Hacking My Brain
 

 

Disrupting and rewiring the brain requires strong determination but most important to remain calm during the process. It doesn't happen overnight but it is possible that you can hack your brain and you will be surprised by the outcomes. We are an accumulation of old habits and gradually, you can peel off old leaves and begin to plant new seeds. I saw this process as learning how to walk, see, smell, taste, hear, and think new positive things again. If someone from my past sees me now, they will not see anymore the old person. I have completed change my body mechanics internally and externally. For instance, I walk different (there is a psychology behind a posture) and have also realigned properly my foot and hand structure, I speak only the necessary and remain on silence for the entire day, and I became left-handed. There is a whole science behind the rewiring process but they are all scattered. I took pieces from each: Psychology, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience. 

Affirmations are very helpful because you build a memory system. You might not see the effects right away but trust me that when the right time comes, those words will rise at the appropriate time. There were times, I was tired and exhausted of this process because it is very hard destroying your old identity and at times, I wanted to give up and say, okay maybe I go back to a regular job, get pay, do my thing and forget about this whole transformation and spiritual journey. But in this moment to my surprise, the positive affirmations words will rise and an inner positive voice is what I heard. 

But once I went deeper, the rewiring of the brain and affirmations didn't mean much anymore. They are still relevant and all of the work that I've done still on my system but going inwards I realized that my True-Self is more powerful and all rest is just part of creation. 

 
 
 

 
 

First set of affirmations. I repeated them in the morning, at noon, and before I went to bed. I took this sheet with me along my travels. It served me as a reminder on what I didn’t want anymore. My sheet was a bit messy because I created this sheet in the first month on this journey in 2015 and I just kept adding more things. Then I realized, I had to add more and more that I created more sheets and later switched to i-notes because it was just too many. At some point, I had more than 100 set of affirmations written and memorized. I took me at least an hour or more to go through them.

I read Sadhguru's book when I lived in Kerala. I spent a good amount of time reading Sadhguru’s books. I enjoyed this book because is a series of conversations with devotees. He responds to all kind of issues we are battling today and want to know how to end suffering. For instance, everything that you do is based on karma, without awareness, you are prompt to be in a cycle of repetitions. I enjoyed listening to Sadhguru because he is straightforward with his answers. For instance, he says, let the karma come and bomb the hell at you but as long you are aware, then it will no longer imprison you. Sadhguru is an enlightenment being and very grateful to have learned under his guidance classical hatha yoga.

My first of many sketches of the brain. I drew this sketch when I was watching “The Brain” series by David Eagleman. As I began to memorized affirmations and was experimenting with different practices to control the body and mind, I was curious about what was happening in my brain. It is always good to know how the engine runs. I didn’t want to make changes without actually knowing the connecting dots with the brain. I suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, and lack of sleep. For instance, I wanted to know how my memorization of affirmations is enlarging my hippocampus (which stores our memory) or how my cold weather practices are impacting my brain stem (our ancient primitive brain).

The Brain PBS series by Dr. David Eagleman opened my curiosity on my brain’s functionality and what is reality. Because I was doing different practices and suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, fears, and lack of sleep, I wanted to know what was happening inside my brain and the impact internally and externally. I submerged myself in neuroscience and spent long hours studying the science of the brain because I was fully committed to rewire my brain through Neuroplasticity. Through Neuroplasticity I became left-handed, I learned how to walk differently; how to sleep, speak, and eat differently; how to recognized consciously what my eyes capture; and challenge every day my daily habits. If one day I open a door with the right hand, then the next day, I will open it with the left hand - all my actions were part of rearranging the neurons and have consciously full control of my habits. As I progress deeper inwards, the rewiring continues and enjoying playing the game.

 

I wrote self-motivation post-it notes and placed them all over in my apartment (kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom) to ensure it gets into my system. I think when you are fully determined, as Arnold Schwarzenegger says, you do “Whatever It Takes” to go after what you want. In the beginning phase of my self-transformation, I was relentless to rewire my brain and destroy my old way of thinking. Once I created a bit of separation and see how I used to be, I made a promised to myself to not go back the old ways.

The first meditation book where I learned how to sit properly. I read this book when I lived in a Zen center in India. Reading this book was not easy because I was just in the beginning phases on spirituality. I struggled to understand the concepts, the empty space of the pictures, and even the simplicity of life. I was focusing too much on the exterior and not interior transformation. Now, when I go back to read this book again, it makes all sense. I enjoyed the art of simplicity and the different stages on how the mind processes our exterior and how it manifests in our thoughts.

First Buddhist Temple I visited. I always passed the temple but never noticed it, but only when I began to look inwards. Thank you, Rev. Earl and Gary for your compassion. After months of seclusion, the temple was my first contact with people. Here is where I completely broke down in tears and told Rev. Earl that I was leaving to Asia and leaving everything behind. It is here where I became curious about Lord Buddha and the unknown space.

Early stages when I began the process of rewiring my brain with self-help statements. Aside from post-it notes, I also wrote statements. It was a form of self-motivation as well. When you are in this process there are times when you want to give up so I had to find some ways to self-motivate. I was in seclusion so it was just only me. I always went after each goal with full intensity. I had a timeline and was determined. When I decided to go for a self-transformation, putting a timeline might not be the best, because you are in the unknown. You can’t say when I will get rid of an old habit. There are other factors to consider like karma. So, I just took it day by day.

 

Wim Hof introduced me to the Cold Showers, exposure to Cold Weather, Pranayama, and Yoga Postures. My first steps to break away from the body limitations. Before I left to Asia, I swam in the Hudson River by Riverside Drive (Manhattan, New York) during winter and then meditated by the banks on the river only in my swimming shorts. Training in the cold is another way to keep the mind calm, and if the mind is calm, then the body is calm and the weather is not a factor. It is in the cold where the mind will become restless. If the mind becomes restless, then your body becomes restless. But it is here when you stay in serenity and calmness and just be the observant of whatever rises. Soon, you will see how the mind settles, the body becomes at ease, and your inner heat begins to rise. Our bodies’ are wire to withstand extreme cold and heat. You just need to retune your mechanism. The great Yogis lived in the Himalayas with extreme cold and minimal clothes. In Yogic Science, once you transcend the body, you conquer the senses, this means, that whatever your body is sensing, it doesn’t impact you anymore.

First Book I read on how to become a Value Investor. Very insightful for new investors. Warren Buffett was one of the first persons I began to read about when I became curious about becoming an investor. I followed his shareholders' letters. And I was very impressed with his lifestyle. A very simple man and prefers to focus on the necessary and lived only with the minimal (somehow he is a Yogi in the making because he is not attached to his fortune and sees beyond fortune). And we both have the same birthdays! I looked at the book content from with a mindful perspective. How to be calm when joining ventures and do not allow the finance media to distract you from your investment. How to be at ease, do your research, have patience while waiting for the right moment. When the right moment comes, go at it with full intensity and take over. I also bring my military experience here to fully scout my terrain with an eagle eye. Don’t get distracted because Wall Street will distract you especially the analyst, especially during earning calls. Only know what needs to know but most important and here I bring what I learned from Zen is to keep my investments pure “Simple as is.”

I breathe this book day and night. A fascinating book for new entrepreneurs and angel investors like myself. I follow Michael Porter's work closely. Porter’s 5 forces are really helpful to organize my thoughts when I look at how a company is doing. The competitive advantage in an industry depends on the threat of new entrants, the bargaining power of buyers/consumers, the bargaining power of suppliers, the threat of substitute products, and the rivalry with competitors. So the degree of the threats determines the attractiveness of the market: intense competition allows minimal profit margins and mild competition allows wider profit margins. Then you go much deeper to look at the barriers for entries like economies of scale and product differentiation. Here I also learned the importance of the intrinsic value of a company, how is running it? Is the CEO capable, do you have the right talent, and who is in your influential network? Can your product handle the current innovation and what is to come? Are you falling in love with the process? With the right strategy, you can outweigh your competition whether in the public and private sector.

IDEO - class on Human-Centered Design (HCD). HCD has been an integral part of my professional career. You have three stages: Empathy, Ideation, and Implementation. I enjoy the most the empathy stage because it is here I submerged myself with the customer or call it the community. This has been my core or purpose in life - to help others. By helping others, I knew I had to put myself on their shoes. I’m not an office person and enjoy the most working directly with those who are affected by the problem. For example, the case when I worked in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I lived next to the locals. I enjoyed talking to them and figuring out different solutions. I truly believe it is here when you are with those who are impacted by the problem, where great innovative ideas will rise. HCD is also a positive stimulus to the brain because it activates your prefrontal cortex and right hemisphere of your brain (imagination). I learn that you can also bring HCD if you want to work on yourself. The three stags are applicable to many areas in life. Try it out and find out what blossom might come out.

 

After my incident, someone gave me "The Secret" book. The first book I read that opened my curiosity in Spirituality and Universal Laws. Without this book, I will not have gone through a self-transformation.

Stoic Philosophy. I Learned Self Control and how to keep my bearing when challenges arise. Stoicism is mass following in Silicon Valley and by the likes of Time Ferris and Ryan Holiday. Resilience is an important practice of stoicism.

The first book I read on Buddhism. A Young Bhutanese Buddhist nun gave me this book. Grateful for her affection and Compassion when I was desperately looking for the right book to read Lord Buddha's Teaching. Thank you Jetsun.

First Book I read that Introduced me to Hinduism. It was also Steve Jobs favorite book and he always had extra copies in his Palo Alto house. Whenever he had guests over, he gave them copies.

 
I discovered Sri Ramana Maharshi when I was living in India. One of the most highly respected sages with a warm heart of compassion, he offers a simple tool of self-inquiry “Who Am I” to end the egoistic mind. He attained enlightenment at a young age without any effort. After achieving enlightenment, he began his journey into the temples and rested in silence and blissfulness for many years. He spent hours meditating in the temples without noticing his body was decaying rapidly. At his level, there is no body or mind for him. According to Hinduism, he achieved the highest that any human being can. I couldn’t make it to his ashram last year but plan to go to his ashram very soon. You can watch a movie about his life on YouTube  https://bit.ly/2zDP4Dh

I discovered Sri Ramana Maharshi when I was living in India. One of the most highly respected sages with a warm heart of compassion, he offers a simple tool of self-inquiry “Who Am I” to end the egoistic mind. He attained enlightenment at a young age without any effort. After achieving enlightenment, he began his journey into the temples and rested in silence and blissfulness for many years. He spent hours meditating in the temples without noticing his body was decaying rapidly. At his level, there is no body or mind for him. According to Hinduism, he achieved the highest that any human being can. I couldn’t make it to his ashram last year but plan to go to his ashram very soon. You can watch a movie about his life on YouTube https://bit.ly/2zDP4Dh

Recommended to me by a friend and I don’t know how I missed Eckhart Tolle from reading early on. The first book that served as an inspiration to go inwards and question what is real and not real. I will recommend taking your time when reading the book. Don’t rush through it because if you are a beginner, understanding the ego may be difficult. Just pause and reflect as you go through the chapters. I read this book several times. And as my awareness improved, the book content made more sense.

A saint who is follow in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Steve Jobs was one of his followers. his ashram has been visited by Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Larry Page (Google). Babaji's love, charm, and charity drew thousands of followers to his presence. Stories of his miracles and appearances in different places at the same time have been widely known. I received this book when I visited Swami Sivananda's Ashram in Rishikesh. There is a story that says Babaji once visited the Ashram after Sri. Swami Sivananda's passing and followers tried to follow him after his departure from the Ashram but couldn't catch up with him and he suddenly disappeared. There are stories of his miracles and you can visit his Ashram website.

Learning investment on my own. At times, when negative feelings rose while I was studying, I wrote self-reminder positive statements to keep going, persevere, and fight the inner war. Somehow, I felt out of love from numbers after graduating from military school. I was very good at numbers before. At military school, I excelled in math courses and even statistics (straight A in all courses). And I was determined to get it back. There were times when I was tired and the mind will just get bored at it because it got so used to this old habit. Every day, I listened and watched Bloomberg TV and CNBC. I took my time as well and was very smart to accept what I can learn on my own and where I can take a class. During this process, I learned that impatience is the greatest enemy. And this is for life as well. We have a tendency to want to have everything really quick. Enjoying the process is more fun. So every day, I tried to enjoy what I learned, despite the fact that sometimes, I will get stuck in a finance formula for two or three days! At that time it was frustrating but I just kept going until I got it, which I did. Now, looking back, I don’t regret it. The results are paying off, where I can be on meetings with CEOs, Investment Bankers, working in a Bloomberg Terminal, or just watching CNBC or Bloomberg Television, and it all makes sense to me - it doesn’t feel like a foreign language - it feels like coming back to my true “Home.”

 

I learned about Don Miguel Ruiz when I began to follow Oprah. Oprah has been a great inspiration, especially, in my early stages of the transformation. The four agreements (be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best) were the first set of affirmation I memorized and I put them to practice whenever I interacted with people. I remember a time when I went to the book launch of the CEO from “Mind, Body, and Green” startup and whenever I was speaking with people, in the back of my mind, I kept repeating the four agreements. I even had them written down on a post-it note and kept them in my pocket :-). It is a great and simple way to begin learning about your mind and ego. I realized I made a lot of mistakes by following the mind and ego by taking many things personally. When I took things personally, I made wrong assumptions in my private life and career, and I wasn’t honest with my words, thus, I felt it was never enough. Most of us live our lives following this trail which creates suffering. Tom Brady QB of the New England Patriots follows these fours rules as well. But as you go deeper inwards, the four agreements are only part of a new identity that you are creating. Your true-self doesn’t need an identification.

The first book I read on how to master the mind and how successful CEO's have applied it. I was wired from an early age to feel guilty for having wealth. I was fully determined to rewire my brain and change this old habit because it was one of the contributors to feeling guilty from having high paying jobs and it impacted how I spent money. As I began to listen to podcasts for the Silicon Valley elites, one book that kept coming as a must read was Napoleon Hill Think & Grow Rich. But not only from the Silicon Valley elite this book was recommended but also from top CEOs and top self-improvement coaches like Tony Robbins. I remember when I attended the Startup Grind in Silicon Valley, young CEOs as small as 16 years old spoke about the influence of this book. I was curious and read the book. There is some spirituality aspect in this book. Napoleon Hill talks about tapping inside where there is something magical to discover. Once you discover this magic, your creative intelligence comes alive. He also talks going into the unknown territories and how to grind yourself to achieve your ultimate desires and not listen to the limited mind. If you read this book don’t read it to think about how to become wealthy. That is not how to read this book. Read this book on how to inspire yourself and live into your vision.

It amazes me the similarity between Western coaches and Asian Scriptures on Universal Laws, they all concur. What You Think is What You Are or Will Become. Pay close attention to your mind and the movie you are projecting. You can change it if you like, just decide, and make it happen. The biggest the take from the Strangest Secret is to know that if you live life to what society tells you, that is a limited life. That is you work, you save, have a good job, and retire - then is that life? Life is more than the status quo. Life is about finding your greatest potential and how to help others in needs. Life is your making and whatever you are experiencing is just an internal reflection. But if you decide to change, as you begin to clean yourself inwards, everything in the outside will begin to change and your perception will improve. Look at your circle of friends, coworkers, or even spouse or girlfriend, they are a reflection of your personality. Have a goal, work at it, yes, there will be darkness along the way, but you have to grind yourself, it is there will grinding, that magical things will come your way unexpected. Once you begin to change inwards, your external situations will begin to change. As your personality changes, then your circle will begin to change and you just have to let go of the past and welcome the new. Just keep going and the magic word is “Perseverance.”

An extension of the 37 practice of the Boddhisattva. Here I learned how to ensure the pure acts that we do are for the benefit of all sentient beings. The acts should be done with serenity and calmness as this is your true nature. This is one of the first Tibetan books I read on how to begin the process of purifying the mind. I took several of the practices and incorporated them into my affirmations early on during the stages of the transformation. It is a great way to examine the differences when acting through the mind and ego vs. your true-self. For instance, it teaches how we are supposed to eat, walk, and speak. When you act through the mind and ego, you are always in a hurry and allow the anxiety to take over. While when responding through the true-self, you respond with serenity and calmness. The teachings have been instrumental, especially, when I decided to reintegrate back to society.

 

Through Tim Ferris, my curiosity grew in Silicon Valley especially about disruption and doing things differently. I was inspired by Tim’s way to travel around the world and how he used technology and different startups to facilitate his logistics. I learned how to have a virtual mailbox which has been instrumental to keep up with my mail in the US. I found out about Couchsurfing. I used CouchSurfing when I stayed with a South Indian family for free for a few days and it was super fun. They even took me to see a Tamil movie and although I didn't understand the language the experience by itself was amazing. It was amazing to see how the locals got into the movie plot and the movie lasted for almost 4 hours! It never crossed my mind that there are people who are willing to host you for free including meals. It was an amazing experience and many thanks to Tim. In my early stages of the transformation, I learned a lot about the supplements he uses to feed his body properly. Although I have moved away from supplements, in the early stages of my transformation, I had to take several supplements to control my anxiety and sleep disorder. I continue to follow Tim through his podcasts.

There is a vast network machinery working 24/7 without us being aware. New neurons are created every night while were are asleep. How conscious we are on our activities or are we just sleep throughout the day until something tragic happens. Through neuroplasticity, we can rewire how we function and erased old habits. Everything that we do in life is related to memory. We only see through memory but what about everything else? Scientist still can’t figure out this aspect of the brain. Are you the perceiver or just perceives? Do we react or respond? What is the role of the conscious part of the brain? So many questions and intrigue answers but a useful book to embrace your brain mechanism. As you get deeper into a meditative state, you will be able to see which part of the brain is trigger when you act. Lord Buddha was way ahead of his time when he was on earth preaching his teachings. He once told a monk which part of the brain is activated when he gets angry. No one understood what he was saying when he explained the functions of the brain which scientists are now finally discovering.

A simple and effective business model canvas. It became useful when I was learning about investment and how to digest deeper a startup. Through this business model, I generated questions to see if the startup (social enterprise) is worth investing. I brought this business model to Seattle when we launched a human-centered design project at the Mayor’s Office. Design thinking is a work that I very much enjoy and I’m using it now to develop my first product. I follow this field very close, especially, architecture design.

In line with other coaches such as Napoleon Hill and Tony Robbins, I learned from Jim Rohn the importance of your philosophy and attitude will produce the ultimate product that you have in your mind. On my early stages of the transformation, I learned from Jim, how to keep a journal, learned from failures, reflect, read as much as you can, how to live into your vision, who is in your circle determines your future, and so on. Life is a puzzle if you allow life to decide for you. However, you can control life as your desire. If you are on a spiritual path, you can use Jim’s advice to continue pursuing your ultimate goal. Attitude is very important for success. Whatever you do, bring a lot of intensity but it must be in line with a greater purpose. You just must be aware of the ego because It might trap you when you are putting things into action. You might fail and that’s okay. The attitude is what counts.

 

One of the perfect ways to hack and rewire your brain is to do something that you hated and struggle the most. When I was in college, I struggle with accounting. I took an accounting class online and I observed all the familiar feelings I had when I was in college. I wasn’t surprised from these feelings because the body is just a recollection of the past so it gives you only what it knows (the body is our subconscious mind and all our memories are store throughout our body). I kept taking the class and in the beginning, I struggle but this time I took my time. By midway of the course, I was just flying through the course and actually I enjoyed the course and was excelling with the assignments. My father was an accountant so I guess, it must be in my blood somewhere. Now, when I invest in a company, I just enjoy looking at their balance sheets/ income statements, P/E, business models, and just fully enjoy working in the Bloomberg Terminal among the many. By doing this, I have reprogrammed my brain and now this old habit is dead and now I have a new habit store which is “Carlos enjoys accounting and finance.”

I spent a significant amount of time studying neuroscience before going deeper inwards. In the beginning, I looked at every aspect of how my brain functions. I put it to the test as well. During the early stages of my personal transformation, I meditated on the points of the brains and observed the feelings that rose. The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in how we function and it is important to keep the left hemisphere more active. The right hemisphere should only be used when it is needed. Remember that the brain is only a survival instrument that can be manipulated through meditation. When I used the Wim Hof Method, the ice baths assisted me with concentration and focus. It is in the cold where I was able to go after the mind and see its fears because as Osho said, the mind is always afraid. If you want to really work the mind, training in the cold is one of the best methods. Conquering the body is possible, this means, you are in control of the senses and actions. The body no longer becomes a hurdle.

Even though I was traveling from place to place in India and Nepal, I always separated time to keep my skills up to date with design thinking and enjoyed taking refresher IDEO courses. Design thinking is a way to refresh the brain and become more mindful and compassionate to those who surround you. We are all designers! We just have to design our lives better but it is possible. Design and disrupt inwards and then outwards, and you will find out your ultimate greatness.

Before attaining enlightenment, Lord Buddha spent many years learning the functionality of the brain. He was ahead of his time. When he explained one of his monks how the brain functions and how it creates new neurons every time we go to bed, they were confused. And indeed, even today, if you tell a normal person how the brain works they may be confused. Today, neuroscience has discovered the inner science behind the brain. For instance, meditators have the capacity to enlarge their hippocampus where memory is stored. It plays an important factor in neuroplasticity because now we know that we can eliminate and create new habits. When you see an object it goes first to the Thalamus then directly to the hippocampus and from this point, it triggers neurons in your brain and rapidly you can recognize an object. Note that this is old past software data, this means that you only see from what’s store in your hippocampus and your eyes will not see anything else new.

Sometimes life prepares you with tools for whats to come. I was giving this book as a gift. I was never a tech person but when I came back from the war in Afghanistan, I was curious about disrupting innovation. But what I got from this book was more useful for my personal transformation. I was surprised to learn that Steve Jobs embraced both Hinduism and Buddhism inwards and outwards. When senior tech CEOs approached him and asked him on how to bring more balance to their lives, he suggested them to go to Neem Karoli Baba Ashram. Neem Karoli Baba had a strong influence on Steve Jobs. Today, his ashram continues to welcome the Silicon Valley elites such as Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page. I had a similar experience that Steve Jobs had in the 1970s when I had this inner feeling or call it a “calling” that there is something else out there that I must discover. And indeed, it was an inner silence that I’m beginning to discover.

As a value investor, this book taps the top 5 in my finance collection. It explains the logic behind and why we should not listen to the annoying daily wall street media. It gives you different approaches on how to assess, research, and buy/sell. Those who have mastered value investing (such as Warren Buffett), understand the tricks of the mind and know when to use it and ignore it. If you are aware, then you don’t listen to the egoistic mind to make unconscious buying/selling decisions. Value investing and overall investment is just a game that you must learn how to play. You can be a master creating financial forecast but in the end, it comes down to either you listen to the egoistic mind or you just stay at ease and when then the right moment comes, you make the right investment. It is the wise that at the end wins over the hesitant one.

A special book because it was given to me by a Tibetan Nun when I lived at a Tibetan Nunnery. The songs are composed by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche a Tibetan Scholar and self-realized being. I was grateful to be in his presence. He follows the Karmapa lineage who had great yogis like Milarepa. Milarepa was known for composing and singing songs to transmit his teachings. Similarly, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche composed songs. The great Tibetan yogis always said, whenever the egoistic mind rumbles, just dance with it, welcome it, and don’t fight it. With a smile of welcoming, you will notice it but it will soon vanish. Because all that the mind produces is just temporary thus not real. And if is not real, why fight it, just smile, and have fun it.

This is the first book that I read to put me updated on how companies are disrupting. Always be different and stay away from the rest in the red oceans. Be “Blue” and create your ocean. Go to areas where others are not going. In some level, the red and blue ocean have some similarities among spiritual seekers. When you create your blue ocean, you are in the unknown and cannot guarantee a success and it is risky but if you win it, you win big. Similarly, a spiritual seeker on the path to self-realization goes into the unknown and it is here in the darkness where you are being tested to see how strong is your determination. You will reap apart your old ways but must have the endurance to continue. If you continue, all that you were, will be dissolved and you win big by resting on your true-self.