Columbus Circle at 9 a.m. is a manic scene of hurried office workers and aggravated traffic. A squad of fire engines is blocking the corner of 58th street and 8th Avenue, and everybody (me included) is huffing and puffing and cursing subway delays.
It takes me a little while, but when I finally spot Be Time—a glossy black bus emblazoned with a beaming face—I hurl myself aboard, flustered. The vibe inside is like a very chilled rocket ship: the walls and ceiling are glowing, and two parallel lines of cushions face the back, where our meditation teacher sits crosslegged in a halo of violet light. It smells like an aromatherapy spa, and thanks to some very effective sound-proofing, not a single street noise is audible.
Be Time is the brainchild of Carla Hammond, a dedicated meditator who drew inspiration from the food truck movement to develop her concept of a zen den on wheels. “I wanted to create an unexpected, accessible, peaceful and modern space where people can stop by at any time to take a break from the urban hustle,” she explains. “We want people to reset and take a moment of their day for self-care while also benefiting from all the science-based wellbeing results that meditation has to offer.”
The benefits of meditation are myriad and include solutions for many classic NYC maladies: stress and anxiety, high blood pressure, poor concentration, and insomnia, to name a few. Some studies even suggest it can increase feelings of compassion—something big cities like this one can never have too much of.
The teacher helps me get settled—placing a weighted blanket over by legs (proven to evoke calm sensations in the body) and instructing me to feel the connection between my sitting bones and the floor. Guided by her words I picture my exhales entering the earth like roots, and my inhales drawing “cooling blue healing light” from the soil back into my body. By the time we close the practice with a Namaste 30 minutes later I feel floaty, peaceful, and completely disconnect from the intense energy outside.
Of course meditation is technically always accessible to us. All we need to do is close our eyes, focus on our breath, and let thoughts pass without judgment or attachment. For most of us, though, that’s harder than it sounds, and there’s real value in being able to enter a serene bubble where none of our daily stresses and distractions are present.
“I’ve lived in New York for over 16 years now and have been part of the hustle and bustle of the city every day. It’s easy to fall into a mode of just ‘getting things done’, rushing from one place to another, and suddenly realizing at the end of the day that you weren’t really present for most of it,” says Hammond. “I deeply believe in the positive impact meditation can bring to people’s lives, and with Be Time I hope to help create more peaceful environments for all of us, both on the inside and the outside. Imagine a calmer, kinder city. Bliss.”