Jagatjoti Khalsa lives with the intention to serve others.
While in his mid-twenties, he was simultaneously presented with a number of tempting and possibly very successful business opportunities, but he chose the path that appeared least financially rewarding yet most spiritually fulfilling—and never looked back. He developed his career in the natural foods industry at KIIT, the parent company of Yogi Tea, Golden Temple, and Akal Security. He is the author of Altar Your Space, a guide to creating a restful and restorative home, as well as a photography book, I’m Down with You, which gives the reader a vision of the world through the eyes of those with Down syndrome. Khalsa then founded The Other Person is You, a foundation with the mission of creating compassion and awareness that everyone is connected and all of humanity is one. Most recently, he co-founded ALTAR, the first “Herbal & Botanical Mood Mixer” that can be mixed with alcohol or enjoyed on its own.
Here, Khalsa details the moment he decided to trust his instincts and take a leap of faith in his career, the daily rituals that keep him focused on his mission of always doing for others, and the five pillars he believes comprise living the process.
Live The Process: How did working at Yogi Tea help shape both your personal and professional paths?
Jagatjoti Khalsa: I hit a fork in the road before coming to Golden Temple and Yogi Tea. A friend had just started working for Mark Cuban at the earliest stage of Audionet and asked me if I wanted to join her. Another friend wanted me to start a new online company that would have potentially been an enormous opportunity for me. Then I stopped to meet with Yogi Bhajan for lunch, and he made me an offer I could not refuse: “Come be with me, learn the organic food world and the rest of our companies from the ground up. During that time I will make your life a living hell, and just when you think it can’t get worse is when I will start. I will pay you the least amount of money we pay anyone else in the companies. You start in three days.” I hesitated and tried to debate this, suggesting the other great opportunities I had before me in my mid-twenties, but he refused further conversation. He drew a line and the sand and made it known that this was his only offer.
Twenty years have passed and no matter the money I gave up, the paths I could have traversed, the opportunities I may have missed, I wouldn’t reverse my decision at that moment to follow my knowingness and not my thinking. Without following my trust and leaping over my fear, I would not now be the blessed husband, father, friend and servant I am each day given a chance to be. Every day, I find a way to deal with stress, to look forward, to stay hopeful, to maintain my grace, to stay steady and to keep up to make sure that no matter what I feel, I always find a way of serving the other person. Without this traditional teacher/student relationship—as Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid says, without the “wax on, wax off,” I would never have sat this morning in quiet, grateful, and gracious prayer and meditation.
LTP: What distracts you from your personal mission of finding spirituality and consideration in everything, and how do you refocus yourself when you find your attention has wandered?
JK: What doesn’t distract me? The perfume of an amazing woman who passes by me on the street; a smile from a stranger; the opportunity to cheat and cut corners; the path to get ahead easier. The chance to lie, cheat, steal, betray, quit or run away. You name a shiny object that doesn’t tempt any of us. There are so many distractions that seek to make the tail wag the dog; every day there is temptation.
Every morning I rise between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. I turn on a Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) streaming from around the world. Sometimes it is the Golden Temple, other times a place in Fremont, CA or Vancouver, BC or Ludhiana, Punjab. I sit for one to two hours, covered by a shawl, listening, breathing, being thankful and taking a journey. Other days I rise and go sit at my Altar and read scriptures out loud in English for an hour from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and then I listen to Kirtan streaming. Any morning I don’t want to rise for any reason other than that—I am just too exhausted from a long night or great journey—I remember my saying, “When you absolutely positively don’t want to, DO!” I work hard on my practice to make sure the tail never wags the dog or more pointedly, the ego never dictates to the soul. I work very hard every day, to move from Me, towards We, and ultimately to Thee.
LTP: How do you use spirituality and a sense of community to make your home a space that truly reflects who you are?
JK: I told the following story a long time ago: “One day I had a really bad day and I stopped by the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop and I purchased a white-truffle-wrapped soft Italian cheese. I brought it home and as I was about to indulge, my wife said, “Can we save that for our guest tonight?” I mocked yelled, “What this is, Company Cheese? Is it served on Company Plates in the Company Living Room? I want Company Cheese!” My two-and-a-half-year-old also pounded her hands on the table with me and said, “We want Company Cheese!” and thus the chorus—and a great metaphor for how we betray ourselves and our homes for the “benefit” of company. Our homes are the one place we control. We control the scent, touch, color, sounds, insides, flow and feeling. Once we leave the outside, we are in our homes, whether we rent or own. So why decorate for our guests, to show off our possessions or design sense? Our homes are designed to serve our families and us. We need an understanding. Look at our homes or offices, set the intention and expectation for them to serve us, give them the tools and things you need to manifest that intention and never do anything for company. Make a place that heals, loves, serves, uplifts, elevates, inspires, calms, arouses and engages and when you have company, they will share in that.
LTP: Was there a specific feeling or experience that you were looking to create in your next endeavor when you founded I’m Down with You, and how did that experience lead to your founding ALTAR?
JK: We all look for so many things, but many of them are the same. To love in the moment, to love everyone as ourselves, to see God in All, to love without hierarchy and to find joy in so many moments, whether big or small. As a man walked by me, in his resplendent Down syndrome, his energy stuck in my heart. The next morning during my meditation he came to me, his image and spirit returned and I wished I would have said, “I’m Down with You,” and I laughed. I got up when I was done and I wrote the forward and conceived the book. I began work on it shortly after that and from there I created the foundation, The Other Person is You.
I never strive to arrive at a place, but rather to channel at each step that which flows through me, what I discover while on my journey or the people I meet. I set out to build a beautiful program in I’m Down with You. One day I called the largest Down syndrome advocacy organization in the world, NDSS. A delightful angel answered the phone, Sarah Goldberger. From the moment I heard her voice, I knew I had met a lifelong partner and best friend. We worked together on the Down project and then together we created ALTAR. My vision for ALTAR became our vision for ALTAR, including our third partner, Dean, and she convinced me that we would use ALTAR as a platform to inspire and elevate the experience of taste. So what started with a walk, a meditation, became a community of friends, the best creative experience of my life then to date, to a best friend and a woman who inspires me to keep up and follow my heart and never my head.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JK: Some days, it looks like a pizza and craft root beer. Other days it smells like orange blossoms. And yet other days, it is an uncontrollable giggle loop with my daughter, Pritam, or looking across the room at temple on Sundays with my family and being brought back twenty years to when I sat before the Guru with my wife being amazing—and how beautiful she still is.
Happiness is so many things but ultimately for me, it is arriving at Thee and away from Me. To be happy I need to be creating things to serve so that I can honor, serve and elevate everyone’s experience of Self, and for it to never be about me, connected to me or have it known it is me. I may create, but once I do I become its servant. So I guess to be happy is to serve.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process,” and how do you do that every day?
JK: My teacher once wrote, “Be the ALTAR and not the alternative.” This seems to encapsulate living the process and a host of other organizing principles of living graciously, gracefully and gratefully. I believe that there are five pillars to living the process to me. Be knowing; be trusting in that knowingness; be fearless; be empathetic instead of sympathetic or pitying; and, as you act with this consciousness, arrive at humility.
Gratitude is not a zero sum gain. Your gratitude and appreciation for others does not detract from your accomplishments. Gratitude is not expressed, it is radiated. It is not just spoken, but felt by those around you. When gratitude is your attitude, those who know you, and those who just met you experience it. A genuine authenticity is created. It is known and it is experienced.
Humility is something grand to experience but it is never spoken. A language cannot be created to express your experience. Rather, your undertakings, interactions and experiences going forward reflect your humility. No more can you add language to humility then the finite mind can speak of God’s greatness. Neither can a glass of water ever hope to share or understand the vastness of the ocean.
In Japji Sahib, the first prayer of the Sikhs, one of the Pauris says, “Hundreds of thousands of clever tricks, but not even one of them will go along with you in the end.” So the only thing is to be the ALTAR and never the alternative.