By Ellie Burrows, Co-Founder
While meditation is an age-old ritual, MNDFL has found a bold new way to practice: an easy to reach, dedicated drop-in space for a busy schedule, in a busy city. “Space to breathe,” co-founders Ellie Burrows and Lodro Rinzler like to call it. The two realized there was nowhere in the city they could go regularly to meditate that didn’t involve an accompanying lecture or religious affiliation — so they created their own! MNDFL also offers intro to meditation and meditation technique classes, so the real question is: Will you be bold enough to take the time out to meditate? We caught up with Ellie to answer a few questions about MNDFL and meditation.
Meditation is certainly not a new concept, but a space like this dedicated just to meditation in an urban lifestyle and meditation classes is a bold move. How did you first come up with the concept?
The idea came from a deep personal need. I was really struggling with my practice so I reached out to Lodro when I was volunteering for his non-profit, Institute for Compassionate Leadership, and asked him for assistance. I had no idea a casual coffee on July 28th 2014 would lead to this. We just looked up the date this week! I desperately wanted somewhere to go where I could explore meditation in an accessible manner, free from religion, with the best teachers under one roof. It was important to me that it was a space that I could drop into, much like I often dropped into my workouts. Meditation has been around for 2500+ years. I think what's bold is that we're meeting people where they're at, in a completely contemporary context, and helping them learn how to relax and become familiar with themselves. Perhaps the boldest thing of all, is that we encourage people to check their cell phones at the front desk. You should see the relief on their faces.
"I think what's bold is that we're meeting people where they're at, in a completely contemporary context, and helping them learn how to relax and become familiar with themselves."
How important do you think meditation is in a healthy lifestyle?
I can only speak for myself, but it's one of the tenets of my self-care ritual along with nourishing food, sleep, and exercise. 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. And, it's made me a less reactive person, which might be my favorite benefit. It's hard to imagine life without it.... oh wait, I just did. Never want to go back there.
"...my practice helps give my body deep relaxation and allows me to show up with a more open heart in my everyday life."
How have you seen meditation make a difference in the lives of those who have come to MNDFL?
Many of our community members have said that they have never been more consistent in their practice. We had one community member tell us that MNDFL has helped him become a better and more present husband and father. For most, the teachers and community members are an important tether that enriches and supports their practices. I think we realized we were really serving our community when people began purchasing yearly memberships to the studio. Lodro and I turned to each other and said, "Okay this is working."
It seems in order to carve out time to meditate, we need to be bold with our time, and dedicate time to practicing. Any advice for people in choosing to be bold with their time in this way?
Bold is a funny word. When we think of it, we often think of something that's loud, like a bold color, or an exclamation point on the end of a sentence like, "Take a risk!" Meditation is the opposite in many ways — it's soft, subtle, gentle. Boldness is available to us every day, look no further than the little B on your computer screen - it's a good reminder. That kind of bold is all about emphasis. Emphasis means special importance, value, or prominence given to something. When it comes to meditation, you have to experience it to determine its importance in your life. If you experience the benefits first-hand, then you will likely value it and give it special importance. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting to the cushion, so just go ahead and mentally click that B and make the decision to sit consistently. Give it prominence in your life and it will give you unending positive return.
What is the simplest tip you would give to someone who is new to meditation?
Don't expect to turn off your mind — that would mean you're in a coma. Leave your judgments and agenda at home. Yes, your limbs might fall asleep in the beginning, and it's okay if your mouth fills up with saliva and you need to swallow. No, don't worry about your tummy grumbling, the person next to you is probably hungry too!
Where has being bold gotten you, that you couldn't have achieved otherwise?
For a long time I ignored the voice inside myself that knew I was on the wrong career track when I worked in film. I didn't think my work would ever be satisfying, because I wasn't passionate about what I was doing and didn't feel like I was contributing in a meaningful way. I was far more passionate about consciousness and mindfulness. My pursuit of those constructs wasn't a hobby, it was my life. When I quit my job, people had many opinions that made a lot of noise. I chose to ignore it and trust the smaller, quieter voice inside myself. It's really hard to do that when we live in a world where "influence" is highly valued — we often look outside ourselves to make decisions. Turning inward led me to writing, which led me to coaching, which led me to Lodro with whom I built MNDFL.
"When I quit my job, people had many opinions that made a lot of noise. I chose to ignore it and trust the smaller, quieter voice inside myself."
What advice do you have for others in their pursuit of being bold?
Sometimes you need to get really, really quiet to access the part of yourself that enables you to discover that which is most important to you and deserves emphasis in your life. That kind of boldness can lead to experiences that feel like exclamation points.
"Sometimes you need to get really, really quiet to access the part of yourself that enables you to discover that which is most important to you and deserves emphasis in your life."
Ellie Burrows is Chief Executive Officer of MNDFL, New York City's premier meditation studio, as well as a certified personal development coach and writer. After graduating magna cum laude from Northwestern University, Ellie served as an executive in the film business for a number of years, focusing on the business side of film: producing, selling, financing, and finding new talent. When her meetings began to evolve into coaching sessions around effective communication and interpersonal relationships, she chose to pursue mindfulness and spirituality in a more meaningful way. Ellie decided to travel the world as a spiritual tourist, ultimately returning to New York where she received her Certificate in Coaching from NYU. Ellie is a blogger at Huffington Post, The Chalkboard Mag, The Numinous, MindBodyGreen, and Medium. All of her work has a common thread: the use of ancient teachings in a contemporary context to inspire compassion, confidence, and consciousness in a highly digitized world. Ellie currently lives in New York City and The Universe at large.