Photo Credit: Burst, Unsplash.com

Written by Luke Iorio
July 31, 2019

Picture this:

You’re a sophomore in college. You connect with an incredibly talented music group that you sign and they go multi-platinum. You launch a record label, tech-investment fund, and make a splash in the music industry. All the while, you’re not even thirty yet. 

What do you do next?

If you answered by saying you walk away from it with no idea what you want to do, then you and Jesse Israel have a lot in common. 

This isn’t how I got to know who Jesse is, though. I’d begun deepening my journey into meditation and mindfulness when a couple of years ago I heard about this thing called the Big Quiet—thousands of people gathering in iconic venues (Central Park, The Natural History Museum in NYC under the enormous blue whale, Madison Square Garden) to meditate. That’s right, to meditate together en masse

How does one go from being an up and coming big shot in the music industry to being an event and community builder in the meditation space?

Quite naturally—with anxiety, panic attacks, and stress!

Seriously, Jesse found meditation as he was searching for ways to cope, deal with, and better handle ever-increasing levels of anxiety and stress he was wrestling with. 

“It was in my early 20s, going through that [debilitating panic attack] as a young guy, with perceived success on the outside—through this record label—and these challenges I was going through inside, that I started to look for tools and ways to cope with these mental health issues I was going through. And I also didn’t have the space to talk about it either. It’s not like it was something I was talking about with my guy friends or peers.” 

Beyond Stress

What I’ve seen more and more of—both from my own firsthand experience and from my clients’ experiences—is that while many people are finding meditation due to stress or wellbeing issues, that’s only the beginning of what unfolds. Meditation ultimately moves them passed those experiences and produces something more.

Jesse further explains this himself: “As the anxiety and stress started to shift out of my body, I started to get a little more clear on what I wanted to give myself.”  For him, that first showed up as new ways to operate within his record label and then starting to blend together other interests and passion points—specifically investing in tech startups just as they’d been investing in new bands.

However, after a few years, “it became clear that it was time for the next chapter . . . which I could really feel in my gut and in my body, meant moving beyond . . . to step into the unknown and do something different that woke up and put into practice some of these other skills that I had.” Jesse was looking for other opportunities to bring those other skills and passions to life.

Very often, meditation, mindfulness, and other awareness practices help you begin to see what was already there, but that you hadn’t previously recognized. At times, this can mean facing unresolved anxieties and emotions; and at others, it can mean seeing the potential and opportunity to bring about what you’ve wanted to create or experience.

But It’s Not a Straight Line!

You can’t know you like something until you experience it, and that’s why experimentation is an important part of determining what might be next for you. You don’t have to have it all figured out before you leap⁠—instead, try a few things out.

Jesse knew he loved getting people together, based on running a group called the Burger Boys (a men’s group that used the excuse of having a beer and burger to get together and have real talk) or the Cyclones (a cycling group that would explore New York City, becoming both a social support circle and a social impact group that raised funds for worthwhile causes). Running these groups, which Jesse largely put together from his own interests and need to be in community with others, led him to try putting together a meditation group that became the Medi-Club and later The Big Quiet.

The Hidden Challenge

“I identified so much with being this young guy that had signed a successful band, had a record label, and saw this success early on. When I made the decision to leave that and to explore the next thing without knowing what it was, after the period of excitement started to settle, I then had to readjust for what it meant for me. I was a guy who was about to turn 30, living in New York City, with very successful entrepreneurial, creative peers; and when people would ask ‘what do you do?’ I’d say ‘Well, I’m trying to figure that out.’ That was really confronting for me.”

More often than we may realize or care to admit, a major portion of what keeps us locked in where we are⁠—maintaining our status quo⁠—is identity. We question how other people will look at us, what will they question, what comparisons will they draw; and at the heart of this, we’re asking the same questions.

Jesse explains how much he’s had to face and continues to face: “That relationship to how my identity was attached to what I was saying and how I was perceived by other people outweighed the purpose behind what I was doing—which was the reason I went and did it in the first place.”

Jesse attributes his daily meditation practice to being one of the key ingredients that kept him centered and moving forward, giving enough time and space for his next venture to take shape. “Anyone that’s going through a career transition [or any big transition], I recommend that you pick up a practice—even if it’s just a few minutes a day of mindfulness.”

A Reason to Gather and Then I Shared . . .

The desire to be in community and connection pulls at many of us—we’re wired to connect. Bringing people together is also usually a lot easier than most of us make it out to be. Jesse’s done it with burgers and beer, bicycling, and meditation. Others have organized scary movie nights and scrapbooking parties. Whatever your interest, it can serve as the canvas for people to gather and connect. People just need something in common to let their guard down slightly and begin to share.

And if you’re willing, you can be the model of that sharing when you feel the time’s right.

As Jesse shared, at the end of his first meditation group meeting, he decided to talk about what was going on in his own process, around self-doubt around what he was going to do next. It opened it up into a conversation with the others in the room—where those with perceived success could speak openly and honestly, too.

“This beautiful thing happened where we all realized we were going through the same thing, more or less, and had never talked or communicated about it before with each other. And because we saw each other online and through our work successes, there was no ability for us to perceive that the other person was going through similar challenges. We broke down this wall and we’re able to let out that collective ‘ah, we’re all just human; it’s not only me . . .’ and that’s when I realized this is a big part of what I’m meant to be doing.”

A few findings from my own journey, that Jesse spoke to very well in his interview, serve as guideposts to navigate through uncertainty and find your way:

  • Whatever’s next for me is something that finds me. It remains elusive when I try too hard to find it.
  • Patience and openness have revealed much more to me than pushing forward or trying to figure it all out on my own. 
  • Meditation supports patience and openness, as well as self-compassion and self-awareness, and is an even more important practice during times of transition.
  • When I gather with others, when I explore new interests, when I take up projects or areas of study fueled by curiosity (and maybe a few experiments), that’s when the light bulb goes on.

And, it’s nearly always so much easier to bring a few people together. A simple invite and a reason to gather (a common interest, hobby, or book) are usually all it takes.

Hear more from Jesse Israel about The Big Quiet in his interview on the One Idea Away Podcast!

Photo Credit: Burst, Unsplash.com