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Back in my 20s, when I lived in Brooklyn after my NYU days, I had a lot of “me” time. But, looking back, I see that a lot of that “me” time was a restless, anxious time. It was fun time, but restless. I was in my early 20s and was trying to discover my place in the world. I graduated from college and ran off to Europe for a bit, came back to the city, bartended for a while as I contemplated the possibility of going for a PhD in psychology, and then became temporarily obsessed with the food industry and considered culinary school. (And then there was the brief moment of working in a cubicle and quickly realized it wasn’t for me). And then, of course - I always just wanted to be Oprah. That part is still basically true.
In those days when I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, and lived a very free artsy life in the city, I found myself taking super long walks (and this was well before iphones). I recall one time I impulsively left my apartment in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) with a few dollars stuffed into my shoe and my keys tied onto my laces. I literally had no destination - I just wanted to walk. I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, through the Lower East Side, up through Nolita, the East Village, up 5th Avenue, and eventually made it to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. I didn’t map it out at the time, but it’s about 6 miles, one-way. Not having thought things completely through, by the time I got to Central Park, I was so thirsty that I took the sweaty dollar bills out of my shoe and bought a cold water from a vendor (my apologies to that vendor for having to touch my gross damp sock dollars). Right after making the transaction, I looked at my change and realized…oh shit…I don’t have enough to get back home on the subway. I had to walk home. And I did. I think a lot of our younger years are like that walk. We want to go somewhere, we aren’t sure where, so we take off without a plan, and we have to learn that next time…do it better.
It was in those days that I knew myself pretty well in some regards - I was very social but made time to be me with all my quirks. If I felt like eating at a restaurant alone, I wouldn’t think twice about it. I’d go to the Angelica Theater on random days off and pick whatever foreign film was playing and daydream about life in Germany or France. I’d sit in cafes and write for hours, sometimes about nothing more than my feelings. (It’s hard to believe I was that cool once…a good time for me now is watching soulless garbage on Bravo). All the while, I was still wandering inside (and out) - knowing I hadn’t quite found my footing in life.
It was the early 2000s and yoga was emerging as mainstream, and there was no shortage of studios and gurus and wellness options in the budding little gritty neighborhood of W-Burg (although, now it has a Whole Foods and looks like Tribeca and is insanely highly populated). When Bedford Avenue still looked like a small-town street, I went to beautiful little yoga studio with big windows and white-washed exposed brick walls thinking- this might be the thing that helps me figure it all out. But it wasn’t. The teacher made me feel like I was not “one of them” if I wasn’t vegan and didn’t chant on the reg.’ It was a world that I couldn’t genuinely tap into. I was a former soccer player and gymnast and prep school kid- I didn’t understand reward without intensity and pain. I didn’t understand how to soften up, to let go. And how to feel like by simply doing nothing at all, I was accomplishing something on another lever. And I still sometimes struggle with that, but I’m getting better.
But it wasn’t until after my 2nd kid was born that I hit a breaking point and my postpartum anxiety wasn’t something I could ignore. I went to my doctors (yes, multiple doctors over a couple of years) and said, “Something is wrong with me. I can’t take a full breath. I’m getting heart palpitations. I don’t feel like I’m HERE.” Three different doctors all told me the same thing, “You’re high functioning, you get out of bed every morning, you take care of your kids, you exercise regularly, you are social, you run a successful business. You’re fine, just take some Xanax.” But I wasn’t fine, and I didn’t take the Xanax. Maybe I should have, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. And it’s true - I didn’t “look” sick or depressed. But something wasn’t right and I knew that I didn’t want to live my life with that as my new normal.
So I started meditating at the recommendation of a therapist. I was like - yeah, yeah…whatever, I’ll try it. But I didn’t have much hope in it. And it didn’t work. Or so I thought. It didn’t work after the first time. It didn’t work after the 10th time. After about a year, I didn’t even know if I was actually meditating when I was meditating. But then something happened. Situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin of negative thought didn’t take me down anymore. All of a sudden, I had perspective. And for the first time ever, I had compassion for myself. And I could BREATH. For the times I wasn’t happy and felt guilty about it, for the times I wasn’t perfect and couldn’t let it go, for the times I felt anger…I started to feel a newfound compassion. It was freedom. And I know that what got me there was over and over and over again, letting myself stop. And breath. It changes your brain, it changes your chemistry. It heals.
I’m still a work in progress, but through the journey I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who TRULY know this bliss and help others practice it in a way that is really palatable and easy to digest (like Simone, interviewed below!). I used to believe that we could be in control of life. But we can’t. We can only control how we chose to EXPERIENCE life.
And that brings me to Simone! She is a meditation teacher at Den Meditation in Los Angeles, the co-founder of Meditation and Mimosas (group meditation events), and so much more. I love how open and honest and real Simone’s answers are…she doesn’t claim to be perfect, which is so refreshing from a leader in the wellness community. It’s been such a gift to watch her lead groups in meditation, and her smile is infectious. I can’t wait to see where her journey goes. Read more about her below, and check out her and, if you’re in LA - head to The Den for her classes! XO
What was your very first job?
Grooming, cleaning and feeding horses and collecting their poop at the stables when I was 14 years old (I volunteered to get free riding lessons). My mum would convince me it’s ok to pick up the horse poop because there’s only grass in there!
What do you do within the first 10 minutes of waking up? Do you have a ritual/routine?
Avoid turning airplane mode off my phone and walk like a zombie straight into the living room to meditate. Although, I’m bang into the celery juice health craze right now so I’m starting with 16oz celery juice on an empty stomach (recommended by the medical medium). It’s been 3 weeks and I’m a convert. I feel more energized, less bloated and my blood sugar levels are way more balanced.
What’s one lesson this past year has taught you:
Sitting in the pain and adding self-compassion (rather than numbing it with food, alcohol, work or distraction) is the sure fire way to shift it. I’m a big fan of Self-Compassion practices for helping break my life time of negative self talk and supporting me through a very rocky and ongoing fertility journey. I’m currently doing a course in this subject (MSC by Kristin Neff & Christopher Girmer). For anyone interested I recommend this book ‘Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself’ by Dr. Kristin Neff
When you feel creatively drained or up against a wall, what’s something you do to break through it?
Stop what I’m doing and go for a walk. There's a reason you have the best ideas in the shower or on the loo… For me it’s being around nature or art or sometimes just being in a shop. I love the book ‘The Artist's Way’ by Julia Cameron for filling up my creative well. She recommends taking yourself (no one else) on a regular ‘artists date’ for this exact purpose of breaking creative blocks. I love to wander around the Melrose Trading post flea market on a Sunday and watch people, or look through crafts and junk. I don’t even need to buy anything, just soaking it all in is enough.
What’s your favorite thing for dinner?
It sounds quite boring but I’m big into soup at the moment as I need something easy, warm and tasty. I’ve just started using a delivery called Splendid Spoon and love it! Vegan, gluten free, easy and yum.
If you could give advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say?
Looking back all my best lessons were learned through experiencing something shitty, making the mistakes and then trying every book, class and fad in town to get out of it, eventually I found what worked for me so I wouldn't change that process. However, the ride could have been a lot smoother if I learned how to meditate much earlier. This is been one of the best tools to help me navigate through some really difficult times and find a way to come out smiling.
What would you try for NOW if you knew you couldn’t fail?
If I couldn't fail at being a terrible singer... I would sing all the time and sound just like Adele :)
How did you start doing what you’re doing right now as a career?
Like most LA people I have more than 1 career, I’m an unscripted TV producer / meditation teacher. I enjoy them both for different reasons but one feeds my creativity the other feeds my soul.
I started in TV by doing work experience 18 years ago for a production company called Endemol in London, I worked on lots of weird comedy and reality shows, my first boss was Charlie Brooker (creator of Black Mirror). I worked my way up the ladder and went on to be the showrunner of the biggest UK dating game show ‘Take Me Out’. When I came to LA I continued to produce shows like ‘Masterchef’, ‘The Four’ and ‘Fastest Car’ for Netflix. I still love the TV industry because as a Freelancer every day is different, it continues to challenge me creatively and it’s the place I met so many of my best friends and my husband!
The only rub to climbing the success ladder in this industry is the more responsibilty and hrs I worked, the more overwhelmed I became. That’s when meditation came to the rescue, so I immersed myself in it, and as cliche as it sounds the stronger, happier and more successful I became. I started with a 400hr teacher training course at The Den, LA and now teach classes there including some fun new pop ups on this exact theme ‘mindfulness & success’. I also love creating events like ‘Meditation & Mimosas’ the perfect mix of wellness and fun.
When do you feel the most YOU?
When I’m doing something that makes me feel ALIVE like galloping on a horse or surfing. But surprisingly I don't get to do that every day so it’s usually when I’m on the sofa in my comfies with my husband watching the 5000th episode of Friends.
If you had a completely open day with no obligations, how would you spend it?
At a hippy retreat. I would literally spend my life on a retreat if I could ;)
Self-care – do you practice it? If so, what are your favorite ways to take care of yourself from the inside out?
Yes! I have to schedule it in though because putting myself first doesn't come eu naturel. I feel my best when I’m eating consciously, getting in daily meditation, and laughing regularly - often at myself.
Dream travel destination: what is it, why, and have you been??!
I’d love to go to China and see where my Grandad came from and take a stroll on the Great Wall but also I’d love to go on safari in Africa to witness first hand the beautiful animals and planet we’re so fortunate to live on and so often forget.
Lastly – can you tell me what you are working on currently?
YES I’m starting pop up guided meditation classes at The Den starting next Sunday Feb 10th ‘The Mindful Guide to Fertility’ (9am La Brea) and ‘The Mindful Guide to Success’ (10.30am Studio City).
Book classes here: https://denmeditation.com/meditation-classes-los-angeles-schedule/
All upcoming classes & events on my insta – simonetaimeditates
And my wesbite www.simonetai.com