Stressed-out startup and finance workers are flocking to meditation classes held at luxury apartments
Dina Kaplan, who cofounded online video startup Blip.tv in 2005, knows that better than almost anyone.
"All I did was think about work. I was super-confident, functional ... but then I started having panic attacks," Kaplan told Business Insider. "For two years, I was afraid to walk down the street. All of the success and accolades just weren't worth the fear."Kaplan attributed her growing stress to a number of factors. New York City's work culture can be intense, and long hours are often heralded as a sign of success. Plus, as a woman, she didn't have a good role model in the tech world.
"There are not a lot of women founders to look up to. In my head, I would say, 'What would Peter Thiel do?'" Kaplain said. "But that's not me. I knew I needed to get out of that world."
Kaplan decided to leave her job at Blip, which shut down in August of this year. She booked a one-way trip to Bali and spent more than two years traveling the world.
After traveling to Myanmar and Bhutan, she arrived in India. In the airport, she started chatting with a guy in front of her in the customs line. He somehow talked her into going on a 10-day silent retreat.
"On day eight, a lightbulb went off. I started to understand what my triggers were," she said. "You can choose your reactions throughout the day and exercise mental agility."
She arrived back to New York in October 2014 and, soon after, started The Path, a startup that brings weekly meditation classes to beautiful spaces across the city."It was important to me that it was a modern form of meditation, where people could feel comfortable and learn what works for them," Kaplan said. "It's just like going to the gym for your mind."
The Path's instructors teach four different styles of meditation: energizing, mindfulness, mantra, and compassion. Each technique offers different benefits, and each class has a different structure.
"We really try to say, 'Here are the tools. You decide what works for you,'" Kaplan said.
At a recent Path class, I met a banker who took up meditating as a way to ease his stress surrounding market volatility.
Nearby, a pair of Classpass employees told me they had tried to meditate on their own, but were happy to have a group to guide them through it.
"I had been wanting to do it on my own," one told me. "But I find it hard to focus for a long time when I'm by myself."
Much of the Path community comes from the startup world, Kaplan said. Investors, bankers, artists, and filmmakers are other frequent guests."A lot of the people who come are doing important and/or creative things," Kaplan told us.
The session I attended was a small one, held at a gorgeous two-bedroom apartment at Jean Nouvel-designed 40 Mercer, in SoHo. I walked into the building - a swanky spot where Marc Jacobs and Daniel Radcliffe own condos - and was greeted by an attendant who, in a quiet, calm voice, sent me on the elevator to an upper floor.
As I entered, some guests relaxed on comfy couches, sipping on coconut water. Others enjoyed the city views, which were made even more awesome with wide-open windows.
The home belongs to a member of The Path community who preferred to remain anonymous. He told me he had heard about The Path from a friend who works at dating app Hinge.
He liked the community enough to offer up his home for an evening.
"Meditation was something I wanted to do anyway, so it was good to join together with like-minded people," he told me.
Once everyone had filed in to the apartment - it was a particularly small session, about 15 people - our instructor had us sit comfortably on pillows situated on the floor. As the sun set, we closed our eyes and were told to start monitoring our breaths.
I was worried that closing my eyes for 45 minutes at the end of a long work day would put me straight to sleep. But I actually felt energized by the process - counting six seconds to breathe in, six seconds to breathe out, I started to feel more relaxed than sleepy. The 45-minute sit felt more like 10.
After the class was over, the instructor and host invited us to stick around and meet the other members of the community. Everyone was speaking in quiet voices, and most people left after about 15 minutes or so.
Some of my classmates say that's the point of The Path - there's no pressure to socialize or make your meditation experience anything more than what you want.
"It can be social, but it doesn't really have to be," one told me. "It's what you make of it."
The Path also hosts monthly socials - in September, for example, the community planned a meet-up at famed NYU economist Nouriel Roubini's apartment.
Classes are held in the evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and each sit costs $20. The location is constantly changing, depending on who in the community wants to offer up their home for the evening.