Meet Salman, Our Journey Director
To label Salman as this or box him in as that does Salman a disservice. However, we’ll do our best to capture the powerful, magical, and transformational agent we know as Salman, DJ Shalman, Salmancito, or the Cat Herder.
Salman is someone who wears many hats with 1heart, literally. He first joined 1heart on Journey 2 and now leads and supports numerous initiatives. From operations and logistics on Journey to transformational breathwork workshops as well as grounding & guidance to the first-timers throughout their preparation, Journeying, and integration phases, Salman’s perspective and wizardry impact much of the 1heart experience.
What follows are Salman’s own words about how he went from Wharton to Hogwarts. His story is a testament to what it means to suspend logic and invite magic. And like him, we hope you’re moved to feel something… new. Or maybe it’s as simple as acknowledging what’s always been there, waiting for your attention.
How I transmuted a logical life into a magical life, and 5 tips for how you can too
“Have you thought about trying ayahuasca?” my friend asked. “Isn’t that for people who had major traumas and issues in their lives?” I responded. I had a cushy high paying job at a billion-dollar tech company and a stacked finance resume, an MBA from Wharton Business School, and no major traumas in my life that I could think of. My life looked great on paper and my parents had every reason to brag about me to their friends. While I considered my life charmed by mainstream society’s and my family’s standards, it was only sparkly on the surface. Inside I was feeling lost. Disenchanted. Listless. My relationship was on the rocks, I felt uninspired at my job, and my life felt like it was stuck in place. I didn’t know what to do. How did I even get here?
In 2017, this feeling of being stuck became so prevalent that I finally felt determined to do something big and change my life. I was now 33 years old, in my so-called Jesus year. According to the Urban Dictionary, during our Jesus year we are reborn in some sense — perhaps a mid-life crisis or an ego death. For me, this was the year when I abandoned old ways and started anew. Something inside of me had a hunch that this was a ripe and potent time for evolution and ascension.
Little did I know that two years after drinking that first cup of ayahuasca, I would set sail onto a personal path of alignment and integrity with my truth that promised both nothing and everything at the same time, and that there was no turning back. This is my experience of trading mainstream and logical for spiritual and magical, going from a Wharton finance and tech whiz living a life filled with expectations and achievements to a Hogwarts wizard living a life of magic, intuitive guidance, and synchronicity. May you learn a few things for yourself from my journey.
My personal story is intended to give hope to those of you who fear change but know you desperately need it, and some tips on how to go about it. It is my intention that my story be shared and serve as medicine for those who feel similarly as lost as I did and could use a shot of courage to help them along their way. We all get to face our inner dragons and demons, and if my story can help someone’s transformation, then I feel it is a story worth sharing. The safe path prescribed for you may only serve you to some degree. You may choose the path of satisfying external expectations imposed on you or choose the path of your own calling as the way of truth and integrity. While your rational mind can bring you to the brink of happiness and satisfaction, your heart will take you to the depths of purpose and passion. I chose my heart and you get to choose yours too.
The roots of my conditioning
Let’s turn back the clock to 2012. I’ve been accepted to and am attending the University of Pennsylvania as an MBA graduate student at the prestigious Wharton Business School after 6 years of working as a high-flying professional at major global investment banks in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Dubai. I was clean-cut, wore fancy tailored suits, flew business class internationally, took company executives out on fancy dinners, and built pretty slick Powerpoint presentations and Excel financial models to sell billion dollar investment deals. I was following the path prescribed from childhood onwards by my parents, society, the educational system, mainstream media, and so on. I had been conditioned to strive for professional and financial success in materialistic ways in order to receive love, validation, and happiness. My boss told me I should aspire to be a Managing Director by the time I was 30! My mom always told me I should get a Masters degree in order to be successful! (Correction: loved). By the way, don’t you think we get “should”ed more than we think we should?
By living out this conditioning, I was not only creating better professional opportunities for myself; I was also seeking the approval of my parents, who were devout Muslim immigrants from Indonesia and Malaysia. If anyone knows Asian parents, especially religious ones, the path of the mundane and the mainstream is the accepted and expected one. Success in life is sold as a defined and linear path. As those of us who have really lived know, however, that is far from the truth. My parents loved to compare me to their friends’ kids, so I had to give them something to brag about. It is said that comparison is the thief of joy — and I felt robbed of my own joy when I felt myself being compared to others by my parents and comparing my own self to others.
Through higher education and professional development, I believed I could learn the hard and soft skills to chart a different course for my life that felt more natural to me — something that would allow me to engage more deeply with people and create a level of impact that didn’t just look like black numbers with multiple zeros behind them on a spreadsheet. My Wharton experience was truly special and I wouldn’t have changed it one bit. I benefitted greatly professionally and had many incredible experiences while at business school, from management classes with renowned authors like Adam Grant to an organized “Leadership Venture”, an amazing weeklong group experiential backpacking trip to a remote island in Patagonia, Chile in my second year that taught me more than any class ever did. Ultimately, the change in life direction I desired manifested in the most unexpected, unimaginable, and incredible ways. What I wrote about in my business school application had nothing to do with what I am doing now, and that is completely perfect.
Unraveling the old story of me
After graduating Wharton and working several successful years as a tech executive, I stood at the threshold of an uncharted school of life that contrasted heavily with the comfort and security of my traditional path up to that point. I had always been a very analytical, logical, and intellectual person. I lived from my left brain and in my mind. I valued everything to do with corporate professional success and judged my own self-worth based on having a respectable title at a prestigious company, typically doing things that weren’t filling my soul. These were part of the lies I was fed that I continued telling myself: that these positions and titles were important to my worth as a human. There were artificial limits to my personal and professional growth at any company I was at. Even though I would perform well, the inner critic in me was always feeling like I was “not enough”, which led to the feeling of stress about being “not enough”, and ultimately the feeling of unhappiness. I associated self-love with external status and it blocked my ability to feel inner peace. Who else can identify with this?
As it turned out, in 2017 I found and sat with the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca, or as it is often said, she (“Mother Ayahuasca”, or “the medicine”) came calling for me, after I was feeling disenchanted, uninspired, and questioning the direction of my life. (For the uninitiated, ayahuasca is the psychoactive Amazonian brew that connects a person with the divine nature of themselves and provides clarity and answers often in the form of emotional healing.)
On the outside, everything seemed good. Stable job: check, committed partner: check, city apartment: check. On the inside, I was having existential doubts, asking myself things like, “Should I stay at the same company?” “What do I do about the relationship I’m in?” and “What’s my purpose in life and how do I get there?” Having been a curious internal explorer for some time, I knew that this ayahuasca ceremony was something I was meant to do. Like my Wharton leadership venture, my first ayahuasca journey taught me more about my true nature (and the nature of the universe!) than anything else before it ever did. It was also extremely challenging, forced me to face my own uncomfortable truths, and got me over the tipping point of unhealthy patterns. It was absolutely transformational.
My life, and my approach to life, started to shift. I sat several more times with the medicine. I began to find love and gratitude for everything I already had instead of beating myself up for not having more. I found appreciation for having quality time for myself to spend on meaningful things like nature and meditation. I changed my diet, behaviors, beliefs, and habits — dropping unhealthy patterns and addictions like alcohol and caffeine completely. I traded steak dinners and professional haircuts for plant-based organic meals and more unique forms of self-expression. Eventually, I aligned myself to the path I was beginning to see was mine and let go of the relationship I was in as well as some unhealthy friendships, changed careers, and began exploring a path of earnest curiosity around the nature of reality and consciousness. Instead of following a stream of paths and roads that held defined outcomes in being the “safe route” and common to most of mainstream society, I began to expand the possibilities of my life to the unthinkable and the unexplored, seeing everything as a perfect gift and moving from the mundane to the magical. Once I acquired a new perspective, I could not unknow it. At that point, I was compelled to act. In late 2018, I realized that I needed to enter a new school, one that would free my soul. I had to leave the corporate world to pursue a greater calling, one that was unknown to me at the time.
My medicine journeys were so impactful that when I finally left the corporate world in February 2019, I knew that plant medicine was the way for me, or would at least show me the way to my purpose and calling. It was not a thought in my head, but a knowing in my heart that led me to where I was going — there was no other way to put it. Over the New Year before I quit my last job cold turkey, I sought direction and attended a weeklong life-transforming ayahuasca retreat for entrepreneurs, founders, and changemakers called 1heart Journeys — where I now serve as program director and run retreat operations. This decision was a monumental catalyst for my future, as it gave me life, purpose, and a calling for service to personal transformation and opened me up to more magical opportunities and personal gifts I didn’t know I possessed. This ended up being my personal initiation into Hogwarts. How I did this was by staying open, following my curiosity, and saying yes to the right opportunities that showed up.
The dawn of a new life
What had always been considered skills that did not belong to me, I began to pick up — magical spells of sorts. Not intentionally at first, but over time, and over the course of the accelerated school of life in journey work, I discovered new gifts and powers. As I started to live from my heart, operating from a philosophy of trust, surrender, and service, I developed a personal toolkit that came from the medicine: space holding, presence, confidence, intuition, energy healing, breathwork facilitating, physical touch, musical instrument and singing talents, and a whole host of other abilities that I did not learn or confidently own earlier. My life of magic began to unfold as a fractal, opening up doors to even more magical experiences and opportunities. Everything felt exciting, inspiring and satisfying. If I didn’t know what flow felt like, I did now. I didn’t have any ceilings except for self-imposed ones. Letting go of self-limiting beliefs became my main work.
The next few years consisted of a continuous personal living out of Michael Singer’s book The Surrender Experiment — following the flow of my heart, trusting, surrendering, dropping limiting beliefs, and taking inspired action when the feeling felt right. I followed the draw of community and healing to Bali and used the great pause during COVID to work on processing my shadows and exploring musical and healing arts. Along the way I learned coaching, yoga, breathwork, and DJ skills, completed my first 10 day Vipassana, designed fashion and jewelry, and continued to deepen my plant medicine exploration in order to support others on this path of personal development. All of this work has given me the tools to offer guidance and insight to those curious about a life outside of the norm as a transformational and psychedelic integration/into-a-great-one coach, using the many modalities I’ve learned to reintroduce others back to themselves and their inner truths — helping them make their ordinary lives into great ones (into great = integrate). In my own magical universe-ity, I have graduated from a scout — surveying the land for what’s beyond the perceived edge and discovering that there is a mysterious land out there waiting to be discovered by anyone who dares to explore — to a guide — providing safety for those wanting to cross into their own magical kingdom of possibility.
If you’re pondering a change that will help you make your life into a great one and wish to enroll in your own magical school of life, I offer these 5 tips to begin:
1. Lean into your curiosities. Start by exploring the things that make you tick; the things that you may not have had time for in the past. Ask yourself, what would you do if you didn’t have to work a day longer in your current job or didn’t have to worry about money? What would you do more of? This could look like a hobby, a passion project, a side hustle, a creative talent, etc. What one step do you get to take today to get you closer to becoming better at that thing you love?
2. Lead with service. As you explore your curiosities, see yourself as someone who has something to offer. How can you be of service to what your heart wants more of? This could be as simple as volunteering your time to help at an event, and can lead to organizing and taking leadership positions to support that mission. Service leads to greater opportunities and invitations.
3. Step into discomfort. It has been said that on the other side of fear is everything you’ve ever wanted. What have you been afraid to do that you know will get you to where you want to go? What conversations or experiences do you get to have that will get you out of your comfort zone and into a space of growth?
4. Say yes. Be in a place of openness, possibility, and potentiality. Saying yes to the present moment opportunities generates doors of possibility that lead to more avenues of availability. It’s time to let your judging mind rest and let your curious heart lead.
5. Ask for help. As you figure things out on your own, you’ll also come to points at which you need a little support. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything, and to search for and request support. The beautiful part about life as a human is that we are all connected.
Everyone’s journey is different. How will yours unfold?
I believe that the best way to live is to be one hundred authentically yourself. This means that you live a life of alignment and integrity.
As a student of the AIM School —Alignment, Integrity, and Mindset — developed by one of my mentors, Mike Rosenfeld, I often guide people to tune into their heart and and align their words, thoughts, actions with universal frequency or truth. Your ultimate purpose is alignment, and your heart is aligned with the truth and magic of who you are. What are your values, purpose, and goals, and do they resonate from the heart? If they don’t, how do you get back into integrity, shift your mindset, and return to your heart?
Your journey to your heart will be different from others’. And they are all perfect. We’re all human, connected, and learn and grow from each other. To quote the late Baba Ram Dass, “We’re all walking each other home.”
The Way Knows the Way
A song called “The Way Knows the Way” came to me in mid-2021 and has been my guiding mantra ever since, has been the subject of an internet meme and a Burning Man theme, and may be the subject of its own article.
The lyrics are:
You don’t have to know the way
The way knows the way
You don’t have to plan the way
Trust the way
Feel the way
The way knows the way
What this has taught me is that we humans are not meant to nor are able to control anything. The idea that you have explicit control of your life is an illusion, and robs of you of the freedom to be in the present moment. Rather, you get to take inspired action to move you toward your desired outcomes while accepting that some things won’t go your way. Things may, and inevitably will, not go as “planned.” Certain challenges may be presented on your path which you get to see as learning opportunities from which to grow stronger. You get to see every moment, opportunity, and experience, whether positive or negative, as a gift.
This ethos highlights the importance of cultivating trust in the face of adversity. When you are not able to control the forces around you, what do you do and turn to? Can you trust that it’s all going to be okay and work out as (un)planned? If your mind is aligned with your heart, which is aligned with the The Way of Truth, then it becomes easier.
As easy as it sounds, it may not necessarily be, and working with a coach or guide might be the best way to support your own internal way to freedom.
If you’re interested, I support people through personalized coaching and breathwork and I would love to help. Check me out at www.salmanhatta.com or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.shalman/ to find out more about what I do and to contact me about working together in any way.