Close this search box.


How to Lead an Inspired Life

Link to the Episode

Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. Hi, Puja. How are you?

Pamela ‘Puja’ Kirpalani : Hi, how are you?

AB: I’m very good. Thank you for being here today and welcome to this chat. I was telling you what I’ve heard over the years from a lot of people is that— there’s something missing in our lives. Someone would say, oh, I feel like I don’t have inner peace. Someone else would say, I can’t put my finger on what it is. So, it’s not just something that’s happened in lockdown, but even before. And when I saw the title of Puja’s book and then I explored it a little more, I thought it was really interesting because her book is called – Whole: 11 Universal Truths for an Inspired Life. And she’s also an NLP [Neuro-Linguistic Programming] practitioner, and she’s coached individuals, she’s coached couples, she’s worked with parents and kids. So, I just thought this would be a really really interesting chat because you can have everything in the world and you can still feel like something’s not right. So, Puja, welcome again to the chat.

PPK: Thank you. So lovely to be here. And I’m so excited to speak to you today. Anshu, thank you for that wonderful introduction.

AB: You’re welcome. So tell me, what is wellness to you?

PPK: Okay, this is a good question because I actually used to think wellness was just about emotional wellness. I was always looking at it from a spiritual perspective. But I think now, as the years have gone by, I kind of have a four-dimensional view of wellness. And I realized now that it’s all about the balance between a number of factors. And I would say that the four key ones are the physical, which is health and exercise, and the movement of the body. Secondly, I would definitely say it’s nutritional because that plays such a large role on our mental well-being. The spiritual element of it as well, definitely. And the emotional, so the expression of emotions is also really important when it comes to wellness. So, I think the integration and the balance of these four factors for me personally, is how I look at wellness now as opposed to being very much focused on just spiritual wellness. Now, as I get older, I realize that it’s a combination of these four.

AB: Really well put because we have been given this body and we have to look after it to achieve whatever it is that we want to achieve, even spiritually. So, that’s really well put. Now I’m going to dive into writing. I read your book and you talk about you having these lovely chapters about these 11 virtues. Tell me, how do you think one can lead an inspired life?

PPK: The book came about just because I had so much content and I was just aching to get it out there and whole…

AB: I know the feeling when you’re aching to get it out. Exactly.

PPK: Yeah. And I actually didn’t even see it materializing the way that it did. I could never in my, I don’t know, million years expect it to be out and on Amazon and even now I have to pinch myself. But the book came about because I started getting this realization that there was so much that I was placing emphasis on in terms of the outside world and the external world and validation, and I wasn’t placing enough emphasis on myself and the internal virtues that I needed to work on and focus on. All of us as human beings, we have this palpable sense of wholeness. We crave that wholeness of being. It’s like a spiritual thirst that we have to feel that permanent sense of happiness. And as opposed to running on that hedonistic treadmill of attaining things and becoming more dependent on the external world, I wanted to focus the book more on the 11 virtues, the really essential virtues of living a wholesome life. And so I created this book as a toolbox for people to help them because I suffered a lot from anxiety, really badly in my late twenties. And I thought if there’s some way I can help people overcome anxiety and work on themselves. That’s how the fruition of this book came about. And so, I started compiling all these chapters in 2017 on willpower: how to become really strong with your discipline and your habit and the sense of awareness, self-awareness, acceptance of the bad things in life, how to flip the script and focus on, okay, what good can come out of this? There’s always some good that comes out of the bad stuff, right? 

Alignment… how do we remain in integrity to ourselves? It’s not just focusing on the integrity of others, but how we maintain ourselves… like in the sense of what is our belief system, what are our values and how we express it? So, integrity, alignment, humility. Humility is so important. It’s so underestimated in so many ways. And I really wanted to talk about modesty versus humility because a lot of times we think that being modest is being humble, but it’s not. There’s a huge difference. So, I talk about that in the book as well. Also, a lot of us have this fear of success. For me, for many years, I had a fear of achievement. And I wanted to go really deep into my brain and understand what is blocking me. Why am I so scared? I started looking into imposter syndrome. Why am I so scared to succeed at the same time, on the same trajectory I also started looking at why am I so afraid of failure as well. 

And then the other chapters also get weaved in, such as ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Self-care’. A lot of people are looking at forgiveness, a lot of people want it. We’re in resistance mode when we can’t forgive, it puts us in such a state of deep pain, we can’t move forward unless we forgive others. So, all these factors really help kind of build the structure of the book. And I just really wanted to help people and put out my thoughts there. And believe me, I was scared. I’m not going to lie. A lot of personal stories are interviewed throughout the book and many times I was like, do I really want to share this? And I said, what the heck, if this is going to help people and create value in their lives, why not?

AB: That sounds incredible, but tell me that’s a lot, what you’ve said to us. And for anybody listening in, it can be a little bit intimidating that, oh my God, there are 11 things there that she is advising us to do. So, if someone is starting off on this path of trying to, I would say, make their lives whole, as you put it in your book, what are the top three things you would say that start with these, and then everything else might flow from there?

PPK: Yeah, so that’s a good question. So, it really depends on what state of journey you’re on. So, for somebody who’s a beginner and hasn’t really read many self-help books, then I would say the best chapter to start on is the ‘Willpower’ chapter that has got tons and tons of positive feedback because again, a lot of people are struggling with self-discipline. And so I have all these really cool tools there to help you kind of get onto that track, like the chain method and breaking things down into chunkable steps. And again, a lot of it is based on brain science because the whole book is neuroscience-backed. So, I would say ‘Willpower’ is definitely one that’s been really popular. Humility, again, we talked about that earlier. And ‘Forgiveness’, I cannot tell you the number of people that have come and said, I tried that, I’ve tried that practice of what you said and it’s really helped. So, I would say these three have been really instrumental and have helped people on their journey, you know, especially from the feedback. 

But my personal favorite one is the one on ‘Courage’ because that one really talks about how we don’t realize how scared we are of being successful or how scared we are of achievement. And so that’s my favorite chapter in the book, I have to say. But yeah, so it really depends what journey you’re on. If you’re a beginner, then these are three good chapters to start on and then of course, you have all the other ones as well. For somebody who’s well-seasoned, then you can just go ahead. It’s an easy read, it’s not complicated.

AB: Yes, it is.

PPK: It’s got the summary and it’s all very succinct. So, it’s easy to kind of go through each chapter.

AB: No, it was a pleasure to read. So now, tell me Puja, you said that everything is neuro-science-backed. So, tell me a bit about the science behind your theories.

PPK: Okay, so each chapter is all backed by MRI brain scans. So, of course, now, today, the scientists, neuroscientists, they’ve been doing this for years, but they never had access to actual proper brain scans. When you see all those nodes on people’s heads… and they were doing it on monkeys for many years. So now, with the advent of all this advanced MRI technology, each chapter kind of… I didn’t want to go too deep into science because I was worried that it might throw people off. But there’s a lot of neuroscience to back it up. Like, for example, how the prefrontal cortex of our brain plays such a large role in the things that we do, or like how the amygdala dictates a lot of the things that we do as well. So, there are a lot of studies on the brain, which I’ve kind of interwoven into the book as well because I feel like people need credible evidence. There are so many self-help books out there that are kind of fluffy, and I really didn’t want that. I wanted something that was solid. I wanted something that made sense, that people could relate to and go back to reports and check because I think there’s so much out there now that there’s a tendency to get a bit confused.

AB: You’re absolutely right. And that’s what makes it so interesting, is that you back things by neuroscience, which I think is going to be the new way of doing things or which is, because even people like Joe Dispenza would do that. He backs everything with scientific evidence. So, you can’t just say, oh, it just happened. It doesn’t matter.

PPK: Correct. He’s a big inspiration to me. I love Joe Dispenza. I mean, I’ve attended some of his workshops, and I’ve actually experienced that movement in my body. And you would never… Again I went in completely blind. Of course, I had already been practicing NLP for many years, but just being there was mind-blowing. He’s really definitely a big inspiration.

AB: Yes. So, now tell me a little… Let’s get into NLP a little bit. From what I can understand about NLP, tell us a little bit about cellular memory and how you work towards changing that.

PPK: Okay. Yeah. So, cellular memory… And I love the way you kind of talked about cellular memory, because in NLP, we kind of refer to it more as an expression: neurons that fire together, wire together, and vice versa. So, neurons that are wired together, fire together. So, what does that mean? Basically, NLP is the science of really rewiring your patterns and habits and beliefs so that you are able to change your behavior. And just going a bit science-y here; in our brain, we have loads of neurons that are operating, and it takes about 21 to 30 days to develop a habit. But each day we work on a habit, the same habit, and the recommendation is to really work on one at a time, not to do too many. At that point, the myelin sheath, which is the fat, kind of insulating our neurons gets thicker and thicker, and they insulate the neurons so that they travel faster to the amygdala, which is the part of our brain responsible for emotion. So, what’s interesting is that the more that we practice a habit, the easier it becomes. This is the beauty behind being consistent behind your habits. And there’s some evidence to even say that after 30 days, the actual connection between neurons becomes 100 times faster. This is why NLP is so important. And now, of course, you must have heard of neuroplasticity, which is really the science of how adaptive our brain is as an organ. So, we can actually do anything we put our minds to if we understand this. The thing is, people give up really quickly because of thoughts and beliefs. But if we understand the way the brain works and we have faith in it, then we are able to do things that are more consistent and we’re able to break old patterns of thinking. We’re able to break old, especially negative thinking, and things that have kind of stopped us from doing things that we want. So, it is really important to understand the brain science of how habits and disciplines are formed. And I love NLP because it really rewired the way that I think, and it’s also about reframing the way that you think. Right? There are certain presuppositions like people are doing the best that they can with the resources that they have, and people are not their behaviors. What does that tell us? That tells us… that enables us to forgive people much easier, because everyone’s operating from their very set belief systems which have been ingrained, or they’ve had experiences that have caused them to act this way. When we know that, then we’re able to forgive much faster too. So, it’s an integration. It’s all about… really our life is all about the mind. That’s all there is to it.

AB: Lovely. Now, tell me about your health and wellness journey, and you’ve obviously been on an interesting journey for it to have culminated in NLP and then the book. So tell me, what are some of your biggest learnings?

PPK: I’m 40 now, and I like this question because it’s a never-ending journey, right? Every day you learn a new thing. Every experience brings you a whole different flavor. You just become so much more alive in so many ways. But I would say the biggest thing for me has been the realization that I have placed so much importance on other people and their thoughts and the way that they react to me. And I never, ever once considered what I thought. I never placed emphasis on my thoughts, or on my feelings. And I think this is quite normal. I think this is very human. We grow up having that kind of dependence on the outside world to feel good inside. But when I started writing this book, the journey was beautiful, because as I was writing through the 11 virtues, I realized, and I also learned as I wrote, that being strong with these 11 virtues is more than enough for me to remain whole and complete and feel a permanent sense of contentment. I think for me and you know that I mentioned earlier that I had suffered from a lot of anxiety, and that was because I was always dependent on the external world.

AB: Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s very brave that you shared that with us.

PPK: Yeah, I know. It’s just something that was one of the reasons that I actually wrote the book, because I felt that, again, like, a lot of people are going through it, especially now. That for me was a big wow. I mean, anxiety can be bad. At some points, you have no control over your body and it starts doing things that probably even take you to the hospital. I learnt a lot through anxiety as well. I learned how to quiet the mind. I learnt how to really just focus within and I think I really needed that. I’ve always been spiritual, but that was a big shock in my life and that really shifted. It was a huge paradigm shift for me in so many ways.

AB: Okay, what advice do you have for the followers?

PPK: I’m just going to leave that advice with my favorite quote by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, because that, I think, has also helped me a lot on my journey. And it’s all about altruism, it’s all about service. So, the day that you feel hopeless and horrible, on that day, go out and ask somebody, what can I do for you? How can I help you? And he says that that service will bring a revolution in you. It’s all about stepping out of yourself. Also, when you’re going through a rough time, the best thing that you can do is help people at that point in time because that gives you perspective. It also allows you to step out of yourself. And I’ve tried it, it’s worked miracles. Sometimes as women, we go through hormones, we’re all over the place, we have bad days. But it’s that stepping out of yourself, it’s that ability to help others and really from a true sense of helping— of service. And when you do that, I think it shifts your whole perspective. It really does.

AB: That’s wonderful. That really is lovely. But then one of the questions was that when you’re going through an anxiety attack or a panic attack, at that point, what advice do you have for people? Because none of this makes sense. And exactly as you said earlier, when you’re going through something, then you’re not thinking rationally. So, what is the best advice you have for that point in time?

PPK: So, a panic attack is actually very different from an anxiety attack. A panic attack is something that happens really quickly and it’s like suddenly you feel like you can’t breathe or you start to get tingles on your body or your eyes and your vision gets blurry. An anxiety attack is more likely to last longer. So, anytime you have a panic attack, what’s happening is that all the energy in your brain gets diverted from your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for all rational thinking. And all that energy and blood flow goes to the amygdala, which is responsible for emotion and fight or flight. So, it’s no wonder at that point that we’re not able to control our emotions. 

So, really quick techniques to come out of a panic attack would be like stepping into a really cold shower, really cold, because what that does is it shocks the body and then it tells the body, okay, listen, this is a real danger. It’s not a perceived danger. And another thing that is recommended is to massage the back of your neck over here…

AB: Between the neck and the skull? 

PPK: And the skull, yeah, there’s like a slight, like, soft point that’s also very therapeutic, even chewing on something like gum or an apple. And then of course, there’s a lot of people that say engage your senses. So, look at something like, look at the color of something, listen to something, taste something, or touch something. So, engaging [with] those sites to get that energy back into your prefrontal core system, that’s for panic attacks. Anxiety attacks are more like…you’re stressed out for like a number of hours and you can’t understand what’s going on. You go into a kind of a really negative frame of mind. You’re snapping at people, and then that’s when the deep breathing becomes really powerful. Of course, you can do deep breathing  during a panic attack as well. But panic attacks, you don’t really have the time… it’s so quick and it comes on so strong that you’re not able to really even do those deep breaths. But when you’re having kind of a rough day of four or five hours where you know you’re anxious, so you’re nervous before going on stage or you’ve got a big project and you’re just feeling really a lot of anxiety, then that’s a good idea. And I do something called the Wim Hof method…

AB: Oh, you do? The Wim Hof method… that is where you got your cold showers from, is it?

PPK: Yes. I love the Wim Hof method. In fact, I’m actually going on Sunday to the ice spa. And I feel like that has again, that’s revolutionary as well because there’s so much that breathing can do to help our state of mind and it lifts us completely. So, that’s something I’d really recommend on a long-term basis for people that suffer from anxiety. 

AB: And the Wim Hof method, people can Google and look at on YouTube or online, right?

PPK: Yes. And in fact, you can download the app as well. And the app is actually user-friendly, and they’ve developed it even further to add music. And so, it’s really cool. It’s fun to do, and you have to do it on an empty stomach because that’s when you’re deep breathing. It really helps at that point. So, definitely, I would really recommend the Wim Hof method as well. Deep breathing every day definitely is a must. Some people like to chant. I mean, I think chanting also is very healing as well for somebody who’s suffering from anxiety. But I would say that it has to be a combination of many factors. You really have to work on yourself.

AB: Yes. That’s lovely. Thank you, Puja. That was such an enlightening chat, and I hope people benefit, and I hope lots of people read your book. Thank you so much for being here.

PPK: Thanks, Anshu, for having me. It was lovely to speak to you. Take care.  

AB: Hope you enjoyed the Wellness Curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you leading your best life.