By Dana Hill
With the beginning of a New Year, it’s the perfect time to start the year fresh by adding healthy regimens to enhance wellness of your mind, body, and soul. I am an avid believer in the transformative power of practices like yoga, Pilates and meditation; they’re ideal for restoring both the body and the mind. As such, I was thrilled to be able to sit down and talk with Russell Simmons: long time friend, former boss, yogi and author of Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple. Russell recounted his journey to a lifestyle that includes a vegan diet, an asana practice, and a mantra meditation; and he gave me a mantra meditation from his book to share with you all, my lovely readers and subscribers, to help still the mind when you’re feeling frustrated and unnerved and unlike your beautiful selves. Continue reading through our enlightening conversation to learn more about how you can achieve success through stillness. – xo, Dana
You have been well known as an advocate for yoga and meditation for over 20 years. But who or what was the original catalyst that pointed you toward this journey of stillness as a way of life?
I felt pretty strongly about going to class because there were so many hot girls there. That was 21 years ago. After one class I felt dramatically shifted and I started to get really heavily into it. It became a lifestyle and that moved to a vegan diet, and moved to meditation and the rest. So there’s a whole path that begins sometimes just by walking into a physical yoga practice, an asana practice–you find all kinds of additional benefits, and that’s what I did.
Your newest book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple was released in March of this year. How did you know that it was time for you to write this book at this time?
I had written a few books that had chapters on meditation. So after having that experience–people bumping into me and telling me that they wanted to learn more about it; and having been a part of The David Lynch Foundation giving meditation to so many students; and so many awesome people with big voices (like) Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres–lots of people I’d given teachings to and changed their lives… and then they changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people. So for me just hearing those examples and knowing what that (means), that was it.
What is the most common myth about meditation that this book looks to debunk?
One is that there’s something religious about it, which is totally untrue. Looking inside—if God is inside then that’s what you find. But certainly there’s a wealth of intelligence and connectivity and happiness that can be found by looking inside. So it’s not a religious function at all. It is interesting that all the great prophets talked about stillness. Just like they talked about being good, and dominion over the animals–they all talked about the same subject matter–and being connected and taking care of each other. They also talked about being still. It’s not for one religion or another and that’s one really big misconception about meditation.
How do you respond to people who say, “but meditation doesn’t work for me”?
I would respond by saying they haven’t meditated properly. No matter what, if you sit, the mind will settle. There is no one who cannot meditate.
How do you know when you’re meditating properly?
There is no proper way, you’re just sitting and letting your nervous system calm. All you have to do is be patient. Of course, there’s mantra based medication and candle gazing and breath meditation—there’s all kinds of meditation. But if you sit and if you’re patient, the mind will settle. Watching your breath, repeating a mantra to yourself, these are easy ways to meditate. Sitting and repeating the mantra “rum” is what I’m recommending in my book. It’s a collective, a mass mantra that I gave out, “rum”, and you repeat it to yourself over and over and fasten your mind to it. The idea of having single pointed focus is full meditation. Also fastening your mind to an image or a sound–the vibration can be very very helpful in quieting the mind. When you sit still the mind settles no matter what.
Is there a specific type of meditation that you find works better for you than others?
I’m recommending mantra-based meditation. Repeat that mantra, “rum”.
We all have those days where little things seem to go wrong and add up to a lot of frustration. Can you recommend a meditation or breathing technique that people can use at their desks or in their cars if they need to quickly re-center themselves?
If you sit and you repeat the mantra “rum” to yourself in your car, you will have an experience. The thing is, people sit down and their minds start to wander, and they say “Oh I can’t meditate”, and they give up. You can’t make yourself meditate. All you have to do is sit, and be patient, and meditation will settle in.
You’ve shared that you meditate daily with your two daughters, Ming and Aoki. What is the best way for parents to introduce meditation to their children–especially older ones who may be more difficult to convince?
I think that their experience is all they can have. If you can get your kid to sit for 20 minutes, they’ll have an experience and they’ll recognize that it helps them to see the world in a much brighter, more awakened way.
Oprah recently interviewed you for an episode of Super Soul Sunday that aired Father’s Day weekend. She asks really great, probing questions during her Super Soul Sunday interviews–did you learn something about yourself that you had perhaps not realized beforehand?
I always learn from Oprah. I learn from her all the time. We’ve talked a lot about different techniques in meditation and she shared with me what she felt about one of the techniques, and it kind of reminded me that the path I was on was right; that giving away a mass mantra was not a bad idea. It was something I wanted to do. Sometimes in transcendental mediation you pay a lot of money for a mantra–and it’s good because that money goes to schools; I never worry about the money because it goes to teaching kids how to meditate–but at the same time, this is a mass mantra for the collective work. You don’t need separate mantras for every student. At least, that’s what we agreed, and I thought that was kind of interesting, because that was something I believed and I put it in my book. And of course, lots of meditation teachers teach with one mantra and the collective can share it. And even the Maharishi, who is the basis upon which the David Lynch Foundation was built, would give entire prison populations one mantra, so that’s a reality too.
What is the difference between all of the mantras? Does each of the mantras have its own vibration, so you get a different effect from each one?
There are different vibrations that are said to work differently for different nervous systems, but the one I gave you, “rum”, is pretty simple and has a good vibration. It works for calming and it works for pretty much everybody’s nervous system. No one can tell me that if they sit, and they repeat that mantra for 20 minutes, that their mind won’t settle. Eventually, the mind always settles. As the nervous system settles, so goes the mind.
What are some other things, in addition to meditation and yoga, which you feel are paramount for living an overall healthy, happy and successful life?
I think a vegan diet is very important because you’re not causing harm. The reason I’m vegan is because I want to promote compassion for the animals.
For more info on how to achieve Success Through Stillness, purchase Russell’s book at Amazon.com.
Dana Hill – Founder & CEO, COCOTIQUE
A consummate beauty product and health/wellness junkie, Dana’s obsessed with discovering the best beauty products for women of color that not only suit their specific needs, but also have healthy ingredients. Although she created COCOTIQUE as an affordable way for women to treat themselves to a monthly beauty indulgence, she believes that true beauty comes from living a healthy lifestyle and focusing on the importance of beauty from the inside out. COCOTIQUE is the culmination of her love of beauty, and 20 years of experience in the fashion and entertainment industry with stints at Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Phat Fashions, Rocawear, Fetish and Arista Records