Davidji, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far. For many years I worked in the worlds of finance and business amid the wild corporate swirl of New York City. For a time I even worked on one of the higher floors of the World Trade Center in Tower 2, now referred to as Ground Zero. It was a career many would be proud of and to look at my life I should have had everything. But I was miserable.
One day I realized — as my life was spinning out of physical and emotional balance — I had stopped meditating, a practice that had once brought me joy and deep fulfillment. Instead, I often awoke at 2 a.m. with a painful knot in my stomach that stayed there through the day and into the evening. I ate my lunch at my desk while texting, chatting on my cell phone, typing e-mails, and wolfing down a sandwich . . . all in five minutes. And I realized I had been doing that for almost fifteen years.
I was sleepwalking through my life — waking up, burning through the day, performing my “job,” coming home, eating dinner, reading a book or watching TV, and passing out. I felt empty, adrift from any guiding principle, and was second-guessing my choices in life. I started to question the value I contributed to those in my life. My personal and work relationships were stressed and strained.
Believing my options were limited and convinced there was no out, I was desperate to re-write the script of my life. If only I knew how.
And so one day in SoHo, as I walked past a row of cardboard boxes in which homeless people were living, a soot-covered hand reached out and grabbed my pant leg. Suddenly the moment began revealing itself in slow motion. A curious face peered up at me and asked, “What’s gonna be on your tombstone?”
Face to face, soul to soul — connected in a transcendent, cosmic moment, it took my breath away. All the street sounds and voices around us faded into the background as a high-pitched whoosh encased my head like the sound in your ears as you lay in bed after you’ve attended a really loud concert.
He tightened his grip on my pant leg, pulling my attention down with his fingers as he hoisted his body up, and inching his face a bit closer. We leaned into each other and matched gazes. Time stood still as our eyes locked for what seemed an eternity.
Tears came to my eyes, and I mouthed the words to him, “I don’t know.” My mind was a tsunami of thoughts, memories, and desires. Yet, now, sensing his knuckles resting on my shoe with his open palm face up, I assumed he was asking for some charity and I reached into my pocket intending to give him a few dollars. Clairvoyantly, he reached up to stop me and pressed his hand against my pocket, pinning my hand inside it. “It’s not about the money. The answer is in the stars,” he counseled in a raspy whisper. “Just find your sacred powers.”
I wandered aimlessly for hours after that, his pointed words reverberating through every cell in my body. What was going to be on my tombstone? What was my purpose? I felt like a prisoner living eternally on death row, stuck in a painful purgatory with no reason for being.
My mind was overflowing with smoke-filled images of the collapse of Tower Two, just blocks south of the downtown office building, where my staff and I had stood on the roof and watched in horror on that fateful day. So many we knew and loved and so many more we’d never get to know. For me, the psychological fallout from 9/11 drifted somewhere between emptiness, a profound sense of emotional grief, and a primal wake-up call — the deep need to live a life of purpose.
That night, as I shared my day’s story with my wife over dinner, she handed me a piece of paper. She had sensed my daily pain and had explored a few deeper options for me to consider. One was a meditation retreat in England with Deepak Chopra. She encouraged me to follow my heart. A work colleague advised me, “Jump and the net will appear.” One of my yoga teachers suggested, “Quit your job today. The universe will provide.”
And so, my journey began…
After SoHo I followed my heart, surrendered to this new path and jumped. I let my job evaporate into the ether. Within a week, I discovered a teacher who taught me my first meditation mantra, and one month later, I found myself in Oxford, England, learning about the concept of dharma—my purpose in life. It was there I learned that the word guru is a Sanskrit term for “remover of darkness,” essentially one who teaches enlightenment. But no one else can actually make you “see.” They can help you to awaken what already rests within you, helping access qualities previously hidden.
I traveled for months through India looking to tap into clarity, truth, awareness and love. My soul opened wider than it ever had before, and I let go of every preconception I ever had about meditation. I surrendered to a consistent daily practice and I felt its full power. Especially in the core of my being that had been rocked so profoundly by the events of September 11. It was as if my heart was made of a soft white linen cloth that had been immersed in black India ink . . . so thick and heavy . . . so black. . . so dark and so painful.
Each day that I meditated, it was as if I were draping that white linen heart through a running stream, washing it, cleansing it, purifying it of that blackness . . . a little less pain and a little more clarity. As I peeled away the conditioned layers of my life, new thoughts emerged, expanded aspects of myself awakened, and I connected for the very first time to my soul. I cried. I laughed.
I tapped into the collective. I came face-to-face with my unconditioned Self and experienced the infinite one-ness of the universe. I fell in love again—with myself, with everyone, with life.
One morning, as I lay in a hammock in a tropical cashew forest in Kerala, surrounded by the most intense symphony of wild bird calls and reading from a worn copy of the Bhagavad Gita, I read Chapter 2, Verse 48 for what seemed like the very first and the four millionth time all at once. I found myself mouthing the words that Lord Krishna shares with the mighty warrior Arjuna: “yogastha kuru karmani . . . established in one-ness, perform action.” And as I read, a profound and powerful message silently swept into me, beneath my thoughts and into every cell at once, cutting through the energetic curtain of forest life. All sound stopped; the cashew trees froze; the parrots became still; my body had no borders, no skin to encapsulate what I saw; the rushing sense of well- being surged into my physical body and expanded to my mind. Then came something way deeper and more profound than any thought or experience. In a flash, everything became one, and I instantly understood. How do I put it in just a few words?
The guru is inside.
Yes, the guru is inside . . . inside each one of us! Deep . . . deep. . . deep inside, housed by this flesh casing we call a body and trapped for the span of a lifetime within the constrictions of our five senses and our mind that interprets each moment. Peel away those layers, go deep inside, and deeper still . . . and at our very core, our essence is pure, vast, unbounded consciousness. Infinite. It had been a long buildup over many years and multiple lifetimes of experience that brought me to my a-ha! moment. But I had touched something, connected to something, actually been something beyond me—something so expansive I could not fathom its edges. Yet, at the same time, I was it, and I had no edges. It was as if I had amnesia and suddenly remembered everything all at once. I describe it as finding another gear in perception, one that you always had but of which you were unaware. This shift in consciousness came to me at once like a bolt of lightning and resonates still—right now—at this very moment!
Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to teaching the world to meditate.
Has it been a smooth road? My greatest life challenges happened before I took the leap into living my purpose. It’s really hard to listen to your heart when the noise around you and the noise inside of you is really loud. It can manifest itself as anxiety, fear, desire, anger, jealousy, shame, or depression. And these states of the mind unfold every day preventing us from being in flow, from performing simple actions, from following through on our intentions, from getting where we need to be, and from achieving our dreams.
On returning from India, I immersed myself even more deeply into the timeless teachings of meditation—it was all I talked about and pretty much it was all I did! So much so that almost everyone who knew me told me that since all I ever did was meditate, I should become a meditation teacher. I listened to the constant recommendations of my friends—specifically Rookie Komitor, who had also been at the meditation retreat with me in Oxford. She told me simply, “If you really want to learn something, learn to teach it.” So I complied. I reached out to Deepak and asked him for a recommendation. He invited me to come out to California and enroll in a mind-body workshop, where I would be immersed in Ayurveda—the 5,000-year-old science of life—and where he and his partner of 20 years, the famed neurologist Dr. David Simon, would be featured teachers. So I headed out to California “to learn to teach it.”
I hadn’t received a paycheck for six months and money was tight so I wasn’t sure if investing in this course was the best use of my resources at the time; but I trusted in my heart (maxed out a credit card) and made the commitment. During that mind-body workshop, David Simon and I experienced an instant love connection. It was as if we had known each other for multiple lifetimes. We spent our lunch breaks together talking about life, love, healing, and higher states of consciousness. We could barely catch our breaths as we raced to get up to speed on each other. He wanted to know everything about me and I was so inspired by the way he spoke so softly from his heart that I couldn’t stop asking him questions about his life. I had never before met anyone so egoless, so comfortable with who he was, and so articulate translating timeless wisdom into the real world. Here was this brilliant, board-certified neurologist speaking so effortlessly about the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, Ayurveda, heart-healing, and meditation! He was this magnificent fusion of modern medical science and the healing arts of the East.
Each afternoon, as the workshop sessions were winding down, he would seek me out and we’d take these long, slow walks around a local golf course, which he described as “man’s version of nature.” We talked late into the evenings like two spiritual lovers who just can’t get enough of each other. And on the last day of the workshop, I was so touched by Deepak and David’s global vision of impacting a million people around the world, that I volunteered to help them raise the vibration of the center they had both created. I proposed that I would head back home to New York and advise them each week from afar.
But they had another plan in mind. They asked me if I’d be willing to apprentice under them, immerse myself in the ancient teachings, and run the Chopra Center by David’s side. But, I’d needed to move there so I could truly “breathe the air” of that environment.
I never went back home. Instead, I decided to stay and volunteer, unplug from my life on the East Coast, and in that defining moment, I moved to Carlsbad—this sunny beach town in Southern California. I calculated that I could borrow on my credit cards for seven months of living expenses, while I apprenticed under two of my greatest mentors—and so again, I jumped—and waited for the net to appear.
Initially, because of my corporate experience, they appointed me as the COO of the Chopra Center. And one of my greatest joys was helping to build on their vision, expand the Center’s global reach, and navigate their organization to a space of abundance. It had been years in the making but now I was able to use my business acumen in a cause that I felt really added value to the lives of millions around the world. But that was just the start. After those first six months, I was added to the payroll and suddenly, I had a job doing what I loved—balancing the worlds of business and wellness.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with davidji meditation – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others. I have since left the Chopra Center and founded davidji inc. and the davidji Meditation Academy to teach the practical integration of stress management, mindful performance, meditation, and conscious choice making and apply them to our real-world, modern-day experiences.
For more than 12 years now we have helped thousands of people around the world to perform at higher levels, become more reflective and less reflexive, make better decisions, sleep better, enhance their relationships, experience abundance, and live purpose-driven lives.
I have a passion for working with entrepreneurs, business leaders and those in high-pressure, high-stress situations. My teachings on stress release, conflict resolution, and mindfulness are now practiced in many of the top Fortune 500 companies, the military, and some of the largest police precincts and academies in the country. In fact, I developed the Blue Courage Awareness Training curriculum, which empowers police throughout the U.S., and teaches them present-moment life tools in their quest for safety, nobility, resilience and guardianship.
Blue Courage is a leadership development workshop designed for all levels of the law enforcement organization. Its educational process is designed to touch hearts, awaken minds and ignite spirits through dynamic presentations and learning processes. At the core of the Blue Courage Awareness Training is my book “destressifying: The Real World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Deeper Fulfillment & Peace of Mind,” an Amazon #1 bestseller and winner of the 2015 Nautilus Book Award. “destressifying” is the first mainstream book to reveal both sides of stress, its damaging emotional aspects and its powerful healing properties.
If you had to start over, what would you have done differently? Nothing! Most people who find themselves on a spiritual path come from a place of desiring to heal themselves, even if they are unaware that is what motivates them. In time, they see that healing as so profound they can’t help but share it with others. This was my journey as well. I came from a place of deep pain and overwhelming confusion. And then a spark of clarity lit inside of me, so I understand at the deepest level what people are desiring, seeking, and needing right now as they take their bold steps on the journey to the center of their own souls.