David Brown Jr.: On Forgiveness and Embracing Adversity to Discover Purpose
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Jul 23, 2016
Guest: David Brown Jr.
Host: Amit Dungarani
Moderator: Aryae Coopersmith
Aryae: There is one way to think about David Brown Jr., the way we have him introduced on our Awakin Call site, he is an author, leadership coach, and management consultant who draws from his personal transformation as a platform for helping individuals and organizations learn how to navigate adversity.
Another way to look at David is how he describes himself. The very first sentence in his book and his bio: "David Brown Jr. is awakening to a compassionate heart an d purposeful living." In getting to meet and learn about David, I'm finding a combination of great accomplishment and also a person who humbly shares his own journey.
So, David, so happy to have the chance for you to talk with us this morning. Welcome.
David: Thank you very much for having me, and I'm very appreciative and grateful for this space that ServiceSpace has created. I think it is an incredible platform, and I'm very excited to be here.
Aryae: Could you share a little bit about the events in your life that lead you to discover the principles that you've been working with and to be writing your book.
David: Absolutely. I was born in Buffalo, NY. I was raised in Delaware. Went to the public school system here. Typical middle class African American family. Education was extremely important to both my parents. So both my younger sister and I both graduated from college. I went to University of Delaware, where I studied finance.
Then I eventually got my MBA going through the Executive Program at Villanova in 2010. In 2012, I found myself really in a position to where I was coming into my own professionally: I was doing the type of work that I wanted to; I was getting the sort of opportunities that I was excited about. The one area of my life that just always seemed to be lacking was the love department.
So I always had this desire to be loved and this desire to share love. And I met an incredibly beautiful woman from Uzbekistan named Jolie one night in January of 2012. The following week we got back together again after exchanging information and had a very, very quick courtship. Within 30 days, we were already talking about the possibility of getting married, or at least getting engaged, the following year.
We just had this incredible connection towards one another. Our values were the same. How we saw our lives playing out together really aligned very well. A few months into the relationship, she let me know that she was pregnant. That was a bit of a surprise, but at that moment, I was about 34--I was ready to have a child--but I wasn't quite ready to be married yet.
One of the things that her and her family had explained to me was that in her culture it was important that she be married prior to having a child. So one of the things I did was I thought about it and talked about it with some friends and family. And decided that it was the right thing for me to do--to get married.
Literally, a few weeks later we ended up getting married. Fast forward to November of 2012, and things were coasting pretty well up until that point. My beautiful daughter, Lucia, was born. That was obviously the best day of my life, but after that, the differences that Jolie and I had really came to the forefront.
You know there were differences in how we wanted to manage finances. There were differences in terms of how we saw family life playing out in reality. So the environment became really, really stressful.
After about 11 months, fast forward to October of 2013, we both mutually agreed that we were going to get divorced. I remember when we sat down and had that conversation, there was such a huge sense of relief and such a sense of peace that this was the right decision for us.
The agreement that we made was that we were going to file for divorce at the end of 2013. On November 9th, which was the second Saturday in 2013, I was at my parent's place in the morning traveling to Delaware to get a haircut because we lived about an hour and a half away. And I received an email from Jolie. At the time, we were living separately. She was living with her mother. She would bring my daughter over on the weekends to spend time with her.
I just thought it was a normal email telling me what the plan was for the weekend, and she basically told me that she had left. And that she didn't want to put our daughter through the divorce process, and splitting custody. And she had a fear that I was going to try to take full custody of her.
When she said she had left, she wasn't clear on exactly where she had went, so it's pretty frantic in the moment trying to call her, trying to call her mother. I got no response. About 15 minutes later, I received a phone call from my sister saying that a really close aunt of ours was being revived in the hospital.
Now, my aunt was two days removed from having surgery. I knew she was weak going into it, but none of us expected that she would have any complications. In my mind, there is this internal dialogue and this sense of unbelievability that was taking place.
Fast forward, my aunt does unfortunately pass away. I felt like I couldn't share with my family what was happening with me and my wife and my child because they were all grieving. So later that day, I ended up calling the police, and they couldn't help me because based on the laws, if you are married, both parents have the right to take the child wherever. The only time there is an issue is if they are in violation of a custody order, so literally for 24 hours, I had no idea where they were.
I ended up calling an attorney and meeting with him on Monday, filing an emergency custody order. Once that was granted by the following Thursday which was now 5 days removed from the email, the local police actually began their investigation.
At that point, they made me aware that my wife, daughter, and my wife's mother had fled the country and had went to Uzbekistan. At that moment, I was separated from my daughter.
A: That is amazing just to hear that and think about what that must have been like.
D: Yeah. There are so many emotions. Obviously, to have a child taken in that manner, there is a sense of grief and obviously the loss, but there are also a lot of self-judgment and doubt that comes with that. The biggest part of me was re-thinking things that I might have said that weren't so nice. And maybe those were the things that could have triggered her to make this decision.
So there is a lot of judgment, a lot of doubt. There is a lot of resentment on my part and, quite frankly, a lot of anger. During that week as I found out more about the laws and what was possible in terms of trying to get my daughter back, there really creeped in a strong sense of hopelessness as well.
A: So given this unbelievable situation of losing your daughter and the anger, the self-judgment, etc. so how did you move from there to where you wound up? What took you on that journey of acceptance and love and forgiveness? Where did that come from?
D: Yeah, I was obviously in a very emotional state, and one of the things that i started to do was that I began to write letters to my daughter who was 11 months old at this time. I found myself everyday writing letters just telling her how my day was. These are things that I would do face to face to her even though she was small and couldn't talk back. "Hey, here is what Daddy did today..."
I found myself writing these letters to her everyday. After two weeks, I had the most amazing dream. In the dream, my daughter was probably about four years old. And I saw her in the distance, and she was wearing this white lacy dress with white patent leather shoes, and she walks towards me. And she hops up on my right knee, and she kisses me on the cheek. And she says, "Everything is going to be ok, Daddy."
In that moment, in the midst of that dream, there was this strong sense of awareness. I didn't understand exactly what was happening, but I felt that there was some sort of shift taking place.
The next day, I continued to see these images of my daughter everywhere I went. And I began to question, "Was this a dream or did she visit me? Did I have this encounter with her?"
But the biggest change was suddenly I had this sense of peace. This reservoir that just sat in my stomach that just totally grounded me. I no longer felt the anger, the resentment. It was almost a soothing place to be. And in the next few days, that peace expanded into compassion, and it expanded into forgiveness. And I was able to see myself in a different light, and as a result, I was able to see my wife in a different light.
Instead of her being viewed as a perpetrator, suddenly, with tremendous amount of clarity, I was able to see the suffering in her. I just felt so compassionate about that. It got me thinking about her experience as a child with her father not being around and this baggage that she has been carrying around for so long. Now this fear of potentially losing custody of the person that she loves the most. I could empathize and understand where she was coming from in a different way, even though I didn't share the same perspective as her.
I think with that deeper understanding, I no longer saw myself as a victim because with that came this tremendous amount of strength with this deeper understanding that was starting to unfold.
A: That is a very interesting point once you could have compassion and empathy for her then your feeling about yourself as a victim shifted. You are no longer a victim.
D: Yes. Absolutely. And what I found is that that shift starts with you and then it begins to permeate its way out because all of a sudden how you are feeling about yourself is going to shift how you look at the rest of the world. It was this really, really profound interaction.
I remember going to work and I had a tremendous amount of supporters, and people just didn't understand it. I was still trying to figure it out myself, but I remember people being very uncomfortable to be around me because they thought at any point this guy is going to snap. But I just always had this sense of peace. Even when people spoke poorly about my wife, I tried to engage them in a different conversation because I just didn't want to bring that energy into the situation.
A: Wow. So tell us about your how your book is organized around 8 principles: heart, awareness, intention, acceptance, compassion, etc. Can you tell us a little about those principles and where they come from and how they have become part of your life?
D: Sure, first I want to say that these principles are universal and they show up in everyone's experience. So these aren't principles that I sat down and thought about one day. I literally, a few weeks after the dream, I got these principles in meditation. I literally saw them kind of floating on a piece of paper in front of me. I intuitively decided to write them down.
I ended up picking them up about a week later, and I realized that these principles were examples of what I was embodying in my new way of being and they helped me find this sense of peace. It began to shift my energy around the letters to my daughter.
Obviously, there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty about whether I would see her again. So one of the things I wanted to do was to leave a legacy, leave a connection, with her regardless of when we would be reunited. So I decided to share these principles to her in letter form which is how the book came to be.
The first principle is the heart principle. In the book, I talk about the idea of following my heart and the decision to get married was not an easy decision to make. What I found is that I was rationalizing a lot which many of us do. I think about the process of rationalizing really being connected to the brain.But the heart is really more associated with feeling and our intuition.
I found myself being more and more in that space when it came to making that decision, but since that time being in the heart space has been a very profound experience as it connects to many of the other principles that are there. We have to really come from our heart when it comes to looking at our broader connection and looking at things like compassion and forgiveness.
The brain doesn't really help us get there because rationalizing tends to be on the opposite end of the spectrum.
The second principle is awareness. When I think about awareness, historically I think about how we are emotional beings, and very early on in life we learn to emote. As adults, often times we respond in an auto-pilot way. In those situations, our emotions are almost literally defining us. It is very easy to get stuck in that space. So the awareness principle is about understanding that we define our emotions.
One of the things that was very powerful for me was me being the observer of the observed. So me almost taking a very third party view to how I show up in different situation which has been a way to help me remove emotions from a lot of different circumstances.
A: It sounds like you shift a little bit out of yourself, out of your ego, and you are the observer watching this story unfold.
D: That is right. It is almost like watching a movie.
The third principle is the intentions principle. In the book, I share about my experience with Reiki and how the power of thought can lead to healing, and I think about intentions as really the fuel for our thoughts. If you think about our reality, anything that has ever been manifested goes to the creation process and intentions are what drive the manifestations. We are intending to create a certain outcome. When you think about that, we also have to be very much aware of what are intentions are and whether they are positive of negative. So a tremendous amount of power in our thoughts and the intentions are essentially what drives that which essentially creates the reality around us.
The acceptance principle is the fourth principle, and that was probably one of the more complex ones in my opinion. I think for me going through this experience, understanding that there really wasn't that much legal recourse. I had to really accept the fact that my daughter wasn't there, but what really came into play was understanding that I can't change the past and what has happened. I can only be in this present moment.
A lot of times, at least for me in the past, I've held on to different feelings of anger or resentment or what have you verses letting them go. And when I think about many of us that go into relationships with others, a lot times we want people to be the way that we want them to be verses accepting them for who the are. And giving them the freedom to be who they are. So part of it is about managing your own expectations. For the sake of really being in a really peaceful place all the time.
The fifth principle is the compassion principle. I think many of us have had a strong connection to this with everything that is going on in our global society. It is almost the recognition of suffering is how I define compassion. A lot of us have a lot of compassion for a lot things that are happening around the world right now. In order to have true compassion, you also have to come from this heart space. I consider to be the gateway to forgiveness which is the sixth principle.
With forgiveness there is a process of releasing that happens. Oftentimes we think about forgiveness, we think about this negative shared energy between two people. The offering of forgiveness to someone else is our releasing of that energy. It is an invitation to the other person to release the energy on their end.
The seventh principle is loving unconditionally. I think about this as the constant flow of loving kindness to everyone, so regardless of the circumstances that you are in, always being in this heart space and always projecting out this sense of loving kindness. As you can imagine that requires compassion for yourself and compassion for others, because this is about recognizing the suffering that happens within yourself and to others and projecting love onto it regardless of the circumstances.
The eighth and final principle is gratitude. For me this is about being thankful for everything that is unfolding. I think about it as the culmination of many of the other principles. If you think about it, you can't have true gratitude without being in the heart space, without being compassionate. There is a certain level of awareness that comes with that as well.
One of my coaching teachers had a great saying, "Everything in life is a lesson or a blessing." I think about when I was a child, to me I was always grateful for the blessings. It was always the good things in life that I was always grateful for. But what I've started to understand is that when we are going through difficult times, I look at that as a catalyst. Adversity is a catalyst for us to actually expand as human beings. If you begin to look at it that way in this non-emotional state, again going back to awareness, there are always lessons to be learned.
Once those lessons are learned, our perspectives then changes. And then we move onto the next set of experiences. Gratitude to me encompasses many of the other principles. It really has been a staple for me throughout this entire process. In my letter to my daughter about gratitude, I make it clear to her that I am not happy about this situation, but I do allude that I sense that there is a greater good that will come from this. If that means that she and I will be separated for some period of time for the betterment of the greater good then I wholeheartedly accept that as part of my experience.
A: You know David, as I'm listening to you, one of the really striking things for me is how quickly you have come to all of this. To the awareness and practice of these principles. I know for myself, when I went through my divorce, and the circumstances were not nearly as traumatic as yours, it took me a much longer time to get to the place of compassion and forgiveness for everyone involved. I think for many people it takes us years of working on that. I'm just struck with how quickly you are moving along this spiritual path at this point in your life.
One thing I want to ask you is do you have any stories outside your relationship with your daughter and your ex-wife? Are there any smaller situations in your day to day life where you were able to practice some of these principles and what was that like?
D: Yes, one immediately comes to mind. I used to work for JP Morgan Chase. I was an executive director there, running the quality control unit for one of their operational lines of business. I spent most of my career in financial services. Spent a few years away and I came back in 2014 to take on this particular role.
It was a high pressure environment. I was in the middle of writing this book. So I was going through this tremendous transformation. I was reporting to this person who was a really intelligent leader, but the environment that we were in was very stressful.
In early April of 2015, I woke up one morning and I thought I had a heart attack. I found myself just trying to catch my breath. It felt like a 200 lbs man was just sitting on my chest. I had no idea what was going on. And there has been a history of heart issues in my family. So I was very sensitive to it.
I made a doctor's appointment that morning. Went and saw my doctor. Went through a whole gambit of tests--EKG, Ultrasound, stress test. Everything came back negative. Then she said to me. Maybe you are experiencing a form of anxiety. She was going to prescribe to me medication. My pushback to her was that I think medication might work for some people, but it kind of covers the systems and I want to get to the root cause.
I told her that I was open to seeing a therapist. So the following week, I had my first therapy session, with a fantastic therapist. I spent the first day with her telling her my story. And she was in tears because she was a parent and related to the situation with my daughter. Towards the end of the session as we were talking about some of the stressors at work, she said something very interesting to me. She said, "You have these eight principles that you are sharing with the world through your book. You've applied them to your wife. Why don't you try applying them to your work and your circumstances with your manager?"
All of a sudden a light bulb completely went off. The next week I had come back with a completely different perspective in terms of how I wa going to show up and what I wanted to do.
And I remember the therapist saying to me, "I haven't seen a transformation like that happen so quickly. Honestly, I don't think you need to see me anymore." Which was pretty interesting.
But when I went back to work a few weeks later, the dynamics had completely shifted. Because all of a sudden, the same way I saw suffering in my wife, I could see in my manager. And I was able to put myself into her shoes and understand that this fear that she is intentionally or unintentionally creating in the environment was simply a reflection of her own fear. And that is how she was trying to get things done.
I tried to approach that situation with compassion and I did. But ultimately, I realized that I don't have the power to change anyone around me. They have to chose to change themselves. Ultimately, a few weeks later, I decided I wanted to leave. I came to a point of awareness that I wanted to pursue work that was purposeful for me which was pushing this book and developing the platform that I'm currently in the process of developing.
A: Great story. Which brings me to something else. I can see how applying awareness, attention, acceptance can work in situation where I'm dealing with an individual or individuals who are in my face. I'm wondering about to what extent is this applicable if I'm dealing with bigger situations--a group of people, a politician that I've never met, some individual in some remote place who killed a bunch of innocent people. To what extent are these principles applicable to events going on in the world around me? Are there limits?
D: That is a great question. One of the things I close the book talking about is understanding the importance of perspective. And perspective is formed and created by interactions between our experiences and our beliefs. It is not a very clear cause and effect relationship. They all sort of jumble together to reinforce one another.
I realized that we are all absolutely unique in the perspectives we are choosing in any given moment. So what oftentimes is happening is that when we are experiencing contrast in our experiencing whether it is us vs. a group or what have you, all it is is a difference in perspective. But as you begin to live out these principles and embody them, what happens is that you are raising your own awareness which is raising consciousness. So all of a sudden, you don't need to have the same perspective as someone else, but you can at least embrace that perspective in a different way.
This to me when I think about the challenges that are happening across the globe and throughout humanity, the root solution to all of them is raising consciousness. All of a sudden if we understand ourselves better and we can relate to other people more effectively then we can actually come together.
A great example is a the recent shootings that are happening, and if you think about racism in the United States today, we have to acknowledge and accept that slavery has been a foundational piece of this country's development. Speaking as an African American, I can understand in that community how the energy and the pain and the suffering has been passed down from generation to generation. That is something that many of us still hold within us to this day. I remember when I first wanted drive, my father telling me about if I get pulled over by a police officer, here is what you should do.
It is something that has been reinforced and it has become a part of my belief system. The African American community has been suffering in this regard. If you think about the process of healing, in order to move forward, we have to accept the fact that this has happened, it has brought us to this point, and be able to release it and move forward.
But also on the same side, on the opposite side of the coin, is what is happening in white America as a result of this. Yes, you may have some people that are racist, and there is anger and there is fear there. But there are also parts of white America that feel guilt or shame because this has happened. So when I think about that particular group, there is also a process of healing that has to take place. So if you look at any contrasting or resisting experience that groups or individuals have, that contrast is embedded somewhere in a belief. And the minute we become aware of that, we begin the process of healing. So become aware of it, accept it, and release it. And as we do that then as a human race we can then embrace each other's perspective. I wholeheartedly believe that that holds true for every situation. 51:51
A: You know mentioning the situation of white police officers around the country shooting and killing innocent black people, I really want to ask you about that. When you read a story of one of these incidents, how this particular white police officer behaved and what was said afterwards. How do you forgive that person? Or if you were going to talk to another African American, maybe the mother of the child, can you really forgive that person? Are there limits to how far you can go?
D: I don't think so, because I think it goes back to an understanding that we are all suffering to a certain degree. I think it was Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements talked about talking about everyone doing their best. I believe that that is true, but what helps define our perspective is our experiences and our beliefs. And many of us are holding onto our old beliefs and quite frankly systemically some of that stuff gets reinforced.
Things come out through the media that portray, let's say, African American men in a certain light, so those beliefs become imparted on, let's say, police officers, and all of a sudden they have a preconceived notion as to what their experiences are going to be like. And it becomes an emotional interaction, but since I understand that they may not be aware, that's where I see the suffering, and that's where I can offer the compassion. In all these situations, regardless of who the public believes the victims are, I just tend to offer compassion to all sides whether it is the person that is killed in that person's family or whether it is the police officer, I tend to offer compassion to both sides. I don't believe that there is a limit to that.
It is not always easy. And it doesn't get easy when our emotions are front and center. The key is if I find I can't get to that space, it forces me to look at the emotion and what is actually triggering that. What belief am I holding that is stopping me from getting there.
A: What a practice that is, David. I'm just sort of imagining what the political situation would be with the presidential election if on the white side of the equation the white people who feel themselves to be victims of various circumstances that that practice were able to happen. How that would transform politics right now.
Tell us a little bit about your practice as a management consultant and coach. How do you see the principles in your book being part of your professional work now as a management consultant?
D: I've always been fascinated with leadership development. One of the things I realized as I became more senior in my career is you have a population of leaders who are very aggressive with management in their career, and they want to make their way to the top. Then there is also a population of leaders that get to a certain point and they decide that "I'm good here" because there are circumstances outside of work or what have you. They almost try to protect the space that they are in.
What I began notice is how we tend to separate out our personal life from our professional life. And I never really understood why we really do that. I feel like in corporate culture people are trying to fit into whatever the values are for the organization, but what happens is that it creates this sense of resistance or this contrast in our experience.
So through these principles, to me, it is about becoming your most authentic self. And leaders are a subset of humanity. We tend to have a separate set of beliefs about what a leader should be. To me in my opinion what I have observed is that they almost trump the human aspect in many cases. As I think about my experience, I became more authentic about who I actually was and that began to show up in the workplace and at home. So I never had this really strong sense of resistance, unless I was at a place like where I was to where I just didn't agree to some of the things that were happening which is why I left.
So with these principles, what I have done is developed a mentorship model that has leaders look at their personal lives, their professional lives, and we do something called "mapping the mess," a system thinking exercise, where I help them see the interdependency between different elements of both of these systems.
It is all about going into people's perspectives and their beliefs and uncovering where they have limiting beliefs by using these principles in order to create a more aligned way of being. What ends up happening is that you end up having personal goals, professional goals, and organizational goals. Our goal is to really align them across the board. 58:30 To make sure the person is moving towards work that feels authentic to them and feels purposeful.
That is the first space. The second space in consulting is I've been developing a change management model. When I think about change in my experience, I've always been fascinated with how change actually works in companies. A lot of times what happens is someone has an idea and they decide to push that out. "We are going to go in this direction."
But everyone has a perspective of their experience in the organization. So when the perspectives conflict or creates contrast, it creates resistance against that idea moving forward. So the idea is if you can bring in the collective perspective--some sort of representation of various stakeholders with various ideas and thoughts, you can build upon that initial concept and actually create momentum with moving the initiative forward. But in order to do that, you have to create an environment of non-judgment. So these principles become the catalyst for that. In order to create that environment you have to exhibit compassion for others and their thoughts. You have to have positive intentions. You have to be in a space of acceptance. So those are areas that I'm currently exploring embedding these principles into organizational culture for the sake of helping to change those systems. 60:08
A: Something you said earlier, reminded me of my own experience in corporate America, in that it was pretty commonly understood that when we walked through the doors of the company that we left a part of our soul outside the building. There were different well-compartementalized parts of our lives. If you mushed it all together you wound up looking a little strange. It wasn't until pretty late in my own life and career that I discovered that I can be me wherever I am. Sounds like you are discovering that much earlier and offering others the opportunity to do the same.
D: Yes, the hope is to have the offering there.
A: I'm just curious. As someone who was in the leadership business myself for a while, do you envision gathering data and evidence to show that if people make this transformation that this is going to be good for business?
D: Yes, I think there is already some high level data out there if you look at employee satisfaction and employee engagement. So there is evidence out there that shows how that leads to lower costs in terms of attraction and training and higher productivity and the like. So that evidence is there. In terms of delivering a very specific program and becoming highly quantifiable in terms of what the results are, I'm not sure how far I want to go down that path. The reason why is I sense that we are eventually going to move out of this ultra linear way of thinking when it comes to business.
If you think about someone's perspective changing, how do you quantify that? Because that is what is really happening, because the person is changing. So I'm not exactly sure how far down the path of metrics I want to get into. It is something that a friend of mine, we have had a really great debate. We bounce different questions off one another. It is a good question.
A: Great answer.
Amit: I'm sitting here on the edge of my seat, I have to ask, "have you heard from your daughter or from your ex-wife? Any leads?"
D: Great question. Unfortunately, I have not seen my daughter since that time. Since like the first weekend in November of 2013. My ex-wife, and I did finally get divorced, she did reach out to me in March of 2014 about 5 months after she left the country. She reached out to me to let me know that she used a credit card of mine to pay a tuition bill because she was trying to get a copy of her old transcript because she was applying for a job in Uzbekistan. So you talk about putting salt in the wound. Since that time she went completely dark.
i happen to be searching on Facebook and I found a new profile of hers because she had shut everything down when she left. This was around October of last year. I didn't reach out to her right away. The first thing I looked for pictures of my daughter, but there was nothing there.
I did reach out to her in November and I explained to her that this book was coming. And I encouraged her to read it. Obviously with the way things ended, I would probably be concerned about how I would be portrayed if someone was writing a book about me. I wanted make her aware of that. I wanted to encourage her to read it, so she could see a different perspective; she could see my perspective since we had never really talked. Secondarily, that maybe the principles will change something in her. Like they too can potentially be a catalyst.
She responded back. The message wasn't all that nice. What I do know is that she did get remarried. I asked her for a picture; she didn't want to send me a picture. After she read the book, she responded back to me again to say that she did read it and that she was happy to see that I was making some changes. But that was pretty much it.
So unfortunately, no, there hasn't been much contact with my daughter. I haven't been able to see a picture of her at this point. But I still remain optimistic that either my ex-wife will come to her own moment of awareness and see this in a different light or my daughter will find me. I am totally optimistic about that.
Amit: Your enduring spirit is truly remarkable. We have a question that came in from Sarah in Indiana. She asks, "Do you feel you had a spiritual experience when you got the sense of peace? And do you think it came from some kind of higher presence?"
D: That is a great question. 67:30
I tell people that I feel like I was on this path before the abduction actually took place. I'm 38 now and I want to say my early to mid thirties, I always felt this sense of a higher calling, but I never understood exactly what it was going to look like.
Before this, I was raised Christian, and people would say, "David, we could see you becoming a minister." I thought about going down that path, but the doors just kept shutting. So I said well ok that is not it.
Then all of a sudden this situation happens and my Christian beliefs suddenly became expanded because I started to see this connection between all the major religions and spiritual philosophies.
This wasn't me creating this. I was almost stepping back to allowing these things to unfold. There has even been more of a transformation in the past 12 months vs. when these circumstances first set on. So I totally believe that there is a higher power that is guiding or navigating this. The doors that have been opened for me have been absolutely incredible. They always open at the right time. I'm really in a space of operating by feeling rather than thinking, which is very counterintuitive to what we learn. But I think in order to get to that point you have to believe that there is this higher force that is helping you navigate this entire landscape. I definitely believe that there is something bigger than me that is helping me throughout this entire process.
Wendy: Hi, I'm calling from Half-Moon Bay. I'm going to stick to spiritual right now. I'm wondering in this process, were you ever really angry at God or a higher power when all this loss happened. I went through in a former marriage a series of miscarriages, and I was quite angry until years later I could understand the perspective and realize that things worked out the way things were meant to do, but there was quite a time when I was quite angry at God. I'm wondering if you ever went through that process?
D: I was more angry at myself and Jolie. I was angry at myself for a lot of different reasons. One, I challenged whether I ever should have gotten married, because it was such a fast decision. It was such a fast process, and everyone around me was a bit cautious even though they were supportive. So I was angry at myself for going against some of that. I was angry at myself for feeling like I've always been a good person, but my ex-wife and I had some pretty heated arguments at times. So there are parts of me that felt like I wasn't being my best self, and I certainly judged that.
Also, there was this huge sense of a failure on my part, because professionally I was doing all these great things--at least, I thought I was--and to have something so important to me be completely shattered. Emotionally, I was more caught up in that aspect of it and myself. Thankfully, in over two weeks, I think that by the grace of God that vision happened and that interaction with my daughter which really opened me up. So maybe I just never had an opportunity to get to that point because I was so caught up being angry at myself.
Wendy: Just developing the compassion for yourself, that is quite an undertaking and sometime those are the hardest things.
Wendy: I thank you so much for your comments and your practices. I think they are very useful for all of us.
D: Thank you.
Amit: Hey David, I wanted to come back to this transition from any sort of personal crisis. Obviously, your situation alone must be incredibly difficult, but you brought up some of the things that are going around the nation in regard to the police shootings. It is just dealing with tragedy. You are going through all these wide range of emotions and the way people cope with it. Part of it could be your support group. Part of it could be just your own outlook on life, but to really emerge from that not just in terms of being able to move on with day to day life, but inspire others with it. It is truly remarkable. I'm curious, from the vision that you had, how do you tell what you are saying is real for you as opposed something that you just keep telling yourself over and over to cover up the hurt or the frustration that you may be going through. I'm not saying this to question where you are coming from, but from my own experience I've known that sometimes I've had to tell myself stories just to move past situation because I didn't want to deal with the feelings at the root. It wasn't until I dealt with the root feelings that I was able to truly move forward and work from an authentic space.
D: Actually, that is actually the answer in my opinion. One, anything that you are telling yourself is true to you whether it is true to anyone else or not. So what I find is that when i begin to experience contrast in my experience based on whatever it is I'm telling myself. 74:20 If all of a sudden I'm beginning to feel contrast and resistance in the experience, then I know that there is something else there that I need to look at. The moment that i'm no longer feeling that negativity, the contrast or resistance to it, that is when I know that I'm coming from my most authentic self. So as it relates to my ex-wife, what was very interesting was, at the time that I wrote this book, there are things that I let go. I forgave her for what she had done. But when she ended up communicating towards me at the end of last year, some new things came up. Things that were related to her, but also weren't quite related to her. There were things that came up like me having allowed certain people to manipulate me for the sake of getting love in return. It is a long story on how that actually showed up, but I realized that when she got to me, that there was something else there. Even though it wasn't related to my daughter, there was something else there for me to ultimately let go of. As I'm letting go of those things, if they are not showing up in my experience as contrast and resistance then I know that I am moving towards my most authentic self.
Amit: It is interesting that earlier you brought up how you had this great support of people that were in your life, but that some people would be angry at your ex-wife. How were you able to not sort of jump onto that boat early on? How do you block out the noise from friends and family so that you can actually allow the healing to occur.
D: I would tell you that I think it was difficult especially in the beginning. So the first week after this had happened, I didn't spend much time at work. There were times that I would try to go to work and I would just have a moment, and I just couldn't finish the day. So I stayed to myself a little bit in the beginning, but then I realized that I'm a firm believer of how energy works. Like attracts like. If you put out good then you are going to get good back. If you put out negativity, you are going to get negativity back. So I made a conscious choice early on that if I want to move to being hopeful and optimistic, then I couldn't be bombarded with all these negative thoughts. What need up happening was some relationships got very isolated because I didn't want that negativity to be in my space.
I have some very close friends now who are still very upset about the situation. So when it comes up now and again they will bring it up. They will get angry that I haven't heard anything back. To me, I've moved so far past that. It is not only the result of just this situation, but in general I'm finding that we are just not as much of an energetic match as we used to be. Because how they are viewing this particular situation is how they view all their other situations. That it is coming from the same level of awareness. The same level of consciousness.
78:06 So we just don't interact that same way. It is a little bit more less intimate. More kind of come and go. I think I made the decision early on that I was going to move forward positively, and ultimately people who weren't going to be in that supportive space, I'd have to limit my interactions with them.
Amit: Can you talk to us a little bit about your transition. You ended up leaving your job working at JP Morgan in the financial space, and you felt you wanted to have work with purpose. How did it come about? How did you approach it to get everything started so that you are now doing work in the areas of personal development, leadership development and consulting with organizations?
D: It is interesting because at the point that I left JP Morgan, I had a very specific thought in mind which was that I was going to finish writing my book, and it is going to be a best-seller, and that is going to create this way for me to get out to the masses. It didn't quite unfold that way. [laughter]
What ended up happening is right about the time I ended up getting my publishing deal, i ended up becoming certified as a spiritual life coach. I found myself coaching people one on one. And it was very fulfilling work. But what happened was as I sat in stillness thinking about how can this possibly look, all of a sudden all my own expectation began to drift away and I put it out to the Universe, "what can this be?"
What happened was I ended up working with a business coach who began to help me see this platform in a much bigger way. I began to then incorporate all of these other skills and knowledge that I had developed throughout my career to develop this new platform. It is interesting because at times I would get inspiration about new programs that I could develop or what have you, but the right people have also come into my experience to help me be open to other possibilities.
Another great example is I met a story-telling coach a couple of weeks ago. We met over breakfast for about two hours, and he said so many profound things about storytelling connected to the right brain vs. the left brain. I had a speaking engagement later that day, that evening when I got home, I found myself meditating, and all of a sudden I started to get a new structure for my second book which had been about 60% written. I ended up scrapping the entire second book and re-writing the whole thing, because I recognized that this new format that came to me is how the message needs to be delivered as a part of the next step.
A lot of it is also tapping into your own intuition, and again, it is about that feeling what feels right. As I started to think about the second book and what I was writing, for some reason it didn't have the same resonance for me anymore. Then all of a sudden a new idea pops in and it totally moved me. That is how this new platform has started to be really developed. Coming from an intuitive space, and from people around me who are bringing new ideas that seem to resonate with me.
Amit: I absolutely love the eight principles with which you talk about in your book. When you listen to the principles, it makes sense. Yes, these are all things that will help you in your life to overcome adversity, can really help transform you. But putting it into practice is another story. It doesn't necessarily have to be in a situation where you are facing a crisis, but just every day life. How do you practice on a daily basis each of these principles in your day to day interactions?
D: It reminds me of Socrates "Allegory of a Cave." The summary of it is you can't unknown something. What I find is that after going through this transformation, I don't remember what it is like not to forgive someone. I don't remember what it feels like to be angry at someone for some extended period of time. So it is hard to answer your question. It is just now a way of being.
I am recognizing that that is how shifting our consciousness works. it can happen in a moment. I had a friend of mine that I met last year. He read the book. And we were talking about some of the challenges he was having at work. I could sense based on his line of questions and our conversation that he was in this space of beginning this transition. One day he texted me, kind of frantically, and said, "Hey, I need to meet with you."
We ended up meeting the next day, and he said, "i don't understand this. Everything around me is the same, yet it is all different."
I said, "There you go. You are there."
Once you are there, you can't go backwards, which is the beauty of it. I talk about it in the form of an inner experience. Some people when they read a powerful book or when they hear someone speak, it shifts them to the core, because they are more open to receiving that information. I'm taking the book and creating workshops from it. The workshops are designed to help create this inner experience. So it integrates things like guided meditation, berating exercises. Things that prime the body physiologically for healing and for receiving so that they can then make this shift. I'm hopeful that that will help people make this transition for themselves.
Amit: Wonderful. It seems like you think about these things. You try to practice it, but there is this moment of clarity that happens and then there is no going back after that.
D: That is right.
Amit: So you are saying that setting up these workshops, guided meditation, I guess, and you were talking about your Christian upbringing, but also looking into other faiths. What are some of the things that are influencing your spiritual outlook today?
D: Early on I became intrigued by what some of the other philosophies were saying. Honestly, I read a few things here and a few things there. The impression that I was left with is that the essence of the messages are all the same. With that, that is all that I needed. The rest has just come from just staying disciplined to my own practice around meditation. It has allowed me to tap into this stronger sense of intuition, this stronger sense of knowing. And sometimes I find that that information comes through that I don't necessarily understand, but at some point in time it becomes clear to me. So I haven't done a ton of reading from other thought leaders, other spiritual masters. I feel like there is this connection to the superconsciousness that we all have, and that part of us is all knowing, and maybe that is what has been happening to me to help form this new way of being.
Amit: The other question I had was what lead you into even exploring a meditation practice. I believe you are a Reiki master as well. If you could tell us a little about that as well.
D: So I've been an avid meditator since about 2011. What intrigued me about it was just the general health benefits. One day, i was leaving Chase for the first time and going to DeLoitte Consulting. For that week that I took off in between jobs, I was visiting a friend in Arizona, and I bought a book about meditation for beginners. I read about half of it in the morning, and by the afternoon I was actually trying to meditate. The first experience that I had, I found myself in a kind of dream state. I was walking through this house. I thought this is interesting. Then I snapped out of it and kind of went about my day.
This was on a Wednesday. I came back to Delaware on a Saturday, and a friend of mine's mother, who is a real estate agent, was taking me out to look at homes. The second house we walked through was the exact same house I saw in meditation four days before. I was like hooked. I had no way to explain it, but I knew that my experience was real. So ever since then, it has kind of kept me focused on the practice of meditation. Sometimes I may hear things. Sometimes I may get different messages or see things. Other times it is just relaxing. I find that my demeanor has changed, and how I deal with stress has changed significantly since I made meditation a part of my daily practice.
In terms of Reiki, I found myself waking by a former employee several years ago, and all of a sudden my hands just got really hot, to the point of almost sweating. I didn't understand it, so I asked a friend of mine about it. And he was telling me about Reiki and using your hands for healing. Come to find out that this particular person that I was walking by was very sick. Everytime I would walk by her, i would get this feeling, this sensation. So at that point I decided to explore Reiki as a healing modality.
My teacher before we actually went to the class. actually performed Reiki on me. It was such an amazing experience, and I felt so different coming out of the session, that I wanted to be able to offer that gift to other people whenever they were in need.
Amit: Thank you for sharing that.
Aryae: These values that have become so much a part of your life, David. I'm wondering if you have any memories or stories as a young African American kid growing up in America in the 80s and 90s, any memories of your parents, your family, of how you got steered in the direction of these values?
D: That is a great question. My mom has been the spiritual backbone of our family. I would say more religious than spiritual. She was the one that took us to church when we were younger. We weren't necessarily required to go as we became teenagers. What is interesting is because my mom has her beliefs and I have a different perspective or understanding, they haven't always matched.
For a short while we actually steered away from any conversations about how this was showing up for me, at least to a certain degree, because whether she didn't understand it or she didn't necessarily agree with it.
More recently, there has been this merging of perspectives. I have actually been able to help her maybe see her own faith in a slightly different way. I think this belief in a higher power has certainly always been there. 92:21 within my family. I think how I've begun to interpret that is what has changed and expanded beyond the Christian faith. Now it is interesting how it has begun to weave back to where my mother and I can have a different conversation, even though the perspectives might be different.
Aryae: Beautiful answer of kind of the weaving of the particular and the universal. Let me ask you the future oriented question. You and I had spoken about how people are interested in reading Letters to Lucia. Can you share what you had in mind?
D: I just launched a newly rebranded website which is davidbrownjunior.com. On the website it shares the different services that I am offering and or intend to offer. There is a link on the home page to sign up for my "Honor Yourself Today" messages. These are messages I send out about 3x/week. Some of them are quotes from the ServiceSpace team--Daily Good.com. I also use quotes from other sources as well. I send those out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'll also begin doing my vLog which will come out once a week. I will also begin to do some livestreaming. But if you click and sign up for that particular message and join my list, it will then prompt you to download a free ebook on Letters for Lucia. You can get it on Kindle, Nook, or PDF. There is a limited number of downloads available. I encourage people to share with friends, family, and members of their network.
Alysia: My name is Alysia and I'm in Seattle. What you are saying is absolutely wonderful. I do appreciate you coming onto ServiceSpace and sharing. My question is that your were speaking of emotions being part of thoughts and feelings coming from the heart. The differentiation of knowing what is coming from the heart as a feeling to go towards and emotions that we can get caught up in. Does that make sense to you?
Alysia: How does one differentiate?
D: That is a great question. In my opinion it is an individual sense as to what part of you is speaking. It also depends on the context of where you are and when you are having this conversation with yourself. For me, I personally always ask myself, often aloud, what part is speaking? Is it the ego or is it the inner being? I will get a feeling as to what that part is. Sometimes it may not be clear. I may have to explore other facets of that. But that conversation with myself is really designed to really get me to understand what part of me is actually speaking or pushing me in a certain direction.
The one way that works fool-proof 100% of the time is I like to set an intention prior to going into meditation for something very specific. For me when I'm in that space, I know my ego is not at play, and I usually get very dry definitive answers. Quick story: Mother's Day of last year, I remember being in my parent's kitchen telling my mom, "Hey, I'm going to walk away from my job."
She was like, "What are you going to do? What do you mean?"
I remember her being very concerned about that. Her caution was financial and just make sure I was ok. It kind of began to put a little bit of doubt in my mind. So I went home that evening. I meditated and I asked the question, "Should I walk away from my job?"
Clear as day, I had a vision of me walking around the office, shaking hands, and hugging people, and saying goodbye. And that was my answer, and that is what I decided to go forward with. If you enjoy meditation, I encourage you to combine the practice of mediation with asking yourself these question. Then you will become more attuned to what is your trigger that tells you that this is that inner being part of me, that feeling, that heart vs. another part of you, i.e. the ego.
Alysia: It is interesting that you get so much in vision. That that is a way you receive an alignment with your inner being. That is really interesting and wonderful. Thank you.
Amit: Is there anything that we as a community can do to be of support or service to you?
D: I feel like this is just me choosing to be a part of a conversation that is a conversation that has taken part for centuries. Where the community can support is just being an active participant which I know that you all are, but there are a lot of communication points within the ecosystem that I am beginning to create whether it is through the website or social media. So I just ask that if folks are interested to continue to stay connected. I would love that. There is a lot more to come before the end of this year and going into 2017 to really build out this platform that is really designed to connect at all levels, whether it is an individual to organizations and government. I would encourage folks to visit the website and see what the messaging is there and just chose to actively participate.
Amit: Absolutely, we will send out an email to all the listeners and make sure they have a link to your website.
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