A Journey To Happiness Through Conscious Awareness with Kristina Mand-Lakhiani
Updated: May 16
How do you find your way back to yourself? Liza Florida presents Kristina Mand-Lakhiani, the co-founder at Mindvalley, who is about to release her newest book, The Art Of Being Flawsome. Kristina talks about how the first step to transformation is awareness and honesty. Being honest with yourself is hard because you’d have to pay attention to your emotional pain. But emotional pain is not there to torment you. Instead, it’s there to draw your attention to areas in your life that require healing. Only then can transformation begin. Tune in to learn more about self-love and transformation.
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A Journey To Happiness Through Conscious Awareness with Kristina Mand-Lakhiani
I have a special guest that I'm going to present to you. She is an entrepreneur, international speaker, artist, and mother of two. She started her career in a government office in her native Estonia. By her mid-twenties, she achieved a level of success mostly known to male politicians at the end of their careers.
It was shortly after she and her husband, Vishen, founded Mindvalley. From a small meditation business that was operating out of the couple's apartment in New York, the company quickly grew into a global educational organization offering top training for peak human performance to hundreds of thousands of students all around the world.
She helps her students to virtually hack happiness by taking them through her unique framework. Her personal life is rich and plentiful, if not more, as her professional life. Whether it is singing to her two children to sleep, playing the harp, or going offline in the Amazon jungle, she is set on taking in every moment and invites you to do the same. Welcome, Kristina Mand-Lakhiani, to the show. It is truly an honor to have you as a guest. How are you?
I'm good. Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure.
I would have loved to play the harp but we are here to talk about many different things. There is so much going on in the world. When we had our initial conversation, I knew a lot of the other work that is asked of you, most especially what is happening in Ukraine. However, in light of this season being truly the messaging of leading with love, a lot of your work before everything started to happen in Ukraine was heavily geared towards your work. You are launching a book, which is The Art of Being Flawesome.
The mission of the show is to lead with love. A lot of that work has a lot to do with finding who you are at the core. It is a lot about being authentic and a journey to self-love. We are going to concentrate and talk about all of that stuff. Hopefully, whoever comes across it, whether they are in Ukraine or the neighboring countries, could find some messaging here that gives them hope for their current situation.
The first step in any transformation is being aware of what's going on.
My work has not changed much. Circumstances have changed and some of the dialogue is different. We experience this war on a daily basis, but the idea of leading with love is as important now as ever because of the way things are going and the strong emotions that people are experiencing, which is natural. Love is as needed as ever, if not more, right now. I don't think the essence of the work is different.
Most especially self-love. I have seen a lot of your work on stage, most especially the Mindvalley. There is a lot of talk about finding their way back to themselves. With everything that is going on in the world, what would you say is the first step that someone can take in finding their way back to themselves?
The first step in any transformation is being aware of what is going on. A lot of us live on autopilot, which is probably a normal thing. Our brain needs some space. We come up with shortcuts, traditions, and rituals, which are good for our nervous system. It sometimes switches off our analytic ability. We do things as a habit. I'm not talking about bad habits now. Even a good lifestyle can become an autopilot and lose that awareness and the pulse of what is going on, so any transformation lifestyle with awareness. When it comes to finding your way back to you, the most important skill to practice is being honest.
That is a tricky thing and an interesting thing because as much as I have experimented with the question, “How honest are you?” In general but with yourself in particular, most people are quite under the impression that they are honest with themselves. That is the nature of delusion that we are never aware of it. In one interview, one of my guests once said a brilliant phrase. He said, “A brilliant mind creates a bulletproof delusion.” Lying to yourself is not in any way correlated to how smart or aware you are. It is just the way our brain works. The path back to you starts with absolute pathological honesty with yourself.
That is first and foremost. The first is truly the awareness. I have been through such a deep spiritual journey, most especially in the last three years. From that point on, it becomes what are going to be the things that you could use as practice to start becoming even more self-aware and start pulling up what is buried deep within. If it has to do with self-awareness at that point, whether someone has already identified like, “I'm in pain and suffering, and it does not feel good,” what would be the next step for you?
There are many different ways we can go. You are the Cofounder of Mindvalley and that is heavily built on meditation as it is here. That seems to be sometimes the next step a lot because it is quieting the mind to identify what that is. On the surface, there are all these things that you are thinking about it is but there is much more below the surface.
If we touch upon pain, that is already such a brilliant topic to talk about, and we could talk about it for a long time. The trick for the awareness and why I advocate for it so much is that it makes willpower unnecessary. The thing is that willpower is not a good fuel for transformation. Especially if it comes to health or fitness, we rely on willpower.
The thing is that willpower is an expendable resource. The annoying thing is that if you expend in one area, you will have the lack of it in a completely unrelated area. Awareness is brilliant for many reasons. First of all, it does draw your attention to the areas which require your attention. If you live with awareness, you will notice the pain that requires any diagnosis, analysis, healing or whatever it requires.
The other thing is that it makes willpower irrelevant. That is the thing I have noticed over nineteen years of working on personal growth and transformation. The moment you are aware of how things are, you find the intrinsic or the internal motivation to change things. Intrinsic motivation is much more durable than willpower.
That is why awareness is such a brilliant habit because you will start noticing things. It is not about, “I vow that I will start living a proper life.” You are constantly conscious and aware of the fact that this was a poor choice. I do not want to live like that. You start making changes without even putting effort into that because you notice what is going on. I have moved into a different topic because I wanted to say a word for awareness. Do you want us to go back into pain?
This is the best part of the show. We talked about this too. Wherever the conversations take us, if you have something to reference about pain, let's go down that route. I know that there is this huge global uprising of all kinds of pain coming up. Maybe this show will help people identify some of that or give some insight.
The pain that is surfacing now is a little bit of a different nature. I would not want us to go in that direction because I think for a lot of the English-speaking audiences, because we are speaking English now, maybe the topic of war, surviving the war, going through the war, or having people in your life who are very dear to you are in that circumstance is maybe a little bit too far away.
Pain is the price of admission to a meaningful life.
When it comes to pain, a great author is Susan David. She is a TED speaker and a professor of Psychology. She talks about pain very well. I like her idea about pain. She says, “Pain is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” That is a brilliant place to start from. Why do I think so? It is because we have gone through a phase of fascination with not feeling or non-attachment of being above things.
I have invented the term emotional analgesia, which means numbing any feelings. Classic psychology says that you can't numb feelings selectively. If you numb pain, you numb all the pleasure as well. If you numb fear or anger, you numb joy and love in equal shares because the capability of feeling emotions is the same throughout the whole spectrum of emotions. It is an interesting beginning after this period of our human evolution where we were fascinated with not feeling, not getting attached, and not having expectations. We accidentally started numbing our emotions.
If you admit the simple idea that if you have anything meaningful in your life, it comes with the possibility of pain. If you have people that you love and if you have meaningful deep connections in your life, there is a possibility of losing those people. If you have a meaningful job that you care about, it is hard not to be attached, not to have goals, and not to have certain expectations. Of course, we could discuss how to have expectations without damage to yourself, but the pain is a price of admission to a meaningful life. If that is the case, isn't it wise to learn to deal with pain and to know how to feel it properly?
Pain became the gateway for me to begin to heal. It was the awareness. I don't even think it needed to become awareness because I felt it. It led me down a journey that was meaningful and brilliant. It is the reason I sit in front of you now. Depending on the individual, if you would like to take that journey and go further deeper to heal that, it can bring such great rewards to your life.
It is not so much of a choice. I like to compare emotional pain with physical pain because it is much easier. We are quite aware of our bodies. Why I came up with the term emotional analgesia is because, in medicine, there is a diagnosis called congenital analgesia. It is the condition where people do not feel physical pain.
They can cut a finger and they would not feel anything. They can burn touching something super hot and they wouldn't feel anything. It is a rare condition, but people with that condition do not live long. What happens is that if your body is not capable of feeling physical pain, your body starts deteriorating. You can't pay attention to the areas that require your attention or that require some fixing and healing. You could touch a burning stove without noticing it or sit on it. Your skin will burn and you don't notice it.
With internal ailments, the body deteriorates. People with that condition die before they become fully grown. I believe that emotional being is given to us for the same reason. It is like physical pain. You choose to deal with your pain. It is like if you burn your finger and you choose to put some medication on it and heal it. Forget burning the finger. Your body will take care of it to some degree, but if you break your bone, would you have a choice of going and putting the cast on it? Would you understand that for you to function properly in the future, you need to pay attention to what is going on? It is exactly the same with our emotional pain. It is given to us not to torment us but to draw your attention to the fact that this area of your life requires some fixing and healing. That is all.
The reason I choose that, and maybe I would follow that up with courage, is because a lot of people are numbing their pain. I'm noticing this circulating in the spiritual and healing world. There are people who are turning to alcohol and many different substances. They are covering it up with many different things, like the fulfillment of chasing your career and making so much money.
We are even exercising excessively. We’re running away from that or meditating without stopping.
I have seen people even in this industry who have gone completely in the extreme direction. They get the high of being enlightened that it is a little way up there. I even have to admit that there were times when I was going down this journey and I was flying high in spirituality. Sometimes, it was hard to come down and I was like, “I do have a body. I have bills to pay. I have a career. I have children. I have a son to raise.” It does. There are extremes on both ends.
Do you mind if I reframe that? In my opinion, it is not going so much high up as running away from life the way it is. Coming down is about stopping to hide and coming out back to life and experiencing it the way it is.
Let me even ask you if we can move from that place of pain. I'm going to redirect it going back to awareness. I have seen many of your talks, most especially in Mindvalley. Another thing that you talk about is authenticity. Let's see if we can jump from awareness to authenticity. How would you say that the two correlate with each other if there is a correlation? I would love to get your view on that.
Emotional pain is not there to torment us but to draw our attention to how areas of our lives require fixing and healing.
Awareness is a stepping stone to any transformation because you can't change unless you are aware that you want to change something. Otherwise, you are just floating somewhere around with the current, which is probably also okay if that is your thing. I have never looked at it in a pair. It is such an interesting question. I did not even see the correlation between that.
If we want to go into authenticity, it is connected to honesty because authenticity cannot exist without your honesty with yourself. I did throw honesty as the next thing after awareness. That would be the progression. You are first aware. You notice what is going on. If you have the courage, you might learn to be honest with yourself. Another thing, which is maybe not obvious, is kindness because kindness makes honesty much more palatable, and then the next step is authenticity.
Before having this interview with you, I watched a lot of your videos. You have at least spoken many times about authenticity. There are many things that are circulating above the surface now on a global scale. You then take it down to your local government, society and culture. There are many things for everyone to navigate through right now. At the base level of everything, it starts with awareness. That is what you are saying.
You start taking the journey. You start unraveling and unpeeling things. It leads to more living an authentic life. There is still a whole journey in between that before you get there. I'm glad that you brought up that there is no correlation. I was jumping from pain to go, "Let's go back to awareness, and we move into authenticity.” Thank you for bringing that up and plugging in the different processes in between.
I'm sure there is a correlation. I just have not learned about it. What is interesting about authenticity is it sounds like such a popular word, but if you look into research or even philosophical discussion about authenticity, there is not much. The only definition of authenticity that I could find comes from anthropology. It means being true to your original form and shape and being true to your origins, which is interesting because it is not even about character and not even about humans. It is curious how this word is such a buzzword. Many people talk about it and throw it about, but it is not universally understood.
There must be a correlation between awareness in authenticity. You can't be authentic without being aware, but you can’t probably be aware and choose not to be authentic. I don't think that this is a path for everyone. When I make my talks about authenticity or even in my book, I have a warning that authenticity is not a switch. I have this light switch here behind my light. I can switch it on and off, and then the light goes on and off. Authenticity does not work like that.
I like to compare it to a parachute or a skydive, more precisely. Once you are out of the plane or once you have discovered your authenticity, you can't pack your parachute back into the bag midway and return to the plane. You are in for a journey. I would advise people to venture into authenticity only if they are completely ready and aware that it might change their life beyond what they want. It is like the moment in Matrix, the red or the blue pill.
The thing with honesty and authenticity is that it is your own relationship with yourself. If I could give you all sorts of ideas, wisdom and whatnot, it would be one thing listening to me and saying, “That makes sense.” If it does not gel with you, it is fine. You will forget it, brush it off and move on. The completely different thing is to discover your own truth in the process.
That is the pill you can't just throw away. You can live with everybody else's truth, but not with your own. That is a question I want to ask. Do you want to go on that journey? If you want to go on that journey, you have to be okay with the idea that you will discover your own truth and you won't be able to live with that. You will have to change your life if you discover it.
That is beautifully put in. It is in line with this season's message and, most especially, with the mission. That is why I always go back to using the word courage because, like what you said, once you go down that path, you can't turn back. You can't undo it. You can't pack the parachute back. When you do find it, there are going to be these moments of bliss, at least that’s the description for myself.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, as you discover other things, sometimes there are not going to be these moments of joyful bliss. There are going to be these moments when I want to go under a rock and hide for a while. That has been a lot of my journey, but one of the things is to be mindful of giving yourself loving grace and self-love as you go down that. That is the biggest thing you could do because the person that is always with you all the time is going to be yourself.
That is why I insist on that. It’s because, for me, authenticity is mostly about honesty. Honesty is such an interesting topic because if you study the way your brain works, you will discover a lot of little things and how the brain tricks us into a lot of things. Deception is not always a malicious thing. It is where the path laid with good intentions takes you.
It's easier to be brave if you are also kind.
It is an interesting thing. With that aside, I do think that honesty has to go hand in hand with kindness. Courage is necessary but it is so much easier to be brave if you are also kind. A simple analogy would be if you have children, you know how children grow and mature and how they discover the world. They go out, especially the small ones. They look behind their shoulder and see mommy is there.
If the kind mommy is always there to support the child, embrace the child or be there with a child when the child needs it, the child has the courage to go and explore. If the mommy is there standing like, “Your effort is not enough. You have to win,” it’s the fear. I was very competitive but it also was paralyzing because I could not go and explore things unless I was sure that I would win. Kindness is incredibly important if you want to be brave. With kindness, it is so much easier to be brave because you know that failure is also an option.
Obviously, you are aware of that. Has that changed in your life now where it is much more different where you do things now and it is not very competitive?
I jump into things that scare me. That is what I have gotten over. I still don't like competition and little things. I'm not good at board games because I need to learn. I have come up with little cheats to make myself feel better if I don't win. These are little things. When it comes to life, I do need to stop because I'm afraid for sure. Except, now there is war. Sometimes, I wonder how I would behave in such an extreme situation. For most of us, this is not part of our daily reality. I'm also not in rescue services. I'm not sure about this extreme courage. On adrenaline, we all behave differently.
In everyday life, we don't risk all that much. We probably risk more when we sit in the car and drive somewhere. Somehow we often behave as if every single step in our daily life is a question of life and death. It is not. That is why we are afraid sometimes to give up jobs that we hate, take risks, or go into a relationship that might bring the pain because we think that everything is the question of life and death. It is not.
I have been a coward and I had regretted that. I have been too smart trying to anticipate the problem before it happened and regretted that, rather than having the courage to hope for the better. I have done mistakes and I keep doing them. That is the point of life. If I stopped doing mistakes, it would be time to die.
You have lived a brilliant life and we are still continuing to live it. It is an amazing opportunity to sit here with you. Kristina, we brought up in the beginning that you are releasing a book, The Art of Being Flawsome. This book has not been released yet. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?
My editor wrote to me and said, “When is your deadline?” The manuscript is finished and we have done the first round of editing to that. I wrote it myself. I do not have a ghostwriter. I'm proud of that. In non-fiction, that is not the most common thing to do. I wanted it because it is about authenticity. I wanted my quirky English language to be obvious. It is my third language that I speak, not the first or the second. I hope I will release it before the summer of 2022 because it is not completely in my hands. It requires a little bit of the design, printing and all of that, but the manuscripts are ready and I can talk about whatever the book is about, whatever you want to ask.
I would say if you could give us the basis of what it is going to contain, The Art of Being Flawsome.
I wanted to say it is a handbook about finding your way back to you because I do give recipes, but it ends with a chapter that says, “There are no recipes in life.” It would be a little bit unfair to say so. It is interesting because it is not an autobiography, although it might seem like that. It is an algorithm for moving from being in a race and chasing success to asking questions about your life and what makes you happy.
It is about honesty. It has chapters on honesty and kindness. It is about emotional intelligence, not much intelligence. I call it emotional literacy because part of the journey is facing emotions we are not familiar with or haven't been told how to feel. It has a huge chunk on that as well. It ends with me cheerfully telling you, "There are no recipes in life. You have to figure it out."
Kristina, there have been so many things. You have reached success on many levels in many different facets, between going into politics and achieving the success that most of your male counterparts do not achieve until the latter part of their career, or even being the Cofounder of Mindvalley. You see that success as it continues to even grow as an organization and go into writing books. What would you say, coming out this far, has been the biggest achievement for you? It doesn't have to be one single thing. It could be your thoughts on where life is and how you define it for yourself now.
Be kind to yourself when you're making a mistake.
I wouldn't be original in saying that. I truly think that my biggest achievement is my friendship with my children. I love them. They are the best people in my life. I'm proud of them for the way they are. Whenever I see them, I feel smug.
The reason that I asked this question is that we have been living for many generations in culture and society that have conditioned us in a way. I don't even want to say condition. It would be up to the person and how they see it to keep achieving something, whether it is career goals or wealth. I have a son that is turning eighteen and he is going off to college. I look back at those times and I look at pictures of when I got lost with him. Long story short, I got separated from my family. They ended up in Copenhagen. We were directed to Stockholm.
That posed the greatest gift for me, and it was scary as a single mom. I only had a backpack of diapers and formula, and I even ran out of that. I look back now, several years later, and that was one of the greatest gifts. Sometimes God, the universe, creator or whatever you would like to say, created that moment for me to get me outside of the hustle and bustle of everything that was happening in my life in LA and put me in a different country. It was the most beautiful moment. I was crying because those are the things. Before you know it, I'm in my sense that this is another chapter that I have to go through. There are these little moments or if you would say original, that do look for happiness.
I am saying that selfishly. We have created a big company and I'm writing a book. There are all these attempts to leave a mark in the world, but I'm selfishly seeing it. I enjoy hanging out with my kids. It is such a blessing. I know it is such a fleeting moment, but everything in life is fleeting. Youth is fleeting and hopefully, health isn't. We become different and a little heavier in terms of movement as in not as spontaneous. Everything is fleeting. At this moment in my life, I still am blessed to enjoy the company of my kids. That is my biggest pride now. I love hanging out with them. I know I do a lot of other serious things.
I wanted to let the audience know that it is true. We have to take these moments of stillness and awareness and take ourselves away from the hustle and bustle of trying to achieve these goals. Don't get me wrong. They are there for us to achieve, but it is these small moments that we have with our families and these present moments because life is fleeting and these moments are.
The mission of the show is to anchor in love. I know this is going to sound woo-woo and spiritual but it is us being loved at every moment that we can and being present. Kristina, you talked about that in a post on Instagram. It was, "How do you deal with hate and anger?" You can have all of that and you can feel those emotions, but at the core of everything is love.
We didn't even go into emotion much. It is an interesting question because I was talking about anger, hatred and fear in the context of the wall, which are intense emotions. If you look at it from the point of view of the Ukrainian people, whose country has been attacked brutally and senselessly without any sensible reason, these emotions can be overwhelming. When somebody comes and tells you, “You have to feel love,” it is puzzling because how can you. Even that biblical idea that if somebody slaps you, turn another cheek. We are not saints, most of us. We are mostly human. How do you feel?
You brought up this post because I have been in personal growth for nineteen years. For me, it was also a hard moment when a lady in my interview said, “I am not asking you to love your enemy, the person who is attacking your country. What I'm asking is, is there anyone in your life that you could love? Could you stop and concentrate on that love for a moment to increase that emotion?”
It was such a human way of approaching that. It is more accessible. I go even further with love. If you have someone to love, it is great. We all must have at least something to love or someone to love, even if it is a pot of plants. For some people, it may be hard to love. If it is hard to love, try kindness. Kindness is a nice substitute to love and it does the job.
It is hard to love someone who has hurt and wronged you. It is hard and I'm not going to pretend. Maybe somebody who is a saint can do that, but most of us can't. If you pretend that you do, from the psychological point of view, you are probably damaging yourself by not acknowledging the emotions which are there.
Kindness is something that you can feel even towards yourself. If you can't love yourself, try kindness for a change. You can be kind to yourself when you are making a mistake or you have been less than perfect. You can be kind to a person you don't like and hate. You can still show kindness by not lashing out, revenging, and being aggressive. Let that person be. Show kindness by being philosophical and by walking away.
When I started the mission, I was like, “It is all about love.” In one of my interviews, she was like, “Not everyone has that capacity. Depending on where they are, and we have all been in that place.” She was like, “Try and kindness and compassion.” Those are the next level emotions that we can at least go to and redirect the energy field or redirect the focus. I'm glad that you shared that, Kristina.
This show is amazing. From the bottom of my heart, I genuinely thank you for being a part of this special season. If anything, I always wish you more time in the world so you could spend it with your children, playing the harp, and doing things that make you happy. I want to thank you deeply for your contribution to the world in the work of Mindvalley, your books, and all the organizations that you go to and speak on.
This might be on the lighter side, but we are hoping that if anyone comes across this show and has been able to be touched by the messaging that Kristina has, you will continue to support her. Kristina, what would be the best way for anyone to look more into your work if they would like to learn more about you?
As a Cofounder of Mindvalley, I would say Mindvalley. I'm one of the many authors there. You might have to wait for a few months before you see something about me. @KristinaMand in Instagram is where I write personally most frequently. I try to write three times a week. Sometimes I get too busy. I at least maintain once a week, but that is just me writing. I don't have writers for my own ideas and philosophy. I prefer to express myself personally. That is where you will find the latest about me.
Thank you so much, Kristina, for being a part of the show. You are always welcome here. Although I know you have a huge platform to voice out everything that you want to share in your educational platform. You came here to share your message with the show. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. It was a great conversation.
Thank you to everyone. We will catch you on our next one.
About Kristina Mand-Lakhiani
Kristina Mand-Lakhiani is an entrepreneur, international speaker, artist, and mom of two. She started her career in a government office in her native Estonia and, by her mid-20s, achieved a level of success mostly known to male politicians at the end of their careers.
It was shortly after that Kristina and her husband Vishen founded Mindvalley. From a small meditation business that was operating out of the couple’s apartment in New York, the company quickly grew into a global educational organization offering top training for peak human performance to hundreds of thousands of students all around the world.
Kristina helps her students to virtually hack happiness by taking them through her unique framework. Her personal life is as rich and plentiful, if not more, as her professional life. Whether it’s singing her two children to sleep, playing the harp, or going offline in the Amazon jungle, Kristina is set on taking in every moment and invites us to do the same.