Image: MNDFL Photography/Natalie Baxter
One step inside Barbara Close’s Naturopathica Healing Arts Center & Spa in Chelsea and you are quickly transported to a place far, far away from the streets of New York.
The space isn’t big—there’s a Vitality Bar that looks somewhat like your standard coffee cafe (but this one has kombucha on tap, coconut water, cold-pressed juices, herbal elixirs and tea), a Remedy Bar to the side that beckons visitors to create custom-blend tinctures and essential oils, and tucked-away treatment rooms where you can unwind via herbal massage, body treatments and facials—but everything it offers is a powerful experience inside the world of well-being.
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If you take a few more steps to the way back of the spa, you’ll come across another room: An almost sacred space that Close calls the Sensory and Meditation Lounge. It’s this room that she plans to open up to the public (read: free) so they can visit for the sole intention of practicing meditation.
In a city that’s not cheap and for a practice that technically could be done anywhere by anyone at any time, Close’s idea is an interesting one. “We are planning to use this space as a place where energy-sapped urbanites can come to learn about meditation, refocus and re-boot their mind and body,” she says (the brand is currently in partnership discussions with a major lifestyle meditation center in New York to work on the concept). “Ideally, we will offer a series of morning meditations so that our community can start their day with a clear mind, enjoy a tea or latte from the Vitality Bar and make it to work on time.”
If that kind of sounds similar to your before-work gym trek or anything else you might build into your day-to-day non-work schedule, that’s Close’s goal. “As wellness becomes more mainstream and at the forefront of people’s consciousness, meditation is gaining attention as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. People are realizing that they need meditation, not only to bring balance to their lives like in a yoga practice, but also to work smarter and more efficiently.”
“It is like going to the gym. You can’t go once and expect immediate results. Our goal is to introduce various types of meditation, so you can find the one that best suits you and stick with it. If you can quiet your mind, you’re able to refocus on things that strengthen you as an individual, like goal setting, creativity and stress relief.”
“Meditation is a trend—but it’s one that is here to stay. It’s so great to see that some of these ancient practices are being adapted to how we live today,” says Elisha Goldstein, meditation expert and author of Uncovering Happiness and The Now Effect. Aside from those credentials, Goldstein is also taking a very active role in spearheading the “modern” meditation movement, as a regular contributor to Untangle, the companion podcast to Gaiam’s Meditation Studio App. The downloadable app provides more than 160 meditations that were created for what Goldstein calls “real people” living “real lives” to use every day or any time they want to “drop in” to a meditation—via their smartphone or computer. “It has done a beautiful job at making meditation accessible and practical. Whether you’re on a subway or waiting in line at Whole Foods, it provides a range of choices of styles and instructors so that anyone can find something that resonates with them, anytime, anywhere.”
Beyond influencing people in their personal lives, Goldstein says meditation is also finding its way into the economy, through healthcare companies, businesses, education and even politics. “You hear so much positive feedback from people who currently meditate and the science supports this. There are so many benefits: it helps with insomnia, it reduces stress and anxiety, it lowers blood pressure, it helps you feel more focused, and it calms the nervous system.”
“Other studies show that it increases meaning in people’s lives and allows them be more resilient and ultimately happier—and all of this can lead to reduced healthcare costs, and businesses are picking up on that. Meditation is an inner practice, but it helps us to be more mindful in our daily lives in our everyday activities and in our relationships with others in family, work and community.”
Another thing Goldstein is also excited about: how popular meditation is becoming in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. “There are studios cropping up where people can pop in to meditate for 20 minutes or take a class for an hour to learn how to meditate. This is a great trend because we move so fast in these cities and we’re always on the go in these (busy, busy, busy) cultures of ambition, so it’s important to pause, slow down and go inward to gain new perspective from time to time.”
One such studio is MNDFL, located in New York’s Greenwich Village. The model is somewhat similar to that of a yoga studio (there’s a low-priced memberships structure, classes at different times and you can book your slot online)—but instead of downward dog, you’re meditating; instead of grabbing a yoga mat, you can pick up a cushion. There are 30-minute classes, private instruction and unlimited options, plus there’s the invitation to drop in when classes aren’t in session to do your own thing (it’s free for members, $5 for guests).
Image: MNDFL Photography/Monica Lee
The studio has only been open for four months, but CEO Ellie Burrows says they’ve already seen community members develop pretty significant meditation practices. “We often hear that our space supports real consistency, which is often the most important and challenging aspect of the practice. MNDFL is taking traditional meditation, practices that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and making it accessible and relevant to everyday modern life,” Burrows says. “Things that help humans feel better are always in fashion. Science is now proving what some traditions have known for 2,500-plus years and people have decided to start paying attention.”
“Personally speaking, my practice helps give my body deep relaxation and allows me to show up with a more open heart in my everyday life. It also dramatically changed my relationship to time—I feel like there’s more of it and I’m no longer racing against a clock,” Burrows says. “And, it’s made me a less reactive person, which might be my favorite benefit.”