Searching for silence together with like-minded people in a beautiful place: This modern ‘meditation 2.0’ is booming in New York, the city that never sleeps.
Workout for the mind
Noisy neighbors, sirens, the subway passing under your feet: It’s all part of meditating in New York, Dina Kaplan says. Through her company, The Path, the New York native has been giving workshops, teaching courses and hosting retreats to young, hardworking city dwellers since 2014. She organizes a so-called ‘sit’ every Tuesday evening at The Standard hotel. The circumstances don’t need to be perfect in order to meditate, Kaplan says. “I’ve meditated during concerts, in parades, in the subway,” she says. “During a conversation with someone I can repeat the phrase, ‘How can I be of service’ as a mantra in my head. You can actually find the silence in yourself always and everywhere.”
With The Path, Kaplan became part of a new movement that is on the rise in New York. Over the space of a couple of years she noticed her fellow New Yorkers embracing meditation and meditating in the strangest places. “When I started, people thought it was a little weird,” she says. “They thought that I meant yoga.” Nowadays it is almost strange when, as a New Yorker, you don’t meditate. “You go to the gym to work out your body and you meditate to work out your mind,” Kaplan says. “Now it’s more hip than strange.”
On the other side of the world
Kaplan was introduced to meditation by a handsome man she met on a trip to India. “He walked out of the airplane right in front of me and asked me if I had any plans,” she recalls. He invited her to go with him to a ten-day meditation retreat. “It ended up being the worst date ever,” she says, laughing. “Men and women were separated and you did everything in silence. But I discovered meditation there.”
Kaplan was the co-founder of a technology start-up not long before the chance encounter that changed her life. Her company, which pulled in US$ 35 million in start-up capital, was enormously successful and Kaplan was a tech-industry favorite. Fortune magazine put her on the list of ‘Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs’. “But what I never told anyone,” she says, “is that inside I was a mess.” She struggled with her own managing abilities and suffered panic attacks. “In the end I was scared to cross the street for fear that I would get an attack.”
Changing lifes through meditation
On the day that she could no longer go to the office, she realized that she had to make a life change. “I decided to travel to the other side of the world to go and do precisely the opposite of what I was doing,” she says. Kaplan traveled the world for two-and-a-half years, bungee jumped off bridges, went snorkeling, and overcame her anxiety. She also became reacquainted with her feminine side after all those years in the testosterone-overloaded tech world.
On day eight of her meditation retreat it hit her: Everyone should be given the chance to change their life through meditation, and they shouldn’t have to travel to the other side of the world to be able to do it. “It was as if a flash of light shot up from under my feet, through my body and exploded over my head. I knew there and then that I needed to get back to New York and start The Path,” she says.
- The full story ‘Meditation 2.0. in New York’ can be found in Issue 23.
Text Anke Meijer Photography iStock