The holidays are a very special time from holiday parties to attend, to-do lists, shopping, crowds, if we don't stop and appreciate the season that is, it can slip away. One way to stay in the moment is through meditation. Today we are thrilled to share a conversation with Unplug Meditation's Suze Yalof Schwartz. Prior to launching her in-demand and acclaimed Los Angeles based meditaiton studio, she had an illustrious and successsful career in New York, working at fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle and Glamour. It wasn't until her husband's job relocated their family to California and she was flying back and forth from the east coast to west coast that she realized she neglected something so simple, yet so important, her breath. We chat with Suze about the power of meditation, the life changing Unplug Meditation app she created (you can download it here) and how the power of your breath has the ability to transform your life and those around you. Read on to get inspired.
What would you say is the most common misperception about meditation?
That you can’t do it because you think too much. The truth is that everyone thinks too much and you can turn your brain off. The part about meditation that many people don’t realize is that every time that the mind wanders and you bring it back to a single point, like your breath or a mantra, you are literally learning how to control your own brain, your emotions and so much more. It is the most incredible thing. You are creating space between how you react and how you respond. Controlling your emotions is one of the best gifts of meditation because you can hit your inner pause button and choose how you are going to respond to things.
When it comes to meditation is it good to start from somewhere, say only a few minutes?
Anywhere it meets you is a good place. I think that just the fact that you do it is a win in my opinion. David Ji, an amazing teacher, calls it crisis meditation, because you meditate when you are in a stressful situation, which will stop yourself from exploding. It is important to stop yourself. It might only be three minutes of meditation you can give yourself, but it could be the most powerful three minutes of your life.
When you were working in the magazine world did you ever dabble in meditation?
In my old life, I didn’t even realize when I wasn’t breathing. I was so busy; I was racing; I was doing, I was never being. I was going from one thing to the next and never landing in the moment that I was in. I think that one of the gifts of this practice is to be able to pause and enjoy what is versus never being satisfied. Don’t get me wrong though, I am still insanely ambitious, but now I can see my wins and really appreciate them.
How do you stay centered when You are running your own business, which has a lot of demands?
I have a secret weapon. It is the Unplug Meditation app. I literally built it because I was working so hard on my business and it was hard to make it into a class - I have three kids on top of everything. So, what I did was I created a Panic Button on it; whenever I am in crisis mode I push it and within 5 minutes I shift. When I am feeling like I want to emotionally eat, I created a button to calm myself down so that I don’t; when I am angry, sad, happy, basically every emotion I have ever had in my life I put into this app. If I need to find my life’s purpose, there is a button for that. The app is the greatest thing that I have ever done, besides my family of course! I thought Unplug Meditation Studio was the greatest thing, but the app is because it is so powerful and has reached so many people. It is now being used in 56 different countries.
The app is a great gift to give yourself, but when you give it to yourself, you are really giving it to all of the people around you. You have to have an awareness of your own ripple in life. Once your ripple changes, everyone else's will change too. To make it more real - if I am kind to you, you are going to be kind to someone else and that goes very far.
How does that app work?
You can search based on how much time you have. Say you only have five minutes there are over 30 videos to try and there are 105 videos under 10 minutes. You get to choose your topic (like morning or evening) under a teacher or a time frame. There are meditations for essential oils, also the guided journeys are incredible and the one for your future life is very powerful. Our teachers are the best in the world; you have hypnotists, guided imagery teachers, aromatherapy and so much more.
The holidays are a time of year with a lot of commotion, to do lists, crowds, plus there are a lot of positives, but also sadness laced with feelings of nostalgia. What tips and tricks can you offer on how meditation can help?
I think the key is to constantly remind yourself to be present to what is. There are so many people who are stuck in the past thinking about lost loved ones, especially during the holidays and it will ruin the holidays for them. So the trick is to acknowledge it, but to come back to the present and find out what is beautiful in this moment that you are in right now. The truth is you only have the present moment. When you think about the past you get depressed and when you think about the future you get anxious. When you anchor yourself in the present, peace, love, freedom and calmness is all now. You can control all of that by controlling your breath. When you slow your breath down it signals to your brain that everything is okay, even when it might not be.
When you feel yourself getting upset I like to do what is called the 16 second breath. This was shared by David Ji, you can find it on the app. You breath in through your nostrils to the count of four seconds; you hold for the count of 4 seconds and your honorabley exhale for the count of four seconds and then you hold for 4 seconds. When you count and breath at the same time, you cannot do that and think, so it essentially turns off your brain and it brings you into the now.
How do you recommend getting into the zone of meditation?
It’s a lot like running. When you run a mile every day it isn’t hard. But if you don’t and set out to run it can be a killer. If you practice mediation every single day being in the now becomes very easy. I am 75% in the now, where as before, I was never in the now. I never saw past myself or my presence. Now, I am always telling myself to get present and I can bring myself back. I never get caught up in stories that don’t mean anything, if you don’t meditate you will get caught in those obsessive thought cycles, something I used to do. You'll learn that meditation does so much for you. You can discover your purpose, ask yourself the important questions - it's exciting, guiding and experiential.
Meditation can be done in silence or in mantra form; which do you prefer when someone is especially feeling overwhelmed?
I personally like to dabble in all of them, because I don’t like to stick with one thing, It’s like a food court I’m not going to eat the same thing everyday (laughs). It keeps things fresh and I like the exploration of all the modalities of meditation.
Meditation in one word…
Let’s talk about gratitude. What are you thankful for this holiday season?
I am grateful for my new perspective on life and for the opportunity to surround myself with people that I never would have surrounded myself with before. I am in a place where I am exposed to many different types of people that I never would have gotten to meet. It deepens my understanding and allows me to get out my social bubble.
First Image via | iPhone Images by Alison