Getting âZenâ with Russell Simmons<br />

Getting ‘Zen’ with Russell Simmons

The Hip Hop Mogul, Philanthropist and Activist Gets High On Meditation and Advocates Yoga as the Key to Inner-Peace

Brooke Obie

by Brooke Obie, February 11, 2013

Getting âZenâ with Russell Simmons<br />

it seems impossible that these people could produce some of the leaders who teach their religious principles the way they teach them. This is the message that’s deep-seated inside you. An enlightened being could find these truths and repeat them.”

And then, he shows me.  He sits up straight in his leather quilted chair, closes his eyes, and controls his breathing, slowly moving his chest up and down.  “Meditation is a way to let the noise settle and see what’s inside,” he says. “God sits inside, too, so when you let the noise go, all that’s left is God. Through the yogic practice, you get rid of the noise and bring you into the self.”

So it’s thinking about nothing? I ask. “Not thinking about nothing,” he corrects. “Thoughts come and go. Gently come back to your mantra. The mantra I gave is rum. But just sitting,” he stops, closes his eyes, and breathes again before continuing, “everything calms, the noise goes away. So you don’t think about ‘nothing,’ but the end result is that the thoughts disappear. Presence takes over. It’s like, if you were to focus when you read a book. You’re so engrossed that you forget everything and you even forget to breathe. Or you could be running and everything moves slower, you’re awake. You’re playing basketball and you get in the zone and you don’t even know how you get there. That’s a meditative state. So if you sit and say, ‘I’m not going to move,’ repeat the mantra, “rum,” and be patient. Your mind is going to go crazy, but you just sit, and if you sit, no matter what you do, your mind will eventually settle. This is the practice of meditation.”

But my mind doesn’t settle. I start to voice concerns to him that our society doesn’t value or promote these ideas of needing nothing and leading a life free of material strongholds, but, he interrupts. “It’s in every scripture: ‘Be still and know.’ So, just because people put people into ovens, just because they enslave people, just because they abuse 40 billion animals every year doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have to have your own compass... And even with the scriptures, you abide by them despite what everybody else is doing.”

But as I think about his philanthropy and activism and the many frustrations and stalemates that define the many political fights he’s involved in -- voting rights and marriage equality, to name a few more -- I ask if there’s a special mantra he has for dealing with stress or failure. “I don’t know that winning anything makes any difference in the amount of stress you carry -- or losing. This is your own choice. You could put weight on losing and you could make yourself stressed if you wanted. You could put weight on winning and you can have just a few seconds of elation. But it goes back to the same level of happiness or unhappiness that you have in your heart. It’s your own choice how happy you are or how stressed you are.

“I have lots of failures, I guess, by public perception, but every day’s work is its own reward or failure if you want to call it [that]. Just going to work is where happiness comes from. Every experience is valuable to bring me to where I am now. I want to always try and be here, now. I’m aware that putting weight on results is not fruitful. In the Bvahad Gita, Krishna says, ‘You have control of the work alone but never the fruit.’ And he goes on to explain how the work is the prayer; the work promotes the happiness and the results are for ego’s sake.”

Lest anyone believe that Simmons has achieved this Christ-consciousness, desiring nothing and having no ego, he is quick to say, “It’s just [my] practice. I’m not enlightened. I don’t live a life where I don’t want [stuff]. But I know that [material things don’t] have any fruit and I have this idea [that happiness is internal]. I have faith in it.”

The Spiritual Life is a weekly look at various spiritual practices and practitioners. To recommend a subject, email us: digitalpitches@ebony.com 

Brooke Obie writes the award-winning blog DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeObie.

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