Jesse Israel: The Big Quiet, or how to be together and in a big band

- through Sophie Solere

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At 35, Jesse Israel leads the "Big Quiet", meditation sessions bringing together up to 15 people in places emblematic of American culture: Madison Square Garden, the World Trade Center, the American Museum of Natural History , at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, etc. Ex-manager of musicians, Jesse, who has been meditating since the age of 000, defines himself as a “meditation instructor, community builder, speaker”. After having received an education at the Shambala Buddhist center, then with his mentor Joni Pollard, founder of the “25Giant Mind” collective meditations, on the strength of his experience at the New York Mediclub (informal meditation meetings in apartments), he set up the Big Quiet. Or gigantic shows, where people of all ages share a moment of collective calm, learning the essence of the meditative process in a playful and musical context. Popular, this movement continues to grow. Beyond the aspect of entertainment, or another stress management technique, there is a desire to break the loneliness and isolation linked to modernity and urbanity. “You have the right to rest,” Oprah Winfrey tells Big Quiet attendees on her US tour. Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus, in which Jesse intervenes, who added: “And to arrest you”.

Your collective meditation sessions in the United States are impressive. Are they part of this current of a culture combining show business and spirituality, where, as in the offices of the Sunday Service de Kanye West and evangelical churches, music participates in the rite?

My professional journey began with the management of a record company and the promotion of musicians. At twenty, I was already organizing meditation sessions at the Coachella festival, because I loved introducing meditation into the world of entertainment. At the same time, I had launched Mediclub meetings with my musician friends. So we started well before the offices of Kanye West. But, indeed, we all pursue the same goal: we want people to feel more human. Because meditation is a powerful tool for self-knowledge, and group meditation has an even greater impact. Music, just like in synagogues or churches, makes this practice accessible to people who have never meditated, and will thus feel welcomed. By integrating musicians into the Big Quiet, we attract a lot more people.

"Celebrating the encounter between popular culture and spirituality, living in a modern way and meditating, this is the Big Quiet. It is not about a spirituality disconnected from life, we celebrate inner well-being and modernity. »

In the United States, meditation has become a major stress management business, with a plethora of mindfulness groups and a wide variety of teachers. How do you make a difference: is it because your initiative is aimed at young people?

The majority of participants are indeed young people, around their thirties, but not only. The fact that we authentically represent our generation seems important to me: my team has worked in the music world, we party, lead a modern life... And, at the same time, we love spirituality, meditation , explore what is beyond us. Celebrating the encounter between popular culture and spirituality, living in a modern way and meditating, this is the Big Quiet. It is not about a spirituality disconnected from life, we celebrate inner well-being and modernity. It is this modernization of our approach that brings meditation to so many people. So, we address a lot of people; right now I'm on Oprah Winfrey's tour, Oprah's 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus, where we lead meditation groups of 15 people.

You have also chosen to operate in famous institutional locations, such as the Guggenheim Museum or the World Trade Center in New York. For what ?

We wanted to experience the Big Quiet in iconic institutions, unlikely spaces, where we celebrate culture, while creating an innovative experience. Because these energizing architectures bring new energy.

Is Big Quiet a tool for non-violence?

This collective practice is indeed a tool that people can use to create empathy and build bridges between their differences, which can be effective in a climate of violence. This is why it is important to come together. Because in this context, the community acquires a positive value. Maybe that's one of the reasons Big Quiet is growing so fast.

Does the title Big Quiet send the message "Let's experience silence together"?

Our idea is to create a moment when we feel human, connected to others, to remember that being together is pleasant, because we are overwhelmed with information, overwhelmed by professional stress, intensive use of the telephone, social networks… And this stress, which has become the norm, leads to high levels of tension, a feeling of loneliness, a disconnection from oneself and from others. So we want to get this message across: take a moment to pay attention to yourself and those around you. At the end of the sessions, I encourage participants to take action within 24 hours: reach someone they have lost sight of, give themselves a challenge, send a message, a gift to someone, in order to remember what it means to be together.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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