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Headspace Q&A: Suveg Pandey

by Headspace

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You woke up this morning and the first thing you thought was…

I have not been getting enough sleep lately! Again!

What is your typical morning ritual?

Snooze once, shower, brush while the kettle turns on, fry up breakfast and make tea, sit by the window and eat, read one saved article with my tea and out the door I go. Takes an hour.

What keeps you up at night?

The feeling of feeling behind and thinking mostly of the things I haven’t done yet and especially of things I haven’t made a plan to get done in the near future.

What advice would you give someone sitting down to meditate for the first time?

It’s not that serious. Don’t expect anything to change quickly, but try to stick with it. The whole process is iterative nudges and improvements. It’s like training your body. One lifting or running session won’t change a single thing about you, but 50 will and nobody really knows where that change actually happens, but everyone agrees that it does somewhere along the way. I think it’s the same thing with training your mind.

When and where do you like to meditate?

Most frequently either in bed to wind down and fall asleep, or in the mid-afternoon in an unoccupied space in the building to just recharge. Sometimes when I’m here late in [the] lab, like 1 a.m. Occasionally on the train when I’m running late and need to relax before I have to socialize properly. Those are the formal sessions that usually involve guidance. Informally, I’m working on doing check-ins that last 30-60 seconds whenever I notice a moment of nothingness, like waiting to cross the street, in the elevator, etc.

How does your mind feel before you meditate?

One of two ways I think: either it’s boiling over and overwhelmed and acutely in need of some care, or sometimes just a steady sort of stressed and taut feeling.

How does it feel after?

It feels like I feel fewer feelings (and that’s so welcome!). Now say that five times, fast.

What’s your favorite Headspace pack?

I really liked Stress and Focus. I use the Sleep pack the most for sure, though.

What has meditation helped you with the most?

Hard to really pull a specific causal link, but it’s come at a time when I’ve started moving toward having a relationship with myself that is more compassionate. I used to notice this discrepancy in the way I thought about my problems versus those of people I really cared about. For instance, there is a sort of surety in telling my sister that she’ll be fine after college (you know, “in life”) because she’s a hardworking, grounded and kind person, and it’s something I completely believe and understand.

At the same time, when I go through the same crises of confidence, I have a harder time giving myself that kind of benefit of doubt. There’s a granularity to our relationship with ourselves that doesn’t allow for as much kindness, because we’re so well grounded in our failures and flaws, and I’m working on establishing the same sort of optimism at a distance for myself.

It’s a little like reading a novel and having a sense that the protagonist will get through things. It’s not always grounded in fact, and mostly you don’t know, but there’s a sort of hope and optimism we project onto our protagonists and I’m trying to learn to project that in my endeavors too.

That’s a philosophy that I think has been helpful. The process itself, though, of recognizing where my mind and body is on a daily basis and how frustration and stress manifest and recur and pushing back to find a little distance every day—that happens when I meditate. This is the metaphor of watching the cars drive by that I love. It’s nice sometimes to try to look at yourself from afar.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Memes on the internet, for sure! It’s like Calvin Coolidge said, “Don’t let your memes be dreams!”

What’s the kindest thing someone did for you this week?

Someone hand-made me a bowtie! I have an event this week for which I wanted a Nepali themed bowtie and it ended up being impossible to find. So under the guise of an afternoon of mutual crafting (aka a crafternoon), she taught me how to sew some straight lines and then took over for all the difficult bits and now I have a handmade bespoke tie! Who knew you could just make stuff like that?

Who or what is the current love of your life?

Podcasts. Is that weird? That’s literally what gets me out of my couch after breakfast and starts my day—the prospect of listening to people talk about things they love and getting all these glimpses into other worlds and ideas. It’s just the best. And, you can do it in double-time and gorge! People don’t even sound like chipmunks until about 3-4x, so if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a lot you can consume, really fast!

Have you ever experienced a life changing moment?

There are two incidents that maybe aren’t canonical “life changing moments”, but my high school waived my tuition and sponsored my visa when my parents moved back to Nepal so that I might stay here and study, and eventually Harvard let me into their college with full need-based [financial] aid. Both of those things came at a time when I really felt like I had nothing to give to the world, but so desperately needed a lot in return. In the most practical sense, those things very much changed the outcome of my life and gave me a security and benefit of doubt that will last for a long time.

But also in a personal way, being given a lot of things you’re not sure you deserve or can ever pay back just blows out the constraints of what giving can mean. I think they also taught me that there isn’t always a conserved order when it comes to working hard and getting rewards—sometimes you’re given things and you have to work on earning them afterwards, and when you can, it’s okay to actually give people things they need without needing proof that they already deserve it. Those have really been life changing ideas, too.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

You have to keep building productive and positive relationships. The world is a really really big place. There’s a lot of room to find who you are and what you like, and do it with other people who care about the same things, even if they’re really specific things. Especially in the spaces most of us inhabit, we have the privilege of meeting a ton of smart, driven and caring people and it’s important to try to find and hold on to people who push us toward the good and help us traverse uncomfortable or important moments. Those connections are pretty rare, but because our lives are so expansive, even the rare things will be steadily available as long as we stay on the lookout. So you gotta keep looking!

Also, always listen to my parents and call home. The older I get the more embarrassing it is to realize over and over that they’ve just been right about things the whole time.


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