A Conversation with Biet Simkin: Breaking the Stigma
Recently, we sat down with Biet Simkin, world renowned meditation leader and OYH January Spotlight Community Member, and talked about the stigma surrounding mental health, and how to work through mental blocks. Biet has effortlessly created groundbreaking meditation experiences led to a revolutionary trend, and a more relatable approach to the meditation practice.
OYH: We named our studios in Montauk and Brooklyn ONEYOGAHOUSE. We’d love to know: What does ONEness mean to you?
Biet: It has no meaning. That’s the beauty of it. Once you attain it you cease to exist. By ceasing to exist you are no longer your biggest problem. Admitting you are your biggest problem is the first step. Becoming one with everything else is the solution.
OYH: Your life journey has seen the major swings of great love + personal tragedy, addiction + spiritual growth, the depths of fame + shame. What are some insights gained from your spiritual journey that you integrate in your meditation practice to move from “meltdowns to miracles”?
Biet: I try not to qualify meltdowns above miracles, instead I see them as two parts of an awesome operating system. I see our selectiveness as what causes much of our problems. Incredible authors, composers, and philosophers in history all suffered. Suffering isn’t avoidable. It’s more I ask, how can I use this pain to serve the world? How can I use this pain to serve the divinity of life? That question leads to many answers and then while in the call of duty we are swept away from our endless stream of self-pity and agony into the joy of our existence.
OYH: When moving through feelings of doubt & shame, how do you take care of yourself?
Biet: I move, I practice self-care, I journal, I pray more and harder, I get into service, I actively pursue wholeness. I allow the shame and pain to have a home in me. I don’t run from it or rush away. I have found my shame to be a glorious entry point.
OYH: What is your advice for anyone just starting to work through mental blocks or building a self-care routine for themselves?
Biet: Start small and build a routine. You don’t need to become that girl you are jealous of on Instagram overnight. It takes time.
OYH: What is the best way to be there for a loved one when they are struggling with their mental health?
Biet: I think acceptance is the answer to all of our problems. It’s important to remember that we can’t change anyone else. I say love the crap out of people and don’t enable them. Loving and enabling are two very different things, you know what I mean?
OYH: Some of the audience tuning in today are also teachers and educators so we would love to know: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Biet: “Relax more!” Many of us think things come from effort, but they don’t. They come from faith and relaxation.
OYH: You had mentioned during our IG Live interview that you often default to being negative. Was there a specific moment in time when you became aware of it? What made you want to change it, and realize it was no longer benefitting you?
Biet: Just getting to know myself, and observing myself slowly. I started using a tool, that I mention in my book, called ‘Divided Attention’ where you float above yourself in order to see yourself. You start to see what you actually look like without judgement. I have found that seeing what we really look like can be a hard pill to swallow, because we do find things that we have been hiding from ourselves for years. It’s really important for us to look at ourselves and say, “What am I actually up to?” At one point in my life, I was hiding how negative I was from myself. And it took me a few years to see that not only am I negative, but also to notice the kind of flavor of negativity that I am.
OYH: What are some books that you would recommend to our audience related to spiritual growth/mindfulness, self-worth, and/or mental health?
Biet: Mine? 😉
OYH: What is an effective way that we as yoga teachers can 1. educate to dispel some of the stigma surrounding mental health and 2. advocate for policies to support people and their families struggling with their mental health?
Biet: I feel that’s a huge component of yoga. My father, who was an awakened teacher, always said that we are all mentally ill, in varying degrees. So for me, it’s finding ways I can relate. Having a mind at all is kind of a mental illness. I actually think the purpose of yoga and meditation is to heal this mental illness. However, all we have is one day. Mental illness is like Groundhog Day, you always start with day one all over again.
OYH: How do you think the stigma around talking about mental health has changed over your lifetime/generation?
Biet: I think everything is much more vulnerable in the millennial culture. In a sense, it’s almost over glorified to be “flawed” or “sick” or “overweight” or “ugly”. It should be! We have spent so long hiding our shadows, and I think everyone is just fed up! We don’t want glossy celeb, we want raw real! We don’t want blonde white girl only, ever and always, we want everyone to come aboard! I know this is a broad answer, but I see some of my most put-together friends now who are celebs sharing openly about their mental anguish and I think it helps everyone!
OYH: Being that one of our themes for the month is intention setting, what is the biggest goal you want to accomplish in the next year?
Biet: Being even more relaxed than I already am, pausing to shut up and let the divinity that guides speak through me even more often. I’m always asking how the pain I experience is here to serve my awakening and the world at large, rather than resorting to old coping mechanisms of self-pity.
OYH: You have a special event coming up in a week. Can you tell us about it?
Biet: I’m doing this incredible event, “The Spirituality of Dirty Secrets”. It’s a thesis point about what we do when we realize our humanity is always going to be coming with us. We will be moving into a shame exercise, where we will share vulnerably with partners in breakout groups about shame, secrets, and things we have never wanted to share.
OYH: So tell us, what’s your dirty secret? Or the biggest mental block you’ve had to work through?
Biet: The idea that I am fat. The feeling that feelings are too much for me and that when they become too overwhelming, I must mute them with food. That’s been my biggest wound and my biggest thing to heal. It was also a secret until the recent years. I came out of the “closet” about it. It feels so freeing to be with all of my humanity. Even the gross, icky, underbelly. That’s why I am doing my event, “Spirituality of Dirty Secrets” on January 30th.
“Spirituality of Dirty Secrets” was created to transform your outlook on secrets by turning shame into spiritual value. In this workshop, Biet will lead you through the process of reframing your mindset by sharing wisdom about secrets and shadows, guiding you in meditation, providing an immersive musical experience, and creating the space for you to be vulnerable about your own secrets.
Join Biet on January 30th for a transformative experience! Click here to sign up, and use code ‘OYHxBIET’ for $150 off!