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Jesse Israel    

Jesse Israel

BY MEADOWLARK MONAGHAN

On Thursday, we welcomed back friend of Madhappy Jesse Israel to come onto the blog and IG Live 'Thinking of You' series for some much needed guided meditation and a conversation with our own Peiman Raf.  

Jesse is the founder of The Big Quiet, a mass meditation movement that gathers thousands of people for large-scale moments of quiet, connection and special performances at some of the most iconic places in the world (we’re talking Madison Square Garden and on top of the World Trade Center). And, he just returned from being on tour with Oprah (!!!) 

We started off this live from a lovely reminder from Jesse on the importance of taking the time to slow down right now. 

On top of our usual digital overload, COVID is taking this to the next level. It’s so important now more than ever to slow down and have moments of quiet where the body’s nervous system can reset. When you practice meditation for just a short period of time, it turns off the body’s flight or fight response (our body's stress reaction) and instead, turns on the parasympathetic nervous system (or the relaxation response). When this happens: our immune system boosts, we sleep better, we bring down anxiety, we express our stress differently, and most importantly, by practicing meditation we enhance our bodies ability to know how to adjust to what our body needs. When we remove the blocks from our system, we get more clear on how we can move our bodies around us. 

Then we got right into the good stuff - a guided meditation led by Jesse. Throughout this, Jesse had us think of someone we are grateful for and send love and appreciation to them. Let it be known that while doing this, Jesse told us to notice a shift in our bodies, and I caught myself grinning ear to ear. Then, Jesse pulled a switch on us and told us to now turn that love and gratitude inwards, towards ourselves. It was so powerful to foster that feeling outwards first, and then turn it in to ourselves. 

Once we came back to the room, we welcomed our own cofounder Peiman on the live, and Jesse and P got to talking and taking some viewer questions. 

TO START, PEIMAN ASKED HOW JESSE IS FEELING IN THESE NEW TIMES AND HOW HE IS ADJUSTING TO A NEW SCHEDULE?

Jesse said that it has been challenging! He was on a ten week tour with Oprah (still !!!) until just two weeks ago and three days after the tour ended all of the social distancing and isolation began. It was an interesting experience from coming off this tour with events lined up to everything being cancelled or postponed. On the plus side, he felt it was a good opportunity to slow down and have more free time, but he hasn't had any free time yet! Without a regular routine and schedule, he feels more overwhelmed and like he has had way less access to free time and productive time than he first anticipated. That’s been a big adjustment, but now he is starting to figure out what this routine looks like. 

It takes time to adjust to living life differently and there's so many emotions that can come up - confusion, frustration, anxiety - and accepting that is part of the process. 

Peiman feels similarly on the free time dilemma. His days feel very off and now that he doesn't have to go into the office, he thought he would have more free time but then the days seem to fly by without much happening. While that was a weird adjustment period, he’s getting more used to it after a couple weeks. 

Jesse feels that part of this experience that is beautiful is that so many of us are going through the same experience and there is something equalizing about that. We are all experiencing the same emotional challenges, while some people are struggling way more financially or with their health, there is still a base level of similarities while we are all trying to figure this big life change out in tandem. There is something beautiful about that! It’s a reminder of how interconnected we are. 

Two people getting sick in China can take the entire world to its knees and remind us of how connected we are, how reliant we are, how one person's actions can affect the entire world - be it positive or negative. 

When we are hyper digitally connected, we start to forget that we belong to each other and this world works best when we look out for each other and contribute to something greater.

JESSE ASKED WHAT P HAS BEEN DOING THAT HAS BEEN HELPFUL TO WORK THROUGH ALL THE CHANGES AND EMOTIONS?

Peiman said going on walks and trying to not bring the phone on those walks has been key. That and starting up again on morning meditations! He has been getting back into establishing good habits first thing in the morning to set the tone of his day. He has also been trying to work out everyday (specifically, an Instagram Live work out with Akin Army).

Jesse mentioned that the most important thing for him is setting tech boundaries. We were already so hyper connected on phones and screens and now that we cant see each other without them, he is finding that to be a lot for him. He sets a time each night to put the phone on airplane mode until the next day to rest his body and mind to get ready for the next day. He also has been allowing himself to have shorter work days and is giving himself permission to get a little bit less done since his body needs all the more time to rest. Jesse reminded us of how important it is when we feel anxiety or low-ness in his body, to just allow ourselves to feel it. 

VIEWER Q&A

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEAL LENGTH OF TIME YOU LIKE TO MEDITATE FOR DAY TO DAY AND WHY?

Jesse meditates 20 minutes a day, twice a day. He said that schedule and routine significantly impacts his life and his world. The way we live our lives today, we are being bombarded with a ton of information and the speed at which we are expected to be showing up in the world is more than our biological systems can handle - this is why mental health challenges and burn out is so real for people! When we experience this, the system starts to break down and shut down. Our brains are actually designed to pulse, not to be persistent, and the brain works best when it works and then rests, and then works and then rests. This is how we are able to optimize our brain and body's ability to show up! So, when we take rest time (i.e. bath, reading, meditating, napping, etc) and give that brain a break, we come back to work we at the level at which we are able to achieve at maximum capacity. Even if you practice just a couple minutes a day, you still are allowing your body to go into rest mode helping us to become so much more clear. 

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU ARE GRATEFUL FOR DURING THIS TOUGH TIME?

Peiman said that our company is in a place to be able to make an impact during this time. He is grateful our company is in a place to try to help the best we can right now. And personally, he’s grateful that he has the opportunity to stay home and stay safe.

Jesse is grateful for his health. The reality is there is all sorts of shit you can get stressed about but when he brings himself back to the fact that he has a body that works - that does a lot for him. He's also grateful for the sun! Even on dark days, if he feels the sun on his skin to some extent, he feels gratitude for it. 

WHAT ARE SOME EFFECTIVE BREATHING EXERCISES TO PAIR WITH MEDITATION?

Jesse loves one for resetting the nervous system in about 30 seconds and he ran us through it real quick - 

Take in a big breath into the belly, then fill up the chest, sipping in as much air as you can… once you get the air to the top, hold it for a moment...  and then let it out. Repeat this three times before going back to your natural breath. When you do, notice your chest as it rises and falls. 

He likes to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, but if your nose is blocked it's absolutely fine to breathe in from the mouth too. 

ARE THERE ANY HABITS OR NEW ROUTINES THAT HAVE HELPED YOU GET THROUGH THE DAYS FEELING YOUR BEST?

P said his work out helps him to feel the best and his mindfulness habit - he tries to be very on top of everyday. 

Jesse said daily walks, taking an epsom salt bath, sliding that phone into airplane mode to listen to jazz or classical. And reading books! 

HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY GOOD DOCUMENTARIES RECENTLY?

Jesse said Crip Camp is an amazing doc that just came out on Netflix, executive produced by Barack and Michelle. 

P said he watched Cheer on Netflix. (Fun fact: Jesse met some of the Cheer kids on tour with Oprah. Did I mention he went on tour with Oprah?)

SPEED ROUND

IS THERE A GUIDED MEDITATION APP JESSE LOVES?

One Giant Mind - free, 12 to 15 day program teaches you how to meditate so you don't need to rely on app moving forward. 

WHAT CAN I DO IF I TRY TO MEDITATE BUT CAN'T QUIET MY MIND NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY?

It is so natural for our minds to wander! For those of us who live a modern lifestyle, it's really tough to totally quiet our mind and it doesn't mean if your brain races that you're bad at meditation - it means you're a human being. Understand that it’s not bad if our minds wander. Be gentle and easy with yourself. When you're able to take that attitude to not beat yourself up over it, you loosen the grip around thinking is bad and welcome it is whatever your body needs to have. 

When our minds wander when we meditate, it's the mind and body unstressing and it's a good thing. As long as you go back to the technique once you notice it...it’s awesome. Even if it happens the whole meditation, it's not a bad thing and you're still getting a ton of benefits.

ANY ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO IS JUST STARTING TO MEDITATE IN THESE TIMES?

Be easy with yourself and start small. 2-5 min a day. And use an app just to start. Lower your expectations about being perfect or that your whole world will change. Do it first thing in the AM right after using the bathroom.