Driving through my neighborhood in Northwest Austin a few weeks ago, I spotted a building with huge capital letters reading "Meditation Bar." Intrigued, I went home and did an online search — and that's how I ended up at a meditation session with about a dozen other curious people at 6 pm on a Friday evening.
Meditation Bar, which opened less than a month ago at its location on Mesa Drive, is offering free sessions through the end of 2015. They offer nine types of classes ranging from meditation optimized for immediately waking up to a fundamentals class to a temporary "Stay Centered for the Holidays" series.
Walking into Meditation Bar, I was immediately welcomed by the owners and shown around the small studio, which consists of a gleaming white lounge with Tibetan singing bowls and a small room in the back for the good stuff: meditation. I signed up online for a "Happy Hour" class, which promised "a classic mindful experience that will leave you feeling happier … without the hangover."
The meditation room was dimly lit, with colored lights shifting and changing the mood. There were many options for seating: straight-backed cushioned chairs like you'd see in someone's dining room, square floor cushions, two couches, and thin cushions with adjustable seat backs. I opted for the adjustable seat and propped my feet on a square pillow, wrapping a shawl around my shoulders (they provide shawls, too, since your body temperature tends to drop during meditation).
The instructor opened with a story about the Grinch (appropriate for a December meditation session). She mentioned the Grinch's hesitance to let anyone in, to maintain his Grinch-y attitude, but eventually, Cindy Lou Who begins to soften his heart. She asked us to be open to softening, too. She began by telling us to close our eyes and notice the natural flow of our breath, feeling it from head to toe.
Let me interrupt by saying I've never been good at meditation. I'm a regularly practicing yogi, but I always have trouble stilling my mind during the meditation part of my practice. I suffer from what Buddhists call "monkey mind" — imagine the mind filled with wild monkeys, screeching and running around and distracting you, constantly demanding your attention. It's believed Buddha said it was impossible to get rid of monkey mind completely, you just have to acknowledge it (meditation is all about awareness, of course) and make an effort to calm the monkeys through breathing techniques or repeating a mantra to yourself. I've never been good at that. The monkeys run amok.
Guiding my monkey mind through several minutes of meditation, the instructor then played three Tibetan singing bowls — one for the throat chakra, one for the crown, and one for the root chakra. The last one sent vibrations through the floor and into the soles of my feet. She left us in silence for some time, though I couldn't quite keep track of it. I drifted in and out of consciousness, unsure if I was falling asleep or just really Zen. She spoke a few times, reminding us of breathing techniques then leaving us in silence. Eventually, she read the poem "Can You Love the One Who" by Leah Pearlman, then played the singing bowls three more times — more floor vibrating — and ended the session, asking us to share our questions and observations. I couldn't believe an entire hour had passed (maybe I did fall asleep).
After class, the owners gathered with us in the lobby, sharing shots of cucumber mint water ("redefining happy hour," one owner chuckled) and showing us how to play the singing bowls.
All in all, I left Meditation Bar feeling refreshed and renewed and a little bit like Jell-O. It was definitely a good way to end the workweek.
To attend a session, you can sign up online or simply show up at the studio.