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david greenspan from the chopra center
Photography by jasper johal

david greenspan from the chopra center

by Meredith Hines meredith hines
The Business of Yoga | Interviews


the taurus, pitta, rooster, new yorker responsible for the chopra center’s rise as a wellness luminary
David Greenspan, director of the renowned Chopra Center entered into his position by way of his own personal transformation into wellness, balance and spirit. He experienced his first taste of meditation after college, but was soon swept away by the tide of Wall Street and the corporate calling. Amidst the highest profit margins and material wealth, the bliss of meditation became more and more wanting for David. After years of living in disarray and imbalance as a result of the lifestyle he employed, and the market which employed him, David Greensplat reassessed. He went to India. He went inside. He came to The Chopra Center.

Yogi Times BUSINESS: You began in a sphere slightly different from the lavender-incensed rooms of The Chopra Center. Describe the world you began your professional career in?

David Greenspan:  I began in a place where there was no time for compassion, no expectation of peace. 

I was sleeping four hours a day, living on Snickers® bars, living in three time zones. I was living in Manila one week, in New York City the next, with my technology center over in Bangalore. I was as unbalanced as I ever could be. I reached several breaking points until I said, “Alright, I need to return to that meditation thing.” So I came to a workshop here, and I never left. I was so blown away. It was the first time I had met David Simon, the first time I had really seen what this operation is.

YTB: What was it you found?

David Greenspan: Well, I said, “This is truly great. You guys no have no clue about business. This place is like an ashram here! You guys don’t know how to build relationships with people.” It was pretty much a transactional environment at that point. I had written a few business books on relationship marketing and mergers and acquisitions, and I figured I could really help this entity. So I said “Listen, when I get back home I will give you a call and I’ll let you know how to run your operation!” David Simon said, “No that’s not going to work; you need to breathe the air here.” So I started volunteering here for about six months. I began doing viral marketing, and then took over the marketing department. Then they needed some operational assistance, so I took over the operation world here, and then I just ultimately became the person who creates the events and crafts the world, and essentially translates the vision of Deepak and David. I get to balance a yoga business and spirit on a daily basis.

YTB: Having stepped into this balancing act of business and spirit, what would you say are the primary differences in your behavior and approach within the corporate jungle and the strategies and style you now employ in this wellness enterprise?

David Greenspan: My daily mission is to empower everyone here. So I don’t manage in some Machiavellian, fear-based way. Here, it is about how I can make everyone more brilliant. How can I make the person who is making a lot of mistakes to make less instead of scold them for their past mistakes? That shift in mindset keeps everyone, me included, elevated, as opposed to pushed down. It doesn’t mean people don’t screw up or make mistakes, but we are all about shifting the energy instantly.

YTB: How is that shift created? 

David Greenspan: We do a lot of conscious communication here. So I can tell you something that you did made me feel a certain way, and I can tell you what my request would be for the future so I don’t feel that way again. It’s my request versus my demand, and that’s what is stressed. As long as everyone communicates nonviolently, as long as everyone communicates consciously, we can all tell each other how we feel about each other on a daily ongoing basis without anyone getting bent out of shape.

YTB: What principles of running an operation do you continue to stand by?  Are there universal business truths that apply to every market — be it Wall Street or The Chopra Center?

David Greenspan: The first principle I stick by in terms of the business as an operation is that transactions lead to nothing. If it’s not a relationship, then what’s the point? If it’s about transactions then we are just selling bottles of Coke. If it’s about relationships, we are looking for lifelong connections; and that’s how the world gets transformed. By keeping these lifelong connections as people go through different phases of their lives, The Chopra Center is a touchpoint for their meltdowns, for their celebrations, their births of children, marriages, career change and reconnection to self.

People approach us all the time and say I will give you X amount of dollars if you let us open up a Chopra center. So we ask, “Have you ever been to a Chopra center?” They haven’t. “Have you ever read anything by Deepak or David?” They have not. But they know they can make a lot of money using The Chopra Center name. We wouldn’t even consider it, even though they would be giving us a ridiculous amount of money. It’s specifically about relationships.

YTB: As you mentioned, you are blessed with this internationally recognized namesake of Deepak Chopra. Describe the different effects this visibility plays on your marketing. Has it ever been a hindrance?

David Greenspan: I think it’s like anything in life. There is a yin and a yang. There are different currents, but certainly no downside. We do have a lot of things we offer here when Deepak is not around. So we don’t want the mentality to be “Deepak’s not there, forget it!” So part of what I have done is to institutionalize the brand of Deepak Chopra. You don’t go to the Betty Ford clinic and expect to see Betty Ford. When you do see Deepak, it’s a celebration and a special event. But there is so much else that goes on here. The downside really is that we cannot clone him.


YTB: What would some of your insight be to those endeavoring in the growing field of wellness who do not carry the name of a Deepak Chopra, or a Dr. David Simon?

David Greenspan: Look, 15 years ago no one was doing yoga, now everyone is doing yoga. Sustainable business is expanding all over. I think a unifying principle in all these wellness markets that I believe to be essential in translating to the organizational structure is the concept of wholeness. People who live in this environment can’t be putting on a show. People in the wellness world have to live it and breathe it. Every morning we have meditation for staff, every evening we have meditation for them. We are living the principles so every interaction that we have with guests or vendors or the outside world is not an act.  If you are going to run a wellness center, a spa, a retreat and are doing it for any other reason than the love, service and healing of other individuals, I think ultimately you will be very disappointed. Ultimately I don’t think that is sustainable.
 
YTB: What about specific marketing strategies for newcomers in the wellness world?

David Greenspan: Make a determination of who you are and rely on the strengths you have. If you have a superstar yoga teacher, play it up. Great location or new techniques or technologies, let the world know. Then make a determination: who is your marketplace? Are you looking to speak to people and use the words yoga and meditation, or are you afraid of it? If you are afraid of it and are going to use “gentle stretching and self reflection”, well okay; but I would discourage watering it down so you don’t scare off a certain constituency. If you are in this space, fully embrace it. If not, it’s like denying your dosha. Accept it! I am a Taurus, Pita, rooster, neurotic New Yorker; you know what a composition that is? I own it, and meditate like crazy to be able to.

YTB: What are your thoughts on competition amidst the wellness industry, and The Chopra Center’s relationship to other wellness enterprises?

David Greenspan: This is a big community. Deepak says we transform the world by transforming ourselves. I think the way we do that as well is by networking. So I would say if there are other small wellness environments out there, they should connect with us. When we connect together and further this endeavor of peace and compassion, the world will shift more quickly. If we try to do it separately in different places and aren’t speaking, then suddenly we are competing. The Chopra Center is connecting with Kripalu. Someone called me up and said, “Aren’t they a competitor?”

I said, “You know how big the pie is! If each of us can bring awareness to each other, everyone is served.” All of this is Meta from heaven, and it all should be shared not hoarded. So if you are in the space, reach out to us. We are very open to dialoguing and partnering, and creating the shift together.





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