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57: From Cancer to Self Healing: Lessons for Nonprofit Leaders Around Personal Wellness with Cimeran Kapur

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“I was very empathetic so it made sense that I would be a doctor and care for others, so I went down that path. But I’m a free thinker and not someone who likes to be put in a box.”

– Cimeran Kapur
Episode #57

Overview

In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…

It was a thrill to spend time recently with Cimeran Kapur, the Founder, and CEO of Potion, cancer survivor, advocate for healing, and – most of all – seeker of truth. In this episode of What the Fundraising, we’re discussing the effects of coming into alignment with ourselves. It starts with sifting through and looking at who we are to uncover who we’re meant to become.

Cimeran was living at breakneck speed, becoming a physician and doing her best to save the world, when she was hit out of left field with a cancer diagnosis. Her world, of course, was turned upside down. Rather than buckle under, Cimeran got busy researching, reflecting, and shedding layers of conditioning that had not served her well. Ultimately she was drawn back to her roots in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient mind-body-spirit practice from India. Today she is launching Potion, a brand whose mission is to educate and bring integrative health and well-being to everyone.

You’ll learn not only about Cimeran’s journey to full remission but also about the toolkit she deployed in getting there. She’s also offering compelling insights into the nature of true self-confidence (and how to cultivate it) as well as how to set boundaries that are integral, authentic, and in community with others. Cimeran’s combination of personal life example and Ayurvedic wisdom are inspiring and educational both professionally and personally.

Interested in another take on building confidence? Click here to check out Episode 36 of What the Fundraiser, featuring performance optimization coach Dethra Giles.

To increase your fundraising confidence specifically, you might benefit from understanding your fundraising superpower by taking this Quiz

This episode is sponsored by our friends at Bloomerang. Our friends at Bloomerang really understand fundraisers, which is how they make a donor management software that nonprofits like to use. To learn more about them, head on over to bloomerang.com/mallory.

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Ayurveda: A brief introduction and guide.

“The Surrender Experiment: My Journey to Life’s Perfection,” by Michael A. Singer.

“The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self,” by Martha Beck.

This episode is sponsored by our friends at Bloomerang. Our friends at Bloomerang really understand fundraisers, which is how they make a donor management software that nonprofits like to use. To learn more about them, head on over to bloomerang.com/mallory.

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MALLORY ERICKSON

episode transcript

Mallory Erickson: Hi Cim, I’m so excited to have you joining me today.

Cimeran Kapur: I’m so excited too. It’s been too long.

Mallory Erickson: Way too long. So let’s just dive right in and just tell us a little bit about your story. 

Cimeran Kapur: So I live in San Francisco right now. I’m a bay area native lived here most of my life. I have spent about six, seven years in India growing up which also contributed to my passions and my interests. I would say my childhood shaped my mission which is to help heal the world. Help people actually learn that they’re the greatest healer for themselves, so that’s my mission.

And then I would say that my diagnosis a few years ago with cancer really taught me that I am worthy of love, especially for myself. And I would say those are probably the two most important things that kind of define me, is my mission. And then my desire to share that for you to heal yourself, you have to realize that you’re worthy of loving yourself, which I think is the secret to better health than happiness. So that’s a little bit about me. I’m the founder of the Ayurvedic medicine brand Potion, where we are building trust, credibility, and authenticity in the space of holistic medicine, India’s 5,000 year old traditional meds. 

Mallory Erickson: And you also have a medical background. So tell us a little bit about that and how that weaves into all of this.

Cimeran Kapur: No surprise, I’m Indian. So there are only certain life paths that we can take, joking. But yes, I said my childhood kind of shaped me. I lived in India when I was about five years old and I had never seen such poverty ever. And it had a really big impact on my consciousness. I decided at that moment that I didn’t want to participate in the ignorance of society and the lack of human empathy for the suffering of other people, especially with the child. And I saw other children’s suffering and it felt like my situation was all luck. I was given a good education and a good environment as a child to grow, whereas other children don’t necessarily get that.

It seemed like it was just about luck, right? And so that’s really what shaped me. My parents knew I was very empathetic so it made sense that I would be a doctor and care for other people. And I went on that journey but I’m definitely a free thinker. I’m not someone who likes to be put in a box, so to speak. So before I went to med school I had a long exploration in the field of healthcare and medicine. I’ve dedicated my whole life to this one mission. So I was in public health in San Francisco as a board member for the public health department, I learned that your education and your zip code determines your life expectancy.

So then I did teach for America and I became a special ed teacher. I then wanted to understand the healthcare system within the hospital. How do different clinics and providers collaborate and communicate with each other because I knew that was a big problem in healthcare.  So I ran a center at a clinic for UCS staff, which is one of the biggest hospitals. I did clinical research. So you can imagine all these little things and my parents are like, are you going to be a doctor or are you just teasing us. I was like fine, I’ll go to med school and have to climb the ladder. And I wanted to be a head and neck surgeon. To be honest, I actually wanted to be a pediatrician but I think somewhere along the road I lost a little bit of my identity and it was all about pleasing others and feeling I was worthy. This is the thread that kind of took me through my whole life. I felt my self worth was tied to my impact because that was my mission from a child. 

I know a lot of people who are probably listening to this podcast, they are leaders in the nonprofit space. You have a mission, you have something that you’re working towards, and if you’re tying your value as a human being to how many lives you touch, that’s not going to do good things for your self-confidence if you’re not able to see that vision through immediately. 

And I was very impatient, even though I was going on this very long path and journey.  And I landed in med school. I was trying to be a head and neck surgeon, and we’re doing a head and neck exam. And thank God for this because I’m practicing when my colleague and I see that there’s a difference in how my neck feels and I’m 28 years old. Nobody believes me when I’m like, I think something is wrong. You’re a hypochondriac. Obviously you’re becoming a doctor. I lie, I get blood tests, ultrasound all of the things. And I found out very soon after that I have cancer and it was serious and it had spread far beyond my neck. And my whole life turned upside down because it wasn’t just facing my own mortality, it was facing the fact that at 28 years old I would never reach my full potential. I would not do, I’m getting emotional, but I would not do what I was meant to do in this life. And I was falling short of that and it was incredibly scary but I think Rumi says, the wound is the place that the light enters you.

And that’s really what happened to me, you can let true hardship in life, and I faced a lot of hardship even before then, which is also what probably contributed to low self-worth and self-confidence, but it was the place that the light entered me. And you can let it destroy you or you can let it rebuild you. And the Phoenix rises from the ashes. That’s exactly what happened, I for the first time just completely surrendered and went on a new journey of loving healing for myself. And here I am today feeling healthier than ever. Cancer was a blessing in disguise for me, it showed me that if I wanted to help heal other people I had to look at myself first.

There’s another special quote I think it is from Rumi as well, the smart person thinks that they will heal the world or save the world, but it’s the wise person that saves themselves and does it for themselves. And that’s really the important part that we learn is you work on yourself first and then that kind of leads other people to learn from you in that way. Instead of you giving them the fish, you teach them how to fish. 

Mallory Erickson: Wow. I’m so grateful for you sharing all of that with us. And I think there’s so many lessons in there, I think for everyone, but I think about nonprofit leaders in general, who show up to their work with that service helper energy but aren’t showing up to their own lives with that same level of attention or grace or even helpfulness, spaciousness. And I see a lot of patterns in the sector around what it looks like to be helpful externally without showing up for yourself internally and that it can just lead to a lot of ultimately over the long term, I think resentment and martyrdom and ultimately less efficiency as a leader.

What are some as you’ve been on this journey towards your own self worth and confidence, what have you noticed about how it’s impacted your leadership?

Cimeran Kapur: I would say the first thing is that it is a journey. And even though I have done so much work, I’ve read all the books, I read probably 500. I’m not even joking, 500 books, podcasts, all of the information I could take into my head as possible. I did that but then you also have to sit with yourself and I think that’s the hardest part. You need space to really understand who you are and what makes you magical. And part of this is uncovering all of the wounds and all of the triggers that you’re holding inside yourself that is holding you back.

And COVID has happened now, but the original COVID for me was when I was going through nuclear radiation. It’s obviously nuclear so I am toxic to other people. So when I was going through it I had to self isolate so it was my quarantine. I was quarantined from the rest of the world, from my family, because I was physically dangerous to be around because I was taking all this radiation. And I didn’t have anyone at that moment. And as much as life is about community, it is also recognizing that we come alone and we die alone. And this thread of learning that you are your own best friend. You are your own greatest healer. Really understanding and sitting with yourself. It’s not something I was used to doing.

So as a leader, I think the first step is to build confidence and to build self-love. Get to know yourself, understand and uncover. And for me, it was painful because every time something came up or triggers or anything like that I was always shitting on myself. Of course you feel this way. Oh, you’re not strong enough. You’re not mentally strong enough. You’re not emotionally strong enough. And instead of giving yourself that grace. I know a lot of people talk about this and it is a really good example, would you do that to a best friend of yours or would you nurture them and treat yourself in a way that gives yourself dignity and respect?

And I think the other thing I would say before we get into leadership skills, it does come with understanding that you are human. Part of people who have big missions and these savior complexes. That’s why we call them savior complexes is you feel like no one. I had this feeling a lot and I’m sure people can relate to this, listening to this podcast. I had this feeling because as a child, I would look around and everyone was ignorant and driving injustice by. I said if nobody’s going to do it, I’m going to do it. No one else is going to do it. I’m going to do it. And you have this attitude of me against the world, like you’re fighting.

And then you’re also fighting parts of yourself, right? If you want to enjoy, if you want to have a good time, and you’re not working towards the goal or the dream of the mission. Then you’re shitting on yourself, so you’re not even allowing love to stay within yourself. And what I noticed about myself is that my mind and my body were completely disconnected.

I treated my body like a goddamn machine. Do what I say, sleep when I tell you to, eat quickly as you’re rushing through your meals to get to the next thing. My brain was what I valued and it was suffering too, clearly with my mental and emotional health. And so sitting with yourself, recognizing every single cell in your body, from the tips of your fingers and your toes, the lining of your nose, all of it. They’re made up of cells that have your DNA. Every single bit of you is you so respect it and love it and know that all these cells they’re working so hard, they’re working in unison so that you don’t even have to think about it, only when you get sick. I started realizing my God, my body has betrayed me. I said, did my body betray me or did I betray it first? And let’s get together and heal myself.

Mallory Erickson: Wow. There’s so many things that pull us out, disembody us because if we were listening to our bodies the whole time then we wouldn’t be hustling as hard. And we wouldn’t be producing as much. And we wouldn’t be going as fast. And we wouldn’t be satisfying all of these conditioned tendencies that have become our auto responses because of the environment that we are in. And then over time and I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast have dealt with different health issues or situations where they feel they weren’t stopping or resting or giving their body what it needed. And finally their bodies started getting louder and louder.

For me, it ended up being chronic pain and I think it’s interesting what you said. I can’t remember exactly how you said it, but something about the things we don’t give our bodies. And I think rest is a huge one, when people rest they get in their own heads about, you’re lazy or you’re the problem.

Cimeran Kapur: Totally. I think about one of the great leaders in this space about the burnout epidemic and anxiety is Arianna Huffington, right? She talks about this publicly, I think she broke her face because she was so tired from exhaustion she fell on her desk. And she completely had to rebuild from there. And she was the hustler and now she’s started Thrive obviously and teaching people how to get good rest. 

But I think the problem exists and I talked about this recently too with the industrial revolution. We not only changed the way we view society and efficiency but also how we viewed human potential and human health. Because when machines came on the scene, the point of the machine was very different than humans, right? The point of view of a machine is that you’re working at optimal efficiency maximal time. Machines, you don’t want them to have any downtime, right? Software, for example, like you don’t want your app to crash, you want it to be going constantly. And we started applying those same principles to human beings, to our work, and our health. So you can’t rest. Rest is bad. 

And the truth is human beings, we’re not machines. We are living breathing systems. Our operating system is completely different than that of a machine, we need rest. And from a biological level, rest when you’re sleeping, that is when your body is repairing itself. That is when you’re doing all of that repair. That’s also when knowledge integration is happening.

So that’s why people feel so cloudy and they can’t think straight because they’re not able to take all that information they have learned the past day and actually integrate them and apply them to their lives. And so rest is actually our secret weapon, when you have good sleep and unless you have a certain genetic mutation where you’ll only need four to six hours of sleep. 99.9% of us need seven to nine hours of sleep at night. That is not something I was doing before obviously. I was training to be a doctor. I wanted to be a surgeon. I was getting like two to three hours of sleep a night. It was not healthy. Now I’m really trying to be disciplined about my sleep and no technology in the room. It’s very hard to wake up and not check your phone when you’re an entrepreneur, I understand. But all of these things called sleep hygiene are really important. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And something that you just said, this made me think of this for the first time is just like how many sort of incongruencies we see in the world around us all the time. Even that piece around doctors are there to support our health and yet the practice, the structure of the medical system is so contradictory to what we know to actually be the most healthy for humans. And I think it’s similar to sometimes we see in nonprofit practices that the internal practices of the nonprofit are in conflict with the mission of the organization. Like the board members are not agreeing to salary raises so that their staff members are living at more comfortable wages while they’re trying to address economic systems issues.

And there’s just this deep incongruence and I know one of the things you and I both really think about a lot is what does it look like to live in alignment and all of the different areas of our life and in the work that we do.

Cimeran Kapur: Totally. I think structurally so much needs to change about our system in terms of respecting work that actually moves the needle and makes an impact in society. I did teach for America and I was a special ed teacher and I earned $27,000 a year. My husband was an investment banker at that time and we were just friends, but I remember we’d be working the same hours. I was up until two in the morning. He was up until two in the morning, but our salaries did not reflect that.

And I was helping children learn and reach their full potential. So I think that also probably in the space of nonprofits probably breeds a lot of anger and mistrust. And it is putting this negative feedback loop and it is really hard to get out of it. But I think what helps you live in alignment is first realizing that you can change your mind about how you want to perceive situations at any moment. It doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a resistance, your brain has a lot of resistance to new forms of thinking and patterns and you do have to train it. And for me it has been three and a half years of training my mind so those same triggers, that same patterns and behaviors as I was starting my business didn’t play out. You know now it’s funny a bit, but the world can be in a storm and I’m able to cultivate calm. It is probably one of the things I’m most proud of because that never existed. That was not in my vocabulary. That was not in my tool kit but through meditation, through rest, through eating well, all of these things that are going to help you build the foundation to then continue to build up this toolkit. 

Mallory Erickson: Okay. Can we talk about the link between that and confidence? Because I feel like there’s something here where when people think about confidence or becoming more confident, they also tie it to success or achievement or external validation. And I think for me that I have become so much more confident over the years because of the things that you just said, because of taking care of myself. And I’ve actually had many various visible failures. I’ve had many more things that I could have easily popped a confidence balloon had my confidence been built on external validation. But because it was actually built on the inner work and meditation or yoga and my own relationship to my body, my own relationship to myself. And that confidence for me is actually about just accepting myself, the good, the bad, the everything, not being confident because I think I’m so special. It’s just that I think every human being is a pretty special combination of cells and it’s magical that we get to be here and exist in this world. I just am me. And so I’m just going to sink into that as opposed to thinking I’m so great and that’s why I’m confident. 

Cimeran Kapur: Totally. And I think that’s the difference between narcissism and true confidence. When it’s ego based, whoever says that’s confidence, it’s not. It’s narcissism because ultimately like even in my business now I know that whether it’s a success or it’s not a success, I know it will be a success because of the way I’m cultivating it. But it is not going to make me feel like a failure anymore. I’ve done that way too many times. When I have failed at something that I’m doing. I have felt like a failure, it has broken me down completely. I think I have broken down so many times, please everybody learns the lessons from me.

My confidence has been shattered so many times. And I hate to even say this publicly because there’s so much stigma around it. But I’ve had some serious mental health issues from cancer, from a very difficult childhood, a lot of financial instability, from building a business that was truly mission-based and having to pivot hard in a direction that I never expected to. All of these things have at certain levels shattered my self-confidence. If you will and my self-worth. 

But I think there are two things that I’ll say, one is learning how to respect yourself is going to build your confidence. What are the things that you can do to respect yourself? To be honest, one of the things that I did early on thanks to cancer was I cleaned up my act when it came to my food. I was eating like garbage. I was eating garbage every day, junk food and sugar. I was addicted to sugar. I would start before going to the clinic in the morning, sometimes if I didn’t have time to eat, it’d be like a coffee and I swear I would pick up a chocolate bar, eat a chocolate bar. That’s how I would start my day. And then I would go to the hospital and be doing clinic or whatever it was, it was ridiculous. And I had no time constantly. My family was calling, I was like, I have no time, I have to see patients. I have no time to study. I have no time. And that was constantly my dialogue. I need to make time for myself, eating was a chore, that I just need to stuff food in my mouth, and I need to study and get onto the next thing and achieve, get into this residency or internship program, whatever.

And when I cleaned up my act with my food, oh my God. I started respecting myself. I was like, oh my God, I’m the type of person who eats clean. Every minor act, confidence happens with a million steps. It does not happen as a leap. It never happens as a leap that is fake confidence. If you get a press release about yourself, when you feel good, that you’re so cool. That is narcissism. That is not confidence. Because guess what, the moment the next press comes out that you’re negative, you’re broken. And or if it doesn’t come out, you have no confidence, it’s gone. True confidence comes with respecting yourself and respecting yourself comes with discipline. Do that with food. Do that with exercise. Do that with sleep. And these things are triple fold in terms of benefiting you because if you feed your mind, you feed your emotions, you feed your body. You will start to become a different person. You’ll just exude a different level of energy.

So that was a big part. When I cleaned up my health I started with my food. Then I went to my emotions and then I went to my thoughts and my mindset. And so I really believe those three are ways that you feed yourself. Ayurvedic is mind, body, spirit medicine. I’m now trained in Ayurvedic medicine. So I went from traditional MD training to now Ayurvedic medicine because what I love so much about this science is that it makes science, philosophy and spirituality. And now it’s like a full alignment of your being. So you have a healthy mind, you have a healthy emotions because ultimately I’m sure you’ve taught this in your different trainings when you’re fundraising for example. People invest based on how they feel ultimately, and the way people feel about things governance so much more than the way that they think, even if they think they’re acting in a certain way. But your energy is magnetized and you could be thinking positive thoughts. I want to be rich or I want to be famous or whatever people think. But if you don’t feel that way inside, you’re not putting out that frequency into the world and you’re still suffering inside. 

So I cleaned up my emotions, now if I’m triggered I take a deep breath. You can use techniques like breathing that are incredibly important. Breathing comes from Ayurvedic, that’s called pranayama. And there is a way to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which is rest and digest. And that’ll give you a framework to let those things go, let it pass, and be the calm in the storm. So that’s the first thing that I would say is discipline in these regards of health and wellness will make you a better leader and give you better confidence because you learn to respect yourself.

The second is crushing the ego. That is a really hard thing to do but crushing the ego gives you a different level of confidence. When I felt, and this is to all the nonprofit founders and leaders out there. You are the tuning fork through which your mission is coming alive. I heard this beautiful thought the other day that there are goals and targets in the sky and you are attracted to a certain goal or a target, which I’m like, oh my God, that is so aligned. We want different things in life. We have this unique signature and fabric and DNA that makes us uniquely us. Nobody else is like us. So somebody might be really lobbying and advocating for children who are blind because of some particular event that happened in their life and they’re really aligned to that. Nobody else is doing that particular thing in that particular way. And we’re also attracted to these missions and these goals that are out there based on our unique fabric and signature.

And so when you recognize then that living in alignment is that mission is there and there is something guiding you. You believe that you’re part of something greater. So one of the things that you said right now, Mal, which really connected with me is that we were all made of the same stuff. We all come from nature. When you remove your ego, you realize, yes, we’re all unique but we’re also all a community. What I see in you, in me, we want everyone to win. I think we’ve been bred in this society, in this culture of competition over collaboration. And trust me, I have just gotten over that shit because it held me back for some time, I’m Indian, right? You want to be number one, number two, number three. My parents have been talking, my dad has been talking about that since I was a baby. Is that you must be the best. You must be the best, best means only one. And so I had that for such a long time where it felt like I was competing with the world. That’s why you’re fighting against the world instead of collaborating. Once you realize that this mission and this passion that you’re going after it’s happening through you, but it is not you, right? 

You’ll have less of an ego about it. Your self-worth and your self value will not be as tied to it because you start to live in the state of belief and trust. And trust is such an important word here, that there is going to be a safety net. I heard this beautiful thought the other day that the right person with the right intention, making a mistake will still yield the right outcome. Whereas the wrong person with the wrong intention with the right action will yield the wrong outcome. And I think that you have to remember that, if you’re doing the hard work, you’re learning to love yourself which is a very important ingredient here because you cannot be in alignment if the fabric of you is in constant resistance and scarcity mindset and in trauma and in fear. You’re not in alignment. I’m sorry, because when you’re living in alignment, you’re living in unconditional love. You’re living in bliss and you’re living in trust and trust has no place for disbelief and fear. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. Wow. Okay, there’s so much that you said there that I’m interested in exploring, I’ll say one thing about the last thing that you said. I also think you can be experiencing deep alignment and discomfort at the same time.

Cimeran Kapur: Totally!

Mallory Erickson: But that’s so different than resistance. We’re taught I feel like those are the same thing. And I feel like parsing that out of my body, recognizing when I’m uncomfortable but in alignment is such a different feeling than resistance to something. 

Cimeran Kapur: Have you read The Surrender Experiment? I talk about this constantly by Michael Singer, anyone listening to this read The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. It’s a little bit of a longer read. My husband was listening to it on an audio book and he’s like, he’s not getting to the point. And I’m like honey, the point is the whole book, read the whole way through, like it’s the journey of him, it’s not the destination. And I think that’s the most beautiful part of this book and just this message. And that’s what I was alluding to is you almost have to surrender your life a little bit, right? I’m not saying that you have no control over your actions and your thoughts, like these are the things that the discipline part you have control over. 

Example I’m not saying that, oh, you have an investor meeting to pitch your nonprofit and you don’t prepare. No, you have to prepare. You have to give gifts to your future self. So your future self will look back and say, damn Sam, good job preparing. You totally nailed that I’m so proud of you. We’re just uncomfortable doing the work, still did the work, and now we’re here at this spot. But when you surrender to a higher mission and kind of trust, you will say yes to things that make you uncomfortable because you’ll realize your life is not your own, right. We tend to believe that in our lives we can plan things out and life is going to go exactly. I’m going to get married at this age. I’m going to have a baby at this age. My baby is going to be so smart and learn Chinese and all these sorts of things. And then I’m going to be earning X amount of money by here. We’re going to buy a house here. Like you have these crazy plans that we come up with because based on the stuff that we consume on social media and the news and everything. I do think it does us a disservice because if life is truly an adventure then it’s worth exploring, right?

It’s worth exploring the twists and the turns. And you really end up enjoying the ride and the journey, which we’ve all heard this a million times. That is what life is about. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you’re enjoying your present moment, because that’s all we really have, you’re talking to a cancer survivor here.That is all you really have is this moment right now, live it in bliss, live it in joy. 

Mallory Erickson: There’s something that you said a few minutes ago that I can’t get out of my head, that piece around the right person making a mistake and the wrong person taking the right action. When the intention really isn’t there, the right energy isn’t there, it ends up not being right. And I think this is linked somehow in a way to this concept, I’ve been thinking a lot about lying recently. So I read Martha Beck’s book The Way of Integrity. And she has this no lie challenge in the book and it is hard. The amount of lying that we do in our lives is unbelievable. 

And I consider myself someone who lives in a fair amount of alignment, but I lie all the time. How are you doing? Yeah, how are you doing? I’m fine. Not really fine. Do you want to come to this thing? Yes. No I don’t. All the things that we do when they’re not true, they’re not true with our truest self. They’re true with our people pleasing selves, but they are out of alignment. They’re ultimately a lie against our truest self. And when you were talking before about the way that discipline around food really changed the relationship, your relationship with yourself and the way you respect yourself, I feel the same way actually about this work I’d been doing around lying. That for me taking that beat, I have been such a slower communicator since I started this challenge because someone will text me with a question and I do not know what’s true right away. My first instinct is not necessarily true. My first instinct is to make them comfortable, to make them happy to make it all okay. But not necessarily what’s really true for me. Like somebody apologizing for harming me and initially I’d be like, it’s okay, no problem, it’s fine. And then I have to sit with it and be like, what’s the truest and kindest way for me to respond to this. 

Cimeran Kapur: And kind is important in there too. That’s for leadership skills communication, right? Because you can be living your truth and in alignment, but you can also do damage if you don’t know how to convey that because not everyone is in the same mental space or growth mindset or stage of personal development as you are. And that’s something I had to learn the hard way. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I think that’s something that we’re really on the cusp of talking about a lot more. And especially as we see different sematic practices grow and recognizing that healing takes place in community as well, that there’s an individual piece to healing, but there’s also a community piece. And I feel as we’ve watched healing work be individualized and more communication around therapy for example. It’s like therapy is wonderful. I’m not knocking therapy, but some of the skills we learned in therapy around boundaries are causing harm to other people. 

Both of those things can be true. It can be true that you need to set a boundary. It can also be true that sometimes the way in which we set boundaries causes harm. So how do we, if we’re in community, especially in healing communities where we’re trying to address things like anti-racism work, how do we learn strategies that are also community based healing practices. And so I think what you’re talking about is just so important on all of those levels. 

Cimeran Kapur: I love it. Yeah. I completely agree with everything that you’ve said around community being a really important aspect to unlock. Also, sometimes I don’t know if you think about this a lot too. Because I’ve learned how to love myself and I learned what self-love and self-worth is. The biggest resistance I had in my mindset was, am I selfish? Am I going to be selfish? Will self-love lead to selfishness? Am I going to change fundamentally as a person? And am I going to be like those people who don’t give a shit about anyone else but themselves, because I know plenty of those people, right? And now I’m acting in ways that when I wasn’t doing this work, I felt was selfish. So we also do need to keep in mind as you’re going on this personal development journey, I was the person who would look at people who had boundaries and go, damn, that’s selfish. Like that’s selfish and you would shame that person, but there are things that you can learn from everyone. And I do think for me, I’ve always realized harmony is in the middle of both extremes, always for every situation. There is no such thing as just black and white. There’s always shades of gray, always.

And same with self-love. Can it go too far where you’re only valuing yourself and then you realize actually we’re part of nature. Community is really important. We’re all part of a community. So if I were saying, you know what, my boundary is telling me I don’t really want to be a parent anymore. I’m not a mom, I don’t really, no, not for me right now. Like not doing my thing. That’s going to harm someone else and you realize that there are layers to this work that we’re not teaching you to go only in one direction, but you to find that middle ground where you learn to love and value yourself, but also create an environment that is positive around.

Mallory Erickson: Okay. I think there’s two things though that you said that are so important that I want to double click on and then I want to make sure we get to talk about Potion so everyone can hear about that. 

One is that I think one the work of setting boundaries or any discipline that is changing your operating procedures takes practice and often missing the mark as you’re learning that. You’re going to set boundaries sometimes and like really screw up and maybe you are going to be selfish in a way you don’t want to be like, you’re learning. We don’t always know exactly where the boundary lives that holds us in that harmony right off the bat. And so just for folks to give themselves that grace to play, like sometimes I set a boundary that’s too hard and I’m like, oh, I need to scale that back. Or sometimes it wasn’t far enough and I need to reset it. And all of those things. And I also deeply believe that boundaries that are coming from a place of alignment and integrity. When they’re done in an embodied way and with a lot of awareness and particularly in community, I think they nest in a way that feels healthy for everyone.

And I think it’s when we launch a boundary out of resistance in a disembodied state because we’ve been triggered. That’s the times when I feel like I see more of you know what is perceived as more selfish behavior, right? It’s like something is really not working there for them. And they’re trying to figure out how to create some space for themselves. They don’t know exactly how to do that yet to give them the space to like tap into themselves and so they’re just like throwing boundaries out all over the place.

Cimeran Kapur: And to visualize that it’s almost like a porcupine, right? Like where if someone touches the boundary, they’re burned, they’re scarred, they’re hurt. You want to create the soft boundaries where it’s still firm, but it’s soft and they still hit a wall. But it’s not something that will puncture you and puncture a relationship. So I think that part is really important. And as you’re doing the work of growing, even with your colleagues or even in your personal life. Get ready because people are used to a certain version of you and you’re going to now become a different version of yourself.

You’re going to evolve as a human being and evolve to this new version of you. And it might take some getting used to from other people. So have grace, not only with yourself, but have grace with them as well and keep asserting that boundary, keep asserting it, but do it in a way that creates harmony instead of disharmony because the goal and the object for better health and for alignment is a place of harmony and peace. You want to optimize for peace and harmony, but not in a way where you create internal disharmony and dispiece that makes sense. So don’t keep outside peace, but ruin inner peace. Find that balance between the two because your inner peace is going to be the most important. 

Mallory Erickson: Yeah, totally. And that I think is Martha Beck’s piece around the line too, is that the line externally is to keep the peace externally, but it creates all this inner conflict. And so it really is just about finding that balance. And I certainly when I really changed my relationship to myself, had to have intentional conversations with all of the people in my life to say, I was not factoring in time for me before. And so now it’s going to feel like I’m taking something away from you because I’m going to be less available. But what I’m really doing is giving myself some time and I totally understand that’s going to feel uncomfortable at first and we’re going to have to renegotiate what our relationship looks like, but I also can’t continue to devalue myself.

Cimeran Kapur: Totally. And you can do that by empowering other people to reach for those same goals for themselves. 

Mallory Erickson: Yes. Which is exactly what you’re doing with Potion. So talk to us a little bit about what you’re up to right now and what folks can do who want to learn more and get their hands on it. 

Cimeran Kapur: This is exactly what I’m talking about, living in alignment. So I was building a tech business. We faced some real challenges in terms of competition. So a very big company, Apple, came out and said they were building the exact same thing we were building. So I knew it was going to be the biggest uphill battle. And I was so passionate about what I was building in technology and wanting to help people heal. But my goal was really to help people learn how to heal themselves and give them the tools and resources to be empowered.

In the meantime, and this is how beautiful life is, as I’m building this tech business, I still had cancer. I was still really getting treatments and working with and I turned back to my roots in Indian Ayurveda medicine. So I got desperate. And when you get desperate, you get open. So I’d done all the traditional medicine, my cancer markers still spiking. And now I’m open to trying anything, all the stuff that I actually learned in childhood I was very into. I’d go to the Ostroms every summer. I grew up with Ayurveda medicine, which is India’s 5,000 year old traditional medicine. And I decided what the hell, I’m going back to my roots. I will try anything. I’m practicing mind, body spirit medicine. Ayurveda has tons of incredibly powerful herbs and spices and all of the different mind, body, spirit connections that are probably trending right now from breathwork, to yoga, to meditation, to dry brushing. Pretty much everything, oil pulling. I can name a million of them. They all come from India and Ayurveda. 

And so one of the things I started doing. I was trying to figure out, okay, my immune system is incredibly shot and for me to build back my immunity I need to figure out what to do. So with an Ayurveda practitioner, I’m learning about everything. I’m reading all the studies and I created this potion for myself. And it was to help me heal from debilitating treatments. It’s funny because you know how I talked so much about self love today. I never loved myself. This was an act, a pure act of self using all of my knowledge from medicine and research, using my own hands to make this for myself. 

And then I did munthras, munthra is chanting. You can think about it as affirmations, it’s actually just chanting and it’s really to raise the vibration. So I put all of my soul and my science and my efforts into sourcing the best, highest quality ingredients. I was going to create this powerhouse potion for myself based on my heritage and I was going to figure out how to help myself heal. And I would meditate and I would eat clean and low and behold, my cancer markers started disappearing. And I never expected this. I’m doing it on the side as I’m building my tech business and I’m stressed out pretty much all the time, thinking I’m living in alignment. But it’s really hard being a founder, it is really hard. 

And then this news comes out and I’m completely shattered, what am I going to do? I have to pivot my business. I got this incredible opportunity to get into this accelerator program Techstars. And I know I need to pivot and we have this month of pitching, where people are already there pitching mentors to help them through the program. There are like 10 companies there, I’m the only company that has no idea what I’m doing because I don’t have a business anymore, and I tell maybe 15 or 20 of them my story and that I have this one thing I did for myself and everyone is interested in this.

They weren’t interested in me trying to figure out how to pivot technology. They want to buy my product. And all of a sudden this product was never intended to see the light of day because I’m a researcher, I have a background in medicine. I didn’t want people to think I’m woo-woo. There was this thing going around where my friends go, oh, she’s so woo-woo, and she’s so into this stuff. And in public I wouldn’t talk about it, but in private I was all about meditation and breathing and the spices and herbs and healing myself. 

And that’s what I talk about. The universe has a better plan for you than you. I never, I don’t know anything about building a product based company, a CPG company and here I am. I have customers without even having the product ready for them. And so that’s what I’m doing now. We have privately launched. We’re publicly launching in a couple of months. You can sign up, you can get early access to Potion, and it’s really just a dream come true because now I’m living my fully authentic life. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy to be here. I’m so happy to work every day. We haven’t even launched yet and it doesn’t matter. I feel successful. Before the way I was running my tech business, it was like, when do we get X number of like users? Or when we get this raise I will feel like I’ve earned it. I don’t feel that now, it’s taken three and a half years and I finally feel successful before having something out there. I’m really proud of it. People love the product and we have paid customers, which we didn’t even have in our tech business and we were investing so much money in there. So it’s crazy how life works that way, but the company is called Potion that’s an Ayurvedic medicine brand. My goal is to bring trust, credibility, and authenticity to Ayurveda like medicine and holistic medicine. We are also sharing content and educating people about the research behind all of the different holistic practices to build trust in the space.

But our goal is to reinvent the medicine cabinet with clean, organic high quality products that are alternatives to pharmaceutical medicines for anything that you would see in your medicine cabinet. I think it’s really important to realize that we are a part of nature and nature heals and that’s the mission and the goal still. It’s still working towards my mission, but in a way that I never expected and it’s so aligned to me, it makes me scream from joy. I love it. I just love it. 

Mallory Erickson: I love seeing you so happy and I love seeing you live in this alignment. It’s such a joy to get to see where this path has led you and I am on the list. I am ready for the launch. I’m so excited to try it. We’ll put the link in everything below, so folks can check it out as well. And just so grateful for you and for this conversation, I knew we’d get into some really special topics today.

Cimeran Kapur: What a great conversation. I really enjoyed myself. Thank you so much, Mal. And thank you to everyone who’s listening to this, I really appreciate it. 

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