John Gray was born December 28, 1951, in Houston, Texas. He is the fifth of seven children. Both of his parents were eccentric. His father was a Texas oil man and Christian but he also studied Eastern religions, Judaism and the Torah. His mother was also a practicing Christian, but she owned a metaphysical bookstore in Houston called the Aquarian Age Bookshelf that sold esoteric, metaphysical and new thought books from every tradition in the world.
“We looked like the typical, Christian Texan family to our friends and neighbors, but we were far from traditional,” John explains. “My mom and dad taught us Yoga and fed us extra vitamins and protein pills every morning before school. When I was a baby, my parents drove me from Texas to Los Angeles to be blessed by the great Indian Saint Yogananda. His book, The Autobiography of A Yogi, would inspire me greatly later in life.”
In Western astrology, John Gray is a Capricorn. Capricorns are down to earth, practical, loyal to their friends and love things that make sense. In Eastern astrology, John Gray is a Sagittarius. Sagittarians usually love to travel to new places, learn new things and share with their friends.
John was a small kid but he always stood out in a crowd. This made him popular but also a target of bullies. His mother signed him up for Karate at a young age, so he could defend himself walking home from school. By age 12, he was receiving honors and landing on the covers of Karate magazines.
Besides the early fame, Karate brought John a deeper understanding of discipline, meditation and the best defense. “The best defense is to avoid conflict in the first place,” John explains. “That idea has been the basis for all my teachings about relationships.“
When John was 14, he had his first job outside the home: newspaper delivery on his bike. “I delivered the news. That was the beginning. Ever since that first job, my life has been about getting up early, working hard and sharing the news I find.”
John attended Lamar High School in Houston. Both of his parents attended Stanford University and John was expected to do so as well. But in 1969, when he was a high school senior, John went to a Transcendental Meditation seminar that changed his life.
“I was 18 and it was after a bowling tournament,” John explains, “I was walking to my car and my friend invited me to go to a samurai demonstration. It turned out to be a seminar on Meditation. At first, I was disappointed, but once I began to listen, I was totally inspired.”
So after a steady flirtation with drugs in high school, John decided he’d rather get high on religion and spirituality. “Back in the 1960s, you either got high on drugs or meditation. I wanted the enhanced perception, but I didn’t want the drugs.”
It was 1969. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Donovan were taking spiritual trips to India and returning with the message, “You can get high on life with Yoga and meditation.” John had been doing Yoga since he was 3 years old, but learning meditation was a whole new high for the teenager.
So while his friends were at Woodstock, John left for Europe to study with the master of Transcendental Meditation, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “Little did I know when I accidentally stumbled on my first TM seminar that it was the beginning of a life-long spiritual and practical quest for developing and expressing my full potential,” explains John.
John spent the next 9 years traveling everywhere Maharishi went and attending every training Maharishi ever taught. John was a sponge for his wisdom and he eventually became Maharishi’s personal assistant and master trainer. John went on to train over 15,000 Transcendental Meditation teachers in over 3000 Transcendental Meditation centers around the world while he was with Maharishi. Many of these teachers awent on to become world famous meditation instructors.
Gray also spent his time studying ancient texts from different religions and philosophies. “I read as many books on spiritual development that I could get my hands on. Maharishi had a vast library of books and teachings. It was exciting to recognize the truth in so many different spiritual traditions and ancient religions,” explains John. His studies eventually led to a Bachelors and Masters Degree in the Science of Creative Intelligence from the fully accredited Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa.
While he was with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he was celibate. No sex. No masturbation. Just meditation. At first, he meditated for 3-4 hours each day. Then he progressed to 6-8 hours each day. “I like to think I was studying pure consciousness. Pure happiness, John explains. “I learned to find happiness without women. I am still not dependent on anyone to find my own happiness,” John explains. “The foundation for any successful relationship is to learn to be fulfilled within ourselves and then rise to a higher level by sharing that with someone.”
John eventually progressed to meditating for 14 hours a day and regularly fasted on just lemon and water. “During my last 3 years with Maharishi, I would meditate all day, every day. I ate twice a day from a stainless steel cup, slept on the floor and started each day with a cold bath. I really don’t know how I did it because I love my comforts and enjoy good food today. Although I still meditate and end my showers with cold water,” John explains.
In 1978, John’s brother asked him for help from a mental hospital. His brother had suffered from bipolar disorder and he was struggling to find happiness. John had encouraged meditation for him in the past but it did not help. So John left the Transcendental Meditation movement and Maharishi and returned to the United States to try to help his brother get out of depression.
John ended up in Los Angeles, California hoping to find the cure for his brother’s bipolar disorder. Los Angeles had become a hot bed of new therapies like Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, Neuro-linguistic programming, Hypnosis, Scientology, Primal Scream, EST, insight Seminars, Rebirthing and Loving Relationship Trainings. But first he had to find a place to sleep.
John was homeless and living primarily on a beach in Santa Monica. He spent his days at part time jobs and reading psychology books in the public library. “I had 2 degrees but not much work experience on my resume. I was good at meditating for hours, teaching yoga and living simply with peace of mind,“ remembers John, "But those things couldn't pay all the bills back then." Every couple days, John saved enough money for a hotel room where he could take a shower and sleep in a bed. But most nights were spent on the beach.
John recalls one night sitting by a fire on the beach with a dozen other homeless men, trying to teach them about God and their true purpose in life. “They said to me, ‘John, we love listening to you, but we have no idea what you’re talking about.’ I knew I was in the wrong place and need to move on. This was definitely not my audience,” recalls John.
John swallowed his pride and called his mother for help. She sent John money to take computer programming courses. In 1979, he moved to San Francisco as a computer programmer and he was finally able to earn enough money so he could continue his Psychology studies and participate in the new courses for personal growth.
When John reached San Francisco, he had sex with a bevy of women. He fondly remembers, “I was making up for lost time and it was a new kind of ecstasy. After I had been a monk for so long, I had a series of girlfriends. With each girlfriend, I would say, ‘I’ve been celibate for so long that I know nothing about sex, would you teach me about your body?’ They were happy to teach me and I was happy to learn. I discovered that making a woman happy made me even happier. But I never fell into the illusion that I am responsible for a woman’s happiness. I am responsible for my happiness. She is responsible for hers. These open discussions about sex helped me teach others at my seminars. Sex was not so openly discussed back then as it is today.”
John began teaching seminars in 1980. They were called Enlightened Sexuality Seminars and each had about 20 people in them. At first, John focused on Tantra and spiritual sex, but he shifted his approach to how we share and express love in relationships. “I discovered the golden key during these seminars. When we gain an understanding of the differences between men and women in a positive way, one could sustain love and passion for a lifetime,” explains John.
It was also in 1980 when John met and dated his future wife Bonnie for a year and a half. “I wanted to marry her. She had two children from a previous marriage and asked me if I wanted to have children. I loved her daughters but I wasn’t interested at the time in raising children. She said, ‘I don’t think you’re ready.’ She was right, so we broke up.
After this heartbreak, John met Barbara De Angelis. She didn’t want children and was also focused on her work of teaching relationship seminars. They dated for 2 years and taught seminars together. By the time they married, they were teaching seminars to 100 people each time. John was married to Barbara De Angelis for two years before he learned about relationships the hard way: divorce.
John and Barbara seemed like a perfect couple. They taught seminars together and shared their wisdom with other couples. But in 1984, she fell in love with another man and left. “It was devastating,” John says, “On a personal level, I felt inadequate as a man because my marriage had failed. On a business level, I felt that I had lost credibility in my career because we had been this ideal relationship. Or so I thought.“
The divorce was a professional disaster. John tried to continue the seminars the two had previously planned, explaining what had happened at the beginning of each course and offering refunds to those who thought he didn’t have anything to teach them.
But there was a silver lining. The divorce forced him to reevaluate everything he had thought about relationships. "In the end, my ability as a therapist went up a thousand times having gone through that experience. Although it may hurt now, there will be a day where you can say, 'Thank you because I became a better person from thi,'" John explains. "I discovered that what makes women happy is completely different from what makes men happy." This belief became the cornerstone of his Mars Venus books.
John learned that while men tend to deal with stress quietly and on their own, a women’s silence is not a healthy sign. “When she stopped wanting to talk to me, I thought everything was normal,” John says,” But then all of a sudden, she said she was feeling differently and wanted to see another man."
The pain and feeling of loss were big for John but he learned another valuable lesson. "Some people come to me struggling in their relationships. I feel their pain and want to help them move beyond the pain so they can find love again. Most want to push the pain away at first, but they have to embrace it. And then share it with someone who they know will listen."
"One of the oldest sayings is 'When one door closes, another door opens.' To close the door means to work through all of these feelings and come back to that place of gratitude, where you can remember being in love with that person but you realize that they're not your life. Then you are fully ready to open your heart again and find the right person, or the right loving relationship."
"When your heart is closed and you haven'tt fully healed from a past relationship by facing the pain, you'll just get into a relationship that is a mirror of your own broken heart. Closing the door means closure; working through your feelings will help you get back in touch with your heart."
Nine months after his divorce from Barbara, John called Bonnie. A few months later, they married. “I always knew she was my Soul Mate,” John explains, “but I had to convince her to love me. That’s a wonderful foundation for a relationship to have. Women should not get lost in trying to earn a man’s love; he should do things to win her over. At times, when the relationship’s not going well, I still love Bonnie unconditionally. I could not have come up with the insights in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, if I had not gone through the failure of one marriage to then succeed in another.”
John and Bonnie have been married for 30 years and have three daughters, Shannon, Juliet, both from Bonnie’s first marriage, and Lauren, from their marriage. “When they were teenagers, I was able to provide support if the girls wanted to hear my advice,” John explains, “I don’t give unsolicited advice to them, but if they came to me to ask what I thought and how to understand their boyfriends, I gave them advice.”
In 1982, John received his doctoral degree in Psychology from Columbia Pacific University. “I worked extremely hard for that degree. The same outlines I used for my thesis, I used 10 years later for my book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” explains John. “But I received criticism for attending that school because of the problems they encountered 15 years after I finished." In 2001, the California Board of Education disapproved of Columbia Pacific University and ordered the school to permanently shut down.
“Experience is your best teacher," John explains, "Many people reach a level of education and think they know everything there is to know. Many of my colleagues and friends have degrees from prestigious schools but they spend years working alone. I encourage them to get out of their offices and labs and get into the lives of real people to gain a better understanding of how their work can make our world a better place. I don’t really hear too much about my education anymore because my theories have proven true for millions of people around the world.”
John also began counseling couples in 1982. His background as a monk and teacher, allowed him to incorporate spiritual counseling in his practice. John found parallels to meditation in men’s daily lives. “When men come home from work, they often reduce stress staring at the TV or reading, just as cavemen once stared into fires. They are thinking of their problems in silence,” John explains. “If men can’t solve their problem, they usually forget about it before they ask for advice. Eastern religions glorify such a blank mind. Nirvana is oblivion where you forget everything.”
In 1985, John’s life was forever changed. His father picked up a hitchhiker, as he often did. This one robbed him and locked him in the trunk of his car under the Texas sun. It ended up taking days to locate his car and John’s father died.
John got the news on his honeymoon with Bonnie. He tried to make sense of the death, returning to the car and locking himself in the same trunk where his father had died. “I could see the scratches where he had banged on the lid with a screwdriver looking for a way out,” John details. His father had popped out a tail light in an attempt to gain more air. John was able to squeeze his hand through the hole and pressed the button to open the trunk.
When John emerged, he recognized the “gift” in his father’s death. “Life is about finding the right button to push that helps you get out of the box.” His button for getting out of the bad-relationships box is acceptance of the other sex simply as being different. “When you understand the opposite sex is simply different, nobody gets blamed.”
TO BE CONTINUED...