The Path to Dharma

You can go on as many soul-searching trips as you want, but you still won’t find the answers,” Shivani Singh said.

For Singh, Muir ’00, it took a lot more than just a trip to find her higher calling. 

At the young age of 29, Singh has made it her life’s goal to spread the knowledge she has gained throughout her years of wandering.

Her book “Discover Your Dharma,” the winner of the Best New Age Book Award in 2010 from the Next Generation Indie Book Award, and her company Dharma Express both work to give lost souls like Singh a step in the right direction.

It was only after Singh’s own long struggle finding purpose that she began to help others find theirs.

Despite finding a stable job after graduation, Singh, a bright physics major, was not satisfied with the path her life had taken. Her problem was a common one among recent college graduates: She did not feel that her day job was fulfilling enough to construct an entire life around. 

Growing up, she aspired to become a female astronaut and travel to the moon. To no one’s surprise, the ambitious and talented student was able to a score a job with NASA after graduation.

After working with NASA as a researcher for three years, she admitted to losing her passion for her childhood dream job. 

“After a while, it was as if I was going day-in, day-out, like a phonetic machine,” Singh said.

Hoping that furthering her education would rekindle the spark, she left her job and attended graduate school, majoring in material science and engineering and working with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography on environmental pollutants. But there was still something missing. 

“Everyone would always tell me how brilliant and smart I was, but I didn’t know exactly what to do with that,” Singh said. “And I saw everyone around me, all of my classmates from high school and grad school, and I thought, ‘All of these people are so awesome, but they’re not doing anything about it.’” 

She decided to leave her graduate program to travel the world. During a trip to India, she was introduced to the concept of Dharma, the driving force behind Dharma Express.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word and a philosophy that refers to the concept of a higher duty, or purpose in life. Singh realized that in her own struggle to find fulfillment, it was dharma that she was seeking.

Upon her return, Singh took to her library for more inspiration. She pulled books from many of her personal heroes such as Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Leonardo DaVinci and Pablo Picasso, looking to find how they went about finding their unique contribution to the world. She found one common denominator: journaling. All of these famous figures were avid writers and by getting their thoughts out on paper, they were able to organize their character in a way that helped them to realize the pathway they wanted to take.

Singh’s next step was to work with neuroscientists at UC San Diego. She joined the journaling technique with the research done by UCSD neuroscientists on the effects of music and thinking. This combination, she found, streamlined the process of discovering one’s identity and inner thoughts. 

She then began to work on starting up Dharma Express.

 “So I tried to make this program that would help all of those people change the world,” Singh said. “Young people, like you and I, could make a difference if they only knew how.”  

Working with the Start-Up Leadership Program, a company designed to link young entrepreneurs to the resources they need to begin their innovative companies, she was able to begin the founding research for her book, and the company that would spread the ideas in it.  She became a teaching assistant for Sixth College’s writing program, Culture, Art and Technology, where she would use the students in her discussion section to test out the journaling and music system she created. This, along with the donated work of many of her peers, allowed her to develop the specific regimen that Dharma Express promotes to followers today.

“Discover Your Dharma,” the book she wrote based on all of her research, outlines the way that her program can help the gifted scholars and minds around her to do exactly what the title suggests. “Discover Your Dharma” has inspired people to clear their minds of clutter and enable them to find their ultimate goals in life. 

After writing the book, her company began developing other platforms and forms of technology, such as web applications and blogs, which would spread her coaching sessions to reach larger audiences. Singh still travels, but instead of going to look for answers she is now looking to spread them. She tours universities, hoping to guide college students that she knows are facing the all too common dilemma of asking, “What next?” Because, although it is pretty common knowledge that university graduates have serious brains, sometimes the secret lies in figuring out exactly what to do with them.

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