Today we’d like to introduce you to Celeste Young.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It really feels like my work started many years ago before my actual business came into being. It has always been a direction in my life, from an early age. As I would describe it, before the teachings of Dharma, mindfulness and compassion became my work, they were my path out of inner and outer turmoil.
Growing up, I faced many challenges and struggled quite a bit. I would have glimpses of relief here and there, but it wasn’t until I learned about these teachings and received real meditation instruction from a Buddhist teacher that I started to experience a deep sense of peace and transformation. That was over 18 years ago now. Around that time, I was also working with children in elementary schools and teaching pre-school, and my colleagues knew that I practiced meditation and suggested I teach the children. So those very young kids were technically, my first students! I can still see their bright faces squirming with their eyes closed as they listened mindfully to the sounds around them.
I grew very committed to the path of Insight meditation and started going on silent meditation retreats each year, and found I really loved intensive retreat practice and grew immensely from it. My life became more and more centered around the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha, of mindfulness and compassion). When I moved to LA in 2008, I found there was a community of mindfulness meditation practitioners here, through a small organization called InsightLA. At that time the founder, Trudy Goodman taught sitting meditation groups or classes at various rented locations along with just a handful of other teachers. Meditation was still “fringe” and not many people were doing it. I began to practice with them and was involved in the early days of the first center that opened in Santa Monica in 2009.
In 2011, Trudy invited me to begin teaching. At that time, I was quite young to be a Dharma teacher, but given how much my life had already been dedicated to this practice, and also because of the deep and profound change I had experienced and continue to experience, I was very enthusiastic about sharing it with others.
Ever since I was a young child, I wanted to be of service, and I was really thrilled to be able to share one of the things I knew could help people the most. I was given a lot of trust as a new teacher at InsightLA and was able to develop my own class curriculums, teaching everything from introductory mindfulness to mindfulness for emotional balance and traditional Dharma classes. Others quickly began asking me to teach in other settings- for staff at businesses or organizations, recovery centers or schools, or to work individually with students in one on one sessions. I didn’t really register how much everything had grown until I went to file my taxes and my tax accountant said to me “So how long have you had your business?” It then dawned on me that sharing what I love and my livelihood had become intertwined in this beautiful way. Things continued to grow from there and now I am grateful to say that my offerings have expanded in many ways, including beyond the borders of California through global retreats and also online mentoring, classes, and individual work.
Has it been a smooth road?
It definitely hasn’t been without its challenges, like any field. In the early days of my teaching, I think I was self-conscious about my age, being so much younger than all of my other colleagues. The students who gave me their trust and were appreciative really helped me to grow my own trust in myself, along with the support of mentors and the wider community. Also, learning to balance my energy as an empathic person and to take good care of myself has been really important. I feel I’m much more effective now, as a result of that learning, and it’s also a continual process for me. Because mindfulness is about being present with the changing stream of life, when obstacles arise, I get curious about them and want to learn from those struggles. The obstacles are often what transform into opportunities later.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I teach mindfulness meditation – both secular mindfulness and Buddhist Dharma to a wide range of people wanting to learn how to meditate or apply the teachings of mindfulness to their daily life. These teachings are for everyone and can benefit anyone who’s willing to explore them. Mindfulness is about paying attention to our experience in an open, non-judgmental and kind way, and learning to be more present.
I specialize in meeting people where they are and making the teachings accessible to people in a wide range of contexts. I offer this in a number of ways: through a series of classes ranging from introductory secular mindfulness courses for people who want to learn how to meditate, to my “Living Dharma” class series for those who want to learn to apply the Buddha’s teachings to how they are actually living their lives, not as simply theory or philosophy. I also work with individuals in private sessions to help them to grow through applying the lense of mindfulness and Dharma to their lives and supporting the deepening of their meditation practice. In addition, this year I’m embarking on further training to support people more around changes and transitions and organizing their priorities to live a more balanced, meaningful, and fulfilling life that’s aligned with their deeper values. I mentor new teachers and also develop and teach mindfulness programs and sessions to companies and organizations and offer retreats.
With the global shifts that are happening as a result of COVID-19, most of my work has moved online right now, where I’m thankfully able to continue offering classes, training and mentoring for new teachers, individual sessions, guided meditations, and also retreats for people. I really love working with people from not only all over LA but also all over the world. There is a growing community of people who are truly committed to cultivating their minds and hearts and growing in wisdom, kindness, and mindfulness and it’s incredibly inspiring to witness and support them on their journeys. I am immensely grateful to the students I have the opportunity to serve.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What I like best about LA is that there are so many different worlds co-existing here at all times. What I like least about it is the ways in which those worlds sometimes don’t intersect or integrate with each other often enough.
- Website: https://www.celesteyoung.com
- Email: Celeste@insightla.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/celestebyoung/
- Other: https://insightla.org, https://skillfulchange.com
Lucia Yoga Spain, UCLA, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery/Lani Trock, Sati Retreats, InsightLA and Celeste Young