Register for Dr. Pedram Shojai’s new must-see film on overcoming fatigue, Exhausted HERE.
In this episode, I am speaking with Pedram Shojai, OMD – the founder of Well.Org, the NYT Best Selling author of The Urban Monk, Rise and Shine, The Art of Stopping Time, and Inner Alchemy. He is the producer and director of the movies Vitality, Origins, and Prosperity. He’s also produced several documentary series like Interconnected, Gateway to Health, and Exhausted. We are going to talk about wats to fix your energy, water your life garden, and live your life at your full potential.
In this podcast, Dr. Shojai and I discuss:
- The most common misconception of placebo
- De-stressing defined
- Energy in Chinese Medicine vs Energy in the western paradigm
- Energy Economics what they are and how they work (How to water your life garden)
- What Dr. Shojai learned in the making of the Exhausted series
- How life choices (and stress) affects your environment and relationships
Listen outside iTunes
Ari Whitten: Hey there, welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten. With me now is my good friend, Dr. Pedram Shojai who I’ve had on the podcast I think twice now and also had a great recent summit interview with him.
Right now he is launching his new film, which I’m featured in, called Exhausted which is all about energy. There’s going to be a link below this video, please, go opt-in for it. You can also go to the energyblueprint.com/exhausted and there’ll be a link to opt-in to get access to view this new film for free. It is just available for viewing for free in the month of August. I think August 24 or something?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: 18th, for about 10 days.
Ari Whitten: Okay, beautiful. Let me read you a little bit about him. This is my favorite bio of all time. Dr. Pedram Shojai is a man with many titles. He’s the founder of Well.org. He is The New York Times bestselling author of The Urban Monk, Rise and Shine, The Art of Stopping Time, and Inner Alchemy. He is the producer and director of the movies, Vitality, Origins, and Prosperity. He’s also produced several documentary series like Interconnected, Gateway to Health, and Exhausted which I just mentioned.
I love this. In his spare time, he’s also a Taoist abbot, a Daoist abbot, a doctor of Oriental medicine, a Kung Fu world traveler, a fierce Global Green warrior, an avid backpacker, a devout alchemist, a Qigong master, and an old school Jedi biohacker working to preserve our natural world and wake us up to our full potential. Welcome, my friend. Such a pleasure to have you as always.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Good to be back. Great to see you.
The role of energy in Chinese medicine vs. the Eastern Paradigm
Ari Whitten: Let’s talk about the Qigong master, the Kung Fu master, the Eastern wisdom. You have a doctor in oriental medicine. A doctorate, I should say. You are a doctor in Oriental medicine. A huge part of your background knowledge is coming from that kind of Eastern body of knowledge in addition to your study of nutrition and more Western science approach to natural health. Let’s talk about the concept of energy in the context of the Eastern paradigm and Chinese medicine.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: I stumbled into the Eastern stuff. I was premed at UCLA interning in the corridors of the hospital. Dank, dark, morphine drips. Just kind of not vitality. It was just the stark contrast with this beautiful campus of UCLA, the sun’s always out, the trees are beautiful. I don’t know why I stumbled into this Tai Chi class and I started taking it once a week. It would be right after my rotation in the hospital.
I’d walk out of this disgusting place, if you will, deep in the innards of this sick care system and be doing these exercises and go, “Wait a minute, what is that? Why is my hand tingling, right?” The guy would be like, “That’s your Qi.” And I’m like, “Come on.” Like, “I’m a biology guy, come on.” The more I did it, the more I experienced it. It then became a function of experience, not belief, and I said, “I got to know.” I just jumped in and started studying Chinese medicine, Daoism, and became a senior student of a Kung Fu master.
I’m the kind of guy that when once I need to know something I don’t stop. It just became my study for decades. The study is a very interesting one because the workshop is right here. Your body is the workshop. You can’t talk about this stuff in the abstract. You got to breathe down to your lower abdomen. You got to do the exercises and all of a sudden go, “Whoa, hey, what was that?”
That experience of it then enters– You’re basically entering into this world where now there’s this thing called Qi. What is Qi the Chinese talk about? This energy, there’s spirit, there’s essence, and then there’s Qi. Qi, the metaphor would be if the candle, the wax would be in the candle, the essence. When you ignite that essence, the wax, the flame is the Qi. It’s burning off of the material essence and then the afterglow is the mind or the shin.
All of those have to be in a healthy balance in order to have a robust life that’s filled with meaning and also long and has that vitality and longevity. The way Qi comes is by burning food, mixing it with air, activating it with essence, and then either sending it to the nutritive side which is basically what I call the books, the libraries, the hospitals, repairing the roads and then the defense side, which is the border patrol in the army. You have these basic functions of protection and nourishment which Qi has to be able to allocate effectively towards so that you’re healthy.
Then you’re already like I can see the look in your face because when you get into the breakdown of how our cells went from prokaryotic to eukaryotic and the introduction of this thing called mitochondria and the electron transport chain, it was oxygen coming together with these complex carbohydrates, becoming simple carbohydrates that kick off this overflow of energy that led to our evolutionary path. The question became to me, how the hell these guys know this, as a biologist going in. That’s been my study ever since. It’s been so fun.
Ari Whitten: I’m overflowing with so many different questions and avenues we could go down here. I first want to maybe talk about the scientific validation for this aspect of things. I know there’ve been various ways that scientists have tried to study and validate some of the ideas around Qi and meridians and these kinds of things. They’ve looked at- I think it’s called transdermal electrical conductivity or something like that. They measure the electrical conductivity of skin surfaces.
They correspond with the meridians versus the skin next to it. I know that there have been some researchers that have looked at biophoton emissions from cells and how that corresponds to meditation, for example. How do you conceptualize the intersection of the Western scientific method with the realm of Qi and meridians and I don’t know if you want to broach the idea of chakras and things like that, but this more esoteric aspect of energy and Qi.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Well, before, we had instruments to measure these things. We had our eyes and when we cultivated our eyes, we could perceive and see these things. We’ve externalized a lot of that to our devices and to our means outside. That’s a whole conversation about the plight of humanity and how we’re always looking outside of ourselves for answers. We get to that in a different conversation. Let’s talk about what energy is.
We are talking about energy coming down from a starlight. It just so happens that we have one pretty close called the sun. Billions of years ago, there was the first kingdom which was the fungus which was able to penetrate the rocks and break them up and create this thing called soil, so that the microbial elements could then create an environment for plants to arrive. What are these plants doing?
Miraculously, is taking photons from this star, pulling them in through photosynthesis creating complex or simple carbohydrate chains which is the roots shoots and stalks. All of a sudden, these animals combine and start eating them. Then, later on, there’s animals that eat those animals. They’re all just compounding this energy that’s being extracted from the sun.
The initial currency of life is the photon. It’s not too far of a stretch to realize that there is still some biophotonic photoemission happening. We know that it happens when DNA ravels and unravels. We know that there is almost like a fiber-optic network inside of our blood, inside of our fascia, inside of our connective tissue that has some component of electronic communication. Whether it’s through photic stimulation or guilt. We term it as the galvanic stimulus or the response is everything is functioning in these subtle gradients of electrical currents including the thresholds of nerves.
You have electrical pulses that will run and activate nerves to flip polarity and send a message up and down from periphery to the spine. You have this with hydroelectric formation of bone tissue and what it means to lay down more bone. What it means to send healing factors to the body is there will be a current of some mild electrical capacity that will signal the body to send agents there.
We talk about electricity, it’s like electromagnetism. What is involved in every single hemoglobin molecule in our body, it’s iron. There’s this subtle current of electromagnetism that is the language of the body in saying, “Send some healing factors here, grow some bone over here, send this signal from the toe to the brain,” that’s always been there.
Yet we just became very mechanistic in our understanding of the body. We had antibiotics, we had steroids, and we had surgery. It was surgery, we had antiseptics that cleaned off our scalpels in our infinite wisdom that God got us to this heyday of battlefield medicine. Then we just overlooked all this stuff.
There’s all these guys that have been trained in their fraternities to poopoo things that they don’t believe in, without looking at the evidence that’s coming in from every country, in so many different disciplines saying, “Whoa, whoa, there’s something happening here.” I think that there’s just too little research. I’d started a brain lab 15 years ago to look at e.g stimulation of the brain with meditators. We had very definitive data showing what was happening at the prefrontal cortex with people just chilling out for a minute. That’s 15 years ago.
Now there’s functional MRI. There’s all kinds of stuff showing the subtle currents of electricity, energy, going to where our focus is, whether it’s our immune system or our conscious focus, to do specific things in the body like heal or wiggle a toe. We just haven’t looked down that paradigm, therefore, everyone still scratches their head saying, “I don’t know if that’s true.” It’s insane.
Ari Whitten: It feels to me almost like the proverbial blind men and the elephant scenario where Western science is trying to feel that they’re blind as to the big picture of things, but they’re trying to feel some of this stuff and trying to do their best to measure some of the stuff that Chinese medicine is talking about with Qi and what Eastern traditions talk about with chakras, and meridians and all these things.
They get little pieces of it like, “Oh, here’s a little bit of a tail here. I think I feel something. You know, here’s a foot, here’s a hoof, and here’s a trunk.” We still don’t really understand the big picture. There isn’t a really great connection between Western science and understanding all of that what seems to be mystical stuff in the Eastern traditions. Yet, there’s also this body of evidence that’s probably more practically meaningful about like, “Does doing Qigong, or does doing yoga, or pranayama breathing exercises, does that have benefits?”
Then there’s this large body of evidence showing very clearly, “Yes. It clearly does have health benefits.” It’s the unseen mystical stuff as to why those things have benefits that’s still in question and debated with the Eastern traditions explaining it one way and the Western traditions are trying to say, “Well, maybe it’s because the breathing is bringing oxygenation in.” It’s interesting how they explain it in different terms, but it’s unquestionable that it has benefits. You know what I mean?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: The challenge is there’s a word around it that I’ve really gotten comfortable understanding. We’re shame. I’ve been around a lot of these people, and I can’t tell you how abusive they are to each other. They will browbeat you if you step out of line. They go, “What are you doing? Are you going to ruin your career doing all that woo-woo stuff?”
You’re like, “Dude, there’s a body of evidence saying it works,” but I’m not allowed to look at it and the institutional shame. It’s a cabal in a lot of ways where they’re just not allowed, even if they’re interested in it. I’ve had a lot of late-night discussions. I’ve gone through, you know, bottles of wine with some of these amazing researchers who won’t publicly mention some of the things that they’ve found to be true because [crosstalk].
Ari Whitten: Whether they personally believe they won’t discuss openly.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Not at all. Literally they are closet, energy believers, and they have plenty of evidence to substantiate a lot of this stuff, but the institution will not allow it because you are committing career suicide.
Ari Whitten: On a personal note speaking to that, I’ll actually say that I’m almost one of those people to some extent. I don’t shame others but I’ve established this reputation of a super-hardcore evidence-based guy bringing science and evidence to energy and the topic of fatigue. I privately have practiced Qigong and yoga for at least 20 years now.
I have beliefs around that but I rarely ever talk about any of that stuff because I don’t want to be categorized by anybody as like, “He’s into that mystical new-age nonsense that’s not scientific. Here, look how unscientific Ari is. He believes in Qi and whatever.” That stuff is real, that peer pressure to conform and not talk about anything that’s outside of the Western medicine paradigm is a huge factor even for someone like me.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: You’re in this space, you’re talking about this space, whether it’s you or some multiple PhD, high mucca mucca Harvard guy. It’s the same top-down whack a mole that will happen to your career as soon as you look at anything outside of this place where you’re told is okay. This is kosher, everything outside these lines, you will be annihilated. I’ve seen it over and over again. It’s mind control. There are things that we’re allowed to know and there are things that we’re allowed to talk about. There’s just zero research dollars or anything.
What about placebo? The best drugs out there. There’s drugs out there that perform just over a toe over the line of placebo and they’re like, “Okay, it’s accepted,” but if you start looking at the research behind who the low placebo responders are. These people, in order to beat placebo, need to basically do all kinds of surveys to find the biggest losers that are low placebo responders to be like, “Look, this person doesn’t believe that anything is going to get them better. Great, throw them in our study.” Those are the people that their drugs barely beat.
For years, I’m like, “Why the hell aren’t we studying what placebo is and how to impact people’s ability to leverage that thing that’s actually getting so many people better?” How is that unscientific? We know it’s one of the best forms of medicine out there, why can’t we study it better? Nobody’s writing that check.
Ari Whitten: I think it depends a bit on the specific topic being studied but there’s often– I think like with antidepressants or something like that, placebo cures people of depression 30 some percent of the time. Like taking a sugar pill. To your point, it’s like, “Why are we not studying that phenomenon?”
Dr. Pedram Shojai: “Oh, That’s just placebo.” “Oh, his is just Tai Chi.” I can’t tell you how many oncologists I’ve encountered who’ve had people come up and be like, “Hey, Doc, I did all this stuff, and I feel better,” and they’re like, “Wow, you’re in complete remission. Tell me what you’ve been doing.” They’re like, “I changed my diet. I’ve been taking some herbs and doing Qigong,” and they’re like, “Stop, stop talking. Sorry, good for you but I can’t even hear you now.” It’s just like, “What? I thought you were in the business of healing cancer. Doesn’t that sound like an interesting data point?” They can’t even go there because they’ll be ostracized for being the guy that looks at that. What is that?
Ari Whitten: How do you connect the dots? How do you explain it between these practices, let’s say, Qigong? How does that connect to our physical energy and vitality? Let’s say in the context speaking very practically, in terms of the modern Westerner who’s overstressed, who’s burnt out from work, who’s physically tired and physically exhausted, who doesn’t don’t give a crap about whatever mystical voodoo, they don’t care about enlightenment, they just want to fill in with vitality and energy and not be exhausted and burnt out all the time. What’s the connection there?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Let’s just talk about a very important switch. Some genetic gateways and some genetic modulation, some epigenetic expression that will either turn you off or turn you on. We’ll segue into mitochondria and the stuff that you talk about because this becomes a very interesting segue, obviously, is when I’m in the parasympathetic nervous system, I’m in rest and digest.
How do I stimulate that? Tongue touching the roof of the mouth, take the pressure off the gastroc muscle, elongate the gastroc muscle, do low diaphragmatic breathing. We understand that somehow that will switch you into Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance, out of that sympathetic fight or flight which is basically drawing the blood out of the parts of your brain that are responsible for better decisions, negation of impulses, higher moral reasoning. All these things that make us human. And enlightened just so happens.
That gateway is either sending the troops running off to the borders or saying, “Come on home, let’s build some bridges and some roads and fund some schools in the arts.” That’s just the undercurrent of our nervous system. Then we have this stuff that we’ve learned about. There’s a ton of studies coming out on this, on the NF-kappaB and Nrf2 gateways. Where we know definitively that doing mind-body practices like Qigong and meditation specifically will help suppress the NF-kappaB pathway which would lead to synthesis cytokine storm.
Basically, everyone’s hearing about cytokines now with the virus out there, but we’re talking about information being the root of all evil in chronic disease. We have found the holy grail of what will switch off inflammation on a master switch level which is suppressing this NF-KappaB gateway. Yet we haven’t figured out a way to make a drug out of it. We have a body of evidence saying, “Look, all you need to do is meditate and do some mind-body practice, and you’ve gotten it.” You can’t bottle that. It’s like—
The placebo effect
Ari Whitten: They have anti-inflammatory drugs, the problem is–
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Downstream.
Ari Whitten: Yes. The problem is when you fiddle with the downstream effects instead of addressing the underlying root of these things, then you inevitably get what they call side effects and all of those drugs, basically, all drugs, have significant side effects. The anti-inflammatory drugs, it’s interesting. If inflammation is this huge factor in driving chronic disease, it would seem like, “Hey, we have anti-inflammatory drugs. Why not just take the drugs? That gets rid of the inflammation, boom, problem solved.” Except it doesn’t work that way because you’re addressing downstream symptoms instead of actually addressing the fundamental controls of that inflammation.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Yes, it always happens at the highest of levels, which you can modulate with modulating your state of being, which is switching off the NF-kappaB pathway and really pushing the Nrf2 pathway, which is a lot of stuff you do with the red lights and the photic stimulation and all these things that we know help with the Nrf2 pathway, including all the neo-mutagenesis. All the stuff that you talk about. Mito neo-gen [chuckles].
Ari Whitten: Mitochondrial biogenesis.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: You read all these studies and you scratch your head going, “Wait a minute. This is by far some of the most fascinating stuff I’ve ever seen.” All you need to do is 15 minutes of this exercise a day, yet it doesn’t come in a pill. Everyone just looks over that and says, “Okay, so what can you sell me?”
Ari Whitten: Yes.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: We’ve already stumbled on this fountain of youth medicine that has to do with how you can self-regulate. Again, these are energy pathways that you’re cultivating and whatever that is. I don’t want to get over my skis and say, “Wow, we understand how Qi does this.” We understand that doing these practices that cultivate Qi for millennia have kept people healthy and vibrant and virile and vital and all these things.
Now we understand that doing these things trigger these pathways, which suppress inflammation and change your relationship with aging and all the things that you talk about with airy pathway and all this. We understand that they do it. We haven’t quite crossed over in understanding the specific mechanism of how and why. To me, that is like the goldmine of where all the research should be going, because we know it works. That’s not where the research is going. That’s not where the research dollars are at right now.
Ari Whitten: Yes. Now I think the Western mind would have a tendency to interpret the main mechanism is like, “Oh, it’s de-stressing.” It’s like there’s psychological stress and this would be an activity that is de-stressing. Do you think that is doing justice to it? Do you think that these activities, benefits of them can be reduced down to just like, hey, it’s decreasing the psychological stress aspect of things?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: I think that it’s a very oversimplified way of talking about it. I just had this with some media person where we talk about some complex topic and they’d be like, “Oh, so you mean you organize your life better.” Then we’d move on. You know what? Those little headlines don’t really work because people are like, “Oh yes, I got that next.” And their lives are a mess. Let’s talk about what de-stressing means because I think that they tend to trivialize what de-stressing is.
You talk about hormetic stressors, not all stressors created equal. Push-ups are good stress unless my labrum and my shoulders is torn where I’ve overdone it. What modulates use stress versus distress is something that happens at a higher level that needs to be modulated by the consciousness and the body is saying, “No, no. This is good. We’re still growing. Keep going. That challenge happened at work. I’m going to be a better attorney because of this,” versus, “I’m going to have a heart attack today.”
There’s this huge area in that realm of what distresses us that I think the answers lie in, that aren’t being looked at and are being trivialized in a way that really takes our consciousness, our ability to be cognitively involved in our evolutionary path. All these things that are actually the juicy parts of humanity out of the equation of being like, “Oh, well, that’s that. We understand that.” We don’t actually. I think that’s where a lot of the conflict is.
Energy economics what they are and how they work
Ari Whitten: One of the other topics you talked a lot about is energy economics. I love how you frame this discussion. It’s something that actually influenced me and was kind of an aha moment for me many years ago when I first heard you talk about things this way. I was like, “Wow, that’s a really brilliant way of discussing this whole thing.” Tell everyone about how you conceptualize energy economics.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Listen, we live in a capitalistic society. You’ve got inputs and you’ve got outputs. If the demands on your system are greater than the production of energy that you have available to you, you are faced with a choice. You either lay down and take a nap, you rest and recover, or you say, “I don’t have time for that, where’s my Redbull? Where’s my maca? Where’s my whatever? Where’s my external input that’s going to rob Peter to pay Paul? Borrow from tomorrow to get through today.”
I feel like we live in a culture where deficit spending has become part of the macroeconomics. It’s like, “No, don’t worry. We’ll just print more money.” That’s not physiologically how it works. We can eat more food and crank up our metabolic rate and have access to more energy, but that requires different body comp and different use of the body like, “Okay, great. If I have a ton of lean muscle with healthy robust mitochondria that are saying, ‘Give it to me.’ Great, go get it, eat more food.”
Most people eat more food and wear it on their waist. They’re storing it in their energy economics that are not there because– Again, we’re back to that switch. They’re too stressed out, their cortisol levels are too high. They don’t turn those calories into energy. They don’t burn them and they don’t have the opportunity to spend that.
Ari Whitten: If you don’t mind me interjecting for a second, it’s worth mentioning the simple reality of, “You’re going back to this, inflammation is bad, anti-inflammatories are good.” Certain things that seem logical and intuitive don’t really play out in reality that way. The food-energy connection is one of those same, almost nonsequiturs in a way. It’s like, “Oh, well, where do we get energy from?” It’s from food. Our mitochondria burn the carbs and energy.
It burns the carbs and fats and produce energy and that creates cellular energy. If you want more energy, just eat more food and then you can make more energy. If you do that, then you’ll realize very quickly that’s not actually how energy economics works.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Then, all of a sudden, you’re diabetic and obese, wondering why the inputs didn’t relate to the output. You have to create the spend through. You have to have the body in a place where the economy is demanding it. It’s a robust enough economy to be drawing that energy through you and then you can have an amazing big life. You have to get your energy economics right.
Let’s just start with the abstract stuff, which is, what are you watering in your life? You’ve got your kid, you’ve got your wife, you’ve got your family life. You want to take care of your health, which I think should be first because that’ll feed everything else. Then you have your career, you have your friends. Most of us just are economically-taxed trying to feed little areas here and there and never be able to have a robust garden where we’re just looking at things and saying, “You know what, no. I can’t go out to drink with you tonight because I have a project, I have a family, I have this, I have that.”
I think a lot of it starts with personal psychological boundaries and understanding what you’re capable of right now versus tomorrow. You can build up and have a bigger life. I do a ton of stuff. I’ve got four books and six movies coming out, but that doesn’t come from me staying up and snorting some stimulant every night. It comes from getting good sleep, exercising every day, and being the guy that has the work-life balance, and then building on the foundation of that because I have more energy available to me.
I’m not drinking five-hour energies a day. I’m effectively practicing time travel to borrow it and die early. There’re a lot of elements to this energy economics that factor into how we live but also how we move and how we consume calories between the quick energy carbs that are needed sometimes and then the fat that we can learn to burn. That’s your study. It’s a big part of this equation.
We did this 10 part series on exhaustion. A lot of it is just people over committed and not understanding where energy comes from. Some of it is toxicity, and mercury, the toxic load, and mitochondria getting sick. A lot of it is mismanaged life that then leads to hormone problems. You can talk about energy as the basis of everything. I don’t have enough energy to get through today. I’m going to call on my adrenals, which is my overdraft card on my checking account.
The adrenals will bail me out for a while until the overdraft thing doesn’t work. I have a high-interest credit card and, eventually, I’ve run out of credit. You’ll see this in patients in functional medicine all the time where they tax their adrenals for a while. Then you’ll start to see pressure on their DHEA and their pregnenolone. They’ll be doing pregnenolone still because the body still needs hormones.
It’s like, “I’m trying to build testosterone and I don’t have it. I’ll start borrowing from other hormones downstream.” Eventually, something’s going to give and you’re going to have hormonal issues. Man, that might be 5, 10 years from when your energy economics were broken and you just pushed through it. That’s what I see as the baseline of this chronic disease epidemic, is you’ll have an energy depletion and a breakdown of the energy systems 5, 10, 20 years before you will have some major chronic diagnosis that you’re like, “I don’t know how this happened.”
Ari Whitten: 100%. I think fatigue is the huge red flag that presages most chronic disease. That should be a big warning to you that something’s wrong in your life. The problem is, in the modern world, many people have normalized it. Where it is almost totally counterproductively, they almost wear it as a badge of honor. It’s like, “Look how busy I am. Look how sleep-deprived I am. I don’t have time to sleep because I’m so busy with all my work that I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” sort of thing. “I’ve got to work now and be productive.”
It’s like, “No, it doesn’t actually work like that.” It does not play out how you think it plays out. Your approach is really, really bad. Taking everything you’ve just said. Let’s say someone who is burnt out, is exhausted, right now, is constantly obsessed with work, and is overloaded with all the stress of life. How do they get back on track and start to water their life garden in the right way?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: It’s funny, you’ve reminded me of a story. This is back in 1998. I was on a mountainy the island up in Lake Titicaca. I was with a buddy of mine–
Ari Whitten: That’s the name for a lake [crosstalk]?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Totally. Kids love it. When my son found out that there’s a lake called Titicaca just– I still haven’t heard the end of it.
Ari Whitten: I remember that moment when I was a kid too. I was like, “Are you serious? Is this real? This is amazing news.”
Dr. Pedram Shojai: I’m on this island with this Kiwi. This brimmed hat-wearing cowboy looking Kiwi from the New Zealand, obviously. We were in some village and the generator shut off at a certain time and we had to run back to catch a boat to get back to the mainland or we’re going to be sleeping on the beach.
We started running back in the dark to get to this boat. All of a sudden, the guy, I don’t remember his name at this point, eons ago, he started slowing down. And I’m like, “Hey, what’s up, man?” He’s like, “Hey, I need to catch my breath a little bit and just stay under my breath in case we get jumped.” And I’m like, “I don’t know what kind of neighborhoods you grew up in. I didn’t really get jumped regularly where I grew up.”
It was one of those moments where he was over his breath. If he got jumped, he was not going to win that fight. It will always stuck with me because it was just such a pure innocent street-smart thing. How many people do you know in your life that if they got jumped right now by a bug, by divorce, by something, would be completely on their backs, eyes rolled back? It’s exactly that. If you’re in the position where you’re tired and you’re stumbling forward trying to make it happen, the first thing I would say is look at all unnecessary energy expenditure that you have and cut those cards.
Cut out where your energy is going that isn’t feeding your life back immediately. It might be binge-watching a show. It might be two hours of phone calls that you don’t realize you’re making every day. Just spilling your breath into dramas and conversations that don’t necessarily make the world a better place, let alone nourishing you, and save some of that breath for yourself and then start doing little things every single day that actually put a little cash in your pocket energetically. Whether it’s stretching.
We did this with 1,200 corporations back in the day, where I had a time to go off every 25 minutes and they took a five-minute break to do some push-ups and squats, stretch, go to the bathroom, drink some water, open up your chest, open up your hip flexors, and then go back to your desk. At first, HR was freaking out about the loss of productivity. What did productivity do? Depression went down, mood went up.
Everyone started doing better by taking five minutes to just address what their body needed twice an hour. These little steps that will– Then what happens is, we’ll get a little bit more energy in order to squander it somewhere because we’re so used to living on the breadline of energy. It’s like a poor person winning the lotto. They’ll just spend it. Learn to be okay having a little bit of access and staying under your breath, and then start investing that.
Like, “Man, I get it.” I actually did some amazing thing yesterday. I did this Raptor racing school. I learned how to jump and do all Baja racing and off-road stuff and it was amazing. I was just out there doing all this high adrenaline off-road racing school all day. I came home and I was tired. I’d been in a car with high adrenaline all day and I realized my kids–
Ari Whitten: Just real quick, it’s amazing how much stress even in the absence of anything physically demanding like psychological stress or even something psychologically demanding, and novel can tax you and exhaust you. I had a similar experience going to a theme park a few years ago where I was going on these roller coasters. Just going on roller coasters, I was exhausted by the afternoon even though I’d barely expended any energy aside from walking around a little bit.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Think about that. Think about the energy economics of that. Your body is like, “Wow, this guy’s going to go off this cliff right now.” It puts you into that stress mode, which then compresses everything. I was inflamed. I was like, “Wow, my joints are–” I was in a truck. All-day, I was doing this and I came home and my kids were not having it. They’re like, “Daddy, let’s go.” You got to find that somewhere and you’ve got to call on that somewhere.
I was over the top when I came home. I was like, “You know what, give daddy 10 minutes.” I literally did deep diaphragmatic breathing and took some fresh air, I stretched and reset myself and I was like, “Okay. Let’s go. Let’s move our bodies. Let’s do some stuff. Let’s play some tag.” If I hadn’t have stepped in and popped in the clutch for a second getting out of that gear, I would have been like, “Shut up. Go watch a show.” There’re so many bad parenting decisions that can happen in that moment where you’re empty.
I really had to catch myself and be like, “Wow, I really don’t feel these kids are screaming right now. I really don’t feel like this.” I had to step back in check on my energy economics, reset my nervous system to be able to tap into energy that was there but it was not accessible to me because I was in close down mode.
Ari Whitten: I want to add something to that because what you got out there was small enough and subtle enough for people to just overlook but it’s so critical. What you’ve just said is almost like the crux of having a good life and quality of life. Your mood, your baseline energy levels, and whether your cup is full or not, is going to dictate on a moment to moment basis, whether you’re like, let’s say, in reaction to your partner or your kid, whether you are smiley, and warm and friendly and playful and want to engage, or whether you are irritable and cranky and like, “Get away from me. I’m done. I’m stressed. I need to be left alone.” Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. “Stop bothering me.”
Ultimately, it’s your life, your whole life. It’s like a collection of those moments. Just this simple act of, “Is your cup full?” Have you organized your life and your routine in such a way that you’re recharging your energy levels, and your vitality? Ultimately, it determines so much of your overall quality of life. You’re subjective to happiness and joy in your entire life. I just wanted to add that because I think what you just said is so vital to having a good life.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Dude, let’s ride that for a second because I want people to understand this generationally. Had I not caught myself and been a jerk to my son or my daughter. Now I have a four-year-old and a six-year-old who are like, “Dad is gone all day and then he shows up and he’s in a bad mood and he hasn’t have enough time for me.” Therefore, I don’t know. Maybe work sucks. I don’t like this thing that daddy does called work.
Then I have an aversion to work which means when I tell you you need to study and get good grades, you now question why that matters because daddy got good grades and daddy’s never there. Literally, these little influences could transform the trajectory of these two young lives that are watching me as an example. Then, “Okay– God forbid.” It’s like, “Now I got to pay to get this kid out of trouble,” or, “This one didn’t do it or this one wants to live at home.”
The energy expenditure of having a kid model after something that doesn’t work and the amount of energy and time you have to put into a life that didn’t go on a path, that was fulfilling and relevant to something that brings– you know, grandchildren and joy and assets and life is supposed to grow. You short circuit that by being a bad example of a parent because you didn’t have energy and you’ve generationally jacked your family line by not filling up your cup right there.
The implications of who we are in the moments we need to show up and be the person we’re supposed to be for our spouse, our kids, or whatever, are so profound. We’ve missed so many of those opportunities just being overwhelmed by what the politician said or what happened at work today. All these little micro-traumas will lead to a very big course correction in life where you’ll have less and less energy available.
What about a divorce? There goes half your money. You traded your time and your energy for that money. It’s literally half your life’s energy just went into some crappy fight that you’re now having to deal with for the rest of your life.
The Exhausted series
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. Well said. I know you have to run in a few minutes here. My last question to you is about Exhausted, the film. You’ve just recorded this huge film, traveling all over the country, all over the world. I don’t know how far you’ve gone-
Dr. Pedram Shojai: This was pre-COVID.
Ari Whitten: -to talk to all these experts, including most notably, of course, yours truly, I’m the most important one in the film.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Absolutely. You’re like a shining star. It’s a nine-part series and you are a shining star in it.
Ari Whitten: Thank you, my friend. You talked to all these experts, wonderfully knowledgeable, smart people who have been in the health field for many years, many decades in some cases. Basically, you’re going around asking all of these people, “Hey, what are your best energy secrets? What do you have to give to people who are exhausted, who are chronically fatigued and want to get their energy and vitality back?
What were some of your biggest takeaways from that? I know this has to be a brief answer because you’ve got to run. If you could talk a bit about the gold, the nuggets of this film, what are the big takeaways from this? Why should people go watch it?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: I would say that the undercurrent of all of it is, look, there’s an answer and you don’t stop until you find it. Whether it’s brain fog, whether it’s a food allergy, whether it’s toxicity of mold, mercury, something. Whether it’s your body comp, whether it’s the quality of food, there is an answer. We understand what can go wrong with energy and we understand how to retrigger it and bring it back online.
Look, I don’t care where you’re at. In this equation, there’s an answer for you in the first stop on that is to say, “Okay. What am I doing that might be contributing to this? What happened to my history that might be leading to this? Why am I low in energy?” Just don’t take no for an answer because, to me, energy is the currency of life. It will feed your immunity, it’ll feed your brain, it’ll feed your muscles, it will feed your career, and it will feed your children.
You have to, you have to find that answer because, without energy, nothing works. That to me was it, because then you go into all these different experts, promoters talking about the brain and [unintelligible 00:45:17] talking about the toxicity. There’re a million places where we can get a little bit of energy out of our lifestyle. We can find where energy is being depleted.
You find the profit centers and you boost them. You find the drains and you shut them down and you close them down. If you think of it like a company, you just go in from department to department saying, “Okay. What’s going on here? There’re four people sleeping at the desks. Let’s fix this.” Then you start to adjust every department of your life from organ system to organ system. As you eke out a little bit of profit in each, you will start to see the lights turn on.
When the lights turn on, your mood comes up. Your enthusiasm comes up and your willingness to go to the gym or your willingness to help your neighbor, your willingness to go throw football with your kid instead of throwing iPad at them all comes back. This journey, for me, has mapped out what happens to life when you turn the lights back on. I think that has really been, and you of all people know this, the missing ingredient in this healthcare conversation.
Everyone’s talking about the symptoms. No one’s talking about turning the power on underneath to fix the underlying symptoms with this thing, that’s the currency of life called energy. It’s like the fish not knowing it’s in water. We’ve missed the glue, which is energy fuels all things. Energy collapse will lead to all bad things, including chronic disease and the slow death that we’re facing in our healthcare system.
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. For everybody watching or listening, I should say. I want to go back to what we were talking about five minutes ago, and what Pedram was just connecting the dots on there. This aspect of your life really is the foundation of everything. It’s what fundamentally controls your risk of dozens of different diseases, most of the chronic diseases that are out there. It’s also this thing that ultimately makes up your life and these moment-to-moment experiences on a day-to-day basis.
What is the subjective experience of your life? What kind of mood are you in? How much joy do you have? How much happiness do you have? How warm are you with those you’re in a relationship with and what relationships do you cultivate? Ultimately, how much energy and vitality and happiness do you experience in your life? This is what energy is all about.
The difference between being exhausted and being energetic is massive. This is not something to wear as a badge of honor. If you’re chronically overworked and overstressed, this is the time to get this area of your life handled. I strongly encourage everybody who’s listening to go get access to this film, Exhausted, right now. Again, it’s only going to air for free from August 18th to August 28th or something like that.
It’s going to be 10 days of free viewing, so get access to it. You can go to the energyblueprint.com/exhausted. Sign up for free there. Pedram, thank you so much, my friend. It’s always a pleasure talking to you. Do you have any final words you want to leave people with?
Dr. Pedram Shojai: That’s it, man. You’ve nailed it right there. It is the glue. It is the currency. Energy is everything and if you don’t see it that way and you’re running on the breadline, and you’re wondering why your life isn’t working, there’re parts of your life lights that are flickering, you’re going to have to increase the current so that you could have a bigger life. If your health is collapsing, you’ve got to increase the current to have your body have enough energy to heal it.
I think that just a reframe will go a long way. The series covers a lot of it. Listen, these things take 18 months to make. We put a lot of TLC into them, so take advantage of the free screening while it’s there and look at Ari’s handsome face while you’re there.
Ari Whitten: Thank you, my friend. Really, always a pleasure. I look forward to the next conversation. I’m sure there will be many, many more in years to come. Thank you. Everybody listening, go to the energyblueprint.com/exhausted. Sign up now. You’re going to have this brief limited window of time to get access to this for free, and then you’re going to have to pay for it. Go sign up. Watch it. It’s amazing. I will talk to you, hopefully, very soon. Pedram, thank you so much for coming on the show, again.
Dr. Pedram Shojai: Thank you, my friend. Always a pleasure.
The role of energy in Chinese medicine vs. the Eastern Paradigm (07:02)
The placebo effect (21:00)
Energy economics what they are and how they work (30:08)