• Without Walls: Biet Simkin

    Meditation is one of those activities that sounds like a really good idea. You sit down, close your eyes, and just… exist—what could be easier?  But if you’ve ever tried the practice, you know it’s way harder than it seems. Watching your breath is, let’s face it, kind of boring, and getting present can seem like a constant ping-pong match between memories and mental to-do lists.

    Enter Biet Simkin, a New Yorker with punk rock roots, a passion for avant-garde film, and an approach to meditation that’s part traditional, part experiential art. Biet learned meditation and Hatha yoga as a kid—taught by her father, a psychotherapist and shaman—but as she got older, she fell hard for art, music, and film, and she began to look for the places where her creative and spiritual paths intersected.  “The meditation work I do is partially derived from avant-garde cinema,” she explains. “Meditation and art are both about the perception of beauty and the quest to be a part of it.”

    So what does that actually look like? Biet runs pop-up events through her company, Center of the Cyclone, each in a different inspiring location in New York City. The events are invite only—you have to text her to get notified of when and where—and the results are totally unexpected. “The idea is to bring meditation into the real world,” Biet says. “The events merge meditation with galleries, hotels, and other places where people come to experience beauty. That combination makes us ask ourselves how we can utilize and pursue beauty in new ways.” That usually means a 45-minute session in which Biet guides the participants through breathwork, sensory deprivation exercises, Hatha yoga techniques, oms, and an eye-gazing exercise that she says epitomizes her work.

    If it sounds intense, that’s because it is. “Meditation will change your whole life from inside out,” Biet says. “Many people are terrified of asking the big questions, like who am I, what do I want? Once you start meditating you get the answers to a lot of that shit. But meditation is not a magical wand; it’s all about follow through. It’s the glass ball through which you can see what your life is destined to look like, and then you have to go out and actually do the footwork.” She goes on, “Meditation should be dramatic. It should be a shock, because we’re going to go through shit in our lives no matter what.” Meditation builds resilience, and with practice, we can learn to find calm no matter what’s going on in the world around us. In Biet’s words: “While your personality is dealing with whatever bullshit, the soul is always chilled the fuck out.”

    That idea resonates with the New Yorkers who attend her events, and no wonder. Center of the Cyclone is named for a Zen Buddhist concept: “Life is like a cyclone and meditation allows us to be in the center of the storm,” Biet explains. Another reason they keep going back? “They’re coming to meet like-minded people, to fall in love, to network,” she says. “Many magical things can happen under the influence of our higher selves.”

    Can’t make it to one of Biet’s events? Here are her tips for starting your own meditation practice, one breath at a time.

    Just Be
    “Try to meditate while sitting at a table and sipping on a cup of tea. Begin to get present to the room, your breath, the tea, your body."

    “Another idea: begin meditating by taking 10 minutes seated on a cushion or chair, gazing at a fresh bouquet of flowers and a lit scented candle. This brings attention and beauty together for an experience that is separate from everything else in your life—an ode to beauty, so to speak.”

    Start Small
    “Begin with meditating for 10 minutes daily, five days a week. Then move up to 30 minutes daily with the aim of practicing at least five days a week.”

    Meditate Everywhere (and Anywhere)
    Focus on yourself and the things around you. Look for beauty everywhere and in everything. Actively seek things to be grateful for. I teach a practice called divided attention, which is the ability to meditate while you do everything else, even wash the dishes. It’s the experience of watching your life like a film. Divided attention has to be learned, but once you get it, you can bring your spiritual life into the regular world and every part of your day.”

    Don't Accept Busy
    When one finds time to put meditation first, the feeling of busyness lifts, thus creating an easier life, where not only meditation fits, but everything else runs smoothly! Living without meditation is like riding in a car that’s very low on gas; it drives but you have a sneaking feeling something will go wrong soon. Meditation takes the sneaking feeling out and leaves you comfortable, secure, and empowered.”

    Go Easy On Yourself
    Meditating might not work at first because you aren't used to doing it, so expect some disappointment. If, however, you utilize beauty and gratitude in your sitting you should feel a pretty instantaneous shift. Beauty transmutes fear and gratitude transmutes anxiety, which rearranges your perception. Also, the use of deep breathing brings oxygen into the lungs and provides a physical sense of ease.”

    Befriend Your Innermost Self
    “Chase your inner world with the same zeal that you chase a potential lover! There is no greater friend, business partner, or lover than your own inner world.”

    Get In the Know
    Follow Biet on Instagram and Twitter to get an invite to upcoming Center of the Cyclone events. “Next I’ll be creating interactive, immersive, meditation ceremonies inside art museums,” she says. “They’ll incorporate high fashion, spirituality, and music in a beautiful space.” She’s also set to release her new “Enya-meets-Bjork” album in April, because “bringing the worlds of music, performance, meditation, and art together makes presence possible.”

    Photos by Elizabeth Weinberg

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