Make yourself at om, doll, and let me introduce you to a model of mindfulness and style. You may know Suze Yalof Schwartz already from The Today Show, Good Morning America and The View, where she used to represent Glamour and Vogue magazines, giving helpful style advice. Today, this telegenic tastemaker is a spiritual entrepreneur, the founder of a chic meditation center in Los Angeles called Unplug Meditation that’s breathing new life into the age-old practice. A SoulCycle for serenity, if you will. Our gal discovered meditation in 2012 as a way to manage her busy life as a fashion editor and mother of three, and now she’s devoted herself full-time to taking it mainstream. We were just about to pick Suze’s tranquil brain about how to deal with the inevitable stress that comes with hosting a Thanksgiving or holiday fete for family or friends. Take a deep breath, darlin’. Hostess nirvana awaits…
The hour before a party starts can be so stressful as you put the finishing touches on things, deal with last-minute issues and anticipate the arrivals. What’s the best way to manage pre-party jitters?
Know your mantra. Mine is, “If I have fun, so will everyone else.” Know that no one cares about the details as much as you do. So, one hour before, crank your favorite music. Take 15 minutes to look good so you feel good. And, the second the first doorbell rings, just let go and connect with people. Look them in the eyeballs and be present.
Is there a specific relaxation technique you recommend that can be done easily right before your guests arrive, even when you’re all dressed up?
The good news is that, wIth meditation, you never have to worry about breaking a sweat, so you can even use the techniques while your first guest is walking to the door. Just deepening your breath will calm you down. At Unplug, we use a technique called the Breath of Five. Inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five. This is great to do right before an event. It will put you at ease and make you feel calm.
What if something goes terribly wrong during the party – like I drop the turkey? What’s your best tip for regaining one’s composure?
When things go wrong, take three long and deep breaths. Then laugh it off or do your best to fix it. If the food comes out raw, just order pizza. I will never forget going to the editor-in-chief’s apartment for the launch of Domino. She served cold pizza and champagne. No one cared and everyone had the best time. It is never about the food and always about the vibe.
Hotel Costes, Volume 11
What’s the best way to ensure that guests feel relaxed and at ease?
You have to set the tone from within. Then look to music – Hotel Costes on Pandora is always a good go-to – and candles. My favorite candle of all time is Ralph Lauren Pied-a-Terre. It’s a blend of French tuberose, jasmine, geranium and orange flower. And never make them take their shoes off – that’s a party killer.
What are the signs that your guests are feeling at ease?
They’re smiling, laughing, drinking and not clinging to you.
Why is it so important to utilize tools for relaxation?
We’re so hyper-connected to technology today that people can’t even look each other in the eye any more. Everyone is so busy running around that they’re missing out on life as it’s happening. I honestly feel that everyone needs to give themselves a time out for their health and well-being. And all you need to do to get into the present moment is access your breath. Experiencing your breath helps to anchor you to the present. You don’t even need to go into a studio to do that. It’s great when you do come here though, because we can help guide you, and it’s fun and inspiring. But, if you’re not close by, you can meditate with the masters online. Sharon Salzberg is incredible and has a ton of YouTube videos. I love Andy Puddicombe from Headspace and Deepak Chopra. Meditation is so accessible.
How did you get started in meditation?
I was feeling stressed out and my mother-in-law suggested that I focus on my breathing and learn to meditate. I felt so much better after I did a breathing exercise that I also wanted to meditate, and I realized that there was no place to just pop in and do it. Every place said you have to do the intro course or the eight-week program or pay $1,400. I was like, why is there no SoulCycle for meditation? I want to build it. I’ll do this. My husband said, “You might want to learn how to meditate first.”
Good point. So how did you go about learning?
I took every single class I could. I did the 21-day meditation series with Deepak Chopra. I took the UCLA mindfulness course. I did Vedic meditation with a private teacher. I hired private teachers. I listened to every podcast and watched howcasts all over the internet. I read all the books and watched all the videos. Then I started dropping into all the meditation studios. That’s when I realized what was effective for me, what I liked and who I found inspirational.
What changes did you notice In yourself?
One, I became a nicer mom. I was able to press my inner pause button before reacting to things. So there is now space between when things happen and how I respond. I’m more focused. I’m nicer. And little things don’t bother me anymore. That’s what it does for me. But there are people with anxiety who say it makes them feel less anxious. And people who are depressed who say it makes them feel happier. I didn’t know half the stuff that meditation could do before I opened Unplug. I’m learning as I go along.
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Unplug Meditation Photos: Marc Leibowitz