of Self Practice
with Jesse Israel
LOS ANGELES, APRIL 2021
Many of us have found solace in meditation and mindfulness practices during lockdowns and quarantines. For meditation teacher and speaker Jesse Israel, meditation is a gateway to the self and community. The founder of the mass meditation movement The Big Quiet spent an early morning chatting with us from Los Angeles about the importance of self and social practices and tools and methodologies he uses to move through life with ease and grace.
are together, that really is a beautiful recipe
for moving a person into their power.’
Sophia: Can you tell us a bit about your cultural history and upbringing?
Jesse: The first thing that I’ll say is that I love that we’re doing this interview, and I’ve got the product fresh in my system. I grew up in Los Angeles, in a family that was very accepting and loving. We had, and have, a very healthy, dynamic. We’ve been going on these family vacations three times a year since I was born. So I spend, probably the equivalent of about five weeks a year fully with my family, even though I lived across the coast for most of my adult life. My family is kind of rooted in a feeling of a small community and friendship within family. And I think the thing that’s worth mentioning is that my dad has always redefined what masculine and manhood has meant for me. He’s always pushed the boundaries, especially when it comes to being vulnerable as a man.
The one thing that’s really distinct to me is the trip my dad has been doing with his 20 best buddies from elementary school — pretty much every year of their adult life. They’re originally from East Meadow, Long Island, and they call themselves the Metal Men. And when I was in my early 20s, I was invited to join my first Metal Men trip. I was like, alright, this is gonna be weird. It’s like my dad and all these old guys hanging out. They only get to see each other once a year, so the first night, everyone’s hanging out drinking beers, and I watched my dad say, alright, guys, let’s all gather around and check in. And I was like, What is he doing? And, you know, you could feel the discomfort of the guys in the room, you know, putting their beers down, and kind of getting intentional. My dad kicked it off and he shared something really vulnerable about what’s going on in his life. And then the next guy shared and he shared something that was not your usual beer talk. And, halfway in, most of these guys had been crying and supporting each other or, sharing really beautiful stuff about where they’re at in their lives. I got to sit back and watch this and be like, Whoa, this is a different way to show up. Not only in community but as men. It fully is what inspired a big part of MediClub and what inspired the breakout circles and the kind of conversations that we do. So that culture of pushing to be real and creating safe spaces to do that while connecting with ourselves and other people has really been built into me through my parents.
and manhood has meant for me. He’s always
pushed the boundaries, especially when it comes
to being vulnerable as a man.’
Alex: Is there anybody later in life that helped influence your practice or your creative practice, aside from your dad?
Jesse: My dad showed me that it was okay to have those conversations as men. And then Honestly, it was feeling very inspired for a lot of my adult life by Oprah seeing the way that she made those kinds of conversations part of our culture and media through her work. That was what made me go, - this isn’t just stuff that you do in small groups with men - you can - but you can also turn this into a business. You can also make this an exciting part of culture. And then I was like, let’s do this at scale. Let’s start MediClub, let’s do The Big Quiet. Let’s really create these large scale events where we can share those values. So - Oprah really inspired that and it was really cool, almost five years to the day, to be on tour with Oprah, and to be able to share those values with sold out arenas of people. For her and I to be talking about those things on stage and leading meditations was a pretty cool full circle experience.
The other person has been Jonni Pollard, who is my meditation teacher, who’s been an incredibly valuable mentor. In the work that I’ve done around mass meditations, there are not a lot of people who have made mass meditations a thing that they do - like bringing huge groups together to meditate. Jonni was someone that was doing it in Australia, there’s something called One Giant Mind, which is now his meditation organization. He helped me really shape and evolve the work of MediClub and The Big Quiet and really gave me the permission to move from the role of being a record label guy and a guy with a tech fund to being someone who leads meditation and teaches meditation, and to understand that this is work to be proud of. So he has helped me remember that this is actually really important work, and has guided a lot of the work I’ve been able to do today.
Alex: Can I ask why you think there’s been such a cultural shift towards self practice frameworks?
Jesse: Yeah, - I think it’s a couple things and I think the starting point is the amount of information that we’re processing on a daily basis. And the input that we’re holding right now, just living in 2021, especially for those of us that live in modern cities or a modern suburb, that the amount of information is oftentimes so overwhelming, and that our body is biologically, evolutionarily, hasn’t really caught up to the amount of information that we hold, and that so many of us just feel overwhelmed. I know, I feel it all the time. When we look at - speaking of Jonni and Jonni’s book - ‘The Golden Sequence,’ which looks a lot at this, there’s this stat that I always found so interesting; 'The amount of input and information that we processed in our entire lifetimes when we lived in tribes before the agricultural revolution, is equivalent to the amount of information we process in one day in 2021.'
It’s only been 12,000 years since we’ve really shifted the way that we’ve lived and only 100 years or so, that we’ve been faced with so much information overload. So our brains and bodies haven’t had the time to adapt to be able to manage this. This is why I think it’s so important that we are looking at alternatives for self practice, and why I think it’s so important to do things like meditation, and of course, social practice, and to get rest and to be able to have Amodern Alchemy and to be able to have these types of products that help give us those tools.
Alex: Social practice and self practice are something that you’ve talked about and I’m wondering how they developed for you, and how you see them feeding into each other?
Jesse: For me, it started with becoming really interested in the self practice of meditation and wellness and wellbeing, just because of my own overwhelm, and stress and intensity of things. When I learned meditation in my early 20s, I was like, wow, this is really powerful, but the way to practice it [then] was at a kind of sleepy Buddhist meditation center, where I didn’t really feel like I was with like-minded people, and didn’t feel like I fit in. But I was like, “having these self cultivating practices are so important.” So how can I experience the benefit of that, but also share it with people that I love, and maybe even meet other people who are interested in this type of stuff. And that’s how MediClub was born. It was; “let’s do this thing so many of us are learning to do or love doing on our own and do it together”. Then after we’ve gone inward and had the self cultivation, we’ll go outward and talk to each other about the real things that are going on around us. Kind of downloaded from my dad or from Oprah, right?
What I learned is that if we have self practice, and we are cultivating the self really intentionally, helping ourselves move through those blocks, and are able to hold and face so much of what comes to us in this day and age, - and we’re also in supportive communities, or have social dynamics that are allowing us to feel supported, and heard and seen, and where we feel like we can contribute and be of use in some way, showing up for other people… that if the self practice and the social practice are together, that it really is a beautiful recipe for moving a person into their power. And to me, person who feels good and in their power has an impact on the world. Because I believe that when we are in our power, we get clear about how we can use our unique gifts to really serve what the world needs right now. And that’s why I think that the self practice and the social practices coming together is such an important piece, and usually we see only one or the other, oftentimes, it’s only one; ‘wellness,’ the self piece.
Alex: Can I ask why you think there’s been such a cultural shift towards self practice frameworks?
Jesse: Yeah, I’ll share my current morning routine. My recent solo trip, living in a cabin for a little while has reminded me of how important ritual is, especially at the start of our day. I know you guys talk about that in the product, and I love that.
For me, it’s really about carving out time in the morning to intentionally breathe, intentionally be still, and bring rest into my system through meditation, and to align myself with a mental framework to set me up for a successful joyous day. I do pranayama breathing, and then I go into a 20 minute meditation where I use a mantra, and then after my meditation, while I keep my eyes closed, I just get clear about some of the things that I want to bring to life in my life. Right now, a lot of it has to do with health. So after I’m meditating, I’m seeing myself feeling healthy. I’m seeing myself feeling strong and moving back into my body. And my body is feeling what it’s like to be like that. I find this as a really helpful means to help move into the healing process, and it’s connected to how we can be our best to serve the needs of what our world needs. But after I do some of that visualizing, I actually now close my practice with a mindfulness practice where I’ll just open my eyes and just very gently stare at one thing and feel all my senses. Then I like to do three Sun Salutations, and move in to some form of a workout and then kick my day off.
Actually functional mushrooms are a part of my morning, every morning, and I’ve been with a with a different product until I’ve been using Superhuman and love it. I find that the right supplements and having the right ingredients move into my body in the same way that having meditation and rest move into my body, is so important to show up fully today. I feel like that’s very much the case with supplements.
we get clear about how we can use our
unique gifts to really serve what the world
needs right now.’
Alex: How do you go about habit-teaching and framing it for the various groups and people that you teach?
Jesse: So a lot of times when meditation is taught, there’s no acknowledgement of how to form a habit. And this has a lot to do with why it’s so tough to maintain a daily practice. Also, just forming a new habit is challenging. So for me, it was about looking into and really understanding some of the science behind how new habits are formed or how habits are changed. The New York Times best selling book ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg was a really fascinating read for me. I found it to be valuable, not only in regards to how I can relate it to building and teaching people how to build habits, around wellness in their lives, but just from a business standpoint, marketing standpoint, and it’s really just a fascinating read on human nature. So I like to talk to people about the science behind habit formation, and then set them up with an understanding of the habit loop to make sense of how they can start to implement a habit into their lives, mainly by identifying something that already exists on a daily basis. Having that existing thing be the cue for their new habit and then rewarding themselves after they bring in that habit. Once we’ve been able to implement it for about 21 days straight, the habit starts to sit. If we can maintain it for then 90 more days, it’s usually locked up. Now getting through all that can be challenging, but if we understand the science behind it, just like meditation, someone’s a bit more likely to actually practice it and understand it and I found that to be true with habit formation as well.
having the right ingredients move into my
body; in the same way meditation and rest
move into my body — is so important to
show up fully today.’
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