Whether it's in the local meditation centre, a sangha member's private flat, or the once-a-week room rental in a highrise, committed urban meditators will always find a way to receive their awareness fix. And today, New Yorkers can fit practice in their day at a quirky kind of place: a retrofitted 1979 RV.
Calm City, touted as New York’s first mobile meditation studio, provides 10-minute guided meditations for $10 to people traversing Manhattan's bustling streets.
Kristin Westbrook, Calm City's creator and former creative director at Rockefeller Center, first thought of a meditation-on-wheels service when she had difficulty finding a quiet place for her daily afternoon practice in the city.
For her, daily meditation is essential for changing the brain toward positivity and serene awareness of the present moment. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and again in 2012, Westbrook told Tricycle her practice, influenced by Transcendental Meditation and Buddhist teachings, helped her deal with the struggles of her diagnosis.
With the aim to share the advantages of meditation she had experienced with other people, Westbrook recently finished a certified teacher training program through the mindfulness and lovingkindness practice community known as The Path.
In Calm City, she wished to make a cozy space that provides active New Yorkers the chance to quickly center themselves and benefit from the anxiety-reducing effects of regular exercise.
The vehicle's roomy interior is modern, sleek, and aesthetically simple. With soundproofed walls and repurposed Ikea countertops as seats, the truck can hold up to eight meditators at a time.
Once a chime rings through internal speakers, a recording from Marlie McGovern, a New York--based mindfulness instructor, guides practitioners through mind and body exercises. Before the session finishes, a protracted moment of silence helps people to carry the calm they've established back into their day.
From Westbrook's standpoint, Calm City functions as an important check-in. “I wanted to have Superman’s phone booth on every corner,” she explained, "so that people could connect to their inner super powers.
For New Yorkers trying to do that, Westbrook along with her assistant, Mike D'Amore, station the truck in a number of places in Manhattan each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The truck's location, which can change throughout the day, is recorded online, where seats can be booked beforehand.
And for the other city-dwelling meditators out there, simply wait for Calm City's example to take form in an RV near you.