According to Lauren Bille, "New Yorkers have to be active to live successfully in the city". Recreationally, Lauren is a member of the bicycle club The Cyclones, plays basketball and volleyball, swims, and regularly pops into yoga and spin classes. Professionally, she and her partner Jesse Israel, founder of The Big Quiet, organize mass meditation meet ups in stunning locations in New York and elsewhere in the US. She also recently started CYCLES+SEX, a movement to encourage empowering conversations about reproductive and sexual health.
In action, Lauren appears accomplished and at ease. But her trajectory has not been without challenges. As a troubled youth, she struggled with addiction and depression. Read on to learn more about how meditation and movement have allowed her to make peace with life and truly thrive as an inspiring community builder.
Inside/Out: Did you play sports when you were a kid?
Lauren Bille: Yes! I played basketball, soccer, softball, dance and I was a cheerleader!
I/O: Do you practice any now?
L: I play basketball and volleyball with friends. I swim at the local pool. I go to yoga classes. I go to spin classes. I do workouts in my room. I ride my bike everywhere and help organize a huge bicycle club called The Cyclones.
I/O: How did you end up doing meditation?
L: I found meditation when I was 17. I had been struggling with drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, mental health issues (listen to her interview about it here). I hit a bottom and put everything down that I was using to escape reality. Then I found a more spiritual way of coping with life through meditation and a few other techniques.
I/O: What did you first like about it?
L: I liked that it was a break. Mental rest. It calmed me, allowed me to go inside and restore.
I/O: You're a partner at The Big Quiet, a meditation organization, how would you define it?
L: The Big Quiet is a massive community of modern people who come together to connect more deeply to themselves and each other through meditation, sound and culture.
I/O: How do you define your role in there and how did you get to be a part of it?
L: I’m a partner at The Big Quiet. I was first a community member. then I helped The Big Quiet produce a few events in collaboration with the company I used to work for. Then I became close with the founder, Jesse Israel. And it felt right that I would join him to help build and grow the organization.
I/O: Who and what inspires you?
L: People inspire me who demonstrate bravery, vulnerability, resilience, emotional intelligence, communication skills, patience, integrity.
I/O: Do you ever feel intense emotions during your meditations?
L: Yes! I basically just feel like my channels are open so emotions pass through me very purely. I often cry. Tears of joy, sadness, pain and gratitude, but not one or the other. The tears are more an expression of deep feeling of all those things at the same time.
I/O: Is meditation a practice, a philosophy, a mind/body connection?
L: It's a mind/body/spirit/universe connection that gets stronger through practice, lifestyle and philosophy.
I/O: Do you think that it has a positive effect on your body? Your mind?
L: I am energized. I am connected. I am aligned. I have more capacity to function with intention. I move more gracefully.
I/O: Do you have a mantra, a motto?
L: A motto yes. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” -Dylan thomas
I/O: How would you define the relationship that New Yorkers have with the active lifestyle?
L: Living in New York demands an added energy and resilience. It’s physical. It’s mobile. It's sensory. New Yorkers already need to be active to exist successfully in the city. I’d say, as wellness becomes more culturally relevant - NYC has taken to it! There are places to exercise everywhere. The city is designed for walking, biking, spending time in parks. The parks have tons of sports facilities and there are people using all these places everyday.
I/O: Do you think that New York sportswear has had an impact on global style and fashion?
L: Sure. NYC is a leader globally. And its become fashionably acceptable to wear sportswear and sneakers all about town here, thus it’s making it ok elsewhere. All the activewear brands have huge beautiful flagship shops here.
I/O: What is your ideal active or relaxation garment or product?
L: High-waisted leggings and a cropped tee-shirt.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
L: I love Outdoor Voices.
I/O: What lifestyle trends can you identify at the moment?
L: Daily exercise, meditation, nice exercise clothes, green juice, broth, paleo diet, sound baths.
I/O: Which do you like?
L: I like them all!
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
L: I exercise either in the morning or evening. I meditate in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. I ride my bike to and from my meetings and activities. I eat healthy for the most part. I could probably always do less and chill out more.
I/O: Are wellness and self care the new social/nightlife?
L: It seems it’s becoming cool to treat yourself well. People are socializing around it. Our communities gather to connect to one another while doing things that are good for them and feel good.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
L: I am still working on it. But for the most my body and spirit can tell when I'm not in balance and I have things I can do to recalibrate.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
L: Yes, I’ve gone backpacking many times for many days in the Grand Canyon, Zion, Arches National park, Mount Rainer, Machu Pichu. This is meditative. I’ve gone on river rafting trips down the Colorado River. I’ve gone on long bike tours. The most recent was a Century ride (100 miles) from NYC to Montauk. I’ve gone on retreats where wellness was at the core. My favorite trips are to the Grand Canyon. The terrain, the landscape, the history, the physical experience is so epic. There’s nothing more amazing and challenging that I’ve experienced with my body. I traveled for 6 months in Italy working on farms!
I/O: What destinations are on your wish list?
L: Iceland because its beautiful. Its unknown to me. It seems quiet. The air quality must be amazing. I feel drawn there.
I/O: If you travel alone, are you likely to connect with some sort of community?
L: Yes. I connect with people in new places because I have open energy. I make eye contact. I share from my heart. I let my guard down. If there isn’t a language barrier, its obviously easier. I organize people and invite them to experience things with me. I try and remain open to the world and whats happening around me. If someone I love and trust says I should meet someone else- I make it a priority to do so. When I traveled and worked on farms I used an online resource to connect with hosts and other travelers.
I/O: How do you build your community?
L: We connect people, align values, give them a specific action to take.
I/O: What is the connection between the people of your community?
L: Vulnerability. People are looking for “permission” to come together and connect with each other. We create that through our events. At The Big Quiet we gather people around silence, culture and conversation. At CYCLES + SEX we gather people through empowering information and conversation about things we all experience but never talk about, at The Cyclones we gather people through positive, fun bike riding. Each of these communities allow people to be together and be themselves. They feel safe and a part of something greater than themselves. They relax, they open up and they feel supported and happy.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you? Do you feel that women go further together?
L: 100% I am very clear that a woman holds the most universal power inside herself - the womb, the ultimate creation. She has access to the ultimate intuition, empathy, love. She is connected to all life, past and future. She needs sisterhood to access and nurture this power. When we support and collaborate to raise each other up so that we can raise our communities up we are unstoppable.
I/O: How do you make women powerful?
L: By being powerful myself. By being aligned to my own values and acting with courage - I empower the women around me. And I am an example of women in the world. I also am careful to be present and conscious with the women around me, so that they feel seen. I also give women recognition often. I point out all the things about them that are powerful, usually void of their physical appearance. I try to raise them up, believe in them, see them in their power, and feed that. I try to keep the energy between us collaborative and supportive.
TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: Pause. Focus on your breath and heart for a few minutes.
1 activity: Swimming!
1 powersong: "Best To You" by Blood Orange
1 app: 7 min workout / Kindara
1 podcast: How I built This
1 blog/site: cyclesandsex.com
1 food address: The Good Sort Cafe, 5 Doyers Street, NYC
1 beverage: kombrewcha
1 woman we should interview: Hawa Hassan, Alexis Wolfer and Juliana Luna