Words like ‘driven’ and ‘dynamo’ don’t come close to describing behavioural specialist Dr John Demartini, who travels, teaches, writes, designs programmes and frets that he’s going to run out of time before all his dreams are realised.
By Catherine Eden
He’s lean, dark and wizardly, with bright eyes and an attractively kinked nose. But the too-regular teeth and hair that’s naturally too dark for his 54 years suggest not only that he’s packaged for a critical public but that he’s been, well, modified. Call me fanciful, but it’s easier to imagine stainless steel under his impeccable dark suit than it is to imagine flesh and bone.
He keeps his jacket on, despite the heat. He doesn’t sweat. I imagine his internal combustion makes every drop of liquid evaporate. The man is a walking cauldron of knowledge, ideas, sound bites, strategies. He has designed more than 70 courses; among them a 21-year programme. Where does he find the time, given his relentless schedule? It’s odd, that’s what it is; intriguing, but odd.
This is someone who has an institute in his name; whose ‘method’ is applied by psychologists, educators, strategists and leaders. He has received the highest accolades, has entrance to the most rarefied environments, and with more than 40 books published in 21 different languages, he has a body of work that would make most full-time writers reel.
No-one would have predicted Demartini’s phenomenal success. He had a hard time as a boy; physical disability and learning problems led to the assumption that he’d never amount to much. At 14 he dropped out of school and went to California to surf. But three years later an unexpected encounter with a 93-year-old man, Paul Bragg, fired his enthusiasm to conquer his difficulties, get an education and make a difference in the world. He became absorbed by the exploration of human potential, the activation of leadership and the empowerment of individuals. He’d found his mission and his life’s work had begun.
‘Is there any topic you can’t talk about?’ I ask him, and he answers at once, ‘Cooking, driving and cell phones. I’ve never had one.’
What? I return to the fantasy that he’s not entirely human. Perhaps he has a chip that sends communications directly to his brain. I switch to a topic on which I am ready to do battle: The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, in which Demartini features prominently, is a little too materialistic for my liking. How will manifesting a dream car promote your spiritual growth? While it may be possible to create the physical things we want, should we not be focusing on the more abstract things that we need?
He leans forward and the words come tumbling out. ‘Yes, it’s unfortunate that the idea that you can “get stuff” was selected to catch the attention of the public. There is more to it, of course.’ (I’m happy to hear this.)
‘Receiving without giving will never satisfy you and will keep you from growing. But if you constantly do for others you risk robbing them of their dignity, accountability, responsibility and productivity. You end up surrounded by needy, dependent people. But giving service willingly, and being equally willing to receive, sets people free. A fair exchange empowers both sides.’
Challenges help you to grow, says Demartini. ‘If everyone supports you and never challenges you, you stay shrunk. You land up seeing a shrink. I’d rather be stretched.
‘Do I still face challenges? Of course I do. I worry about getting all the dreams implemented. I started the school in 1982 and the institute was formally set up in 2005. There are lots of people involved, but still, there’s so much I want to achieve.’
To get it all done, Demartini travels constantly. He has homes around the world, including an apartment on the private cruise ship, ‘The World’, but he doesn’t live in them.
‘Don’t you sometimes want to sit in a rocking chair, admiring the view?’
‘You’re describing my idea of death’, he answers.
‘So where is the place that feels like home?’
‘The universe is my playground, the world is my home, every country is a room in my house, and every city is a platform from which to share my heart and soul.’
That sounds too practised for my liking, so I persist: ‘Well, where do you keep your clothes?’
‘In two bags; they are with me.’
Oh my. I realise that his publicist wasn’t joking when she said he hates Christmas day because it’s a day he can’t work. ‘This is a man whose vocation has become his vacation,’ she said. ‘He would prefer it if he never had to sleep.’ I know I’m imposing my values, but I think the poor man needs more picnics.
His three children, aged 24, 21 and 18, are in the US. His wife, well-known astrologer, Athena Starwoman, died of breast cancer almost five years ago. He’s comfortable with her astrology and reveals that he is a triple Sagittarian, which explains his love for learning and his tendency to zoom about the planet.
‘Would you be classified as having attention deficit disorder if you were a child today?’ I ask.
‘Everyone has attention, intention and retention deficit disorder for the things that don’t particularly interest them, and a surplus condition for the things that do,’ he answers.’
I ask Demartini whether he believes in God.
‘I do not belong to any particular religion and I don’t pray “Dear God, please make such and such happen”, because I don’t promote the idea of an anthropomorphised God with whom I have a parent-child relationship. I do believe in a true order, a beautiful cosmic intelligence, so my form of prayer is to sit in gratitude, in acknowledgement of this intelligence as it is expressed throughout nature.
‘We are not supposed to be fully enlightened beings; we are earthlings learning and evolving.
But while we are here we must do the work. Any area in your life that you don’t empower is an area in which you will be overpowered. It’s not wise to either exaggerate our importance or minimise our worth. The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of the questions that we ask. Gradually, we liberate ourselves from the bondage of our illusions and inspire our lives.’
We have only an hour to talk, and there is so much to ask. Demartini is in great demand and I realise that I’m very small potatoes compared to the top flight delegations he’s used to meeting. But I am looking for the real man and not the celebrity, and I think he appreciates that. When the interview is over he gives me a hug and I find myself patting him in a motherly way, telling him to take care; get some rest. I’d like to take him to the beach, sit him on a rock and challenge him to say nothing at all, but it might be the death of him and I don’t want that on my conscience.
Demartini’s top tips for living longer
Eat less, and choose whole, quality foods. Supplementation has a place as soil becomes depleted.
Six forms of exercise are recommended: walking, climbing hills or stairs, swimming, dancing, yoga/ t’ai chi and lovemaking.
Create wealth. Higher socio-economic brackets are associated with longevity.
Have a life mission. Congruency between goals and values promotes health and wellbeing.
Practise moderation. Longevity is inversely proportional to volatility and extremism.
Develop the ability to modify and balance perceptions. Stress is the inability to adjust to a changing environment.
Believe in a higher order and live for a higher purpose.
Published in Femina Magazine, March 2010