Tamara Levitt

Happiness doesn't come from Headstands


We write about what we know. And personally, I know a lot about failure. As an artist and entrepreneur, I’ve always been a risk taker, but life doesn’t typically prepare us for when we fall.

Nearly a decade ago, a series of consecutive failures left me lost in life and lost in myself. It was a time of great fear and uncertainty, of depression, anxiety and shame, of sleepless nights and loneliness, of forgetting who I was and losing faith in my path and all confidence in my talent. And this went on and on for quite some time, until in not knowing what to do or where to turn, I had no choice but to give up.

Giving up is something that’s hard to do when you’ve invested everything in a dream. Time, Energy, Money. All I was left with was the feeling of failure.


That is, until I stepped back and offered myself some space in which to gain perspective. @@It took a great deal of time, contemplation, meditation and tears but eventually I was able to recognize that having failed didn’t mean that I was a failure.@@ All it meant is that project didn’t go the way I’d hoped. So it was time to let go of the dream I’d been holding onto and start anew.

And so I did the only thing I could. I created from exactly where I was, in the dark. I wrote a children’s book about failure and perfectionism and patience and self-compassion and all the things I most needed to remember.
And now, many years, after first self-publishing this book, and releasing it again with Wisdom Publications, I’m filled with gratitude. For @@when you know the darkest dark the smallest amount of light can mean the world.@@
So today I’m thankful that I was able to take a big deep breath and find the resilience to take one step after the next. I’m grateful I was able to figure out how to let go of what I was clinging to and humbly write and illustrate and self-publish a children’s book, which was no small feat when you know nothing about publishing a book. @@I’m thankful that I learned the lesson that self-worth does not equate achievement and that I am able to now share this lesson with children everywhere.@@ 


So in parting, if you don’t feel the sun shining down on you today, If there is darkness in your world, I hope that you can find a little inspiration in this story, remembering that @@you can only go halfway into the darkest forest, before you are coming out the other side.@@
With love,


About the Author

Tamara Levitt is the  Head of Content and mindfulness instructor at Calm. She writes, narrates and produces our meditation sessions and some of our most beloved sleep stories. She is also an author, published with Wisdom publications.

If you want to keep up to date with Tamara's latest offerings you can visit her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


How to Hold Strong Through the Holidays and Practice Self-Care

Hello, Tamara here, wishing you the happiest of holidays. ;)
This can be such a magical time of year - a time of cheer and celebration, of family gatherings and reunion, of connection and generosity. But for many, this time of year can feel challenging.
For some, spending time with family provokes triggers and stressful events. Others may not have anyone to spend the holidays with. Some of us are enduring breakups, or are dealing with loss or illness. I just received an email from a Calm user who confided a great loneliness she was carrying. It broke my heart to hear.

Reading her words, my mind fell back to a New Years Eve, about 20 years ago. It was shortly after a breakup and I spent the evening alone. I had fallen into clinical depression and the sadness I contained was overwhelming. Caught in a storm of negative thoughts, I was certain my loneliness would never end. In order to either indulge in my depression or avoid it (I wasn’t quite sure which, at the time,) I rented two of the saddest movies in existence, Requiem for a Dream and Moulin Rouge. I then fell to my food addiction, burying my sorrows in Doritos and butter tarts. I ate and cried the night away.
This is what we do when we don’t know an alternative. We seek temporary comfort (which in my case, resulted in an awful tummy-ache the next day).
And it’s funny, in a not-so-funny-way, how the holidays tend to amplify whatever we’re going through. If we’re single and depressed we never feel more alone. If we’re enduring a loss, that loss is never more pronounced.
So, to the struggling woman who wrote me this evening, and to anyone else who is challenged this time of year, I ask you to hold strong and know this for certain: Although in this moment, life may feel difficult, I can promise you, this too shall pass. That may be hard to believe because pain can feel solid and strong and overwhelming. But it will change and it will pass eventually, like every other emotion and experience.

Also, it’s okay to feel sad and scared and lonely. We enhance our pain when we tell ourselves it’s wrong to feel that way. There is no shame in loneliness, or fear, or any emotion. Our emotions are what connect us as humans. We so easily forget this.
My wish for you this holiday season is that you’re able to move through your challenges mindfully. It takes great skill to offer self-care when loneliness or fear or angst feels all-consuming. This is part of why we practice mindfulness - so that when challenges and difficult emotions arise, we have within us the skillset for self-care.

So if loneliness has arisen and the world suddenly feels silent, if being with family triggers old wounds, anxieties and cravings, if emotions like grief, anger, pain or fear feel overwhelming, my hope is that you are able to do the hardest thing possible, that you’re able to stay with whatever arises and hold the space for yourself.

And what that means is stopping, tuning in and listening, actually hearing what your emotions and body are telling you and honouring your feelings. And rather than racing to that bucket of Haggendas, or Netflix, or bottle of Crown Royale, I hope that you’re able to offer some space for whatever’s in your experience, finding within you the strength to turn towards your fear or sadness and tenderly say, “I see you. I hear you.” Instead of judging yourself and making those unsettling emotions wrong, offer them acceptance, loving kindness, and compassion.

This is a time to offer yourself gentleness. Love yourself up, nurture yourself, show yourself the kindness you’d like others to show you, learn to be your own best friend. Practice standing tall and becoming your own champion, for as you begin to offer self-care, a sense of strength and security will be born of that self-reliance. 
As parting words, whether you’re alone or surrounded by family and friends, use this time of year to practice self-care. Slow down, bundle up and know that even in the darkest moments, you will find the way forward. One step at a time. You are stronger than you imagine.

Let self-love become your revolution. 

Love, Tamara

Q+A With Tamara :: deepening concentration when faced with a wandering mind

“I have been doing the Calm app for about 45 days. I seem to still be having trouble with my mind wandering. I keep trying to refocus with the breath. Any suggestions for staying focused? Thank you.”

- Devora 

Thanks for your question Devora. It’s such an important one. 

Beginner meditators are often under the impression that their mind shouldn’t wander. I’ve been meditating for 25 years and my mind still wanders. This is simply the nature of the mind. ;)

While we don’t want to spend our entire practice just sitting still thinking, we have to expect that as we meditate, thoughts will arise and our mind will follow. 

What this practice is about, is noticing what’s happening in our experience from moment to moment.

So when the mind begins to wander, simply notice it wandering! The moment you observe that you’ve been pulled away from your object of attention, you’re already back. This is the work of a meditator – to see all that arises – our thoughts and emotions and sensations without getting caught up in them. And if we do, (or rather when, ‘cause we will!) we recognize what’s happening and catch ourselves.

Simply come back to the breath or the body or whatever your anchor is each time you notice the mind wandering. If you have to bring it back a hundred times, bring it back a hundred times.

Progress is when you are able to stay equanimous – meaning that you don’t become judgmental or agitated when the mind wanders. Our objective here is to remain calm and non-reactive. Do your best to notice thoughts without getting swept away by them or by adding more thoughts. 

That’s my first suggestion to help you return to the breath more quickly. The more you get pulled into a story, the more difficult it is to pull away. 

Watch the boats floating by; just don't climb into any of them.

Here are a few additions suggestions for deepening concentration when the mind is busy: 

  • Take three or four deep, conscious breaths. You can count the breaths as you take them or silently say to yourself “Breathing in” and “Breathing out.” This helps concentrate attention. 
  • Focus on the body for a few moments. Bring your awareness to the hands or feet, feel them heavy, and notice any sensations. Direct the breath into those areas for 3-4 breaths. Directing our attention into the body can be helpful when attempting to divert our attention from thought. 
  • Try meditating for longer periods of time. When the mind is busy, it can sometimes take a good 20 minutes or even longer for it to still. Sometimes practicing for longer will allow you to attain a more still mind.
  • Check your posture. Try straightening your back and see if an alert posture helps still the mind.
  • Relax. Sometimes we become tense if we’re trying too hard. Take a few deep breaths with an audible sigh, fully relaxing the body before coming back to your object of attention. 

Keep in mind that concentration takes time to develop - it’s just like strengthening a muscle. Have patience and compassion for yourself while applying the right effort towards your practice. 

All the best,

Q+A with Tamara: what is the best time for meditation?

Q: "I want to ask you what is the best time for meditation?"

- Chris

Thanks for your question Chris! It’s a common one.

In relation to the best time of day to meditate, it’s different for everyone. It can be beneficial to meditate first thing in the morning because you’re able to cultivate a mindful state you can bring into the day.

Starting the day off with a gentle meditation, rather than jumping out of bed and rushing into the day can create a calm feeling of spaciousness, so if you face stress, you’re better able to deal with it.

It can help you bring awareness to your habits and reactivity because you’ve started the day off mindfully, and it can assist with calm decision-making.  
I personally love my evening meditation because I tend to have a very busy mind at night, which impacts my sleep. Meditating in the evening can help still the mind, and is a great transition to wind down and prepare for sleep.

However, some people find they are too tired to meditate in the evenings so they end up skipping their evening meditation or falling asleep during it – those people would do better with morning or daytime meditations.
You can really meditate any time – morning, after work, after dinner… What’s most important is that you find a time of day that you can stick with for the sake of consistency.

I encourage you to experiment to get a sense of what time of day feel best for you. After all, this is your practice. Make it work for you! 
All the best, 

Have a question for Tamara? Submit it here.

Q+A with Tamara: How to work with thought and apply mindfulness in daily life

Q:  “Although I understand the idea of returning to the breath during meditation, I was wondering if you could tell me about the applications from meditation to the rest of my day. In other words, if I'm walking on the street, is the ideal to keep the mind silent? I typically daydream and think of research project ideas (I'm applying to Economics PhD programs this fall).”

 - Freddie

Fantastic question Freddie.

When we meditate, as you suggested, the practice is to return our attention to the breath (or whatever our point of concentration is) each time the mind drifts off.
So first of all, let’s break this down into smaller steps for the sake of clarification.

When we meditate, we make efforts to calm the mind by focusing our attention on let’s say, the breath. Sooner or later, the mind wanders off. When this happens, we make efforts to bring the mind back.
So what’s actually happening each time we get lost in thought and bring ourselves back? We’re noticing what’s happening. This simple act of noticing is key to practice.
Once we notice what the mind is doing, we have the opportunity to pull ourselves away from distractions and back to our focus. And for that first millisecond that we notice we’ve drifted away, we can observe what the mind is doing. Perhaps we’re worrying about something later that day, perhaps we’re ruminating about a past conversation. Regardless of what’s pulled us away from the breath and broken our concentration, the act of noticing allows us to return.
In daily life, there’s a lot we don’t notice:

  • We lash out at our partner, totally unaware that our anger is because of an old hurt - If we recognize the need to address that old hurt we can resolve it and move on.
  • We sabotage opportunities out of fear - If we notice this is a pattern we can look deeper into its cause.
  • When we have anxiety and our thoughts fall to worst-case scenarios and we notice, we can make efforts to calm our mind, view our thoughts in a more balanced way and change our response.

Noticing allows us to make conscious choices in life and run the
show ourselves, rather than letting our lives run their
course in an unconscious way.


This is mindfulness.
So to answer your question, is it okay if you begin daydreaming about your project ideas when walking down the street... dream away! Just notice your dreaming.

When we do things without noticing, that’s when we’re not being mindful. But if you notice your daydreaming, and make the choice to continue, then you’re being mindful of where you’re applying your attention. As long as your thinking isn’t distracting you from something else you need to be doing, think away!
Many of us think for a living, so we have to carve out time for it. I personally have some of my most innovative ideas while in movement.
Last, the same answer applies to how we can integrate mindfulness in daily life: notice what’s happening. Notice when your thoughts take you on a ride, Notice what triggers your emotions. Notice your habitual responses and patterns. Notice when you’re on autopilot.
When you notice what’s happening you have a choice – you can ask yourself, “do I want to continue down this road?”
And if the answer is yes, forge ahead. Dream, brainstorm and think away.
Just notice. ;)

Best of luck with your studies,

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Accepting life’s imperfections

By Tamara Levitt

As you would guess, being Head of Content at Calm, I’m passionate about meditation. I’ll meditate anywhere - at airports, on buses, in waiting rooms… But nothing beats meditating by the lake at my family’s cottage in Canada, which I visit just a few times each year.

Fall, winter, and spring, I dream of returning. Most especially, I dream of waking up early, walking out onto the dock and meditating with the tranquil sound of the calm water lapping in the background.

Recently, on my first visit in a year, I had a chance to do just that. I had 75 minutes before my guests arrived – Just enough time to fit in an hour-long practice. I grabbed my cushion, walked down the dock, and began meditating, enjoying the soothing sound of the water, and wind blowing through the trees.

5-minutes later, the serene sounds of the morning lake were drowned out by roar of lawnmowers. I should clarify, our cottage is on a large lot with 11 other cottages. It takes a full hour for the three booming industrial sized lawnmowers to complete the job, which meant, my entire practice would be disrupted.

The soundtrack of the tranquil sounds of nature became a distant memory. Irritation set in, then disappointment, as I realized I had two choices: I could either continue my practice with the lawnmowers blaring in the background, or I could skip it altogether.

I’d been looking forward to this morning for an entire year. There was no way I was going to forfeit my practice.

So I stayed. And as the lawnmowers neared the water, their roaring drone got louder and louder. But I chose not to hear it as disruption. I made efforts to hear the sound as sound, without identifying it as good or bad. I didn’t focus on it with irritation the way I had earlier. Instead, I allowed it to be part of the background, responding to it the same way I would the sound of water, or airplanes above, or people talking nearby. I let everything be. And I continued with my practice, which, incidentally, ended up being a blissful one.


Part of the reason why it’s so important to practice meditating in imperfect conditions on occasion, is because it’s training for real life.

Just like there aren’t always perfect conditions to meditate, there aren’t always perfect conditions in daily life. People don’t act the way we want them to. Things don’t show up the way we’d like. Life is constantly disrupting our plans.

On our wedding day it rains. Does that mean we fall apart and feel irritation all day? Or does it mean we move inside and let go of our original plan for an outside wedding so we can enjoy the day?

Or perhaps we have this idea that we’ll be married by a certain age. It doesn’t always happen, so can we find acceptance and joy in being single?

It’s impossible to experience joy when we’re resisting life.

So in order to not let imperfect conditions hinder our happiness, we want to develop resilience to them.

We want to become less bothered, less irritated, and accept that which we can’t control. This is a huge part of what meditation is about - learning how to accept all circumstances, perfect and imperfect. And considering how rare it is that things go perfectly in life, it’s a pretty good skill to have.

So the next time you start your practice and the conditions aren’t perfect, let’s say, your kids are too loud, or a neighbor is playing music, or there’s discomfort in your body, as you sit, see if you can practice staying. Make efforts to accept your present circumstances. It may be challenging but what you’re doing is strengthening your resilience, and learning to find peace within life’s imperfections.

I’ll leave you with these relevant words of wisdom by Michael J Fox:

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.”

So let be and let go. Whenever possible.

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Q+A with Tamara: How to Combat Sleepiness during Meditation

“I keep falling asleep while using the app. As a result I remember almost none of the training.

And I have to listen to the same training (say, day 3) again and again in order to really understand the technique. Is such reaction typical? Is there a way to change this?

-Andrey S.

Great question Andrey.

It’s not uncommon to become sleepy during meditation because for many of us, it’s the only time of day our mind and body settles into a relaxed state.

With the cessation of physical and mental activity our body allows itself to feel the extent of our fatigue. It’s great to have this awareness, but it’s important to remain alert and mindful during meditation. Otherwise, as you suggest, we aren’t able to train and practice effectively.

Here are six techniques you can practice to combat sleepiness:

  1. Maintain proper posture. Maintaining good posture has a great deal do with how alert you are during your sit. Straighten your spine so it’s nice and tall, and each time you notice yourself beginning to slouch due to fatigue, imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you up. When you straighten your back, it will help to maintain alertness.

  2. Don’t meditate on a full stomach. If you’ve just eaten a large meal, that could attribute to fatigue. Try eating lightly before you meditate, or wait for about an hour after consuming a large meal. 

  3. Deep conscious breathing. When you notice yourself getting tired, take a few conscious deep breaths. It can also help to note the breath: Try silently noting to yourself that you’re breathing in and breathing out. Each time you breathe in, say to yourself the words, “breathing in,” and each time you breathe out, say to yourself the words, “breathing out.”

  4. Open your eyes. In order to prevent sleepiness, you can ever so slightly, open the eyes so you’re gazing ahead of you just a few feet. The light hitting your retina will help you stay alert, but make sure not to pay attention to what’s in your line of vision. Once you feel more alert, you can continue your practice with your eyes closed.

  5. Choose the right time to practice. Last, make sure you’re meditating at the best time for you. If you’re meditating at night and feeling tired, you may want to try switching to a morning practice. Different people feel more sharp and alert at different times of day, so test out practicing at various times to see which time of day enhances alertness.

Best of luck!

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