celebrities

Playboy exposes Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

Self-help guru Deepak Chopra is the subject of an interview in the March edition of Playboy.

Chopra is an Indian-American author and alternative medicine advocate. A prominent figure in the New Age movement, his books and videos have made him one of the best-known and wealthiest figures in alternative medicine. His discussions of quantum healing have been characterized as technobabble – “incoherent babbling strewn with scientific terms” which drives those who actually understand physics “crazy” and as “redefining Wrong.”

On his love of blogging, and what it’s doing on a meta-level to consciousness in our society: “First of all, I love blogging. I love the immediacy. I love the reach. I love the instant connection with so many people. It’s vast and it’s fast. But the impact remains to be seen. If it blunts our emotional intelligence or our face-to-face, eye-to-eye, body-to-body contact—and we’re certainly heading in the direction—it will be extremely detrimental. On the other hand, if you can integrate with it, it’s an amazing technology to reach a critical mass of consciousness. I personally love participating in it.”

On partying with George Harrison in the past: “George was a sweet person. And yes, we did some stuff together, like bhang. You know what bhang is? It’s ganja. It’s similar to cannabis. We drank it together in India. He was a lovely man. We listened to music together. We would discuss everything from creativity to spirituality to the divine. He had his own visions of other realms of existence and was more of a literalist than I was, but he was a lot of fun to be with.”

On his thoughts on cannabis and other recreational drugs: “Drugs are not part of my life, but I have tried them all. I’ve done LSD. At 17 it led me to my first spiritual awakening. I’ve done mushrooms—everything. But all at a young age. I certainly don’t regret it. It gave me a glimpse into a different reality. I recognized that I can actually navigate these realms in my consciousness. I’d go so far as to say that drugs were a source of great joy to me, great nourishment and the source of all my writing. So much of what I’ve written comes from my being able to go into other states of consciousness.”

On the challenges his native India now faces as a growing world economy: “Overcoming hubris is a big one. India is getting a false sense of pride because it made a nuclear bomb—because the middle class is expanding dramatically. Globally, yes, it’s an economic superpower, but Indians are totally ignoring the fact that 30% of their children go to bed hungry — starving. They are ignoring the fact that 300 million people still live in abysmal poverty and there’s still a lot of communal tension and violence. India has huge problems.”

On his enormous success and how he does not save nor invest any of his money: “I’ve hit the jackpot as far as selling books is concerned. That’s where my income comes from. But I put it back into the business, and what’s left I put into my foundation—I don’t invest and I don’t save. I carry maybe $200 and a credit card in my pocket. If you ask me to read a bank statement, I can’t. I believe that when I die there won’t be anything for anyone. In the meanwhile, until I’m dead, my wife is totally taken care of from my royalties. My children are self-sufficient, so I don’t need to give them any money. I keep about $30,000 in my account and the rest goes to keeping the operation running.”

On if he believes that science has proven some of his theories correct: “In many instances, yes—The EEGs of people in meditative states repeatedly show increases in alpha waves [indicating wakeful relaxation], which proves we have the power to change our bodies with our minds. More recently it’s been proved that prolonged periods of meditation, like you see with monks in monasteries, can change the brain permanently. The fight-or-flight centers in the brain that normally light up to trigger alarm and anxiety are quieted—.That doesn’t mean they’re duller to the world. It means they’re more quietly alert in a way that’s permanently hardwired in their consciousness—If we teach patients in hospitals how to relax, to breathe properly, to meditate, to do some passive movements or even bedside yoga—we can get rid of what most drugs are prescribed for, which is insomnia, nausea, constipation, anxiety and pain. That’s 80% of what’s prescribed in a hospital, and it’s unnecessary.”

On his many skeptics in the scientific and academic communities: “The skeptics are all angry people. They’re mostly high school teachers with old science behind them. And now they have a few champions such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Leonard Mlodinow is co-author with Stephen Hawking of a recent book that refutes the existence of God. They all love to call me the woo-woo master, or Dr. Woo, and I admit, they did anger me. But I decided to reach out to them and engage with these issues. I wrote to Leonard and said, ‘It seems like you know your mathematics, but conceptually you and I have a lot of disagreements. You definitely don’t understand consciousness. So why don’t we get together and hang out, and you teach me physics and I’ll teach you consciousness?’ We’re [now] doing a book together. It’s about the things that physics and spirituality can agree on and what physics and spirituality cannot agree on. It’s called War of the Worlds. It’s a big book. We’ve got a multimillion-dollar contract for it. It’s going to be huge.”

On if he thinks the Catholic Church will survive its many sex scandals: “It’s the hypocrisy I worry about. If it were just saying sexuality or homosexuality is fine, there would be no problems. But condemning certain types of sexuality as sinful while its own clergy is hiding pedophiles, that’s the height of hypocrisy.”

On his thoughts about organized religions: “All religions are hypocritical—Organized religion is all corrupt. It’s just a cult with a large following. Get a large enough following and you can call yourself a religion, and then it becomes all about control and power mongering, corruption and money. We don’t need mediators to experience God.”

On the happiest person he knows: “The Dalai Lama is the real deal. He loves everything. He’s authentically who he is. He never gets upset. He’s not even mad at the Chinese. If you ask him he says, ‘No. What they do is very upsetting, but I’m not mad at them.’—I remember we were with him in London and he ordered bacon and eggs for breakfast and everybody went crazy because they don’t realize that Tibetans are not vegetarians. He looked around because he knew he was being a bit provocative, but we all just started to laugh.”

On his advice for finding happiness, and avoiding conformity: “The highest form of intelligence you can have is to observe yourself. Let it go at that. You don’t need to judge, you don’t need to analyze, you don’t even need to change. This is the key to life: the ability to reflect, the ability to know yourself, the ability to pause for a second before reacting automatically. If you can truly know yourself, you will begin the journey of transformation—As human beings we have unlimited potential and imagination. The worst thing you can do is be a conformist and buy into conformity. It’s the worst possible thing. It’s better to be outrageous—better to hang out with the sages, the people open to possibilities, even the psychotics. You never know where you’ll find the geniuses of our society.”

Original article no longer available.

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Russell Simmons on money, bliss and veganism

wildmind meditation news

The message of music mogul Russell Simmons’ latest book, “Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All” (Gotham), may seem contradictory: A person can become “super rich” by reaching the state of needing nothing.

Simmons, the self-made millionaire often credited for putting hip-hop on the map with Def Jam Recordings, is one of the wealthiest black Americans in the country, but he argues a person can become rich not by obsessing about money but by giving to others.

Being rich is about finding the happiness inside, he says.

Slender and with a kind smile, the 53-year-old still looks youthful, part of what he attributes to a strict vegan diet he embraced 10 years ago.

“The last book helped change so many people’s lives. I wanted this one to do the same,” he says of the new book he co-wrote with Chris Morrow. (His previous one, “Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success,” also co-authored by Morrow, became a New York Times best-seller upon its release in 2007.)

The following is an edited version of our interview:

CNN: What does it mean to be rich?

Russell Simmons: The idea of “Super Rich” is likened to a state of yoga, being in a state of needing nothing. There is this space where you are awake, a heightened awareness, and this kind of space is very attractive.

The title is a little deceptive to some. It certainly is the road to having success in the world, having the toys, the trappings people refer to as rich. (It’s also about) those people who are good givers and feelers — the book practices to bring you toward a more enlightened state.

CNN: Has your definition of rich always been this way?

Simmons: No, I think “Super Rich” is a fun title, and I think I couldn’t call the book “Christ Consciousness.” It’s really about being in a blissful state, and I think all of us are looking for that.

CNN: What is that blissful state?

Simmons: I think the idea is we want to be happy, and happy is something that is not based on the outside forces. It’s something from inside. And when you’re calm and you’re in a state of needing nothing, it’s a place of operation and of abundance.

CNN: Do you think you’ve reached that state?

Simmons: I certainly can’t say I’m enlightened. I have faith in the process.

CNN: Why did you write the book?

Simmons: This is my second book on the subject. The last book was a big best-seller. It was fun bringing all the scripture together and making it simple and putting the book out. I never expected it to be so big. So many people from the last book — “Do You!” — came up to me and told me that my book changed their life.

I wrote this book more as a “how to” book but with a greater intention. It was not just — can I bring these teachings together but can I really make it an offering.

CNN: What are some of these teachings people can incorporate into their everyday life?

Simmons: The idea of giving. Wake up in the morning and decide on what you are going to give. Those people, who are selfless servants, always are successful. Many of my interns from Puffy, who you could put your left hand out and there would be a cup of coffee. … If you make someone better, then they keep calling on you to make them better. Then one day you’re their president, and they look to you for inspiration.

CNN: What are the ways you give?

Simmons: I run many charities. I make music. I have a financial service company that is very special.

CNN: The book talks a lot about being focused and awake. How can we do that?

When I say you need nothing, it’s a state of awareness so you can be focused on your work. People are sometimes focused on their results, and it can be a distraction. Be focused on the action, the work, and that’s what we want to teach people.

CNN: People can often link success to material objects, perhaps a new car or house. How do you break away from that belief when so many people are inundated with material objects?

Simmons: There is a simple chapter on meditation to watch your thoughts just a bit — to not to be a sheep through that practice and other practices. You start to think on your own, and you can check what society is telling you, whether the collective unconscious behavior is your behavior or your future. Do you have to do what everyone does?

As you come to meditate and look inside, you can make your own choices. And entrepreneurs absolutely have to think outside the box, don’t they? You want to have the creativity and a spacious mind. The book is about creating that kind of mind-set so you can be a better entrepreneur.

CNN: Meditation is one way to achieve that clarity. Are there other ways?

Simmons: Take stock in yourself. When you meditate, you take inventory before you transcend the thoughts. As you come to know what they told you is true … when you hear the truth, it rings a bell. This book is written in such a way that many people who might not hear it from their mother, their preacher, their prophet or their scripture, they are hearing it in this book.

CNN: Tell me about being vegan.

Simmons: I’ve been vegan for more than 10 years. It’s maybe the worst disaster in human history — 15 billion suffering farm animals. And I don’t want to participate in it. I’m 53 years old, and do I look sick to you? I don’t eat animal or animal products, and I feel fine. I feel pretty healthy.

CNN: What are your favorite dishes?

Simmons: I like this spicy tempeh dish. I like that a lot. People ask my favorite stuff, and I say the thing in front of me a lot. Right now if I weren’t on a liquid diet, if I had an avocado roll and some soy sauce, it would be that.

CNN: What can people learn from your book?

Simmons: I hope people become more compassionate and happier, and I guess the fringe benefit is they will be successful in the world.

Original article no longer available

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“Vipassana – the Musical” inspired by author’s experience of silent meditation

Kaki Hunter

Kaki Hunter is no stranger to success. Her background includes a career as a successful film actress, a published author and a recognized guru in sustainable building.

Two years ago, however, despite all of her success, Hunter says she found herself miserable and at what she describes as, “an extremely low point in life emotionally, spiritually and physically.”

After hearing about friends’ experiences with Vipassana, a 2,500-year-old silent meditation technique designed to eradicate human suffering, Hunter decided to enroll in a 10-day retreat.

The program required all participants to abstain from all communication, including talking, eye contact, writing, music, and reading. As Hunter entered into “noble silence” and began the practice of nearly 16 hours of sitting meditation each day, she said she found she enjoyed the silence, and became almost immediately aware of the degree in which talking, both between people and within a person’s own mind, dominates human existence.

Hunter said she enjoyed abstaining from the ubiquitous chatter, but what proved difficult and physically excruciating was the actual act of sitting. On day two, her retreat experience was given mission and purpose with the unlikely visit of an unexpected guest. That visit shaped the remainder of her retreat, and planted the seed that would become “Vipassana – The Musical.”

“Vipassana – The Musical” is a playful, provocative, unpredictable and introspective look at the process of self-discovery. From cynical shenanigans and righteous rebellion, the musical winds its way through the process of spiritual breakdown to final epiphany.

While Hunter says her journey is the foundation of the piece, she says her own story is interwoven with those of individual trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the other students at the “boot camp” of meditation.

Through dialogue, song, dance and musical performance, Hunter wrote the lyrics to 13 songs and, together with her partner, Doni Kiffmeyer, crafted the melodies in a variety of musical styles including rock, rhythm and blues, soul, African/Latin drumming, country and musical theater. Highly technical and with elaborate special effects, The musical, which is performed by a large cast and supported by a sizeable crew, features some “highly technical and elaborate” special effects, according to producers.

Staged at Moab’s historic Star Hall, 159 E. Center Street, “Vipassana” opens Feb. 4, and runs through Feb. 19. Performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., with a special matinee performance on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and are available online at Arches Book Company, 83 N. Main Street, or at the door the night of the performance. For more information visit the website or call 259-4811.

[via Moab Times-Independent]

Update

The Moab-Times-Independent published the following letter on Feb 10, 2011:

My husband and I went to the opening night of “Vipassana: the Musical” at Star Hall Friday night, having no idea what to expect. It turned out to be what they advertised: funny, sad and provocative, and we really enjoyed it.

The amount of talent in this small town is just amazing, from the writer, to the music, all the actors, and everyone else who helped in the production.

Thanks for a fun evening, and I hope many others will go and enjoy it also.

—Bonnie Crysdale
Moab

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Review of “Super Rich,” a self-help book by hip-hop promoter Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons Super RichThe transformation of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons from the recreational drug-using, model-chasing manager of seminal 1980s rap artists Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Will Smith into a serene 21st-century prophet of veganism and meditation may be surreal, but it’s also quite real.

Even in his dark days of excess, Simmons had a lot of light around him. As 1990s entrepreneurs like Suge Knight made the rap business virtually synonymous with invective and violence, Simmons stood above them as a relative paragon of virtue, achieving unmatched success with humor and hustle rather than brutality. As he matured and embraced his holistic lifestyle, Simmons became “Uncle Rush,” purveyor of hip-hop brands but also philanthropist and father-figure.

Title: Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All
Author: Russell Simmons with Chris Morrow
Publisher: Gotham
ISBN: 978-1592405879
Available from: Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

Simmons takes his mentoring role seriously. In 2007, he wrote his first self-help book, a go-get-’em career primer called “Do You.” Now, he issues his follow-up, “Super Rich,” a slim, succinct and sagacious volume about the true meaning of wealth (spoiler alert: It ain’t about the money).

Read the rest of this article…

While Americans easily welcome advice from wealthy men, could anything be more obnoxious than a rich guy telling the aspiring masses, as Simmons does, that “there’s no difference between being broke and being a millionaire”? But Simmons knows this and spends the first passages of “Super Rich” front-loading his explanation: There’s nothing shameful in enjoying the worldly fruits of your labor, he argues. But it’s the labor, and not its fruits, that brings happiness.

This isn’t some spiritual sleight-of-hand or mystical mumbo jumbo. Simmons may be a multimillionaire, but his real love has never been the dough; it has always been his work, which in his life has always seemed more like the yogic concept of “leela,” or divine play. In “Super Rich,” the philosophy is sound – articulated in simple prose with assistance from journalist Chris Morrow, but filled with anecdotes, humor and raw language that are unmistakably Simmons’s.

Simmons reworks the “Bhagavad Gita” as if Arjuna and Lord Krishna were two guys from his neighborhood in Hollis, Queens. These moments might read like blasphemy, but they sit atop a foundation of real knowledge and practice. Simmons does more than talk: He teaches, providing meditation tools for the reader to put his concepts into action.

Hip-hop and spirituality might seem to have little in common. But like yogic philosophy, hip-hop is all about the power of vibration, the power of the word. In “Super Rich,” Simmons emerges as the first influential voice to make that connection for a new generation.

bookworld@washpost.com Charnas, author of “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop,” is a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor.

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Russell Simmons expounds on the transition from materialism to meditation

Russell Wendell Simmons was born in Queens, New York on October 4, 1957, the middle of three sons to bless the marriage of Daniel and Evelyn Simmons, a public school administrator and NYC parks administrator, respectively. Russell and Rick Rubin co-founded Def Jam Records, the legendary hip-hop label, in 1984.

Russell parlayed his success in music into several fashion lines, most notably, Phat Farm and Baby Phat. Meanwhile, as Chairman and CEO of his umbrella organization, Rush Communications, he also ran an ad agency, produced movies and TV shows, and published a magazine.

Forbes Magazine recently named Simmons one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities.” And USA Today dubbed him one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” calling him a “hip-hop pioneer” for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, jewelry, finance, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy.

From creating his seminal Def Jam Recordings to writing his New York Times best-seller Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success, Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy. Since giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to advance the interests of a host of charitable causes.

A devoted yogi, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, and social engagement. Furthermore, he serves as UN Goodwill Ambassador for The Permanent Memorial to Honor the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

Here, he talks about his new book, Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All, a how-to tome which champions meditation over materialism as the path to true wealth.

Kam Williams: Hey Russell, thanks for the time. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at that party you threw for Soledad O’Brien. I came over and told you I’d been trying to interview you for years. Thanks for finally hooking me up.

Russell Simmons: My man! Of course I remember you. I felt bad. How was that possible?

KW: A lot of publicists have never heard of me.

RS: Well, it’s great to talk to you. What’s going on, baby?

KW: I didn’t get to tell you that I grew up in the same neck of the woods, in St. Albans, which is right next to Hollis.

RS: Yeah, same thing.

KW: What gave you the idea to write the book?

RS: Well, the last time I wrote a book (Do You!), I got a chance to pull together all these teachings and frame them in such a way that I could share them with other people. But honestly, I can look back on it, and admit that my motivation was a little bit selfish, because I needed to do this for my own evolution. It was a sort of a cleansing process. I expected that I could get the stuff out of me, and frame it, so I could understand it. But I didn’t appreciate the book’s potential to touch the lives of others until Oprah praised it. She was my first interview after it came out, and made it go to the top of the best-seller list. After that, people would come up to me and say that the book changed their lives. What could be more gratifying? So, that inspired me to write this book, with a little more selfless intention. This book is about remembering to remember, and the mantra to be a good giver. Good givers are great getters, and I just wanted to share that with people in a way that they could really digest it.

KW: I told my readers I was going to be speaking with you and they sent in plenty of questions. The first is from Attorney Bernadette Beekman, who gives you a big shout out as a girl from Hollis! She says: many people are so busy working they do not have time to breathe deeply or be present on a daily basis. In fact, I was speaking to a friend who is a yoga teacher-in-training yesterday and she said quite often, when she is at her full-time job at a nonprofit, she realizes that a whole day has gone by without her having breathed deeply. Russell, how, from a practical perspective, can people with worries and everyday jobs still seek a higher path?

RS: The whole book is about being conscious, and is filled with practices to bring you to presence. The book is dedicated to that mantra, that state of consciousness. We wish we could live in a state of nirvana, or a state of Christ consciousness, or a state of yoga, or Samadhi. All of them are one and the same: to be awake, to be present. That idea of Heaven on Earth is what I mean by Super Rich, and the ease that comes with needing nothing. Yoga can be defined as a state of needing nothing, and that’s what we’re looking for. So, this book is about moving towards that enlightenment.

KW: I learned a long time ago that happiness doesn’t come from the accumulation of material things.

RS: You can only sit your ass in one seat at a time.

KW: FSU grad Laz Lyles asks: What experience prompted the transformation of your personal ideas about wealth and got you on a spiritual path?

RS: We all want to operate in order. Sometimes we have to go through struggle to realize that. Your birth in the physical form is to teach you to operate in order. I think that’s the experience. Struggle is your great teacher. I’m an older person. I was a drug dealer. I was a gang member and a lot of other things. My evolution has been gradual. When I first started practicing yoga, I remember feeling really free of anxiety momentarily. So, my journey began when I found the easing of anxiety through the physical practice of yoga. Then, the yogi scripture taught me things that I knew in my heart were true, because the study of the scripture is really the study of the self. Then I saw that what’s in the yogi scripture is also in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah, and that these practices do bring us to a more easy place. Yoga is defined as a state of needing nothing. And union with God happens, when the noise is gone.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: When you were growing up what did you want to do?

RS: I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Remember The Message by Grandmaster Flash? [Sings] “You see the drug dealers counting twenties and tens, and you want to grow up to be just like them.” I saw people hanging on the corner. I didn’t know any better. I was lucky enough to go to college and start to feel differently. There, I developed the courage to do something original that I was passionate about, which was music and hip-hop. I started throwing parties, and became an entrepreneur of sorts. It just kinda evolved. I didn’t have a drive to be anything in particular until I found a passion, which is what this book is about. Finding a dharma, a way to really give. But I wasn’t fortunate enough to have something I wanted to be all my life, until I started to achieve it.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Jerry Lewis used to sing a song that said, “Money isn’t everything … unless you’re very poor.” How ‘easy’ is it to give this kind of spiritual advice when you’re rolling in dough?

RS: Well, there’s a story in the book about a guy who lives in a shanty house. He knows he’s got to find some bread and water each day, yet his mind’s at ease. God always provides, and he lived to be 100. Then, by contrast, there’s the anxiety-prone billionaire who’s always worried about the stock market and ends up dying in his fifties. So, you have to ask yourself, “What do we want money for? What does it do for us?” If you say money makes us happy, then examine that. Is it the toys? Is it the simplicity, the ease that money can provide? That’s not the ease that we’re seeking. It has to be to calm the mind. I say this because, when you need nothing, you can operate from abundance. Jesus taught two sermons. One for the masses, which said, if you act in accordance with these laws, then God will take care of you. The second one said, “Operate from abundance if you can.” So, the anxiety-filled followers were able to pay their taxes by listening to Jesus. But His disciples only needed to put their all into service. I have so many illustrative stories I could relate, like Puffy’s, who on the way up wanted to make sure he was doing everybody’s job. He enjoyed the work, but not because he was going to get this or that. That’s the real rap.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have any advice for an aspiring film maker living on ramen?

RS: Larry, stay on your hustle. You ain’t gonna starve no matter what happens. Living on ramen! My guess is he’s most likely overweight. We suffer from neediness, when in fact we already have everything. If he’s focused on being a filmmaker, and not anxiety-filled and worried about living on ramen, he will make headway. And in no case will he starve. What is he looking for?

KW: Filmmaker/Author/Professor Hisani Dubose asks: What is the most effective way to raise money for indie movie projects in 2011. What does someone like him look for before investing?

RS: Big buzz. Shoot a good little pilot to get it off the ground. Everything requires that you do the work. And if you do good enough work that people start to be inspired by it, then they join on. No one signs on just because you have an idea.

You have to keep building any business, to make it attractive. If you throw a record out the window and it don’t stick, you gotta keep pushing it. Then, one day, it’s on the radio, listeners start requesting it, and people come looking for you. You can’t chase people down with your idea; you have to turn it into equity first.

KW: Kristopher Seals asks: What are some ways a person can start up a business with little available capital? What are some of the biggest obstacles facing minorities looking to enter the business arena?

RS: I can tell you that there’s something about black culture that’s infectious, that crosses all boundaries, that gives you an edge. If he’s open to integrate, then give him a job. No company that markets any product can operate without input from black people. There’s a void, a white space. Fill that. Don’t carry the burden. A lot of time black people only speak to each other instead of to the whole room. We gotta get out of that habit.

KW: Dante Lee, author of Black Business Secrets, asks: What was your most fatal business decision? And what is the biggest business lesson you’ve learned?

RS: I learn from every bad decision, so none of them are my worst. When I lost the Beastie Boys, I learned that you have to have patience when you’re developing artists.

KW: Ola Jackson asks: “How does your spirituality and belief in Buddhism conflict with the opulent lifestyle of self-indulgence and materialism associated with rap music.

RS: I think rappers are truth-tellers. I don’t think mainstream American culture is any closer to the simplicity that I’m advocating. I’m not a Buddhist, by the way. Long before there was a Buddhist faith, there were the Yoga Sutras. Those teachings are more prescriptions for happiness, than religious dogma. As you know, I’m not a religious man, although I do work promoting dialogue among all religions as Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

KW: Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier says: In the past, we saw more rap songs about socially-conscious themes, such as MC Lyte’s “Eyes Are the Soul,” Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.” What needs to be done to bring back this type of hip-hop?

RS: Well, I think the climate changes in society. Themes come and go, and rappers are only reflections of that. Right now, we’re very fearful, because the economy is very bad…People are struggling…and that’s fertile ground for some of the negativity that you’re hearing on some of the records.

KW: Professor Mia Mask asks: Isn’t there a contradiction between the messages in your book and the messages in rap music?

RS: Why does she think I’m an ambassador for rap? Jesus hung out with the wine bibbers, but his message wasn’t advocating getting drunk. I have one foot in pop culture and one foot in the real world, which is spiritual. I know what’s real, and I know that pop culture can be frivolous. But I think American culture, in general, is frivolous. And I certainly don’t think that rap culture is any more frivolous than mainstream American culture. I don’t think hip-hop is as unconscious either. Rappers may say things that shock you, but I think they are poets who hold a higher moral ground than the rest of American society. That’s my opinion. Just because Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t like black people,” doesn’t mean it’s true, but it does mean that a lot of people shared that thought.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RS: No, I just go to work everyday, and I try to give and be a servant, although I might forget at times. But I know my mission. Through meditation and prayer, I find myself present, awake and giving for some part of the day. The most I can hope for is to become a better servant.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RS: That’s a good question. I’m not quite sure. Different things at different times.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

RS: Yes, I guess I’m afraid sometimes. But I generally rid myself of it. I don’t carry a lot of fear around with me.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RS: Yeah, I can say I’m mostly happy. Compared to what? Am I eternally blissful? No. But do I find moments when I’m ecstatic about being alive? Yes! And I have those moments more and more often the more I meditate, practice yoga, and live by these principles.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

RS: A few minutes ago being interviewed by Sean Hannity. He says such things. You have to learn to laugh all the time. It’s a practice of life. It’s a practice of happiness. In yoga, you smile and breathe in every pose.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

RS: I’m on a liquid diet, but I’m going to have some popcorn at the movies.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RS: An Offering of Leaves by Lady Ruth, who is a yoga teacher. I also read Soledad O’Brien’s book, and Decoded by Jay-Z.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?

RS: Krishna Das’ Greatest Hits. And I’ve been listening to a lot of Public Enemy.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

RS: I like to put spinach on top of olive oil, and just let it wilt for a second. And then put vegan chicken nuggets on top of it. I’m not a big chef.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

RS: It still is Tommy Hilfiger, even though he’s not hot right now. He still inspires me the most.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

RS: World peace in spirit.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

RS: I don’t know. I don’t have one.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

RS: I don’t miss my prayers and I don’t miss my yoga. Those things are important to me.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RS: Keep your head down and put one foot in front of the other. That’s how I got where I got.

KW: The Cornel West question: What price are you willing to pay for a cause that’s bigger than your own self interests?

RS: I‘m not sure. I should say my life, but I don’t know. I can’t say my life right now.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

RS: As a philanthropist, as a giver.

KW: Well thanks for the interview, Russell. I really appreciate it.

RS: It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you. You have my number now, Kam, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything.

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Stars’ meditation technique gains mental health experts’ approval

National Health Service departments are now offering the Buddhism-inspired method of ‘mindfulness meditation’ which is favoured by celebrities such as Goldie Hawn.

A form of meditation practised by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars is becoming a major growth area within British psychology, as evidence grows of its effectiveness in dealing with anxiety and depression.

“Mindfulness meditation” was pioneered in the United States during the 1970s as a tool for alleviating stress and is practised, among others, by Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn, who acts as an advocate for the technique. Drawing on ancient Buddhist principles to combat mental suffering, the technique encourages practitioners to slow down, “inhabit the moment” and become more accepting of their feelings. According to Ryan, “by simply refocusing our awareness, we reshape our experience”.

Although initially regarded with scepticism by mainstream psychologists, the practice has gained respectability thanks to…

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research indicating its clinical effectiveness. A new study in the American journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that the mindfulness technique was as effective as the use of anti-depressants among a controlled group in remission from major depression.

A study by researchers in Wales, Toronto and Cambridge found that in cases of recurring depression it reduced the risk of relapse by 50%. As a result, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) adopted it in its guidelines as a recommended intervention in cases of chronic depression. Recent studies have shown that the technique can have other significant benefits, including boosting the immune system and encouraging left-field brain activity – the side most associated with feelings of wellbeing.

The impressive experimental results have led to a surge in interest and increasing demand that the practice be made more widely available. Research centres have sprung up across the country and there has been an explosion of mindfulness courses in non-clinical settings.

The School of Life in central London offers a variety of classes applying mindfulness techniques, including “How to Face Death” and “How to Stay Calm”. The Mental Health Foundation has launched Be Mindful, a campaign geared to making the technique available to “everyone who wants it”, while the Mindfulness in Schools campaign has been established to encourage its adoption in classrooms.

Ed Halliwell, a teacher on mindfulness and co-author of a recent book, The Mindfulness Manifesto, attributed the popularity to the technique’s blending of age-old spirituality with modern convenience: “It’s based on thousands of years of wisdom. It is simple but not always easy to do. You don’t need any special equipment. It’s not expensive. And it seems to connect with a lot of people’s intuitive sense that slowing down, practising stillness, learning how to be with our body and mind are good things. These are ancient ways of working to develop wellbeing, but what’s happened now is that the science is catching up and showing us that this does actually work. It’s become very of the moment.”

However, some psychologists are cautious about overselling the benefits or applying mindfulness too zealously outside a clinical setting. Florian Ruths, who runs a mindfulness meditation programme at the Maudsley Hospital in south London, argues that the technique’s very success in becoming part of the psychological mainstream could lead people to view it as a quick-fix solution.

“I think we need to be cautious,” he said. “At the moment the enthusiasm is much higher than the evidence. Those who practise mindfulness meditation know it makes a huge difference to people’s lives. But there is a danger of saying it works in psychology so why not use it for almost anything in life? And suddenly having a bit of pleasure, or seeing something beautiful, becomes an act of mindfulness.

“We need to be careful that we don’t create an impression that we’ve got something proven to be effective for almost everything when we haven’t actually done the scientific work.”

According to Ruths, when practised properly in a clinical setting, mindfulness meditation has three key benefits. First, “it teaches us to immerse ourselves deeper in the present rather than worry about things we can’t control in the future – will I have a job? Will I be OK in five years’ time? – or dwell on something in the past that we can’t change either.”

Second, it “teaches us something about the validity of thoughts and emotions. When we are in a difficult state we believe several things: it will never end, it says something about us being flawed, and we need to get out of it now. Mindfulness helps us to see that emotions change and that if I have a thought, it is not necessarily the reality, it is just a thought.”

Third, he says, “mindfulness itself is an act of kindness, of compassion. It teaches us about directing the capacity for compassion that we all have at ourselves. That in itself is something new.”

One 37-year-old woman who attended a group course at the Maudsley last summer said she was encouraged to try the technique after more than 20 years of suffering acute depression, anxiety and fatigue, and more recently panic attacks. After experiencing the “recurrent corruptions of medication”, she was not hopeful that this technique would be any different. “I expected it to be merely another variation on the theme of cognitive hygiene. But I was wrong. There was no feeling of ideological imposition or the energetic tidying of my psyche. It felt respectful, gentle, patient, almost companionable.”

With time and regular practice, the techniques she learned started to make a difference. Her panic attacks ceased and she was able to cope without medication for the first time in more than two decades. One of the technique’s benefits, she said, is the ease with which she had been able to incorporate it within her busy life. “Since doing the course, I have tried to continue regularly with the various meditation practices I learned. It has made waiting, even on rowdy buses, a prized opportunity, for such practices do not rely on a quiet without, but a quiet within.”

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Clijsters interested in meditation, Thai cooking

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Bangkok Post: US Open champion Kim Clijsters will learn some meditation and Thai cooking during her visit to Hua Hin where she will meet Caroline Wozniacki in an exhibition match on New Year’s Day.

The 84 World Tennis Invitation will be held at the Intercontinentatl Hua Hin Resort and is part of the celebrations of His Majesty the King’s 84th birthday.

In an interview with the organisers, Clijsters said this would be her first visit to Thailand and she wanted to learn about Thai culture.

“I am looking forward to it. An exhibition game gives us a little more opportunity to enjoy the country or city where you are,” said the Belgian.

“I really like to know more about your culture and I’m interested in the spiritual way of life. There is a meditation session scheduled with some monks.”

The world’s third-ranked player added: “Elephant riding is another thing I would like to experience.

“Cooking is one of my favourite activities when I’m at home and I love Asian spices and ingredients.”

She said the exhibition match would be part of her preparations for next month’s Australian Open.

The three-time US Open champion said she wanted to win one Grand Slam or more next year, particularly Wimbledon.

“My father used to be a football player so grass is the ultimate surface in his eyes,” she said.

The other match of the exhibition features American twins Bob and Mike Bryan against Thai twins Sonchat and Sanchai Ratiwatana.

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Russell Brand: meditation helped me overcome promiscuous past

“What it felt like to me was the dissolution of the idea of myself. Like, I felt separateness evaporated, this tremendous sense of oneness,” Brand said. “I’m quite a neurotic thinker, quite an adrenalized person. But after meditation, I felt this beautiful serenity and selfless connection. My tendency towards selfishness, I felt that exposed as a superficial and pointless perspective to have.”

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Abba star loses multi-million dollar case against resort

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Former Abba star Anni-Frid Reuss has lost a lawsuit aimed at pushing a Quigong resort specialising in Chinese medicine and meditation into bankruptcy to recoup a multi-million dollar loan, a lawyer said Friday.

“My client (Marcus Bongart) is very relieved,” his lawyer Arne Kaellen told AFP after the court rejected Reuss’s petition.

The Malmoe district court on Thursday ruled against Reuss and her companion Henry Smith. They had asked that the Yangtorp Qigong resort be liquidated to allow them to recover a loan of 46 million kronor (4.9 million euros, 7 million dollars).

The Yangtorp resort, which comprises a hotel and temple, meanwhile insisted the money was a donation from Reuss, better known as Frida to Abba fans.

The court ordered Reuss and Smith to pay the legal costs in the case, amounting to 65,575 kronor.

Their lawyer Carl-Gustaf Soeder told the Expressen daily he was surprised by the verdict, but added that the ruling was “just the first step in a long process.”

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“My client (Marcus Bongart) is very relieved,” his lawyer Arne Kaellen told AFP after the court rejected Reuss’s petition.
The Malmoe district court on Thursday ruled against Reuss and her companion Henry Smith. They had asked that the Yangtorp Qigong resort be liquidated to allow them to recover a loan of 46 million kronor (4.9 million euros, 7 million dollars).

The Yangtorp resort, which comprises a hotel and temple, meanwhile insisted the money was a donation from Reuss, better known as Frida to Abba fans.

The court ordered Reuss and Smith to pay the legal costs in the case, amounting to 65,575 kronor.
Their lawyer Carl-Gustaf Soeder told the Expressen daily he was surprised by the verdict, but added that the ruling was “just the first step in a long process.”

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Actress Lindsay Wagner takes a holistic path

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Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA: You may know Lindsay Wagner as the patched-together heroine of TV’s “Bionic Woman.” But even before that 1970s series, she was an ardent advocate of holistic health.

Wagner, 61, will speak Saturday at a Palm Springs Women in Film & Television luncheon in La Quinta, where she’s had a home for more than a year.

But she wasn’t sure what to talk about because she’s been more devoted to her holistic health studies for the past decade than her film and television career.

Wagner has devoted much of her time to working with convicted assailants in Los Angeles jails and conducting workshops with their families on how to awaken their human potential and heal emotional scars.

For her, finding ways to integrate body, mind and spirit can help anyone with their personal growth.

“That is what was going to keep me in balance while going through this strange and unnatural process of being a star and an icon,” Wagner said while eating a vegetarian meal at an El Paseo restaurant.

“It’s a very strange life and I found that (while) working 12 to 18 hours a day, learning things like health and meditation and power naps and understanding those principles were very helpful to my health. On an emotional-psychological level, to have a spiritual path that was grounding and richening was so valuable to keep my sanity going.”

Wagner is of a protege of Dr. Gladys McGeary, one of the founders of the holistic health movement in the United States. McGeary ran the Edgar Cayce Outpatient Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and wrote “The Physician Within You.” Wagner once did promotion for McGeary and recently attended her 90th birthday celebration.

Wagner also is a student of the late William Hornaday, co-founder of the Church of Religious Science with the late Ernest Holmes. It was Hornaday who actually started Wagner on her holistic journey.

“I had a very bad case of ulcers when I was a kid, just before I turned 20,” she said. “UCLA was wanting to operate, but Dr. Hornaday and a colleague, who was a medical doctor (and) a practitioner of Science of Mind, came to me because Dr. Hornaday’s secretary was my boyfriend’s mother. They offered to help me if I wanted to possibly avoid the surgery. They taught me to meditate, they taught me self investigation, they put me on a severe fast (and) they taught me to do spiritual mind treatments, which is using the visualization of a healthy body with calling on the divine.”

After six weeks, her ulcers were gone, she said. She doesn’t recommend that regimen without professional supervision because she ingested nothing but skim milk for six weeks while meditating.

But Wagner said she learned so much about her human potential that she decided to begin a lifetime study of Hornaday’s philosophy of integrating the body, mind and spirit.

“By the time I started acting, I was already convinced,” she said. “I considered actually quitting the business at one point to become a homeopath.”

Listening to the body

Wagner actually practices several types of meditation. She sets aside at least an hour each morning for whatever technique she needs to balance herself — whether that means relaxing or re-energizing.

“When I’m talking about being balanced, I’m not talking about some horrible thing that happened to me yesterday,” she said. “(It’s) everything from the toxins in our food and the toxins in the air we breathe. To have the chakra system – the energy system of the body – balanced, it’s (about) going to the core. The core knows exactly what we need. In one moment we need more energy than we do at another. So to be connected to our core, that’s a lifestyle that helps me have more energy when I need it and be calm when I don’t need it all.”

Wagner, who has co-authored books on acupuncture and vegetarian food, supplements her diet and meditation with herbs and vitamins. She found primrose oil and Vitamin E helpful with the hot flashes associated with menopause. But she’d rather “listen to my body” than follow a strict regimen. She often discontinues using some supplements for a week or so.

The key to her holistic approach, she said, is “looking at the body and the mind and the spirit altogether. You can’t eliminate any one of them. You have to be balanced to have the total healing.”

Wagner says she’s more productive now than when she was younger because she can manage her energy better.

“I have learned through my life that the more grounded I am, the more energy I have to give to what I’m doing in the moment,” she said. “That’s way less tiring and way less draining of energy, so I outlast a lot of kids, so to speak, when I’m doing the same type of thing. I’m using my energy much more efficiently.

“I feel better than I used to feel ever. There are some times I wish I had some of that excess energy, but, when I look at it, I wouldn’t trade where I am today.”

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