To be able to feel that someone else in the world, i.e., the author or the stories being shard in the book, can relate and connect with the pain or the happiness of the reader is a powerful connection. To find someone who understands your pain and who can help you through it is the most powerful connection you can find.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dashama Konah.
Dashama is an award winning international happiness expert, Random House author, United Nations speaker, life and business strategist with a thriving global community of over 300,000 health conscious spiritual entrepreneurs, change makers and happiness seekers. She has spoken at or consulted for Sony Motion Picture Studios, University of Virginia, Warwick Business School in UK and collaborated with Harvard Medical Professor Dr Sat Bir Khalsa. Dashama has written 5 books and has starred in and produced 32 yoga, mediation and health related instructional DVDs, numerous online and offline training courses, certification programs and hundreds of videos reaching millions of viewers through her media and TV partnerships such as QVC, ATT Uverse and Broadband TV. An international media favorite, she has been featured on Oprah Winfrey Network, ABC news and Discovery Channel Seeker Stories, Wall Street Journal, Times of India, Vogue Arabia, Cosmopolitan Germany, Teen Vogue, and Men’s Journal to name a few. She has worked with and/or been sponsored by fortune 500 brands such as Nike, GoPro, Cadillac and Banyan Tree Resorts.
Dashama travels the world spreading the message that anyone can heal and transform their life and create the life of their dreams. Connect with her through social media @dashama or at one of her online or live trainings world wide. Learn more about the Oneness Movement #Om4Oceans campaign to solve the United Nations Global Goals at om4oceans.orgor learn more about Dashama and her other initiatives, retreats, training programs and offerings at Dashama.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
Yes, I had a very unusual upbringing, since my parents were very liberal and spiritual hippies who came from middle class families, but they had 4 children in the 70s and 80s and they were very enrolled into the counter culture movement of that time. They home schooled my sisters and I and grew organic food in the garden until my mother lost her mind to schizophrenia when I was 6 years old and both of my parents were addicted to drugs, so my sisters and I ended up in and out of foster homes for most of my early years. I was moved around to new foster homes several times per year and separated from my sisters and parents most of the time. I suffered a lot in those early years, from sadness of missing my family and from witnessing my mother destroy herself from her addictions and mental illness.
In foster care, I was enrolled in public school for the first time in 2nd grade, and immediately excelled in the classes. I was given the special option in 2nd grade to go visit the Veterans hospital to bring some joy to the military war vets who had to live in a group home due to their disabilities from their war experiences. In those early years, I was exposed to so many families and homes, I got to see how different people live and also how similar they were at the core as well. This contributed to my love for humanity and a deep desire to serve humankind and spread healing and happiness. When I was 12 years old, my aunt took one sister and myself into her home, where she had a small orphanage of 6 children and that is where I was raised for the remaining 6 years until I was 18. My aunt taught me compassion and love in a powerful and selfless way. I was very outgoing and made many friends, excelled in my school studies and participated in all the sports and activities I could. I thrived in the group environments and although I had my challenges, I really felt integrated during those 6 years living in South Dakota with my aunt and uncle in that unique foster home experience. I was an avid reader and loved to read, write and spend time in nature. Reading shaped who I have become and I always felt I would be a writer one day since journaling and writing were a daily part of my life from an early age.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?
Yes, there were so many books that shaped who I have become, but the one book that stands out was gifted to me by my aunt around age 13, it was called “How to Be Like Women of Influence: The 20 Greatest Women of the 20th Century”. In this book, each chapter was dedicated to a woman who exemplified greatness and the virtue they embodied. For example there was Mother Theresa, who embodied love, and Amelia Erhardt exemplified courage. They featured Oprah, Ann Frank and so many others whom I was deeply touched and inspired by and aspired to become like these great women. I didn’t know how at the time, but I just felt this was the path for me and it gave me great hope and inspiration to have positive role models to look up to, since I lacked that from my parents. I didn’t know how I could be like them at the time, but I committed that I would like to be a great woman by embodying those same qualities in the best ways that I could and aspired to become someone who can also be a role model for others one day.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
Yes, even as a young girl I always saw myself as a writer and speaker. Often I would submit my writing and win essay contests in school for example and when I was 13 I enrolled into a group called Toast Masters to learn how to give public speeches. I envisioned myself giving inspirational talks to large audiences and making them to feel they can become great as well. Despite that understanding, I didn’t focus on those passions and instead got into some trouble with drinking in school and fell into the dark path, being raped and having many hard traumas and lessons in those early years.
I always carried the intention to impact the world and make it a better place through, for example when I was a senior in high school I organized a charity fund raiser for the redwood forest, since I was very passionate about the earth and there was a lot of media at the time focused on Julia Butterfly Hill who was living in a redwood tree in Northern California to stop the clear cutting of these ancient and sacred trees. When I was 18 years old, I moved to Florida to be closer to my grandmother and to go to college. Just a few weeks after moving there, I was involved in a near fatal accident with a fast driving car going 45 miles per hour, who hit me while I was riding my bicycle that resulted in scoliosis of my spine. Doctors said that it could not be reversed and I believed that for years until I found a yoga teacher who had healed her spine with yoga and that gave me hope. I had no idea back then that this was all part of the divine plan that would lead me to my purpose in life.
I continued through college with scoliosis and then around age 24 I had a major life transformation when I became very depressed and dispassionate about life. This depression drove me to give up all my worldly possessions, to leave my boyfriend and our nice home we had in Boca Raton, to leave my high paying corporate job and all the life I had created to seek inner peace. Miraculously, I found this inner peace through a yoga teacher training in 2005. That 10 week journey was so life changing, since it introduced me to inner peace for the first time in my life, and I had a true spiritual awakening where I was able to completely let go of my thoughts for about 4 hours all I heard was the sound of OM in my mind and that shifted me so completely that I decided to dedicate my life to spreading the healing power of yoga and meditation to the world. This path transformed so much in my life, it completely and eventually healed my scoliosis and my inner child traumas. The pain from the past was all coming up to heal and I was fully committed to facing it all. Thankfully I attracted many healers and teachers along the journey every step of the way, and that lead me to write my most impactful book to date, Journey to Joyful.
I got a strong message that I needed to write that book to help heal humanity, which is a combination of my personal story and all the healing methods that helped me along the way. For a few months, the inspiration was waking me up in the middle of the night to write and it was so strong and powerful what was coming through me to share in that book. Journey to Joyful was originally self published, but then later was picked up by Random House for international publishing and translated into other languages. Journey to Joyful is the basis of my international yoga school, Pranashama Yoga Institute, which has reached millions of people online through my videos, certified hundreds of teachers and also was the basis from which I was invited to speak at the United Nations in 2016 for International Day of Happiness, to teach and speak at events, hospitals, corporations and universities globally for the past 10+ years and all of the partnerships, sponsors and projects I have released have been based on the teachings I share in Journey to Joyful.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
When I wrote Journey to Joyful, I had no real intention other then to help people heal from their suffering. I knew that there was a great deal of suffering in the world, as I had witnessed and experienced since early childhood and also since I was a full time yoga teacher and healer for 4 years before writing the book. I was aware of the healing that was needed in the world and knew that the healing path I had been on was so powerful and effective to heal my own traumas and pain that I wanted to share this with the whole world.
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
When I first released Journey to Joyful, it was self published and I was selling it to my youtube fans from home, clients locally and in a few local stores in town. I knew I wanted to reach more people with the message, but had no idea how to get it out to a wider audience at the time. Internet was still somewhat new and I had no experience with PR to get in touch with larger traditional media. Then one day I was invited to be a presenter and speaker at an event in New York called New Life Expo and I paid for myself to fly to the event, brought my books and DVDs with the pure intention to reach a wider audience with my message. At that event I met a man who was connected with a publisher who distributed through Random House and he helped me get Journey to Joyful picked up by the publisher and get distributed internationally through Random House. I luckily retained the digital book rights so was able to offer the book in my online course titled 30 day yoga and transformation challenge on udemy which become a best seller on their platform.
Even after that, I still didn’t feel like much of a success, I remember feeling so rejected, since even a website I was actively blogging for called Elephant Journal wouldn’t publish a review of Journey to Joyful and they were known to do this for many other yogis and spiritual authors. I decided to expand out from the yoga and spiritual world and ended up getting featured on CBS in an online article and some podcasts and you tubers interviewed me about my book.
I didn’t give up and when I moved out to Los Angeles in 2010, I auditioned to have my own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, with the premise of my show concept being based on my book Journey to Joyful. I didn’t win the contest to have my own TV show, but my audition got over 50,000 votes (from my fans online) putting it into the top 1% of 20,000 auditions, so it gave me hope that there was an interest in this type of information and my message for the world.
I started to try every avenue I could to get my book out there by attending events, teaching for free and paid at conferences and festivals and was even featured on FOX news in Los Angeles in 2011, and was invited to speak at a big event in Long Beach called Leadershift, with key note speakers such as Jason Mraz, Steven Covey and Byron Katie. After that I launched my international yoga school, Pranashama Yoga Institute, with journey to Joyful as the basis of our yoga teacher training as a manual for the students. I was also invited to create Yoga Awareness Week at Sony Motion Picture Studios in LA and teach at some large events in USA, Canada, Mexico, UK and Spain.
At that time, I still didn’t feel my book got the recognition it deserved, although every reader has always told me it is such a life changing book and very easy to read, it all felt like it all finally came together when I was invited to speak at the United Nations for International Day of Happiness in 2016, which I feel is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life so far and was a life long dream since I was a young girl. In my speech at the UN I shared my 7 secrets to happiness and also lead a 21 minute guided gratitude mediation which was broadcast live world wide.
Looking back now, I am grateful as I see the world is finally becoming open and receptive to the holistic healing approach that is shared in Journey to Joyful, and this has been the basis of the massive global movement I have been leading for all these years, which has gained over 350,000 fans and subscribers and reached hundreds of millions of people globally through my partnerships with media, TV, corporations, sponsors and other experts and influencers world wide.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
When I was invited to speak at the United Nations in 2016, that was a defining moment, since it was in honor of International Day of Happiness and I was being recognized as an expert in Happiness on a platform that had been a dream and goal of mine since I was a young girl. Also, when my audition to have my show on the Oprah Winfrey Network back in 2010 got in the top 1% of all the auditions with over 50,000 votes, it helped me to see that I had a massive support from my fans and most of that was based from the message I shared in my book Journey to Joyful and through my videos and teaching online. Also when my online courses at Udemy and Alison Education become international best sellers, I was confirmed that this book and message is really important and the movement was growing. And most recently when I was invited to partner with Jillian Michaels to have my videos and teachings featured on ATT Unverse, Broadband TV and also partnership with QVC as well as the world’s largest yoga app Daily Yoga who had 30 million subscribers. Now we have translated my videos with Chinese voice over to each their 27 million Chinese speakers and the movement continues to expand rapidly all the time now.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
The feedback about Journey to Joyful has been consistent from the start. People say it is life changing and very easy to read. Most of my readers have said they read it more then once and each time they gain new insights. Some have said they really appreciate the stories I shared about my own journey as that is very deep and personal but also helps people to have greater hope that anyone can over come the greatest suffering and that these practices are powerful and effective, as passed down from thousands of years. Since Journey to Joyful is a fusion approach and includes many different practices from eastern philosophy and western science, it offers a comprehensive guide for people to get started healing their life. Some of my readers have asked when is my next book coming out, and that I am working on now as well.
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
The stories from my readers are the most moving and fulfilling result of the book. One of the greatest stories of transformation is from a dear man from UK named David Smyth. He was a motor cross athlete who had broken his back twice and healed his back with yoga, so he became a yoga teacher before finding my videos and book. He came to my yoga teacher training in Bali in 2011 and it completely transformed his life. The basis of that training is from the book Journey to Joyful, and at first he was completely suffering. I had asked him to stop smoking cigarettes, drinking, eating meat and sugars, to practice yoga and meditate each day all day for 30 days in Bali and wake up very early each morning. For the first 2 weeks he was doing ok, but mid way through he became very negative and felt I was trying to kill him. His shadow was coming on strong and was projecting onto me. It was very tough for me, as I was also holding space for the group, but I stayed strong and held space for his healing as he went through the Journey to Joyful transformation process.
Finally after a few days of being angry at me and very mean, he had a huge breakthrough since he could not stand his own misery any longer. He told me later he literally felt like his whole mind just exploded and he was finally able to see that he was the source of his own suffering for his whole life and that he was projecting it onto me and others, but that the true source of his pain was within him and was sourced from his inner child pain from his childhood and various traumas he had experienced over the years. From that point forward, he became my best friend and biggest fan. He went on to be featured on the cover of many magazines in the UK, interviewed on radio shows and in the media, as well as in movies as he has become an expert in yoga and healing for the professional motor cross racers in UK and beyond. He has referred about 20 of his friends to come to my trainings and told me he has read Journey to Joyful at least a dozen times front to back and each time he gains new insight and inspiration. He has also come to teach with me over the past 8 years at many international yoga teacher trainings and is leading his own healing retreats world wide now as well. He is a great testimony to show the power of this book and the healing that can occur when people open their hearts to allow the process to unfold for them.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
I feel very grateful because I have not really experienced much negative feedback. Perhaps this is because I share such deep and vulnerable stories of my own suffering in the book, so most readers will tap into compassion after reading this book. However I did get a review on amazon once saying that this book is not really about yoga and was more of a life coaching book. I felt that wasn’t really negative feedback, but did show that that person perhaps didn’t read the whole book since there is a lot of both in there. My message for Journey to Joyful has always and will always be about health, happiness and healing and to show a path for people to transform their pain into joy with enough disciplined focused efforts on their healing journey. I also met a doctor once who didn’t like the title since he said it should be Journey to Joy to be more grammatically correct. At the time I was considering if he was correct, but the way Journey to Joyful sounds feels right to me and the title itself is a message. It means to take a journey that will lead the reader to a joyful place or state. And the emphasis is on the journey, as the journey is the designation and many times in life we get trapped in the pain of the journey and I want people to move through that if they get stuck and stay focused on the joy in their journey if possible since joy, happiness, love and appreciation are all very healing states of being.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Humans have a consciousness unique to our species in that we have the ability to share and learn from each other through our reading, writing and communication in general. Books are so powerful because when we are reading we have to be fully enrolled in this process. We can’t multi task and stay focused to read at the same time. A book commands our full attention and captivates all of our senses, if it is written well. When a book touches someone’s soul, their mind and heart all together, that is when it creates a movement. A bonus is if it can also help them to over come their pain or problems, but even fiction novels have the power to create a movement, such as Eat Pray Love or Chicken Soup for the Soul for example. To be able to feel that someone else in the world, ie the author or the stories being shard in the book, can relate and connect with the pain or the happiness of the reader is a powerful connection. To find someone who understands your pain and who can help you through it is the most powerful connection you can find.
When the author relates to the readers, through writing a book, we are able to see the magic and wonder of humanity. We feel that we are not alone and that connection starts to heal something deep within the psyche, the heart, mind and even the soul. Everyone seeks connection and at the fundamental level, we all seek bonds with others so we feel less alone in the world. Everyone experiences pain in their life and that pain feels like separation from the source of life. That is the fundamental pain we all share, the pain of separation from source. If an author can connect to many readers’ pain and help them to feel they are not alone and that we are all in this together, that’s when a movement occurs. It’s that feeling like we are all in this together that creates a tribe. The tribe or community that is created around certain books runs deep because the connections remains long after you read the book. Like for me how that book about being like women of influence really touched me so early and shaped who I have become. After that I was a lifelong fan of Oprah and the other women featured in the book, even though I didn’t really watch her show. I felt a connection to her life, since I too had been raised with a very tough childhood and I could feel less alone in the world as a result of knowing her story and being inspired by her message of hope.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
The one habit that contributed to my success is devotion to spreading my message. For me it has never been about selling books, but about the impact I can make with the message. In the beginning I didn’t know much about how to get the book out to an audience. All I had was a message and took a lot of inspired action. That was the basis for all that has come and been created from the movement. I meditated about how can I serve a wider audience and from that many opportunities came to me. It also took perseverance and disciplined efforts of course, but over all its been the devotion and dedication to spreading the message that has allowed me to reach millions of people and that supports the continual expansion of the message to reach wider audiences in new and beautiful ways to make their lives better and help make the world a better place for us all to live.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
The greatest challenge I faced in my writing career was when I first released Journey to Joyful, I had envisioned great support from the yoga community. I imagined that this wonderful book about healing would be received with open arms and hearts and that all of the yoga community would love to support this message and help to share it and spread it around for the betterment of humanity. That was not the case at all. I found a lot of resistance in that direction, and perhaps it was coming from something within myself that was creating the resistance response, but over all it ended up as a blessing since the lack of support I felt from the local yoga community pushed me to move outside of my comfort zone to a wider audience. I started to connect with and reach out to the main stream audiences, other complimentary communities such as the self help, medical, university and fitness communities for example and this lead me to be invited to a larger world stage as a speaker and teacher with a powerful and unique message. If I had let the initial resistance, or rejection is how I felt at the time, to stop me, I would have failed. Instead of failure I turned the lemons into lemonade and moved outside of my comfort zone in order to spread my message to more people and that made all the difference. So in the end, I see that initial challenge as the greatest blessing and actually I can see that all challenges are blessings in the end. So the sooner we can see them as such, the more ease, grace and flow we can experience in life over all.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers need to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
5 things writers need to know if they want to spark a movement with a book:
1. Find ways through your writing to relate to people’s pain and help them not feel alone
2. Share ways to help solve the readers problems
3. Offer multiple ways for the readers to engage with the topic of the book outside of the book such as videos, retreats, events, experiences, digital courses, social media and podcasts
4. Focus on building a community around the topic of the book to offer the readers more ways to connect with you as the author and others in the community with shared interests
5. Connect with media, other authors, experts in complimentary fields, move outside of your niche and be open to bridging over to new communities to expand the message and reach wider audiences
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
The next movement that the world very much needs is to unify and come together, as the separation, walls and wars have lead to so much suffering and pain in the world. I have created a great solution called the Oneness Movement, and it is a plan to solve the United Nations global goals, starting with the oceans and plastic pollution. I feel that the people of this world really want to help and make a difference, but they don’t know how. So the Oneness Movement solves that by offering real simple and powerful action steps that when multiplied across millions of people can rapidly solve the global issues facing the world and humanity. You can see some info about that here: om4oceans.org
The other movement I am actively creating is for the Flow State. This is a revolutionary paradigm shift for humanity, to help them be able to shift their state of being, from low vibrational living in fear, scarcity, anger, jealously, greed, selfishness and depression for example, up to a higher vibration of living from a state of joy, love, abundance, appreciation and happiness. There are many ways to make this shift and its different for each person, but some of the practices I teach have been proven effective for thousands of years and are being validated by the science and medical communities now as research shows that meditation, yoga, breathing, mental health, nutrition, hydration, sleep, love, intimacy, self care, self love, appreciation, connection with nature and other simple yet powerful lifestyle habits can dramatically shift the quality of our lives. The Flow State is the topic if my next book and will also be a movie and an online tele summit as we create the culture around this movement, we’d love to have the as much media support as possible to reach the widest audience and up lift humanity with these powerful practices and lifestyle changes. theflowstate.tv
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on all platforms :
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.