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Sah D’Simone has little time for what he calls ‘zombie zen’. In fact, he uses an expletive to dismiss the solemnity and rigidity that accompanies some mindfulness practices.
Instead, his meditation sessions are filled with what he terms ‘ecstatic dance’ – energetic, vigorous movements to pop and dance music while repeating mantras internally.
His tunes of choice are Madonna‘s Like A Prayer and The Cranberries’ Zombie and he encourages participants to scream if they want to. ‘Primal scream is a big part of the process,’ he says.
It might not be a conventional way to meditate, but then, D’Simone is far from a typical spiritual guide; at 14, he was hooked on smoking crack as he struggled to suppress his gay identity, only coming out at 23.
His early 20s were lost in a fog of drink and drugs while he was making his mark in the fashion world. It took him losing his job and contemplating suicide to come to the realisation that he needed to overhaul his life.
The result is an exuberant, energetic experience he calls the Sah Method, which he is bringing to the Balance Holidays Joyful Awakening retreat on the party island of Ibiza in July.
Sah D’Simone, 34, (pictured) who lives in New York, is bringing his Balance Holidays Joyful Awakening retreat to Ibiza this July
With the Balearic island added to the green travel list from the UK on June 30, which means visitors will not have to quarantine and are only required to take a Covid test on day two after their return, the five-day retreat signifies a revival in more ways than one.
And after more than a year of restrictions, D’Simone is keen to get participants to shake it off.
‘It’s about saying “hell, yes” to your authentic self,’ he says. ‘We have equated spiritual progress to being zombie zen.
‘There is no real variety or flamboyance or joy or sass coming out of it. When we see zombie zen, we assume the person must be really enlightened. I did that myself when I started but I was performing a role.’
It was a playlist he began on Spotify two years ago called Dance Medicine, which quickly drew thousands of followers, that sowed the seeds of his current meditation practice and teaching methods.
He began the playlist as a way of collating German dance music and DJ remixes that brought him joy.
But after seeing the reaction to videos of himself dancing on Instagram, he quickly realised there was more to share than simply how to lose one’s inhibitions.
In Ibiza, the island that was a magnet for ravers the world over before the pandemic struck, he has found the perfect base.
Involving dancing and deep breathing techniques, Sah’s (pictured) mediation sessions have gained popularity with stars including Kanye West and Deepak Chopra
As well as being a haven for dancers, its quieter spots have long drawn those seeking spiritual fulfilment.
D’Simone says: ‘We are going to dance on this retreat because that is where joy lives.
‘People usually dance at a bar or club after a couple of drinks. There is nothing wrong with that but if that is the only way that you feel relaxed and uninhibited, something has got to change.
‘Dancing without intoxicants, without being drunk or high, means you can experience everything that comes up.
‘The premise is feeling the music in such a way that you are moving as you might never have done before. So many of us are walking around with a rigid and restricted posture. This is about letting your inner freak fly.’
His method, which combines dance with deep breathing techniques, meditation and chanting mantras, has found favour with everyone from Kanye West and Deepak Chopra to staff from the United Nations, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Bloomingdales.
Sah (pictured), who was born in southern Brazil, revealed his enlightenment hasn’t come easily as he was previously addicted to drink and drugs
He says everyone is self-conscious to begin with but adds: ‘Dance is a spiritual process of release.’
Enlightenment hasn’t come easily to the 34-year-old. Born in Londrina in southern Brazil to an Italian mother and a Lebanese father, he began experimenting with drugs at the age of 13 as he struggled to suppress his gay identity, only coming out at 23.
The family moved to Florida when he was 16 years old and at 18, he left for Los Angeles, where he partied hard and paid the price.
When he moved to New York to co-found the fashion magazine Bullett in 2010, his lifestyle caught up with him.
The magazine was bought out two years later and he found himself out of a job and floundering.
He became addicted to drink and drugs, he says now, because he felt ‘my queerness made me a bad person, a mistake. That orientated my thought and actions so I kept living in a way that perpetuated that narrative.’
His parents were so worried about him, they even took him to a Colombian witch doctor.
In 2014, he embarked on a trip to Dharamshala in northern India, a home of the Dalai Lama. It was the first step on his spiritual journey.
Sah began teaching at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and Maha Rose wellness centre, after having a spiritual experience in India and Nepal. Pictured: Sah’s Ibiza retreat
He followed that with a 30-day silent retreat in the mountains surrounding Kathmandu, Nepal. Despite the temptation to give in to his addictions, he persisted in dealing with past traumas and made seven more trips to India as well as immersing himself in Buddhist philosophy and even spending a week meditating in stifling caves.
He says: ‘I was ashram and monastery-hopping for two and a half years. Slowly it started to land that this was my purpose. I started to see how much harm I had caused myself and other people.’
When he returned to New York in 2016, he began teaching at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and Maha Rose wellness centre and decided to go sober.
As his reputation has grown in the health and wellbeing sphere, the celebrity clients have followed.
His books 5-Minute Daily Meditations and Spiritually Sassy: 8 Radical Steps to Activate Your Innate Superpowers have become bestsellers.
Sah said explained his spiritual experience is based on research that dance heals and to relieve trauma you have to move the body. Pictured: Sah’s Ibiza retreat
And shortly after launching his Dance Medicine playlist, health guru Deepak Chopra invited him to lead a session at his retreat in January 2020.
D’Simone says: ‘Deepak came on stage and danced with me. The feedback was so positive that his team asked me to teach every Friday during the pandemic.’
The Sah Method, he says, is about living your life to its most vibrant, vivid potential. ‘If a spiritual practice is complicated, run the other way,’ he says.
Learning to breathe from the diaphragm, chanting, meditating and dancing, and tapping into those methods every time a painful memory surfaces, can retrain the brain, he adds.
‘There is so much research that dance heals and that to relieve trauma you have to move the body,’ he says.
At the boutique Oku hotel in Ibiza, where there will be sunrise and evening meditations, workshops and field-to-fork cuisine, there will be plenty of opportunities to Breathe Again and think about Starting Over.
Sah D’Simone is hosting the Balance Holidays Joyful Awakening at Balearic Island Retreat July 7-11 in Ibiza.
Full details are at https://www.balanceholidays.com/joyful-awakening-at-balearic-island-retreat