Rosario Dawson’s been busy—on-screen and off. Professionally, her career jumped off with Sesame Street. Years later, she starred in Kids, along with several other independent films, however her talent was solidified via roles in movies such as Men in Black II, Josie and the Pussycats, Seven Pounds, and Unstoppable. She has a knack for voice overs, serving as the voice behind DC Comics’ animated Wonder Woman and Disney+’s Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Ahsoka earlier this year.
Dawson’s on-screen talent, while impressive, isn’t a full picture of her impact. She’s established herself as a tremendous activist across political, environmental, and social causes, donating her time and voice to organizations such as Global Cool, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays, Doctors Without Boarders, and Save the Children. Most notably, however, is her work with the Lower East Side Girls Club, which recently went under renovation in partnership with Samsung.
Visiting the center is a grounding activity for Dawson, but her wellness regime goes far beyond just that. She’s dedicated four days to pitch black meditation, has attempted eating foods best for her blood type, and works hard to place mindfulness at the forefront of her daily life. Through a Zoom screen, Dawson details her approach to health and wellness.
The one thing I've always wanted to do is a 10-day silent meditation retreat. You have around 10 hours of meditation a day. It seems like a lot though, so who knows if I’ll actually ever get around to doing it.
I just did this darkness retreat at Sky Cave Retreats in Oregon, where I spent nearly four days in the complete pitch black. In that instance, I couldn't be on the phone. I couldn't read, I couldn't listen to music. I couldn't be distracted by anything. I didn't even have lights to be distracted by. I ate in the dark. I drank in the dark. It was like the most incredible thing to open and close my eyes and still be in the dark. It was actually really powerful to see just how short the day is. If you really sleep, get good rest, take your time while you're eating, get your stretches in, do your yoga, take a nice long bath, and meditate a little bit, the day's almost gone.
It's a crazy experience. I recognize that those are all the things that are always up for sacrifice. I can skip on sleep, I can skip the meditation, I'll rush through eating my food, take a quick shower rather than a bath so that I can squeeze in as much work as possible. I was able to feel my body in a different way. My deepest relationship on this planet is with my body. It will break down on me, it will get sick on me, it will be exhausted. But when we stop pushing ourselves and we stop developing—that is death. Sitting on that couch all day or scrolling on your phone, that is death. This retreat made me recognize that I need to have such a deeper loving relationship with my body.
When I watch people exercising, training, yoga, or doing whatever online, I end up just literally watching them. I’ll just watch and be like, Oh, that's a good technique. But then I don’t actually do it. Maybe if it was live, I would.
For me, it's not turning on my phone immediately when I wake up. It's having it off for an hour or so before I go to bed. It's really enjoying drinking my tea or wasting time waiting. It's being really present in this moment right now, which is the only thing we have. Not making lists, not worrying too much about the past. It's okay that those thoughts and things come up, but if you lead with your heart, you embrace so much more.
Maybe you don’t believe in it, but I’m very into manifestation. I think I'm a very powerful manifester. I absolutely believe when you put your intention, your thoughts, your energy, and especially your gratitude behind something, more of what you want will come back to you.
Something like the darkness retreat. When I came out, my body just naturally cried after nearly four days of darkness and seeing the sun and trees and color. It wasn’t because I realized life was so beautiful or the sight was so pretty. It was because I recognized that feeling. There’s a feeling to sight. It’s really, really powerful and really, really beautiful.
I love adventure and I love pushing myself. I'm always in the energy of learning something, evolving, and developing myself. Wellness has definitely been one of those things that wasn't really uplifted in my childhood. We had this sort of idea that if you weren't stressed out and exhausted, then you weren't trying hard enough. So we betray ourselves all the time. We push ourselves, we neglect our sleep, our eating, our self care, and we burn out. That's something I've really experienced way too many times over the years. I'm allergic to it now. I'm seeing so many other people start to recognize that actually taking that time, taking that bath, taking that walk, stretching, and meditating, will actually make you perform better. That’s been my journey.
I go to Hardy Health now. My friend, Dr. Lou, started this company over the pandemic. They do personalized medicine. I started with them last year, which was really helpful when I was filming on Ahsoka. They were helping me with repair, healing, and strengthening.
I became really obsessed with the Aura Ring because sleeping was never my strength. I discovered sleeping pretty much during the pandemic. With the Aura app, I find out my REM, my deep sleep, my heart rate, and my oxygen levels. It gives me that personalized health information, which I really like.
I’ve been volunteering with the Girls Club for years. I've been on their board now for years. My daughter's gone there. I'm a wannabe Girls Club girl because it didn't exist when I was a kid. Going there just blows my mind and warms my heart up. They recently opened up the wellness center at the Lower East Side Girls Club. Samsung came in, made a donation, and retrofitted the entire building. We can use that to be more creative and to be healthier. I've been really grateful for this technology. I feel like it's the Jetson jet in there.
My current state of mind is just really gratitude. There are just insane things happening in the world at all times.I am worried about my parents and their health and my kids in college. It's so easy to just get so stressed and spend too much time on the news or worrying. I've been turning more to my gratitude. I like to be present in the moment with my parents and in life. I’m trying to live in the now—that's been my main thing. This is the only moment that we've got.
I’m trying to meditate more. My friend, Light Watkins, is my meditation teacher. He has a really great, brilliant book called “Bliss More,” where he teaches you how to do it. As we get back to work, we sacrifice that alone time. I know there are going to be times when I'm filming and working 14 or 16 hours a day. But that means I have to better balance my other time—I can't just keep doing back to back jobs. I have over a hundred credits on IMBD for a reason. I am gonna burn out and that's just not healthy. I have to figure this out better. So that's sort of been that meditation and that quiet time.
I really love being in the water. Whether it's the ocean, a pool, the shower, or a bath. I've read that when kids start to have a tantrum, just bring water into the equation and it can be so healing and I think it's grounding. We are nature, so whenever we interact with it—that fresh air, that ground, the dirt, the soil, farming, planting, sunlight—it just means a lot. I grew up with community gardens and camping. I took it for granted because it was just there. Now, I have to be so intentional about it.
My mom has been on every diet known to man because she's diabetic. She definitely went through the whole eat right for your blood type phase. I didn't have the same impulse because my mom was trying to lose weight and take care of her diabetes. But I thought if it was healthy, I was happy to try it because she needed that support. The first time I met my friend Dante Bosco, who played Zuko in Avatar, I was 19 and we got set up on a blind date. I think I ate a plate of broccoli or something ridiculous. At that time, I was eating right for my blood type and having these really weird meals. I was totally unabashed.
Sometimes you hear of more extreme things—like why you should be a bodybuilder or something. But I’m not interested or willing to push myself that hard. Maybe if I was pro-athlete, but for the meantime I’m good to have my little muscles and eat a normal amount of protein.
I would say that wellness is a necessity and a priority. Growing up in New York, going up four flights of stairs every day, walking all the time, and going to gardens and camping was just part of my life. But when I moved to LA, everyone was just driving and I put on 15 pounds. Suddenly, I had to work out. I never really did that before. I love a pilates class, but I’m not doing power pilates. I want it to feel slow. I want to feel myself isolating muscles. I want that really personalized, deep body experience.
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Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and keeps up with the latest trends in the beauty space. She has previously written for Us Weekly, Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Follow her on Instagram @samholender.
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