If you live in New York City, you’ve probably noticed a couple mobile businesses in your neighborhood. Take food trucks, for example. You can smell the Chicken & Waffles long before you round the corner. The Halal Guys get swarmed by massive lines over lunchtime—hard to miss. Ice cream trucks are forever defined by that age-old jingle.
But there is one groundbreaking mobile business you don’t see, hear, or smell… hardly at all. (Certainly, I never had.) Let’s put it this way: This mobile business is intentionally silent. In fact, they’re only doing their job if they don’t make a peep.
Introducing to you a meditation center on wheels: BeTime. The founder calls it “a cocoon inside the city.” (I call it, “Heaven.”)
Last week, I spent some time with BeTime founder Carla Hammond, and a BeTime instructor to check out the space. BeTime’s zen journey begins in an unlikely place: on a state-of-the-art, masterfully-designed… bus.
Yes, a bus.
First, I had to address the elephant in the room. “So, Carla, you bought a bus…and now it’s home to a super successful mobile meditation studio?”
Carla and I laughed our way through the answer, “Haha, yes, a bus! It was actually really, really hard to buy a bus! It was one of the strangest things ever. At first I just thought, ‘Ok I will just get a bus I can refurbish.’ And I started looking!”
But Carla had a hard time finding a bus company that would even consider selling to her. She found a workaround in a former passenger bus in rural Texas. Carla then drove the bus to Miami, where it was refurbished into what exists today.
As Carla was telling me the story of BeTime’s quirky beginnings, the reality of this place really struck me. BeTime is anything but quirky. Actually, it is insanely breathtaking. Just take a look at the photo above. That’s some seriously incredible innovation, wouldn’t you say? I found that the magic of this meditation center is in the bright, expansive, welcoming space, which is built from an otherwise crowded, dark space. To make Carla’s vision a reality, she hired renowned interior design team Idea Studio. (This super high-end team has also worked with the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.)
The bus walls are 100% soundproof to block out any honking or noise from New York City’s streets just inches away—you literally hear nothing except your own breath. The funky patterns on the walls depict fractals found in nature. The large circle in the back represents the third eye, AKA the center of concentration. The designers chose interior mirrored panels to achieve a more spacious, illuminated appearance. Finally, a six-herb aroma was created specifically for the brand to be diffused throughout the space during sessions.
Overall, BeTime is the ultimate Manhattan escape—or should I say, the ultimate escape from Manhattan.
BeTime founder Carla Hammond hops on the bandwagon of mobile meditation, hoping to reduce the stigma of the practice
The class itself, not quite running at full capacity just yet, is led by a live, in-person instructor at the helm of the bus. He or she guides you through entry-level meditation. You sit shoeless atop a pillowy mat, and you follow your instructor’s guided breaths. Based on the kind of practice he is leading that day, he changes the color of the lights, the music, and therefore the tone of the session.
He told me the real value of the meditation session happens not when you’re some expert yogi who can immediately slip into zen, but rather when you catch yourself thinking and then allow yourself to return to your breath. Seems intimidating at first, but it is far from it. The BeTime crowd is open to everyone. Mothers join with their kids for quiet time, and people come from work during lunch for 15-minute meditation sessions. BeTime is definitely not exclusive to yogis.
Some info on logistics: A 30-minute class costs $22. A 15-minute class costs $11. But for you, eager BeTime newbie, you can try either class for $10. BeTime also hosts “Open Space,” a designated 45-minute time slot where you can walk onto the bus and just chill (read, nap, meditate on your own, whatever).
Manhattan city streets are far from zen, you say? BeTime mobile meditation studio flips that assumption on its head
So where do you find this bus? Every morning, BeTime parks in either the Upper West Side, DUMBO, Madison Square, or Bryant Park. They tweet out their exact location (@BeTimePractice). They’ve hosted events at big names like The James, The Assemblage, and Credo Beauty. My experience took place in the Upper West Side, on the corner of 71st and Columbus, a New York hotbed for Christmas shopping and foot traffic. (Need I mention that none of New York is a hotbed for meditative thoughts? Ha…)
But for me, and for the countless other daily meditators, BeTime is now a space where I can take a breather and escape the hustle and bustle—without the pressure of meditation as this unattainable, unachievable thing.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a bit about BeTime’s mission, a message that seriously resonated with me: “Our mission is to help demystify meditation. Meditation now is where yoga was 10 years ago, you know? People are still grasping the wealth and the magnitude of it. And that’s what we want to do: help people understand that meditation is a cool added necessity to your everyday life—yes, necessity, and essential step in your everyday wellness routine. So just like we take care of our bodies and exercise, we feel like it is equally important, if not more important, to take care of our minds.”
Cristina Gallotto is a masters candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Previously, she was an Associate Producer with CBS News' award-winning news show, “60 Minutes” and a writer for WCVB-TV in Boston.