Being Simone

by Catherine Bigelow

Carol Simone with her longtime friend Stanlee Gatti in 2018 at the Stanford University home of the late George Shultz.
Carol Simone with her longtime friend Stanlee Gatti in 2018 at the Stanford University home of the late George Shultz.

Carol Simone, a Palo Alto author and clairaudient medium, shares her life evolutions inspired by an encounter with Quan Yin, the goddess of compassion who also informs her spiritual healing work.

When the BBC reported in September 2020 that revenue for at-home Peloton bikes surged 172 percent — more than double the previous year — it was no surprise to agile Bay Area residents stuck in workout lockdown. But amid our mania of maintaining corporeal matter, we also had to manage the COVID-confused state of our hearts, souls and psyches. I turned to Carol Simone, a Palo Alto spiritual coach, author, healer and devotee of Quan Yin, the ancient Buddhist goddess of mercy, compassion and kindness. Often depicted in stone statues, Quan Yin’s serene visage graces countless gardens, and her name translates loosely as one who hears the cries of the world.

For the past 35 years, Simone has helped thousands to navigate life’s struggles and heal past traumas, something intensified by the pandemic, which she says “accelerated all those issues.” Personal disclosure: I’ve known Simone (referred to among her clients by her last name) for decades — as both a friend and a wise spirit who dispenses guidance via the many practices she’s studied and is certified in, such as hypnotherapy, Reiki, tarot-numerology, meditation and inner child healing. Pre-COVID, she led workshops in locales ranging from Big Sur to Hawaii.

Simone has also been invited to deliver high-profile benedictions over the years, including the 2001 inauguration of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Simone has been a dear friend and spiritual leader to me for over 30 years,” shares designer Stanlee Gatti. “Her natural intuitive intelligence is the highest level of any healer I’ve ever known.”

Simone’s early life in Manhattan inspired her first novel, The Goddess of 5th Avenue (2001).

Yet no coddler is she to her clientele. Like those hard-charging instructors urging you up that final virtual hill in low gear, Simone is Peloton for the soul. She guides seekers through the mysteries, dramas and disappointments of their lives. But true to the strength and discipline of her Scorpio star sign, Simone is akin to an intuitive drill sergeant, urging clients — with kick-ass straight talk and compassion — to pull up their bootstraps and perform the difficult interior work of transforming the dynamics of their lives, habits and hearts. “[During the pandemic] some clients sought my services as they’d lost loved ones, who we were able to connect with through the energies of Quan Yin,” says Simone, who is a clairaudient medium. “Stress levels were off the charts. I guided hypnotherapy and meditation sessions to heal overstimulated adrenals and the vagus nerve, which if we don’t care for, can really cause us to break down.”

Simone, 72, knows from breakdowns. In Buddhist parlance (though she’d never dare describe herself as such), she is a bodhisattva: a person able to attain nirvana but who chooses to delay that journey out of compassion and a quest to heal others from their suffering.

Born in Manhattan, Simone was once a veritable Park Avenue princess. But behind the glitter of society soirees, chauffeurs and material wealth, Simone, as she detailed in her 2001 debut novel, The Goddess of 5th Avenue, finally confronted in real life, via her fictionalized persona, the sexual abuse she was subjected to by her father.

“With so much PTSD in my life, I’ve had every kind of therapy you can imagine,” acknowledges Simone, who is writing a new book on that topic. “But I’m blessed: I survived my childhood so I may teach others that same self-sovereignty.”

On her blog (carolsimone.com), she writes of seeking solace in jazz; the writings of Beat poets, Rumi and James Baldwin; and the music of Laura Nyro, who, Simone notes, “broke my heart open.” She decamped in the ’60s to San Francisco, landing in the Mission District, where she established a commune for musicians and poets. Simone also thumbnails her many personas: “earth mother, secretary, massage therapist, hermit, caretaker, radio talk show host, journalist.” She even embraced yuppiedom in the early ’80s, establishing a successful ad agency for players of the burgeoning Silicon Valley tech scene.

Burnt out by the late ’80s, Simone embarked on a long-delayed vacation to Maui. There, swimming beneath turquoise waters on the ocean bed, she encountered what she imagined was a mermaid. A year later, passing an antique store, she spotted a statue in the window with the same face she’d seen underwater. Simone came to believe that the dark eyes she’d encountered in Napili Bay, which imbued her with what she calls “shimmering energies,” were those of Quan Yin.

A San Francisco doctor travels to Maui, experiencing new love and lessons.
A San Francisco doctor travels to Maui, experiencing new love and lessons.

In 1988, Simone gave up the corporate world to establish a practice as a medium using astrology, tarot and her newfound clairaudience. She connects with clients in person, through seminars or by phone. Simone also recently established a YouTube series, Two Ancient Semi-enlightened Broads, in which she shares her wisdom alongside her friend Dorthy Tyo.

The past year and a half she reluctantly incorporated Zoom into her consultations. As COVID health ordinances constantly shifted, Simone’s work drew many angry, traumatized clients. But she accepted that this scourge was a force beyond our control, compelling us to be quiet within ourselves — sans the usual distractions of “social accruements.” She also saw growth and positive change. “The human ego is often afraid of change. But over the past year, I discovered a vulnerability as people experienced the adventure of learning to quiet down and discover their higher levels,” she notes. “Powerful lessons are often revealed in devastating circumstances.”

Most days Simone works with people seeking either to alleviate pain or to explore their spiritual path. “As a little girl, I learned about navigating pain and suffering,” she shares. “That fuels me to help others. When I feel a client is shifting into a deeper understanding of their purpose, I can’t describe the feeling inside me. And that’s healing for me.”

Simone studied the teachings of and attended retreats led by Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the world’s great Zen Buddhist masters, whom she fondly calls “a sunflower.” She finds her own solace and rejuvenation in nature — acknowledging all living things are connected, no matter what form they embody. “Even though I’m a meditation teacher, I have a hard time sitting in one position. Hanh taught us to walk slowly on the earth, letting our thoughts go until the nervous system calms,” she explains. “That’s how I remember what it feels like to leave your body and just inhabit spirit, reconnecting with the light and love of the earth.”

But Simone’s most important tool? Mindfulness. “The subconscious hears everything you say. With every thought you express, you direct your mind and body,” she says. “That’s why affirmations, prayer or meditation are powerful calming tools.” The most negative word in our vocabulary, per Simone, is “stuck,” because our being hears that word and enacts that quality. Her experience and practice taught Simone that one must delve into their metaphorical basement — where the ego resides — to open up closed-off passages and reconnect with the parts of themselves they left behind that were once too painful to face. “We are here to learn how to love. There isn’t anything else. We must embrace compassion and forgiveness, and escape blaming our parents,” advises Simone. “If you really want to move forward, you must learn to love and champion yourself.”

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