Things are happening a bit backwards this time around with the journal series. Since the holiday guides sort of screwed things up, we’re posting the interview before delving into the first week. I know, I know… weird. But it’s fine. Just to give you a brief idea of what is happening for this series… we’re doing MEDITATION. Crazy. right? I can barely sit in one place for more than a minute without getting anxious that I should be doing something of value, let alone sitting in a place for 30 to 45 minutes just for M-E.

Saturday, we spoke with MNDFL Co-Founder Lodro Rinzler about the mystical world of meditation. And trust me, it’s not a bunch of smoke and mirrors…. MNDFL is legit.

How did you get started in meditation?
I was actually born and raised Buddhist. My parents started practicing meditation when they were in their 20s. It was just sort of in the household. It’s not like they sat me down and said, “Hey, this is how you meditate.” I just sort of picked up on it from the environment. Starting when I was 6 they found me meditating on my own; started doing short retreats when I was 11 and then when I was 17 ran off to the monastery for a summer and shaved my head, took the robes, the whole nine yards. At that point, I was like, it was done. I was just going to meditate. That was the life. (laughs).

Came back, I was young so, I went to college and I also had beer and mediated, not at the same time but … It’s not like I was purely a monk at that point. I started doing longer and longer retreats and I was asked to start teaching meditation when I was 18 years old. It’s been like 15 years at this point of me teaching. Worked for what are known as Shambhala centers, it was the lineage I was raised in, so running non-profit meditation centers for a long time. Then founded a non-profit along the way and then ultimately Ellie sat down with me and just said, she had actually been volunteering at my non-profit The Institute for Compassionate Leadership, and she said, “Listen, I want to keep meditating regularly but I don’t want to do it at home because all of the sudden I think I have to order Fresh Direct and I have to … There’s a spot on my carpet and I want to get it out.” (laughs). There’s all these things that just come up in our homes. She said, “Why isn’t there a space I can just drop in and meditate in the same way I would do my workout or I’d do my nails, or whatever?”  I’d been thinking about that for a long time because just looking at how yoga’s changed over the last 15 years or so and how big it’s been. The fact that meditation would, of course, at some point follow in those shoes. She said, “I can bring the design and the look and feel of the space if you can actually bring the content and the teachers.” That was easy for me.

And you all have been open for how long now?
One month, officially.

And a majority of the students that come in, what are their walks of life?
It’s a mix and I love that fact, that it’s a mix. It’s people who might have done a little bit of meditation in a yoga class at one point and now they’re really interested in it so they want to give it a try. We get a bunch of stressed out finance dudes. Even, like, Ron who was in here earlier, he’s a doctor. He’s on call for 24 hours. He’s in the hospital, takes a nap, and is like, “I should try meditating.” (laughs). And comes on in. It’s just like, this is the way that he relieves stress. Which is probably better than going out and doing whatever else you’re going to do at that point.

But we have a lot of dudes who have really intense jobs and their doctor says that they need to try something otherwise they could put them on medication so they come and they try meditation, they fall in love with it, they’re coming regularly. People who are more open to it because they have a yoga background. We have people who, their mother, their boyfriend, girlfriend, whomever, says, “You’ve got to try it.” It’s the sort of people that would never necessarily gravitate towards a religious place as they’re not interested in religion. They are interested in a tool that will help them calm down, relax, and be more open to the rest of their life.

Right. Have you ever seen any people who were highly medicated because of whatever reasons and then start meditation and basically not need it anymore?
Yeah, I’ve seen that. I’ve seen … Particularly when it comes to physical medications. There’s a lot of health benefits to meditation. That’s said, if someone suffers from clinical depression and they can try meditation that’s a great aid. I always say it’s not, it’s in addition to, and it’s not instead of your medication. I am in no way qualified to tell people to go off their medication.  But meditation really does help in addition to whatever else people are doing. Then if there are times, particularly on the physical aspect, if you notice, if you have high cholesterol meditation really does help lower the stress levels in the body and then you might actually be able to go off of whatever cholesterol medication. Personally speaking, that’s happened. Both my parents had high cholesterol just, like, genetically. It’s been okay for me. I’m perfectly healthy, knock on wood. That’s the result of meditation.

So the drop in factor you mentioned. How many classes do you typically have per day?
Somewhere between seven and nine, I would say. I think today might be a little slim and it’s six or something. (laughs). But you know, it’s still a lot. It’s a little slimmer on the weekends because we assume people are probably out late and they don’t want to get up for a 7 a.m. class. But yeah, it’s pretty non-stop. It’s, like,  on a Tuesday, Wednesday it’s like 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 1, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30. It’s intense.

Stephen Wilson Photography

Stephen Wilson Photography

Are there different teachers throughout?
The nice thing is that in a given day there’s probably four or five teachers. We get different types of people. You know this already from your own experience. Adrianna’s very different than the class that I did, you know? It’s just different come-froms because we learned in different traditions.

So the teachers all have different backgrounds?
There’s a bunch of Buddhists, right? So we’ve got people from Tibetan Buddhists, Zen Buddhists, Theravada Buddhists. That’s literally just people … The Buddha’s teachings going out and meeting new lands and adapting to those cultures and then coming West. If we talk about Zen we often talk about Japanese Zen, Korean Zen, and Chinese Zen. Buddhism went there, stayed there for a couple hundred to thousands of years then came over to the States. Then, similarly India to Tibet and that became Tibetan Buddhism, etcetera.

All those sorts of lineages are all here, then we have Vedic meditation. Vedic meditation is a 5,000 year old, primarily oral instruction. To give you an example, our Vedic teacher studied with Thom Knoles who is someone who studied with the Maharishi, the guy that taught The Beatles meditation back in the day.

Then more modern, it’s like mindfulness space stress reduction. This was stuff that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn back in the 60s as an adaptation of Zen parts and making it very less, stripping away a lot of the religion and just making it just meditation.

So the sessions can be different?
If someone’s leading a mindfulness space stress reduction emotions class it’s something almost a little bit more clinical than if I were to do it where it would be more, coming from a Tibetan Buddhist background more like visualizing it and things like that. Each of them have different flavors as a result. There’s MNDFL Emotions, there’s MNDFL Heart, which is classes on how to really develop love for yourself and for others. We did that one, I think.

There’s MNDFL Breath, the way I do MNDFL Breath where it’s very much relaxing with the breath, is different from Erin, our Kundalini person, it’s more like controlled breathing. Where you breathe in, you hold it, you breathe out. It’s just different style. It has different effects on the mind and body as a result. All sorts of, MNDFL Sleep for people that can’t sleep, MNDFL Intentions for people that want to set an intention in the morning for the rest of their day.

I’ve noticed that you have something from Thrive Market and then you have something for Petal by Pedal, are theses collaborations or … ?
Yeah. We’re really big fans of partnerships. Once Ellie and I set out on this direction to actually start this place, just in normal human communication we would be talking to someone and someone like Thrive Market would come up and there would be a quick introduction and they’d say, “We love the idea and we want to help out. How do we help?”  In this case it was tea. Petal by Pedal same thing. It’s like, “We love the idea, how can we help?” They come in and we’re deeply discounted so that they can provide fresh flowers for our space every week.

The Sill did the plant walls. Which is beautiful. Groceries does our t-shirts. The thing with all of these companies, it’s often local and organic. I joke that all the employees are probably paid twice whatever we make around here. (laughs). It’s like good quality material but also they actually care about their humans that work for them.

People can drop in if they wanted to do their own, but if they have a membership, right?
If people want to just drop in to do their own self-guided practice they can do it for free if they’re already a monthly member and everyone’s first monthly membership is 50 bucks. Or they can just drop in and pay five dollars if they’re not and stay here. Some people who have long standing practices from 10, 20 years now they want to come sit for an hour, they can.

Are there new initiatives in the works?
In addition to some of the ones that I mentioned, we also just started MNDFL Mamas, which is like a mother’s group. They all drop kids off, or leave them in the street, I don’t know (laughs), and then come and talk about what it is to be a mother and meditate. There’s also, starting on Monday, our kids classes, which I’m pretty excited about.

Yeah. I think it’s going to be a little rambunctious but probably really cute to have a bunch of kids in every week to meditate together. I think we’re starting with the 5 to 8 year olds and then there’s another group that’s 9 to 11.

Is this the only meditation place like this in Manhattan?
Yeah, we’re New York’s premier mediation studio. I mean, there’s a lot of place that come from a religious background, which is great. Some of them are easier to find than others. When Ellie originally approached me she says, “If I want to go meditate it’s going to be a two hour commitment, at least. It’s going to be me going up five flights of stairs in the fashion district to a place that’s unmarked.” It’s not inviting to her. I hadn’t really thought about it from that perspective but it’s true. A lot of the places it can be a little alienating but they’re really wonderful spots if you really want to connect with a particular religious background. Most people don’t know that they want to do that so they just want meditation.

Photos by Stephen Wilson Photography