Black History Salute to Russell Simmons, the Yogi

Now, I like hip-hop, but I don't love it. I mean, I like hip-hop lite. I don't remember how I ended up with a Russell Simmons audiobook, but it was divine. Surprisingly, Simmons spoke about his journey into yoga and meditation.
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On Martin Luther King weekend four years ago, I was very sad for a variety of good reasons, not worth repeating here. Just trust me. The sadness felt like a bag of wet rocks on my back, heavy and unforgiving. I knew it was all in my mind, but saying that to myself did not make me feel any better. I would wake up with the weight of my feelings and go to bed the same way. I rarely feel this way, so I was praying for help. (I should have gone there first.)

I needed to drive to Los Angeles for business. For those of you who know the drive from San Diego to L.A., you know that drive can be soul crushing and on top of the heavy rocks? Really? You get where I was.

Before I got in the car, I decided I needed some self-help, or possibly a good distraction, and I chose an audiobook by Russell Simmons. (It was either Success through Stillness, Do You!, or Super Rich.) Now, I like hip-hop, but I don't love it. I mean, I like hip-hop lite. I don't remember how I ended up with a Russell Simmons audiobook, but it was divine. Surprisingly, Simmons spoke about his journey into yoga and meditation. Maybe somehow I knew that he was a proponent of those practices, and I remember listening a bit more intently, but I had not expected his message.

Given my mental state, I was so appreciative of the message about how the inner soul muscles are strengthened through yoga and meditation. I was extremely curious about his recommendation that his readers attempt Transcendental Meditation or "TM." What was so soothing about what I heard was how easy TM made meditation. I had "practiced" meditation in the past, but would often fall asleep or end up thinking harder about something that I had desired to forget. From time to time, I would listen to guided meditations and they would work, but none of my prior practices seem to get under the heartache I was feeling four years ago.

After listening to the audiobook, I was motivated to try TM. He referenced an 800 number that I called as soon as I arrived in L.A. The person that I talked with on the phone was amazing. I felt as if I was joining a cult, but what the heck I thought, maybe it's a cult I needed. He told me that I needed to find a class in San Diego, invest in the program, and dedicate four days in a row, a few hours a day for the training.

My immediate reaction was sheesh, I only wanted to take a course, not convert to a new religion! But, I felt compelled to do it. So, I went to the website and found a teacher in San Diego. The teacher had a house in Encinitas near the church that has a gold dome. (Later, I found out that this gold dome was actually the Self Realization Fellowship and Meditation Gardens. How appropriate!) I was in very foreign territory, but I felt optimistic that I would somehow find a clue to my own happiness. So, I paid my money and signed up.

I am not going to explain the process, because everyone should experience it anew for themselves, but since then, I have been a practitioner of TM. For the first year, I meditated for 20 minutes, twice a day, religiously. Frankly, I was afraid not to. Today, my daily practice ranges from 10 minutes to 30 minutes and I attempt to do it twice a day. My days are better when I practice more. Period.

So here are some of the benefits -- my sadness evaporated like smoke. One day, after meditating, I felt that I had gotten to my soul and the sadness was an imposter trying to quash my true self. Once, I got under the sadness, I was able to let it go. Frankly, letting go has been the best thing that has happened with meditation. I am able to detach more readily from all things, good and bad. I used to savor and hold on to good events, fearful that they would be few and far between. Now, I can relax and know goodness is in full supply.

And like Russell (yes, first name basis), I have become more dedicated to learning more about yoga to enhance my meditation practice. My body aches and pains interfere with my peace, and I have come to love the peace that meditation provides more than anything else. That feeling truly is better than anything in the alleged "real world."

When I thought about my heroes and sheroes for Black History Month, my initial response was to go to the tried and true -- Oprah, Obama, MLK -- but I thought I would share with you someone who you may know as an artist, but to me, he is a catalyst. Russell Simmons brought me to TM on MLK weekend. I don't know if I have been to the mountain top, but I am on the mountain, climbing every day and looking up.

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