In a city full of fitness and wellness tribes, it can be seemingly impossible to break into a new one — but not when it comes to joining the growing group of meditators. Last week, a New York Times article explored the “mainstream business practice and a kind of industry in its own right” that meditation has become. And though inclusive — it’s hard not to feel welcome at a group meditation — the movement is quickly becoming associated with millennials and start-up companies.
Of course, mindfulness is not new in Manhattan. A certain set of New Yorkers has been meditating their whole lives — or, at least, careers. The Michelin starred TriBeCa chef Marc Forgione, for example, has a Native American spiritual guide, and has brought in the Buddhist author and meditation teacher Lodro Rinzler to teach his staff how to meditate — a handy tool, surely, in a bustling kitchen. And in L.A., where New Age gatherings are as commonplace as happy hour, a guy called Gabriel Heymann discovered a love for transcendental meditation — which led him to embrace a healthier lifestyle, and ultimately brought him to New York, where he recently launched Smart Beer, the city’s first organic brew. (He still practices meditation.) But meditation is no longer a behind-the-scenes part of a successful person’s lifestyle — it’s at the forefront of many new brands.
Chef Forgione’s friend Rinzler, for one, co-founded MNDFL, a boutique meditation studio that opened late last year in Greenwich Village. At MNDFL and a handful of similar new studios, like at any fitness class, visitors pay in advance and book a spot — a meditation cushion — online (for as little as $10). And because the world is small, one of the studio’s instructors, Eric Spiegel, officiated the wedding of Marissa Vosper — whose cult underwear line Negative Underwear is as minimal and uncluttered as the regularly meditated mind. When Vosper, who grew up meditating (her parents are practicing Buddhists), invited a small group of friends and editors to her SoHo office earlier this month to a meditation led by MNDFL, it would be safe to say that no one thought twice about the invitation. Gathering in groups to get quiet is just what we do these days.
At the time, Vosper’s event was one of very, very many mindful-oriented invitations in my inbox. There were too many to choose from — discuss Dharma with a Buddhist monk, find quietude in a sold-out sound bath, chill out with Waris Ahluwalia’s chai tea and an Indian mystic — so I did them all.
I first flexed my mind muscles at Medi Club. Founded by Jesse Israel, it’s a safe haven for like-minded “modern meditators” to gather monthly and meditate, discuss what’s new in their community and prepare for an event called the Big Quiet — mass meditations in Central Park and Lincoln Center. When I arrived at the Medi Club meeting at And & And Studios (the very chic owners of Calliope/Sub Rosa lend the space), I found what looked more like a frat party than a meditation event: 20- and 30-somethings were queued up outside the front door, and three young girls armed with iPhones (to check in guests) guarded the entrance. They had somehow lost my reservation but would accept a donation of $20 — “and can you please remove your shoes?” Inside, everyone seemed to know each other — or want to know each other. I felt like I was at a singles event and overheard one girl asking another what brought her to Medi Club for the first time. (She read about it in a New York Times article.) The meeting was ironically really loud for a club organized around quietude. (When Israel began playing Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex” to shout out birthdays, I knew I hadn’t quite found the right place to quiet and harness my thoughts.)
The next day, I sought the comfort of my favorite workday escape: OmFactory, a crunchy yoga studio (by New York standards) that offers an afternoon Flow & Meditate community class — at half the price of Medi Club’s suggested donation. The combination of yoga (to wring out the body’s toxins) and meditation (to flood the mind with stillness) felt infinitely more organic than Israel’s gathering — the focus was actually on the body. (If you’ve never meditated, the act of mindful meditation is very physical in nature: In order to clear your mind of other thoughts, you focus it on your breath, each inhale and exhale, and on your body.) The class calmed and prepared me for the adventure I’d embark on the next evening: a weekend meditation retreat in Rockaway Beach. Continue reading >>