What's Her Secret: Unplug Meditation Founder Suze Yalof Schwartz
As this former 'Glamour' editor and mother of three opens a hot new meditation space in LA, she shares insights on balance, feeling good, and of course, meditating.
She's appeared on Good Morning America and the Today show, and is a former Glamour editor. And as much as she loved working in fashion, Suze Yalof Schwartz has a new mission: inspiring us to unplug. This mother of three has just opened Unplug Meditation, a drop-in meditation studio in LA. We spoke to Schwartz, who is a relatively new meditator herself, about how the practice has changed her life, and her other feel-good rituals.
How did you first get the idea for Unplug? "My mother-in-law suggested that I meditate and I went to look for a place to do it, and I could not find a place that I loved. For instance, it was either expensive, or it was four days, which is also a lot of my time. Or it was hours long, in people's apartments, and I wondered, why can't there be, like, a DryBar for meditation? And I thought, 'If there was, I would go every day.' After that, I could think of nothing else. At that moment, I decided I was going to make it."
Wow. How long ago was this? "I thought the thought in November 2012, and by February of '13 I was really working on it."
Meditation has become such an integral part of your wellness routine, and I see you really feel that the practice can change someone's life. Why do you think some people resist trying it? "The one thing I hear from so many people is, 'I can't meditate because I think too much.' And that is the biggest myth of all time, because the truth is that everybody thinks too much. Even I think a lot during my meditation––and that's part of my meditation, when I think I go back to my focus point. So you can't stop thinking. Everybody thinks, it's just becoming aware of your thoughts. And by becoming aware of them, you create a bigger space between them."
Right. And as somebody who hasn't had an intense practice for years, you're finding a way to integrate this into your life in a way that works. "Oh yes, I am the customer. I'm coming to this from the position of the customer, I'm not coming to this from the position of the instructor. Which is helpful because I can cater it towards my own needs. It's such a personal thing, everybody has a different experience, but the one overriding theme is that there's no negative side effects!"
What style of meditation does Unplug offer? "After researching all the different types of meditation—Vedic, mindfulness, Zen, and more—I realized they all fundamentally are similar. You focus on something, let go of the focus, you think about it, then you go back to the focus. Even if you don't know how to meditate and you can't make it to a studio, if you just close your eyes and focus on your breath you're meditating. So what I'm trying to do is take everything I love about all the mediation practices that I've tried and merge them into one. It's almost like the 'best of.'"
What sort of teachers do you have at the studio? "Every teacher is very unique, and I'm trying to figure out what their strengths and passions are and have that come alive in the room. Teachers. Oh my god! One person is a tennis pro, one person is a Harvard business school grad. One person is a Buddhist monk. One person is a Vedic expert. One's an ex-lawyer. They're all so different."
What are some of the gifts meditation has given you personally? "Through meditation, too, I could hear my own inner voice more, and I trust it more. That was one of my personal benefits, that's one of the many things that I've gotten from it. The truth is, we all have our own experience. I can't say what meditation is going to do for anyone, but I only can say what it's done for me: little things don't bother me anymore. I'm not so hard on myself. My bar has gotten a lot lower [on myself], and I feel good about that."
How often do you meditate? "I'm not a good person to ask that question. The thing is, I'll be running around like a crazy person, then I'll be interviewing teachers, and we'll be working on their programs, and what we do are one-on-one sessions. So I am probably over-meditating, if there's a possible way to do that. Look, left to my own devices, one week I'll be meditating every day for 20 minutes in the morning, then the next week I'll completely blow it off, I'm going to be honest there. But then, on the other hand, I like guided meditation. I don't really love sitting in a room by myself silent. And that's a great way to meditate, I can do that when I'm in nature, or I'm by myself and I'm having an epic moment, but [that's] not something that's very easy for me to do. Which is why this is such a great thing, because I know I will go there."
What are some of your other tricks to feel well and balanced in your life? "I would say hiking. I have three kids, a full-time job, and a husband that I love. And everybody wants attention––and I also want attention––so that takes up a lot of my time. But when I feel overwhelmed and I'm not meditating, getting myself out of my house and hiking up to the top of my street, or even just walking around the block is a game changer for me. I need to close my laptop, and turn off my cellphone, and go anywhere. Even if I'm just sitting with my child playing a game, just focusing on the present moment when I'm with a friend, or even in traffic, focusing and being in the moment has helped me."
Any favorite ways to exercise? "Yeah, I love SoulCycle, and what I love about SoulCycle is, you come alive in the room, it's fun during as opposed to after. You're grateful that you did it, but while you're doing it, you're enjoying it. And the truth is, yeah, I'm not exercising that much…. I just feel good. I was very lucky because my mom was an optimist. And she gave me that gift and I look at everything in a positive way. Instead of saying I have to, just say I get to. 'Oh my god, I have to clean my house.' 'I get to clean my house. I have a house.' So it can work with everything."
How about food? What do you love? I really love Tate's chocolate chip cookies! Yes, there is something. I met Laurie David. She [produced] An Inconvenient Truth and she's now coming out with this unbelievable cookbook called The Family Cooks and it's all easy, natural, unbelievable recipes. I had dinner with her a week ago and I literally came home after my meal with her, and I dumped everything 'that went through a building' out of my cupboards––that's what she said, 'If it goes through a building it's not good,' and I started from scratch. She gave me so many great tips on how to not eat junk, and one of them was take a whole carton of eggs and make them hard boiled and keep them in the refrigerator. I don't want to be someone who pretends they're something they're not...sometimes I'll eat junk food. And now I'm more conscious of it because of Laurie David. It's just as easy to eat a bowl of grapes as it is to eat a bag of cookies."
That's true! Any final words on Unplug? "It's totally drop-in classes. My goal is that everybody will at least try it once. And if they can take this practice into their daily lives alone, amazing for them. But if they need a place to go to make it easier, I hope that they choose Unplug."