Ready, Set, Unplug
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
The minute I learned to unplug, my whole life changed.
Little did I know that nearly five years later I would be on a mission to convince you to join me. But when you discover a life hack this good, you want to share it with as many people as you can! By learning to unplug, I stepped off the crazy roller coaster of stress and into a life in which I’m calm and in control (well, most of the time). I’m getting more done and doing it so much better because I’m focused and clear, and enjoying it a million times more because I’m present. I wrote this book to teach you how to unplug and meditate so you, too, can experience and enjoy your life as it’s actually happening instead of missing out on the good stuff because of worry, anxiety, and busyness. There’s no reason to walk around with stress when getting rid of it is so simple.
Jst added 20 min to #ProjectReadathon w. @PenguinRH_News by reading @SuzeYalof 2 support @SavetheChildren #ReadWell
Every day, I have people asking me to help them learn how to meditate. There are so many confusing resources out there, so that I created the highly curated, give-it-to-me-straight, definitive guide I wish I’d had when I first started out. Having taken hundreds of hours of classes, tried every form of meditation, and launched the first drop-in meditation studio, I can say I totally get the art of meditation. The good news for you is that there isn’t much to get—it’s not complicated!
I wrote this for all of you who want to learn to meditate but think it’s too complicated, too weird, that you don’t have the time, or that you couldn’t possibly sit still for even a few minutes a day. Believe me, I get it—I was the least likely person to become a meditator! But as one of my high school classmates said at our thirty-year reunion, “If Yalof can meditate, anyone can.” So even if you think it will be impossible for me to get you to do it, I’m ready to take the challenge and make it unchallenging for you.
Before I started my journey, I would have laughed if you’d told me that the key to being effective, productive, happier, and more successful isn’t to go faster, do more, try harder, but to slow down and get present. I was a classic type A personality and overachiever: insanely busy, impatient, and racing through my life at two hundred miles an hour. I thrived on the fast pace and demands of my busy life, and I attacked every opportunity that came my way with enthusiasm. Pausing to breathe and ask myself whether I should or shouldn’t do so wasn’t even on my radar, and no wasn’t in my vocabulary. If something wasn’t going right, I would still find a way to make it work. Or, more accurately, I would make my assistants find a way to make it work, which would stress them out and sometimes make them cry. It’s no surprise that when the New York Times published an article about my meditation studio, Unplug, I saw a comment on my former assistant’s Facebook feed that said, “I wish she was meditating when we worked for her” (Sorry, Lexa!).
The thought of sitting still seemed not only impossible and like torture, but a total waste of time. How could I possibly think about unplugging for even a few minutes a day when there was so much to do and so much I needed to accomplish?
But now I know I could have gotten to the top much quicker and loved the whole process a lot more if I’d learned how to slow down and unplug. Ironic, right? Do less, accomplish more. Get calm to get ahead. All we have to do is sit still for a few minutes a day to find the holy grail of peace, happiness, and high-level life success we’re chasing.
That’s not just my opinion—there’s serious science to back me up here. Studies have proven that meditation is the secret sauce to being healthier, happier, and way more effective. It physically rewires your brain to make you smarter, more focused and productive, and more positive. It reduces anxiety, stress, panic attacks, anger, depression, overeating, and pain. It improves your memory, helps you make better and faster decisions, increases compassion, and gives you a serious edge on handling the challenges life throws your way. It helps clear away the clutter and chaos in your brain that lead to the clutter and chaos in your life, so everything just flows better.
I know this sounds like a lot of big promises, but I have seen it work on thousands of people—many of them skeptics at first. There’s a reason why thirty million Americans are meditating daily! Make that number thirty million and one if you start right now. It is the one practice that actually works for anyone willing to commit to it. After five years of doing it almost daily I still can’t believe that stopping to do nothing is so huge.
That’s why I want you to discover this life-changing secret. It changes your whole existence for the better. Not only does it make you calmer, healthier, and more productive, it also helps you answer the bigger, deeper questions like What makes me happy? and What do I want? And sometimes, as it did for me, unplugging and getting present leads you to the life you were meant to be living.
I spent two decades racing to the top of the ladder in the world of fashion. I worked at Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and eventually, at Glamour magazine, where I styled photo shoots, covered the famous “Do’s and Don’ts” section and became known (according to the New York Times, at least) as “The Fairy Godmother of Makeovers.” I traveled the country doing makeovers for The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today show, Good Morning America, and many others. I also covered the red carpet during awards shows and the fashion shows in New York, Paris, Milan, and London, both front and backstage. It was hectic and
I loved it!
There were some pretty crazy moments, but I never thought about “stress management,” because, honestly, I was too excited by what I was doing to think about whether I was stressed. I loved my life, pressure and all. So what if decompressing meant circling the office schmoozing as a cover to casually reach into people’s candy jars?
I tore through my daily to-do lists, scattered and crazed. Even though I always prided myself on being a positive and happy person, I still had the tendency to rush everyone around me, lose focus easily, obsess over silly things, blow up at my kids and husband from time to time, and get über-stressed on deadlines. Not attractive! I compensated by moving faster and faster and sheepishly apologizing later.
I had a glamorous job, a terrific husband, and three great kids. But what I didn’t have was the ability to appreciate the present moment. In my hurry to get to the next thing, I sped through each one, hardly ever landing in the one I was in. I was having all these major moments between my job and my family life, but missing out on most of them because I was on to the next one immediately upon arrival. I zipped through my life in such high gear that I didn’t get how much was passing me by, all the richness I was missing out on. You don’t realize you’re just skating on the surface when your life is just a series of checklists.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010, when the LA-based job opportunity of a lifetime landed in the lap of my husband, Marc, and so my family and I moved to California to pursue our next adventure.
I don’t think I really anticipated the culture shock I’d feel moving from Manhattan, which felt like the middle of everything, to California, which has a much different vibe and daily pace of life. But the bigger shock was going from having what I thought was an exciting job to wondering what was I doing with my life, in this new place, with new everything. I had always worked and I honestly did not know what to do with myself without a job. My kids were in school all day and I found myself filling the time with window shopping, bracelet beading classes, grocery store visits, and lunches and breakfasts. I was not only bored and restless—I was getting fat! I kept getting offers to go back into fashion, but nothing felt quite right until Lord & Taylor called to hire me to film Taxi TV commercials. It was a great gig with plenty of round-trip tickets to NYC, so I said yes. I was thrilled to be back in action. Yet something felt different this time.
Between navigating a bicoastal commute, setting up a new life in a new town, juggling the lives of three fun and highly energetic little boys while on the road, and spending time with my husband, I experienced a moment in which I felt an overwhelming sense of stress. For the first time I could remember, I realized that I actually couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t in crisis, exactly—this was just normal life stress that got amped up, the way it does for so many of us. But that everyday stress, as you know, is enough to overwhelm you and send you over the edge.
Jst added 20 min to #ProjectReadathon w. @PenguinRH_News by reading @SuzeYalof 2 support @SavetheChildren #ReadWell
Fortunately, I voiced this to the right person at just the right time. My mother-in-law, who is a psychotherapist, said, “Let me show you a little trick.” She told me to close my eyes and taught me how to calm myself down instantly using my breath and visualization. In just three minutes, I went from feeling completely stressed to feeling totally calm. It was amazing!
As soon as I opened my eyes, three things went through my head:
1.I can’t believe how easy and simple that was.
2.Why had I not known about this secret before?
3.I want more! Who can teach me? How? Where?!?
My mother-in-law suggested I learn to meditate, so I went on a search to find the best place. I started by googling “places to meditate in Los Angeles” and found out there was nowhere I could go to just pop in, learn, and leave. There was a fourteen-hundred-dollar Transcendental Meditation course; a four-day training intensive in a Vedic instructor’s apartment; a six-week program at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. I was surprised that there wasn’t a quicker or easier way to learn it.
The “aha moment” came when I thought, Why can’t there be a Drybar for meditation? When you get your hair done at one of these salons that does exclusively blowouts, you go in feeling icky and come out feeling fabulous in thirty minutes or less. Check in, get it done, check out (I know, I’m still such a New Yorker). Why wasn’t there a similar way for busy people to fit meditation into their lives? Why no popular method and no place where someone like me could learn without making a long-term commitment or spending a small fortune? I took to Google yet again to see if any such place existed. It didn’t. Not in Los Angeles, and not in the entire United States. Not even in Europe or Asia. Then it hit me: Meditation needed a makeover, and I was just the one to do it.
Marc, ever the wise one, told me I should probably learn to meditate first. Right . . . there was that. So I committed 400 percent to cracking the code on this new discovery of mine and jumped in with both feet. I signed up for the program given by the distractingly hot Australian instructor (I swear, there’s no such thing as an unattractive Vedic instructor) and went through the entire six-week program at UCLA. I took classes everywhere I could find them, from yoga studios to Buddhist temples to a meet-up group on the beach in Santa Monica. I did all of Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditations; downloaded the Headspace app; watched every podcast from Sharon Salzberg and Pema Chödrön to Tara Brach; and read everything I could get my hands on by Thich Nhat Hanh, Robert Thurman, Dan Siegel, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein, Eckhart Tolle, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Davidji, Steve Ross, and Olivia Rosewood. While I was learning how to unplug from the chaos of my daily life for a little while, I became an accidental meditation connoisseur.
I fell in love with so many different styles and techniques and so many teachers during that time. But, at the same time, my makeover brain kept wanting to edit the teachers’ content, the ultraslow pace, the wardrobes, the spaces, the instructors’ “meditation-y” voices, the heavy sage burning and chanting, the long stories meant to illustrate a point, the Q&A afterward that kept you trapped for an additional forty-five minutes and felt more like a group therapy session . . . the whole experience. Meditation is so simple, and I couldn’t figure out why so much of it was being presented as so heady and complex—or worse, boring and unnecessarily drawn out. I remember one teacher taking a five-second pause between (pause) every (pause) word (pause) in his opening talk. I found it so frustrating!
I wanted an experience that someone like me could actually sit through—to cut through all the excess and curate the best of meditation teachings, kind of like a brilliantly produced morning television segment. Every television segment takes roughly five minutes to inspire, explain the why, how to, and give solid tips so that by the end of the piece, you get it and can go do it. That’s how I felt learning to meditate should be.
I started Unplug, the world’s first secular drop-in meditation studio, to share meditation in its simplest, cleanest form. I wanted to take the practice from esoteric to accessible and create a place that would apply to busy, modern people so they could unplug from life for even just a few minutes a day, recharge, and experience the undeniable effects of meditation.
Meditation has changed me and my life in so many ways. I am much more able to see when I’m stressed and deal with it in that exact moment, rather than being consumed or overwhelmed by it. I was always a happy person, but now I’m happy and grateful because I stop to appreciate everything around me. I am so much more effective and productive. I used to do a lot; the difference is that now I do it in a more focused way, so I get more done in less time. I’m doing ten times more but I do it consciously, so everything is better. I used to avoid things that made me feel uncomfortable, but now I can handle any discomfort. Even when things aren’t going right, I’m able to go with the flow rather than feel frustrated. In almost every situation, I can step back from my knee-jerk reactions and respond mindfully, which makes me a better mom, wife, and boss.
Excerpted from Unplug by Suze Yalof Schwartz and Debra Goldstein. Copyright © 2017 by Suze Yalof Schwartz. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.