In this podcast, I speak with Nick Polizzi. Nick has spent his career directing and producing feature-length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine. We will talk about the three ancient energy hacks that can help boost your health and energy levels.
In this podcast, Nick and I will discuss:
- The three pillars to better health and energy
- The power of tackling trauma
- Why most people don’t realize they have trauma (and how to identify it)
- Why having a purpose is critical for energy and happiness
- The key role of healthy relationships in your energy levels
- How psychological stress (and trauma) affect your energy levels
Listen outside iTunes
Ari: Hey there, this is Ari. Welcome back to the Superhuman Energy Summit. I’m here with my friend Nick Polizzi, who has spent his career producing and directing feature length documentaries about ballistic alternatives to conventional medicine. Nick’s current role as founder of the Sacred Science stems from a calling to honor, preserve, and protect the ancient knowledge and healing rituals of our ancestors.
And I know we were just talking before we started recording about his new film that’s about to come out called, Proven. Which is basically examining the science for all of these different healing modalities that are outside the realm of conventional medicine. There’s a lot of people within conventional medicine that think, “Oh, if it had any science to support it, it would be within conventional medicine already. It would be accepted and be standard practice.” And this is just so far from reality that it’s just insane. I mean, we have modalities, for example, photo-bio-modulation. Many, many other examples of things like meditation and yoga practices that have huge bodies of good scientific evidence on them showing very clear benefits. And yet, they’re not incorporated into conventional medical practice.
I mean, just to put the insanity another way. We know that within the United States, within the modern Western world, about 80 percent of the causes of death of the disease burden are diseases directly related to nutrition and lifestyle. And yet, within medical school, there is literally almost no training whatsoever on nutrition and lifestyle. So, there is very clearly a gigantic gap between what we know in the science and what is common practice within conventional medicine.
And I’m really grateful to people like Nick for doing the work to show that the world. And say, “Hey, here is the science.”
So, Nick, super excited to have you. You are going to be talking about three ancient energy habits. So, talk to us, big picture. Where are you going with this? What are these ancient energy hack’s all about?
Nick: So, you know, I spent a lot of my life trying to find ways of healing myself. I’m a filmmaker. I’ve traveled around the world working with different indigenous cultures in ancient healing traditions. But a lot of that we talked about it very often. A lot of that really comes down to maybe a curious about things I can do to hack my own illness, sort of figure out what my own wound is, how I can learn from it, mend it, and then overcome it.
So, we’ve been here for 20 years. 20 years, I’ve been travelling the world. Then filming my travels for probably about 12, 13 years. And there are certain practices and ways of looking at life. But particularly disease that you often find shared among many different populations that have had no interaction with each other. This is something that, like a medical anthropologist, ethnopharmacology’s looks at when they’re trying to understand new potentials for medicine by looking at our roots. They look at human interaction with the natural world and with each other. And they look for patterns. Things that are prevalent on different continents that have no business being prevalent. Unless there’s a natural, instinctual inclination towards a certain type of healing modality.
So, for the purposes of our conversation right now, I thought it’d be kind of cool to talk about some, I guess, more emotional, mental, psycho-spiritual components that affect energy levels that we see used in a variety of different cultures. Whether we’re talking about, you know, the Maya cultures of Mexico and those regions, deeper south into the Amazon, or even all the way over into the Far East, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese cultures looking at things a certain way that had some similarity to it.
So, the three main topics. The three main areas, and again, I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to talk to you in scientific terms about these things. I’m an observer. I make a lot of movies. I talk to a lot of experts. I talk to a lot of people. And I’ve been around a lot of folks who’ve healed themselves of just about every possible disease. These are things that we see come up a lot. One major pillar is learning how to process in the moment, trauma, a traumatic event. And then also going back to revisit that event or traumatic events from your past when you’re older to understand and dissolve past memories or events that you’ve still held on to. So, one of them is going to be trauma.
The second one is going to be relationship, how to be in the right relationship.
What that actually means. Which is largely something that in our society, that I think isn’t really spoken about. And we can talk about that in a little bit more detail.
And the third one is purpose. Why are we here? Who are you? What’s driving you? Why are you getting up in the morning? And really tapping into that.
So, those three things in a variety of different ways have an impact, for better or worse, on our energy. And that’s what I have to offer the group today.
Ari: Beautiful. Yeah, I want to comment on the thing you said that you’re not a scientist. I know you’re not a scientist. And I invited you to be on despite the fact that you’re not a scientist. Because, you know, there are valuable things we learn as researchers. And there’s also valuable things we learn as, I would still say, the right word is almost still researcher. But not in the formal sense of that word. But somebody who goes and travels the world and looks at indigenous populations. And looks at the healing practices, natural healing practices, and different herbs that are in use by, for example, tribes in the Amazon, in Africa, and all these different places all over the world. I think that is equally as important and needed as somebody, you know, doing biochemistry experiments in a laboratory to develop a drug for heart disease. There are different paradigms, models, and ways of looking at the world. And I don’t think that we should only value one of those two things. I think both of them are really, really valuable.
Nick: I couldn’t agree with you more. I really couldn’t. And as we have delved into the Proven series. And as I know you’re well aware, the researchers are really only as good as their funding source, right? So, I like to fancy what I do and what my team does. We’re investigative journalists that have no bias. We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on and how we can heal ourselves.
Ari: Yeah. I would add to that, just a couple of things. This is a bit of a digression. But I like where you’re going with this. So, one is for people listening, if they’re interested in exploring that in depth. There’s an M.D. by the name of Ben Goldacre. Who has a couple of TED talks on bad science. And has also written books on the subject. And exposing things like what Nick was just getting at, which is that the source and funding influences research outcomes. And specifically, he summarized that huge amount of that research and found that if the funding source for a particular study is from the maker, let’s say the maker of the drug that is being studied. The research is 400 percent, on average. Four hundred percent more likely to have a flattering result for that particular substance compared to independent research. So, that absolutely matters.
I would also add paradigm matters, too. If your paradigm is disease results for random arbitrary reasons and how we fix disease is we find out the abnormal biochemical pathways associated with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or whatever. And we try to develop a drug to interrupt those biochemical pathways. That is a completely different way of thinking. A completely different paradigm that’s going to result in radically different strategies to combat that disease compared to a paradigm that says, “Why is there an obesity epidemic? Why over the last seventy years have obesity rates skyrocketed? And what are the root causes of that? And how can we address those root causes?” One of those two ways of thinking, you arrive at a drug. The other way of thinking you arrive at nutrition and lifestyle changes. So, paradigm matters, too.
The role of emotions and trauma in fatigue
And as we were saying before it, you’re bringing a different and very important paradigm this. So, let’s jump into the emotional piece. So, talk to me about that. What did you find from going around the world and looking at these indigenous tribes? What are they doing or how are they thinking differently about emotions?
Nick: So, the reason why I even got on this path, the way I found myself down in the jungle 12 years ago when we made the Sacred Science was because I realized through an illness that I contracted, not contracted. That I had, what would you even call it. An illness that I came down with was relieved by me diving into traumatic events from my childhood. So, we could talk about that specific illness. But it’s another rabbit hole.
But in my early 20s, I came down with a chronic illness that I did not know what to do with. And I started looking at ways to heal it using conventional medicine. I have aunts on one side of my family who are all nurses. So, I had, like, you know, the foot in the door with some of the best neurologists in Connecticut. I went to all the conventional medicine practitioners that would be recommended for my condition. And nothing helped. It actually made things worse. And so, I started down this path of alternative medicines. The only reason why I’m even doing what I do now is because I got sick in my early 20s and started looking for other options out of desperation. So, doing that, I started realizing that a lot of the work that I needed to do was around trauma and recovering from uncertain beliefs that I’m still holding on to or that I was still holding on to.
And so, the first type of medicine that jumped out as being something that I need to start working with was a combination of acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and talk therapy called EFT. I luckily knew somebody who practiced it. We started using it. It unlocked some things inside of me that I didn’t even know was there. And brought up a lot of traumatic memories. So, that’s something that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It has been around for thousands of years. And it helped process and release blocked energy pathways in my body. At least that’s what the belief is. And it helped energy flow again through my body.
Now, once I did that, I was like, “Okay, this is cool. But I know there is still more there.” So, I started looking at deeper work for trauma recovery. And I came across this system of belief called shamanism. And shamanism to a lot of people, I think has a certain connotation. I think some people might associate it with witchcraft. Some people might associate it with really woowoo stuff that is just not their cup of tea. And to be honest with you, like I thought of those things too when I first started looking into it like, “Whoa, this looks like some dark, scary kind of magic stuff.” And then I just synchronicity with habit, I was invited to partake in a shamanic ceremony outside of where I lived in New York City. And experienced it firsthand and realized it was anything but this dark kind of a practice.
In fact, shamanism is one of the oldest forms of medicine, if not the oldest system of medicine on the planet. The term shaman originates in the mountain range in Siberia. And it’s been used for literally thousands of years. It’s probably, you know, the idea of doctor priest, which is basically what a shaman would be considered. It’s something that’s as old as our species is, probably. We’ve kind of put it into a weird box of being kind of way out there or something that only indigenous people do. But it’s something that when you try it you will probably realize that it unlocks parts of you that you forgot were there.
So, I started working with shamanism and trying to figure out where was close to the United States that I could go visit. And realized that there was this whole system of shamanism down in the Amazon. So, as soon as I could, I took a plane down and a few boats into the Amazon. And started working with shamanic traditions there. And when you start understanding the way that shamans in the Amazon view life, there’s something innately true about it. You know, the truth has a certain ring to it. Well, the way that life, and I guess for the purposes of this conversation, trauma is viewed in stark contrast to the kind of Christian upbringing that I had in the Northeast. And I guess it all begins with this idea that everything in this life is a teacher. Everything in lift happens to you for a reason. And if it happened to you, it’s right. It’s innately right. Well, it can be looked at as either a medicine or a poison. And if you look at the experience that comes your way, whether it’s bad or good, your reaction to it is going to have a corresponding effect on your physiology.
So, something bad happens to me, let’s say your dad backhands you when you are eight years old. Like you can hold on to that, especially if you’re eight years old in a situation like where I lived in Connecticut. You know, emotions and your own needs are not really that big of a consideration. In fact, I think in a lot of households it is probably looked at as a weakness to have needs. When you have pent up trauma, then it can sit there in your body and start to stagnate. And sort of become a poison to your entire system, your entire body.
But the same way they view herbs in the jungle, you know. An herb can either be a medicine or poison, depending on dose and your approach. So, they look at trauma the same way. These things, everything that happens to us in life is a teacher. And they even look at major diseases like physical diseases like cancer, the same exact way.
In fact, there is a there’s a certain tribe that looks at diseases as mothers. Which is a really interesting and maybe off-putting way to look disease on its face. But when you hear them out and understand how they view these challenges that we face, they look at diseases as being a mother, once you have an illness. Let’s say, you get cancer. Instead of looking at it as a thing you need to fight against, this unfortunate thing that happened to you. Why me? This is obviously, you know, I’m the wrong guy. God hates me. Whatever it is. If you look at it at as a mother or to put it into more of holistic Whole Foods terminology, like as an opportunity to learn. Then, it can be an entirely different experience.
So, they look at any disease construct as a mother who becomes pregnant with you and while you’re in her womb, if you learn the lesson she has to teach, she will rebirth you back into the world disease free and twice as knowledgeable. But if you don’t learn from it, you will be reborn but into a different life. Onto a different plane. And you will have new lessons learn.
So, there is no bad in these traditions that I have come across. There is no serious like, “This is good. This is bad.” There’s no cut and dry, black and white. It’s just opportunities for evolution. And that’s how they look at trauma. That’s how they’ll get disease. Which I think was one of the biggest takeaways when it comes to trauma that I got from the Amazon.
And another thing and I don’t if you want to keep on talking here.
Ari: I do.
Nick: Okay. Another thing that seems to be very common is this idea of and I’ve heard a few people talk about it in the alternative health world. But you hear about it all time in different industries, whether it’s Ayurveda, TCO in traditional Chinese medicine, shamanism. This idea that you have a finite amount of life force. You wake up every day with a finite amount of life force unless you have substantial depletion. Which it could be something that decreases over time substantially.
But if you’re basically healthy, you wake up with a certain amount of lifeforce and it’s up to you to figure out the things that are going on in your psyche and your spirit, whatever you want to talk about it that might be eating away at that lifeforce. Let’s use the old, you wake up with 100 units of energy each day. And, you know, let’s just say all things equal, you know, not even talking about supplements. Not even talking about diet. Not even talking about other lifestyle factors. You wake up, just with 100 basic units of energy each day.
Well, if you have unprocessed trauma, if you have this idea, whatever the trauma might be in your viewer, a parent neglected you, you were made fun of at school one day. You didn’t get the love that you needed in the moment when the person who’s supposed to give it to you probably had no idea they even needed to give it to you, which could still be a traumatic event. But you have these things. And they tend to replay. For some reason, we humans, I think we both know why, but we don’t tend to replay the best moments of our life over and over and over and over head. We just don’t do that.
Ari: That would be nice.
Nick: We just don’t, right.
Ari: We should.
Nick: That wouldn’t really help with the survival of all our ancestors if all we ever did was replay that one great thing that happened. That one great hunt that went so well that had no negative consequences. If that’s all we did, we probably wouldn’t be here right now. Most of these ideas that we have inside of us, this replay mechanism, is actually meant to help us.
So, if you wake up every day and the first 10 percent of your energy is going to replay the thing that happened to you, that you know as a terrible threat, where you felt terribly unsafe. And you’d never process that memory. You’ve never figured out what wisdom that has to teach you. And you’ve never done anything to try to let it go. Then you’re starting your day off with 90 percent of that battery.
So, this ties in to energy, for the larger purposes of this conversation.
Unprocessed trauma is an energy drain. It’s basically like trying to drive down the highway with your e-brake on. You know, you don’t go as fast. And you burn out quicker.
Ari: I just want to connect some dots there with some science. So, there is an emerging field of research called mitochondrial psychobiology, where they’ve done research where they’ve shown literally within minutes of exposure to psychological stress. And just simple negative thought patterns can be a form of psychological stress. You know, we don’t need to actually have something in our environment actually happen to us. It’s enough for us to ruminate on negative things while we’re alone, nothing is happening to us. That is psychological stress. And within minutes of that happening, they can detect mitochondrial DNA floating around in your bloodstream.
Now, the reason that’s significant is mitochondrial DNA is not supposed to be floating around in your bloodstream. It’s supposed to be inside of your cells, inside of your mitochondria. And we know that when those molecules leak out of the cells into the bloodstream, they serve as dangerous, signaling molecules that actually directly are sensed by other mitochondria throughout the body as a dangerous signal. As basically a signal there’s a threat present.
So, to your point, I just want to translate everything you’re talking about and say like, “We actually have data showing that psychological stress directly impact on our cellular energy generators in basically the way that you’re describing.”
Nick: It’s incredible. And it’s a little bit alarming. If you are processing that terrible moment, how much of your body, how much of your system is actually pretty much assumes and considers that you’re actually in that moment. You’re not in some safe place, distance from it, you know, just thinking on it. How much your body’s being tricked into actually firing up all of the defenses to get to that situation again.
Ari: Yeah. And what happens, you know, it’s one thing if it happens as an acute event, something actually happens to you in the real world, that’s stressful. And then, it happens and maybe it’s there for a few moments, a few minutes, a few hours, or maybe a few days. and then it’s gone. But what happens if every day you’re locked into psychologically stressful, fearful anxiety, depression, you know, ruminating on trauma and negative things? So, you are in that stressful search state to a small degree for years, decades. What are the consequences of that? Then you are getting into rewiring your whole biology into a much more permanent state of fatigue, depression, and so on.
Nick: It’s crazy, man. You know, if we look at the shamanism alone. Every practice of shamanism and, you know, almost every continent, not Antarctica. But, you know, almost every continent has some form of this type of ceremony. Or this ceremonial practice. And every form of it, again, people who haven’t ever had contact with each other, at least not that we know, have this concept of, I guess, in Siberian shamanism it would be called soul loss. There is different interpretations of why it happens. You encounter the same concepts in the Amazon. You encounter the same concepts on the African continent.
But it’s this idea that part of you once you experience something really traumatic, really intense. Part of you leaves, right? Whether you are a spiritual person or not. It’s interesting that there is a corresponding belief system by these ancient healing traditions saying, “When this happens, there is part of you that’s gone.” Has it gone into space, into the cosmos? Or is it just that you lose resourcefulness? Or you lose a part of your brain? You lose a part of your freeness in your being that allows you to show up every single day in your fullest form. And go about life and go about your dreams, whatever they might be with every bit of yourself.
So, all these traditions kind of go to the solutions part of this that we see in these traditions. They usually have, first of all, the mindfulness is something that’s a big buzzword in the health and wellness world now. And it’s great that it is. But every one of these systems, I think a lot of times folks associate mindfulness with mostly with, you know, Hindu or practices from ancient India and east of there. But it is really a system that we’ve always had as humans until we forgot how to be human. So, mindfulness practices are really helpful with trauma.
Now, simple meditation. If you’re somebody sitting there listening right now.
And you’re like, “Oh, you know, I had a childhood. I don’t have any trauma.” Majority of people who are traumatized don’t even know it. Right off the bat, majority will have substantial trauma, either they don’t know it because literally they don’t remember it happening. Or they’ve got such a self-preservation mechanism that’s steering their consciousness away from these dark corners of their interior landscape that they don’t even know it’s there.
So, one of the best ways and, Ari, I know that you’ve done a lot of this work. You’ve also got a lot of work with Ayahuasca and some of the South American traditions. One of the best ways to figure out what you’ve got going on is to sit and try to be quiet for 20 minutes. You can go anywhere. You can turn this off right now. And you can go try. If you are not somebody who practices meditation, there might be a reason why you don’t want to, you know?
Ari: Do you know, the famous cliche, is the people who are least inclined to think they need something like meditation or psychotherapy are usually the ones who need it the most.
Nick: Right. I mean, it’s not easy. Facing yourself is probably the scariest thing that any of us ever have to do. But it really is as simple, not even 20 minutes, try for five to 10 minutes right now. Go sit, sit in silence for five or 10 minutes. And see what’s going on in there. Doing that a lot, meditation seems boarding to a lot of people. I used to not want to do it until I started working with the stronger ceremonies and realized, “Oh, this is all stuff that I could be working on every day if I just started meditating.”
There’s no better way to stick to figure out what a ticker tape of thought is going on behind your eyeballs than to sit there and try to be quiet for a little while and see what comes up. Oftentimes the traumas, you know, are right there. And you might think that’s a trauma. That’s another tricky thing about trauma. Somethings you are like, “Oh, that was just a time when. Why do I think about that time, at least four times a month, if not more.”
And another thing that really is helpful that we’ve alluded to is, is finding ritual and ceremony. The Native American traditions and southward have this whole thing dialed in. I mean, whether it’s sweat lodge, whether it’s working with a plant medicine. They’ve figured out ways to go after, you know, who you actually are. And expose any darknesses that need to be exposed. And again, Ari, I know that you know this stuff firsthand as well.
It’s been highly stigmatized because people are like, “Oh, my gosh, psychhallucinogens. Yada, yada, yada.” Yeah, there are some avenues that that have that component to them. But I think, you know, a sweat lodge is just as scary to me. You know, a sweat lodge is just as scary to me as an ayahuasca ceremony is because they have figured out ways over the last, you know, how many thousand years to find ways to turn up intensity. To turn up an externality or even internally. Turn up the intensity on that in safe way that might be harrowing and might be tough for a short duration of time. But it is going to leave you delivered afterward with a lot more understanding of who you are and what the hell all this means.
So, that’s kind of where I’ve been directing my life ever since again, again, I got sick in my early 20s. And at that point, it was ruining my life. And I thought I was cursed. And at this point, I don’t even know who I would be if I hadn’t gotten sick, you know.
Ari: Yeah. I think this is, you know, going back to what we were saying at the beginning, how one’s paradigm leads to the strategies that you arrive at. And I gave the example of are you arriving at a nutrition and lifestyle changes? Or a drug to fix your obesity, Alzheimer’s, or whatever?
I think what you’re presenting here for people is really a new way of thinking about what’s going on and giving them a new paradigm. And acting as like the guide who is like, “Come this way.” You know? You’ve been going down this path for a long time. You’ve been going down like analyzing your genes and taking this supplement. And this herb and that herb. And trying a more restrictive diet. And actually, there is a whole new way of thinking about this.
So, I think that in itself is really valuable. And then you’re also layering in like, “Hey, here’s a few things that helped me.” Meditation and some of these shamanic practices and different rituals. And journeys and things like that.
So, beautiful. I love I love all of this. I love acting as this guide, as you’re doing.
The role of relationships in energy
What’s number two? So, talk to me about the second big strategy. It is community, right? Or relationship?
Nick: It’s relationships. And I think that one of the core themes that you’ll see in all these three that I learned primarily from dialing into these ancient traditions, many of which are still alive right now. This refining or this sharpening of our innate ability to sense subtle energy and to make subtle distinctions in what’s going on around us.
And so, with relationships, there are some pretty incredible books and experts who talk specifically about relationships. Carolyn Mace is one that comes to mind. But this idea that every relationship that we have with another person, whether it’s a business relationship, whether it’s a familiar relationship, or somewhere in between, friendships. There are unspoken contracts that we have with people. You know, one of the most obvious forms of that is when you go to a wedding and watch these two beautiful people standing at the altar, reading their vows to each other. That is the most formal announcement in front of witnesses what they are committing to do for each other.
But we have a ton of other relationships. And we don’t necessarily lay out the groundwork for how we are going to engage with each other, before we become friends, business partners, whatever that might be. And from an energetic perspective, when you’re trying to figure out ways outside the realm of supplementation, outside the realm of nutrition, outside the realm of sleep.
You know, the basic lifestyle practices that we know are hugely important.
Another one that can be suddenly sabotaging your energy is a relationship that doesn’t serve you. And this is maybe another tricky little curveball. Or a relationship in which you’re not serving the other person. So, finding balance in our interaction is not like everything needs to be fair, but just try and start to use that sensor, that energy radar. Is this serving me? Is this giving me more energy? Is this taking away from my energy, is there a long term play? Am I sacrificing energy now because I know I’m going to be getting exponentially more energy from this later?
And so, the idea of relationships, community, it’s so deeply embedded in indigenous cultures. It’s something that is as normal as drinking clean water, you know what I mean, in these cultures. And something that we have largely forgotten about in our lives here in the Western world.
So, there is kind of a breadcrumb trail here. First thing I did, was healed trauma and understood what that was. And understand these patterns that I have playing. And understanding all these things going on behind my eyelids, right? And this is kind of my path is the path that I think a lot of apprentices are not even apprentices. It’s just people who are sick that wander into these traditions saying, “Please help me.” It’s kind of the first thing that you start with. It’s like, “Hey, let’s heal you first. Let’s figure out what you’ve got going on in there. What kind of programs do you have in there? Can we take some of those out? Can we take some of those things out that are limiting you?” Before we start giving you herbs, giving you manual medicine, or whatever modality that might be used, rituals. They want to clean the slate. So, that is processing the trauma.
But then once you reintegrate back into the world, you know this. From going down to some remote culture, whether it’s down south or it’s the far East. Going there, it’s really easy to be [inaudible] mutual friend of ours, loves to talk about, and I make fun of him about it. It’s easy to be a monk on a mountaintop. But it’s a lot harder to be a monk living in L.A., you know.
So, when you reintegrate, you have to start understanding all of your relationships. And now, that you are like this clean slate from being a monk on the mountaintop or being a shaman for a month in the jungle. You have to reintegrate into reality. And you start getting very on which relationships that you have with people are the good ones. And which ones are the ones that were clearly something that you thought was a good idea 10 years ago and you never let die on the vine, you know?
So that’s the idea. The idea is as we refine this ability to really understand what’s serving us and watch what’s depleting us, we need to bring that eye to our relationships. And figure out, the ones that are serving us, “Yup, bang. You are in my green light column.” And which ones are depleting us, and figure out from there, of those relationships that are depleting us, are they salvageable? Or are they unsalvageable?
I mean, a lot of our family relationships, we don’t have a choice. We are not going to disown our father, our mother, or our sibling. So, we have to figure out ways of repairing the ones that we have to repair. And getting rid of the ones that are unsalvageable and unnecessary. Does that make sense?
Ari: Yeah, absolutely.
If you don’t mind, I’d love to add another layer to this. So, you know, I think of a couple things. One is, I saw a recent article talking about how depression is viewed in this one particular tribe in Africa, I forget the name of the tribe.
Nick: Yeah, I saw that.
Ari: Yeah, maybe you saw the article. So, you know, somebody is depressed. And what do they do? They take this person and they do ceremonies. And they sing and they dance. And they celebrate this person. And they tried to cheer him up. And they include him and they connect with him or her. And again, going back to this paradigm thing, right? Like, how do we look at somebody who’s depressed here? We, first of all, don’t see the clear connections with community, with relationship. We say, “You know, oh, you should cultivate your own happiness. Everybody is responsible for them. They are an independent unit. They should be responsible for creating their own happiness. And if you are not, it is a chemical imbalance. And here is some medication to fix that chemical imbalance.” That is one layer.
And again, just to connect the dots for people. Paradigm matters in how you tried to fix your problem. The other thing is historical context. So, I happen to have gone through a Ph. D program in clinical psychology. At the end of it, I decided not to be a clinical psychologist. I didn’t do all my internship hours. But I did all of the three years of coursework. Long story, I won’t get into all the reasons why. But it set me on the course that I’m on now. And I’m very grateful for it.
But one of the books that actually was instrumental in that decision is a book by a guy named Philip Cushman, who did a socio-cultural examination of the history of the origins of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy as a profession, where did this come from? And how did it evolve into its modern form? And specifically, he traces this to, in the United States especially, the post-World
War II fallout of loss of community, loss of tribe. That’s a bigger picture process over a couple hundred years. Loss of tribe, loss of community, and then specifically loss of the family unit to the point of not just extended family. We used to live with, you know, our extended family. Our aunts, uncles, cousins, all nearby in the same village, historically for most of human history.
But now even the nuclear family, you’ve got a brother, sister, parent, you know, both of your parents, you are all living in different cities entirely. And you maybe see each other a couple of times a year, something like that. This is a totally new way of life that is unlike anything we’ve had in human history. And he specifically makes the case, that as we’ve lost that community, as we’ve lost that tribe, as we’ve lost the human connection with family and community. We have had depression, anxiety, and psychological illness in direct proportion to that. And the origins of psychotherapy as a profession have largely been in a response to the loss of community.
So, again, like, are you addressing root problems? Are you doing talk therapy with an individual to solve the problem as if the problem is only in their head? Or in my view, part of the real way to solve that problem is reconnect. You have to. And it’s really hard in today’s age. But we all have to form community.
Nick: So, interesting. It’s interesting in this particular climate. Everyone’s isolated, which is obviously necessary. But you go to Third World countries, it’s funny. We look at Third World countries as being like, you know, either what not to do or they’re getting there. They’re getting more like us. But like you go to Third World countries where three, possibly four generations are under one roof. And by our standards, the assumption would be, “They must be miserable. Wow, that’s got to be really hard.” They are the most joyous people.
I mean, again, you’ve seen this, I’m sure as well. Wherever you are, you could be in Morocco, you could be in Peru, you could be in Brazil, these communities in terms of happiness, these communities are thriving. They are connected to a lot of stuff going on. There’s a secret sauce that we don’t seem to know about. It’s like their own inside joke, you know, that we don’t quite get as gringos going down there.
Nick: Until you hang out with them long enough and you realize, “Oh, got it.” Okay, the idea of having family around you all the time might be annoying every once in a while. But you have built in childcare. You have built in role models for your children. Even though it might look like things aren’t at nice, you don’t have five televisions in the house. You have security of having that many people around to take care of you and to look after one another.
And there’s just this idea of tribe that we largely don’t know about anymore. We ship our grandparents off to Florida. We work. Mom and Dad work around the clock. The kids come home from school, they kind of raise themselves on the internet watching whatever, God knows what, or television. Everyone is in isolation. It’s crazy. And I don’t think you really understand it until you leave. You almost need to step out of this petri dish for a little while. And come back to see how conspicuous it is.
Ari: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the problem, we all grew up this way. So, we don’t even have the reference point to know what we’re missing. I think, you know, we all have some vague sense of like something’s missing in our life. And unfortunately, we’ve been directed to look at buying things. And you know, a new watch, a new phone, new car, or whatever, new clothes, whatever little trinkets off Amazon. We have learned to fill ourselves up. And kind of block out this feeling that something is missing in our lives through purchasing stuff and materialism.
And the insidious part is that it actually works. It works temporarily. It works for a few hours, a few days, maybe a few months at most. And then, the feeling of void comes back. And what we’re really missing is friendship, community, and tribe.
I love what you’re saying here. It’s so much easier said than done. And for me too. I don’t have a lot of friends. And I’m sure for you, too, it’s often hard to find people who are on the same wavelength. And as adults, it is just hard to make connections. But if you were to offer one piece of advice on how to do that, maybe start to reconnect and form maybe some semblance of more of a community, more tribe, or even just one new friend. What would you say?
Nick: So, I’ve had like a list, I call them 15 medicine questions. But a couple of the questions on that list are oriented towards this. One is, this is the easiest way that I can do it. And this isn’t going to solve everything. But in terms of relationships and how to start doing some gentle gardening, you know. Giving more light and water to the ones you want to nourish. And sort of weeding out the ones that aren’t serving you. The simplest way I do it is I ask myself on a relatively routine basis. “What is the one hard conversation that I know needs to be had, that I’m not having? And who is it with?”
That’s how I always start. And maybe it works because we humans, it’s easier to kind of think about the negative things. Like, you know, “What’s the one amazing person who I need to be giving more of my energy to?” I have a lot of those. My brain and I have a feeling I’m not alone here. It’s easier for me to look at the one that I know. And maybe there are two or three of them. Where are they? And why am I not having, you know, that conversation? And usually when it comes down to it, you don’t really have a great reason. And the reasoning, if you wanted to use it as an excuse, it’s not flattering to you. And I think we are all the heroes of our own story. So, the idea of not having a conversation because it’s inconvenient or it’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to potentially expose some things that we believe about the other person or even things about our world view that we just don’t want to have to deal with.
For me, it’s a really good end road to starting that gardening process, if that makes sense?
The role of purpose in energy and health
Ari: Yeah, beautifully said.
So, strategy number three, ancient energy hack number three. What do you have for me, Nick? What do you got partner?
Nick: So, again, it’s kind of like a sequence to this. Really talking about it the way that I’ve been taught it. Let’s just say once you process trauma, once you’ve gotten rid of a lot of your baggage. We all have processed stuff that will always be processing. And that’s a beautiful thing that we need to just get used to. But once we process a lot of it, you feel like you have healed an illness. You’ve healed your psyche. You are kind of back on track. You kind of understand a little bit more about what’s going on in your reality. And what your place is in it. And then you’ve gone through any sort of weeding out your relationships and bringing in new ones. And kind of trying to create this spaciousness for new opportunities to come. And you politely made it very clear what your boundaries are to tell your loved ones and in new relationships.
I think the next logical thing that happens is this deeper question. Now you’re kind of primed. You’ve kind of shed the skin of the old you. And now you are in your life and next question is, “Okay, what the hell am I doing here? What is my purpose? Why am I here on this planet?” Not only is that another direction or the next logical direction, once you are kind of primed and ready to go while you try to figure out what you can do. It’s also something that I think is this hidden secret when it comes to energy.
Ari: I agree with you. I love where you are going with this.
Nick: Yeah, man. It’s like a hidden treasure trove or that’s not even a good word for it. It’s almost like a hidden well of energy that is almost untappable once you have it. I’m sitting here on this set a few miles away from my house.
I’ve been working around the clock on our next series. Not because I have to. It’s because there is an unseen cord almost. This is the way that I look at it. An unseen cord of purpose that’s pulling me in the direction that I know I’m supposed to be. You know, the direction of the life that I know I’m supposed to be living. Or the contribution that I know I’m supposed to be making. It’s far beyond any type of material or social standing type motive that I think a lot of people have.
And I think as we all realize, and I know you realize, Ari. That once that is all aligned, the material stuff, finances, all that stuff kind of falls into place. It’s just not a thing. It’s just part of it. Once you paddle under the right wave, almost. You paddle into the right wave and you are in the barrel. And you’re comfortable there. And you know, you want to ride this wave a long time. This wave is who you are and who you are meant to be. It’s not even you anymore, it’s the wave pushing you. Do you know what I mean? It’s not even your energy. There is a little bit of energy required to kind of move back and forth and make adjustments here and there. But you’re in the pocket, man.
And I think that’s a huge part of energy. I could never be doing what I’m doing, the hours that I put in, the amount of mental work that goes into it, and the amount of risk, all that stuff. If I was doing all of this just to be like a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman or whatever it is. No offense to Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman if they are out there.
Ari: There is like one person listening that is deeply offended right now.
Nick: He’s like, “Are you kidding me?”
Ari: He’s like, “Really? You had to say Kirby?”
Nick: But yeah, you get where I’m going. So, I mean, this is like oh my gosh, in terms of ancient indigenous primordial civilization and cultures that exist to this day. There are all kinds of things they put out there to help each individual understand what their purpose is and not need some kind of catastrophe. Not need necessarily, you know, a dark night of the soul. Even though those are welcomed and those are fine, too. There is all kinds of things to almost give the individual their own, I guess, dark night of the soul, to kind of use that again. To create almost like this environmental hermetic stressor, right? But a planned one.
Almost like, you know, I keep on thinking, taking a mushroom and all the things that it does by your immune function by sort of stressing it out in a really strategic way. These cultures have these mechanisms deployed socially so that individuals go through certain rites of passage. And understand their place in the world and are primed to understand what their purpose is at a very young age.
Think about the rites of passage that we have in our civilization now. My rites of passage growing up. They weren’t really laid out for me. I had a first communion that I vaguely remember. And then I think the next big one was when I was old enough to start smoking cigarettes. I mean, that was the next thing. I was 18 years old. I could go to store and buy a pack of cigarettes, which was like a huge deal to me. 21, I got to start drinking alcohol. 25, my insurance rates went down. I mean, there wasn’t a vision quest. There are things that happen for both men and women and every aspect of humanity, every aspect of ourselves, this individually that we have. This intertwining of masculinity, femininity, which I think is also something that should be understood better at some point. There are path, programs laid out for people in trbial civilizations, no matter who you are, that are there to help steer you towards that purpose.
Whether it’s like, you know, whether it’s when, I’m trying to think of the most politically correct way of saying this. But the way they would say it down South America, it’s like when a woman bleeds for the first time. There’s a whole ceremony around that. She is taken over to this remote area with these other women who are there to kind of help lead her through what this all means. And there are all kinds of ritual around it. It could also be a vision quest that happens at certain ages. How about the idea that boys, a lot of the times, are not spending much time with their fathers until age seven. And somehow, this age seven is like this understood thing. You see it in different cultures. It could be in Siberia, it could be in South America, it could be, you know, on other continents around the planet. Age seven or eight boy all of a sudden gets taken on the first hunt.
You know, there’s energetic understandings of how this stuff is all supposed to work. And by dialing into these innate parts of who we are, they’ve crafted opportunities for people to go deeper and feel understood, to be embraced by a community, and never be outcasts and feel ashamed of what they’re going through. And again, these things are not easy. Like these rites of passage are meant to sort of provoke fear, meant to provoke uncertainty, to remind you of your mortality. So, those layers of BS shed away, you know. And you understand who you really are at a soul level.
Ari: And who you are in the context of the people around you. And in the context to the previous point, in the context of the community of tribe. You know, there is a section where you are for boys. You are a little boy. You are being cared for by the women in the tribe. And then, at a certain point, when you get to a certain age, you go through a rite of passage. And it’s like, “Okay, you are a big boy or you are a man now. And now you go with the men.” And you go on hunts with them. Maybe you are not hunting, maybe you’re not in the most dangerous situation. But you’re tagging along. You’re watching. And then you get to another certain age. And now you’ve entered a new role with very clear and well-defined expectations of what your role is, what you are there to do, what your purpose is, and who you are to the tribe. And that is understood by you and that’s understood by all the other people too. Which is really important.
And this makes me think of, there is this term, I forget the anthropologist who coined the term. But it’s called status anxiety. And it says, you know, in the modern world, especially the Western world, we all have status anxiety. We meet new people all the time. They are not part of our tribe. We don’t know who they are. We don’t know whether they are smarter than us. Less smarter than us. Make more money than us. Make less money than us. More powerful than us. Less powerful than us. So, you know, there is just this constant anxiety in any given situation with people around you to know who you are relative to them. And I just think it’s this wonderful way of describing this sort of baseline level of anxiety of no knowing what your relation, what your purpose. And in a particular context, in your relationship is to the people around you.
But I think purpose to me is really important. And as you said, hidden key to energy. And I think there’s some magic here. I’m a very evidence based guy. But this is one area where I have a little bit of like, I think there’s some magic. I think there’s like some soul level degree of, you know, if you have a purpose and a feeling of what you’re here to do. It brings vitality to your cells. And if you don’t have that purpose, you’re apathetic, right? I mean, we describe somebody without purposes, apathetic. And when you think of somebody apathetic, it’s like depressed, lethargic, lacking vitality. There is something inherently energizing. Like at a soul, at a spiritual level, for lack of better words, not very scientific words. But that’s the best way I can describe it for something that’s energizing at that level to our cells. And I think when we lose it, especially when we’re older. I think you can lose purpose and literally like you die as a result. Your body physically goes, “Okay, there’s no reason for me to exist any longer.”
And there’s this term as we’re dealing with all this economic fallout from lockdown, massive unemployment, and all of that stuff. There is this term, depths of despair, that’s really interesting that I’ve learned recently. And it’s talking about the massive increases in suicide, heart attacks, and all these different things. But people literally take their own life when they lose their job. If they feel like they can’t be there, they don’t have something to contribute. They don’t have a way of contributing.
Anyway, I can’t agree with you more strongly, that purpose is this real hidden key to energy that goes beyond just herbs, supplements, and biochemistry. There is some magic there.
Nick: Yeah. It’s strange. I mean, I don’t know how you perceive it, but I really do feel like it’s something that is pulling me forward. It’s not even something pushing me necessarily. I just feel like I’m being pulled. I guess the wave analogy is good too. There’s a much greater energy that is at my back. It’s like, any analogy you want. Is your sail full or not? It’s other energy that doesn’t even seem like mine.
And I’m sure that, you know, you talk about magic. So, probably similar type relationships. I guess, this isn’t really mean. I’m challenging other energy or something else. I’m doing the bidding of something much larger, you know?
Air: And when I have a day of producing something, like producing some great piece of scientific content, new video, I do a webinar, something like that. I give and I give and I give and I teach people from what my purpose and my talents are. It is energizing to me. I feel really good. I feel happy and energized after that experience. Whereas, you know, I have a lazy day and putz around on social media or something. Enter into stupid arguments. I feel drained at the end of the day and depressed. It saps the energy out of me.
So, there’s this really immediate energized effect of being aligned with purpose. But I want to ask you, let’s say somebody is listening to this and maybe they don’t have a strong sense of purpose. And they’re like, “Okay, guys, well, yeah, easier said than done. Maybe, you guys know what your purpose is and so you can just choose to be aligned with it. But what if you don’t know what your purpose is?” What would you say to somebody in that circumstance?
Nick: Cool, okay. So, I think I have maybe three kind of bits of prescriptive advice. First, just leading up to this one. There’s a reason why it’s last. I mean, at least for me. You know, I don’t think I went down in the middle of my own personal crisis looking for purpose. I was looking to actually keep the lights on in my system. You know, keep my life going. So, as you kind of go through those, I think the one thing that’s blocking a lot of people from living their purpose, at least, I can only speak for myself.
But I think that it may be part of why I’m good at what I do is because I kind of have a brain of a layperson. I’m not like some dude that is so different. I’m pretty much like the people in the world. Is that my relationships were sort of hindering me from even looking for it. Like it wasn’t safe for me to do that.
First of all, I didn’t have anyone to talk to you about it because no one I knew, or no one I thought I knew, as going after their purpose. They were just part of the system. You know, they were doing the thing. They were doing the daily grind. They were on the grid. They had bought into the narrative that you go to college, you pick one of five categories, and you choose a job. And basically, you know, volunteer slavery. You know, but maybe get me a better word than that. You basically just dedicate your life to working for a paycheck.
And so, for me to have this idea, for us to have these conversations. Ari, you and I having this conversation right now, this is something that is absolutely not part of the paradigm that I come from. I don’t know if it is yours, but it’s not part of mine.
Ari: Yeah. It’s certainly not my family upbringing, no.
Nick: So, I mean, just in that way, relationships are really important. You need to understand who you have around you. There’s this success metric. And I don’t really love success metrics. But they say your income is usually the average of the poorest person and the richest person you know. I think that’s a bunch of b.s. It’s often also kind of a classist, weird, anyway.
But if you look at it, not in terms of money. Well, you look at it in terms of mindset. Your mindset is probably the average of the most restrictive mindset and the most expansive mindset person that you’re friends with, right? And so, I think you need to look at your relationships. You have to figure out why it’s not safe. Why it doesn’t feel safe to you to really dial into what would make you happy, first.
Secondly, I think there’s this idea we’ve been touching on of getting out of this petri dish that we’re in. When I’m stagnant, and I don’t know how you write, Ari, or how you pull your creativity out. But when I’m writing, I’m filming, or whatever we’re doing, editing. I know, first of all, I have certain hours of the day that I can do it. And secondly, for me, it’s the morning. I get up at 4:00 in the morning. I don’t recommend to everybody. But four in the morning, three days a week, I know four to seven are my hours. Those are like the godly hours. Or the witching hours, whatever you want to call them. My brain is empty and I can really think about things creatively. And I can also really make major life decisions.
Once the days got on top of me, this can also go back to that 100 percent battery when you wake up thing. Once I’m like, you know four o’clock in the afternoon, don’t ask me to think about what my purpose is. Just don’t. My brain isn’t there. I’ve already got so many things in my head.
I just got off this interview with this guy named Ari. That’s been in my head all day. I can’t think about my purpose now. But I think that depending on, and understanding your system enough to know the conditions that you need to be in, to be able to really understand that and to give that the fullness of who you are is really, really important. So, taking yourself out of the petri dish that you’re in and I guess this goes back to the creativity side. If I need to write a book and I need a book to be done in three weeks. I’m not going to write every single hour of the next three weeks. I need to write, figure out where I get stuck, and then I need to leave and shake myself off somehow. Then come back to it with a fresh brain.
I think that people who are struggling with their purpose have been in this in this particular pool, petri dish of life that they find themselves in too long. And they need to change the dish. They need to step out. Yes, is it hard to find your purpose if you don’t know what it is? That can be hard. But is it easier to decide that you’re going to take two weeks, whether it’s a vacation, whether it’s a staycation. And change things about your reality substantially in the hopes that your brain will come up with new ideas. And come up with new understandings of what this all means if given a different externality.
So, I think the idea of changing the petri dish, changing your externalities is important when trying to do purpose work. If you look back, if you look at the traditions that you see in rites of passage from the indigenous worlds. You don’t tend to be staying at home during a rite of passage. You know, a vision quest is called the vision quest because you are taken far enough away from your home into an unknown environment to really understand who you are. Yes, there is a survival component to it that you don’t necessarily need to bring into your purpose. But there is a reason why reality is the externality, the environment that you’re in has changed intentionally when you are trying to do this deep spiritual work. To shake you up, to shake you up, shake the cobwebs off, to make you look alive. Like, look alive. Things have to happen psychologically in your brain. Wires need to start firing again for new connections to be made.
So, I think that’s a big part of it. I think, were you can say something?
Ari: Yeah, I was going to say, go on a journey. Go, whether that’s you can interpret that many different ways. But I’ll say in the literal sense. Travel alone to some location and go like hiking in the Himalayas or in the Andes Mountains or something like that. Spend some time seeing a totally different way of life. And removing yourself from your typical day to day. Radically removing yourself from what you would normally experience. Take a complete break from social media and doing all the things you normally do. And just go be in a different place with your own thoughts. And you’ll probably find that the way you think about things radically changes in a matter of days and you might have some new perspective.
So, yeah, I think what you’re saying is phenomenal advice.
Nick: And you know, it doesn’t even need to be that far away. I mean, if you are like a single mom living on the south side of Chicago, let’s just say. This doesn’t need to be like you trying to figure out childcare and put together the resources to take off for two or three weeks. This could be, just find another part of Illinois. You know, someplace that has some wildlife. And put a backpack on and just dedicate two or three days to just wondering in the woods doing nothing but that.
Ari: Well said. Yes, I agree with. I think back to my upbringing. I traveled a lot growing up from the time I was really like. From the time that I was a baby, my parents took me to Morocco and all these exotic locations. And I spent a lot of time in developing countries.
And I remember, you know, there are certain experiences I remember. Like I remember when I was like six years old walking across this bridge in Istanbul. And seeing a kid that was like the same age as me who was sitting on the side of the bridge with his mom. I was walking with my mom across the bridge. He was sitting on the side of the bridge with his mom and they were homeless. And they were begging. And I remember like that experience was imprinted on my brain because it made me realize, “Wow, I’m really lucky to not be a homeless six year old like kid.” You know? Living in this circumstance. And I agree with you have to do the best you can give the life limitations, financial limitations you have. But I do think there’s also, if you can afford it and your life’s circumstances allow, go to developing countries and see radically different ways of life. And I think there’s extra value in that as well.
But, yes. Thank you for bringing that perspective in as well.
Nick: Totally, totally. And I would say, no matter where you are, try doing it without shoes for an hour or two. There is something really, really helpful. That’s a great state changer. That is just a little side thing.
But I guess the last thing I’ll say, just in terms of finding your purpose, something that I’ve realized about finding my purpose is what I’m doing when I’m in the “pocket” or I’m paddling into the perfect wave. Whatever you want to call it. I can’t describe to you in words why I’m doing the thing I’m doing. You get past the point of like the reason why you are doing the thing. Why are you doing that? Why are you in the middle of that particular action? There isn’t a way to rationalize why this and not something else. So, I feel like when you get into that place, where you just know the thing brings you so much happiness you are doing it. But you can’t really verbalize other than that particular, this makes me fulfilled. This makes me happy. You can’t really verbalize why that is where you are in that moment in time.
I experienced it on that background, right there. That’s a whiteout backdrop. It’s going to look like an Apple kind of commercially backdrop for our Proven series. Like I’m reading off a teleprompter to a lot of people that sounds like torture. When reading off the teleprompter a lot of the time it’s such a flow state. I’m in such a zone that if you ask me, why? What about the white backdrop and the teleprompter so exciting to you? I have no idea. I have no idea why that is. I just know in their in their pocket time stops. I’m in a flow state. And I can’t explain to you why that’s the thing I’m doing. But I know that I would rather be nowhere else on the planet.
Ari: Yeah, this is san important thing which is that arriving at your purpose is not purely an intellectual endeavor. There’s like a visceral knowing component to it. It’s just you feel it. It feels good. It feels and then doesn’t just feel good in the moment. Like eating ice cream, potato chips, donuts, or something. Like it feels good after the fact too. Like you feel energized, you feel good at the end of the day, and you sleep well because of how you spend your day. That’s how I know I’m aligned with my purpose.
Nick: Heck yeah.
Ari: Awesome, man. This was brilliant. This was like very much a deviation from the typical, like, geeky biochemistry, genetics, and all that sort of stuff that I that I normally talk about with. This was a blast. And this is a wonderful, beautiful change of pace from how I normally talk about things with energy. And so needed. So, important. And so needed.
So, thank you so much, Nick, for sharing your wisdom with my audience. And this was a blast, man. Thanks.
Nick: Honor to be here, man. I love the work you’re doing. It’s so vital. Anything I can do, and the best of luck to you.
Ari: Yeah. Thank you. And the feeling is mutual. For everybody listening, Nick has a bunch of different movies, a bunch of different health documentaries that have come out. The Sacred Science, Proven.
So, Nick, where is the best place for people to go if they are interested in getting some of those films?
Nick: The best place to go, right now, is the ScaredScience.com. You can get access to our Proven series. And I’m really excited about it. We’ve spent some time talking about it right here on this table.
And then for Exhausted, which is the one that Ari is speaking about. That one
is going to have a website with the same title, it’s going to be called ExhaustedSeries.com. But more to come. And if you just tune into theSacredScience.com, you’ll get all those updates as they are available.
Ari: Beautiful. Thank you so much, my friend. This really was a lot of fun.
The role of emotions and trauma in fatigue (09:00)
The role of relationships in energy (29:28)
The role of purpose in energy and health (44:00)