One of the most challenging things in life is to learn how to be alone/okay with ourselves. How to talk and listen to ourselves and how to accept both the good and the bad sides. One of the foremost teachers on this subject is Dandapani. He spoke at the Tedx talks, at the London Real Show and the Xerocon. His toughts are all shared on his youtube videos. His words resonated with me and this is why I chose to share his approach. It’s in line with what modern coaching is teaching with different tools. His tools are practical, simple, and applicable in a very structured way. He teaches the art of concentration, willpower and meditation. He proposes a journey of self-exploration, self-realization and attaining unwavering focus in everything we do in life. This article is designed to give a brief insight of Dandapani approaches on self-development.
Dandapani is a Hindu priest, a speaker on self-development and an entrepreneur. Originally from Sri Lanka, he grew up in Australia, graduated in Electrical Engineering and left everything behind to become a Hindu monk under the supervision of a Hindu spiritual leader, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Dandapani spent 10 years of his life learning about self-discipline and training at his guru’s cloistered monastery in Hawaii.
After a 10 years commitment to the monastery, he chose to venture out into the world on his own and settled down in New York City. In one of the most challenging cities in the world, he was determined to live, practice and teach everything he has learned. He works with people from various backgrounds, conducting training through workshops in companies and organizations and arranges meditation retreats around the world.
Hearing Dandapani speak makes people understand in a simple way how the mind works. Spirituality becomes practical, rational and applicable in daily life. His approach is designed to create a systemic methodology toward sustainable change.
I believe that usually coaches at seminars or workshop retreats, only motivate, inspire, and excite people for a short period of time. However, without tools to practice daily, real sustainable change is hard to achieve. For Dandapani, being in a monastery for 10 years gave him a systemic path toward change. Being a monk was his way to benightment.
According to Dandapani, in order to achieve sustainable change, people need to make a system; it starts with learning more about ourselves, structuring our days and knowing how the minds works.
The most challenging thing in life is to learn how to be with ourselves, how we converse with ourselves, with all the beautiful things as well as with all the ugly things in our life. This is the right path toward acceptance about who we actually are. It’s the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. For instance, monks only talk about problems to their guru, not to other monks who are going through the process of enlightenment and acceptation. When we are going through a self-development process, we don’t need other people dumping their problems on us. That way, it is important to know thyself and find the right help with the right tools to overcome problems. Once we have the right set of tools, we need to set up a systemic approach to work on the specific issue and it’s our responsibility to either follow or give up the practice.
Dandapani also specifies how important it is to structure our day and to create a lifestyle that supports what we do. It goes with the principle that we have a finite amount of energy each day. Energy is a finite resource we need for work. Dandapani underlines that we need to think in term of frequency, vibration and energy and everything is vibrating to a certain frequency. Energy doesn’t distinguish what is good for us or bad for us. We need to look at energy the same way we look at money : as a finite resource that has to be managed, reallocated and invested wisely. Therefore, it is crucial to simplify our life, to prioritize things we want to do and to simplify the number of people in our life. Everything we do requires energy and we need to learn how to conserve the waste of energy and the more people we have in our life, the more energy we need to give.
The conservation of energy and the proper use of energy goes hand in hand with concentration. In our modern society, Technology is distracting us and people should learn how to use technology and how to not let technology use us – and it is natural to become good at the things we practice the most. If we practice distraction on a daily basis and several times a day (as phones do roughly 20 times per hour), we become good at distraction and we spent time and energy on distraction. That way, we tend to lose the power of concentration on the things that really matters to us. The big picture to understand here is to increase consciousness on someone or something specific means using our awareness – “Is technology controlling my awareness or I am controlling where my awareness goes?”
Generally, when we are young, our parents, teachers tell us to concentrate but we have never been taught how to concentrate. Concentration is the ability to keep awareness on one thing for a prolonged period of time. Concentration creates deeper relationships with people and is one of the highest forms of love and respect. For some people, concentration is a mechanism learned unconsciously while they were young. While for other people, concentration is a vague concept that people talk about but don’t know how to put into practice. Basically, we cannot concentrate on something we don’t understand or we don’t know how to do it.
It is important to learn how the mind works, once we know how the mind works, we can control it and once we control it, we can focus and concentrate. Unfortunately, we have the best tool (the mind) but without a manual of how to use the mind, we end up in vicious circle where we cannot manifest what we want in life if we don’t know how to use the tool we need to work with. Additionally, people tend to confuse between the mind and awareness. To understand these concepts clearly, we can differentiate by seeing the mind as a vast space with several different areas with it (love, money, sex…) and awareness as a glowing bowl of light that travels in the mind. Awareness travels within the mind. When awareness goes to a particular area of the mind, it lights up that area and we become conscious of being in that particular area of the mind.
We tend to take our awareness to different place of the mind all day long and to learn how to concentrate is how to keep our awareness to a certain place of the mind for a certain amount of time. The practice of concentration comes by doing one thing for an extended period of time and keeping the awareness on that only one thing. If it drips away, we bring it back and give it our undivided attention. Using willpower and the power of concentration, we can take our awareness to any area of the mind that we want to go to and hold it in that particular place for a given period of time. Where awareness goes, energy flows.
When we speak about the mind, we need to distinguish between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Dandapani says that the subconscious needs to be trained by chanting repeatedly affirmations or mantras. The repetition of positive affirmation shows frequency, the emotion and a clear visualization leads to energy. Energy doesn’t distinguish between positive or negative thoughts or feelings or actions. Life is a manifestation of where our energy is flowing. If we cannot concentrate our energy, the things that we want to manifest in our life become more challenging.
According to Dandapani, it’s important to develop willpower. It’s a mental muscle that can be developed the same way a muscle can be. It deals with simple principals as finishing everything we start, finishing it well and beyond expectation and doing a little more than we think we are able to do.
Another lesson learned is to raise awareness toward what are the biggest energy consumers in the world: People and Things. People and Things also give energy. Dandapani calls that “Energy Vampires” because a vampire sucks the life out of them. He distinguishes 3 types of people. “The Uplifting People” are the people we spend time with and make us feel inspired. “Neutral People” are the people we spend time with and they make us feel the same. “The Not Uplifting People” are the people we spend time with and make us feel exhausted afterwards, these people are “Energy Vampires”.
There are 2 types of energy vampires. “The Transcient Energy Vampire” is someone who is going through difficult moments and needs help to be uplifted. “The Inherent Energy Vampire” is someone who has always been negative and transfers bad energy. Naturally, we would wonder how can we protect ourselves from “Inherent Energy Vampires”. Dandapani speaks about the art of being affectionately detached in a kind, gentle, sincere and loving way by placing the burden of responsibility on them. For example, in the coaching process, a person who hasn’t done an assignment assigned to him cannot advance in his process. That means this person is responsible for his own progress and shouldn’t have to lean on anybody but only himself.
Over the years, we witnessed a significant increase in self-development speakers, books, youtube videos…Personally, I am skeptical about the effects of marketing and the communication by coaches, speakers’ practices on people. I despise those coaches who sell dreams to vulnerable people, to those who are relying on them to overcome problems. In that particular case, it does create a co-dependent relationship between coach and people where the coach has a recurrent income and the people rely on their coach for every situation.
Coaching is an art that has to be wisely approached. Coaches give tools and orientations; the real work comes from the people who need to alter a situation. For me, Dandapani’s approach could contribute to a sustainable change. However, we need to bear in mind that sustainable change requires time and practice in a structured way.