He’s a hip-hop mogul, New York Times best-selling author, and proud dad of two, and that’s not even the half of it. As fast as you can list Russell Simmons’ seemingly endless achievements, he adds to them. His capacity for success and his passion for philanthropic and social initiatives seems both limitless and effortless. How does he do it? His new book, out tomorrow, called “Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple,” goes some way to explain it. A practical guide to the benefits of meditation, it makes a compelling, thoroughly researched case, and offers readers straightforward guidance on how to get started. Here, Simmons discusses what he considers to be the greatest tool to promote happiness.
Your book includes the quote: “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” Some think of meditation as being hippy-dippy but that projects great power.
It’s still a little bit of a lofty quote! But you know, the fact is those who understand what we’re seeking, those who know, they just need an example...like when I tell a basketball player about when he’s in the zone -- when the rim feels like it’s as big as the ocean, you can’t miss it. When you read a word and you’re not even breathing, because you are in total concentration. This shock or this beauty that promotes this shock, or this music that promotes this stillness, is a catalyst.
What you’re looking for is lasting stillness, stable, lasting stillness, or bliss. Whenever the noise is gone, then everything is beautiful.
And we don’t know how to get into it, whether it’s running up and down the basketball court until finally you get a second wind and the world just opens up because you become present. You cannot induce it through the other vehicles always. Music is helpful to people who love music, and beauty for those people who want to go look at sights and say, “Oh my God, look at that sunset.” These things are all helpful, but they kind of shock you into presence. What you’re looking for is lasting stillness, stable, lasting stillness, or bliss. Whenever the noise is gone, then everything is beautiful. You can actually see God’s miracles unfolding.
What would you say to young men who think meditating might make them look weird or weak?
I know how to talk to them. I can explain it depending on who I am talking to. I kind of made it as simple as I could, so much so that my 11 year-old daughter said that the book was written like “See Spot Run.” I said, “This is as highbrow as Daddy can get!” I said, “Is there anything in there you didn’t already know about meditation?” She said, “Yes. Some of the research.” I said, “Well, good, there you go, you learned something, shut up!” My 11 year-old daughter thought my book was written for a child! She’s pretty smart, they both go to a school for the gifted, so they’re both geniuses and they get it from their Mama. Daddy is a little bit simpler.
I think that my job is taking complex scripture and complex ideas and simplifying them as much as I can without losing their essence.
There’s a reason that some things are written in terms that are more sophisticated, and scriptures are more difficult to grasp. Not only because people like to use big words, but because they want to really pinpoint the experiences. I think that my job is taking complex scripture and complex ideas and simplifying them as much as I can without losing their essence, and it’s a fun one. Writing my Twitter keeps me in prayer. And doing that with scripture and with spiritual principles is something that makes me very happy, so that’s why I write these books.
You talk a lot about the fast lifestyle you once lived. Was there a specific turning point when you realized you wanted to live differently?
Every morning every drug addict wakes up and says that. You know, people who say they have a revelation one day are those people. I’m a different person. I had a revelation over time. Evolution is ongoing. The process of moving towards enlightenment.
You could wake up and be enlightened. It could happen. You could wake up and everything moves slow all the time, everything. You could be fully awake or fully present. Eckhart Tolle describes waking up and the trees breathing and the world being alive and bright and colorful...he had that experience and he described it, and that’s beautiful. Somebody could say it’s like losing your mind.
It’s a gradual process for most of us. We move towards God, or towards God consciousness, towards Yoga towards Nirvana...we move towards this, like it or not we’re moving towards this. But if we find the path and we get on it, then we can move more deliberately and more speedily towards this state of consciousness.
You address this notion that meditation somehow conflicts with religion: Why do you think people have propagated that?
Look, some Muslims, some Christians, some Jews, some Buddhists, some of all of them, think that there’s some conflict between what the Prophet said. As a Yogi, and as a Christian, and as a Buddhist, and as a Muslim, we should all recognize, I think we could all recognize, that all the Prophets, no matter what color, what time, the age that they came, the language they dispersed it in, all gave us the same truth. Everything in the Yoga Sutras appears in the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and the Buddhist scripture. There is nothing in the science of Yoga that contradicts.
There is a piece of God in you....The profound truth that comes from underneath or at the source, is in us...It’s why it’s so beautiful to sit and reflect on what piece of it comes up.
And meditation of course, every religion talks about stillness, and one thing the Buddha said, which I think is especially informative, and that all the prophets have probably said at some point is: Look inside and agree with what the prophet, the preacher, the teacher tells you. Look inside and double-check with the source. There is a piece of God in you....we have to be able to reach for that which was given to us. This relationship with God consciousness, or relationship with what’s uplifting and inspiring and fruitful, or promotes life, reaffirms life; we have that in us. So that’s why we meditate: to sit and check...The profound truth that comes from underneath or at the source, is in us. It’s locked in us. It’s why it’s so beautiful to sit and reflect on what piece of it comes up.
How would you describe that first experience of complete stillness during meditation?
Enlightening. Beautiful. Like any time you hear a joke that makes you laugh, there’s stillness because everything disappears but the joke. Every time there’s a beautiful song, everything is gone but the melody.
We’re so invested in business narratives of success. You talk about the importance of focusing on the process rather than the rewards.
There is no reward. It’s very small and minimal. We all aspire to it still, we still don’t know better. We still chase it. But the truth is that the work itself is the prayer. So when we invest in the process, the results come. When we operate from abundance we attract the universe. Needing nothing attracts everything. The neediness is the cause of all suffering. We want to get rid of the neediness.
What do you think are the qualities that make a great father?
Be attentive and loving and try and do what you can. All great fathers are different. I hope I’m a decent father. I show up in the morning and meditate with them and take them to school. That’s a good start.
You say you are as energized and focused now in your fifties as you were in your twenties and thirties. But has the nature of that energy evolved in any way?
Yeah! I do less and get more done.
The book makes the case for meditation with lots of compelling data, but if you had to pick just one reason to convince someone to meditate, what would it be?
There is no greater tool that promotes happiness than meditation.