Make a lucky turn just past SoulCycle in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood and you’ll find yourself prepping for guided meditation in a cavernous room with 300 candles. This location says something about either the ingenuity of its proprietors, or the popularity of their product. Having met co-founder of The Path Dina Kaplan, I’m going to go with both.
Kaplan, also one of the minds behind Vimeo-esque web series platform Blip TV, founded The Path in October 2014 to “make meditation accessible to the masses,” a mantra she repeats many times throughout our interview. Still in the invite-only stages in SoHo and Venice Beach, so far the company has largely accessed Kaplan’s circle of start-up founders, CEOs, and celebrities. In keeping with Kaplan’s high-flying background, The Path encourages its students to stick around after class for a juice and a chat. The word “networking” was never explicitly used at my two Path meditations, but it has been used in high profile coverage of the company in the New York Times and NY Daily News.
Kaplan speaks openly about how meditation has changed her own life. She tells me: “I literally did nothing but work nonstop every day, every night, and weekend for years. I started having panic attacks. I was running my company and super high-functioning so nobody knew, but I was afraid to walk down the street by myself for two years because I was afraid I was going to pass out in the middle of a New York City intersection.”
Eventually, she hit that moment every New Yorker fears: her breaking point. One two-year trip around the world and a few 10-day silent meditation retreats later, the idea for a company to make meditation accessible was born. She’s accomplished her goal with zero panic attacks.
“Accessibility” makes for a great tagline, but it may not be necessary a few centuries after the creation of meditation. Today, we all know the world moves too fast and is taking our minds with it. Supermodels like Elle Macpherson count meditation as part of a daily beauty routine. “It’s not like ‘oh, you meditate,’ it’s like ‘what, you don’t meditate?” Kaplan laughs.
Yet she’s firm on the need for a guided meditation class instead of a Google search. “If you want to learn meditation, most people go to India for maybe a month, or Tibet, or Myanmar. If you go somewhere in the United States, it’s a little intimidating for people who are very mainstream. It might feel a little bit out there. And so my reason for starting The Path was to make it like The Apple Store for meditation.” Can’t get more mainstream than that.
I’m (slowly) teaching myself how to meditate using The Mindfulness App, which I really did buy at the App Store for $2.99. Yet I found push notifications aren’t a replacement for setting a block in my schedule to attend a live meditation session. At both sessions of The Path I attended, we moved through techniques for energy, focus, creativity, and compassion. No spoilers, but I had favorite moments from my first session that I was anticipating in my second. A far more relaxing experience than trying to determine what episode of “House of Cards” my upstairs neighbors are on when I should be clearing my mind during my own at-home app-based meditation.
READ MORE: 5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Your Life More
Kaplan explains: “When you see [our teachers] you know you want their glow. I think that helps to inspire a daily practice, especially when we’re all so busy doing a million things.” She’s clear that The Path’s two sittings a week in NYC and one in Venice Beach shouldn’t replace a daily meditation: “We’re very, very adamant that if you want to have the benefits of a meditation practice you have to meditate every day. If you can only do 30 seconds one day, that’s better than doing nothing. If you can do five minutes, you’ll notice the difference in your day. For sure if you can do 20 minutes, especially twice a day, you’ll notice a huge difference in your life.”
On occasion, I can find it hard to distinguish between a company selling me a lifestyle and a meditation guru who is leading me down the path to enlightenment. I love to be sold lifestyles. That’s why I watch TV, follow Lauren Conrad on Instagram, and probably why I live in New York. Meditation feels like it should be somehow above my flawed human/capitalist tendencies. Kaplan may disagree. “There’s this idea that meditation needs to be somber and serious and kind of tough but it really doesn’t have to be.” That’s why classes end in a mingling session (and why students pay $20/session to attend). With attendees made up of “CEOs, start-up founders, and celebrities,” all with a newly cleared mind, who wouldn’t want to stick around and chat? Meditation changes your brain chemistry to boost your mood and improve your mental acuity. Is that worth your 20 hots?
When I followed up with Kaplan about the thought process behind the addition of networking, she provides a very zen response: “We’re standing right now with 300 candles around us and wonderful people. I mean, why not?” What a great approach to meditation: Why not?
You can request a password to join The Path at http://www.thepath.com/home.
READ MORE: 5 Ways to Make Meditation Less Intimidating