Born in Brazil of Lebanese descent, as a teenager D’Simone moved with his family to the USA, an experience he describes as “intense.” In Brazil the family ran a clothing business and enjoyed a level of affluence beyond the comprehension of many of their compatriots. However, the business began to crack and D’Simone suddenly found himself in Tampa Bay, Florida, taking cleaning jobs outside of school to help support his family. Difficult as it would be for any teenager wrestling with the curse of bubbling hormones to suffer such a dramatic change in fortune, let alone in a different country and alien culture, D’Simone – always an anxious child – was also locking horns with the steady realization of his own sexuality. Here, feeling isolated and unable to express his true self, D’Simone first experienced long spells of depression, and in retrospect began his life journey.
To help her son, D’Simone’s mother chose to take him to a holistic doctor who read the iris of his eye and prescribed a cocktail of natural herbs which gifted a period of stability and unwittingly sparked a curiosity within his young patient. Desperate to embrace his sexuality, D’Simone soon left home and headed to Los Angeles and subsequently New York, where, in his early twenties and now confident within his own skin, he became one of the founders of the phenomenally successful Bullett Magazine. But, just two years in and with a new, hardline, business focus, D’Simone overheard his friends discussing his exit from the publication that had become his life. In a shocking parallel with his teenage years, D’Simone was left suddenly abandoned, blinking his eyes in the smoking rubble of everything he once saw as indestructible.
Out of work, battling with feelings of betrayal and further periods of extreme low mood, D’Simone started researching anxiety and depression to learn more about his own genetic predisposition (his grandmother had committed suicide). He explored a holistic mind-body approach, learned about the negative side effects of pharmaceutical drugs and the impact that food had on mental health. Eventually visiting ashrams, monasteries, and retreat centers around the world, and studying with experts such as His Holiness Dalai Lama, D’Simone was taught to redesign his nervous system with breathwork, and strengthen the architecture of the parts of his brain associated with compassion and cognitive abilities, via meditation.
“I had that inner calling, inner voice, that wise teacher guiding me in a certain direction,” he says, “the truth is we all have that wise teacher, we just don’t always listen to it. A lot of the work I do is about listening to the inner wise teacher within you, and foregoing the inner critic.”
Today, Sah D’Simone is a strong advocate for breaking the stigma around mental health and helping to create an atmosphere in which we all feel able to open-up and talk through our problems without fear of judgement or prejudice. He is also careful to work with and not against modern drugs and conventional treatments. “I have clients and students who benefit a lot from taking conventional medicine, in addition to a holistic mind-body approach. For each of them, we have found that through our work together, it has been possible to slowly go off their meds, and their doctors notice an overall increase in well-being. But every case is different. It’s whatever works for you that is most important.”
“I think everyone can benefit from relearning how to breathe deeply and fully, reconnecting to their body, eating better, practicing compassion based mindfulness, and inviting more play into their lives. The whole science of happiness is a holistic equation that includes a physiological, psychological and spiritual understanding. Nowadays the research to support the mind-body approach is everywhere. I get really nerdy about the science of it! I have a Google alert for various topics, so I can keep up with the latest research.”
But mental health, mindfulness and wellbeing are not the only passions in D’Simone’s life. When on a 30-day meditation retreat in Nepal, nervously waiting for a personal audience with his spiritual master, D’Simone began chatting to a young woman to quiet his jitters. It so happened this was Beth Halford, the founder of Himalayan Peoples Project – Nepal (HPPN). Actively searching for a means to give back to a country that had so dramatically changed his life, D’Simone immediately asked how he could volunteer.
HPPN helped to support individuals and families through drug rehabilitation, drug awareness programs for children, and educational scholarships for youngsters whose families couldn’t afford to send them to school. It gave hope to the community, and ultimately served to educate the generation who will one day rebuild Nepal. “Now,” D’Simone explains with such infectious enthusiasm you’d believe he was ready to swim there in that very moment, “we’re working on another project to help fundraise for an orphanage.”
Happy, contented, tranquil and centered despite a busy schedule that might have others turning gray over lunch, nobody can accuse Sah D’Simone of not practicing what he preaches. Even the very first and last things he does each day form part of his mindfulness routine. “As I wake up, I say out loud 5 things I’m grateful for, then I set an intention that usually sounds like this: Today I am wiser, kinder, more loving, forgiving, accepting, beautiful, sexy, courageous, equanimous. I’m worthy of abundance in every area of my life. As I lay in bed after my evening practice, I say the things I’m grateful for in the day. Then I ask myself, am I holding on to any little grudges? I forgive myself for any pain I may have caused anyone, then I forgive anyone who has caused me any pain.”
And so, what would be his message for you, our reader? “Honey, forgive yourself right now!”
Learn more about Sah D’Simone and his work at sahdsimone.com.
This article originally appeared in Electrify Magazine as a part of their “Awakening” Series with The Assemblage.