Meet Dave, one of our Meditation Coaches and our Wellness Pro Spotlight for this month!
Having lived overseas for 12 years – with experiences in over 40 countries – it was in India where Dave studied Vipassana meditation intensively. Dave holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. He has trained traumatized children in Afghanistan the same meditation techniques that helped him overcome his own trauma he sustained while working in conflict zones as a humanitarian and peacekeeper. As both a therapist and someone who has suffered immensely himself, Dave aims to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and feels that meditation is the most effective method to quell the mind – while simultaneously helping to bolster a greater sense of self-efficacy, control, compassion and confidence. Dave currently trains physicians at Hospital for Special Surgery and teaches at Columbia University.
Namaste: What's your favorite self-care routine?
Dave: I bookend my days with meditation. I begin in the morning with a breath-focused meditation, and end in the evening, with Metta (loving kindness) meditation. This is where – amid your sit – you send loving kindness to family, friends and even “enemies.” I’ve always felt that the heart heals just the same with “love input” or “love output.” So for example, when we receive love from others, of course it feels great. But, I’ve always believed that when we give this Metta – loving kindness – to others, it’s just as therapeutic for us, if not more so. Rather paradoxically, I suppose self-care for me involves a lot of caring for others.
Namaste: How do you unplug and find balance each day?
Dave: Time management has been probably the most valuable tool for me to maintain balance. I don’t enjoy rushing to work or appointments. If you think about it, our events and appointments are just tiny touch-points. In between these touch-points, “the journey,” is what makes up most of our lives. I much rather walk slowly, mindfully, appreciatively, taking everything in. Dare I say, truly live. Within my schedule I plan and create space for this more sincere, authentic living. Simon & Garfunkel sang, “Slow down you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last … just kicking down the cobblestones …” I feel they were right on the money. We’ve glamorized “busy,” I’m afraid – especially here in NYC. This is unfortunate. The song by the way continues, “… Hello lamppost, what’cha knowin’? I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’.” Beautiful. I think we all should talk to lampposts more often.
Namaste: What does 'Namaste' mean to you?
Dave: Well, here’s an amusing little “Namaste” anecdote. When living in Bombay I had a Royal Enfield motorcycle. Though perhaps a bit dangerous, most of the time it was far too hot to wear a helmet – and of course, illegal. Every time I’d pass by a traffic cop, I’d slow down, smile, bow my head and give a respectful “Namaste,” crossing my fingers I wouldn’t be ticketed. I suppose it was my polite, law-breaking little way of saying, “I know I should be wearing a helmet. I’m dying in this heat. I hope you can understand.” My desperate eyes and sweat-drenched forehead were often met with a big warm compassionate smile, followed by playful, “tsk, tsk” with a wag of the finger – such as what a loving uncle might do. Ultimately, I’d be granted clemency. So now back stateside when I hear the word “Namaste,” it not only reminds me of my renegade days in India – but even more so, the tenderheartedness human beings seem to have the capacity for. Just as a side note, when living in Beirut, I shattered my shoulder and split my chin open on my motorcycle there. That did it. No more motorcycles for me – with or without a helmet!
Namaste: What is your favorite type of meditation & why?
Dave: My favorite type of meditation is the standard “10 days of noble silence” Vipassana meditation, in retreat form. This is how I was originally trained in India. Simply, it consists of 10 days of silence – and meditating for 10 hours for each of these days. One’s mind usually starts to go a bit daffy after day 3. A lot of insights begin to occur. I remember at my first retreat, I was sitting alone in my meditation cell and began laughing uncontrollably – at nothing. Reports show that in and around this bizarre day 3, people begin to “purge” in different ways. I’ve always found that fascinating.
Namaste: What's your advice to clients who know they need to start a meditation routine, but don't know where to start?
Dave: I’m reminded of a cheeky saying we have in meditation: “One should meditate for 20 minutes a day – unless you’re too busy; then you should meditate for an hour.” Ha! If one feels too overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start, I first want to validate this. It’s normal, it’s natural – and it’s not just you. First, take comfort in that. Also, when meditation feels forced or if it’s perceived as a chore, it’s no longer effective. So to begin, I feel it’s important to view meditation as a gift we’re giving ourselves. We can change our language around this too. Instead of saying, “I need to go meditate,” we might say, “I get to meditate now.” Once we reframe our relationship to meditation more positively, we might find it easier to start. Then, just like finding a good therapist or the right romantic partner, you really need to shop around for a meditation teacher that fits in well with your personality and temperament. That’s why – shameless plug coming here – Namaste NY is a great start. First, after gathering helpful background information on you, they do their best to match you up with someone they feel might be a good fit. You can then simply test the waters – never locked into just staying with one teacher. You can keep experimenting with different teachers until you find the right match. Brilliant!
To book a session with Dave click here.