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After Yoga, meditation for all

Ⓒ AFP – Don Emmert – | A Tibetan bowl, photographed on August 24, 2017 at the Mndfl meditation studio in New York

It is five o’clock in the afternoon, rush hour in Manhattan, and thousands of people fill the sidewalks. Julia Lyons, 31, leaves work and runs to her daily oasis: half an hour of meditation in the young company Mndfl.

Since April 2016, when she discovered this brand new studio, this investment bank employee quit yoga and embraced this practice that the Beatles contributed to the West when they returned from India in the late 1960s.

“I meditate very regularly, probably five times a week, in 30-minute sessions,” Lyons says, cup of tea in hand, sitting on the study sofa after her daily practice.

“I need some time to relax: in this city we are always running from side to side,” he explains. “It makes me much happier, it helps me make better decisions, more thoughtful decisions,” he says.

For a long time, these testimonies were common only among intellectuals, famous or enlightened. Today they are everywhere, from hospitals, where meditation is increasingly common to deal with chronic or serious diseases, to schools, which sometimes propose children, through television series.

All this helps to stimulate a rapidly expanding market in American cities and to democratize a practice that some assimilate to brain hygiene, mixing concentration, breathing and self-awareness exercises.

– Ten dollars the half hour –

The development in New York of the Mindful studies, one of the aspects of meditation, or of another company, Inscape, are among the numerous examples of this search for nirvana, an extension of yoga that is practiced almost in every corner.

Other centers have opened in Los Angeles, Miami, Washington or Boston.

Lodro Rinzler, 34, Mndfl’s “spiritual director,” opened his first studies at Greenwich Village in late 2015 and now has two other locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Initiated in meditation as a child, in the 1970s, his parents, Buddhists, recognized that “things are going well.”

Ⓒ AFP – Don Emmert – | The New York Meditation Study Mndfl, in an image of August 24, 2017

“The people who come are truly representative of all New Yorkers. With a common denominator, ‘I’m very tense, I need to take care of my brain’, we cover practically everyone,” he laughs.

He refuses to talk about money. He says his courses are often “complete” and that the 75 numbered cushions of his three studios have been booked online 70,000 times in the last 18 months.

The reasons for this success? A model that allows the inexpensive initiation of this ancestral practice.

For a long time, Rinzler explains, the most recognized Buddhist centers offered only long and costly introductions-several-hour sessions, multi-day seminars-at a cost often amounting to several thousand dollars.

With courses starting at $ 10 a half-hour and no-due dates, new studios in New York or Los Angeles are betting on a wide audience.

A model of gymnasiums, with zen atmosphere: warm and low lights, vegetable walls and organic tea at will.

The democratization also happens by the companies. More and more companies in Silicon Valley are proposing to their staff initiations to meditation, convinced of the long-term benefits to their organization.

Emily Fletcher, an expert who teaches meditation since 2012, has launched a special formula for companies that has been very successful for 18 months.

It started with 150 students the first year and now has more than 7,000. He expects to reach tens of thousands of fans online, also in cities such as Cleveland (Ohio) or Tallahassee (Florida).

– From the president to the employees-

Ⓒ AFP – Catherine Triomphe – | The shoes of some employees of a financial company attending a meditation class on September 21, 2017 in New York

“In general I start teaching the president of the company, he begins to feel the benefits and invites me to come and make a presentation in his company”, explains the president and founder of Ziva Meditation.

Employees participate voluntarily, sometimes “for very selfish reasons: express themselves better in public, approach their boss, earn more money or improve their sex life,” says this 38-year-old woman.

But that does not matter, because “if they get to practice it really, they will take more advantage of their life, their brains will work better, they will become less sick,” he says.

Another aspect of the boom: the multiplication of meditation applications for smartphones. One of the most popular, Headspace, has already been downloaded 11 million times in the spring, and has more than 400,000 paying subscribers.

Deserted places of worship, brains overwhelmed by hyperconnection due to abuse of telephones, confirmation of the benefits of this practice by neuroscience: the appetite for meditation is due to a multitude of factors.

The context is so favorable that neither Fletcher nor Rinzler care about competition.

“I’m sure it will be like yoga, we’ll find it soon in every corner,” Rinzler predicts.

“If we see this as a market, it’s competition,” explains Fletcher. “But if we see it as a mission, they are colleagues. There can not be too many teachers to teach 4 billion people!” He says.

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