During his recent visit to London, Prem was interviewed
by Tony Wrighton, host of Zestology, about the
launch of his new book, Peace Is Possible.
Zestology is a popular podcast focused on
wellbeing and life optimization.
The show features some of the world’s most
respected and well-known experts in health,
medicine, science, and wellness.
Prem, great to see you. We are recording. How are you? [Prem: I’m good; how are you, Tony?] Very good thanks, yeah. Your schedule is pretty mad over the next few days, isn’t it? I know you’re doing an event in Manchester, and you’re doing loads of interviews today.
I thought that one of the interesting things that we could do is to start off by kind of introducing you to Zestology listeners a little bit, for people who have heard about you, but also people who haven’t. [Prem: Sure.] And then, go with some of the work that you’ve done in your life.
And then I’m reading the book at the moment and I’m really enjoying it, and I thought we could look at a couple of the stories in the book. And I need to ask you some questions about the stories as well. [Prem: Yeah, yeah, sure.]
So, let’s start with you, then. When you meet someone at a dinner party and they say, “What do you do,” how do you answer?
Well, “I talk about peace.” And that’s been my endeavor since I was nine years of age; I’ve been talking to people about peace, because I think that’s an important ingredient that we’re missing.
You know, there’s nothing in the world that sets us up to really recognize ourselves, who we are. Socrates talked about this: “Know thyself.” And yet, what is there in this world—once in a while you might come across Socrates, and only by mistake.
And then, what is the value of that, you know? What reflects in our social media; what reflects in our world that we go about every single day that says, “Oh, by the way, you—did you, today, know yourself; do you know yourself today? Do you understand who you are?”
“Do you”—you see the whole world in a way that you have been trained to see: “Yeah, I’ve got to wear clothes; I’ve got to wear this kind of clothing; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to do that; I’ve got to take this with me; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to contact this person.” But what about contacting you, you as a human being?
And a lot of times we say, “Okay, why is my world so strange sometimes?” Well, but could it be that you’re looking at a map, and you’re saying, “Well, the map is good. [Tony: Hmmm!] I love the map. And I’ve got where I want to be on this map marked in a big X!”
But the big question is, “Where are you on the map?” Because if you don’t know where you are in the map, that map is useless to you. Because how are you going to plan your navigation to where you want to be? So, everybody is going around on their map marking the X’s, “I want to be here; I want to be here; I want to be here!” But where are you? And who are you?
And so this is the message, because I think that that can profoundly change the world. Because I see that change happen in peoples’ lives, people who are in prisons, people who are in a job like a police officer, where they are just, every minute, really getting hammered by people who are not behaving themselves.
And just imagine the viewpoint that they have. They’re seeing the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst—and every day, every day.
And yet, there is some goodness in this humanity—and each one of us. And we have to do something to bring it out. We have created a society in which, literally, the worst of us comes out without a problem, but we haven’t really created a society in which the best of us comes out.
I wonder—I’m interested in knowing your perspective on distraction, and distraction in this particular moment in time. Obviously, your beginnings and your upbringing were of a very different culture and a different time as well.
And I feel like distraction is—it’s just worse than ever at the moment, isn’t it? And the technology has a lot to blame for that. And because of that, it’s actually harder to get those reminders—because you’re not with that, kind of, peace and quiet around you. [Prem: And, yeah.]
What’s your perspective on distraction, technology, and how we, kind of, almost take our minds away from those natural reminders that might bring us back to the straight and narrow?
Yeah, that was a great question—because I was asked this question about four months ago, five months ago: “With all this social media and all these crazy things in this world, you know, people are more distracted now than ever,” and da-da-da-da.
So I started thinking about it. At first I agreed with it, and it was, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, and you know, we, we need to be centered in ourselves.”
Then I started thinking, “Wait a minute! Buddha talks about ‘Don’t be distracted! Your mind wanders.’ Kabir—incredible poet—he goes, ‘We are constantly wandering with our mind in the three worlds. Sometimes we think about the gods; sometimes we think about people who are on the same level as us, and sometimes we are wondering about all the demons and everything else.’”
Ah, but, why are they talking about that we are distracted? They didn’t have cell phones then. [Tony: Umm-hmm.] They didn’t have all this technology then. Then I realized it is the human nature to get distracted. And what is distraction? Distraction is not distraction; it is being attracted to something else.
So, because it’s about attraction to something else, we get attracted very easily. You know, we are monkeys—somewhere in there—and so something shiny starts to shine, and we start looking at that instead of the road. And, you know, I see that all the time! People are driving, and their one hand is not eating a hamburger, but doing their text message.
Oh, that’s terrifying, yeah.
It’s terrifying. But they do it. And if you were to stop that person, pull them out, and say, “You know what you were doing is really dangerous?” they will agree with you. But they’ll do it again.
So, to me, it really becomes important to understand that we are going to be distracted, and it is not just the technology that’s doing it. This has been going on since the time of Buddha; this has been going on since the time of Kabir. And it’s the same situation—and this is history, by the way, and it’ll repeat itself again and again and again.
And even though there are a lot of people who are saying, “You know, these things are really not very good!”
And we really need to tone down the technology in a way where human beings can function as a human being, because human beings are being changed in that way. But that’s history too! We’ve been changed; we’ve been changed; we have been changed.
There was a time when the first car started to be on the streets, and people said, “That will never work. It’ll never happen, because the horses are so much better.” Well, it changed; it changed; it changed. Now we can’t even imagine it.
Even though the idea was we would get to places quicker, it doesn’t quite pan out in cities. And the traffic jam is worse; you can watch people on foot walking much faster than you, and arriving at their destination before you do. [Tony: Ummm!]
So, we never ever look at these things and say, “Is this actually working for me? Or not working for me?” We don’t do that. And we need to be reminded, “Hey! What does your report card say for today?” You’ve come home—say it’s seven o’clock in the evening. Do you have a report card? “What happened today?” We don’t! And yet we want a fulfilled life!
Well, unless you’re taking some cognizance of what really happened today, it’s like a car without a speedometer. Well, you will never know how fast you are going. A car with no temperature gauge; you don’t know how hot it’s running.
What is your gauge—at seven o’clock in the evening that says, “You did well”—or, “No, you didn’t do so well”?
Is that something you’d encourage people to do? Actually, maybe not write a report card at the end of every day, but perhaps sit down and take a couple of moments to say, “Oh, okay, well, what have I done well, which I know normally works?”
Exactly! “Did I—did I spend time with my family? Did I listen to them?” What happened to our listening power; do we listen to each other? No! You have something to say? That’s it! So far you get to say it, you don’t have to listen. And it’s the other person’s problem if they don’t listen, you know? And, that can’t be.
“What did I do—what did I do for me? What did I do for this humanity; what did I do for my family? What did I do that I would love to do again tomorrow? What did I do today that I can wholeheartedly look forward to doing tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that?”
So, where is the gauge? We don’t have a gauge. And then it’s like, okay, you’re—you know, at the end of the day, “Oh my God, I am bushed; I’m tired; I just need to go to sleep.” And then hopefully we’ve got our alarm clock set, and then pull the cover over our head and it’s like, “Yeah, off I go.” But life can’t be like that.
I mean, you talk about reminders. And it’s occurred to me, reading your book, actually, it’s like a series of little vignettes, little small little stories, and kind of tasters of your life and thoughts. And they are like little reminders; you could pick it up when you want that little bit of inspiration. And some of the stories, some of the chapters are very short.
What is perhaps one of your favorite parts of the book? I mean that I mentioned the parrot story which I liked, and I really liked the chapter about coconuts. [Prem: And, yeah?] I really like coconut, and I eat “coconut everything,” so that’s why I liked that. [Prem: Yeah.]
But, what is something that kind of stands out to you in the book? That kind of resonates with people and resonates with you?
“Whatever you practice most, you get good at it.” And if that’s the way things are—because that’s how it happens! We, whatever we practice the most, we get good at it.
And so, look around in your life: how long does it take you to get upset? So, is that what you’re practicing, getting upset? You know? And how long does it take you to just relax? Well, it’s like, “Huh-uh, breathe deeply; sit down....”
But getting angry? Getting mad? You don’t need to sit down to get mad. You don’t need to breathe deeply to get mad. You can get mad just like that. So we’re practicing that. You’ve got to break the bad habits. If you don’t break the bad habits in your life, those will perpetuate, and they will shape your life and your future.
Yeah. I mean, I feel very zen in your company. But do you have any bad habits?
Oh, everybody has bad habits. Everybody has bad habits, and that’s why we need to live our lives consciously.
I didn’t call home yesterday. I was busy; I was coming here. I have an excuse. [Tony: Umm-hmm!] I have an excuse. And so sometimes we get really good at making excuses, and we practice that more than doing what we should have done.
This is what’s important. And I’ve been working on another book. And so, reading that book started to change me—I mean, for the good. I mean, it was like, “Wait a minute; wait a minute, you know, you’ve got to take charge of your life. This is your life!”
Why have you relegated who you are, and what you have to do, to everybody else? Your life is dependent on all these people, but not on you. So where is your strength? Well, is this pillar just shaking with everything, or is it standing firm? Because if it doesn’t, whatever is dependent on this pillar is also going to fall down when this pillar falls down.
And we know that. But in my life, I need, I need to be reminded. And I need to perpetuate good things.
You know, if I was to come onstage—and I make this point very clear—if I say “I’ve already done all of this,” at that point you’re talking to a gorilla. But, because I have to understand that I too have to make the same effort that I am asking other people to make, it makes me relevant. [Tony: Umm!]
There are people who come and who say that “Yes, I have attained the supreme state of being.” [Tony: Yeah.] Well, very hard to talk to—and very hard. And yeah, well, they haven’t, but they’re very hard to talk to. [Tony: Yeah.]
Because there’s a curtain drawn: “It’s done; it’s over! You are not like me and I’m not like you, and so don’t talk to me.” [Tony: Yeah.] No, for me, it’s the other way. I’m just like you, and you’re just like me. And so what I say can be relevant to you, and what you say can be relevant to me.
Yeah, there’s a great charm in listening to people and following people who kind of admit their frailties. I think Brits are often quite good at doing that. We’re good at putting ourselves down—but in a very self-deprecating way.
So this podcast is about energy and vitality, and there are a couple of questions that I ask people every time. And one is, “What is one recommendation that you would have for people to live their lives with more energy and more vitality?”
For energy and vitality, as long as you’re doing what you were made to do, your body will take care of you. You see, and this we forget: the first doctor is our body. The first lab is our body. It’s constantly performing chemical tests saying, “This is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is correct; this is not right.”
So, even before you see another doctor, you’ve got a doctor built in. And if this doctor is not working right, you’ve got a big problem, because the other doctors have to work with this doctor. This is the doctor that’s going to do all the healing for you. [Tony: Ummm!]
So, if things are correct—you know where you are on that map; you know where you want to go on that map; there’s a routing that’s clear—vitality will be there; enthusiasm will be there. You don’t need the alarm clock; you’ll wake up. Because you’re just so excited about the day.
You know, remember when you were young? It was your birthday or it was Christmas, or something special? And you just couldn’t fall asleep, much less anything else. And you woke up, bam! And there it was.
Well, start collecting things that make sense to you, start collecting things that you’re enthusiastic about, start collecting things that you like in your life—and vitality will follow.
Yeah. Well, Prem, look, it’s been a real privilege and a pleasure to talk to you. I feel like I’ve had a load of little reminders. [Prem: Good to meet you.] And good luck with the book, and good luck with the bigger global message for peace, which is obviously such an important one. [Prem: Thank you, Tony. Thank you.]
And yeah, thanks for all you do. [Prem: Thank you.]