Meet Elizabeth Novogratz

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Elizabeth Novogratz is the co-author of “Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t” with her sister-in-law and writing partner, Sukey Novogratz who convinced her to take part in a meditation retreat over ten years ago. She shares with us how meditation has changed her life and influenced her career, along with her other pursuits such as advocating for animal rights.
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Most of the time, I wake up, make coffee, and write for 30 minutes or so. It’s just blather, but it filters out nonsense and allows me to see where my head is at. I’ve been waking up that way for over 20 years, so it feels strange when I don’t. After that, I run or workout. Depending on the day, I either meditate at home or in the office with Sukey, my writing partner and sister-in-law. Supplements I take are Garden of Life Vitamin B12, Deva Vegan Vitamin D, Garden of Life Zinc, Biotin with Organic Coconut Oil, and Mary Ruth’s Probiotics.

on her upbringing and education

I was born in Virginia and lived there until I was 12. My dad was in the Army, so we lived in Germany for the rest of middle school and most of high school. I loved it. Then we moved back during my senior year of high school. It was devastating to go from running around with my friends in Europe to then go to chain restaurants, malls, and terrible keg parties in suburban Virginia. My fix for that was to go to school somewhere beautiful and unknown to me and so I studied Anthropology at the University of Montana in Missoula. I got to read a ton about humans from every corner of the earth. It was the 90s, so you didn’t grow up knowing nearly as much about the rest of the world as kids do now. Anthropology fueled my desire to explore as much of the planet as possible and to never stop learning about other people.

on becoming a writer

It was just something I always did as I’ve always been a huge reader. I think in a lot of ways they go hand and hand. I lived in LA in my 20’s and early 30s and I did a lot of freelance writing jobs, rewriting treatments, working on scripts. It became a skill. People would call me to edit or rewrite something they were working on. I’ve helped a lot of people with their books over the years – which made me realize that I could work on my own stuff too.

Trench, Yang Li Men ; T-Shirt, Vintage ; Choker, Vintage YSL ; Pants, Sonia Rykiel
My number one would be to stop right now and do it. Close your eyes for two minutes and follow your breath. That’s it. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we don’t know how or can’t start. Once those two enormous hurdles are cleared, take a deeper look into developing a practice. Chatter never goes away completely but the point of meditation is not to get rid of it, only to notice it. When you are focusing on your breath or a mantra, the mind will take over within seconds. Your job is to only notice that chatter. Don’t run with it, just watch it, and gently get back to the breath or mantra. This will happen over and over again every time you sit.
— on how to start meditating

on her introduction to meditation

Sukey brought me on my first meditation retreat in 2007. I resisted as much as I could, but by the second day, I knew that this was something that could change my life. It still took years for me to develop a daily practice, as resistance is powerful and tricky, but I knew that meditation was a superpower.

It gave me freedom to let go of many old stories, versions of myself that weren’t healthy or helpful, like chainsmoker me, and freedom to figure out who I want to be in the world and not let conditioning sabotage me from getting there. Meditation is a giver of many gifts but I think my favorite is the gift of self-awareness and really seeing how you operate. It gives the power to change without willpower or thinking that I need to beat myself down in order to do it.

on writing and publishing a book about meditation with her sister in law

We wrote two books on meditation before Just Sit. They were pretty terrible. One [draft] was incredibly self serving and all about trauma and healing, but not in a universal sense. We were both going through a lot at the time. The [other draft] was an enormous tome on the values and benefits of meditation. We got pretty depressed and on the verge of giving up until we had the realization that meditation is about lightening up. The irony is that while we were writing the heavy text on meditation, we were having a great time. We’d go on retreats, laugh for days, and then come back and write a bunch of preachy, boring chapters. If we want to share our love for it and get our friends and family to do it, then it should be accessible, doable, and fun. Sukey and I are a great team. We can be honest with one another but don’t have triggers with each other like a lot of actual sisters. We started working together in 2010 and it always felt natural. We write well together because we’ve always worked on projects meant for other people – so, one of us is usually aware when ego (from either of us) tries to sneak in the back door. We talk everything out first. Also – we meditate together, which is a huge plus.

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I’m from the 90s. Music was really good then. I’m sure it’s true what they say about being stuck in your own generation’s music, but I don’t think it’s been nearly as good since. I finally bought a turntable earlier this year. It changed my life. It’s so exciting to buy and listen to vinyl.
— on her love of music
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on her work as an animal rights activist

I’m working on a project/podcast called Species Unite. I’ve always been an animal rights person and have spent quite a bit of time traveling the world to meet the people who are fighting the hard fights for animals. They are my heroes. I decided that since I was already doing those things, why not start interviewing and recording the people I meet? The first round is being edited now and will be online in early October. It involves people who are fighting the torture in the dog meat trade in Asia, saving elephants in Thailand, capturing poachers in Tanzania, battling congress for our wild horses in the West, and advocates, rescuers, activists from all over.

on her self-care rituals

Meditation is huge. The journals in the morning, running, yoga. I’ve been in therapy. I find that the most effective self-care for me is time in nature. I trail run and hike as often as I can. I’m upstate on a mountain most weekends by 7AM. In Japan, they called it a forest bath.

on shopping and style

I like a lot of local Brooklyn shops and Boutiques like 7115 by SZEKI, Pas Mal and Alter in Greenpoint, Cloth in Fort Greene and Kaight on Atlantic.

on her beauty and makeup routines

I love experimenting and trying all things vegan. The world of vegan beauty products is blowing up and I’m really into it. My favorites are OSEA Hydrating Oil, Ursa Major Recovery Cream, Vivant Skin Care 8 Percent Mandelic Acid, Sade Baron Body Lotion, Peet Rivko Body Oil, and Amika Keep Your Color Shampoo and Conditioner. For makeup, I use Vapour Illusionist Concealer, Glossier Boy Brow, and Juicy Beauty Cream Blush.

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My parents have been buying and selling antiques since before I came around. I grew up going to school in the morning and coming back in the afternoon to completely different living room. It was routine to go to garage sales, auctions, flea markets, and antique stores as a kid. Now I love fun, old, different pieces. My mom finds some of it for me. They found the big work table at an auction. It was a carpenter’s table in the 1800s. My dad refinished it. I also love vintage toys, and find a lot in Brooklyn and while I travel. The art was picked up along the way, some from local stores and flea markets. I found a few pieces online at Exhibition A and Saatchi Art.
— on her home decor
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elizabeth's favorite records

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder, Being There by Wilco, The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition), Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian, Blue by Joni Mitchell

elizabeth's favorite books

Tiny Beautiful Things, History of Love, and The Poisonwood Bible are the three books I give as gifts most often. I just finished The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, and it blew me away. He spent 35 years in solitary confinement, on death row for a crime he did not commit. He finally got out in 2015, but he never lost joy. I feel like everyone should read it.

elizabeth's favorite places IN new york city

Best dinner: Modern Love in Williamsburg. Best Mexican food: Ja Ja Ja in the Lower East Side. Best crostini: Double Zero for incredible vegan pizza and Italian food. Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint for best vegan pizza. Best Veggie Burger: Superiority Burger. Best shared plates: NIX. I go to Oslo in Williamsburg often. The coffee is great. Also Black Brick in Williamsburg, and Irving Farm. Hair: I’ve been going to Cobalt in Williamsburg for eons. Reflexology: Foot Heaven on Pell St. in Chinatown and Pure Qi in Greenpoint. Massage: Spa Sundara, Zuyuan, Rainforest Relaxation Center. Nails: Grand Relax Spa in Williamsburg. Dog Parks: Tribeca dog run and McCarren Park Dog Run are my dog’s favorites. Workout: Tabata Ultimate Fitness, Warrior Fitness, Sync Studio. Yoga: Sky Ting and Kula.