Inflammation: Engineering Wellness
Rishi | 16:55
"Well-being is something we engineer."
Stomach Ear Forearm Stress Inflammation Diarrhea Ayurveda Meditation Yoga
Inflammation. Oh, my gosh. That has been a thorn in my life since I can remember. And it's been an incredible journey to get to the point where I am now, and I'm honored to be able to speak about this. So I would first like to say that I understand. I get it. I feel, I feel like we live in a society, in a world, where we are constantly in shame and we're in shame sometimes when we are not well, we become shameful in that space, and I get that space. It took me experiencing incredible amounts of suffering to actually face it, to deal with it. And it took a lot of it. It took a lot of pain and a lot of suffering and pretending like everything was fine. So I think I should start off with my story kind of sharing what happened at the beginning. You know, I come from a immigrant family from India, Punjab, a Sikh family. You know, my mom actually never ate meat, never drank alcohol her entire life. You know, should have paid attention to that when I was a kid, but I didn't. We should pay attention to what our mother's ate, when we were in their womb. But regardless, what I want to talk about is what happened to me as a kid.
I found myself allergic to a couple of antibiotics that might have been over-prescribed to me when I was a little kid. A little baby. So I wonder if that affected my gut bio, my microbiome. Because I suffered from a lot of inflammation. I would, several times in my childhood, I had to be hospitalized for inflammation. One time was in my ear. Another time was on my forearm and my legs, and it was really disheartening. I mean, as a kid, you know, I was generally healthy, I was eating a lot of garbage, a lot of fast food and a lot of stuff. But still, you know, I generally was active and positive. But, it continued in high school. I found out that whenever I was stressing, it would get worse. It was really hard to deal with, but it would come in and out, and it was fine for the most part until I got to college and in college it got really bad. In fact, during a moment I dislocated my shoulder, when I was 20 years old and I took a bunch of Motrin and things got really bad at that point. I started having incredible diarrhea. I was going to the bathroom almost 10 times a day. Anytime I stressed, anytime I was doing any exam, studying anything, I had to go to the bathroom, I couldn't focus, couldn't concentrate. Even took a bunch of medications and nothing helped and it kept getting worse.
And eventually, I somehow got into medical school and in medical school it just continued, and I was really ashamed of it. But I didn't tell anyone, you know, just my closest partners or friends would know. But I wouldn't share with anybody. I just … I suffered in quiet, and I acted like I was fine. And I put myself out there, I was fine. And yeah, I continued, very, very bad habits. I, you know, drank alcohol. I ate a lot of meat. I didn't pay attention to the things I was eating and how they're affecting me. I was just, yeah, I was living with inflammation, living with a chronic problem. In med school, it got to the point where, I started seeing different physicians, trying to get multiple opinions, and I was even diagnosed with different chronic illnesses. You know, I was told that it's ulcerative colitis, I'm gonna have that for the rest of my life. Then somebody else told me I have Crohn's. And I was like, Oh, you're gonna have that for the rest of your life, Crohn's. And I was like, Okay, what? And I was getting different diagnoses from different doctors.
Nobody was really addressing the root of the problem or giving me a solution. I was getting medications and medications would have side effects. And it just got to a point where I got so depressed and so frustrated and just, it was probably one of the toughest points in my life because I couldn't do it anymore. You know, like everything I had worked for, my parents are immigrants. Everything they had worked for and here I was a failure, You know, a failure to them, a failure to myself. I couldn't even be healthy, let alone, I'm trying to be a doctor and I couldn't, I didn't feel good about myself. I didn't feel … I wasn't authentic. I wasn't honest. I wasn't sharing what was troubling me or let alone doing something about it. You know, I was living with it, and owning that identity within myself, and it really took the deep, dark abyss. I got to a point where I decided I was not gonna go to work anymore, not gonna go to school anymore. I wasn't gonna keep trying to keep doing med school. I just stopped pursuing it and I stopped bothering to pursue it.
And I really became overcome with a lot of grief, a lot of shame, a lot of guilt. And I start drinking a lot, popping Vicodin, really feeding into an addiction of opioids. Ah, drinking with it, smoking pot at that time, which was illegal, and I wasn't doing it wisely. I was just mixing everything, really killing myself. Because I knew what I was doing, you know, popping almost 15 to 20 pills a day, drinking alcohol with it, really destroying my liver and just numbing myself. And it got to a point where I knew I was, if I kept this up, I locked myself in my room, all my relationships completely fell apart. And even how I was with my family, how I was with everything, was just disconnected. And yeah, I just wasn't healthy. And I was gonna kill myself, and I was really close to it. And I have to thank, I'm really fortunate to have a saint as a mother. And she never stopped, no matter how I treated her and others and how I projected my own feelings of worthlessness and suffering and inflammation. I can’t imagine what that was doing to my depression. And we're learning so much more about depression and inflammation and their relationship. And it was really, really bad and really dark. And she pulled me out and she recommended that … at the same time, she's like, Hey, go see this Ayurvedic doctor … Ayurveda. What is Ayurveda? And I was like, Whoa, Okay, like I'll try anything right now. Ayurveda. I'll check it out.
Isn't that funny? I'm Indian and I don't know what Ayurveda was. You know, I grew up here, grew up in Canada and America. The Bay Area. I never knew what Ayurveda was and I went to medical school. I went to college, you know UC Davis, I didn't know what Ayurveda was. Something that has existed for hundreds of thousands of years. Great research has been done about the human condition and health and healthiness and disease, and we don't even know, like I didn't even know about. I'm Indian, I like, forgot about it. My family didn't even practice it, being immigrants trying to assimilate, they dropped out of it, and yeah, I was like, Okay, I'll go see him. And at the same time, there was a meditation teacher visiting, a guru, who was visiting from India, from Punjab. And my mom was like, Hey, I want to take you to meet him, and I was okay. All right, I'll do both.
I go to see the Ayurvedic doctor. The Ayurvedic doctor was incredible. He spent three hours with me. Checked my eyes, checked my tongue, checked my pulse, talked to me about my mental state. Things that happened to me in my life, emotional things, family things, along with the health things. It was really cool to get a very holistic view into my health and what's going on. And the whole while he was teaching me about myself while asking me questions. It was really amazing. And giving me a different perspective of health and healing and our body and how it works. And the whole while I was like, Whoa, this is amazing. I'm just like absorbing it. I'm like, Whoa, this is different than anything we learned in med school, but it makes sense. It makes a lot of sense right now.
And at the same time, I thought to myself, Okay, I'm willing to try anything this guy tells me and at the end of the session, he goes, gives me a list of things to take out of my life, like things to try to take out of my life, like foods and things I was used to, to take them out of my life. And I thought that was interesting because there's a word in sanskrit, that's called tapasya. And that's what he introduced me. Tapasya, I mean, for me, in my opinion, tapasya is an experiment that we do on ourselves. We take things in our life that we, just our habits or the things that we do, and we just take them for granted or whatever. The things that we eat or whatever. It could be people. It could be situations, circumstances, and we decide to take them out. Maybe we take it out for a month or we take it out for a year or we just take it out for some period of time and then we analyze how we feel, how our body is, how our mind is, when we take that thing out of our life and we can always bring it back. But the idea is that do the experiment, to observe how taking things out of your life, how you feel after that and also a little bit of not being attached to those things anymore, you know, knowing that those things are not you, which is okay. If you take something out of your life, maybe you realize, Oh yeah, there's no need in holding on to certain things. Or maybe these habits are actually causing us more suffering than actually helping us. So I just allowed that to kind of settle in. And I was like, Okay, I'll listen to this guy and he was like takeout alcohol, take out meat, and take out these things that may be causing inflammation and they are fiery or whatever it is, he was explaining it to me. And I’m like, alright, I'll do it, I'll do it, I'll do it. And he gives me, like, these sugar pills and whatever. I mean, those are placebos more than anything. He gave me some herbs and stuff, but it was really the taking stuff out that changed things overnight.
And at the same time, the next day I go to see this guru that's visiting from India, and he teaches me some mindfulness practices. And it's funny because I'm Indian and I know how to pray. I grew up Sikh and I know how to pray like a Sikh. But I never had anybody teach me how to apply the meditation to deal with how I was feeling, to give me this backbone of understanding of how not just to pray, but how to meditate with my prayers, and how to sit with that mindfulness. And that was really amazing, because I started practicing that meditation from that guru. I started doing the tapasya from the Ayurveda guy and I did them at the same time. And I cold turkeyed overnight. You guys will not believe I cold turkeyed overnight. I didn't feel the desire to do, I mean, every time I felt any sort of weird feelings, I would start my meditation again. And I was able to kind of override my own mind and even start healing really fast, thinking about the healing, projecting that into my meditations and doing the tapasya. Taking things out, simplifying my diet, really paying attention to my family history, my mom, what kind of foods that my ancestors ate. And really kind of paying attention to those things and more and more and more, I got healthier and healthier, healthier. Within about six months, I was about 95% healthy. Like my bowel situation got better. I wasn't pooping all the time, which is amazing. My chronic inflammation was gone. I was like, feeling great. I was active and that even opened up a door, because I was like, Ayurveda, the more I practiced, I started studying it more. I'm like, what is the background? Where did it come from? How does this work? What's the research? And finding all this research that Germany was doing and India had done, and wow, like Ayurveda is so powerful, and I would start getting into it. I'm like yoga is a part of Ayurveda, so let me do yoga.
And it's like my whole life shifted after that. I got so deeply entrenched into Ayurveda and yoga and the philosophy as well and connecting purpose into my life and doing things with purpose and doing things with … having substance behind things I was doing in my life, having it be connected to a purpose. So I felt fulfilled in whatever I did and the people I meet and the people I interact with and the teachers I get. And after medical school, I was like, I'm gonna study from amazing people like that Ayurveda guy, that guru, I wanna learn from people who practice what they preach, who are embodiments of that knowledge. And I have had so many amazing mentors over the years, so many amazing teachers. I've gotten certified, but the certifications don't matter, it's actually that I've gotten so much, I've gained so much knowledge about the human condition in terms of physical health, mental health, spiritual health and combining these things is this trifecta and it’s really given me this amazing perspective to be able to not just deal with my own condition, but to also understand how I can serve other people on their journeys.
And so it's been beautiful now, coming full circle, where now I am working with nurses, working with doctors, helping them deal with stress and burnout. Burnout’s a big deal, so I’ve been doing retreats with nurses, teaching them about meditation, teaching them about food and Ayurveda. Teaching them about how they can retain their focus and even become better nurses, be better healers, how doctors can actually deal with their stress and understand health in a different way, more multidimensional. To take in Eastern philosophies, Eastern research into the health of our bodies and our minds and apply it to modern science. You know that integration is, means I’m coming full circle to be able to serve nurses serve healers, serve doctors, physicians, all in the while, all in the while, continuing to also deal with my own situation. Understanding more about the microbiome, how I can replenish maybe some of those bacteria that were missing in my gut from those overdoing antibiotics when I was a baby. So understanding, you know, how do we do these things? How do I introduce these things? How do I take care of my body? How do I practice yoga? How do I walk? How do I meditate? How do I practice neural plasticity, to you know, not just access a healthy body and a healthy mind, but how do I become almost superhuman with these things? I mean, how do we? Is it just about being healthy? Or can we also maybe do more with our body and do more with our mind if we are able to, I guess, take out the disease?
What's the opposite of disease? Amplification? You know, I wonder about that and I love exploring that realm. And I love helping other people, encouraging other people to explore those realms. Because if we sit in the story and we sit in that pain and that trauma and that inflammation or whatever you wanna call the depression, how they’re related, if we sit in that, it'll only exacerbate. It never resolves. And it took my understanding of both meditation and also taking things out of my life that are clearly not working. You know, whether it was food, whether it was people, whether it was circumstance, whether it was trying to achieve a dream, that wasn't my dream. You know, being a doctor was not my dream. It was something that I felt I had to do because of my grades and because of my background and my interest. Actually, no, actually, what I needed to do was to live a very authentic, real life, taking care of myself. Practicing self-care while also being of service in the world while traveling, helping other people, helping animals, helping plants, being involved with the community, being active. Those things were really important in my life and I was stagnated. I was stressed out. I was in a box and I needed that direction in my life.
It really took some really terrible moments. It took really deep darkness. It took really incredible suffering for me to get to a place, to be able to figure it out, and I'm still figuring out and I probably will always be figuring it out. But I am really grateful for that journey, for falling so low, for going so low that I was about to kill myself to appreciate that, Hey, we can come out of if it. Not only can we come out of it, but we can be incredibly happy, incredibly fulfilled, incredibly focused and healthy, when we get out of it. It's possible, so wherever you're at whatever's going on with you, just know that. Know that you can make it out, and you are, just by listening to this. Just by listening to me right now, you're already making it out. You're already on the way and together we can figure it out. Together, we can learn more about what things work and what things don't and what works for you and what doesn't work for you is different than what doesn't work and what works for me. So we learn from each other and we share and we support each other, and I'm really grateful to be in this space, to be able to share this space, to share my story. Thank you for letting me be vulnerable. Thank you for letting me dig into this idea that we can help each other find wellness. Well-being is something we engineer. We engineer it together as a community. Please meditate. Please eat healthy. Have fun. Laugh. Play. Be serious, but have fun too. Okay. I love you. Be well. Thank you.