Julianna Raye

Julianna Raye

Founder, Pop Go Zen

When Julianna came to LA in the early 90s she wrote a TO DO list which included getting a record deal at a major label. One year later she was signed to Warner Brothers by the president of the company, with Jeff Lynne of ELO and Travelling Wilburys fame, producing her acclaimed debut, “Something Peculiar.” The future looked bright. 3 years later she was waitressing again. Says Julianna “I was miserable as a waitress but had to confess that even while on Warner Brothers, doing what I felt was my life’s purpose, I was also miserable. As a waitress the threat that I would never achieve my goals loomed large. As a recording artist, the threat that my dreams would be pulled out from under me, loomed equally large. I realized that wherever I went and whatever I did, I could not escape the mind experiencing it all. If my mind was not happy, life would only ever be a reflection of my unhappy mind. If my mind’s happiness was entirely contingent on conditions, I would forever be at the mercy of conditions.”

A therapist suggested meditating as a way to relax. Although the practice defied her expectations, Julianna was determined to heal and discovered she liked meditating. “Luckily for me, I’m compulsive! I practiced 1/2 hour daily for 2 years straight, ingraining the habit. I had no interest in and was extremely skeptical of so-called ‘spiritual experiences.’ Nevertheless, I began having oddly magical moments which made me realize I needed assistance with my practice. As fate would have it, just around that time my friend’s father recommended a teacher.” So began what Julianna describes as an unimaginably rich inner journey fostered by a steady diet of intensive silent retreats.

At first this journey was compelled by pain: physical pain! After her first week long Mindfulness Meditation retreat with Shinzen Young (an American Mindfulness teacher who was ordained in Japan) Julianna developed a debilitating chronic back condition. The MRIs showed two herniated discs and she was told she had sat too much! What followed over the next 2 1/2  years was a lot of time lying down… meditating. In addition to her daily practice she continued attending Shinzen Young’s retreats 4 times yearly, where she was permitted to lie down while developing her skills more and more deeply. At the same time, continuing her musical pursuits, Julianna made another record, lying down between takes. “Restless Night” was independently produced by Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne). Meanwhile on the brink of surgery, Julianna got John Sarno’s book “Healing Back Pain” which led miraculously to a full recovery.  By now, the habit of intensive retreats had developed and the habits of mind that had kept her unhappy were beginning to loosen their grip in unexpected ways. As she explains it, “Rather than becoming free of ‘negative emotions’ I was becoming more emotionally flexible and resilient, which had the effect of more frequent and long lasting bouts of joy.”

At this point, Julianna ran into her friend’s father once again who directed her towards his Zen master. She continued with both intensive Zen training and Mindfulness. “I got clarity from mindfulness training and inscrutability from Zen and my practice evolved.” Julianna started integrating meditation techniques into daily life. She would practice standing on line at the post office, washing dishes, in the shower, driving and doing simple tasks. Meanwhile, professionally she took a brief but very successful detour from music to enter the jewelry business, quickly finding international representation and filling orders from Liberty of London, Browns, Paul Smith Europe, Scoop, Fred Segal and Nordstroms among many other smaller boutiques. With that experience in her pocket, she decided to shift focus back to music, which began yielding great opportunities. On the strength of “Restless Night” she opened for Don Henley and Stevie Nicks, toured as a member of Rufus Wainwright’s band and landed a publishing deal with Chrysalis Music which led to another critically acclaimed solo project, “Dominoes,” produced once again by Ethan Johns. On the road, Julianna began integrating meditation practice beyond her preparation and into life onstage. As she looked out at the audience she kept simple techniques going which deepened her practice and the whole experience. In Julianna’s words:

“As I found more and more moments to practice, nature met me half way. My daily life contained more and more moments of magic, blissfully, even ecstatically free from effort. Meditation radically improved my inner world. I would never have come to it on my own and could not have been prepared for what continues to emerge. I was lucky to have met key people who steered me to the right teachers and the right practice for me. My goal with Pop Go Zen is to empower people with knowledge and give them access. Our culture has extremely limited meditation  ‘literacy,’ which makes it tough for people to get engaged. Even living in a metropolitan area, I have found repeatedly that most people, whether interested or not, don’t essentially understand what meditation is and how it works. People don’t realize there are easy exercises they can be doing any time, anywhere to heighten fulfillment and decrease stress and that this workout for the mind can be utterly life altering.”

Having facilitated people in their practice for over 14 years, both privately and in group trainings, Julianna’s goal is to get people interested, engaged and doing mindfulness meditation practice with regularity. She wants people to know that you don’t have to dress up in funny outfits, ascribe to peculiar diets, listen to specific music, follow any particular dogma, isolate yourself or do anything hokey… unless you choose to! Pop Go Zen is about being free to be whoever you are while having access to skills that improve your life. Pop Go Zen takes meditation out of the box and into the world, with specific skills you integrate into every aspect of your day, improving your experience of life and breaking through mental and cultural barriers through valuable techniques to lower stress, heighten creativity and emotional intelligence and improve focus and productivity.