The One Secret to Living a Great Life

I already knew the secret, but it took a 9-hour psychedelic journey to drive it home

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A man standing on top of a mountain, holding a blueprint

Maybe it’s time to throw away that plan and see where the wind takes me — Midjourney

“How are you feeling, Sanjay?”

I was asked this question the day after a marathon 9-hour psychedelic medicine session this past weekend. Other people had already answered, “I feel energized,” “I feel content,” and “I feel alive.”

My answer? “I feel lost.”

I’ve been used to living my life according to where I am in relation to my plans. Financial plans, relationship plans, and physical fitness plans. Plans for my writing, plans for my restaurants, and plans for my investments. All these moving targets. All this calculated motion.

It’s exhausting.

At the beginning of the retreat, one of the guides asked me what I wanted, and I said, “I want peace. I want to be able to just sit and stare out a window and not worry about getting anything done.”

“And what would that give you?” he asked.

I thought about it. I imagined sitting by a window and staring peacefully out at the scenery. And I began to cry.

I realized that all that motion, all that activity — it wasn’t coming from somewhere else. It wasn’t being thrust upon me. It was coming from inside me. It was my own expectations that were taking away my peace, and at that moment, I remembered my intention for the retreat: to focus on the experience. I wanted to remember to just be.

Life isn’t about what you have and what you don’t have. It is about the experience of having and the experience of letting go. Once you internalize that, where you are in the experience becomes a lot less important. Feel the sand under your feet. Smile at the people around you. That’s what is important.

So after the psychedelic journey, when I said “I feel lost,” I didn’t mean I had lost my way. I meant I had the unfamiliar feeling of not being on my way. I didn’t have expectations. Plans seemed ludicrous. A better word than lost would be “untethered.” Untethered from my endless plans and activities and emails and post-it notes.

Why is being untethered such a positive experience? By setting a destination or a goal, you automatically define a point along a trajectory from where you are now to where you want to be. By definition, then, you must be unhappy since you want to be there, and instead, you are here.

I was visiting a friend’s cottage last year and found myself the first person in the hot tub one evening, while everyone else was looking for towels, grabbing drinks, and spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom. I was agitated. I was ready for a hot tub party. Where the hell was everybody?

Anxiety. In a hot tub.

Ridiculous.

So I closed my eyes and sank into the moment. It was lovely. Despite how enticing the next moment might be — almost always, the current moment is just fine.

A few years ago, I was sitting on a highly liquid fortune after selling my company. A series of bad investments and having a business partner defraud me have led to a dramatic decrease in my liquidity and an increase in my anxiety.

I have some good investments too, and I imagine the situation will get better at some point. But it might get worse. I won’t know for a few years, and it’s largely out of my control.

Here’s the important thing. I don’t have a problem now.

History has taught me:

  • I’m great at dealing with the problems I have now. Think about them, come up with a solution, and implement. I’ve got this.

  • I’m terrible at dealing with problems that might happen in the future, because, duh, they don’t exist yet. But when the future becomes the now, I’m confident. I’ll have this.

  • As a society, things that we worry about don’t become actual problems. Acid rain, the disappearing ozone layer, nuclear war, AIDS, Y2K — these are all things that we used to worry about incessantly, and some are still concerns, but because we worried about them, we dealt with them. I’m not worried about AI robots enslaving humanity because we talk about that shit all day long. Same thing with Global Warming. Don’t ignore it, but don’t get yourself all worked up either. We’ve got this.

  • Danger comes from the things we don’t see coming. The subprime mortgage crisis. A ship blocking the Suez Canal. Covid-19. The real dangers of the future are things we aren’t talking about today. But we’ll deal with them when they happen.

Anxiety about problems that haven’t happened yet is useless.

You can’t do anything now anyway.

When problems do happen, you can take care of them then. And you will be a different you when that time comes, with more and better knowledge and experience.

For many years, I was focused on a destination — financial security and personal glory. All ego-driven, that was me. Along the way, I married a great woman and found myself with three amazing kids and a rewarding circle of close friends. That “along the way” turned out to be far more valuable than the destination points of money and glory.

My whole life I’ve been anxious. Right now, I would be focusing on when I’m going to finish writing this article and whether people are going to like it.

Now I think about the cold Coke Zero I’ve got beside me and the feel of the keyboard under my fingers.

Because the one secret to living a great life… is to be in the present moment.

The present moment is about your life as it is right now. It’s about the hill you’re already standing on. It’s about the thrill of breathing and the sound of your heart pumping.

It’s about your children, your parents, your friends, and all the people who love you and whom you love back. It’s about the grace of God and the Universe and the 14 billion years of cosmic history that have brought you to… this precise moment.

Live in it.

  1. My preparation session for the psychedelic retreat

  2. The company that arranged the retreat

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