Master meditation instructor davidji has an inspired background in meditation. He left his job working on the higher floors of the World Trade Center in New York as a corporate mergers and acquisitions advisor just months before 9/11, and realized that he wanted to make something of his life that created purpose and helped others.
“I’ve blown up my life a few different times over the years, I call them ‘incarnations’ of my being … I made a pledge to myself that I’m not going to be trapped again, in something that’s not nourishing and something that’s not serving other people,” he says.
davidji embarked on a meditation retreat in Oxford, England with Deepak Chopra, and then headed off to India in search of a guru for six months. He became deeply involved with the practice and upon moving back to the U.S. was hired to work as the chief operating officer of the Chopra Center where he would become the lead educator and dean of the Chopra Center University.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on the most recent research on science,” he states of the meditation teacher training curriculum.
Over the years, davidji has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to meditate, and certified over 2,000 people to become teachers themselves. He has experience guiding kids, prisoners — almost everyone from all walks of life — on how to meditate. “It’s so interesting how the bug just hits you. You just start to embody it,” he says.
davidji described how there’s even a level of intimacy that the virtual sessions have that isn’t present in a normal training since they’re divided into individual groups which have no distractions. He explains how the teacher training is about helping people find their own voice and their personalized version of using meditation to enhance their lives and improve their relationships. He emphasizes that people don’t need to have a clear plan of action to use this teacher training to take their life to the next level.
“The joys of meditation don’t happen while you’re directly working at it. They happen when you’re living your regular life. It’s a deeper connection to the ‘you’ that you want to be. It helps people activate and awaken the best expression of themselves,” he explains.
Suze Yalof Schwartz, owner and founder of Unplug Meditation in Santa Monica, California, was a thriving fashion director with experience working across national beauty outlets including Marie Claire, Vogue, Elle and Glamour in New York City. After discovering meditation and studying its benefits, she left the hustle and bustle of the NYC lifestyle with her family and successfully founded her own meditation studio in Los Angeles in April of 2014.
Schwartz said the most important thing to consider when preparing for the training is to go in with an open mind. She emphasized that just because someone earns their certification, doesn’t mean they have to teach.
“They’re deepening their own practice and connecting with themselves. It builds their confidence and reinforces how powerful meditation can be,” Schwartz says. “When you take the certification, you’re gaining a deeper understanding of the practice and really committing to it.”
Schwartz acknowledges that although human connection is important to the training experience, human connection can still be achieved through the virtual training. Schwartz and davidji work hard to individually pair people up into groups that they know will be the best fit, to ensure students will get the best experience possible out of the sessions.
“We focus on making sure that not only each human being has the information, but walk away knowing the science and the techniques and the baseline training done. We make it experiential. Their final is teaching via a virtual class, to a class of an unlimited size online at the students of Unplug and their own friends and family. The virtual experience has really broadened their opportunity for an audience,” she says.
Schwartz participates in each of the training sessions herself. She said she gains a deeper understanding of her inner self each time.
Once a person is certified, they’re still an active part of the Unplug studio family no matter where they reside in the world. “We really like to keep in touch, check in and see how they’re doing. A lot of these people end up opening their own meditation studios, have brought the meditation into their law offices or teach with us at Unplug. We’ve inspired a studio in Tokyo, a studio in Mexico City, a studio in Switzerland, two studios in London — and they’re all unique,” says Schwartz. “I feel like I really know all of these people who have done our training program. I’ve personally connected with them, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it.”
Schwartz said that what makes Unplug’s teacher training program such a unique experience is how the studio focuses on best engaging an audience of 100-plus to connect with both the first-time meditator and the person who has been meditating for 35 years, ensuring that both of these individuals resonate with the meditation.“Being a good teacher isn’t just about knowing your stuff. Being a good teacher is about being able to really engage with the people that you’re teaching. To empathize with them. To be passionate about your message,” she says.
davidji and Schwartz both agree that their skills and personalities complement each other well. “We have a great balance together,” says Schwartz. “It feels like the six weeks almost go by too fast. We’re unplugged from our devices and we’re plugged into ourselves.”
“I would love for the whole world to be meditating. That is my dream. At all ages from childhood to their deathbeds,” she adds. “It gives you a way to be mindfully active, as opposed to unconsciously reactive.”
Master meditation instructor davidji and Unplug founder and owner Suze Yalof Schwartz will be leading a six week course from September 21 to October 31, 2020 for students to gain a deeper foundation of meditation and mindfulness practice. The training includes a background on the history of meditation and different modalities, the components of teaching a class, how to market oneself as a teacher, how to acquire clients and more.
Lead photo by Marc Leibowitz.