“I'm actively realizing I'd like to change the ratio of how much time I spend on the trauma side versus the creation side”
It appears there are no conversations with Darius Bashar that stay on the surface and this is definitely one of them. Darius is a creator, yes, and someone who is helping to connect with others in a way that defies media and mode. From dance to meditation, from photography to facilitator, he is on a mission to connect more intimately, evidenced by his project No Strangers. In order to do so, Darius has needed to understand the stories of his past, inviting compassion to seep in and importantly deciding what are his stories to tell and what are his ancestors. We go from generational trauma, to question-asking advice to birds in the wild and we are all better for it. Give this heart led conversation a listen.
About our guest: Darius Bashar is a celebrated photographer who works with international celebrities, best-selling authors and thought leaders such as Seth Godin, Liz Gilbert, Dr. Shafali, Jim Kwik, Danielle LaPorte, Lisa Nichols and Masai Ujiri. His work has been featured in world-class publications such as TIME, Apple, Forbes, USA TODAY, Oprah.com and others. Darius speciality is working with speakers, authors and thought leaders and his signature photography experiences are his HEARTshots™ and Black + White Experience. In June 2022, Darius launched a new photography project called NoStrangers.art, which explores intimacy and connection, by taking photos of strangers on the streets of Toronto and asking them one deep question. Darius is also the founder of Artist Morning, which is an international community of artists, creators and meditators. He has led and facilitated over 500 group meditations for thousands of people around the world. You can find Darius on the world’s most popular and largest meditation app, Insight Timer.
Check out Darius at:: www.artistmorning.com
Find him on: https://www.instagram.com/dariusbashar/
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I've noticed that people like Dr. Joe Dispenza, people like Abraham Hicks, these are major spiritual leaders who virtually spend no time talking about trauma, which was a big revelation for me because a lot of the other people I study and look at, like, spend a lot of time ancestral, familial, spiritual, multidimensional trauma.
And I don't think I'm at either of those extremes, but I think I'm actively realizing I'd like to change the ratio of how much time I spend on the trauma side versus the creation side.
Welcome back to Root & Seed, a podcast about tradition seekers who are sparked to explore, define and celebrate their family and cultural identity. I'm your host, Anika Chabra.
The most remarkable thing about the subject we have decided to take on at Root & Seed - speaking about one’s relationship with our origins is that we get an opportunity to speak to a diverse set of people from all walks of life. Last episode it was Mita Mallick, who is tackling inclusivity and belonging challenges in corporate America. She has put those thoughts and recommendations into her newly launched book, urging people to really take a look at their whole lives to understand how they show up at work.
This episode we speak to Darius Bashar, who’s path to living his true life was windy and textured. He emigrated from Iran when he was very young, and has found peace with cultural norms while bringing creativity to the forefront of his world. His relationship with self expression has led him to become widely recognized with over 300,000 followers for his series on taking photos of strangers.
To say this interview goes from 0 to 60 in the first few minutes is an understatement. You see Darius is anything but surface and so while we started with an obvious question around his origin story, we quickly start to take on a depth of topics that many of our listeners will appreciate - from the traumas and the gifts that our past give us as we craft a life that we all deserve to live. Here’s our interview.
What would you like our listeners to know about who Darius is?
Depending on the day you'll get a different answer. I'm currently going through a very standard creative existential moment for myself. So I probably would default to the only thing I know to be true, which is I am a soul having a human experience that sometimes takes really beautiful photos of people and sometimes makes really deep and meaningful meditation journeys for people and sometimes loves to dance my ass off.
I love it!
One of the things I do before I start a podcast interview is I listen to music and today it was Culture Club. It was karma karma karma chameleon and I was definitely dancing Darius. So there you go. Tell us a little bit about your origin story. You know, where'd you grow up? What lived experiences helped inform who Darius is today?
Yeah, I grew up in a borough called North York in a spot that was a bit rougher. In a time where boys weren't guided as much as I hopefully think they are now.
And so gangster rap was a big influence and gangs were all over. And art was not really existent for me at all. Sports were. And I wasn't very good at school. I mostly grew up here. My origin story…I was born in Iran, which is in the Middle East. I don't want to get into too many of the details because it's not my story to tell, but there was a really tragic thing that happened when the Islamic government took over and someone in my family passed in a very terrible, tragic way. We left because of trauma, we left because of a revolution that we were very much against. I don't remember a lot of that. I was probably two years old and we went to Italy for a little, went to Montreal for a little, and then landed in North York. And it was an interesting childhood. I love my parents and they're like one in a billion individuals on their own. And when they came together, it was quite the experience that now in hindsight, I can look back at it and be like, thank you universe. What a blessing to have those experiences. Yeah, so that's a bit about where young Darius comes from.
Have you ever thought about generational trauma? Sorry, I'm going so friggin' deep, Darius!
Bring the depth. That's my love language. The deeper, the better.
Just as you were chatting about it, this notion and idea that you look back on it now fondly and as a blessing, but at the same time, there was clearly societal unrest that became a part of unrest in your family unit and potentially generational trauma. Have you ever spent some time unpacking that effect on, you and your generation?
I have spent a lot of time in therapy and in therapeutic environments. And I love all that stuff. I'm really into personal development, spiritual development, therapeutic expansion and integration.
And I have mixed feelings about it. To be perfectly honest, at times I'm like this is interesting, this is helpful to understand myself better. And recently, I've noticed that people like Dr. Joe Dispenza, people like Abraham Hicks…these are like major spiritual leaders virtually spend no time talking about trauma, which was a big revelation for me because a lot of the other people I study and look at spend a lot of time on ancestral, familial, spiritual, multidimensional trauma. And I don't think I'm at either of those extremes, but I think I'm actively realizing I'd like to change the ratio of how much time I spend on the trauma side versus the creation side, because I think there's something really powerful about unpacking and feeling and letting go. And that's a really beautiful canvas to create from.
But there's a tricky part that you can get stuck in that loop of victimhood and then rehash and reharm yourself. However in society victims get a lot of love. We tell someone we were through something difficult, and they love us. That's a wonderful thing, but if you're not careful, you can continually recreate that experience to get love in a way that is stagnant and limited.
It's an interesting answer. Where I see value in saying, “oh, there I go. That's that”, I can kind of pinpoint when I act a certain way or react or there's a trigger in me to generational trauma. And I love this kind of idea of trauma versus creation, almost thinking of it like a little bit of a continuum. And you're not saying be a slave to it.
Yeah, like we're actually trying to let it go. And you can't let it go by stuffing it down and you can't let it go by continually scratching at it. You know, if you have something that's impacting you, whether it's conscious or unconscious, the first step is to look at it.
But sometimes we're like, I'm just going to continue cutting it and not let it heal. So it's like it does require some attention, but too much attention will keep you stuck here. For everyone in every situation, it's different. How much attention is actually in support of your highest self.
And not until I certainly launched Root & Seed with Jenn, did we realize that the nuances and the textures and the layers of our story are actually super unique. And that's why we feature so many everyday people doing everyday things. We always say that everybody has a story worth documenting.
Darius, tell me about this project. This lovely quote. “There are no strangers here. Only friends that you haven't met yet.”
It's a project that's called “No Strangers”. And the concept is fairly simple. I'm a professional photographer. After COVID, I just had this deep desire to take photos of strangers and meet strangers. Because I truly do believe they're just friends you haven't met yet. And so I went on my journey in the streets of Toronto and I met strangers and over the course of several days, built courage to go up to them. We take a photo, take a couple photos, and I'd always end with the same question, one question, a question that changed my life 13 years before that. Which was, “if you had one message for your younger self, what would that message be?”
I wouldn't be on this podcast if it wasn't for that question. I sent that question 14 years ago to 10 friends randomly on my text messages. I was just like, if you can send one message, 140 characters, because that's what tweets were back then to your 14 year old self, what message would you send?And one person, one woman who just happened to be a photographer and I was not touching photography at that time at all. She's like, what would your answer be? I was surprised that she asked me the same question. I thought for a couple of hours and then it came to me and I messaged her back. I'd sent 14 year old Darius a message that said, “Art matters. Go to film school”. I got goosebumps just saying that I'm like, what the hell are you talking about? You're like 28 at the time, 27, whatever it was. Film school…art matters? Who's, whose words are these? And then she just sent one more message back to me. She's like, so what are you waiting for? What's stopping you? I'm like, dude, I'm not 14. I'm literally double the 28. It's too late. And then we stopped talking and that message just went through my head. What am I waiting for? What am I waiting for? And the next thing I knew I applied to a film school, got a scholarship.Sold all my stuff, flew to Vancouver, and took on this next chapter of my life that would change me forever and ever. So when I asked that question years later, it actually took me a year to realize, oh my God, this is the same question that already changed my life.
And through No Strangers, it was just so touching to see how much people loved each other.
It was a love fest when someone would see someone else's experience and mostly be like, “No, no, I can't take pictures. Don't take pictures of me.” And then they take the pictures like, Oh, my God, these pictures are amazing. What the hell? What are you talking about? Why did you not think you're photogenic? And then they hear the answers.And then they would just shower that stranger with love. That was the juiciest part for me. Love that.
I wanted to ask you why 14?
There's something about 140 characters and a 14 year old self. It's just connected, but also 14 is like that moment where you're a teenager, you know, like art was never a possibility for me because of culture, because growing up as a middle Eastern kid, it was become a lawyer, doctor, engineer. Maybe a dentist, you know? And so art, what!? What are you talking about? What! Are you crazy? Art? What about art? What IF art?
I was an account person in advertising for two decades and not until I took the leap to go into entrepreneurship did I realize that I'm actually a creative being because I was told to stick in your lane. You brief the creative team, but you're not creative. And I went back actually to my quote from my grad book and it was all about how art just makes the world turn and all the other vocational stuff is important. But that's where “heart” is.
Darius, tell me about a story or a person that you met that you just can't shake. You met that person and you will remember that person to your final days.
I do so many podcasts, and it's so nice to get a question I've never got.
In the intro, I spoke about dancing my ass off. Here's another cultural thing. I grew up in a place with a group of men that all belong to the same cultural background, who initiated the young boys as they came in, and they would jokingly, but very seriously, train you about how to talk to women and what is appropriate and what isn't within our culture, within this gang of boys in school, and the grade 12 students would before the summer, before, sit you down at Burger King and be like...And it was terrible. Truly toxic stuff. We laughed because it was so funny the way they brought it up. But it was just such terrible stuff. And one of the teachings, I remember being in a club, “Men don't dance.” Men don't dance but men f**k. Men fight. Men don't dance. And when, when a man would dance, they would get ostracized.
And it took me years and years and years and years and years to realize I just wanted to dance. I just wanted to be free. Last year I found my deep love for contact improvisation dance. The general concept is contact. And guess what? Everything is contact. I'm making contact with the chair, with the floor. You don't need to touch another person to be in contact, but that's kind of the point of dancing with each other.And then you improvise. There's no gender roles. There's no codification of what is. You try to be safe and consensual and loving and expressed. And each dance is different. And so when you ask that question, my brain went to this moment with this complete stranger.
There was a lady…. I don't know, forties, fifties. You don't even say these things sometimes you just walk up to each other and put your hand out and then you start with some contact. And I can feel she was going through something big in her life or maybe it's my projection of what I'm going, who knows. And we danced and we moved and we rolled and we got up and we lifted and then at the end she hugged me from behind and wept on my back and I turned around and I gave her a hug.
We didn't say one word to each other. We didn't exchange names. She walked away, I walked away. And I never saw her again. I don't even remember what she looks like because my eyes were closed for so much of the dance.
But I felt her. I felt her all the way to my core. For 40 years they have banned dancing in my home country. It's illegal. And I know lots of Persians that dance, but they're usually from here and they came here and they got exposed to other cultures, so now I look at that moment with those gang of Persian dudes and I see it through a slightly different lens. They didn't have dads and uncles. Dance is beautiful. They're like, no, dances is death, dance is punishment, dance is sin. Whether they agreed or not, that background was in their head and it's a helpful thing to know and understand.
And I think when you can go back at stories and look at them and think about generational trauma, whatever you want to call it, it opens compassion. That is a use of going back, you know,,,, see that you were. Training me with the best you had available to you, where did that come from? Okay, I understand now, and now I get to stand on your shoulders and see further than you've ever seen and create a new possibility for the next generation based on what you've done and how you got us here.
So lovely. It's so nicely articulated. I'm gonna ask you one more question. You are a wonderful question asker. What advice would you give people in our community, the listeners to this podcast about asking questions and having meaningful conversations?
So people who know me and they don't even need to know me well, always joke, there's Darius again, podcasting! And what they mean is, I will “podcast” air quotes here, with everybody I meet. I just, I'm so enamored by people. I always joke that questions are my love language.
I love questions so much. I find new questions all the time. I have a list of questions. I love when people ask me questions. It's just how I love. And one thing that's helpful I find is asking them if it's okay before launching into a question. Invite them into a question experience.
Is it okay if I ask you some questions about this and it's okay if you say no, we don't have to do this. That's a very different experience than like, how did you do this? Why did you do that? And you're like, whoa, I'm not in the space to do that. So now they feel like it's a collaboration. Then I'll go gentle, I'll go slow often unless I get the sense that like, this is a deep diver and it's really important to listen. You can have a list next to you and ask all of those questions still.
But it's like, did you actually listen? Are we having a conversation or is this like a transaction? Listening is so fundamental and it's another love language. To really see people. And then the thing I really like about your cards, I have like five different decks of question cards in my home. I love the questions so much. It's very clear, you know, your audience, you know, that different generations have different communication capacity and you ease them in. And previous generations don't have the same tools to communicate. They grew up in a different time. So it's like, go gentle, make sure you're not stealing answers from them, but you're nurturing and fostering collaboration and sometimes it's helpful to share your own vulnerable experience as long as it's like welcome, because and then it's like that really cool thing happens with vulnerability one person opens up and then it's like this like, Whoa, we're just like, we're going places and it's really cool.
And then always through that process, slow down and be like, “is this okay?” Is it okay we're talking about this, you know yeah, those are probably my best advice for questions. I'm a strong believer that our presence, our deep focus presence is the most generous thing we have to offer.
Darius, it is time to ask you a question.
Let's go. All right. It's my love language.
Let's do this. Okay. Because we're not physically together, I will pick for you. I am channeling Darius right now.
And I am combing my beard right now. You can't see it, but it's really, really sharp.
So this is under the category of traditions. What do we do to honor or remember our loved ones?
Hmm. It's a tender topic. Yeah. We... My family is a bit psychic, and so my aunt shows up in our dreams, in our meditations, and she also shows up in the form of blue jays. So, a lot of us have, like, pictures of blue Jays and special relationships, and my altar downstairs, I have this beautiful artwork that's a blue jay.
I have this gem. That is really deeply connected to my aunt. My mom has the same, all of us kind of have, and we look at, just weird psychic things will happen, like we'll be thinking about my aunt and a blue jay shows up on the window ledge, like literally. And blue jays aren't that common, and so we honor her by sharing photos, we honor her by creating altars.
We honor her by telling her stories and our stories about her. Yeah, we honor her by remembering how incredible and special she was and how she was and remains a pillar in our family.
I have to tell you, and I'm not making this up, Darius, my mom shows up as a cardinal. And I, there's two or three that are in our backyard at any given moment. So I can tell you exactly where I love to sit. And I had this feeling and moment when you were describing the blue jay of the blue jay and the cardinal together. So your aunt and my mom are somewhere in the world, flying around. Playfully laughing.
Oh, one hundred percent dancing.
There's someone right now just like watching this podcast and be like, these kids are so good. Look at them. What a great podcast. I'm so proud of them.
A podcast episode to make our elders proud? Yes, please and thank you. Isn’t that part of what we are trying to do here after all? I’m reminded of a quote that we put on social media that said “Do you know how many of your ancestors grew up with the hopes of you”? We think there’s enough to keep us all going, that’s for sure.
What a beautiful interview, end to end. Conversations and question asking is definitely Darius’s love language but as we learned movement and dance is equally his jam and speaks to his ability to communicate in multiple modes and ways. It’s no surprise that he is so effective at it - the care by which he enters into those exchanges inspires us at Root & Seed to remember what an important role it is to be the question asker. How intention, a few ground rules and loving compassion and empathy can set the stage for great stories to flow. Find him @dariusbashar on TikTok and Instagram, or explore his breathtaking HEART centred photography at his website linked in our show notes. And if you loved listening to his voice, it's his meditations on Insight Timer you'll want to check out.
If you are feeling inspired to hone your question asking, you can always check out our blog articles at rootandseed.com - many of which provide the tips and insight as you perfect your family conversation asking style.
Darius and I do speak about grief during this episode and so it feels fitting to leave you with a sneak peek at next episode’s guest - Francesca Saraco. That interview will bring you to a place that we haven’t gone so intimately before - how you carry on with traditions and rituals and life events after the very anchors that you enjoyed them with are gone.
Root & Seed is hosted by me, Anika Chabra, executive produced by Jenn Siripong Mandel and edited by Emily Groleau and Camille Blais. Bye for now.
Hosted by: Anika Chabra
Brought to you by: Root & Seed
Executive Producer: Jennifer Siripong Mandel
Editing by: Emily Groleau
Sound Editing by: Camille Blais
Music credit: Something 'bout July (Instrumental) by RYYZN https://soundcloud.com/ryyzn
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0
Free Download / Stream: http://bit.ly/-_something-bout-july
Music promoted by Audio Library https://youtu.be/OFga9pkl6RU
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