I bet you can guess what the first words of my first meditation class were. You’re right, they were, “Let’s start with a poem.”
The trouble with meditation is threefold. First, sentences like the above make you feel like you’re in a Portlandia sketch. Second, your mind starts racing, wondering how funny said Portlandia sketch would be. Third, it’s hard. But it’s proven to make people’s lives better, and everyone who matters to me — celebrities — are constantly raving about the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. If Sting, Madonna and Anthony Jeselnik can find the inner peace to sit and breathe daily, why have I never found the time to open my Mindfulness app?
After a work-related visit to MNDFL meditation studio in New York a few months ago, I couldn’t get its soothing vibes out of my head. It had a plant wall! It worked like booking into a spin class! I’ve been meaning to meditate! Most importantly, I had a gift card! A story was born. I attended six 30-minute meditation sessions at MNDFL, each intended to help me focus on a particular object, such as my breath. I missed the first day of my week because I got on the subway too late. I was stressed out about that, but by Day 7, I’ve learned to breathe and let it go. (Just kidding, there’s not enough oxygen in this world for me to let go of my feelings toward the C train — but maybe there will be on Day 30).
As a more experienced meditator would have told me, it is not chill to write a story on your meditative experience. I’ve spent a week thinking, “Remember that for you notes,” and then, "Wait, just breathe, though.” By Day 4, I settled into my gray area. “Even if you are only able to meditate for two breaths, just breathe,” the teacher told our class, totally pulling me out of it. I had been going swimmingly for a ton of breaths. A good day for me... or maybe I was doing everything totally wrong. I took another breath.
The studio has more than 30 teachers, a boon for someone looking for their perfect meditation match. I took class with the charmingly casual Lodro Rinzler, one of the co-founders of MNDFL. He and his partner, Ellie Burrows, came up with the idea for the studio over (obviously) tea. “What if there was somewhere in the city that I could just drop into and learn to meditate or take a break on a schedule that works for me?” Burrows wondered.
They found that people were eager to meditate but financial barriers to entry — a Transcendental Meditation course will run an adult about $1,000 — kept many people away. Now, the studio has been open for five months, and many classes are totally booked.
“It’s like saying fitness back in the '50s,” Rinzler says. “Yoga? Running? I can lift weights? It just wasn’t well-known. We’re at the same point with meditation. We think of ourselves like Meditation University, where people can find out what works best for them and then go deeper.” MNDFL offers a mix of introductory, intermediate and thematic classes. I tried Sound and Emotions, but my favorite was the basic Breath class. Sleep, a sitting meditation for people who suffer from insomnia, seems like it would be especially helpful. (Unfortunately, not my problem. I was falling asleep like I was in seventh-period geometry during one of my sitting meditations.)
Who really sells me is Julia, a MNDFL devotee who’s completed two 30-day challenges at the studio. She sounds like a commercial I want to be in. “I’ve found more relaxation and purpose throughout my day,” she tells me. “My friends who know I’m going to meditation can tell when I’ve just gone to class because I sound so relaxed.” Can you remember the last time you got called out for sounding relaxed? Me, neither, and I’d like to get to that place immediately. “Making it a habit is the tipping point,” she says. I won’t claim I’ve reached the tipping point yet — but the Mindfulness app on my phone is about to get a lot more attention.
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