It's no wonder Max Simon started meditating before he learned how to read, considering who his parents are: David Simon, M.D., cofounder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and Julia Simon, a longtime teacher of Transcendental Meditation. As an adult, Simon, now 26, began teaching meditation, but soon noticed the lack of young people attending his classes and events. So he created Selfcentered, an organization that aims to inspire a new generation of meditators. How? By teaching a million young people to use mindfulness techniques by 2010.
How is the Selfcentered movement different from more traditional schools of meditation?
Selfcentered focuses more on the life skills mindfulness can offer, such as the ability to communicate and listen more clearly, tap into creativity, and feel comfortable in any setting. We also take a different spin on the student-teacher dynamic. If you look at the traditional model of learning, it often involves a lecture. You sit for an hour and just listen. Instead, we play games and host all kinds of events where people can learn meditation tools and then spend the rest of the evening enjoying each other's company. It's less about a teacher dispensing wisdom and more about experiencing these newfound skills in a community of like-minded individuals.
One of your trademark events is a "public display of meditation." What's that?
It's the opportunity to practice quieting your mind even in the midst of total chaos. Participants first meet in a designated park for a quick meditation debriefing. Then we all walk silently to a busy spot -- such as a corner of Hollywood Boulevard -- sit shoulder to shoulder, and meditate for as little as five minutes or as long as 30. People of all experience levels can join in, and the learning is profound. You discover that even as the world is moving a million miles an hour, there's a place inside you that remains calm. Almost every time we do it, at least one passerby sits down to join us.
What do you hope inspiring a million people to be Selfcentered will achieve?
It will create a whole new model for adolescence and young adulthood. We go through so much suffering as we grow up, trying to figure out who we are and what we have to offer the world. As our movement gains momentum, it can serve as a guiding force to get people into a healthier, more centered space earlier in life.