there is inherent benefit in life itself just by Being around, and so I'm interested to know how you might bridge the gap between that and then what you shared, which is a lot more about the internal side, which I need to think more about for myself about, I guess, the qualia of your existence in itself and the extent to which, oh, you can find your own meaning in
yourself that almost negates the external effects
[00:24:59] Jonny Miller: I love this. I'm like, it's really forcing me to kind of think. What I would say to that is yes. And the perspective that I would add that might help with the bridge is, Oh gosh, this might sound quite out there to certain people, but essentially like channeling what Alan Watts says is that we are nodes of consciousness experiencing itself in increasingly fascinating ways. I like to think of the unfolding adventure of the cosmos that the atoms in our body were at some point in history, like, part of the Big Bang, like we are essentially that space dust, those carbon atoms that have, through this multi billion year cosmic adventure become human beings and we are now the universe like human ing and experiencing itself in increasingly fascinating and interesting ways and I think, to your point, that the piece around like, you don't necessarily have to feel satisfied with your own personal life in order for it to be meaningful. I think the piece that I would add to that is that actually, if you investigate, what is the nature of the self?
The classic question in eastern traditions is to ask the question like who am I? Who am I? Am I my thoughts? Am I my body? Am I these emotions? And if you inquire like over and over again what people throughout history have found is that, if you can observe those things, it means that you are not them. And so in actual fact, the idea of the self turns out to be this, this grand illusion, it's almost like a big cosmic joke that the self doesn't really exist. And we spend 99% of our time trying to protect it, trying to protect these identities, these aspects of the self, which are not possible to find in our direct experience and that is kind of the great Eastern insight. And once you have an experience where the self drops away, you know, some people have this on psychedelics, some people through meditation, some people pure serendipity.
Then in that place you feel what it is that you're speaking to that we are on some level intertwined with not only the rest of humanity, but all sentient life and that is the place where deep compassion is born. And that is the place where meaning is just deeply inherent. Does that bridge anything?
[00:27:13] David Elikwu: I think so, no, no, no, I think that actually does make a lot of sense and I think there's an extent to which what we've both said even though we started in different places is kind of the same because I think in a very similar sense you know I would agree I think we are all you know when I say we're all data points for each other it's almost like I guess the analogy tying it to what you mentioned before is that we're all kind of like neurons on the brain that is the collective human experience like all of humanity, like each of us is one little, experiencing one small part of it. And we can communicate I guess our emotions and feelings to each other But we also have our own personal experience of what it's like to be here on, on this earth.
[00:27:48] Jonny Miller: Totally, and just to speak to that as well, I think the reverse of that, when we feel disconnected from that kind of collective human organism, that collective brain, that is when we feel lonely, and there's this what Zach Stein calls Global Intimacy Disorder, where when we are not connected to that, that like web of beingness, that's when I think a lot of these, like mental health conditions, addiction and things kind of come from feeling isolated and feeling disconnected from that.
Not only that idea, but also the felt sense.
[00:28:18] David Elikwu: Okay, I want to ask you In a moment, I want to ask you some stuff about psychedelics because you brought it up. But before that I guess In the gap here, something else that I'm really interested in. So, I saw a post the other day, and I guess this relates to what you were just saying now. I saw the way social media is very circling now, I think it was originally a Reddit post and someone took a screenshot and shared it as a tweet.
So I saw the tweet of a Reddit post and the person was essentially, I don't know, I think someone like in their thirties, and they were saying my day job is I wash plates. This is what I do. but you know, I've managed to save up some money, about fifteen thousand dollars. They've specced out this van. They are considering maybe trying to live a new life, but they're just depressed. They're depressed because of the state of life that they're in. And it was really interesting, he said some more stuff in the post, but it was really interesting. One of the comments to that was essentially that if he took that van and drove to a nice, like seaside town and got hit in the head with a rock and woke up and completely forgot everything about his life, this guy would be extremely happy.
And it's so interesting how, from everything that he just described, he would have $15,000 to start a new life. He's got this van that he could live in at least until he finds a place. Everything that was negative about his life that he was depressed about was almost How he feels in relation to the life that he's living. It's the fact that he washed his plates for a living, it's the fact that he's doing all those things. And what is really interesting is how, I guess we can become trapped by our own experience and actually I think even just that random comment that seemed like a throwaway comment was actually very enlightening to me because it's reminding me that as soon as you step out of the life that you're living, and if you were just to reframe that life, like if you gave that life to someone else, if someone started afresh with all of those things, but without any of the emotional connection to them, they could live a completely different life and actually someone could be extremely happy. And it almost doesn't matter where you start from, but someone could live an extremely happy life if they just removed a lot of the emotional connection that they feel towards different aspects of their lives.
And I know it's not necessarily to say that everyone can just stop talking to all your family and friends, move across the country and start a new life somewhere. It's not to say that, but I'm interested to hear your perspective on I don't know the extent to which this ties into The Pathless Path philosophy, but how we can find meaning for ourselves and find joy and all of these things and disentangle that from the negative aspects of life that we see or the things that can lead us to being depressed or can give us anxiety and all of those things.
[00:30:42] Jonny Miller: Yeah, beautiful question.
What comes to mind is, is actually a quote that I think I first read during that year of travel. And it was by a guy called David Stendhal Rast. And he said, I write this down, looked at it so many times, he said that "Joy is the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens."
And reading that quote, at the same time also discovering Viktor Frankl, you've probably heard of Man's Search for Meaning, and the way that he went through what was a objectively speaking horrendous experience like in the Holocaust, like some of the worst living conditions that anyone could imagine and how he found his own, what he described as the freedom in between stimulus and response.
And the agency there, that was very inspiring for me and I think that in some ways that kicked off my own personal journey to find that joy that doesn't depend on what happens, that joy that is there no matter what is going on in the circumstances around me.
And that's not to say that you know, there aren't millions maybe even billions of people in very challenging life circumstances. And at the same time, and this is kind of the, almost the experiment that a lot of Eastern philosophers encourage you to run on yourself is like, can you find that joy that is beneath the stories, that is beneath the feelings and is just kind of there inherent in you?
And that's something that I've touched myself a number of times in different circumstances and each time I do, it's almost like a reminder that I don't need anything really to feel that way and at the same time I have stories in which, everyone else, I compare myself to other people and that's kind of what we do. Like the dishwashing guy had all of his peers, been locked in a basement for a week. He would be stoked with washing dishes every day. It's like, purely a comparison thing. Where do we feel in relation to either our peers or where we think we should be at a certain point in life. And I think that comparison game is one of the causes for a lot of like unnecessary suffering.
[00:32:33] David Elikwu: Yeah, you said two things that I find really interesting or what you said connects to two things in my mind. One is, I was listening to Sam Harris talk the other day and he was talking about meditation and the uses of it. But also, just very connected to the idea that you mentioned about the distance between, the stimulus and the response. And the idea that those two things don't have to be connected and it sounds like such a simple thing but I think the more you think about it, well, if you haven't already spent substantial time thinking about it as I know you have but for people listening, the more you think about it, the more you realize that the things that happen in the world are almost completely divorced from how you react to things that happen in the world.
And I know this maybe sounds maybe a bit like Adlerian philosophy, and Adler talks about this idea that just one thing I remember from reading The Courage to be Disliked which is a really interesting book that I'd recommend, but it was just this idea that, okay, the analogy was, you don't shout at the waiter because you're angry, you wanted to shout at the waiter and you manufactured, you created the anger almost as the excuse for you to be able to assert your dominance over the situation that you were experiencing.
And it's this idea that, the things that happen to you and the way that you react to those things are completely separate. If you had something in your mind, like a very short loop of memory loss that every five seconds you completely forgot. The most recent thing that just happened, you know, obviously you retain your long term memory and you know how to interact with the world and stuff, but you just forgot, whatever that last thing was that happened, it's almost hard to imagine how angry you would be at certain things or how miserable or how upset because so much of the relationship, so much of the emotions that we have are as a result of the interactions that we have and it's really the internal response that we have to external stimuli. Something happens in the world and that makes us feel a particular way and then we carry that through the next few hours.
And okay, but the other thing that this connects to is the fact that you and I tried to record this podcast, like what two weeks ago? And a very similar thing happened my wi-fi out of nowhere just I can't describe to you what happened time and chance, right? I tried to log on I tried to set up and it was just not working. The internet was, it was so slow I couldn't run a speed test like, the speed test was crashing because my internet was just non functional and I was kind of freaking out about it.
But again, it's one of these things, I think there's two layers of introspection here.
For a lot of people, one layer, you might have no idea that you're malfunctioning and so you might just get angry and fine, you know, something's happened and you're just angry or upset. I think what was interesting about my response is kind of was at the second level of introspection here where I knew that I was malfunctioning and I knew that I shouldn't be responding in this way towards this external stimuli, something that is 100% out of my control. I am not the God of the Wi Fi. I cannot control when it works and when it doesn't work. But right now it wasn't working and there's nothing I could do about it, despite all the different things that I tried. And I know in my mind, that I should be able to divorce my response to this situation.
You can think about, I guess, even like stoicism, you talk about, just ignore the things that are outside of your control. Like, all of these things are in my head, my head knowledge. I know all of these things. I shouldn't be responding negatively to this, it's out of my control, there's nothing I can do. The rational side of my brain should just say, okay, well, not working. That's the end of that. We'll just do it another time and you just move on. But there was almost a part of my brain that was leaning into the panic. Like I knew that I should not be getting anxious about this thing.
But I wanted to be anxious, there's a part of my brain, this is the Adlerian philosophy like, I wanted to be anxious, I wanted to be angry and frustrated and I wanted to lean into that. Almost as though, by leaning into those emotions, it validates something. The more I let myself be angry and frustrated about this thing, and I freak out about it, it validates, oh, how helpless I am. There's nothing I can do about it. But that's not what I should have been doing. Maybe I should have been doing some breath work or some other stuff. So maybe you can diagnose what's happening there and how should, not just like, how should we process some of those types of situations, but also what lives in that gap where sometimes we know what we should be doing in our head, but we still want to give into our emotions and we still want to act in a different way.
[00:36:31] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, wow. There's so much to unpack there. I'm wondering what the best starting point is. I know. I really love the framing also like where we've come in the conversation as well. Because I think it's a great setup for this. I'll maybe start with you mentioned Sam Harris briefly and he very eloquently articulates the idea of like in his view meditation increases the half life in between stimulus and response. And I think that's kind of a great way of putting it in, in that before we can have any kind of psychological distance between our like awareness, our witnessing and the emotion or the thought, like we're basically stuck, like we are fused with whatever is arising in our mind and you know, we can be angry for like days sometimes and it just lasts for a long period of time.
What I think I would add to that is that, by cultivating a sense of Embodied awareness or somatic awareness like being able to like sense track and feel our internal landscape and the sensations that go along with let's say the frustration. We're able to feel into and stop resisting whatever that challenging experiences. So let's use the example of frustration when the internet isn't working. And this is something I'm very, very familiar with myself.
What we often experience is anger or frustration, I believe, actually isn't anger, it's like our resistance to feeling the anger. And so when we connect with the actual sensation of it, it tends to kind of run its course a lot more quickly.
So, and I think children are really good examples here where you might see a five year old, they might fall over and they might cycle between sadness anger and then joy in the space of about 25 seconds And it's like that like adults can do that too, but we've lost this capacity for emotional fluidity like we think that we should be controlling we resist. We don't we're not even in touch with our feelings from the neck down. And I think that's a big piece of it and so if we were to like deconstruct this moment of the internet going down, I mean, when it happened, you probably had like a couple of choices.
Actually maybe there's three choices. Yeah, there's, there's probably three choices. The first one would be the traditional, what's known as like top-down approach, which is where the internet's fucking up, you can like reframe and you can tell yourself the story of why this is actually okay, why it doesn't matter, why, you know, we'll just record it in two weeks from now. And that probably has some effects. Like you probably feel a little bit less anxious knowing that at the end of the day, there's no long term consequences. And you probably still feel anxious. The second path is the down regulation, self regulation, which for me, breathwork is the most efficient and effective kind of protocol for this that can either look like physiological size, it can look like making a voo hum sound. It can be alternate nostril breathing or 478 breathing. There's a number of different practices, but essentially these intervene at the level of the nervous system and because the nervous system is bidirectional you can if you change your breathing pattern, it has a direct effect on your anxiousness and your system will start to shift and naturally the thoughts of frustration will kind of go away. And the third, I'd say even more like more interesting option is to fully feel the frustration and the anxiety and just accept it and welcome it and be like, wow, I'm, I am really frustrated right now.
And just like, be like, shit. And in that, in like actually welcoming that and not trying to change it or fix it, it just like runs its course really quickly. And you probably find that a few minutes later, you were just fine again, and you weren't holding on to whatever tension was there. So, I'd say those are kind of the three paths that are available.
But, in order to even... kind of get to that point. You have to even realize that this is what's going on which it sounds like you already had like you kind of had that meta awareness that like, wow, it looks like i'm getting really frustrated now, and I don't need to be but for a lot of people They just be in it like they wouldn't have that kind of cognitive capacity to even notice that that's what's going on and that's, it's honestly the biggest step I think for a lot of people is like catching yourself when you're in that, you're in that loop and then from that place you can take one of those three parts.
[00:40:38] David Elikwu: Okay, awesome. I finally remembered the Sam Harris thing. It's pretty much exactly what you were saying. But I think it's just this idea that yes, the meditation, it's the tool, but the analogue is, I think it's Epictetus that says something like, if you see someone that is doing some strength training, you don't say, show me the size of your muscles, you say, show me what you can lift.
And the point is that meditation in the same way, it's not so much the tool and the outward appearance of the thing that you're doing, or whatever it is that you're doing, let's say it's breath work or whatever it is, it's not being the zen master, it's not the act of doing the meditation, but it's what it allows you to do. And it's the fact that the meditation or whatever practice you have, it's the tool that allows you to short circuit your malfunctioning or to reduce the half-life of your anger. So it's not so much how zen are you in your most zen-like state, but it's how quickly can you return from when you are angry.
So from when you are interrupted back to a reasonable baseline and I guess that's something you have to drill and maybe the question that would lead me into, I do have some of my own intuition about what part of the answer might be or at least what it might be for me but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
And maybe just before this you can tell us a bit more about some of these different breathwork techniques and what's useful and what's not because you mentioned a few different things box of breathing, the 478.
But how do we take these things from being purely intellectual. And I guess not just that, but how do you progress something from just being a tool or something fancy or a gimmick, in a sense?
And I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but what I do mean is that, there is almost the notion templatification of a lot of these ideas in which, I remember when I first got into Notion and it was like, amazing, you just download this random template and the one thing I have learned is that anytime I download a random Notion template, I don't use it.
Like I, it ends up being non useful unless I find a way to reformat it or change it or make it extremely practical for me to the extent that it becomes almost invisible like it just becomes the default action but when i try to just download an entire system that i didn't build myself, I just very rarely use it.
And I think there's a sense in which, I see a lot of people that maybe use the fancy toys of breathwork or meditation or whatever it is as the outward action, going back to the Sam Harris analogy, it's the thing that you do, it's the tool, but it doesn't become like, I guess it's the difference between I have this big shiny wrench that I bought on Amazon and it looks amazing and I am just here to fix toilets like, I am going to fix the toilet no matter what. If I can use this majestic wrench to fix the toilet that is fantastic and it's a great tool that I can use to do this thing. But how do we like shorten the distance between okay, the thing that we need to do and the niceness of the tools with which we can do those things.
[00:43:17] Jonny Miller 2: Totally. Yeah. That's a fantastic question. And there's a quote that I really, really love. It's from a Papua New Guinea tribe and they say, "Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle."
And I think that is kind of the essence of the question here. Like, how can we go from having this fancy notion template, which tells us what to do to actually knowing how, like which tools to use in the moment.
And the answer is in some ways different for everyone, but the way that I like to share it and teach it is to encourage relentless self experimentation. Like, I think that is really kind of what it takes. It's like, say in that stressful moment with the internet, as an experiment, you'd try this alternate nostril breathing and you would notice like, how does it feel while I'm doing it? And then how do I feel afterwards? And in order to be aware of that, you actually have to be in touch with your physical body and your state to some degree. But then when you notice the effect or the downshift, that's like maybe even less than two minutes later. That will then register as like an interesting experiment in your mind in your nervous system And then the next time that situation comes you'll be more likely to remember to do that and so I think as with say, I think there's definitely analogies to Physical training here and kind of like doing the reps.
I think it's helpful to have a consistent daily practice. For me, it's usually in the morning after meditation, after I wake up, but whatever it is where you're just like, you're getting used to the sensation so that it becomes somewhat like muscle memory.
And I think the other thing for me is like, I really struggle to just believe something someone tells me unless I can actually validate it in my own experience. And I think a lot of people are like that. And so it's, how do you experiment with this in your own life? What experiments do you want to run to test this? And you know, there are many, many, many different ways to, in this case, down regulate. You can also do what Andrew Hubeman talks about Optic Flow, where you kind of like, soften your gaze and you, you expand your peripheral vision, you go for a walk, co regulating with other people in nature, like there are a bunch of different ways to do it. And I think that once you start to look through this lens of testing out stuff and see, see what the effect is, then it becomes this infinite game in which you continuously refine and improve depending on how things go.
That's how I've approached it in my life. I think for me, that's really the only way.
[00:45:33] David Elikwu: Okay, I guess the following question from that, and this is a purely selfish question because I'm asking this out of genuine interest. This is personally useful
[00:45:40] Jonny Miller 2: good.
[00:45:41] David Elikwu: actual life and I need to develop all of this stuff is, there's a sense of which it's reiterating my original question, which is like, okay, it's good that I know that I should be doing a lot of these things, but what I've definitely found it hard to do is build a consistent practice of actually doing it.
And I'm interested to know from your perspective, what do you think is the best, like, okay, I can think of a few different ways in which you could do this and you touched on some of them. So one is you have a fixed regimen and a fixed schedule that you are committing every morning to doing one breathwork session or 10 minutes of meditation or something. So I guess option one is like fixed routine. Option two might just be building the muscle memory of grounding. So the analog that I can think of for this is, for me, has been trying to fix my posture and I've been doing this for years, probably since I was like, 15 or so when I was trying to play basketball and I needed to grow and I knew that if I can fix my posture and stand straighter, hopefully the human growth hormones kick in and I can, I could grow a bit more.
[00:46:37] Jonny Miller 2: Interesting theory.
[00:46:38] David Elikwu: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, didn't work out too much. I'm still like a regular human height. But I guess the analog there would be okay. The same way that I use to fix my posture is just, there's no practice, I don't sit for five minutes and do any posture stuff. Maybe I should, I should be stretching actually, but I don't.
All I do is every time I remember, I just build the muscle memory of remembering. And so during the day, inevitably, any number of times, I will just remember, "Ah, I just should be standing straighter." And because I've done that so many times for years and years, I just do it all the time. My posture is already better. It could still be improved, but it's slowly and gradually being improved just by, I guess it's the attention of the attention, right? What you pay attention to shapes the way that you act. And so I'm building the muscle memory of shaping my attention and remembering to do this thing. And it's not perfect, it's like in between remembering to do that thing. I might have bad posture, I might slump a bit, but I will always remember and then I sit back straighter again.
So I guess those are like two models or two ways of doing it. There's probably a few other ones, James Clear talks about Habit Stacking where, okay, you find something else that you do and you whack this on the end, so I don't know what that could be, but you have some existing routine and then at the end maybe you take a deep breath or something like that. So those are a few different types of models.
What might you recommend for me or for someone listening as a way to fully internalize some of these practices?
[00:47:57] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah it's a really interesting question. I mean, James clear's obviously written a lot about this in his book habits. In the beginning, I do think it be helpful to do almost like an intensive burst, whether that's like a 10 day challenge and doing it with other people kind of in community, which is why the cohort based course model is the one that I've chosen for kind of teaching this stuff.
Cause I do think that having other people having accountability and having some kind of intensive burst in the beginning helps it to become more like muscle memory. Yeah, I'm just having like an idea in real time, but I wonder if there's something about the intensity of the experience and doing it then, if it almost helps to like lodge it in more.
So for me, I remember doing it before TEDx talk when there were like 500 people in the audience and it worked and I was like, Oh my God, like, thank God for this because I would have been screwed without it. And like that moment the intensity of the anxiety that I was feeling and then the calm that you met afterwards was such, it was such a contrast that I was like, whoa. And maybe a more simple example is like in the cold plunge, like if you do humming or this alternate nostril breathing or even just size you will go from being very activated and potentially like, get me out of here to kind of calm and grounded. And again, like a pretty short space of time. And so I think there's something about doing it in almost like high stakes environments that, for me at least, that helps to kind of solidify and maybe just increasing the contrast between the before and after that I find really helpful. And so at a point it's almost like I don't have to remember to do these things. It's almost like, why would I not do it? It's like obvious.
And I think that's where there's kind of the difference between the motivational willpower that's required in the beginning to start a new habit versus going with gravity. It's like water downstream where you almost like want to do it in the situations because you know you'll feel better like 90 seconds time.
But I do think that the key thing is just like, is almost acknowledging to yourself that there's anxiety here. And maybe even like saying it to yourself in the moment and being like, wow, I feel anxious. And there it's probably easier to then go into whatever the practice is. But it might be, this is my guess.
It might be a resisting of the feeling that's actually there, but once you actually kind of acknowledge it yourself, then it's like, oh, okay, there's not you know, I'm anxious my a lot of humans feel anxious at some point in their lives. It's totally fine. It's not bad. I'll just do this breathing practice and I'll feel great. That's my sense
[00:50:25] David Elikwu: Yeah, it's interesting, even just as you were sharing, I was thinking for myself I guess like what the real trigger is and you could probably help me with some diagnosis here but I think it's essentially, there's also a gap between what brings on the circumstance and I think there's a sense in which, if we replayed that exact same scenario and it was just me by myself, I was planning to do something and my internet wasn't working. I would never freak out about that because I just know it's not in my control and everything that I just say I already have in my head I would have used it and I would have known to use it and I would have known that, look, there's nothing I can do about this.
And I think I'm actually quite good at that, which is why usually I'm very calm. I think what changes it is when, not necessarily that you're performing, but when there's, I don't know if you'd call it spectators, but It's an externalized relationship. Like you are participating in this with me.
And usually, actually, I think I am quite good at staying calm externally. And I look like I'm calm a lot. Someone was asking me earlier today, like, Oh, are you always this chill? And man in my head, I'm freaking out half the time, but I seem calm, but I think it is, maybe part of it for me is the sense in which, okay, I want to be trusted and I want to have a sense of professionalism and I have certain standards for myself in terms of how I would interact with others.
If it's between me and me, and something goes wrong, I can deal with that, I know how to navigate a lot of those things, and that is usually fine. But I guess then, once you extend that window and it's broader, and you're now including other people in that conceptualization, then it becomes more difficult, and you're thinking about I guess, you are acting, but how you're being received. If that makes sense. So, I guess there's that external aspect of it as well.
[00:52:01] Jonny Miller 2: You actually remind me of something that I wanted to mention earlier, which was, in this kind of, it ties back to meditation. There was a quote for, I think it was Ram Dass where he says, "if you think you're enlightened, go back and spend a week with your family."
And it's this idea that like, we can cultivate this like perfect Zen equanimity in a monastery, you know, with no challenging external stimulus but then bringing that back to situations that have higher stakes and for us as humans as social mammals, we tend to be the most triggered by challenging social interactions which to our kind of mammalian lizard brain makes it seem as if we might get kicked out of the tribe which we associate with basically death. And so we have these disproportionate responses in certain situations and particularly emotions like shame or disappointment. Like these things are really can be really challenging to deal with.
I think to kind of go back to your early question. It's very helpful to develop these practices in situations where you can kind of control the level of intensity or you can control the stakes. So the best example would be in almost like role play with other people, where it's like, very low stakes, it's play, you can kind of give each other feedback. Or, you know, say you're on your own and the internet went off and you're like, oh shit, and then you do the breathing practice, but I say like the situation where you're about to have a conversation with a high profile guest, not that I'm a high profile guest, but like, say it was Sam Harris, then that would be like a level 10 out of 10, like you'd be playing the game on hard mode, and it's like working up to that at some point, but knowing that it'll take a while to kind of titrate until your capacity is able to hold that because there is also this nervous system capacity piece in the, in the literature. It's known as a window of tolerance and the more that we are able to put ourselves into challenging, stressful experiences and almost be like on that edge of our window and then come down into safety and relaxation afterwards that will just like we're growing a muscle, you push the rep to failure, then you rest and recover and the muscle grows bigger the same with your nervous system. Window of tolerance the capacity grows bigger. And so over time you're kind of building that capacity and you're building your ability to down regulate and down shift after stressful situations. And so I think it's similar and in the same way as like, you wouldn't expect to go to the gym and then have like huge muscles a week later. Unless you're taking steroids.
It's like, it's the same with nervous system like these thing. It really takes time and you should expect progress to be incremental
[00:54:35] David Elikwu: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I think the other part of it that I was thinking about just as you were speaking, and also it came to mind when you were talking earlier as well, is that breathwork definitely seems to me like I say what I would call, I've stolen this term from somewhere and I don't remember where I've stolen it from, Complementary Cognitive Artifacts, and I guess, there's two categories, so Cognitive Artifacts are like tools that you can use that help your brain or your body in some way. And you have Competitive Cognitive Artifacts, which are things that, after using them, like, when you use them, they're useful and they make you better, but when you lose them, they make you worse. And Complementary Cognitive Artifacts are things that, by using them, they make you better, in the same way, but once you lose them, you retain the goodness, like you're still just as good without them as you are with them.
And so the easy analogue is the abacus as a complementary cognitive artifacts. Using the abacus or actually also using physical maps or writing by hand, there's quite a few of these things where by doing these actions they expand your brain and help your brain. So for example, writing by hand, especially writing in cursive, is useful by itself as its own tool, but also by doing so, writing in cursive, particularly during your earlier years, helps your geospatial reasoning. It helps you like the act of drawing these shapes out helps to build other parts of your brain.
Another one is going for walks, going for walks helps you in terms of, okay, you're doing the physical act of your walking, you're getting your body circulation going, you're circulating oxygen through your blood going to your brain, all of this stuff. But there's also secondary effects of how it helps your health and how it helps the rest of your body. And so even when you sit down, when you stop walking, your body is still benefiting from the fact that you had already walked. And there was quite a few other examples like that.
And the way that you were describing breathwork seems to me to fall into that category as something that, you know, I guess by building a practice of doing the thing while you're doing it could probably help you a lot subconsciously, even when you're not actively practicing it. In the same way that, for example, I mentioned remembering, whenever you do remember, just training the attention for your body posture.
And so the more frequently you remember to straighten up, the more you do it passively. And so actually it's not necessarily the act of remembering to do it, but the fact that you have trained your attention to do it, helps you regardless, and so being able to train, being able to regulate your breath and regulate, you know, your nervous system. The act of practicing to do that and building the muscle like you mentioned helps you when you're not trying to use the muscle if that makes sense.
[00:57:04] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, no, it does. I love that. I hadn't heard that distinction before. And for me, breathwork would almost be like... An embodied somatic artifact or maybe it's known as a psychotechnology and you know, other like game B circles.
And in particular, the version of this is more like breathwork journey, so this would be breathwork during a 60 to 90 minute period of time with music and with a guide.
The modality that I'm trained in is known as facilitated breath re patterning. And what's interesting about this and how it relates to what you just shared is, what we're doing in that 90 minute window is creating a heightened state of neuroplasticity in the body such that we can repattern the default breath. We like push the breath to the edge of the window, so it's almost like putting it into like fifth gear at times and then back down into first and like stretching the window such that the three diaphragms of breath are kind of repatterned so that when someone then comes out of this journey, the way that they breathe the other 23, 000 times every day is noticeably different. So they might have more breath down in their pelvic floor, they might have more breath into the back of their their chest things like this. And so I think that's a perfect example of like where by going through this re patterning process you're actually collecting the benefits from that every time you inhale or exhale throughout the day.
[00:58:21] David Elikwu: Sure, are there any other areas of life that you think this particularly applies to? So, one thing that I was thinking of is the analogue to, I guess, you know, we've talked about the pathless path a lot, and just the idea, so actually I was thinking about this during the week.
I came across a, news story, it was actually a very old news story, but it was my first time coming across it. It was from when they first released Apple Maps and there was this news story that apparently a lot of people in Australia, which you visitors, and I would still love to visit. But a lot of people in Australia were trying to navigate somewhere with Apple Maps and getting lost in a desert. I didn't know there were deserts in Australia, but they were getting lost in some desert somewhere. And it's a hilarious story because if you were using your eyes, and your senses and so again this highlights the difference between complementary cognitive artifacts and competitive ones.
The complementary cognitive artifact is using a map and using your sense of navigation building your sense of navigation by okay you look down at the map and you see these signs and you look up and you try and figure out okay it's the third left and it's going to be across the road from this church and when I see the church when I see this thing I'm going to turn here I'm going to do that but Instead, you use the GPS and the GPS is a competitive cognitive artifact.
It helps you when you're using the GPS, but as soon as you stop using the GPS, or as soon as the GPS stops helping you, you're done for you. You're going to end up in some random desert somewhere. You're not going to have any idea where you are or how to navigate. And it's, it's just, well, on one hand, it's hilarious, but on the other hand I can see in so many instances how that could play out in a lot of our lives where, you know we follow a default path or we follow a default way of doing things that is useful to an extent and helps us in some ways but there are lots of these things where once we stop using them or once we stop following the script or doing things a certain way then it actually works against us and the fact that we relied on this thing now is more of a detriment than anything it would have been better never to have used it at all. Never to have gone down that path than to have relied on it to the extent that now we can't navigate without it. And I think yeah the analog that I was drawing is just to I guess, so life choices in general maybe like following a script versus figuring things out by yourself. But i'd be interested to know if you can think of any other particular situations where that applies.
[01:00:31] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, I really love that frame. I mean, what comes to mind, maybe one example on either side. One is like, I think a lot of our modern comforts, let's say like heating, like most people would agree like, house heating is generally a good thing. And at the same time, our ancestors would have gone through a lot of like hot and cold contrast throughout their lives.
And that has a lot of health benefits. So like now we have to introduce sauna and ice bath into our daily life. So it's almost like the thing that gives us benefit in some ways is actually like reduced our resilience or anti fragility in other ways. But then in terms of pieces that have complimentary cognitive artifacts.
The two that come to mind are meditation for probably obvious reasons. And yeah, emotional fluidity practices, which somatic experiencing is a good example, or EmRes which is emotional resolution. And basically these are like, practice dojos where you might have a guide, you might have a partner and you will learn to track sense and feel an emotion as it's arising all the way to completion.
And by doing this in this kind of like practice environment, when that same emotion emerges in daily life, which it almost certainly will, you will likely have more, you'll be more likely to notice it. You'll be more likely to kind of welcome it and not judge it and more likely to be able to feel it fully so that it completes. And you're not stuck with it for the next like six hours.
So yeah, that comes to mind. And yeah, meditation, I would say by having that experience and it's, yeah, It's not an artifact because it's not something that you're not writing with a pencil, but it is a practice. And through having that, you are more likely to then be able to inhabit that kind of witness perspective in daily life. So it's definitely not going to hinder you when you're off the cushion.
[01:02:21] David Elikwu: Okay, I have a follow up question, and I'm glad that I thought of it, because didn't plan it intentionally. But, where do you think psychedelics fall? Between, that type 1 and that type 2 because I've definitely seen a lot of people get into, you know, psilocybin, you're really interested in all these different things that you can take. I don't remember all of them, DMT, whatever.
But there's also simultaneously an extent to which sometimes, Okay, so one thing I've heard, I can't remember if it was psilocybin or something else, where, okay, someone takes it and apparently it's almost like a lifetime elixir, you can take it once and forever your life is better and you go on through the rest of your life and your forever change and everything is sunshine and rainbows.
But then simultaneously, I'm pretty sure it even like Tim Ferriss who was talking about, so I've heard people say that but then some of the same people sometimes they also I mean they're doing it like every week and so, which one is it? Is it that you only needed to take it once and you were fine forever? Or is this now a thing where you've touched the sky right? Well once you have experienced whatever it is, the enlightenment, something else, a different qualia, a different way of interacting with the world, once you've experienced that thing, it almost detracts from your experience of the regular rest of life, and actually sometimes you hear people that they will just then keep doing that thing until they have a bad trip, or until something happens, or until whatever else happens in their life.
But yeah, that's one thing. I haven't experimented a ton with any of those things myself, but I'd be interested to know your perspective. I know that you have tried some things, but, and also you are just within the world of knowing a lot about these things. So I'd love to know how you think about that dichotomy.
[01:04:04] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah. It's perhaps like the question in the kind of psychedelic research space right now. And my perspective on this is that firstly, it's not just taking the psychedelics like in the maps research in Johns Hopkins. It's psychedelic assisted therapy and that is a key distinction because it's actually the designed or curated set and setting alongside the psychedelic as well as the preparation and the integration which is an essential part of the whole package like without that, anyone can take mushrooms at a rave, you know, they're not going to have these life changing experiences.
So I think that's one important distinction.
I think the second important distinction is the type or the class of psychedelics. So there is a kind of substantial differences between let's say ibogaine versus psilocybin versus DMT versus LSD. In the studies that I've come across, ibogaine has the most intensive and longest lasting neuroplasticity window.
So that basically means that as Michael Pollan says, it's almost like fresh powder snow going into the, the kind of the pistes or the snow tracks of your life. And so after this experience, you have like fresh powder snow. Now, someone could go exactly back to their old life and then just carve exactly the same grooves that they had before and nothing would have changed.
And they also have an opportunity that with, you know, with support, with integration, they can carve new paths and their lives may in theory be changed forever. So that's a piece as well. So I think it really comes down to what is the set and setting and set and setting mean, set is for mindset, so, it's like what is your internal landscape? And what is the setting like, what is the quality of embodied safety? What is the music? What are the guides saying? What is your intention for going into it? Like all of those pieces go into create the experience which then has the potential for having these long lasting effects.
Now what I think is actually happening in let's say MGMA assisted psychotherapy is that, people are able to go into past traumatic experiences that say from childhood, they're able to really fully feel it and welcome it and like bring that exhaled part of their psyche back into their being and then after that, they are changed like they are kind of like a more whole human.
Let's say, and I think that's what is in part so exciting about some of these again, like these psychic technologies. I think there's also another use case because I mean, a lot of people are using psychedelics in a therapeutic model. So they're like some part, like I have addiction, I'm depressed, et cetera. I go in, I have this experience and I'm somewhat healed. And there's also the model of, the more kind of like ceremonial model where it's like, I just want to feel more connection to the other people in the ceremony. I want to feel this connection to the divine and insert your word for God there. And so I think it also depends on what people are trying to get out of it.
And then there's a third model, which is, even more fascinating. I had a phone call with a guy called Christopher Bash a couple of weeks ago. He wrote a book called LSD in the mind of the universe and over, it was a 30 year period he had 72 high dose LSD journeys And he basically he was a philosopher and he was using LSD as a way to inquire into the nature of the universe. And he came back with these trip reports and these insights around Buddhism and things and I was like, wow, that's fascinating. That's like another way to use these. So essentially they're like, I see them as like amplifiers of internal states and as such they can be used in many different contexts and it's very important to know who is using them and that there are also certain contraindications? For example, if someone has bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, then they really shouldn't be going anywhere near psychedelics unless they have a lot of support
[01:07:44] David Elikwu: Okay, interesting. I have a follow up question that definitely connects, there's an extent to which it's different, there's an extent to which it does connect exactly to that last part that you were saying, which is, I am thinking of, I'll just give you two examples.
There's the example of I think people call it like hysteric strength, where, you know, a car falls on your child and suddenly you have these old ladies have the strength to lift the car and free their child who had their leg trapped, or you know, you're in a burning building, similar situation happens.
And then I also think about, you have these the monks that spend all their lives training and developing this zen like internal state in which they can set themselves on fire and not scream. And obviously, there is a part of that that makes sense in my head, because I know that from a scientific perspective, pain is entirely in your head, like it only exists in your head, and it's funny, I've had several conversations about this with my partner, and it's funny that like, you know this to be true, assuming you've studied it, but like, you know this to be true, pain only exists in your head, right?
You receive signals, maybe, from other parts of your body, well, I think, okay. So the way the brain is working is that it is actually, it's not even waiting to receive the signals, it's pre empting, it's predicting that I have done something that may have hurt me, and relative to the amount of damage that I think is being done to my body, I am sending you this warning signal that, oh my gosh, something terrible has happened. And you know, the pain is that signal. The pain is just the alarm bell. And so if you see yourself, I don't know if you've ever had a paper cut, but sometimes something happens. You don't even see it happen, right? You don't even see that you stapled your thumb or you've cut yourself or something's happened.
And when you don't notice it, you're just completely oblivious. And as soon as you see the tiny trickle of blood, suddenly it stings and you're like, ah, you know, I'm in pain. And obviously, this is the gap. There was a really good study that I remember seeing, which was essentially that, actually it wasn't a study, it was just an analysis of different situations.
So there's one situation where there's a guy on a building site, he has a nail gun, and he shoots the nail gun, it goes, I think it like bounces off the wall, ricochets, goes into his foot, and he sees it goes into his foot, he screams out in pain, everyone turns around, he's rushed to the hospital, like, it's the worst thing in the world, you know, they take him to hospital, he's going, like, extreme pain, they're having to sedate him, they're having to do all this stuff, they take him to the hospital, they, like, cut open the boot around this massive, several inch long nail, and the nail has gone between his toes. And there is zero, zero physical injury and he's not hurt at all, but he felt all the pain and experience all the qualia of, you know, Oh, I am in pain. I have been shot through the foot. Everything that your brain was expecting you to feel in that moment, it produced for you. It just magicked up because that's what it's trained to do, right? You get shot in the foot. This is how you're supposed to feel and so your brain produces that feeling so that it, you go to the hospital. Because if you didn't go to the hospital, you wouldn't know.
And then I think the contrast to that was another example where a similar thing happened, I think it was like a nail gun. Someone shot a nail gun and it ricocheted and somehow like bounced off the wall and lodged itself in their jaw and they just
[01:10:59] Jonny Miller 2: Jesus. These This ricocheting Nail guns are fucking dangerous.
[01:11:03] David Elikwu: Yeah,
[01:11:05] Jonny Miller 2: That's the moral of this story. Don't pick up a nail gun.
[01:11:10] David Elikwu: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that's moral number one. But moral number two, and the reason why I found this one, like so interesting is that this guy just went on with his life. He went home, he had a bit of a headache and he told his wife he's got a headache. She told him to lie down and lay down for a bit. And then over the next few days he was having like this really bad toothache and after about a week, the toothache was getting really bad, and his wife was like, you should probably go to the doctor. And he goes to the doctor, they do a scan, they do an x ray, and literally, like, there is a nail going through, almost touching his brain. Inside his head. But because, like, if you knew that was happening to you, you'd in the most agonizing pain possible. But, because he didn't. He just almost completely ignored it, it was just a normal day. So all of that I've rambled and got on and on with these different examples.
What I'm interested to know is like there is a balance between. Okay, so you take these psychedelics and they enhance your brain state, but. Technically, there was nothing happening in your brain that didn't exist before you took the psychedelics. So this is the ultimate question I'm getting to, right?
So you can think of these two experiences where, as in like, it's not adding neurons. It's not adding stuff that wasn't there. It is allowing you to experience stuff that you might just not have gotten to yourself. In the same sense as the zen master can set himself, I could never do that, like you can set yourself on fire and not scream or just not react to it, I am not going to reach that sense of zen like state and maybe there is a paracetamol that I could take that could allow me to enter that zen like state and I'm sure where wherever they go to it. That they could set themself on fire and not react is incredible. And if I could take something and get to that state, great.
On the other side, you think about, okay, I don't want to, this is a converse maybe, and it's not necessarily saying there's something bad about taking psychedelics, but like to experience hysteric strength, I wouldn't necessarily want the bus to fall on my child. I would just want to do some, some bench presses, I, like, what's the extent to which, oh, I could just train myself to be better at this thing so that if I'm in a situation where I need to use the strength, I could just do the thing.
So, I guess the dichotomy is, what is the balance between the extent to which it might be more useful to simply train the mind on our own, to be extremely good at tapping into...
All of the experiences and like, what's the extent to which you could just train yourself to be better at doing a lot of these things versus being able to skip some levels and maybe that's the wrong analogy to use, but just directly enter a state and have this experience where we're still trying to figure out. What the, I guess the inherent benefit of just being in that state is and whether just having that state and I know we talk about set and setting, but whether that's just enough by itself just to justify having done it.
[01:13:58] Jonny Miller 2: Totally.
[01:13:59] David Elikwu: Hopefully all of that makes sense.
[01:14:00] Jonny Miller 2: It does. You know, I love the, I love the lead up. It's great. I mean, I think about this in the frame of like altered states versus altered traits. And actually before I go, I wanted to mention a brief tangent about the pain thing, because it's living here in boulder, there's a lot of this around, but like in the BDSM and Kink community, like people will actually choose to be flogged, or they'll have these like electrical pain devices, which when you're in this kind of very relaxed open state, and you're kind of choosing to receive it. It can actually be intensely pleasurable. And again, like you said, there's a part of our brain that's basically telling a story about, is this good or bad and is it pain or pleasure? But the actual physical intensity the signals from the neurons can be exactly the same thing.
Anyhow, going back to the altered states versus altered traits, I'm of a similar opinion to Sam Harris in the sense that I think psychedelics really can, it's almost like getting on a rocket ship and going to outer space and being like, wow, there is a there, like you will reliably have a often quite profound experience taking these psychedelics.
And for people like myself who were embedded in this kind of rationalist materialist world, it is irrefutable that there is something, there is an altered state of consciousness, which through altering my brain chemistry and releasing DMT from my pineal gland, I'm able to access. And once you've seen that it's very hard to unsee it. And for many people, I think myself included. Also, someone like Richard Alpert, who was a Harvard psychologist, then went on to become Ram Dass, like his experiences with psychedelics, like showed him the way and then he used practices along the lines of meditation, other kind of like psychotechnologies that weren't psychedelics in order to reach that state on his own accord.
So you can almost think of it as like the sailboat and the rocket ship. The rocket ship will take you out of the stratosphere. You will escape the gravitational pull of Earth and then you'll come back down. And you might be very similar to the person that came back down, but you will know that there is an experience to be had, which is going back to the meaning thing where everything feels inherently meaningful and connected or inspiring.
And so for me that then provide and for a lot of other people is provided pretty amazing motivation to explore through meditation or breathwork as well, which I view as a much more sustainable path such that way of being, that way of orienting in the world, is an altered trait and not just a state.
Does that make sense?
[01:16:33] David Elikwu: Okay. Yeah, that does make sense. And that is very interesting. Connecting to what you mentioned about this idea of, you know, going to space or touching the sky. A follow up question, I guess it's, you can think of it two ways.
One is, do you think everyone should, okay, like, in a very real sense, I very much imagine that everyone should go to space. And I'm not talking about psychedelics here. I'm talking about like actual Space, right? I can only imagine the way in which it would change your perception of the world. And, first of all, there's a bunch of people that think the earth is flat, so it would be great for them, but for everyone else, just simply the fact that you could change the way that you perceive the world. And understanding not just your insignificance, but also the beauty of the world. And I can only imagine there is something that changes forever about your relationship with existence. Once you can step back, you know, you're not just looking from your window out at your city and you're not just looking from a high building out at the rest of the country or even from a plane, but from space being able to see countries and rock formations and all of this majestic stuff. So there's an extent to which I think, yes, everyone should go to space. Do you think the same is true of psychedelics in terms of the benefit. Everyone should go to space at least once.
But then the second part of that question is then also
[01:17:53] David Elikwu-1: Realistically, not everyone is going to space, right? Even outside of psychedelics as great as that experience might be.
Not everyone's going to go, and so maybe there's something else that I could tell you or share with you about how to expand your experience and how to gain a better appreciation of the world. What is the equivalent of that for people that may not take psychedelics? How can we, obviously doing the breathwork and stuff might be part of that, but what is the analogue there? What's the equivalent? What is the closest you can come to touching the sky if you haven't done that thing? Does that make sense? Hopefully that's a
[01:18:26] Jonny Miller 2: useful question.
Yeah it's a beautiful question. And I also love what you said about everyone going to space and there was a really beautiful documentary called The Overview Effect. Which actually looked at all of the people who've been into space and how they've been kind of personally transformed by that perspective almost as if they had taken psychedelics and just seeing the interconnectedness of all things. And in terms of do I think everyone should take psychedelics?
I do believe that there are experiences to be had through psychedelics. Which were I to live a full human life and not experience, I would feel that I had missed something important. I think I can say it that way. I know that there are certain people with mental health challenges for whom it would not be a good idea, and nor do I want to tell everyone to go take psychedelics. But I do think that there is a, just a very unique and potentially powerful and profound experience that is available through the doorway of psychedelics.
And then to the last part of your question, which I think is a fantastic one of for those people who aren't going to take psychedelics, what might be a analogous way of giving them a taste of that and you know, this is an interesting one like for me. It was actually the experience of deep grief and like going all the way into my grief after my ex fiancee took her own life, which on the like in the depths of that it was almost like I think of it as like, swimming down through this like icy lake of hell and pain. And then right at the bottom of this lake, there was this like trap door to heaven which was like this experience of like rapture connection or wonder and I do wonder if like fully going into your painful challenging experiences is also a way to have a taste of what this is kind of pointing to. On a more practical sense, I think that like extended meditation retreats, like it's generally possible to not always in the first time, but often people who've done several 10 day retreats will have some sense of what this is kind of pointing to and then, breath work as well.
And I also want to be specific here, Conscious Connected Breathing as opposed to say, holotropic or rebirthing, which in my view, those are somewhat too intense and may give people these intense experiences, but potentially at the detriment of their nervous system regulation. So I would say specifically conscious connected breathing would be the one to explore. And then, and that was honestly my hope for breath work, knowing that you know, also even when psychedelics are legal, like these are going to be very expensive interventions. You're going to have to pay and sit with a therapist for six hours at a time whereas with breath work, it's a much shorter window, you know one to two hours. You don't have to take anything. You're literally just breathing and you can fairly reliably have altered states of consciousness which are different to your like day to day waking experience.
And then I would also say, yeah, this might sound cheesy, but like falling in love, like falling deeply in love with someone or something or opening yourself up to experience or, and rapture, I think, that can also be like on the same continuum. And if we feel a sense of or the fastness of the night sky, like I think that is on the same continuum as someone who then take psychedelics and then merges with all things. I think it's, I feel like it's a spectrum and you can get further along that spectrum through more mundane kind of everyday experiences.
Does that, how does that answer land? Does that resonate? Did I do a good job,
[01:21:55] David Elikwu-1: I think, you know, it's a great answer and what I'm stuck on and I find particularly interesting is that you mentioned both dealing with the, grief of death and love as an answer to the same question. And I would love to know maybe to hear you expand on that more. So on the love side, first of all, how do you describe love? What does that mean to you? What do you learn from love? But then similarly, what do you learn from death.
And actually this does tie back around because I remember coming across, I think it was an old blog post of yours from maybe 2016 or so. I saw you, I think it was a list of interesting ideas or something like that. And you mentioned The Idea of Mortigo I don't know if you remember or are still familiar with that phrase but I mean, even for me now, you know, if you're a student of philosophy, in some sense, you think about Seneca and a lot these Stoic philosophers, they talk about, every passing moment being lost to death and this sense in which you should appreciate life. Well, essentially the point I'm making is that there is a lot of what philosophy says about what we should learn from death, and you also studied philosophy, and I'm interested to know what lives in the gap between what you study and, like the head knowledge and the actual experience of going through grief in real life and the experience of actually processing that.
These things that you learn, these nice sayings, the nice aphorisms and the useful things that we often tell ourselves when we study these things, is it still useful? Is it still practical or is it something else entirely?
[01:23:23] Jonny Miller 2: That's a beautiful question. I agree that I, well. my view is that there is a chasm between intellectually knowing that one day you will die, and living into that experientially, like that is a, the qualia between those two are vastly different, let's say. Yeah, I'll maybe begin with like a brief illustration, which is I went on a 10 day vision quest in Nepal, which was a kind of designed as like a rite of passage and actually the year before me when they ran this that they use plant medicine in my one. But the year before the experience was one of spending 3 days to dig your own grave, contemplating death and then spend three nights sleeping in this grave that you had dug for yourself, imagining that you were essentially going to die.
What I heard was that that experience completely, you know, completely changed people's lives, you also have people who, you know, have near death experiences and then come back from it and completely radically changed their life. It's not uncommon at all.
And then how this relates to grief and also love, but grief especially is that my the image that I had of grief was one of, like a tsunami, it would come in waves, one moment I'd be fine and then the next moment I'd be like, bawling. I was like, in a train station and I just, like, collapsed on the floor in tears. Just, like, you couldn't predict when it was going to come on. And it was almost like this tsunami was stripping away all of the parts of myself that wasn't me.
And this kind of comes back to our earlier discussion around the self that we have all of, like, it was stripping away my identity as a soon to be husband. It was my story of what I thought our future was gonna be like with the kid, the family that we were gonna have. It was the story of where my home was, what our place was. You know, all of these parts of myself were basically being stripped away and beneath that was this sense of love. That's the best way that I can describe it. And I think that again, this comes back to like joy is the happiness, it doesn't depend on what happens. I think that there is something that is in our true nature, which is just this deep sense of love, openness, joy, connection. Which our layers of identity and stories kind of almost get in the way like sludge that kind of like blocks it out and that these experiences of either, you know, intensely falling in love with someone for the first time or losing someone who was very dear to you like they both have this effect of kind of stripping away the things that actually aren't important and aren't even real in the grand scheme of things. And so I do think that is like the, what I call the gift of grief. Is that it strips away these aspects which aren't even you.
One more one more kind of story or anecdote I'll share is that there's a certain tribe in South America where when their family dies, they believe that the extent or the power of your lament, the power of your grief is the energy that like gets the spirit over to the other side over to like the next life, whatever it is. And I love that, that idea of like the more intensely that you can like lament and grieve and you know you go to a modern day funeral and people aren't lamenting like they might shed a tear. They might cry, but it's not like it's not like a whale, it's not like this intense praise of love, as Martin Praktel says, like "Grief is love's praise." It's like the other side of the coin essentially. And I do think that, it's the most simultaneously painful and also clarifying and opening experience that a human can go through.
And one more thing that I'll add as well is that the flip side of that and this is what actually I was terrified of when I first started out on this journey is that. I'd met people who had lost someone close to them, but they hadn't grieved and I don't know if you've met people like this, but they were almost a shell of a person. They were just like this like husk, husk of a human being, there wasn't this aliveness in them. And I knew that at the time I was let's say not very good at feeling my emotions. So I was like, I'm just going to, I'm going to do everything I can to like fully feel this all the way through. And I'm really glad that I did because I think had I not, there could have been a parallel reality where I also, I was numbed out and further like dehumanized through the unfelt grief.
[01:27:26] David Elikwu-1: Wow. I think there's so much in what you just the quote that's sticking in my head is when you said grief love's praise, grief is love's praise in and even just the last part of what you were saying, I definitely resonate with in the sense that I am also someone might not always consider myself, you know, the most in touch with emotions and feeling things how am I suppose to feel things, What you the antidote might be or how would obviously without having to go any terrible experience, someone might bridge that gap, not just for myself, but you know, I'm thinking of loads of other people that might spectrum those where, you know, you hear people talk about like things that are woo woo and people like to think of themselves as extremely And there is a sense in which I, like many people are almost like, you know there are some atheist that are scared to go to a church or place of worship because they're scared they'll find meaning And not that applies to everyone, but you just that that framing right, of I think very often with some things that are, you know, woo or feel like emotional or existential or whatever that Sometimes it's because people will feel very justified that their own way is right and they have a better part. than, you know, whatever they've already discovered is better than whatever that But I think there's also another aspect of it people are you know, it, comes back full circle to what we talked about before and this idea a lot of our perception of the world and the way that we experience is simply the interaction the stimulus and the and between the things that happen in the world and how we respond them and the story, the narrative that we tell ourselves. You know, going back exactly to what you were just saying about grief and being almost two sides of the same coin or one following the or one echoing the in the sense you know, depending on how you respond to those, like your response to the situation is the event that and that could take you in completely different So I would love to know, I guess tying that together is just, how you think we can, for that are already tap into their emotions, but also for people that maybe don't necessarily whether it's tapping into your emotions, whether it is doing breath work or meditating you know, taking time out resting, sleeping, whatever it is, because there's loads of people, you see them on Twitter all the time. People that are adamant, they don't need any rest. their aura ring will save them you know, they can just trust in their ability to construct the world around them in the way that it needs to How might help someone to break out of that mind think do you that they need
[01:30:04] Jonny Miller 2: Well, I don't think anyone needs to do anything. I don't actually like giving people advice. But what I would offer maybe like an invitation and this ties back to grief in an interesting way is that. I think that often, many of these stories, and this was certainly true for me like when I was like a staunch atheist, kind of following Sam Harris, Chris Hitchens, all of these people, who I love in different ways, There was this sense of like, that I thought I had it figured out that I had this like certainty and it was actually incredibly painful to let go of that story.
And I think this happens anytime we, we change our mind and even a small way, there is actually an inherent grief that we have to go through that either we weren't right. And also that we don't know, and that we have to live in this slightly more uncertain mysterious world and for many people that's actually like outside of their window of tolerance to kind of use that example. There is like an existential window of tolerance, let's say where, too much uncertainty is actually terrifying and unsafe and they'd rather cling to that story. Whatever that story may be.
Yeah, and then the other thing, David White just came into my head, he has this line that I love, that like, "Even the most average human existence will go through regular heartbreak."
And I think that when, you know, when people think of grief and heartbreak, they think of like, Oh, losing a family member, losing a loved one, but actually, you know, there is a certain form of heartbreak when you leave your job or when you move place or when you end a relationship, like there are actually these like miniature heartbreaks throughout daily life, honestly, and noticing and acknowledging them can be a window in let's say to some of the things that we're talking about and there are spectrums, there are levels of intensity, but I think that like acknowledging that there was a certain grief to be felt when we let go or maybe it's an identity that we had, you know, maybe someone thought they were a Christian and they let go of that and there's a grief there. There's this grief in this identity that and I think actually like if I'm honest, the grief of losing my ex fiance. I loved her and the grief that I was feeling was my loss of grief as her partner and as her lover and all of these parts of myself that I struggled to let go of, like that was, that's actually the painful thing in that. And so I think that's maybe, I don't know, maybe that's a reframe for people.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this as well. Like, what comes up for you?
[01:32:23] David Elikwu-1: Yeah, that makes a lot of what comes up me in in which sense?
[01:32:27] Jonny Miller 2: In, this sense of like, how do people begin exploring this like, in a landscape when they are also very attached to rational worldview and evidence back studies and all these things, which I love as well, I'm genuinely in this inquiry of like, what is a good entry point or maybe like, trojan horse to start to see that there are things worth exploring in this domain.
[01:32:48] David Elikwu-1: It's a really good question. I think in some ways it kind of comes back full circle to what we were discussing So the example that came to you mentioned like grieving and and I used to work in corporate law probably since I was like 14, so probably what, like 10 years aspiration.
I mean, obviously been I got into law within that time and then also left law. But the, whole a large part of my existence had been focused on doing this one and I ended up at my dream firm, specifically one of the firms that I wanted to corporate law, so working in the banking and finance team.
So I was doing exactly what I had always wanted and I had lived for five years in the identity doing And people could ask you what you do and you say, this is what And I remember I and I guess that there's two things that So on one there's the internal grieving of the Because now you have to figure out a new thing to call yourself and what are you And there's still echoes of that now even, I mean, I've my next dream but know, re figuring not just who am I in the context of the work that I but also the entire direction, like the arrowhead that I have directed all of my aspirations has led to one thing. And now I have decided that that's not the So what is the thing? And you have to figure that out from scratch. And there's a sense in which, you know, some, some grief there not just your current identity, but the accumulated efforts. And you have to find a place to direct all of that And then the, second part of it was also, I guess, the external aspect in which, so it's not just the internal process of okay, refiguring yourself it's very interesting. When I was working in law, people used to reach out to me all the time and ask me for and they want you to mentor them and all of these things because you have this high status, this without you having to do anything.
I don't have to go around and start telling people, oh, I'm a big shot, you know? That's not the point. But the point is people will just come to you all the time. I get all these pings on But I'm kind of back there now because I have write the newsletter I promise I wasn't seeking I remember there was like a distinct gap where suddenly it's like wants your advice because you have no, you have no status, you have there's no allure in your identity. You're just a guy now, right? there's that externalised aspect of the grief, if you can call it that, where it's not only does the way you see yourself change, but the way people see you And you have to figure out not just how you want to start seeing yourself, but how you want others to see you. And there's mirror that you have to now realign. And I can imagine, very different for you, but I think there is still this aspect in on one hand you're dealing with your own feelings in the situation that you were in, but I can only How you must have felt even from the outside. I don't know the extent to which you thought about the outside, but obviously you were, you know, you you were engaged. all of those things. There's these expectations, there's I would feel a lot of personally, you know, of how people are thinking of not just how I'm thinking of myself, I can only imagine.
Yeah, just how you balance and battle all that So that's not so much an answer to the question, but I think it's I think, like I was saying, it does come back around to what we were saying earlier in terms of, so much of is about how you respond to external and how, you know, we talked about the muscle, right?
And using meditation as a tool to build that muscle, but being able to recenter yourself and being able to ground yourself and Can you shorten the half life of the extent to which you can be thrown off your equilibrium and return sometimes, and maybe this is a distinction sometimes the place you don't always want to return to exactly where you were.
And sometimes it's much better to find a new locus point, right? You go through this big It's not so much getting back to where you were like re centering yourself in a new space. And I think that's equally But I think that's that's part of it, right? Because sometimes, okay, even using my analogy, not so much yours because I think it's kind of different, but okay, I've just changed this job.
My life has changed all this change, blah, blah, blah. All these feelings that I'm having about how I orient myself inwardly and how I orient myself to the world. If someone threw a rock on my head and I just woke And I was in my body and I have some savings and do you know what I mean? It's very similar situations what we discussed previously where it's like, actually, I might realize life, at life is not as bad.
the agony that you might be going in that sense, you can reorient it if you step back, if you step back, then you realize, this was the quote I remembered from Sam he was saying that there is no reason to believe that the current moment you're in is not the happiest moment of your and that entirely relies on the fact people say the happiest moment of your life because they are relating, they are tying the happiness to the external things that Something happens in the world around you and that that creates the happiness, but actually the happiness comes from inside. The happiness is how you decide to respond to the And if you completely forgot what happened in the last, like whatever it was that just made you That doesn't mean that the moment would be any less happy and I'm sure everyone's had plenty of experiences oh, something great happens and actually, I don't know, you weren't as jazzed up as you thought you were going to be and there's a gap between something good happening in the and you having a positive response.
So those things go both ways. And so I yeah, All ties together in the sense like so much of our happiness and our sadness you Mo Gaudette has the Happiness Equation, which is the name of his book, and he just essentially talks about happiness being the gap your expectations and reality, right?
Like whatever you expected, things were going to be like. and what things are actually like. But I guess, you know, what we're talking about now goes a step further than and it's not really that at all. the gap between, guess there's there's what you expected life was going to be like, what life actually is what you decide life should be like, or, what your response to life is like. And I that final gap probably makes the biggest difference of anything.
how How you'd
[01:38:47] Jonny Miller 2: Okay, so, I love what you just shared, and there's this part of me that wants like, play with this word happiness, and replace it with aliveness, and this is, I think Joseph Campbell has a quote of like, "We are not seeking the meaning of life. What we're seeking is the experience of being alive." And I think this also comes into what we were saying earlier about the difference between like pain and pleasure and how like pain or pleasure, depending on the story that we're telling, they're both, we feel intensely alive when we're in this kind of like stimulated state.
And the frame that I've been playing with myself recently, and this kind of comes from there's a book called Existential Kink, if people want to go deeper in this, but it's basically that life is showing us experiences that give us a chance to feel or complete things that weren't completed in our childhood.
So, if let's say that we we really struggle to connect with or feel anger, life will give us opportunities to like actually express this and complete this experience often from our childhood. And. I, like, I actually, I really, I don't know, the question around seeking happiness actually doesn't resonate with me that much, as much as like seeking aliveness or seeking wholeness.
And I think that's where I'm personally orienting my life towards to kind of exploring more deeply. And I think what gets in the way of that as well, is this piece around, for me at least, like trusting in myself and also trusting in life, like trusting that there is a reason I'm being shown this thing or shown whatever the experience is and trusting in my own capacity to move through it and to ultimately grow from it.
And that feels like a, it's certainly a, an orientation that I didn't have when I was younger. And I think the, here's what I don't like about the frame of like, looking to optimize for happiness. Let's say is because you're by definition looking to move away from the more painful experiences and in my experience kind of as I just shared with the grief piece by going into the pain. I feel like it's expanded my capacity for joy and for happiness and if I'd spent my life avoiding that I would have like robbed myself from that opportunity and so I now, yeah, I'm now skeptical of this kind of, like, happiness perspective. Like, does this, does this land with you? Like, is any of this making sense?
[01:41:09] David Elikwu-1: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Okay. It's going to lead me to another question. I'm going to say something before I get to that question, but I think it does So everything that you're saying definitely rings true for me, and it connects back to some of what we were saying A lot of life being about like data and I was just immediately as you were talking, I was just thinking about this idea children, human children as they're they, we humans are different from a lot of other animals because we go through such a prolonged adolescence and well also an extremely long childhood and we spend so much trying to figure out agency in the And so people are always like, oh my gosh, like my kid is always biting all this stuff and he's chewing And that is because if like you are learning and connecting all of these little data points, I came across a tweet the other day and they weren't making this connection. I made the connection because I spent some time thinking about all this other But they were just, it was like a random tweet about how you can look around and you know, what it would be like to lick lots of different things.
Like I look down at my table and I how that would feel if I licked and my mic, the little thing on the end. Like I know what that would feel like if
[01:42:19] Jonny Miller 2: Were they on psychedelics by any chance while they, while they wrote
[01:42:23] David Elikwu-1: They may have been, may they may have But honestly, like that's the point, right? Like there's so surfaces and things that I know what it would feel like to lick that thing. And I haven't done it, I haven't gone around my room licking my stuff. But the point is that when I was a every kid goes around licking and biting stuff and touching things with their hands. So you feel the texture, you know what it would feel like to touch all these different So as a child, you go through this long gathering experiences. Some of them are bad experiences, right? You put the fork in the electrical bad, Bad thing but you learn so much about the world.
And everything going back to what we were saying earlier, Your entire conceptualization of life and is a result of the data points that you've Your life is so much richer for all the things that you've prior and this is where I think it connects to exactly what you were saying, which is that if you shield yourself intentionally from all the negative aspects of and you try to only seek happiness and you try to only seek positivity and you try to shut out anything that could make you angry or you are missing out a lot of life like that is also life.
Those are also experiences of being in the world and they are just as useful to your collective knowledge as anything Like if you as a child did not lick and touch a bunch of you would die like that, the whole point of doing all that stuff is because it keeps us all of that knowledge is incredibly And so I think it's similar in a sense yeah, like I it is important to feel the full breadth of human experiences and it's painful, and I is, there is a switch that flips as we grow and as we become adults, where suddenly we become very averse to some of these things.
And, there's there's paradigm, which is like the um, balance. And maybe let's say in your 20s and 30s and maybe early 40s, you lean very heavily towards exploring. You try new restaurants, you try lots of different foods, you go to lots of different And then as you get you can rely on the data points you've already gathered and you start leaning towards more, exploiting the knowledge you've already And so now you're not trying new things when you're 50, you're and it doesn't just apply within such a wide time frame, but it's the same. You move to a new in the first few weeks, the first few months, the first year, you try all the restaurants. Oh, this new Chinese place. Oh, there's a great Thai place down the road. And you figure out all the stuff After a year, you already know what you like and what you don't like, and you are probably never going to try that type place again if you didn't like it the first And so I don't know there's a sense in Our aversion to, I think you mentioned earlier in the conversation, this idea our aversion to uncertainty and that we hate, I guess, and our, natural aversion to risk can lead us to limited experiences because Variants is not We don't always like variants.
You know, there's this idea of Allostasis. So our brain is preparing for the metabolic expense that it predicts during the day. Like your brain thinks okay, I'm going to do these things and I am going to prepare enough resources to do those And so what we call learning is essentially encountering something that we did Like allocate the resources for. And so that's why going to the gym is hard as much as you can conceptualize, I'm going to go to the gym and do some exercises. You're not necessarily prepared for lifting the weights and actually, or reading a book, right? Okay. I can prepare for reading the book, but every single page is new and And you unless you've read the book before, you can't prepare for the experience and the metabolic outlay of going through this experience. And so, and it's the with talking to people. So some people get extremely anxious. The reason that anxiety is kicking up is dealing with humans is very tricky business, and your brain can't predict in exactly how many hormones you're going to need for this conversation. And what is the right balance of like how much energy do to, to deal with this person?
And so when your boss comes and looks over your shoulder, you kind of freak out because you're like, I have no idea. I wasn't prepared don't, know, I'm not And I yeah, that that just writ large applies a lot part of what you were asking, I which is this idea you learning is a good thing, Being unprepared for what we might metabolically need during the day ends up being a good even though it feels expensive and that expense manifests in some anxiety and some discomfort. But ultimately, that's a new data point, and that's a new thing we learn and it doesn't mean we will never be caught off guard again because every time you go to the gym it kind of but it does mean that you continue to adapt and grow in a sense.
Hopefully that's a useful framing
[01:46:55] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, it is. And what comes to mind for me, as I hear you say that is the distinction between like, or like the phrase, the map is not the territory, which I think is a very, it's a very useful thing to reflect on. And it's interesting that you mentioned. You know kids how they're always like licking stuff.
I actually think that what is missing from a lot of our human experience as adults is, sorry for all the tangents here, but Bucky Fuller talks about he has the phrase "I am a verb." And I think we are swimming in this abstract world of nouns in this abstract map of everything where we think we have a map of how everything's figured out and we are afraid of Going into the territory, going into the verb, going into the lived experience, because it might not match the map that we have.
And I think that's the thing that I'm, you know, I have a podcast called Curious Humans. It's all about, it's all about curiosity, exploration, like going on the inner adventure. I think that what I've benefited from in my own life and what I think. Many others would as well. It is like going back into and testing, like, what is that actual sense? What is it like to lick this microphone? Maybe that's, that's a, it's a bad example, but we live in this abstracted disconnected version of the world, which lacks the aliveness. Which is inherent when we view ourselves as verbs and when we are willing to kind of go into the experiential aspect of whatever it is.
And I think that's like, that's essentially what I'm teaching from a kind of nervous system perspective, but I think it can also be extrapolated out to the rest of life as well.
[01:48:22] David Elikwu-1: There's a final thing I want to ask you, but before that, right on what you were just Do you have any practical, I know you said you don't like giving advice, but how do you think we can practically do this? Because I think, so one thing a lot of people get hung up on, and our friend Paul Millerd, maybe this is a lot of what he talks I think as you go through life and as you accumulate sunk costs, in a it feels risk becomes a lot more And it feels like trying new things and exploring feels more And sometimes a lot of that is completely illusory, right? Just in the same the example that I gave before of the guy that has 15k but he washes dishes for a living and he's completely miserable.
But if you bonked him on the head, he'd actually be very how do we free ourselves from, I guess the trap of the life that we're already Because sometimes, even just going to what you were there are experiences that would be good for that we have some aversion to because we already have this life, you know? Okay, I already I already have my setup, I already have my gig. Everything is already how it is. Whether that's good or whether that's bad. And sometimes even when it's bad, people still hang on to that, right? Because there's an extent to which that becomes part of my identity.
oh, you know, I'm unlucky, or Bad things happen to me or whatever it is. I internalize that and that's now my thing. And don't come and shake that up, or, even if, I don't know, I think sometimes people want to shake They say that, but they don't act that I don't know if you can think of, apart from maybe taking psilocybin, like is some kind jump off that we could use to just push beyond the boundary of what normal
[01:50:00] Jonny Miller 2: So I would say that, you mentioned the word, it might feel expensive. I think change the time horizon, like short term expensive maybe, but, long term, when you internalize the fact that you are going to die, like there will come a time where you are going to be six feet under does that decision still feel expensive with that perspective?
Because my guess is that if there's some aliveness there, some way in which your current circumstances isn't fulfilling you in this way, you're not feeling that like deep joy then the cost of continuing with the status quo with the default path, whatever that looks like, that could be the relationship, it could be the job, it could be the place whilst there, there will likely be short term costs, it may well be short term expensive in the long run.
If it's moving you even a few degrees towards a more, more aliveness and more, fulfillment, then it's really very cheap a lot of the time. And you know, there are practical strategic ways that you can make things less expensive in the short term by essentially running experiments. Ideally experiments, which are reversible and most, you know, most decisions in life, except for maybe, you know, having kids are irreversible. so, so like viewing it from that perspective of, okay, this is an experiment that I'm testing to learn more about myself. And if I don't do this, the cost is enormous.
It's like, like, I spend the rest of my life feeling dissatisfied in some way. So yeah, I, I like, I would kind of actually bring it back to our conversation earlier around like contemplating and not only contemplating, but like really vividly imagining your death and the fact that that's inevitable
[01:51:35] David Elikwu-1: Yeah, I think that's a perfect answer. And even, I mean, even if it doesn't go all the way to death, I think what you were saying just reminds me of the end of history and this idea that we severely underestimate our ability to change in the And you know, there's been loads of studies on this, but the essence is when you think of how you're going to be three years from now, we think we're going to be a slightly different version of how we are today.
Like pretty much the maybe with a little bit more money or with with some small But then if you say, okay, think about yourself and think about yourself. Three years ago, you're like, oh, how can I be so naive? Like when you, or even you think three years back and you think all the things that made you angry and all the things that made you sad, and all the things that caused all these emotional ups and Half of them you don't even remember apart from, unless they were like truly the ones that had it meant There are so many things that at some point may have made you cry or may have Angry, and made you throw a plate or something like that. And half the time you don't even remember what And so I think in a similar way, there are so many things, like you said, that feel expensive in the but know, if you were uh, I write this newsletter on decision making and sometimes people send me questions and I answer the questions in the and someone was asking a question oh, they were considering like, moving country for a job or something like that.
And obviously I can't tell you what to do, one of the examples I gave was exactly this. Like if you were 80, looking back at this And you've already made the and you know you made the right decision. Like what would have resonated Like, What what story resonates and when you look From a position of, oh, I've already gone past the cost that's already Then you can see with a very different lens, like you can take a much clearer picture. It's it's pretty much the same as what we've just been discussing, right? Being able to step out of your current situation and looking back at it from a different then it's so much what you should do and how you can act in a way that aligns with your values and how you can act in a way that is not extremely short term.
[01:53:24] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, yeah, I love that. And one more piece I'll add around decision making because I think it is relevant is, one of my mentors, Joe Hudson talks about how, whenever we think we have a decision to be made, that is a signpost that there is an emotion to be felt often fear, but not always because if it wasn't then it would just be a choice It would just be like the next thing that we do to get more information or whatever it is but his invitation and I think it's actually it's very counterintuitive, but I think helpful advice is to like actually feel maybe it's disappointment, maybe it's whatever the thing that you're avoiding like feel that all the way through and then the decision will almost, it will just become a choice, it will become the next obvious thing to do.
And I've, found that helpful in my own life.
[01:54:06] David Elikwu-1: I think the last thing I'll ask you about is you've mentioned friends, just now, you've mentioned mentors in the I'm really interested the relationships that we and so something I was writing recently was just around this idea of speed and how fast you're and so sometimes.
It can go both ways, but you know, I was talking about just this idea of like, oh, working hard, or you could apply it to almost anything, right? If you are driving in the suburbs and you, and the speed limit is generally 30. Like most cars drive at 30 and you drive at You seem like a crazy person and people are like, oh my gosh, who's this guy?
Why is he driving so fast? you're, you're causing danger to everyone around If you go on the highway and everyone's driving at 70 and you're driving at people will think you're asleep at the wheel like you are now driving so slow. You are again, a danger to everyone around And the essence being that the speed that you're going at. is Actually not independent by itself, but it's also relative to who you surround yourself And so when you're thinking about, okay, how hard am I working? Or, you know, how fast am I going? A lot of that entirely depends, or your perception of that speed entirely depends on who you are around and who you surround yourself And so there's one version of that which you can think about when people say you're the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, or the five ideas that you spend the, most time it. So you know, all these things that interact with the most, shape your perspective on life, etc, But I'm also interested in the idea and maybe I'd love to know, because you seem like someone that's both great at finding friends, great at finding You've walked with some of your heroes, you've done all of this But what I'm interested in is, okay, so Seth Godin has this idea of tribes, right?
People like us do things like this and that can be a great thing. And tribes can be great things. and Friends and mentors and people that along for the journey can be extremely empowering and I'd love to know, okay, maybe on, that side um, how you think we can those positive benefits. But there's also a negative side of it I'm going to seem like I'm on the internet lot, But again, I saw a tweet.
[01:56:04] Jonny Miller 2: heh
[01:56:04] David Elikwu-1: I saw a tweet and someone was saying something. Oh, it was, it was actually quite innocuous. I was just being But someone asked, oh, you know What nonfiction? or what fiction books would you And it was so funny because almost every single, like, you could tell someone's job by the book they recommended, and I was just scrolling through If you work in tech, you're going to recommend some book by Andy you're going to recommend The Martian or um, Hail Mary, like all of these books that all the same people And I the other, the flip side of the coin of the whole Birds of a Feather is that to me it can I agree with both sides just for clarity. But it can also be a trap and it can also be this thing where you end up in this bubble people like us do things like this.
Everyone I know reads the same books. We all take the same drugs whatever it we all do the same thing. And so it ends up also being a and it can shape your experience of the world in good ways, but it can also maybe hamper the breadth of the experiences that you do go And so I'm interested to know as someone who seems extremely good at cultivating a lot of the how you maybe weigh that trying to escape the trap of only surrounding you know, the people who are in your that could simultaneously almost limit the extent or the breadth of your and and the breadth of the experiences that you might go Hopefully that wasn't too long winded, but that's the question
[01:57:29] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah. I, it's interesting. I mean, what comes to mind is that there are gonna be trade offs, right? With whoever you are around and, I think for me, the piece is just being intentional with like, what are the areas of your life that you are looking to explore learn go deeper in. If it's entrepreneurship and building businesses, then you'll probably want to be around other people in that space who are maybe a few months or years ahead in that game. If it's meditation and internal exploration, maybe you want to go to the monastery academy and spend like three months around these like full time monastics and monks.
So I think it's like knowing that, and I have this quote in my course where I say, "We design our environments and then our environments design us in return." And I think the same is true with people. So being as deliberate about choosing who you wanna spend your time with and making sure that it's aligned with the ways that you're looking to grow as a human. And at the same time accounting for the fact that there is gonna be bias no matter what group you're in and doing what you can to burst those bubbles to kind of pop the echo chambers and ways that you can do that, travel to a new country, travel to japan for a month. And you will have many of your preconceptions and your biases just shattered Adam Grant calls it "A Challenge Network" where you have four to five people, ideally older who know you somewhat, give you honest reflections about ways in which what your blind spots are, what you might not be seeing, what your triggers might be. I also, I send out like a quarterly letter to a group of like 25 people with like questions that I'm chewing on like asking for reflections and just like, here's what's alive for me.
And people comment on this, it's just in a Google doc and that's extremely helpful for me. I try and choose people that have different age ranges, different industries in which they work in different backgrounds. Some are parents, some are younger and just trying to cultivate diversity in that way.
And yeah, I mean, honestly, like if you keep your sense of curiosity and are willing to look at the ways in which you might have an echo chamber and knowing that it's okay that you do have an echo chamber in many ways that's fine, everyone does.
There's not something that I learned in Philosophy when in my 20s was this idea of like, the objective view from nowhere and how that doesn't exist. Like we, we bring our subjectivity to everything like it can't be escaped. And so just owning that acknowledging that and remaining curious and again, not being afraid to kind of mix things up, even though there might be that short term cost, right? They're kind of like short term expensive to a trip in Japan or a random podcast conversation with an 80 year old, you know, things that you wouldn't normally do and making sure that your life has enough of these kind of like perspective, expanding experiences.
And this is why I think podcasts are so great. I'm sure you find this as well, where you speak to people who you wouldn't otherwise interact with in your day to day life and for me at least it has really expanded my perspective So, you know, maybe my answer in this is actually just like start a freaking podcast even if you don't publish the episodes but have recorded conversations with people from different walks of life who you believe have a certain perspective which you're at least interested in. Yeah, those are my thoughts.
[02:00:39] David Elikwu-1: No, I love that I think well, okay. Following on from that last thing, maybe this would be my last question for Do you have any other, whether it's practices for yourself or things you might share with ideas for cultivating serendipity? Because I it very much touches on a lot of the things you mentioned. You've moved to a few different places. You've tried lots of different You sent out this, the newsletter. You have the podcast. I think so much I guess, the spice of life, as you call it, can come from intentionally trying to generate serendipity and a lot of the things that you end up benefiting Can come from the ether, but it's like a cultivated It's not just something you spontaneously walked into, but it's something you have planted the seeds for in advance that then allow you to live this multi-varied life. So I'd love to know, I guess, yeah, if there's any you you'd have or anything you'd recommend for being able intentionally stop planting seeds
[02:01:33] Jonny Miller 2: Yeah, I really love that question. A friend of mine calls it "Increasing the surface area of luck." He may have got that from somewhere else, but that's a really good way to look at it. And yeah, it's actually something I think I have been very intentional about over the last five years or so.
Things that come to mind are being unnecessarily generous with your time, your money and your resources. Following curiosity and aliveness, even when it's not clear what the outcome is going to be. I know an example of that actually. I went to a retreat in Japan in Yoshino with this guy called Yan Chipchase that was more money than I could afford at the time, didn't really know why I was going, I flew all the way to Japan for it, and the retreat ended, I was like, that was interesting, and then I spent the next day speaking with Yan who ran the retreat, and over the course of these conversations, we decided to like collaborate on a masterclass together on emotional resilience, which then led to the research I did with him, which then led to the nervous system work that I'm doing right now.
And I was like, had I not followed that pretty random impulse to go to this retreat, none of that stuff would have happened and I would probably be having a very different life trajectory right now. I also think that carving out time for intentional reflection and ideally sharing that with a selected group of people is a kind of amplify of serendipity. Getting good at asking and receiving I think is an interesting one as well, being willing to ask for things from people knowing that in some ways it can be a gift for them to give their time or to give whatever it is And actually being willing to being open enough to receive that Reading, again, reading books that you wouldn't normally read just because you're curious about them.
And then I just keep coming back to this idea of like running experiments with your life. It could be, I'm going to do a cold plunge every day for 10 days. I'm going to start a podcast, don't know what I'm going to call it, but I'm going to record five episodes and just see what happens. And not needing to know what the long term impact is, but just trusting in the joy of the process, the fact that you'll be learning and the fact that, serendipity may come from that. And that you know it will come in some form, you just can't predict exactly how or where and so it's almost you're like planting a hundred different seeds in your garden and some of them will grow, some of them won't, one of them might become an enormous like flowering, fruiting tree like your, job is just to be a great gardener.
Gardener of Serendipity. Yeah, that's what I'd land on.
[02:03:57] David Elikwu-1: I love that. thanks man. I you have been unnecessarily generous with your time, with and with everyone listening, so I'm, extremely
[02:04:09] Jonny Miller 2: Well, this has been unnecessarily fun. So I really appreciate you and your questions and your research. And yeah, I, I really feel like a kinship in your sense of just like desire to learn and to kind of ask interesting questions. So thank you for your time as well.
[02:04:22] David Elikwu: Thank you so much for tuning in. Please do stay tuned for more. Don't forget to rate, review and subscribe. It really helps the podcast and follow me on Twitter feel free to shoot me any thoughts. See you next time.