Ellen:
Hello and welcome back to the Potential Psychology Podcast. This is episode 72 and we're talking a bit about exercise, a bit about spirituality, a bit about indigenous cultures and quite a bit about a very select group of people who choose to run around and around at extended city block in New York city, not just for days but for weeks at a time. My guest is Sanjay Raway and award-winning documentary maker based in New York city. We're talking about his film, 3,100, Run and Become. But as you hear, the film is just a starting point really for an in depth wide ranging end on reckon quite insightful conversation about different pods to being our best selves. But before I introduce you to Sanjay, I have developed deck for you. I have to say a big thank you to our partner for this episode of the show People Analytics and The Future of Work or PAFOW. The PAFOW Sydney20 Event is now less than a month away. And I have been able to secure a sneak peek at some of the speakers, a couple of whom we will be having here as guests on the show, which is very cool. And one of those amazing speakers is Shiran Yaroslavsky who is the CEO of Cassiopeia.

Ellen:
And in 2019 last year, Shiran was named in Forbes 30 under 30 list in her home country of Israel. She leads a team at Cassiopeia who are working to make our workplaces safer psychologically and emotionally using some pretty amazing technologies. So Cassiopeia used available research and data on offensive behavior at work. Things like sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. And they've developed a software tool that measures and predicts the likelihood of offensive behavior occurring. So they're able to kind of work out the likelihood of something occurring according to the demographics and various data they've got on workplaces and types of workplaces. And then they can use that to predict the likelihood and inform leaders and organizations so that they can then work to prevent it. So I'm intrigued by all of this because human beings are very complex. So turning that kind of data into a technology just sounds fascinating.

Ellen:
So I'll be asking Shiran all the questions to find out more about how that works. And you can hear Shiran speak about this at the PAFOW20 Sydney20 Event on March 3rd and 4th in Sydney CBD. It's going to be the perfect event. If you're working in Human Resources, People Management, Organizational Development, people in culture or you lead people or you work with people or you have any kind of responsibility for people in the workplace and you want to know a bit more about how they work and how to create workplaces that allow them to work at their best. It is a two day event and I do have a special discount code as a speaker that you can use to receive $200 off the cost of registration. So when you're registering, which you can do at pafow.net that's P. A. F. O. W.net. Just pop the code Syd200. So that's, S. Y. D then digits 200 in the promo code box at registration and your discount will be applied automatically. I'm looking forward to it, a little nervous, but I'm looking forward to it and I can't wait to see you there too. Okay, so that's the update done. I think it's time to talk to our guest for today. Sanjay Raway about funding joy through exertion.

Ellen:
With me today and coming to us, not from New York city where he hails, but in fact from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia where he's visiting at the moment is Sanjay Raway. And Sanjay worked in the Human Rights and International Development sectors for 15 years in over 40 countries before focusing his love for photography and storytelling onto film making. His first feature, the award winning Food Chains was released in 2014 and explored agricultural labor in the United States and he's current film is called 3,100, Run and Become about the self-transcendence 3,100 race. Biggest race in the world with the least fanfare and no prize, Sanjay's here to talk to me and us not only about the film and the incredible stories that it tells, but also to talk about the mind, meditation and the relationship between spirituality running and transcendence. Welcome Sanjay.

Sanjay:
Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be on your show.

Ellen:
It's lovely to have you here. I have watched the film as I was just saying to you off the air and I have so many questions. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so informative to be just as a human being, but particularly as a psychologist and thinking about what might go on in the minds of people who engage in this kind of, do we call this an ultra marathon? Is that how it's defined?

Sanjay:
It's technically a multi-day race. Now for listeners who might be curious, a marathon is 26.2 miles, 42 kilometers. Then an ultra and anything above that 26.2 miles distance. But once you start getting into races that take more than a day or two, we get into the realm of multi-day running.

Ellen:
So can you tell us, before we explore the movie, can you tell us a bit more about the race and what got you interested in it?

Sanjay:
So this way, the self-transcendence 3,100 mile race is the longest officially certified running race in the world. It was started in 1997 actually by an Indian spiritual teacher named Sri Chinmoy who was based in New York. The distance in kilometers is about 4,993K. Runners are required to average at least 59.8 miles, just a hair under a hundred kilometers per day. If they want to finish the race in the 52 day window, most people would go. Well, one of the logistics of the race are you running from San Francisco to New York? As a matter of fact, most multi-day races are actually held on closed loops because you don't want to worry about traffic. You want to be able to have aid, water, food. You need 10,000 calories in these races, you want to have that close at hand. So this race actually is staged on a half a mile, nearly a kilometer long loop on a sidewalk in New York city. It sounds absolutely impossible, but the fact of the matter is, and we explore this quite deeply in 3,100 Run and Become, that run of these types of distances takes people closer to the kind of essential nature of human beings than almost any other type of physical activity.

Ellen:
Yeah. So I couldn't get my head around it until I watched the film. And then that really did give me that insight. Even again, as you say, into the practicalities of it, 52 days just running around a single block. And they do change direction each day, don't they?

Sanjay:
They do. That's the only variation.

Ellen:
Yeah. So it's 52 days. So even again, for me as a psychologist, I'm sort of thinking that, what kind of mind does it take to be able to...? Because imagine if you're running great distances or trail running or even marathons. You're traversing different terrain, you're going from place to place, A to B. But in these sorts of races, as you say, it's a closed loop. They're just running the same scenery day in day out.

Sanjay:
It's counterintuitive, but when you're running in places that are outwardly beautiful, more often than not, the logistics are pretty occupying and not just a logistics of food and water, but having to focus on the terrain and trying to avoid sprang ankles and you end up using a lot of your mental power on the kind of minutiae rather than on the grandeur. You might have moments of absorbing the beauty, but in those experiences where you're pushing your body to the limit, you actually to have as few variables as possible. Now when it comes to the mental state of mind, I would say it's virtually impossible to run these types of distances with that attitude of mind over matter. Willpower is just the first step. You can't do these races and deal with the amount of physical pain, that gastrointestinal distress that people face just from the amount of calories and water that's necessary without really finding a way to be happy.

Sanjay:
And it's not a mental happiness more than it's an actual enjoyment. This is why in the movie we focus so much on indigenous cultures that have running traditions. Although this next little anecdote is not in the film, it's the essence of the film. I was on a running retreat with a bunch of Native American runners and we were passing through the Hopi Nation in Arizona and the Southwest of the U.S and that particular area of Arizona is the longest continuously inhabited region in the Western hemisphere. The Hopi villages had been there for more than 7,000 years. Hopi elder named Rick [TeliumTayla 00:10:05] exhorted us on one morning's long run to find joy through exertion. Most of us who exert whether it's lifting a heavyweight or running a marathon in that period of exertion, we're not thinking about the moment we're thinking about getting thrilled up. We're trying to will ourselves through it gathered that kind of mental energy to try to achieve a certain result.

Sanjay:
It's Hopi elder Rick really pushed us to try to find moments of peace and happiness and joy in those moments of extreme exertion. And that's the key to races, like the 3,100. It doesn't come from just the race itself, but it comes from changing one's mindset and practicing how to be totally naturally and spontaneously happy in a moment where your body is screaming at you to stop.

Ellen:
And that's what I found fascinating. And I suppose because I don't have a background in running, I'm probably like most of our listeners where couple of years I think, "Oh, I should really do a bit of running." And I kind of max out at about five kilometers and then do that for a short while and then give up again. Because I know, and I know as I'm doing it that I'm way too caught up in my heads thinking about having to do it, how much it hurts? Whether or not I'm enjoying it? How far I've got to go? Have I got to the finish? That's kind of where my head is at. And through just listening to you on other podcasts and watching the film as well. Starting to get my head around the idea that this is very much a meditative process, I guess we'd call it this. Being able to restrict the mind to that present moment in order to, as you say, overcome the pain, the obstacles, but also interesting what you were saying about that single loop and actually not wanting the distraction. It's almost like you can't take too many moment inputs in because that takes us perhaps out of that meditative state. Would that be right?

Sanjay:
That's correct. That's kind of a burgeoning field and in sports psychology and physiology, that study something called the Flow State. That's kind of a metaphysical state where athletes are at peak performance and the people who study in hindsight like the attitude, the feelings, the emotions, athletes have when they just crush their expectations that previous time and enjoy the process and that's the Flow State. It's not an absence of pain or exertion, but it's the state where you actually get joy and happiness where your body or mind is being pushed to the limit and in this race, the appeal of running the 3,100, is to be able to enter into that Flow State and stay in that state for 45, 50, 51, 52 days. It's an absolutely unique idea, but this is a question for you. I think for non-runners and non multi-day runners and not most of us aren't multi-day runners.

Sanjay:
The key to these types of races is to have a mindset that allows you to enjoy and revel and uncertainty and you can see how that might be a tremendous skill to have in day to day life even if life is in chaotic. But when you get to something that the mind, that has to be a problem, do you have the experience to totally diminish the problem? Diminish the effect that it has in your psychology? Obviously you need to deal with it in a responsible, mindful way. But most of us are buffeted by fear, doubt, by insecurity. And the mindset for these types of races requires someone to not only challenge those feelings and emotions but completely disregard them.

Ellen:
Yes, yes. As I said, I was sort of starting to get my head around this as a concept, but that idea that, and as a psychologist, me and my colleagues, we exhort people to take this approach in their everyday life of, "There's only so much in life that we can control." In fact, there's not really very much in life that we can't control it all, that our need to control and our insistence on trying to control. Whether it's other people or what happens at work or the variables in our lives can lead to a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress and a whole load of other dysfunction and behavioral things that don't really work in our favor. So what I'm hearing you say is that when you can get your mind say, using this multi-day running as an example, when you could get your mind to the place where you say, "You can't control any of the variables you can't control if you..." Well, obviously you can to an extent, but because this is 52 days, and some of the protagonists in your film they got sick. You catch viruses, you get blisters, there's hail, there's thunderstorms, there's hate. It sounds like you're saying that just part of this is getting your head around the idea that you just can't control that. But if you can enjoy being in the moment, some of that stuff slips away.

Sanjay:
Exactly. The mantra of this race is to just keep moving forward. People have to be on the course about 18 hours a day. The course opens at 6:00 AM people have to go to their apartments at midnight. But you can't run hard the whole day and do can't lolly gag the whole day. So it's kind of a combination of the two. And if you focus on your pace on your mile or kilometer times incessantly, you're going to drive yourself mad. You have to get to a state where you're just happy moving forward and you really have to try to begin to enjoy that kind of moments and go moment to moment to moment. But make sure that at every step, regardless of what comes at you, you just put one foot in front of the other. And I think that there's a life lesson in that. We always want to reach a result in a certain time with a certain expectation. But the idea to transcend yourself is to completely abandon the idea of the results or your attachment to the result. In India in Hinduism there's a famous Maxim, "You have the right to act but not to the fruits thereof." Peace is the state where you can move forward without any expectations, like enthusiasm minus expectation.

Ellen:
So we have the rights to... I suppose we are able to control perhaps the process but not the outcome, might be a kind of modern Western way of saying that.

Sanjay:
Yeah. That kind of like greeting card way is the journey, is the destination. That's what the Hopi elder was saying from an exertion point of view. It's like you have to find joy in the exertion. When you're pushing yourself and work in personal life and business. It's not the result that's going to give you the most joy even though we think it is, but results are the experienced with success or failure. But if you really want to transcend all of your concepts of what you're able to do, who you are? What your capacity is? You have to be able to really focus on the moment where you're at and revel that moment and just be as happy and as peaceful as you can be. And that really requires shedding all ideas of what the result might be. It's like you just push, that's all you can do. You just work with a goal in mind, but understanding that you might not get there or you might get something even more satisfying.

Ellen:
Yeah, absolutely. And certainly, the individuals who undertake the race, who you follow through the film, they allude to that idea that there's almost like, "I don't know what I'm going to get out of it, but I know I'm going to be a better person at the end."

Sanjay:
That's the interesting thing. We spend time as in the movie, with the Kalahari Bushman. They're considered to be the oldest extent population or civilization on earth. They've lived in the Kalahari desert in Botswana for more than 125,000 years. And spending time with them really opened the idea to me of the prime role that running played in humanity's evolution. The idea that one of them primal activities that men and women did to connect with nature, to connect with, and their words like the Holy Spirit, we're dancing and running. Our Navajo character, for example in the movie says, "When you run your feet, you're praying to mother earth, you're breathing in father's sky." There's a few activities like that remind us that the physical body can be and maybe perhaps is essential just spiritual growth. Most of the time, at least in Eastern spirituality and modern Judea Christian spirituality, the idea of pilgrimage and moving places by feet, exerting your physical body is not part of practice. Whereas in the past there was an intimate connection between Mental health, spiritual health and physical health. The body had to have goals too and those goals would support your mental or your psychological or your spiritual goals.

Ellen:
Yeah, and it's really interesting because I think... As you say, so part of our Western culture, that wasn't a done thing. In fact, I grew up in the 70s and 80s and running wasn't even a thing really until the 80s. People didn't go for a run as I remember it anyway. Or if they did, it was a very small section of the population in the 1970s and it's become a big part of our culture in one sense. And the sense, and I'm not sure I'm going to articulate this quite right, but the sense that I get is that it's almost that end goal pursuit. I'm going to run a marathon this year. I'm going to, rather than what you're alluding to, that was part of traditional cultures of the joy of the doing it itself. What it brings in terms of happiness, what it brings in terms of wellbeing.

Ellen:
And in the science now, in the field of psychology, Kelly McGonigal, who's a health psychologist, has just released a book called, I'm pretty sure the title is The Joy of Movement. I'll have to double check that. I'll put it in the show notes anyway. And it's starting to, we're starting to come back to the science and say, "well, what does the role that even just movement." Whether it's, and we're not necessarily talking multi-day running top exertion here, but just the joy of movement. What does it bring to us? Not just physically, but psychologically.

Sanjay:
The interesting thing is, when we look at running and the 20th and 21st century, we understand that if he's got the intention of improving your house, running will do that for you. If you've got the intention of looking better about the intention, running will do that for a person too. But what traditional running culture informs, is that running can actually be a pathway to spiritual transformation and every single culture on earth, whether they were European or Asian or Australian Aboriginal or Native American or Western Hemispherical culture at one point, whether it was 500 years ago, like in the Western Hemisphere, just before the advent of horses or 10,000 years ago before the domestication of horses and other animals and Eurasia, human beings ran.

Sanjay:
We moved on our feet either to hunt or the travel or to pass messages. And it wasn't just an activity of locomotion, but it was an activity that was expected of young men and women to learn about themselves and to gain a sense of identity. Even in India, which is one of the most kind of sedentary non-athletic cultures in the world, most coming of age, ceremonies require the young men or young women to actually go on a run. That was a traditional rite of passage in a way and a tool that people used self actualization. People are seeing more and more now the positive benefits of running on psychology, but I don't think our culture has yet connected or reconnected the idea that running, movement are critical opponents to, easy components to maintaining a very positive mental state.

Ellen:
Yes. It's almost, it's not just a niche to have in a way you're saying that as human beings going right back to our ancestry, it's almost as something we must have that kind of movement as a source of self-awareness. I love what you said about learning about yourself because it is... Even from the small amount of running that I have done, you do have to even just the opportunity maybe to think or to reflect or just that being immersed in nature are all opportunities to learn and grow as people aren't they?

Sanjay:
I'm totally with you. And the Kalahari Bushman basically said that some time Memorial from the earliest beginnings of human civilization, running was a way to grow spiritually and the Native American section of the U.S, I've got some friends who work on suicide prevention and advocacy and when they get calls from people, at least at those calls you on a cell phone, they tell the people like, "Hey, go for a walk. Go for a run. Don't do what you want to do." And on a more practical level, anytime you get to a state where you're worried about making a really big decision, whether there's a really a challenge ahead of you, don't sit home and let that thought eat you up. Go out for a run even if you've never run, go out for a walk, even if you barely walk. There's something physiological that happens within activity that obviously has a biochemical component to help us combat negative emotions and negative feelings.

Ellen:
Yeah. Listeners to the show, would know that I am an advocate of what I call the Wellbeing Walk, because I'm not necessarily a runner, but I am a yoga practitioner and I'm a walker. Even I work with groups in workplaces just talking about wellbeing and how we improve our function and performance in workplaces. And one of the things that I've prescribed, so to speak, is just when you get to those levels in your physical energy, your psychological energy, your emotional energy, go outside and walk around the block and just see the magic that happens both in terms of how you think and how you feel, but also your creativity and productivity when you return.

Sanjay:
I'm 1000% a fan of yours in that philosophy. It seems antithetical, but traditional cultures will inform us otherwise, that if we want to practice anything contemplative, yes. Prayer and meditation and silence is essential, self-reflection is essential. But there is a way to bring that contemplative energy in just physical movement. Whether it's a contemplative walk, a wellbeing walk, whether it's changing the intention of going for runs. Anything physical that we do isn't necessarily going to have spiritual ramification. But if we put the intention of personal transformation into that physical exercise and physical regime, it's bound to help us because that's what it has always done. We can say now more than ever, we're disconnected with that prime tool that humanity used for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.

Ellen:
Yeah, that was one of the things that I found fascinating about, because you interweave, within the story of the film about the 3,100 race itself. You've interwoven some of these stories of traditional cultures. So you mentioned the Kalahari Bushmen that, and I've forgotten the terminology, but the Japanese, ancient Japanese kind of walking the thousand miles, is that...? Also the Nepal culture and some of the stories there in running. So as she said, being able to take us back to really learn. And this is happening with meditation and Eastern cultures is that, what is it that human beings perhaps had once that we've lost somewhere along the line? And is there stuff that we can gain from revisiting that and exploring that?

Sanjay:
Absolutely. We look at three cultures in the movie, but Kalahari Bushmen, the Navajo Native Americans and a sect of monks in the Highlands of Japan that track a thousand days split over seven or eight years, which means a 100, 200 days a year in those 100 days cycles and they have to complete a prescribed mileage per day in each cycle. The first cycle might require 11 and a half or 15, 17 kilometers a day. So by the time they get to the ninth and 10th cycle, that pushing 85 kilometers a day. And the kicker, as you know from watching the film is that if the aspirant doesn't complete their daily mileage, they have to take their own life, seems like most outlandish consequence and granted no one has had to take their life in the last 150 years. They've been much more stringent on the preparation and that's the crux.

Sanjay:
If you attempt or start an activity that might not lead to a positive result, it's very easy to be overcome by fear on day one. And then that's the becomes like a self fulfilling prophecy and you can't avoid the consequence that you're so afraid of or that you're so desperately trying to avoid. But if your practice and your preparations are the exact opposite of that, I think in the case of these monks. They practice moving and bliss, they practice moving in prayer. So that the idea of the consequence of this activity is a complete afterthought. Th said, people might ask why the consequence was severe but in Tendai in Zen Buddhism, there's the notion that unless you have an incredibly severe consequence for failure, a prescribed or a set discipline will become diluted over time. Like Ellen's, we love you. If you were doing this thousand day walk, in its day 713 we realize as the overseer that you weren't going to make it. We might say, "Well, let's not make this a thousand day walk anymore or let's call it a 712 day walk." And say, Ellen don't worry about the 713th day, you're done." And just like that the event has been diminished. But because of this consequence, it's kind of been an unbroken, unvarnished unadulterated practice and this most sacred area of Japan for almost 1,500 years now.

Ellen:
And so there's a need to maintain that, an inner need perhaps to maintain that, to continue that. And that's some serious accountability in there.

Sanjay:
Exactly. And obviously it's not something that anybody would toss out there. Of course this case, it's entirely voluntary, but this is the absolute edge, like a knife edge of the pursuit of perfection through physical activity.

Ellen:
Yeah. You sort of alluded to something there and I thought about it earlier as well. There's kind of a juxtaposition here, talking about, being focused on the moment, being focused on the process, forget about the outcome, enjoy it. Even as you say that kind of the whole mock version of the journey being the important part, et cetera, et cetera. And what's actually required to prepare for these sorts of things? I know were in the conversation or some of the conversation in the film that somebody talks about the kind of the military element of it, the preparation, the timing, sleep at this point here in order to maintain. So it's almost like we need to find some kind of balance between all of that preparation and a bit of precision around some of those variables so that we can be free in the moment. Would that be right?

Sanjay:
Yeah. The preparation for the 3,100 mile race is counterintuitive. The body will get adapted to the distance in the first 10 days to two weeks. So it's not like people have to go and practice doing 50 or 60 miles a day. In fact, that would be a hindrance to their progress. They need to come into the race very fresh. But they also need to know what it feels like to move when you're exhausted. And so typically they'll just do an hour of slow jogging or walking five days a week. But then on a Saturday they might go out and do seven hours and then Sunday when they're exhausted from that seven hours, they might do 10 hours. And that's the kind of physiological process to get them mitochondria working at a high clip to burn energy efficiently.

Sanjay:
But the crux of it all is in those moments of exhaustion, in those moments of discipline, in those long stretches of running and walking, can you enjoy it? Kind of not forcing yourself to enjoy, but can you actually unlock a part of you that just is in bliss? And the thing I've seen with these multi-day races is, it's akin to fasting where people who've done some sort of grandeur staff, all experienced that in the first one or two or three or four days. It's pretty much torture. And then somehow magically it becomes easier. We know that that magic is kind of metabolic state of ketosis with a body burning fat rather than carbohydrate burning fuel stores rather than needing to take in calories. Something happened to the mind after three, four, or five, 10 days of a multi-day where the mind all of a sudden and very clearly move out of the way.

Sanjay:
And so when you're doing an event like that, obviously the thing that seems like it would be the most vicious aspect is the boredom and what does boredom mean? The mind telling me. This is dumb, you can't do it, you've got other things to do and bringing out doubt, insecurity. But when that goes away and the mind is peaceful, you experienced not just the constant flow of endorphins but you release emotions. All the positive emotions that the mind kind of puts a blockade on moment by moment in our day and they come out. Like love become spontaneous, peace becomes spontaneous, joy becomes spontaneous. And that's the reason why people come to the race. It's not just to say they've done it, it's not to will themselves through. It's like the characters in the film say, "They know that by the end of the race they will be better people than when they started." And this is exactly why.

Ellen:
And this is the transcendence that it's all about.

Sanjay:
Yeah. The idea of self-transcendence is that, when we make progress in life and we do something better than we did the day before. When we achieve something that's a little bit more significant or pushes our capacity, that gives us spontaneous joy as human beings. Self-transcendence is at the heart of all of our experiences of happiness and joy and achievement. And so what is self-transcendence? It's literally what that Hopi elder said, "If you can find joy through exertion, you can achieve self-transcendence." Doing better than before, than you ever had, isn't spontaneous. It's like you've got to exert, you've got to do the work, but you can't just do the work and expect a certain result and expect a certain achievement. If you want to really just categorically and again, teed way, go beyond everything that you've ever imagined you could do. The formula, again, it's counterintuitive. It's like don't think about the result. Think about the moment. Find a way to be incredibly ecstatically happy in the moment. Push in those moments and wallah. You'll do better than you could've ever imagined

Ellen:
And I love that, "find joy through exertion." Because even as I'm sort of thinking about that, I think for probably most of us, the idea of running around the block for 52 days is probably beyond our reasonable comprehension, but even if it's just going for that walk or going for a short run and the idea of that almost feels impossible. For me anyway, as I'm thinking about it, the idea of even being able to use that as a little mantra is just to find joy through exertion. Just find the joy in this, get out of your head, don't worry about what hurts and how it feels and whether you've got the time. Just find joy in that moment as you physically exert yourself.

Sanjay:
I love that exercise because you're right, it's not something that we can just say like when they go out the door, "I'm going to find joy in exertion." It seems again like a misnomer but if, if we reflect on that mantra, if we bring it in to our mind and our consciousness as often as possible, we began to understand the depths of it and we began to not just understand it, but we realize it. It becomes a spontaneous experience where it becomes the truth, a living truth and not just a really advanced fortune cookie thing.

Ellen:
Yeah. We've come to believe it. If we can actually practice it, render our souls of it, immerse ourselves in it, then hopefully we come to believe it in our kind of cool being.

Sanjay:
From my experience and from just seeing how this apply to a couple of traditional cultures I've witnessed, there's truth in it and it's like there is power in there and you can unlock that truth and make that truth a part of your daily being by really putting some effort into understanding how that phrase applies to your life and seeing if... In fact, it does apply to your life and then experiencing the results.

Ellen:
Yeah. Because it doesn't need to be... Obviously we're talking about physical exertion, but I think probably exertion in anything as we seek to achieve something. I know in positive psychology, the field that I work in, we know that striving, it's the actual striving towards a goal rather than the end result that contributes to wellbeing when we explore the research around that. So yeah, whether it's exertion, perhaps in something outside of a physical realm, psychological exertion, mental exertion, what do we get from that? How does it actually begin to refuel us and build us up to become a better version of ourselves?

Sanjay:
Exactly. This applies obviously to relationships as well. It's not saying some friendships or intimate relationships. Where do we want to be in one year or two years or five years in counseling? Where do we want to be at the end of it? Or can we really be happy that we're doing this together? That we're trying to become a better partnership together and that in two seconds of effort, we're going to be better than we were two seconds ago. Can we enjoyed that process of striving rather than saying, "This is my idea of perfection that's your idea of perfection? One of us needs to abandon it.

Ellen:
Yeah. Can we just do it together? That's a lovely way to frame it up. Sanjay, I'm really interested how you came to all of this because you have a background in running yourself, don't you? And I'd love to know more about the story of how you came to be interested in this as a field.

Sanjay:
Well, that's a great question and then I'll go back even further. When I was at university, I was a lot smarter than I am now. My parents both had PhDs and I was pushed into really advanced things that are really early age. But after a couple of years of university when I had enough credits to graduate, just because I killed myself in school, it became apparent that the thing that I saw it in myself that were deficient, the parts of myself that I didn't like, the parts of myself that made me insecure, my relationship to other people and all the stuff in between was never going to be solved by school. And it wasn't going to be solved by achieving a certain degree or getting a certain job and making progress financially. The answers that I wanted really required a totally different pursuit. That's when I started getting into meditation and just like I did in the academic life, when I wanted to learn something, I've tried to go to the very best person.

Sanjay:
So I realized that self-help is a misnomer. Self-care, as positive as some of those practices are, is a misnomer. It's like, you can't get anywhere in life without someone else's help. It's just the way things are. Maybe the first person to achieve perfection or enlightenment on earth did it by themselves. But in Eastern spirituality, the idea of mentorships or Gurus or guides is absolutely essential. There's no fast and steady progress without going to somebody who's already achieved the state that you want to get to. So that just a long way of saying that I needed to find a teacher and I was really, really lucky to go to a series of meditation workshops taught by students of an Indian spiritual master named Sri Chinmoy and as soon as I could, after graduating, I moved from California to New York where he was based, although he was from India. He was based in New York city and I just said, "I'm going to put myself at your feet."

Sanjay:
You're the master. Your goal is for your students to achieve ultimate happiness and peak happiness. I'm going to abandon all of my preconceptions of what that means. It doesn't necessarily mean a supermodel wife driving a Ferrari, living in a mansion or even something simple like having X number of kids and working nine to five. I'm going to throw all my conceptions out the window and just focus on that result, on just being happy right here right now and seeing what that shaped me into and he absolutely changed my life. So obviously, and your profession, it does no good for somebody to come to you once. It does no good for somebody that say like, "Ellen, tell me the three books I need to read or the YouTube videos I need to watch." It's like if they want to change through the past that you have to offer, it needs to be something that they commit to, not just for a day or a session, but maybe for years.

Sanjay:
Maybe these were a decade. The goal isn't something static and that's kind of the backstory of how I really developed a viewpoint on life. And the long and short of it is I ended up working in Human Rights and international Development. Things where I felt that I can be of service. I realized in terms of my own psychology and my own very specific tendencies that my happy place was in a place where I was less focused on my own ego and less focused on my own sense of personal achievement. That seeing other people.... And again, this isn't me being Mother Teresa, I'm sure everybody is different, but in my case it's like if I got wrapped up in my own achievements, I would actually be unhappy. But if I force myself to focus on getting other people to their achievements, I would actually be happy. And that morphed into telling people stories, documentaries, et cetera.

Ellen:
That's fascinating in itself. Just to see the saying that kind of being of service to others, because I know you're never really starting to look as a profession psychologists that into what gives people a sense of meaning and purpose. We know that's an important contributor to wellbeing. And for me it's interesting, fascinating emerging research, but for me the best kind of explanation or the thing that's had most meaning for me around that sense of meaning is being a service to something greater than yourself. So we know that people who are able to do that. Yeah, find happiness.

Sanjay:
That's why, again, without meaning to offend anybody. That's why the idea of self-care. To me it's like the ABC, it's like the first step in Eastern spirituality. There's a very apt analogy that says that, "We all exist as individual drops of water just as a symbol." We're all individual drops of water. But when that drop, drops into the ocean, the ocean of consciousness, it doesn't lose its identity. But rather that individual dropped then has the right to identify as the actual ocean and that happiness doesn't come from kind of a myopic insular view of identity like, "I am this, this is what defines me." Identity actually is the process of realizing that our identity, our sense of self can be merged with the entire universe. And that when we're in that state of self with a capital S, we're in kind of our peak level of happiness, peak level of consciousness. We're in the peak realm of positivity and growth and it has much less to do with us as the individual drops and the power we gained as identifying as an ocean.

Ellen:
Yeah, that common humanity.

Sanjay:
Exactly. And it's literally seeing yourself and others and understanding that all of your goals are for better or for worse, tied into everyone and everything around you. Like you said in the beginning, we are not in control of anything, whether one is religious or not. But just from the atomic nature, the psychological nature of life, even if you're living as a hermit in the woods, but you're not in control of the weather. If you're living in society, you're not in control of anyone's reaction and anyone's kind of vibrations around you and on an ultimate level as with the race, can you embrace it? Understanding that you're in this Petri dish of extreme uncertainty at any moment of the day. Can you embrace it with positivity rather than that fear and even insecurity?

Ellen:
And bring yourself back into that moment.

Sanjay:
Yeah. That's exactly why I made a movie about this race that only 14 or 15 people do every year and only a hundred individuals have even attempted. It's not something that I'm necessarily wanting to do it rather it's an allegory. The things that people experience in that race lead to beautiful conversations like the one that we're having of personal transformation through expansion of self, through hacking and enjoying obstacles and to finding a way to really not just be in the moment but revel and enjoy and kind of ecstatically experience moments of exertion, of effort, of progress.

Ellen:
Sanjay, it has been a beautiful conversation. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and I have so many more questions that I could ask you, but I'm conscious of your time now. You are heading out here to Australia are you not?

Sanjay:
Yeah. The movie is going to be re released in theaters from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and a few other places on March 17th and I'll be at all those meetings. And then the film is going to be online I believe around April 2nd.

Ellen:
Wonderful. And I believe you're here also the releases coinciding with the Sri Chinmoy Canberra 48 hour race, is that right?

Sanjay:
Yeah. So in Canberra and people might not even know this, but there's an Australian National Championship for 48 hours. That two day multi-day race and again it's like held in a pedestrian location around the track, but people from all over Australia will be descending on Canberra to see who will be crowned the Australian National Champion in that race. And moreover what sorts of experiences people will get. You don't run these races in isolation even though things like the 3,100 seem like an individual event. And the fact of the matter is you're out on the course with, in the 3,100, 10 other people. In this race dozens of other people and your experience of the race is intimately intertwined with the experience that you have with other people. So it's going to be a great event. I believe it's March 19th, 20th and 21st in Canberra, they're doing a 48 hour race, 24 hours in they're starting a 24 hour race, then they're starting a 12 hour race, a six hour race, a marathon, a half marathon, and a 10,000 meter race. So it's all going to happen on this tract. It's going to kind of be an extravaganza. And by the end of it all, when that final hour hit, there's going to be a bunch of exhausted but happy and elated people all in the same place. So I'm really excited just to be there.

Ellen:
Yeah, absolutely like it. Again, as somebody who hasn't historically had a tremendous interest in running. Certainly our entire conversation, the documentary, even just talking about that event now is really piqued my interest and I am going to go away with that mantra of finding the joy in exertion and see how I could apply that to my own life. Sanjay, thank you again so much for your time, for your thoughtfulness, for your insights. I've loved sharing all of the stories with you and really appreciate it. We will put the links to everything that we've discussed including the screenings of the documentary. I've got a link to the trailer that I can place in the show notes as well. The 48 hour race in Canberra, where people might be able to come and find you and say hello at the screenings and everything else, so that everyone can then a little bit more.

Sanjay:
It was such an honor for me. I'm a Jack of all trades, master of none, but to be able to kind of be in the same space as you, an absolute expert. And feel like what I have to say is even a remote interest to you is really, really humbling and thank you for that experience.

Ellen:
Well, all of my... The entire audience will have learned a huge amount and given us a lot to think about and that's what we always pursue here and I know that its common humanity. We all learn from each other. It's a community exercise, self-growth, and fulfilling our potential. So I'm glad that we've been able to do that for each other today.

Sanjay:
Beautiful. Thank you so much Ellen.

Ellen:
Thank you again. Thank you for sharing that to chat with me, with Sanjay Raway. 3,100 Run and Become hit cinemas in New Zealand this week and Australia next month, that's March. It's also available online now for audiences in the United States and in Canada. So, if you are in the U.S or in Canada, you will find it on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon. For those of us in other parts of the world, we've put a link to the screening dates in the show notes for the episode along with the link to watch the trailer for the movie. If you get a chance to catch the film, take it, not only is it fascinating, but it's really beautifully made as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm quite keen to go see it again when it hits Melbourne later in March this year.

Ellen:
We have also included a link to the Sri Chinmoy Canberra 48 hour race, which Sanjay and I discussed. It's being held at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. If you're interested in getting along to check that out or maybe participate, there are plenty of shorter events if a 48 hour race is just not your speed. You can find out more about Sanjay and his work including his previous films in the show notes as well. All the links and the details are at potential.com.au>/podcast. You'll also find a transcript for this episode of the show there as well. A big thank you to our partners for this episode, PAFOW, People Analytics and The Future of Work. The PAFOW20 Sydney Event is taking place at the Amora Hotel Jamison in Sydney CBD on the 3rd and 4th of March. You'll find all the details and the link to register at pafow.net and also in our show notes and don't forget that discount code that I mentioned in our intro.

Ellen:
It is Syd, S. Y. D200, numerals 200. So who do we have for you next week? Well, we're going to explore the future next week. We're touching on a topic that we have covered here on the show before and that is the future of work or perhaps more importantly, what might work and workplaces look like in the future. My guest is Tess Walton, a shaper of The Future of Work. Tess's passion and expertise is in helping employers to think differently about jobs and employment. So her clients with her help embrace the diversity of age and experience and attitudes as well as ethnicity and gender in our community to kind of package workup differently. So it's a different approach. It's really future-focused, it's good for business, good for people, and good for our community. So tune in next week to discover what work will look like for future generations and what we need to do now to help them to be ready for it and maybe help ourselves as well. That is episode 73 of the Potential Psychology Podcast. I'm looking forward to having you here with me for that conversation with Tess Walton. But in the meantime, go forth, thrive, flourish and fulfill your potential.