Raised by a shaman in New York City and signed to Sony Records at 19, Biet's life has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, clarity and addiction. Now dubbed the “Lady Gaga of Meditation,” her approach to spirituality is pragmatic and practical: You will find enlightenment within your life's circumstances, and nowhere else. It's not about changing the facts of your life, but working with and within them.
Biet Simkin: My family emigrated from a communist Russia in '79. I was born a month later. They had literally emigrated a month before. My dad had cured himself of tuberculosis in the woods of Russia with a secret shaman. He was this newfound Torah reading Jew and mystic and newly God-believing. He had always been an angry chain-smoking atheist. This was this huge transformation.
Biet Simkin: He had actually decided to have circumcision because, in communist Russia, that wasn't something that was being done at the age of 40 with no anesthetic to prove his Judaism to God or whatever. And so, he had just had unanesthetized circumcision, and my mom went into labor with me. She gives birth to me in this hospital which is Elmhurst Hospital which is basically the seat of the coronavirus right now which is so…
Biet Simkin: Gives birth to me in a couple of hours. My mom was more like a baby machine. She just popped babies out pretty easily. She calls him up after the two-hour labor or whatever and was like, "I just had your daughter. So, please come to the freaking hospital." My dad's like, "I can't walk." He had this unanesthetized surgery. She's like, "Yeah. You're going to come here now." He hobbled over to the hospital to meet me.
Biet Simkin: Anyway, that's how it all started. Then, soon after that, she passed away of pancreatic cancer out of nowhere. Anyone who's ever dealt with pancreatic cancer knows that it's not a thing where for years you get to write letters and have feelings. You literally get the diagnosis. Then, right after that, you die. She died. Then, everyone else died. My whole family came here with two sets of grandparents. You talked about music. My grandfather was the first chair violinist for the Leningrad Philharmonic which again because of communism also isn't a great way of making a lot of money which is ironic because it couldn't be a more prestigious position.
Biet Simkin: But they came here, all of them. Within a couple of years after my mom's death, everyone was dead except for my brother and my father. My brother became this angry metal head as a result of what happened. My father was this awakened shaman guy. A lot of people when they lose a parent, they end up with a parent. I ended up with an awakened shaman. It would be like if your whole family dies and then you end up with this person who's like, "You know, there is no meaning to anything, and everything is made of oneness."
Biet Simkin: But he wasn't just fucking around. He wasn't some guy who was a hypocrite. He genuinely was in that state 24 hours a day. I studied with him my whole life, but I don't think I was able to deal with how much pain I was in from having lost my whole family and the poverty and the heaviness of being an immigrant and all the feelings that I had.
Biet Simkin: When I was in high school, all that stuff I started making music to deal in poetry, to deal with all that pain and reading philosophy and all that. I got signed to Sony when I was 19 years old for singing, singer/songwriter. That led me into a 10-year bout of debauch New York City nightlife, high society DJ, in the fashion world, art scene, all that stuff, but hardcore drugs were a big part of all of that. I was still pursuing spirituality.
Biet Simkin: I think if you talk to anyone who want to hung out with me during that time, some of which those people liked me and others didn't, but they would have said that I was this weird person who spoke about the meaning of life at 7:00 in the morning on cocaine, that kind of person.
Biet Simkin: That happened. Then, inside of that, I had a near-death experience. I also had a daughter who died of sudden infant death syndrome when I was 26 years old. Then, my house burnt down. Then, my best friend hung himself. My father died out of nowhere of a heart attack.
Biet Simkin: All of those things happened very quickly over a period of about two years, but I was just so self-absorbed and addicted. To me, it felt like good reason to continue doing heroin and to do more heroin. I lost the baby. I was like, "Heroin." I lost my friend, and I was like, "Heroin."
Biet Simkin: It was just everything felt like a reason to do more heroin. Then, one day, I don't know how, but about 11 years ago, I just had this. I was doing Gurdjieff work, the work that my work is based on today, the Fourth Way. I was just doing divided attention and divided attention and divided attention. One day, I just had this white light moment where I floated up and saw myself from above.
Biet Simkin: For the first time, I could see that I was this depraved drug addict that my life was going nowhere and that within 10 years, I could see... I was 29 at the time, and I was like, "Huh. At 40, I'm not going to be where I want to be." I wanted to have a rich successful life and a husband and children, and Lord knows what else.
Biet Simkin: I just did the math really quickly. I was like, "Oh, wait." I think that if I just keep doing heroin every day for the next 10 years, at 40, I'm definitely not going to be in that position. I'm going to be in a very different position. That realization dragged me into sobriety. I got sober 11 years ago. That was the beginning.
Jeff: Yeah. I've read that, I think, literally, that you were meditating in diapers very much because of your father's influence. It wasn't as if you were unaware of other forms, I suppose, of tools that could give you the same connection that you probably were using drugs to try to actually find and achieve, but during that whole period while you were chasing fame and fortune and as you called that debauch decade, were you practicing meditation and other forms of, I guess, wellness modalities?
Biet Simkin: Oh yeah. I was leaving Bikram classes to go snort cocaine. One of my best friends, she's an heiress to one of the largest art fortunes in the world. Of course, you would think that person would want to spend time with me in the projects which is where I had one of my estates then was in the Chinatown projects. She would come down there with me. There was one event I remember specifically. She was dating some guy, whatever, some, I don't know, some irrelevant dude.
Biet Simkin: He was on crack, and she was on crack. They were smoking crack in my living room. I was doing a bunch of heroin. I did this heroin. Then, I walked away. I sauntered out of the living room. I was like, "I'm going to go meditate." I walked off to the bedroom to go meditate on heroin. I thought to myself, "What is wrong with them doing crack? They're so beneath me and blah, blah."
Biet Simkin: Then, I woke up after meditating and then sleeping for whatever amount of time that heroin has you sleep nine hours, and I walked back into the living room. They had just run out of crack and having a major fight about how they were going to acquire more crack cocaine at that time. Now, it's 2:00 PM the next day basically.
Biet Simkin: My point of telling this story is to say that, yes, I was doing those things, but I was too lazy and self-absorbed to do it in a way that required payment. For anyone who is listening to this podcast, I think we can all relate to really not wanting to delve into the discomfort of real work. No one wants to do an hour and a half of strength training Pilates and yoga. No one wants to do hot and cold showers every day. No one wants to wake up early and meditate for 45 minutes and then do breath pranayama.
Biet Simkin: No one wants that, but then they want the riches of the life that affords them for free. The truth is I did get that. When you snort heroin, when you do LSD, when you take mushrooms, you get all those perks. The price you pay is the complete destruction of your life, your body, your mind and a distance from your soul that you never ever want.
Jeff: I know because you talked about you delineate between different kinds of suffering in your book. It sounds like, at some point, you made the bargain and you traded drugs and alcohol and that lifestyle for some degree of what you call conscious suffering. Is that a fair understanding?
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I think it was baby steps. Whatever I thought conscious suffering was 11 years ago when I got sober, I think I knew that if time went on, my practice would become more and more enlarged. I don't know if you could relate, but I feel like as I become greater and greater at life, the price that I paid for that on the conscious suffering end is higher and higher.
Biet Simkin: It's not the 15 minutes of meditation that I did 11 years ago is going to cut it now.
Jeff: Yeah. It does seem though that, and I'm not sure I would attribute or ascribe this to drugs, but that you had certain kinds of mystical experiences throughout your life that were very important inflection points. I wonder, for example, I think I read in your book where you were hearing a voice every night for a certain series of nights that essentially instructed you not to eat. Maybe, you could tell that story. You'll tell it better than me, but that it was because of this mystical experience that you had that actually led to an incredibly important health discovery in your life.
Jeff: I wonder were you always having those sort of celestial or mystical kinds of experiences or do you think drugs played a part in helping you understand and see the world outside of the limitations of your five senses?
Jeff: I mean I'm not here to necessarily recommend drugs, but I wonder if you make a connection there of like, "Oh yeah, I was opened up to another way of receiving messages of the universe because I was able to expand my mind outside of my limited instruments to perceive reality."
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I would say that's true, but I wouldn't say it was because of drugs. If anything, drugs were like evidence that what I had known to be true my whole life was true. It's like I remember having white light experiences and feeling very connected to the celestial plane growing up. Then, when I did mushrooms in LSD in high school age, I was like, "I was right. It's true." It wasn't like I was seeing something for the first time. I was just being vindicated. Is that the word? It was proven.
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I did have had white light experience as quite a few. I don't know if anyone can relate to this or if you can relate to this, but in between those white light experiences, I had life. That was the thing that I couldn't bear. I could bear white light experiences. I could bear celestial states. It was life that really tripped me up like rent, work, money, hot bods, getting what you want, going for it, ambition, like, showing up sunlight that was really creepy to me at some point in my life like daytime just freaked me out. It just seemed like too much pressure.
Jeff: Then, you had a moment of, I guess, 11 years ago. You just went clean because that's I would say rare to just have the ability to go cold turkey from a place of rock-bottom, but is that how it worked for you?
Biet Simkin: Yeah. It literally went cold turkey. I implemented several tools that I know that I wouldn't have gotten sober without, like, community and meditation. I did things non-negotiably during that time. I went through spiritual practices. I had a spiritual teacher, but yeah. it was over. I had some bouts where I was trying to figure it out. I started trying to get sober in November of 2008. I really got sober in January 2009.
Biet Simkin: There was about a two-month period where I was like, "Maybe, I could do ecstasy." But I had been sober long enough. I had 21 days. I was counting the days. I had 21 days of sobriety when I did ecstasy. I was standing in my bedroom naked with the guy that I had been dating on and off for nine years or whatever.
Biet Simkin: I'm standing there naked on ecstasy in complete shock and looking at him and being like, "Oh my god." This is not as good as sobriety. This guy is not an addict at all. He was like, "What are you talking about?" He just didn't care at all. I was like, "This is it." That day was the last day I ever did anything. The next day was January 31st, 2009. I have just never picked up a drink or a drug after that.
Jeff: Wow. The Fourth Way, to be honest, I wasn't particularly familiar with it until I started reading your book. I wonder if you could describe a little bit of its origin, what it actually means and how you're thinking about it.
Biet Simkin: Yeah. It's a philosophical system. It was brought to the Western world by a man named Gurdjieff who was this really intense crazy cult leader type of guy. He was the teacher of other crazy cult leaders such as Osho and my teacher. He was my father's teacher. I studied his work and the work of Fourth Way with my father growing up.
Biet Simkin: Fourth Way is basically just a philosophical system which my book is basically a dial down easy-to-understand version of, but the idea that we're living underneath these laws, and these laws are created by being a human on this particular planet. These laws don't exist elsewhere. They exist here as a result of the solar system that we live in and as a result of the glandular system that we have within our bodies.
Biet Simkin: There's a map inside of Fourth Way we're king of attuning those two things, the glandular system with the solar system and how those two things are matched. Well, some of the things that really drew me to Fourth Way work is that it's based on verifications and not based on [woo-woo 00:18:41] in the sense that like astrology, for instance.
Biet Simkin: If I'm an astrology person, then I say to you, "Oh, you were born October 6th, 1975. Okay. Well, then that must mean that you're really organized and you're Moody or whatever." But with Fourth Way, it really has just a system of inquiry. It's a system of, "Okay. We believe you're underneath this law." Let's say you're underneath the law of lying or you're underneath the law of whatever, the law of seven which is the law of success.
Biet Simkin: Here, we're going to teach you the system. Then, go out into your life and just see whether you're underneath this law or not. I love to the practice of Fourth Way because it was applicable to my life, and they always said inside the teachings if this doesn't ring true for you or if you can't verify this in your own life, uh, then throw it away. Don’t worry about it. Just focus on the things that you can verify.
Jeff: That's interesting. I suppose it alloys the spiritual and the empirical on some level where it's not just like, "Well, I'm going to read some dusty old tech with the blind faith that a man with a beard in a Merlin's cap might eventually open the doors into heaven," which seems far-fetched but full of beautiful mythology that has been useful and wonderful truths, but this feels more like a scientific or empirical roadmap to success. Here's the principle. You do this. You'll get this which feels reliable.
Biet Simkin: It's strong. It's also very Western. Obviously, like any spiritual person and anyone on a spiritual pursuit began my journey with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism. I read all of those texts. I read the Bhagavad Gita. I was like, "This is me." I still feel very at home when I go to Amma, the hugging gurus ceremonies and stuff. I love chanting and the shaking of the bells and all the Hare Krishna stuff. I love that stuff.
Biet Simkin: But I could tell on some level that there was a bullshit level, bullshit factor for a Western person who was of a Jewish descent to be pursuing those things without any... You know what I mean? There was just this hipster with a trucker hat irony going on there. It's like you're not from a place where trucker hats even exist. You're some privileged fucking Brooklynite.
Biet Simkin: I felt like that. I felt like, wouldn't it be more radical to pursue a study that's based in Western art and in Western teachings and in the [Medicis 00:21:44] and in the Bible because it felt also... I think sometimes when we're on a spiritual pursuit if you do something that's exotic, that may feel like the cool thing to do, but I think, sometimes, the weird, icky like, "Oh, now, I'm studying the Torah," there's nothing glamorous about it. Then, that's where I found the most juice is actually looking at things that I aren't very glamorous.
Jeff: Yeah. Then, you, I suppose, leveraged some of your work and your study of the Fourth Way. I guess the before we move on, the other thing that I think that's interesting about the Fourth Way is that it is very engaged in the active modern life versus a platonic contemplative life of a recluse in a cabin in the Santa Monica Mountains. That's me right now, but that it sees this one spiritual path is very engaged within society, not removed from society. Is that correct?
Biet Simkin: Yes. Fourth Way is the way of the householder. What I loved about COVID when COVID began is turning to my Fourth Way wisdom and Fourth Way bedrock was like Fourth Way doesn't guarantee circumstances. It says your life is the circumstances under which you will either find enlightenment or not find enlightenment.
Biet Simkin: If you can't find it during COVID, then you're not a Fourth Way student. You're actually just a bullshit artist because the idea also is like as a Fourth Way student, you're saying, "I'm not giving up my life. I'm not giving up my income. I'm not giving up my real estate purchases. I'm not giving up my shopping at Barneys unless of course they go bankrupt." I am in it to win it. I'm in it for Grammys, Oscars, you name it.
Biet Simkin: That's actually part of the whole Fourth Way mentality is that it's a secret spirituality that's happening in the faces of our leaders of the people who are actually up to shit in the three-dimensional world. That really drew me to it. I felt like, "Okay. I could get with that because at least, then, I don't have to throw out the scariest thing I have going for me which is my ambition.
Jeff: It seems that one of the very central tenets that you established early in the book, but that weaves its way through so many of the different laws in your practice is this notion of divided attention. Can you take a few minutes and talk about what that is?
Biet Simkin: Yeah. Why don't we just do divided attention for a moment together? Basically, notice your body where it's seated. You feel your shoulders. Then, just if you're looking at the screen like I am take one attention to be gazing at me, I'll take one attention to gaze at you. Then another attention, take to any sounds that may be around.
Biet Simkin: Then, with yet another attention, notice your breathing. Now, try to do all of those at the same time gazing, listening, feeling your body, breathing. With a final attention, and this is the one that really is the tool that puts it all into gear. Float above yourself with your imagination and try and see yourself from above. Imagine that you and I are in a movie like some Czech movie from the 70s. We could see ourselves from above. See the curve of our face the way that we gaze , the way our body is seated.
Biet Simkin: Then, try to do all of those things at the same time. For anyone who's listening to us right now, if you've tried this with us, it does change your state pretty instantly. This is the kind of code of the secret mystical work. I have done that exact practice in front of audiences of thousands of people.
Biet Simkin: I have done that exact practice when I was in the face of something that I thought was way more exciting than I could handle with my personality self. I've done it while cooking eggs. I've done it while having sex. I've done it while shopping. I've also done it in more uncomfortable situations such as looking at spreadsheets or doing workouts in the morning that I don't necessarily want to be doing.
Biet Simkin: Something about that allows us to say, "Okay. I'm going to have a spiritual practice." What happens inside of my life is not going to... I don't need to stop everything I'm doing. Go sit in lotus. Light some incense. Read some scripture. I do all of those things because I feel like it, but I don't have to do them. Enlightenment is available to me as long as I use these tools of divided attention inside of all circumstances.
Jeff: Yeah. Would you describe it on some level as cultivating the observer's mind and essentially being able to put some space between you and your emotions, your feelings, your thoughts and being able to be the experiencer of those things, but not to be those things, essentially to be the witness, the subject object kind of relationship that is sometimes referred to in Buddhism? Is it a similar phenomena?
Biet Simkin: It can be, I think the thing about divided attention is that it's just a tool. It's like meditation in it of itself in that it doesn't garner the exact same results each time. It does garner the effect of the effort. Will never be forgotten the efforts that we made, but then in another chapter of the book called Self-Remembering which is really remembering who you truly are like you're describing, seeing that you are the observer, that is a phenomenon that I would put under the grace category.
Biet Simkin: It's sort of like when a third force enters and you feel like with every sense in your body, you can truly remember who you are. Divided attention doesn't necessarily produce that effect 100% of the time, but it's like a practice. You just do it all the time. Then, sometimes, white light.
Jeff: Can you talk a little bit about the law of identification because I think this one is just massively prevalent in humans in the 21st century and what that means and then how you go about verifying it?
Biet Simkin: Sure. Identification is a really good one because it bites you in the butt. We get identified with all kinds of things, but I'm so curious if you could ask me or tell me more about because you read about it. What about it struck home for you?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean despite all of my work on myself and practices that I undertake on a regular basis, I still have a healthy ego that rears its head that bases my own identity in the approval of others which is often attached to some form of status or that I may or may not have a job title or something that I have some form of my resume or credential essentially something that doesn't really define the experience of what it is to be me, but it's still that I cling to as a form of identification.
Jeff: Jeff started Wanderlust, whatever. Okay. Great, and that I have a certain identification with that, that gives me some sense of boss pride or self-value. But at the end of the day, that can easily come and go. It has. For me, that's where I resonate with that idea of I'm identifying as particular things that the world then approves or doesn't approve. I base my identity in those things instead of really just being at home with my true authentic self.
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I really relate to that. I think that is exactly what this law is about. Well, it's really... I don't think that it can completely go away. I feel like the law... But again, these are laws that don't go away. If you read my book for the rest of your life every day infinitum, you'll never be like, "Oh, good. I got that one down." They just returned on new levels and new ways, but I feel like identification is like riding a wave.
Biet Simkin: It's constantly bringing you up and then crashing you down and then bringing you up and then crashing you down. I think it can be very painful as ego-driven people like we are, and I am, to let go of that... It's the sympathetic nervous system parasympathetic nervous system addiction. I feel like what I've come into contact with the law of identification most recently is that I have an addiction to the sympathetic nervous system.
Biet Simkin: I'm willing to go there. I'm willing to do things that bring me there. It's been really a release of saying like, "I don't want to be identified with things that are going to draw me away from my parasympathetic nervous system."
Jeff: Yeah. Right, that you may feel a certain kind of resentment, for example, for someone that has wronged you and that, that resentment becomes almost this twisted place of comfort where all night long, you can brood over that which as you say puts you right in your sympathetic fight-or-flight cortisol-fueled reality which is its own form of addiction.
Jeff: We become extremely comfortable in that discomfort and until, I think, we can develop some of these practices. When I go back and I think of that notion of divided attention, I try to then isolate the fact. When I am brooding over some form of resentment, I'm like, "Jeff, don't be that resentment." I mean someone else might have wronged you, but you're the one that's getting burned right now.
Jeff: What you need to do is witness it, separate yourself from it, and realize that it's going to come and go. You might feel this resentment now, but it's just a cloud. Be the sky. I think when you can develop patterns that can bring you out of those places of negative comfort, you can live a much more fulfilling and happy life.
Biet Simkin: I completely agree. Yeah. But it's a trade off, and it's a sacrifice. That's what, I think, a lot of people don't understand about spirituality is that it when people ask me what I've sacrificed, I remember having a talk with a family member of mine where they were like, "Well, they think of sacrifice as giving up like ice cream." I think of sacrifice is giving up things that are terrible like passive and self-absorption and overindulgence and snacks and laziness and fucking like social climbing.
Biet Simkin: I mean the list just goes on and on of things that I have totally engaged with in my life, but those are the sacrifices, to sacrifice the qualities that make me feel safe and secure but are destructive, self-destructive and all based in fear. That's a sacrifice. I think people just think spirituality is all about becoming a better person. It's actually less about becoming a better person. It's just about not being such a dick all the time.
Jeff: Yeah. It feels that one of the things that I've been playing around in my head recently goes to the nature of consciousness. Is the innate nature of consciousness neutral or is it good, love, empathy, compassion, et cetera? When I read your book, my sense is that we are cultivating a place of neutrality in our lives that we can access these more easily and that from that place of neutrality because we don't need anything from the world, then, it is easier then to focus our consciousness on love and compassion.
Jeff: But, really, we return to this place that is very neutral. Can you help me unpack that a little better? Talk about that a little?
Biet Simkin: I think it's like neutrality, but also with a taste of love and bliss. It's not so because I think neutrality can be seen as literally nothing, but I do feel like there's also a tinge of beauty and lust, not lust like in the dangerous evil sense, but lust for life and deliciousness. I feel like that's the soul. Our soul is this beautiful little... In the work that I teach, we talk about it like a little white horse that's been locked up in a barn with no sunlight its entire life.
Biet Simkin: When you pull the soul out, it's like very feeble and it hasn't seen the light of day a lot. If you think about your life and you look back and you think, "When was my soul really present for whatever thing I was up to," whether it was a dinner or a festival or a lovemaking experience or whatever you were doing, when was your soul actually there?
Biet Simkin: If you're really honest with yourself, you're going to notice that it's not everything. It's not like your soul was like in it to win it with everything you've ever done. It's about cultivating comfort so that your soul can feel safe being not just a member of your life, but running your life like actually coming in and being like this is where we want to go.
Jeff: Yeah. I'm glad that you describe it that way because, sometimes, the pursuit of consciousness of sort of a neutrality-oriented consciousness is sort of a value neutral consciousness feels like a very cool pursuit. There's not a lot of passion and as you say lust, but in the lust for life kind of way. I'm not sure that the life that we're looking for is one of complete and utter detachment.
Biet Simkin: I don't think that's possible because we're human. I just think it's a bunch of bullshit honestly. I feel like humans are, like you said, you created Wanderlust. There's no world in which that didn't happen. Do you know what I mean? That happened in my world about you. That happened in your world about you. There's all those pieces and I just feel like we're lying to ourselves when we don't admit that those things are interesting to us or delicious to us.
Biet Simkin: On some level, every person listening to this and everyone that they've decided to have in their lives has something about them in the 3D world that makes them appealing to them.
Jeff: Yeah, and define, I suppose, who they are. This is another concept that I've been grappling with a bit which is that are we the sum of our experiences or not, or are all the stories that we've lived through, are those just sort of the contents of consciousness, but that's not who we actually really are? All we really are is sort of the experience of transitory phenomenon happening moment to moment.
Jeff: I'm trying to understand who the fuck I am basically. I'm just experimenting to and fro. That has started to play central stage in my life of whether or not the stories that I tell myself about my past even really exist or not.
Biet Simkin: Right.
Jeff: All right. Death, we're going to try to tackle death.
Jeff: It's been on my mind a tremendous amount. I actually did some research on the black death which was the plague that happened in the 14th century mostly in Europe, but that killed somewhere between 150, 200 million people, and significant. Humans viewed death much differently than they do now.
Jeff: There was sort of a helpless resignation to death because death was the Providence of God and that God essentially decided when it was time to go and that the black death in and of itself was created by God not as a virus that started in a Wuhan market or something like that, but that it was created by God and the believers lived and the non-believers perished.
Jeff: We have obviously since kind of the advent of science and enlightenment-based principles like reason and rationality and medicine and all that kind of stuff, we tend to think about death very differently in modernity where we don't really ascribe it to God. We think about it in terms of medical and physiological terms of it's generally like someone's fucking fault if you die. It's like I overate or I made the wrong lifestyle choices or the doctor screwed up or whatever that is essentially very much in the realm of human instead of the realm of God.
Jeff: That has really changed the way that we think about meaning in life because when death was sort of the Providence of God meaning happened in the afterlife, in heaven or hell or in reincarnation, but now that we feel such a strong control over our own death, our own mortality that it seems like we ascribe more meaning now to this life that we have this lifespan of 80 to 100 years.
Jeff: That makes us do things. I think that makes us live in a lot of fear because we're so worried about death. You're younger than I am, but, certainly, when I grew up, there wasn't as many seatbelts and helmets. There was tons of diving boards. We were just in the back of the fucking pickup truck jumping or going crazy.
Jeff: There's been this kind of ever well-intentioned, but constant layering of safety and safety and safety. Now, in COVID-
Biet Simkin: [crosstalk 00:50:13] worse now.
Jeff: Now, it's like the whole next level of masks and elbow bumps and social distancing and where are we willing to go with this, are we essentially willing to succumb to total surveillance in the name of denying death? Anyways, I'll stop there and wonder if that elicits any thoughts from you around how you have thought about death.
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I love what you're saying. I too have often pondered these like the seatbelt helmet phenomenon, and what everyone's predicting is coming, oh my god, or like even post-9/11 what we have to endure to get on a fucking plane. I mean it's insanity.
Biet Simkin: Everyone died in my life. I don't take my life for granted. I think a lot of people maybe do because they just haven't endured the amount of death that I have. They just think I'll probably live tomorrow. I've never thought that. Every day when I go to sleep, I'm just like not really certain there's another day coming.
Biet Simkin: Every day when I wake up, I'm pretty shocked. Sometimes, I wake up and the first thing I do is I'm like, "Oh, my god. I can't believe I'm going to die one day." That's the first thought that I have which maybe because I'm Jewish, but [crosstalk 00:51:34] of my grandparents being shot and thrown into ditches and my great grandfather was shot in the head by Stalin's regime in front of my grandmother's eyes. I have so much death in my life.
Biet Simkin: What that has helped me with is that when COVID started, I was just like, "I just don't understand how this is different from before." It feels exactly the same to me. I woke up. I could die, and I'm still here. Then, I'm going to die one day. That's all that I really know.
Biet Simkin: With that said, I just feel like it's not about, yeah, I don't think life is worth preserving on that level. I do believe in God. Again, I'm not a religious person, but I do believe that we have an expiration date. I don't think that expiration date changes given how many things we endure. For instance, even if I got COVID and even if I got really, really sick, if I wasn't meant to die at this age, if I wasn't meant to die of COVID, I won't die. That's just how it's going to go.
Biet Simkin: I had a baby a year and a half ago, Baby Kash, who you've met. After she was born, I went through a near-death experience after she was born. For a week, I was literally on death's door. I don't know what happened something with my uterus. Took me to the ER several times. No one knew what was going on.
Biet Simkin: After a week, it just stopped, but it was the sickest I've ever been in my whole life, ever. I prayed to die that's how sick I was. I literally was like, "If this is really how it's going to go, God, just take me." I didn't die. All this is to say it doesn't fucking matter. It doesn't matter how sick you get. I've had near-death experiences. I've taken too much heroin. I've mixed heroin with cocaine. I've speedballed. I've been in fast moving cars. I've been arrested. I've been in jail. I've been almost raped. I've been mugged at gunpoint. I've had all this shit happen to me, and I'm still here.
Biet Simkin: I'm like, "Look. I'm going to fucking die when it's time, and there's nothing I can do about it," because I remember after my daughter died, my first daughter, Ula, I ran through that fucking memory over and over and over thinking what if I just hadn't given her to the baby daddy. What if I had just stayed with her? What if I ran through it thinking what could have I done differently to keep her alive?
Biet Simkin: What I finally concluded after years of insane ruminating was there's nothing I could have done. It doesn't matter if I stood on my head, read a tarot deck, did a witching well, got sober in AA, it doesn't fucking matter. She would have died because that's what happens when people are meant to die.
Biet Simkin: I think taking on that celestial level, taking aside, you can put on a seatbelt. In Jewish tradition, they say this thing which I love which always really supports me. They say, "If you're meant to die, you will die, but that doesn't mean we don't put a railing around the balcony." We just put it there, but we just help. We help the process as much as we can. If I'm going to drink kale juice and do Pilates for an hour every day and meditate for half an hour every day and live a life that's esteemable and filled with achievements and in pursuit of greatness, that's great, but I don't take it for granted that it could be taken from me at any minute.
Jeff: Yeah. Does your life now surprise you? I mean you have a wonderful partner, Kristoff, right?
Biet Simkin: Yeah.
Jeff: And a beautiful little baby. I guess, from the outside, it's a bit more tame. Is that a surprise to you? How do you deal with it given just the speed at which your life has traveled at times?
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I think I made a switch. I feel like what's surprising to me most again is that communion between myself and the divine. I don't know if you have this experience, but sometimes, when the universe is speaking through me, I'll literally be surprised by what's coming out of my mouth. That's a moment when I know that synergy is happening.
Biet Simkin: I also feel that when certain meetings occur, like, when I meet the right people at the right time and magical things come out of those meetings or when I win an award or when Simon & Schuster's like we want to give you a book deal, that kind of stuff is the now version of what used to be destruction.
Biet Simkin: I do believe that we have a choice. We can live a life where... I had to switch it out my heroes. I was just talking to someone about this the other day. I always thought that I was going to be Basquiat. It just didn't work for me and also didn't work for him. He's dead, but I really thought that was something to live for.
Biet Simkin: One day, it came to me that I actually want to be like Mr. Rogers. That was so gross when I had to admit that because as I was like, "Mr. Rogers. You couldn't even get through an episode of that guy when you were a kid. Now, you want to be like him?"
Jeff: Well, he's a hero now. There was actually quite emotional film on him. It's not a badge of shame. Yeah. Do you think that consciousness are essentially awareness of yourself as the experiencer of phenomena in life? Did that just spring forth from a certain lucky combination of atoms or is there a form of divine intelligence?
Jeff: I know that you believe in God. We talked about how you experience God, but I guess what I'm trying to get at is when my corporeal, when this meat wagon ceases to exist, right now, it houses my consciousness in a way that it takes at different places. It'll take it across the room. It will take it to the bathroom. It will take it on a walk. It'll take me right here. When this corporeal form is no longer able to transport my awareness, what the fuck happens to it?
Biet Simkin: I have to say I don't know because that's the correct answer, but I think that if we all close our eyes in our own time and just feel into our body, into our core, into our heart and in meditation, if you ask yourself that question, I do believe in each human being the answer to that question lies within us, the answer to the feeling of what happens to us, the bliss of what happens to this what you're calling consciousness.
Biet Simkin: I think it's hard to imagine because the mind is such a jail cell, and it will prevent you from experiencing. The breath work that I teach that I was speaking about before I find brings me into a state very close to death. In fact, I warn my attendees when I'm guiding people to brace themselves because, sometimes, you can be afraid, "Oh, shit. I think I went too far, and I might I know." No one's ever died at my events.
Biet Simkin: What I'm saying is I try to go into this breath work every day because I want to get closer to death. I want to get closer to the sense of complete lack of brain prison and body prison so that I can be completely with bliss and that sweetness. As one of my teachers said to me the feeling that I have during breath work is one iota, one billion of the bliss that we feel when we die.
Biet Simkin: It was once I really felt that correlation between the breath work that I do and death and that bliss that I was like, "That sounds great." I'm still a little bit weary of the moment of death like Woody Allen says, "I'm fine with death. I just don't want to be there when it happens." [inaudible 01:00:37] a lot, but I do think it sounds really delicious after the moment it happens like working out.
Biet Simkin: When you're working out and you're like doing the 17th tummy tuck or whatever and it burns like fuck and you go, "Ah." But after you're done with an hour of it, how does one feel? You feel amazing. I do think that death probably sucks the moment it happens, but right the moment, right after the moment that it happens, my feeling is that it is just pure ecstasy, deliciousness, freedom, bliss.
Jeff: Yeah. I think the literal translation of Savasana is corpse pose. This is where we're going back to. We're going home. No. I think that is hopeful. I look at the resources and the endless amounts of anxiety that we put ourselves to essentially keep people in terminal condition on life support.
Jeff: As you can tell, I've been preoccupied with notions of dying lately. Not only is that not a fulfilling and very dreary experience, but it also has changed how we actually view our elders who used to be sort of these holders of ancient wisdom. Now, they're essentially a burden and a bother.
Jeff: It's really what's really disturbing. I'm hoping that in this time when people have a little bit more time to contemplate at these issues that there is this notion of dying well instead of just living forever.
Biet Simkin: Yeah. I'm with you, but also, I'm really with the Marcus Aurelius way of perceiving which is a man who dies at 80 and a boy who dies at eight have only ever lost the same exact thing which is the present moment. You can't lose a life. You don't have more life or less life. You only have this moment. If you die like my first daughter died at four months old, she lost the present moment. Then, if you die at 108 in a ventilator somewhere with COVID, that's all you have.
Jeff: Right. Yeah.
Jeff: Well, I can't wait till this crazy wicked mess is over because, now, what I really want more than anything is to find out what laws 45 through 48 are and host an immersive retreat with you leading them here in Topanga. Well, thank you so much for spending time with me this afternoon.
Biet Simkin: Thank you.
Jeff: Yeah. I'm wishing you and your family well and safety.
Biet Simkin: Thank you.
Jeff: I hope to see you soon.
Biet Simkin: Yes, I can't wait. I believe neither of us will die from this, but I do believe we will die one day.