Mindful Agility

Noah Rasheta: Fewer Expectations, More Success

April 26, 2022 Noah Rasheta Season 1 Episode 7
Mindful Agility
Noah Rasheta: Fewer Expectations, More Success
Show Notes Transcript

Our stories provide a shorthand self, which gives us focus while the stories make sense, but they put our happiness at risk. If we imagine them to be complete and permanent we are doomed to suffer. 

When we release our attachment to our stories, we create freedom. Only through our actions will we transform ourselves and our world. The stories are only decorative.

We talk with Noah Rasheta about the stories around him, as he lives a life with fewer attachments. We find out how we can avoid those attachments by doing things, but not being things.

Noah Rasheta is the host of the Secular Buddhism podcast and author of three books on Buddhism.



  • Photo of PT Barnum and Tom Thumb, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, circa 1840.
  • The sting separator sound used in this episode is a derivative of Swing beat 120 xylophone side-chained by Casonika used under license CC BY by Daniel Greening.


  • Daniel Greening, host, agile consultant, software executive
  • Mirela Petalli, co-host, meditation guide, and neurocritical nursing instructor
  • Dan Dickson, business coach, executive and management consultant


[00:00:00] Cold Open

[00:00:00] Noah Rasheta: When we're traveling and we encounter people along the way and they're like, oh, you guys are from Utah. Are you Mormon? My wife will be like, Yes. Had they asked me answer would have been no. Some of us are some of us aren't and then there's a big But there. It's like, well, let's explain this, but nobody has time for that. Nobody wants that. So you just stick with the easiest answer sometimes when it comes to labels.

[00:00:25] Daniel Greening: Welcome to the Mindful Agility podcast. I'm your host, Dan Greening. My cohost is Mirela Petalli. Noah Rasheda joins us for the second time. We'll talk about how things go when you loosen your attachment to your stories.

If you want to get useful stuff done faster, this podcast is for you. Mindfulness practices help us gain greater insight while agile practices help us get results. 

Each episode is an agile experiment. We hypothesized this episode will help you gain more insight and build more value. The journey is half the fun. 

[00:01:05] Introduction

[00:01:05] Daniel Greening: In episode six, we talked with Noah about how his experience with entrepreneurship led to a big pivot. To driving a school bus. Noah had attached himself to a story that he was a successful entrepreneur. But when his business started failing, his attachment caused tremendous suffering.

To gain a visceral understanding that the stories we tell ourselves are impermanent and just stories. Noah took a job as a school bus driver. I still marvel at that story. Today, we'll talk with Noah about how his new found detachment from stories has given him the freedom to choose more fulfilling work, and roll more easily with life's ups and downs. 

I know you love to fly. Now you're running a flight school. I don't know what you imagined at the very beginning. Was that consciously a goal that you had? Did you say. " I love to fly. I'm going to create a sustainable business around flying." Or was it? "I love to fly. I'm just impulsively doing this."

[00:02:14] Noah Rasheta: Uh, a little bit of both. Growing up, I had posters on my wall of Coast Guard helicopters. From a very early age, I dreamt of flying. And that stuck with me all the way through college. I decided I was going to pursue it and make a career out of flying. 

I went to flight school and halfway through helicopter flight school, the school went bankrupt. All of us who were enrolled had paid for the full program, and now we were out. 

 I tried to go to another flight school and took out another student loan to do that. And then realized, I'm way in over my head. At this point, I've sunk a hundred thousand dollars into this career that's just not going to work, because I need more money. I couldn't do it. I was in my upper twenties, maybe lower thirties when this happened, . And that was the end of that.

 It was embarrassing to think, well, man, I put everything into this dream and now I'm literally paying the price for it. I need to prove myself doing something else. Maybe I'm not a pilot. 

Ooo, I'm an entrepreneur. So I went deep into that path to prove my sense of self-worth. That worked really well for a while. But then when it finally did stop working, came everything I described earlier. And then I was left in limbo. Like, what do I want to do? 

By then I had already discovered paragliding, powered paragliding specifically, and realized this is actually more fun than flying a helicopter. I don't have the rules that you have in a registered aircraft. I can come down and my feet can buzz the field, the corn or whatever's down there. But it didn't occur to me that I could make a career out of that.

It wasn't til after the school bus phase. And it was well, what do you want to do? 

I remember asking myself if I didn't have to worry about money at all, what would I do? And at the time there were two things that brought me joy. One was talking about Buddhism and the other was paragliding and powered paragliding. 

Well then what do I do with that? Out of that came eventually writing books about Buddhism and also , well, why don't you teach people to fly? That would be fun. And here I am now where those are the two main things that I do in my life.

To your question, yeah, it was always there in the back of my mind, but I didn't expect it would go this way, where I would have a flight school that's no airplanes, no helicopters. I didn't even know that this thing was a thing. I enjoy doing this and this is where I am now, because of the flexibility of I'll just see where life takes me.

But also in the back of my mind, there was always I'd love to fly. I've always known that.

[00:04:50] Mirela Petalli: I think it's a right attitude of non-attachment, curiosity and openness to whatever comes as well as being true to what you want. It's very important.

It's not that you just stayed there and things fell on your lap. You worked hard for these things and everything came together because of what you did and how you approached things. It's inspiring. 

[00:05:16] Daniel Greening: We've recently had a conversation with a mutual friend of ours, Heather Schenck. She decided she wanted to be a vegan and it created this little train wreck in her family. No one else really wanted to be a vegan. Initially it didn't work. So she abandoned the idea that she would be a vegan. And then she felt like she wanted to try it again. 

This time, she actually embraced this no self idea where we incorporate everyone around us as part of ourselves. She looked around and she said, " Why did this fail before?" She incorporated her husband and her children and everyone else in her plans. 

She even said, " if I make myself a hundred percent vegan, I'm going to be miserable." So she reduced her personal expectations. She was going to be a 95% vegan. And it worked out way better. Have you seen stuff like this before?

[00:06:18] Noah Rasheta: I've experienced that in my own life. Wanting to set it in stone. "This is what I am, or this is what I do," was much more difficult than just saying, "I'll just try it." And then you try it long enough, and before you realize, oh, I guess in a way that is what I am, but I don't feel stuck to it, because if suddenly I have to do something that's not that then I won't do that.

As soon as I want to permanently say, this is what I am, that can be difficult, but you could go for a hundred years doing the behavior without attaching the label. I think that would work better for most people.

[00:06:52] Daniel Greening: You're a secular Buddhist. You live in Utah, surrounded by people who are not secular, often, and not Buddhist, certainly. You comfortably incorporate that into your life, right? It's not Noah Rasheda, really, it's Noah Rasheda and everyone and everything around Noah. How do you navigate and think about that?

[00:07:15] Noah Rasheta: In a typical family format, when it comes to worldview or religious views, more often than not they're shared. When we're traveling and we encounter people along the way and they're like, oh, you guys are from Utah. Are you Mormon? My wife will be like, "Yes." And I'll just be quiet. Had they asked me answer would have been "No." Some of us are some of us aren't and then there's a big But there it's like, well, let's explain this, but nobody has time for that. Nobody wants that. So you just stick with the easiest answer sometimes when it comes to labels.

Vegan would be another example of that, right. Where it'd be very easy to say, well, you either are, or you're not. And it's like, well, yeah, but 

[00:07:57] Daniel Greening: Ice cream. 

[00:07:59] Noah Rasheta: What if you're a vegan that once in a hundred years had an ice cream? Oh, well now you're not a vegan. It's like, well, I am for 99 years minus this one sliver of time where, you know, it's like, you don't have to explain that. 

And I feel the same way when it comes to these labels about what we are or what we think or what we believe. 

I found that for me there was a sense of aversion to you having a story about me. If you think I'm Mormon, because I don't identify with that as a religious view. But what does it mean if you think that I am, and then I realized, oh, that's, that's what I'm actually fighting here. 

 Depending on how the question is framed or when, or why, I may or may not even tackle it. Same with Buddhism. If someone says. When they encounter me, because they know me from the podcast and then there's the," well, are you Buddhist?" Whatever that means to you, it may not mean that to me. So it's like, well, I don't know. We'd have to unpack that. What does it mean to you?

But again, we don't spend time doing that. That's just not how we interact. We all have our little boxes and we want to put people in boxes. You're a Republican, you're a Democrat, and this means this and that means that. Same with religion. 

So that's been an interesting part of the journey for me, being in a mixed faith marriage, where my family has one worldview. I have a different worldview. It works well here in our family, but, it gets complicated to explain those dynamics, whether it's a Mormon family asking my wife, "What is that like having a husband who's not Mormon?" We'd have to unpack this for hours . We just are what we are. That's the short answer. What are you? We're us. And if you want to spend time with us, you'll see how things work.

[00:09:40] Daniel Greening: I often think about you and Steven Bachelor at the same time. You're both considered leading proponents of the Secular Buddhism perspective. Steven is such an academic, right? He's written heavily about the cultural context in which Buddhism was created. He's talked extensively about what things are uniquely Buddhist versus other things that were prevalent in the same region at the same time. Some of his work is very hard to read. 

And you're off doing practical things and talking about Buddhism in daily life. I love keeping both of you in mind at the same time, because it provides this balance of theory and practice. 

You've interviewed him before i think, right? 

[00:10:24] Noah Rasheta: Yes.

[00:10:25] Daniel Greening: What was that experience like? 

[00:10:27] Noah Rasheta: I've had two interactions with him. The first one was doing the interview on the podcast . it was fun for me because his work was very influential in my early exploration of Buddhism. 

And then later when I started writing, for my second book, I had reached out to him to ask if he would be willing to look it over and write an endorsement.

 My publisher was like, "We need a list of 10 people that you know, and then reach out to them." I was very shy to ask anyone anyway, cause I'm not like that. I don't like doing that.

So I felt a little sheepish to reach out to him. I did it and he read it. And at the time he was really struggling with the label of Buddhist. He was no longer identifying with the label of being Buddhist, or even practicing Buddhism. He was calling it "practicing the Dharma."

My book was, No Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners. It's a book about Buddhism. It wasn't a book about Secular Buddhism. It was answering questions from the Buddhist perspective. And I think he was uncomfortable with being attached to a book that's about Buddhism, that answers some of the questions according to the classical perspective of Buddhism. 

I could sense he was uncomfortable and I said, "You know what? Don't worry about it, It's fine. If you're not comfortable endorsing it, then don't." And that was the end of that.

About a week later I was listening to an interview that he was giving. In the discussion he suddenly brought up, " Someone reached out to me recently with a book and asked me to endorse it. And I was very uncomfortable doing it." And then he said, "But I guess they reached out to me thinking if I sign it, then it will sell millions of copies." And the way he said that it left the, I was kind of like, oh man, I was like that, wasn't my goal. I was super embarrassed to reach out to you in the first place. But now hearing that made me kind of feel like, okay, well, I'm glad that you didn't sign it, you know? Cause I don't want you to think that that's why I was approaching you.

[00:12:28] Mirela Petalli: It's such a great example of how all of us have our limitations. We're human. 

[00:12:35] Noah Rasheta: And I remember thinking it's funny that I would feel this way because really, if I sat down with him and we talked, he would probably be on the same page, a hundred percent about whatever our ideas are, but he doesn't know that. 

So we just go about doing what we do.

[00:12:53] Daniel Greening: Mirela, I love talking to Noah. He's so practical and sensible. And then he does these radical things like becoming a bus driver. 

The funny thing about that story is, maybe Steven Bachelor is making tons of money, but he could also have been saying it sarcastically. He certainly earns money from his fame and sells books and all that stuff. But we don't know that he's making millions from selling Buddhist books so it could have been facetious.

[00:13:23] Mirela Petalli: The fact was that he did not endorse Noah. 

[00:13:26] Daniel Greening: That's true. It was sarcasm with a stinger. Not guileless. 

[00:13:32] Mirela Petalli: We all are guilty of that. I mean, I am guilty of that, of judging someone too quickly. For any kind of reasons, like I don't have time and I put them in boxes. Who knows how many opportunities we have lost by doing that. Meeting great people for example.

[00:13:50] Daniel Greening: You and I have talked about how I love sarcasm. But I read that sarcasm, according to Buddhist thought, is not right speech. The reason is that sarcasm can be misinterpreted by a listener. The danger is you may hurt their feelings when that wasn't your original intention. So now when I use sarcasm, I give it a label by saying "sarcasm is not right speech" after I use it, which is self referentially sarcastic and makes me laugh.

I can easily feel compassion for Stephen Batchelor. Sometimes casual words that I thought were funny, turned out to alienate a listener that I cared about.

Regardless, I think there were multiple stories at work there. Noah has an evolving story about Steven Batchelor, and maybe Stephen has an evolving story about Noah. What about the other stories and labels that came up in this interview?

[00:14:46] Mirela Petalli: Another important story that involves charged labels is Noah's interfaith marriage and what happens when we are not too attached to our stories and labels. In the end, the most important thing is the family. In the case of Stephen's and Noah's story, the most important thing is that they both are helping people live better lives, whether you call that Secular Buddhism or just Buddhism. 

[00:15:12] Daniel Greening: Psychologist call these stories, "narrative identity." While Noah still has stories, by making them less precious, less deeply identifying, he can maneuver more easily he doesn't waste tons of energy trying to maintain the image of a successful podcaster, a successful author, a successful paragliding instructor, or a Secular Buddhist

[00:15:35] Mirela Petalli: Yes, stories and labels are important and we need them to navigate in life. But they are just that: stories. We can modify rewrite, or even let them go and start over. We suffer when we attach and cling to them. These conversations with Noah showed us how freeing it is to let go of the attachment to our stories and labels. It opens up so many possibilities for us to write new, wonderful, and exciting stories. 

[00:16:04] Daniel Greening: So from all of this discussion, what do we tell our listeners to do? What should they do differently? 

[00:16:10] Mirela Petalli: We can examine our stories and labels a little bit deeper. In the last episode, our meditation was about paying attention to and becoming familiar with our stories without judging and wanting to change them. There is something that happens when you observe and witness. That's where the change starts.

[00:16:32] Daniel Greening: You have to have the objectivity to actually make a change. 

[00:16:36] Mirela Petalli: Yeah. In this episode, we can go a step further and question. Now that we know our labels and we know how others label us, and we know the stories we have about ourselves and the stories that other people have about us, or at least we think they have. Noah's story tells us that we don't know what other people's stories are about us.

 We can question them and say, is it true? 

[00:17:04] Daniel Greening: And then we can also ask, is the story permanent?

[00:17:09] Mirela Petalli: It's a great opportunity to go back and see how has the story evolved, how has the story changed? The story is impermanent. It's just a story. And I think that's a crucial moment. That's where liberation happens when we realize that it's a story.

[00:17:29] Daniel Greening: There is value in these stories. 

[00:17:32] Mirela Petalli: Of course. Our brains use stories to make sense of the world. We can either let the stories direct the movie of our lives, or step in mindfully and compassionately and write them ourselves. 

[00:17:47] Meditation Introduction

[00:17:47] Daniel Greening: Mirella is going to lead a 10 minute meditation to explore the stories we tell about ourselves and the stories others tell about us. Try it, when you have those 10 minutes. After the meditation, I'll summarize and close this episode. 

I suggest you find a quiet place where you'll be undisturbed for 10 minutes. Pause now, if you want to situate yourself. But if you're an experienced meditator and want to meditate in the midst of chaos, that's okay too. 

Here we go. 

[00:18:20] Meditation

[00:18:20] Mirela Petalli: Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today. You will hear a bell at the beginning of the meditation and one at the end. The bell is an invitation to come back to the present moment. 

Last time, we observed our stories without judging them. 

In this meditation, we'll look deeper at the labels that have come out of those stories. Are they really ours? How have they changed? They might have been true and relevant at some point in our lives. Are they still true? 

First find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. It can be any position where you feel comfortable, but also alert. While we maintain an intention to be still you can adjust your posture at any time if needed. You can either close your eyes or keep them slightly open, focused downward in front of you.

Let's start by taking a few deep, slow breaths. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs with air. Relax your belly. And then let the air out slowly through your nose. 

 See if you can release any tension, and relax your body a little bit more with each out-breath. 

There is nothing to do right now. 

 Let's take one more deep, slow breath. 

 Now allow your breath to return to normal. 

Focus your attention on the breath where you feel it most: nostrils, chest, or belly. 

We will use that spot without holding too tightly to it, as an anchor, as a place to return to while we allow for anything else to arise naturally in our awareness. Thoughts, sensations, emotions, sounds. 

Bring to mind a label that you have for yourself. It can be: I am a lawyer. A parent. A spouse. A good dancer. A bad driver. A smoker. A procrastinator. 

Anything that you use to describe yourself. 

If more than one label comes to mind, choose only one for the purpose of this meditation. You can go back and reflect on other labels as needed. 

I invite you to think about where did this label come from? 

 What is the story behind it? 

 What does it mean to you? 

Think back on how your relationship with it has evolved as you yourself have changed and evolved. 

We keep our attention lightly on the breath and allow any answers to arise naturally. 

Let's take one minute of silence and see what comes up. 

 We were not born with most of this labels. These are things that we happen to do right now. 

They are important to us but they are not all that we are. 

 Now let go of noticing your thoughts. 

You can return to this practice at any time. 

Bring your attention to your body and notice how you feel, without judgment. 

 And when you were ready, you can open your eyes. 

 Thank you for taking this time to meditate with us today

[00:24:27] Daniel Greening:

[00:24:36] Closing

[00:24:36] Daniel Greening: We heard a lot of stories in this interview. Just like Noah, we all tell a lot of stories to ourselves. How do our stories shape our behavior? How did they constrain our freedom? When do they cause suffering? 

And others have stories about us. We are often worried about the stories others tell about us. Maybe we can let others have their stories. 

Stories give our lives temporary coherence. There's a lot of freedom and remembering that whether told by ourselves or others, they're only stories.

[00:25:12] Credits

[00:25:12] Daniel Greening: You can subscribe to this podcast by searching for Mindful Agility in your favorite podcast app. Subscribe to Noah's podcast by searching for Secular Buddhism.

We'll notify you about new episodes, if you subscribe to our email newsletter at mindfulagility.com. Morella and i sometimes put blog posts there, too.

Ask questions, propose episodes, or just hang out with like-minded folks in our private Facebook group, Mindful Agility Community. 

Check out the show notes for links to content mentioned in this episode. 

Thanks again to Noah Rasheda, host of the Secular Buddhism podcast. 

Our co-host and meditation guide is Mirela Petalli. 

Hey Mirela, do you think we could get a million listeners, if we had Stephen bachelor on the podcast? 

[00:26:08] Mirela Petalli: Sarcasm is not right speech, Dan. 

[00:26:11] Daniel Greening: Hi, I'm Dan Greening.