SERENE Social

In the Press: The Meditation Generation

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Meditating with Deepak Chopra at The Refinery Hotel. (Photo: Cody James Photography)

On a Thursday evening in January, a long line of young professionals snaked through the lobby of the trendy Refinery Hotel towards the elevator that led to the Rooftop, where chic New Yorkers generally gather to sip cocktails beneath the shadow of the Empire State Building.

On this night, however, as they spilled out onto the roof, people found mats on the floor, kicked off boots and stilettos, and set about figuring out how to arrange their leather leggings and designer skinny jeans into approximations of lotus position.

The event was a guided meditation with famed author and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, hosted by Wellthily, and the swanky locale and crowd filling the packed room was one manifestation of meditation’s expanding place in popular culture, especially in urban centers like New York City and Los Angeles.

“Younger people are doing it, professionals are doing it, people on Wall Street are doing it, doctors are doing it,” said Chopra, in an interview after the event. “It’s almost mainstream now.”

Like yoga’s similar transformation from “weird hippie habit” to standard American past time through the ’90s and early aughts, meditation is becoming a trendy—and in many cases, normal—practice among 20- and 30-somethings.

Serene founder Millana Snow tries to meditate for 20 minutes a day. (Photo: Sumner Dilworth)

The new meditators

“When I first started Serene a few years ago, nobody was interested in meditation. I would say ‘Let’s do a cool event!’ and nobody thought it was cool,” says Millana Snow, 27, a Project Runway-winning model who founded wellness-minded young women’s membership clubSerene Social, with groups in New York City, Los Angeles, and London. “Now, we do meditation with Donna D’Cruz, who’s an amazing mediation guru, at Soho House. We have it once a month, and it’s almost always full.”

Like the crowd at the Refinery event, many of the women in the classes are young professionals, who Snow says are mostly “entrepreneurs or in the entertainment industry.” And similar communities exist around pop-up meditation groups like The Path, which recently hosted a Fashion Week event for industry insiders at Caravan Stylist Studio and was described as a networking fest by the New York Times, and Center of the Cyclone, which hosts classes in art galleries and at the Botanical Gardens. In LA, there’s the new studio Unplug, which is often referred to as the “SoulCycle of meditation.”

In all of these places, and at home, young meditators are finding a new kind of clarity amid their 20-something worlds filled with long hours and long nights. “I really try to get it in at least once a day for about 20 minutes,” Snow says of her own practice. “I’ve become just more clear. My brain is a lot more open to bigger ideas…my body is more relaxed.”

A meditation event at The Bowery Hotel in December 2014, hosted by The Path, in partnership with music and event production company Babel. (Photo: Facebook/The Path)

Why stillness is in

So how did meditation go from being a fringe idea to a mainstream activity? “Fitness is a hot topic, but there’s also a general lean toward more holistic health. It’s not just your mind and your body, but also your spirit and integrating and balancing those things,” Snow observes. “I think meditation is the next layer of that.”

Experts agree. Modern spiritual teacher Gabrielle Bernstein now weaves meditation into almost all of her teachings, and renowned yoga teacher and author David Romanelli (AKA “Yeah Dave”) recently shifted his focus to teaching meditation, via an app and a new book, Happy is the New HealthyBoth are making the practice accessible to modern young people in new, exciting ways.

Of course, meditation has a celebrity stamp of approval, too. Wellness influencers like SoulCycle’s Stacey Griffith and chef-personality Candice Kumai were at the Refinery event. Arianna Huffington and Kobe Bryant discussed their “practices” in Sunday Stylesand stars from Katy Perry to Demi Moore are vocal about how they get their om on.

Chopra also cites the growing body of research on meditation’s incredible impact—from studies on how it affects the brain to how it may change gene expression—as a reason for the growing interest. In the end, though, he says its popularity is probably more born out of a real, of-the-moment need.

“We’re living in a very distracted society. There’s so much multitasking,” he says. “People are recognizing that meditation, and other things like yoga and breathing awareness and mindfulness…they help you tackle stress, but they also improve the quality of your life.” In short, he says, “Society needs it more than ever.” —Lisa Elaine Held

SERENE Diaries: I'm now a Disciple of IntenSati!

Transient

About a year and a half ago, Suparna Bhasin made a great connection, encouraging our collaboration with Patricia Moreno, the founder of IntenSati, which combines empowering affirmations with interval training, martial arts, dance and yoga. There was something so attractive and mystical about her, a woman so visibly strong and poised, but also incredibly warm, centered and wise; I always had it in my mind that I wanted to work with her.

Finally, one day in the shower (the BEST place for ideas!), while musing about the perfect lineup of guest teachers for #GetTHANKFUL, I realized that Patricia was the perfect person to teach  affirmations! I had serendipitously come across her teachings again, highlighted in an essay for NYU research on the subject. Shortly after, I was able to connect with Patricia, and she was kind enough to guest teach the first #GetTHANKFUL class, and whoa did she blow us away with her wisdom! My top three takeaways include:

  • Affirmations should be short, powerful, positive and present.
  • Say them many times a day, and use physical movements while looking in the mirror to really solidify them!
  • Emotions cause motion.

After class, I wanted to become an IntenSati disciple myself! Recently, on a Friday afternoon, I participated in a class at Equinox in SoHo and saw what all the raving was about. The class was full of ladies who were clearly familiar with Sati Life, and I immediately noticed that everyone was open and friendly. Patricia began by having us sit in a meditative state and allow her voice to wash over us. Automatically I felt like I was in an alternate state, yet completely tuned into her words and the energy of the room. Then came the workout of the year! Wow, I had no idea how out of shape I was!

Transient

 The theme of the class was change — accepting what we cannot change and having the courage to change the things we can (don’t we all need this?!). I realized that change is a daily commitment, repeating the affirmation, "One day at a time, the choice is mine," while doing jumping jacks to the beat of the music playing over the speakers. After over an hour of running in place, boxing, dancing, aerobics and tons of encouraging high fives, I was pooped! Yet at the same time, I felt so alive and clear. Days later, the repetition of  affirmations in sync with the movements are still fresh in my mind! I knew without a doubt that not only did I need more workouts like that for my body, but I also needed more affirmations like that for my soul!

 I’m excited that we will be announcing more collaborations  with the amazing Patricia and IntenSati soon! In the meantime, please take a class with her at Equinox, her own weekly Saturday class, or her amazing masterclass. I HIGHLY recommend it and know you will LOVE IntenSati!