Master Meditation Teacher Davidji
Davidji is a Rockstar in the world of meditation. Finding the path to inner peace can be a challenge for many of us with the demands of everyday life. Do you have incessant thoughts that continually swirl in your mind and you’re looking for ways to stop them? Well, Davidji will be the first to tell you that it’s impossible to stop your thoughts as he gently guides you to let go of the attachment to those thoughts. He encourages you to let go and allow them to simply “be” while you witness them like a cloud passing by. “Ji” as he’s known to many is a humble man who seems to exude light as he travels the world sharing his secrets to what he calls “Destressifying” and helps you to find the refuge within. In fact, he can help you find peace of mind in 16 seconds! He shared this incredible yet simple technique with me on a recent podcast episode on Cat & Kaehler that you can find here. Returning from a week-long meditation retreat with Davidji, my friends asked me if I had snuck away “to have some work done.” Yes…he’s THAT good! If you want to turn back the clock naturally, create space inside of you and connect to that blissful peace that’s closer than you think, Davidji is your ticket. Welcome, Ji!
CGO: Davidji, you honed your skills as a Master meditation instructor at the Chopra Center for over a decade. With a background in finance, what was the catalyst that prompted you to begin a lifetime studying and teaching meditation?
DJ: For years I worked in finance and business in the wild corporate swirl of New York City, and for a time, I 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.
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. 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. 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.”
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…
CGO: That’s an amazing story and I sense it’s one that many people can relate to. Most of us struggle with meditation and that “monkey mind.” What do you say to someone who has stopped and started but hasn’t been able to stick with a meditation practice?
DJ: There are 5 major myths of meditation. The very first myth, (you can read about the other myths in my book Secrets of Meditation), is that you need to clear the thoughts from your mind or at least stop the thoughts. You have about 75,000 thoughts a day. That’s approximately one thought every 1.2 seconds. They’re coming — you will not stop them… you can’t stop them!!! They are not interruptions in your meditation; they are a part of your meditation so let them come and let them go. Simply drift back to the mantra, or your breath, or whatever else you were using to disconnect you from activity. So many meditators stop meditating because they have thoughts; but having thoughts flowing in and out of your meditation is so perfect. This is your chance to process each day’s activities that otherwise would go buried, unaddressed, and unprocessed.
That doesn’t mean that you should place your attention on them… or resist them… because resisting is a form of attention.
Treat thoughts as you would clouds. Let them drift in and let them drift away. You stay detached. So when you realize you are deep in thought, simply drift back to the object of your attention — the mantra or your breath.
Here’s how much effort to use when you meditate: like mist rising off a lake at dawn. Stop now and envision morning mist, ever so gently, lifting off a field or a lake…there is virtually no movement. That’s how hard you should “work” or “try” while meditating.
CGO: The best advice seems to be the simplest. So, why do so many of us struggle with meditation? What are some of the most common blocks people have to meditation and how do they clear them?
DJ: People are worried that they’re not doing it right. Or because they didn’t experience the Buddha or nirvana, or because they didn’t see colors, because they had thousands of thoughts, they hit that wall of “I’m not doing it right.” Whenever you ask yourself, “Am I doing it right?” the answer is YES! — You are doing it right. In meditation, as long as you are doing it, you are doing it right. Who’s your biggest critic? It’s you. And judging your meditation practice is no different. There’s no need to be so hard on yourself. Don’t be critical of your form. Don’t try. Release. Let go. Surrender to the unknown. Surrender to what you don’t know. Surrender to the fact that you have only one purpose in meditation and that is to innocently repeat the mantra or follow your breath depending upon which meditation practice you choose.
CGO: Oh, that surrender lesson again! It truly is all about letting go and trusting. Many meditators talk about “the space between our thoughts.” What is this “gap” they speak of and why is it so important for us to spend time in the gap?
DJ: When we experience present-moment awareness in a state of restful alertness, we are experiencing the same stillness zone we experience during deep meditation . . . pure unbounded consciousness . . . the realm of no thought, no sound, and no sensation. When you are in that space, you have essentially disconnected from all the things in your world that are in the realm of activity. This is referred to as accessing the space between your thoughts — the gap — a space pregnant with pure potential and infinite possibilities.
When you have a consistent daily meditation practice, instead of only having sporadic tastes of the bliss of present-moment awareness, you begin to experience that bliss more and more in your everyday life. As you meditate regularly, a physiological shift occurs that grows deeper, stronger, and more profound with repetition. Like building any muscle in your body, meditation is a practice that transforms your entire physiology over time. This shift is subtle at first, and as the process of physical and emotional softening occurs, you begin to view life in new and expanded ways. Life takes on a different hue . . . a deeper meaning . . . a more universal understanding that pervades every cell of your being. The present-moment awareness you experience in meditation begins to flow throughout each thought, each conversation, each keystroke, and each breath.
CGO: What can people do when they feel overwhelmed by all the problems in the world? How do we address that helpless feeling that can creep into our lives?
DJ: There are natural disasters happening in our world, there are wars raging in our countries, there is unrest in our cities. It may feel like we’re a million miles away from this strife, we may feel like there’s nothing you can possibly do to help. But we CAN do something. We can LOVE. We can FEEL LOVE. We can GIVE LOVE. We are all connected, and we have the power to elevate each other and the human dynamic by making small acts of kindness towards someone each day.
CGO: I love that! We can feel overwhelmed with the problems of the world yet there is always something we can do with the most important being LOVE. You speak often of the power of gratitude. Why is gratitude so important in our lives?
DJ: It all starts with cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Every morning I begin my meditation practice with a few minutes of gratitude. It happens the moment I wake up — BEFORE I even open my eyes!! As I slowly become conscious or aware that I am no longer sleeping, I silently ask myself, “What am I grateful for?”
And this is the important part — I don’t answer. I just repeat that question over and over 50 times like a mantra. Then I sit for a minute and just fill my mind and my heart with everything I am grateful for. Experiences, opportunities, people, the miracles that unfold each day — both profound and mundane. It’s actually quite amazing to realize how much in common we have with each other. But we can’t bridge those gaps of misunderstanding if we don’t take the time to listen to ourselves, then to each other, to relate to each other, using a lens of gratitude and love.
Starting our day with gratitude ensures that we move through our life with grace and ease. And that’s the space that I choose to live my life from — then the fear, mistrust and judgement just falls away. I am not always so graceful or so easy, but my morning gratitude practice starts me off on a sweet, forgiving, compassionate, grateful path.
CGO: That might just be the answer to world peace! I remember life moving more slowly when I was younger. Today’s world can feel like a constant treadmill that keeps speeding up! How can meditation help us to feel more in control?
DJ: My life happens in slow motion. In fact, we all have the ability to control the speed and frequency at which life comes at us! An important benefit of meditation is that it give us the ability to slow the swirl, become the calm amidst the chaos. Science is now proving that we can slow our brainwaves through destressifying techniques I highlight in my book destressifying, such as 16seconds, squeeze & release, 8 destressifications of the spine, body scans, chakra tuning, quiet continuous breathing, and by starting each day in stillness and silence.
By connecting to the present moment — whether through in-the-moment stress-busters or through a daily practice of meditation — our brain gains clarity, creativity, intuition, balance, and resilience.
CGO: Yes, life can feel out of control yet it’s empowering to know that we have the power within to slow it down. There is a story that the Dalai Lama was once asked about how to deal with “self hatred.” He was completely puzzled and did not understand the question because Tibetan has no translation for that concept. He asked the translator, “Is that a mental disease?!” What are your thoughts on how to deal with the self loathing that many experience?
DJ: There is a simple lack of compassion and love for ourselves. Virginia Woolfe said, “I will not be “famous,” “great.” I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.”
With all the crazy stuff in our lives, it’s easy to push our present needs for love into the background. Fear is the absence of love… and we buy into that emotion much more often than the sweet surrender of love.
When we live in a mode of fight-or-flight existence, there is little room for love. In fact, when we come from a place of fear, we ask these types of questions:
- Am I lovable?
- Do I need to change something about myself so people will love me?
- Does that person love me the way I love them?
We could go on forever in this circular devolution of self-worth but when we look to our most genuine self that is whole and pure and perfect and abundant and infinite… we realize there is only love and it is ever expanding and ever available because WE ARE LOVE!
CGO: That’s beautiful and the ultimate truth. What words of wisdom would you share with your younger self today?
DJ: I now regularly recite the serenity prayer. And whether you believe in God or not, understanding the serenity prayer can make a huge difference in how we perceive our existence.
The prayer goes like this:
Dear Lord, God, Universe, Higher power, divine creator (or whatever feels right):
Grant me the serenity to ACCEPT THE THINGS I CAN NOT CHANGE.
The courage to CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN.
And the wisdom TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
We are all subtle control freaks! (some of us not so subtle). And when we think we have lost control, then fear, anger, anxiety, stress, and disappointment set in. But if we can accept an uncontrollable change for what it is… accept the reality that we do not have full control over what happens in life, then it becomes easier to be graceful when change visits.
If we don’t we don’t grow! Let the change come and then let it go.
CGO: Such powerful words of wisdom! Clearly, meditation has worked it’s way into the mainstream where it didn’t exist when we were growing up. Why do you think there has been a change in consciousness and what do you see as the future of meditation?
DJ: Meditation is transformation and transformation is evolution!!! It’s so wonderful to finally see meditation going mainstream. And with more people — of all ages — seeking greater happiness, work-life balance, and a break from the relentless pace of life, the ancient practices of yoga and meditation are shifting from the counter-culture into the mainstream.
Meditation is now a topic on daytime TV, YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, the evening news, and Facebook. Once dismissed as new age mumbo jumbo, cutting edge science is now revealing meditation’s medically-proven benefits of lower blood pressure, more restful sleep, better immunity, and yes — greater happiness.
We are seeing a pick-up in meditation among teens and college students to relieve stress. In fact, last year I led the very first mass meditation on a college campus at Syracuse University. The number of students who showed up to learn how to better control their stress through meditation was astounding! It was such a powerful experience for me. In December, I led the first mass meditation at a sporting event — before a Miami Heat game — 15,000 people all meditating at once!!! It was incredible. We’re also seeing the trend among business executives & athletes to increase performance, and even ex-meditators who felt they were ‘doing it wrong.’ There’s been a stigma around the word meditation — but that’s all changing.
CGO: That’s a powerful change taking place. I’ve personally experienced your charisma in working with Deepak Chopra at his meditation events. You’re like the rockstar of meditation. How have you managed to make meditation something of a “cool” thing for people to do?
DJ: Meditation doesn’t always have to be so serious. I live for making meditation fun!!! Because we are a high achieving society, sometimes we can take positive habits and actually distort them into less beneficial pursuits. “I don’t have time for it; I can’t sit still; there are too many distractions;” and on and on, we make excuses for not doing the one thing that could change our lives the most!!!
It doesn’t have to be painful… just get back to basics. The simple, yet powerful, technique I have taught people for more than a decade is RPM. Rise. Pee. Meditate.
It sounds simple. Yet that simple ritual has allowed me and of thousands of meditators to never miss a morning meditation. EVER!
Here’s how it works. Each of us begins our day looking at the clock. Then we flow into 8 to 15 morning ablution rituals — and we do them all in the same order…the same way…every day. We pee, poop, shower, brush our teeth, cook food, make coffee, watch TV, read a newspaper, check emails, visit our favorite online site, walk the dog, prepare our children for the day, have sex, do our hair, put on makeup, and get dressed. Our Monday through Friday ritual usually differs from our weekend ritual. But simply having the awareness of the flow of our morning ablution ritual will jumpstart this process.
So close your eyes right now and walk yourself through your typical morning ritual and become aware of how your day flows. Pretty cool right?
Now if you can push RPM to the very front of your morning ritual train, within 15 minutes of you opening your eyes, you will have a solid half hour of stillness and silence that will greet every moment throughout your day. Then another 15 minutes of stillness and silence in the afternoon will give you a boost of clarity and rejuvenation to finish your day strong!!!
CGO: It sounds like the answer to world peace…and it begins with us, doesn’t it? Thank you, Ji for helping to bring meditation to the meditation to the mainstream with a lot of joy in the process!
You can find Catherine Grace O’Connell at CatherineGraceO.com. She is on Facebook, and Instagram and Twitter as @catherinegraceo. Tune in to Cat & Kaehler: Fiercely Empowering Women of All Ages Through the Lens of Midlife with Catherine and co-host Kathy Kaehler live every Tuesday at 2 PM EST/11 AM PST or download as a podcast on LA TalkRadio. You can find out more about The Fierce 50 Campaign and how you can help us and join the Revolution by sending an email to [email protected].
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com