Dr. Pedram Shojai is a man of many titles. But at every point in his life, he thought he had the job he was going to have for a long time.
So how does a guy with a clear vision and a channeled purpose end up with so many different gigs? Best-selling author, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Qigong master, senior student of the Great Masters of the Yellow Dragon Monastery, former owner of a string of integrative medical clinics, filmmaker, herbalist, Kung Fu master, CEO of multiple businesses, husband, father, friend, etc.
What a mouthful.
Throughout all of the mutations of Pedram’s career and lifestyle, he’s had one single impetus: to help people. He’d sensed that something was wrong with the way we’re all living as early as his childhood, when he realized all he had to do to keep his parents off his back was get good grades.
And thus was a straight-A student born.
But he wasn’t doing that because he cared about doing well – he was doing it because it was a checkbox to mark off. (A familiar feeling for a lot of us…)
He was getting good grades in the same perfunctory way that he later realized doctors were treating diseases instead of focusing on how to keep people healthy.
In fact, it was that attitude that turned him off to being a doctor when he started going to UCLA for medical school.
He’d gotten into his school of choice – his parents, who’d immigrated from Iran during the revolution when he was just three, were thrilled. He’d had: doctor, lawyer, or engineer laid out in front of him, and he’d chosen doctor. It was all going according to plan.
Then Pedram, for the first time so far in his life, met spiritual fate.
If a Book Falls in a Library
He was interning with a doctor at UCLA who was absolutely miserable. And… it wasn’t exactly inspiring. Pedram found himself staring down the barrel of a similar existence, and floundering.
He asked “God” for a sign… not expecting to hear anything back.
But that night… he was walking through the University research library… and about 20 feet in front of him, a book fell.
And the Western cynicist in him thought, “Somebody is messing with me.” He walked over to where the book had fallen and peered through the hole in the shelf, expecting to see a rueful friend messing with his spiritual quest.
No one was there.
When he opened the book, the passage he found was about a Taoist master who led his disciples across a river by connecting his energy centers to theirs… and pulling them across. It stretched the limit of everything he’d thought was possible.
So he read the book that night, and found himself seeking out Taoist schools near him in L.A. He brought a friend with him to one, and stood at the entrance watching the Kung Fu masters across the room teach their classes.
All of a sudden, one of them stopped teaching, walked across the floor, past Pedram’s friend, right up to Pedram, and said: “Welcome. I’ve been expecting you.”
From then on, he spent years studying in the Himalayas and India and all over the world, with the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa Lama, Amazonian shamans, Kung Fu masters, and all kinds of members of the lineage he was now a part of.
But in India, he and one of the masters had a conversation that once again changed his trajectory.
They agreed that places like where they were had been overrun with Westerners running away from the householder culture of modern day capitalism, and hiding in spirituality somewhere far, far away from home.
They were escaping.
That meant there were people who needed help back at home – and he was over here, not helping them.
So he went home.
When a Monk Heads Back to the Big City
He decided he still wanted to be a doctor and got his doctorate in Oriental Medicine.
As he started treating people, he realized that Oriental Medicine didn’t quite cover all of the ailments his patients were showing up with. So he opened an integrative medicine clinic, hired a medical director, and all of a sudden…
He’s a monk in his 20s, who’s now a doctor, with 20 doctors working for him, three offices, a quarter of a million dollars in overhead every month, Dick Butkus as his spokesperson (since he fixed his back that one time), and everything he learned as a monk is straining under the pressure.
Nothing feels calmer than being in the Himalayas. Or hanging out in the woods for a month just practicing one exercise.
If you can’t stay centered stuck in traffic with all the responsibilities of the world on your shoulders, then your lifestyle isn’t integrative. He learned that pretty quickly.
That’s when he started being the Urban Monk. This guy who remembered all the principles he was taught and morphed himself to become a man who could live by those principles and help people in the city too.
But soon he found that the same way his first doctor-mentor was miserable…
The other doctors he knew and CEOs weren’t moved by helping people. They were moved by dollar signs, hoping for rain so that their ERs would fill up. He was feeding his ego by being a doctor, and pacifying his parents.
This wasn’t going to work either. This wasn’t the way.
Neither a Monk Nor a Doctor
He pivoted to working with corporations to help lower their healthcare costs through a pretty radical approach – working with employees to make incremental, healthy lifestyle changes.
His friends told him he should share what he knew about Qigong – energy work – with the world by recording videos.
They blew up – everyone wanted those DVDs. Once he realized he could reach way more people this way, he started writing books.
Instead of interacting with patients one-on-one – and curing their disease if they had the right insurance – he could keep people healthy by the thousands.
The more people noticed him, the more opportunities came up. He was asked to be involved in making a movie…
And that movie became Vitality. Which propagated Origins. Which beget Prosperity. (You can actually watch all of those on whole.tv, his health and wellness streaming platform, along with all of his docu-series.)
He was able to see that the world was sliding faster than he could fix it.
And that in the West, the rules had to be different. The very first rule was that you have to know yourself.
That’s what inspired him to write The Urban Monk – a NYT best-selling book within its first week of release, that’s now been translated into 20 languages. The book has driven people to create a lifestyle where they learn how to know themselves while also functioning in the world.
We don’t all have the luxury of taking time off to discover our spiritual centers.
Most of us have got to do it on the go.
And it was that thought that led him to write The Art of Stopping Time which teaches us how to stop what we’re doing, drink from infinity, and stay powered up to do the things we need to do.
At this point, Dr. Pedram Shojai has lived in both worlds. He’s lived in the woods and he’s been on the Today Show. He’s practiced Qigong in the mountains and filmed movies while missing his wife and kids back home.
He’s lived a very busy life that wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t actively and constantly integrated what he’d learned as a monk about spirituality, connectivity, and awareness into his unavoidable duties as a householder.
He only teaches what he knows.
And what he knows has been pressure-tested for many years on himself, the upper echelon of his steady students, and students that have found pieces of his philosophy that resonate with them and gone about their lives.
It just works.
If it didn’t, Pedram wouldn’t be here now. We’re not meant to stress ourselves into chronic illnesses working jobs we hate and giving our families and loved ones the bare minimum of affection and engagement.
We’re meant to live in harmony with our spirituality, energy economy, physical health, and emotional depth.
It’s the way of the Urban Monk.