You might not recognise her face or name, but chances are you’ve heard Tamara Levitt’s voice before.
The 49-year-old Canadian is a superstar of the meditation world and head of mindfulness for Calm, a meditation and sleep app that boasts more than four million paying subscribers internationally and 100,000 new downloads a day.
In her role at Calm, Ms Levitt teaches mindfulness principles through different meditation sessions tailored for everything from anxiety to relaxation.
She also hosts some of Calm’s sleep stories, a rambling “story time” for adults designed to lull you off to a good night’s rest.
Take a quick look online and you’ll see just how effective Ms Levitt’s sessions are: She’s praised for her “soothing voice” and keeping people “hooked” on meditation.
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“You and your comforting voice has pulled me through some difficult times,” one typical comment on her Instagram page reads.
“You’re needed more than you will ever know.”
Ms Levitt said the feedback she receives – not just in comments on social media but in emails and private messages – are the “most meaningful part of my job”.
“I feel incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to support so many people,” she told news.com.au.
Ms Levitt was first drawn to mindfulness practices in her teens 30 years ago, when there were no apps like Calm to help you get started.
“I had a difficult childhood that led to depression and anxiety and some other challenges,” she said.
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“I’d heard that meditation was something that could be a path to healing, so I decided to explore it.”
At 19 she discovered meditation’s relaxing powers when she did a guided body scan meditation while being treated for an eating disorder.
“I remember that it was an amazing experience for me,” Ms Levitt said. “I felt calm and relaxed and grounded, which was very new to me at that time.
“My nervous system was really jacked up a lot of the time so there was a feeling of coming home.”
From there Ms Levitt “read books and went to every centre that I could find” to find out more about meditation.
In the years that followed she saw first-hand how meditation could not only help her relax while pracisting it but also have a wider impact on the rest of her life by making her “less reactive”.
Seven-and-a-half years ago she caught wind of a new meditation and mindfulness app that was coming out of tech’s Silicon Valley.
Ms Levitt emailed her resumé to Calm’s founders, Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith, and met with them the next day.
Fast-forward to today where Ms Levitt’s work at Calm has taken on a greater significance in a pandemic that has lasted over a year and the impact that’s had on people’s mental health.
“Over the last 12 months since COVID began I have felt a greater responsibility. I have seen people struggling with so many issues like never before like stress anxiety, insomnia,” she said.
“Globally I feel like it has been at a peak and so people are turning to meditation in order to develop tools to navigate all of this change and change is really hard, we’re not necessarily taught how to deal with change.”
Last year also brought Ms Levitt her own challenges, with the discovery of a cancer tumour in one of her breasts last November.
Her own mindfulness practice has been key to her navigating the stressful time, with tapping into gratitude “amazing medicine”.
“I honestly don’t know if I have ever felt as grateful as I have over the last six months,” Ms Levitt said.
How to meditate
Ms Levitt’s advice for anyone who wants to start meditating is to use an app like Calm that offers guided sessions.
“It’s really hard to start meditating on your own, it’s much easier to start with a guide,” she said.
“The good thing about using an app is that you can use it whenever it suits you. You can choose the length of session that appeals to you, whatever theme appeals to you so working with a guide is really helpful.”
It’s also important to know that meditation is like exercise as you “really do have to do it on a regular basis to see the real long-term benefits”.
“Try and develop a regular practice, decide on a time that works for you, even meditating for 10 minutes a day regularity is really important especially at the beginning of practice,” Ms Levitt said.