IN THIS EPISODE

Mark and Erik talk about why so many successful people meditate and how Vedic meditation differs from other practices. Mark also shares a few techniques to help cultivate present-mind awareness from the comfort of your own desk.

 

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The fulfillment you’re seeking is already inside of you. The mind is drawn towards states of expansion and things that are fulfilling when you meditate.

ABOUT MARK

Mark Price is the Founder of Alchemy Collective. After 20 years as a musical theater performer, Mark discovered Vedic meditation and it turned his life around. He decided to dedicate his life to sharing this knowledge with others.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Erik Gensler: Mark, thank you so much for being here.

Mark Price: Thanks for having me. Nice to see you again.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, you too. I'm really excited to talk about meditation.

Mark Price: Yeah, it's one of my favorite topics.

Erik Gensler: So, you teach Vedic meditation.

Mark Price: I do.

Erik Gensler: I want to understand, I guess from a broader perspective, why is meditating so important?

Mark Price: There's about a million reasons, but I'll kind of distill it into the bullet points. The first one, I would say that most of us are caught up in the pursuit of happiness as opposed to the happiness of pursuit, meaning most of us are looking for whatever external fulfillment, experience, relationship, job promotion, increase in bank account. We often have an idea that those things are actually going to bring us a certain amount of happiness so it creates this … what I call the “I'll be happy when…” syndrome, meaning that most of us—and it's part of the fabric of the American dream—if you work hard enough, you can save enough money and then one day you can enjoy it when you're tired and (laughs) you've worked yourself to death. So, Vedic science states that this idea of happiness, this fulfillment is actually inside. So, what you're actually seeking is already inside of you. So, that sounds kind of lofty, but what it is is the practice of meditation, particularly Vedic meditation, triggers a natural phenomenon, which is the mind always being drawn towards states of expansion, always being drawn towards things which are more fulfilling. And we see this in the micro level, everything from relationships to the food we eat to the experiences that we seek. The mind’s always going to be drawn towards greater states of charm. Charm just means quality of experience or expansion of consciousness. So, the mind and the body and the physiology already has an interesting way to sort of draw towards that supreme inner contentedness and that's where the state of fulfillment actually lies. Most of us are operating from the active layer of thinking. We go from thought to thought to thought to thought to thought, to achievement to achievement, to achievement, to fulfillment to fulfillment, which only lasts for so long. You know, external fulfillment is short-term sustainability and we have proof for that, which is if you ask any Academy Award winner, sportsperson, anyone … if you look at any interview, the first question of the follow-up question from anyone who's interviewing them is usually, “So, what's next?” (laughs) Which indicates that this idea of external fulfillment is good for short term. It's good to have goals. It's good to have drive. It's good to have even ambition. Competition is healthy. Even stress can be somewhat healthy to a certain extent. But external fulfillment … the problem with that is that it depends on the external. So, that's the thing that's crashing a lot of people's computers. That's the reason why we're literally ripping the planet apart, searching for this thing called happiness (laughs) because we're making the mistake of thinking that it's outside. So, hopefully we're at a turning point to where you know, Western science is starting to catch up with a bunch of Indian Rishi's have been saying for over 5,000 years, which is you can't separate mind from body; they're both connected. And when you can have a proper technique, proper teaching, and instruction in a practice of meditation, you will then have a system in place, not only to keep your nervous system clean, but to be self-referral for your happiness, which I think is a huge distinction from constantly trying to fill up on experiences. And that's really how I found the practice, really. I mean, at the time that I learned meditation, I was probably at the height of my success, but I was probably the most miserable and I had done a number of Broadway shows. I was #nailingit in my professional life, but I was pretty, pretty unhappy personally. And I had done a huge amount of what I call “software of the mind,” which is therapy, all sorts of healers, everything, you know … I mean, you name it, I sort of dove in and explored it. But the idea of meditation I was completely resistant to because I tried it before and I hated it and I hated the PR around meditation, you know? I thought it was for people who only could do it if you had memberships in fancy yoga studios with bleached wood floors and sandalwood incense burning in the background and a large collection of crystals. So, I had a negative connotation of what meditation was and I had no idea of this particular style. So, when I found the practice of Vedic meditation, I was not aware of a practice that was practical, meaning I didn't have to be in quiet studios, I didn't have to have dependence on a teacher to guide me through it. It was completely self-sufficient practice, irrespective of mood, environment, noise, teacher, all of those things. And at that time, that's what I was looking for, was more self-sufficiency and that's really what the practice gave me.

Erik Gensler: Mark, thank you so much for being here.

Mark Price: Thanks for having me. Nice to see you again.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, you too. I'm really excited to talk about meditation.

Mark Price: Yeah, it's one of my favorite topics.

Erik Gensler: So, you teach Vedic meditation.

Mark Price: I do.

Erik Gensler: I want to understand, I guess from a broader perspective, why is meditating so important?

Mark Price: There's about a million reasons, but I'll kind of distill it into the bullet points. The first one, I would say that most of us are caught up in the pursuit of happiness as opposed to the happiness of pursuit, meaning most of us are looking for whatever external fulfillment, experience, relationship, job promotion, increase in bank account. We often have an idea that those things are actually going to bring us a certain amount of happiness so it creates this … what I call the “I'll be happy when…” syndrome, meaning that most of us—and it's part of the fabric of the American dream—if you work hard enough, you can save enough money and then one day you can enjoy it when you're tired and (laughs) you've worked yourself to death. So, Vedic science states that this idea of happiness, this fulfillment is actually inside. So, what you're actually seeking is already inside of you. So, that sounds kind of lofty, but what it is is the practice of meditation, particularly Vedic meditation, triggers a natural phenomenon, which is the mind always being drawn towards states of expansion, always being drawn towards things which are more fulfilling. And we see this in the micro level, everything from relationships to the food we eat to the experiences that we seek. The mind’s always going to be drawn towards greater states of charm. Charm just means quality of experience or expansion of consciousness. So, the mind and the body and the physiology already has an interesting way to sort of draw towards that supreme inner contentedness and that's where the state of fulfillment actually lies. Most of us are operating from the active layer of thinking. We go from thought to thought to thought to thought to thought, to achievement to achievement, to achievement, to fulfillment to fulfillment, which only lasts for so long. You know, external fulfillment is short-term sustainability and we have proof for that, which is if you ask any Academy Award winner, sportsperson, anyone … if you look at any interview, the first question of the follow-up question from anyone who's interviewing them is usually, “So, what's next?” (laughs) Which indicates that this idea of external fulfillment is good for short term. It's good to have goals. It's good to have drive. It's good to have even ambition. Competition is healthy. Even stress can be somewhat healthy to a certain extent. But external fulfillment … the problem with that is that it depends on the external. So, that's the thing that's crashing a lot of people's computers. That's the reason why we're literally ripping the planet apart, searching for this thing called happiness (laughs) because we're making the mistake of thinking that it's outside. So, hopefully we're at a turning point to where you know, Western science is starting to catch up with a bunch of Indian Rishi's have been saying for over 5,000 years, which is you can't separate mind from body; they're both connected. And when you can have a proper technique, proper teaching, and instruction in a practice of meditation, you will then have a system in place, not only to keep your nervous system clean, but to be self-referral for your happiness, which I think is a huge distinction from constantly trying to fill up on experiences. And that's really how I found the practice, really. I mean, at the time that I learned meditation, I was probably at the height of my success, but I was probably the most miserable and I had done a number of Broadway shows. I was #nailingit in my professional life, but I was pretty, pretty unhappy personally. And I had done a huge amount of what I call “software of the mind,” which is therapy, all sorts of healers, everything, you know … I mean, you name it, I sort of dove in and explored it. But the idea of meditation I was completely resistant to because I tried it before and I hated it and I hated the PR around meditation, you know? I thought it was for people who only could do it if you had memberships in fancy yoga studios with bleached wood floors and sandalwood incense burning in the background and a large collection of crystals. So, I had a negative connotation of what meditation was and I had no idea of this particular style. So, when I found the practice of Vedic meditation, I was not aware of a practice that was practical, meaning I didn't have to be in quiet studios, I didn't have to have dependence on a teacher to guide me through it. It was completely self-sufficient practice, irrespective of mood, environment, noise, teacher, all of those things. And at that time, that's what I was looking for, was more self-sufficiency and that's really what the practice gave me.

Erik Gensler: So, what is Vedic meditation? What makes it different than what I get on Headspace or just sitting in front of the ocean watching the waves and tuning out into nature. What's different about Vedic meditation?

Mark Price: Mm, couple of things. You mentioned the idea of tuning out into nature, sitting in front of some waves, for instance. That's an interesting phenomenon because we can have moments of what's called “transcendence,” of going beyond the realm of the active mind. We can have that in sports performance. We can have that in moments in nature. But the practice of Vedic meditation is a transcending technique. It's a self-induced transcending technique. So, what it does is it uses a mantra, which is a primordial sound. It has no intended meaning or definition and it works by the sound quality. So, the mind is going to be inherently charmed by this. It's going to have a particular effect on the nervous system, on the physiology. And the whole purpose of the mantra is to draw the mind towards quieter states of being, the most subtle layer of thinking that we can access. So, once that happens, once it draws the mind down, the body starts to follow with it because body and mind are connected. Once that happens, the body experiences rest that’s significantly deeper than regular sleep. And that's the thing that separates it from other practices. It's an experience of inner restfulness and alertness at the same time. So, we're experiencing a deep quality of sleep, sometimes significantly—three to five times—deeper than regular sleep and once the body experiences that quality of sleep, that's the thing that triggers the body's natural phenomenon of healing itself, an experience of purification. And what that does is it starts to dissolve neurochemicals that have been stored from memories, impressions, past stresses that have been recorded in the physiology that are known-

Erik Gensler: All that stuff that's swimming in everyone's head right now.

Mark Price: Yeah, a hundred percent. And that's the thing that's clouding our ability to perform better. That's literally the barrier between where we want to be and where we are because stress literally clouds the senses. We have an idea that stress has to do with the mind. Stress has to do with stressful thoughts. People say … when you talk about stress, people are usually quick to say, “Well, my stress is my job, my child, my partner, my three mortgages, my job,” whatever the case may be. Those are all demands, though. And if you pull back the lens—you have a way to pull back the lens—you can really see where you want to place your attention and your time, which are is our two most valuable assets today. You know, we-

Erik Gensler: And they’re short-lived.

Mark Price: They're short lived.

Erik Gensler: We don't have that much of them. (laughs)

Mark Price: No, I mean we're … The world that we live in today, there's, you know, we live in an attention economy. Everyone is demanding your attention. So, it's the whole idea of, like, time management. There is no such thing as time management. There's only awareness management. I wouldn't even say, “attention management” because everyone's vying for your attention, from your smartphones to the subway ads to … you know, wherever you go, your attention … There are companies that have been spending billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars to figure out how to garner your attention so that they can market it to other people. And once people really start to realize that, then they actually place value on that. But right now, I feel like it's a really interesting time because, you know, we're starting to see the effects of hyperstimulation of the nervous system. Couple months ago, there was an article in the Times that came out that said that the US is the most stressed-out country in the world. That's bonkers when you really think about that. You think about war-torn countries and to me, that's, like, that's hardcore stress, but if you look at the American culture and politics and where we are and what we place value on, of course we're the most stressed-out because we're constantly fixating on how to control or maneuver external situations. Now, I'm not saying that we should develop “ostrich syndrome” and just stick our head in the sand and not do anything, but what's being called for us today is more dynamic action and not just action in general. And the way I differentiate the two is dynamic action is action that is for the purpose of evolutionary response, versus just regular action is usually reaction. A perfect case example of this is the example of the interviewer on Good Morning America or whatever, who is talking about making some sort of a derogatory tone about-

Erik Gensler: About men dancing?

Mark Price: Yeah, about men taking ballet. And the first 24 hours, you saw some pretty visceral responses from a lot of people, a lot of, you know, professionals. And then, you had a response from the wife of Gene Kelly, who was just this eloquent, brilliant response. And, you know, the response from Travis Wall … those responses, they came, like … they weren't completely reactive, but they came a little delayed. But the power of that action was a hundred percent evolutionary. From that, it triggered this whole catalyst and she issued an apology and that's evolution. That's evolution. And I think technology and particularly social media—which is not social by the way (laughs)—it can be a powerful connector. It can be a powerful tool. I mean, we're having this brilliant conversation today, but how many people use it for the purpose of evolutionary purposes?

Erik Gensler: Well, it separates when the Greeks used to stand at the temple, talking about ideas. Now, things are shut down by 140 characters of clapback culture, which is not-

Mark Price: Yes.

Erik Gensler: … which is not coming to any conclusion. You’re not coming to that together. You're going at people.

Mark Price: Yes, and You bring up an interesting point, which is, if you look at where we've been, the industrial age, the age of information, the economy of attention, I feel like the age that we're moving towards is the age of perspective. People are going to place more and more weight and invest more in people who are able to make unexpected connections, to have certain perspectives about things that are going to give insight because we have information available to us whenever we want at our fingertips. It's crazy. But what we don’t have is a lot of enlightened or intelligent perspectives about things and I think that's going to be a something that we're moving into. And the only way to do that is to cultivate more silence, to cultivate more stillness. And silence and stillness doesn't necessarily mean completely soundproof rooms, it just means you minus inputs.

Erik Gensler: Right.

Mark Price: You minus listening to a podcast or reading an interview or watching a television program or reading a book. You actually sitting alone and being okay with your thoughts.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, and that's enough. That's a thing I've been thinking about a lot lately. America would tell you, or the broader culture would tell you, you have to be achieving, you have to be reading, you have to be bettering yourself. You have to be going to the gym. You have to be doing work. You have to be doing something where … No, you're just enough, just there, just you.

Mark Price: A hundred percent. And the external collective will whip you with their disapproval by going against that because everything out there is promoting just the opposite. You know, we view stillness as a form of laziness. If you're not hustling hard for you to make your dream a reality, then you’re not working hard enough.

Erik Gensler: Right.

Mark Price: But what people don't take into account is that from this stillness, you're able to make those unexpected connections.

Erik Gensler: Totally, yeah. It's like why you have the great decisions in the shower, because you're letting yourself …

Mark Price: A hundred percent. I hear that from students all the time. You know, they’ll say, “I'm having all these amazing cognitions in my meditation time. Should I be writing them down, you know?” And the general rule of thumb is that if you remember it after your meditation, it's usually worthy of taking action on. It's interesting cause Tim Ferriss did a research. He interviewed some of the top performers in their fields, their respected fields, and he found that 90% of them meditate.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, I remember that.

Mark Price: That was one of the secret to their success. So, it's great. I mean it's amazing. Back when I was meditating—I've been meditating for over eleven years—back when I first learned to meditate, I would classify myself as a closet meditator. I mean, sometimes I would meditate in closets because meditation had such horrible PR back then. But now, there's so many people that either meditate or someone you know, meditates and that presents a different challenge because now there's a lot of noise around meditation. You know, there is an interesting study that was done with the percentage of people who download apps like Headspace and other meditation apps, versus the people who have a consistent practice. It was a huge, huge difference between the two. So, it's great that people know a lot more about meditation. Now, what they need is proper teaching,

Erik Gensler: Right. So, I'm hoping you can spend a little time giving us a small lesson or perhaps guiding us through brief meditation together so we can get a sense of what Vedic meditation is like.

Mark Price: Sure. I can give you some tools to apply. To do the experience of Vedic meditation, I would have to put you through the four-day course, which sounds a little bit cult-y, but it's really not. It's just that it involves a proper instruction and sort of deconstructing what our notion of effort is. And that's one of … that's why the course is spread out over four consecutive sessions, 90 minutes each. But I can certainly give tools to help have an experience outside of the realm of the thinking mind. And that's the thing, you know, going back to your initial question, what separates Vedic meditation from other practices? That's essentially it. A lot of other practices like mindfulness practices, while they're fantastic, it's more of a waking-state practice. You're still staying within the realm of the layer of the mind that's keeping you towards the surface. You may have moments where you transcend, but it's a waking-state practice. You're using a certain degree of concentration or effort and the whole notion of Vedic meditation is built on the exact opposite, of embracing this idea of effortlessness because the body already knows how to heal itself. It's infinitely more knowledgeable than the intellectual mind. So, what it is, it’s a technique to trigger the body's natural phenomenon. So, the first thing that I can do is recommend a breathing technique. This is perfect for people who work long hours, people who work in offices. The interesting thing about breath is when we are caught in limbic system or brainstem functioning, which is where fight-or-flight is housed, we can't think our way back to the prefrontal cortex, which is where reasoning, logic, all our best thinking is. When your second fight-or-flight syndrome, you're just stuck in the brainstem.

Erik Gensler: We’ve all been there (laughs).

Mark Price: Yeah, good luck trying to think your way back to a better solution. But interestingly enough, again, it just blows my mind how infinitely intelligent the body is. The breath is actually the only way to sort of reconnect back to the prefrontal cortex. So, simple breathing exercise, so simple. And it's always a simple stuff that people take for granted (laughs). You know, it's all … that's why we never do these things because we don't understand the true value of them, but breathing is essential and incredibly powerful. So, a simple breathing technique is just being able to inhale for five, hold for two, and exhale for seven. So, extending the exhale much longer than the inhale is going to help calm the nervous system, help reconnect functioning of the brain's left and right hemispheres, help oxygenate the heart, blood, and lungs and reconnect back to the prefrontal cortex. Inhaling through the nose: five, four, three, two and hold; and exhale through the mouth: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Simple, easy-breezy. If you did five rounds of that in the morning, first thing in the morning, pre-inputs before you reach for your phone, before you start responding to texts or emails, it's a brilliant way to set up the day. It's a brilliant way to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, activate that, really calm the nervous system, and it's a great way to create before inputs.

Erik Gensler: That one breath made me feel different.

Mark Price: It always does.

Erik Gensler: Yeah, can you do it laying in bed?

Mark Price: You can do it laying in bed. You can do it on the subway. You can do it while a boss is screaming in your face.

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Mark Price: You know? Like, they don't even have to know that you're doing a breathing technique (laughs)-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Mark Price: … and it just provides access to more intelligent ways to respond and having access to more clarity. The other technique that I can try with you guys is something called “come to your senses.” It’s super easy. It's based on the idea that often when the nervous system becomes hyper-stimulated, when we are … we have long days at work. We have a lot of demands. Oftentimes, we're caught up in speculation. We're caught up in rumination about what should be happening. Interesting thing about that, with thoughts, we have like 60-90,000 thoughts per day. Most of that, like 95% of that, is unoriginal content-

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Mark Price: … meaning that most of us spend our time thinking about thoughts about hypothesizing what's going to happen in the future or coming through the past looking for meaning or significance, but Vedic science states that our happiness, our fulfillment, is in the here-and-now and when we can actually get present, we can get out of speculation because I have a teacher, a fellow colleague, who says that speculation can only and always lead to suffering. So, the minute we're caught up in the brain-

Erik Gensler: Yeah, yeah. Totally.

Mark Price: … trying to like figure stuff out, it only always leads to suffering. We're not that magical. We can't control things. (laughs)

Erik Gensler: Deepak Chopra says, “You have two brains, like, your true self and then this other part of your brain that's constantly doing that, the questioning, the asking, the pinging around the-

Mark Price: Yeah.

Erik Gensler: … “almost the neurotic one that's always questioning.” If you can just like silence that one and be with your true self. It's really helpful to me to see those sort of two images, like, which one’s really me and which one is that other part that's not helpful?

Mark Price: Well, you mentioned a really key word is-

Erik Gensler: Deepak Chopra? (laughs)

Mark Price: (laughs) Well, the ability to see, right?

Erik Gensler: Yeah.

Mark Price: The ability to step in between a stimulus and response, the ability to observe without reacting, and that's really, that's it in a nutshell. You know, the beautiful thing about having a sustained meditation practice … and again, the other reason why I love the practice that I do is it’s twenty minutes, twice a day. So, the easiest … probably the simplest, easiest practice you will ever do-

Erik Gensler: That’s a lot of time. (laughs)

Mark Price: Nope, not really. If I asked you to log all of your time, to log the time that you spend on social media, to log the time that you watched Netflix, to log the time that you are making stupid texts or playing Candy Crush or whatever, I guarantee you would find triple that the amount of time and that's the first thing I do when I come across students who are like, “I don't think I have time to meditate.” Going back to that, the study that Tim Ferris did, the reason why 90% of the people that he interviewed meditate, I posit, is because meditation actually gives you back time. You know, if we're talking about hyperstimulation of the nervous system, what happens around four o'clock each workday is that we just start responding to every single demand with the equal amount of importance. So, what meditation does, it helps pull back the lens on our time and attention, our two most valuable assets, and really prioritize what do we want to do versus what do we feel like we have to do? Most of us are responding to what we feel like we have to do versus having agency and that's what meditation does, is it gives us agency back in in the picture. So, a lot of people … And interestingly enough, the people who I teach who are high-achievers, high-demand jobs, the people who really don't have time to meditate—I mean when I look at their schedules and I'm like, “Okay, this is going to be interesting, but we're going to make it work”—those other people who never miss a session because they understand that fundamental principle, which is meditation allows us to do less and to accomplish more. It allows us to do deep work, as opposed to just busy work that's preventing us from doing the deep work that we want to do.

Erik Gensler: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Could you talk a little bit more about that moment between … what are the two things you said? The moment between-

Mark Price: Stimulus and response? Absolutely. We all can recall examples or experiences where you just get triggered, you know? And all of a sudden you find yourself responding in that moment and while you're responding, while you're, like, screaming or while you're, like, raising your voice and sayings that the words are coming out of your mouth and as they're happening, there's that calm part in the back of your mind that almost, like, observing you freak the F out and watching you and thinking, like, “Why are you doing that? Why? Oh man, you really went there, didn't you? Like, you really, you went to like zero to a hundred in 2.5 seconds. And it's interesting, we all know at least one person who's like a drama king or queen, someone who seems to have a really brilliant talent for manifesting all sorts of really crappy experiences for themselves. And you know, I don't think that's a personality problem. I think it’s physiology problem because when the nervous system is hyper-stimulated for prolonged periods of time, what's happening is that cellular memory is steeped in cortisol and adrenaline and so, what happens if it's steeped in that chemistry for prolonged periods of time, guess what's going to happen? It's going to start seeking more and more of that. So, that's why people who have high-demand jobs or are exposed to stress for prolonged periods of time or they're exposed to fight-or-flight for prolonged periods of time, the body, the physiology, is the thing that starts to dictate the mind. So, if you have a stressed out body, you're going to have stressed-out thoughts. And so ,when we start reversing that again, the only way to reverse the effects of the hyper-stimulated nervous system is rest is deep breaths. That is the only way. We can't drink stress away. We can't go to Hawaii to get rid of stress. We can't have a series of one-night stands to get rid of stress. We can't do Amazon shopping every night to get rid of stress. Like, stress is cellular, it's chemical, it is recorded. It's imprint. There are neurochemicals that are recording that to a cellular degree. So, when we talk about stress, it's not necessarily a problem of the mind, it’s a problem in the physiology. So, when we meditate, we're clearing out that stress on a deep, cellular level. So, when we actually have an upgrade in the physiology, which I call the hard-drive, then we start being able to have access to better thoughts, which is the software, you know? We start having a better quality of thoughts which are going to lead to better quality of experiences. So, in those moments, because we've had moments of accessing our least-excited state during meditation, because we've had moments of access of going beyond the mind so that we can identify with something other than our stresses and worries and anxieties, because we have that experience, that experience starts to trickle down into waking state. And then, what happens is, the inner experience and the outer experience start to become stabilized over time so that when you have those situations where a boss is screaming in your face or your two-and-a-half-year-old is, like, hitting you or screaming like I'm going through right now with my-

Erik Gensler: I was going to say, that sounds really personal.

Mark Price: Yup. We're going through the terrible twos right now. And it's so interesting too, like, even being a parent is a totally different conversation, but the sole job right now is not to react. It's creating boundaries, helping create the environment so that the child can have agency and learn that themselves. So, not responding is key. #goodluck.

Erik Gensler: Yeah (laughs).

Mark Price: But once we start meditating, we start being able to have a little bit of window, like, a little bit of agency, between the initial trigger between when that thing happens, you know, you kid punches you or, you know, screams at the top of their lungs or a boss, you know, comes in your office and says, “Oh yeah, that deadline. I actually need it, like, in two hours,” whatever that trigger is, we can recognize there's a part of us that we're cultivating is the observer, the witness, so that we have awareness of the trigger as it's being triggered in real time and that gives us agency in how we'd like to respond. And that window gets bigger and bigger and bigger and maybe like two seconds, for someone who's been meditating for six weeks, maybe three months, it's, like, fifteen seconds, you know, or whatever. Just the awareness of that expands and grows over time.

Erik Gensler: Awesome. Were there any other exercises that we could do?

Mark Price: Yes. So, we'll do … going back to “come to your senses” and getting present. You can do this exercise eyes-closed, eyes open. You can do it on the train. I do this often while I'm going about if I have a busy day, just getting present. So, it looks something like this. So, ideally, you want to be seated comfortably and ideally, for purposes of maximizing the exercise for where we are today, we'll just get comfortable feeling back-supported and you can gently close the eyes. And the exercise sounds exactly like what it is. So, going through each of the five senses, starting with tactile sensation, so bringing the awareness inward and noticing the distinction between the largest sensation and the faintest sensation. Tactile sensation. So, maybe for the body, the largest sensation, it might be fatigue. It might be a knot of stress in the shoulders. And then maybe the faintest sensation might be feeling digestion, a little bit of lunch. Largest to faintest. Then, moving to sense of taste. Largest to faintest. Maybe the largest is coffee or tea. Maybe faintest is toothpaste or a breath mint, if you've just had lunch. Largest to faintest. Sense of smell. Maybe largest is the building that you're in. Maybe faintest is detergent or cologne. Moving from largest to faintest. Sense of sight, whether the eyes are open or whether they're closed … if they're closed, noticing a what shape, what image, might be a texture. Might be a color outline of something that you saw before you close the eyes. Largest to faintest. And then sense of sound, which is our strongest sense. Maybe the largest is hearing other people outside. Maybe the faintest is sound of footsteps in the hall or maybe an air conditioning unit above you. Largest to faintest. Then, on the next breath, see if you can fire up all five senses. Feel what you're feeling, taste what you're tasting, smell what you're smelling, see what you're seeing, and hear what you're hearing. Inhale (breathes) exhale through the mouth. One more time. Inhale (breathes), exhale through the mouth. And when you're ready, you can open the eyes. So by waking up all five senses, what we're doing is we're activating our sixth sense, which is present-moment awareness is only to the present moment that we can access our fulfillment, our happiness. So, it's a great way to sort of disconnect from speculation and rumination. And you've probably already noticed, like, even opening the eyes, maybe the room seems a little brighter, a little more clearer.

Erik Gensler: Totally, and I feel a sense of euphoria.

Mark Price: Beautiful.

Erik Gensler: And the small headache I had before I went away.

Mark Price: Oh, nice! (laughs) Well done.

Erik Gensler: (laughs) Without any medicine.

Mark Price: Yeah. Without any medicine. Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, that's a very user-friendly exercise that you can do in the office, you can do walking down the street, you know … just don't close your eyes while you're walking (laughs).

Erik Gensler: (laughs)

Mark Price: Just getting back into the body.

Erik Gensler: The now, the present, what is.

Mark Price: That's right, that's right. So many teachers are cultivating awareness of just that. And going back to what we were talking about before, the world outside tells you everything opposite of that. We have to be prepared. We have to line up our ducks in a row. As one of my colleagues would say, “There are no ducks and they don't line up in a row.” (laughs)

Erik Gensler: Yeah, good luck.

Mark Price: Yeah, exactly. So, what we're doing when we access that present-moment awareness is, we're aligning ourselves with the natural flow of intelligence. There is a larger body of intelligence that is orchestrating all of this. Not to go down the rabbit hole too deep, but I would be more than happy to. But that really is the whole basis of Vedic meditation and Ayurvedic philosophy, is helping strengthen the mind-body connection and help aligning oneself to the natural flow of intelligence, alternating deep rest with dynamic action and cultivating more present-moment awareness so that we can pick up those cues for what the next right action is more easily and more clearly, without hesitation, without having to think about it for two hours before we make a decision about what action we want to take.

Erik Gensler: I think I want to turn to our last question. So, the last question is your “CI to Eye moment” and the question is, if you can broadcast to the executive directors, leadership team, staff, and board of a thousand arts organizations, what advice would you provide to help them improve their businesses?

Mark Price: I would say, clean up your nervous system and clean up own backyard. Innovation comes from you. It doesn't matter what you say is the experience is the embodiment of what you represent. It is not a matter of a series of guidelines or a series of methodologies. It's what kind of culture are you promoting? And that starts with you. It starts with the experience from the janitors, from the VPs, to the people who are higher-ups. It's how you are fostering connection, how you are fostering relationship, and more importantly, it stems from, how are you cultivating and fostering that relationship with yourself? If you have healthy relationship to self, capital S that is … there is no way that that cannnot have a trickle-down effect. So, it's a powerful way to, embrace embodied leadership.

Erik Gensler: That's right. Gotta put your own seatbelt on first, right?

Mark Price: Hundred percent.

Erik Gensler: Mark, thank you so much. This was wonderful.

Mark Price: Thank you.