Ellie Burrows is a New Yorker through and through. But this particular New Yorker has a secret weapon. She wields something powerful and essential in a city where sleep is the ultimate luxury and anxiety is fuel: she’s a master of the art of meditation.
The co-founder and CEO of MNDFL, Burrows was first introduced to meditation after a health scare back in 2008 that led her to the office of Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative and functional medicine doctor in the city. He suggested that, although physical ailments were important to address, the emotional aspect was equally vital. That visit was the first step towards what would become a decade long journey of self-exploration and study.
After being introduced to a practice called Ecstatic Breathwork, she realized that, while it was beneficial, it wasn’t practical for everyday usage. “I started exploring and struggling with meditation. I was trying to learn online and was visiting teachers and centers in and around the city, but I wasn’t ready for a 10-day retreat or seeking a new religion,” she explains. Meditation at the time wasn’t easily accessible, and finding the right teacher or style that would ultimately be suitable for her was a struggle.
Enter MNDFL. The studio was conceived out of Burrows’ deep personal need to meditate in a space that wasn’t religious and didn’t involve a huge time commitment. She knew there was a community that was interested in exploring meditation in a contemporary context as well as an approachable format.
“I think we can all agree that NYC is in desperate need of quiet and relaxing spaces,” she shares. “If I was struggling with my practice (and stress levels) in this city, I felt others were probably struggling too.”
In creating a place where people could feel equally understood amongst like-minded individuals in their search for inner peace, Burrows dove head first into opening the first MNDFL studio, ultimately creating a community that is made up of those who are interested in living life with the knowledge that change begins with themselves.
“We’ve received all sorts of feedback from our community members, from ‘MNDFL has helped me become a better father, employer, and human’ to ‘I’m 50 and this place taught me how to finally love myself’ to ‘More than therapy, MNDFL and my meditation practice have helped me with my anxiety,’” offers Burrows. “On more than one occasion someone has shared their experience with me at the front desk and I’ve been so moved that I cried.”
The MNDFL focus is on building a consistent meditation practice at the studio so attendees can reap the benefits that have been proven to improve people’s lives. Around 80 percent of visits to the doctor’s office in the US are the result of stress. Thankfully, research has opened our eyes to the many health benefits meditation can provide, including improved stress resilience, boosted creativity, higher productivity, and even a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol.
Despite the medical evidence, there are still so many out there who are either skeptical or apprehensive to its potential for healing.
Rather than view meditation as the “be all, end all” of good health and mental wellness, Burrows views it as a helpful tool you can use to navigate the rough waters of being a human in the 21st century. And what’s the harm in taking 10 minutes to chill out every once in a while?
If you find yourself in NYC, book a “cushion” at one of MNDFL’s studios, now in Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, and Williamsburg. As you enter, you’ll immediately feel at ease, comfortable, and welcome. They’re serious about their practice, but equally casual and inviting. Expect a tour of the space to help you get the most out of your visit and to answer any burning questions you may have. The décor has a calming, soothing feeling, with a combination of neutral tones, live greenery, environmental elements like wood floors, metal light fixtures, water in the form of warming tea, and flickering candles.
“We encourage people to arrive early, leave late, and stay for as long as they’d like before or after class. Our community space feels like a friend’s living room, and I think the overall environment makes learning how to meditate much less intimidating,” Burrows explains.
Most studies recommend at least 10 minutes a day for approximately 8-10 weeks to truly feel the benefits. “Committing to a style and practicing consistently allows us to experience firsthand the cumulative effects of meditation. It’s tough for everyone when they begin a practice — meditation won’t turn off your mind and that’s totally normal. Just like going to the gym or learning to play an instrument, you can’t lose 10 pounds or play Mozart after a single session,” explains the meditation expert. “To this day, I’ve never had a thoughtless meditation in my life.”
So, where to begin? If you don’t live in the city, check out MNDFL Video, their online resource you can use no matter your location. Or for daily inspo, follow them on Instagram at @mndflmeditation for daily doses of zen in your feed.
Ellie Burrow’s guide to meditation in just 10 minutes a day:
1 | First, create some consistency: set up a little spot in your home as a designated meditation area — this could be your couch, a favorite chair, or even a corner with a meditation cushion.
2 | Pick a part of the day that you feel you are most likely to have the space and time to consistently show up. My favorite is first thing in the morning after I get out of bed before I look at my phone.
3 | Choose a consistent amount of time and style of meditation to practice.
4 | Once seated, plant your feet on the ground about hip-width apart or cross-legged on a cushion, taking a posture that is uplifted, but not strained.
5 | Bring your attention to where the breath feels most prominent to you. You don’t have to make the breath effortful; feel free to change or alter it in any way. Bring your attention to where you feel the breath most easily and naturally: it could be the subtle rise and fall of the chest or the belly, or the soft air that passes in and out of the nostrils.
6 | When your mind wanders, gently and without judgement return to the breath. Alternatively, you can also follow the cycle of breath, bringing your attention to inhale, exhale, and the space in between.
In a nutshell, meditation allows us to invest in giving attention to the self while being more gentle and curious about our experience and our bodies. It also helps us create an intention of making a kinder, more patient society.
Burrows concludes, “One of the Tibetan words for meditation is ‘gom’ which means ‘to become familiar with.’ Meditation helps you become familiar with all of who you are. If we can begin to understand how we are feeling in the present moment (joyful, fearful, closed off, triggered), then we can learn how to cultivate compassion for ourselves and then, in turn, have compassion for others.”
Charlotte Farrell is a freelance writer and editor who loves nothing more than a piping hot matcha latte and topics that explore wellness, fashion, self-care, food, climate change, feminism, beauty, fitness, and travel. She graduated with honors in Communications and English Literature from the University of California, San Diego, and is now based in NYC where she enjoys reading, writing, exploring, and dreaming about gluten-free pastries.