Max Simon and the Self-Centered Tour
How do you inspire one million young people to meditate? Make it sexy. Make it cool. Tall order? Maybe. But such is the clear intention of Max Simon, founder of the selfcentered tour and son of Julia Simon, Transcendental Meditation teacher and Vedic astrologer, and Dr. David Simon, co-founder of the world-renowned Chopra Center in San Diego.
Part of the answer is packaging, beginning with the title. Max relates, “The name came about when I was hanging out with my dad, talking about the misconceptions people have about meditation. I wanted to come up with a name that stepped out of the traditional mold in order to break through the stigma. He stopped, looked me in the eye, and said: ‘selfcentered.’ Done deal.”
Max recounts his journey from Chopra Center kid to selfcentered leader as a quest for finding personal excellence and belonging. As a teenager, he tried everything from punk rock to soccer (“I realized I was the same size as the ball...”) to taking drugs to joining a college fraternity. Then he was offered a job, which landed him $10,000 per month as a nineteen-year-old loan officer. The surface was the epitome of success. But inside, he felt “empty and stressed out all the time,” so he wisely “asked Dad for help.”
His father invited him to help out at the Chopra Center. At the age of twenty-two, he became the Center’s youngest teacher (since its 1996 opening). Despite being young, he had experience; Max learned his first meditation technique when only four years old. At the Center, he taught meditation, yoga and Ayurveda to people twice his age. After a few years of that, he became acutely aware that he was not teaching his peers. He wanted to reach the people whose iPods were set to the same playlist as his and he realized his contemporaries would be more inspired to meditate if the packaging were different.
Photo: Adam Latham, angeladam.com
Ja-Yoh! Jump In!
Max Simon (pictured below) moved to Hollywood only one week before selfcentered tour’s first public event on February 16, “to be in the thick of it all...I don’t even own anything yet.” This spontaneous, fully-engaged action is typical in the selfcentered scene. They call it, “Ja-Yoh,” Chinese for “Jump In!” – a word enthusiastically called out at selfcentered events, reminding participants that life is not a show to watch, but a juicy experience to dive into.
He’s finding and training a generation of new school consciousness leaders, pulling them out of the world and into themselves. Max is fully aware that he is not bringing anything new in terms of content. “It’s not that we’re saying anything different. It’s just that we’re different people saying it.” They’re saying it with a fresh spin. Max and his crew of Awareness Architects (he brought this crackerjack team together in three months) have commissioned a complete line of hip selfcentered t-shirts made from organic cotton, developed promotional packaging which includes photos of Black Eyed Peas’ APL smiling in meditation (in his selfcentered “still ghetto” tee) and co-created a twelve-hour day that can only be described as a sensory playground designed to give even the most reluctant novice a profound taste of selfcentered meditational bliss.
The 12 hour Self-Centered Tour – 02.16.08
When I entered the room, Eugene Gant, Eugenius (pictured right) was leading the group in the opening “musitation,” a magical meditation infused with sound to bring the listener beyond the mind into heart-based inner stillness. Eugenius has a voice like sun-warmed chocolate. His daughter, Jayla Truth, an angel brought to Earth by yoga teacher and fellow architect, Jodi Handrahan, runs around, plays, peeps out and smiles. I’ve been told she is known to tell people the color of their auras and instruct them to “Be the change.” The promotional posters conjure images of a rock concert. Inside the event, a couch claims center stage, surrounded by black and red pillows and scattered chair jacks. The Architects are barefoot, sporting t’ai chi pants and selfcentered T-shirts with sayings like “Shh....I’m meditating,” reminding you to go slow even when going fast, to trust yourself and each other. It’s undeniably safe in this selfcentered world of our creation, this cross between a world-class metaphysical/motivational seminar and the oh-so-relaxed teenage memories of a typical Friday night hangin’ in the living room. It’s so good you can taste it.
In the Chocolate Meditation, I’m given a piece of Theo’s Organic Chocolate and instructed to smell it, feel it, practically name it before taking the first ultra-aware bite. It’s not just a candy, it’s a relationship. After the mouthwatering mouthful, one of the participants, eight-year old Garrett, raised his hand to share what he learned. “Don’t just shove things in your mouth.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, Garrett. Who knew that feeding children chocolate could teach them to eat more consciously?
Maybe Garrett’s mom knew, 41-year-old Christina Brown, Max’s COO (Chief Opportunity Officer) or maybe another conscious cohort. This is not a one-man show. It was forty-five minutes into the program, led first by Eugenius’ musitation, then Darshana’s deep slow motion directions to breathe, connect and chill, before Simon came on stage and said, “Hi. I’m Max,” demonstrating his main motive behind the mission: make friends, and “create a global network.”
By the end of the day, we’ve listened to a mini-concert including a spontaneous duet by the simultaneously raw and polished Malik Houlihan and primal goddess Jamie Spears; we’ve taken a yoga class, built trust and community through our clumsy and sincere contact improv; and we’ve shared lunch with a heart-based tribe. I’ve also been given a musitations CD, a selfcentered T, a luscious shoulder massage, a party invite and some of the best hugs around.
PDM – 03.17.08
“Spread the word. Let’s create a scene!” said the email invite for the world premiere of the PDM, or Public Display of Meditation. The PDM is one of more than fifty selfcentered signature experiences hitting the streets as the delicious new definition of cool. The launching location: Graumann’s Chinese Theater, the heart of Hollywood and the most famous theater in the world. It’s a location used to stage spectacles, but not quite like this. Yogamates’ Kasey Luber introduces the cyberspace recording of this PDM as, “a group of people who are going to sit down, meditate and see what happens.”
Two dozen people, including me and my ten year-old-son, did just that. We sat on the sidewalk in an easy cross-legged position and dropped into still inner sanctuary. “Do not open your eyes,” instructed Max, “Even if security comes, which is a very real possibility.” They did, but not right away. First we were visited by Snoopy and Cap’n Jack. It felt as though every tourist had chosen 4:00 P.M. on March 17 to walk the Boulevard, and a few of the more experientially-minded passers-by joined us.
Security appeared only after we stood up to Max’s shout of “Ja-Yoh!” walked in silent single file to the steps across from the El Capitan and sat down again. “You must get up. You must move.” I felt my son start for a moment, then relax against me. We continued our apparently subversive activity of doing nothing for about five minutes until Max’s “Ja-Yoh!” cued us to stand and move to the nearby fountain. Again, the security, “I know you can hear me…You must get up.” After four minutes, we did.
Max was inspired to initiate the PDM with a kiss. Not his kiss. As he said, “I saw two people making out one day, and I thought, ‘If they can do that in public, why can’t we meditate in public?’” PDM beautifully shatters the preconception that meditation happens in the peaceful, quiet and controlled atmosphere of your home, temple, meditation center or yoga class. Stillness is just as available in the chaos of the big city, surrounded by hawkers, security and traffic. This is true selfcentered liberation.
On the walk back to our grassy meeting place on Franklin, Simon comes up with the next T-shirt idea: “Meditation is not a crime.”
conscious indulgence –03.29.08
The setting is a cave-like room. Forty people select from seating options surrounding a stage: pillows strewn across the floor, a hand-hewn organically shaped wood bench and an ornate four-poster bed with satin bolsters. We’re at Bonsorte Studio in Santa Monica. It’s Saturday night, and the tribe is partying selfcentered style with a mixture of silence, connection and music.
“The hug is the new handshake.” Max recounts a brief history of the handshake’s origin as a way to keep the enemy from drawing a weapon. We practice meeting each other with heartshakes. No enemies here. When you’re centered in self, it’s easy to see that and remain in a state of inclusivity.
Although originally aimed at the demographic ranging from 18 to 30, tonight Max speaks of his generation as “psychographic…It’s not an age.” He has proof, as two elementary school-age boys sit adjacent to several grey-haired adults all singing along with the Monkey Chanting Crew, demonstrating the universal appeal of what Max calls “technologies so that you’re in love with life.” You can get selfcentered at any age. The tools are simple: “Breathe. Connect. Chill. See what’s real.”
Sign up for The Vibe newsletter, get selfcentered merchandise of your own and get involved at www.getselfcentered.com. Enter code AMP701 for an event discount. View the PDM at www.lime.com.
Sage Knight is a freelance writer, circle facilitator and Awareness Midwife in service to what is emerging in her clients and the world we share. www.generationsofwomen.com