Find Peace And Free Meditation (!) in the Middle of NYC
Trying to avoid holiday meltdowns -- think fist fights in reindeer sweaters -- I recently
scouted out New York’s free meditation spots to find the peaceful Ghost of Christmas Present.
“Everyone is Bing Crosbied out,” observed psychotherapist Charlotte Nugent. “There tends to be lots of music in the stores that bring up memories from childhood, not all of them good.” Combined with the pressure to buy gifts, she said stress levels reach feverishly high levels. If this sounds like you, Nugent recommends ducking into a quiet space.
Here’s my guide to om-y places with guided and open meditation, starting from the residence elect to the comfort of your own home:
Washington Heights (open)
Take the A train to 190th St. or the M4 directly to The Cloisters, 99 Margaret Corbin Drive.
While the suggested admission is $25, you can just pop in for 30 minutes or so to wander sacred spaces, like the Saint-Guilhem Cloister.
Fifth Avenue (guided)
Fifth Avenue houses our future president, who lives in the blingy highrise between 56th and 57th streets. If you find yourself overwhelmed by tourists (and protests), walk north to 3 E. 64th to the Consulate General of India. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday nights, however, you can attend Meditation Happy Hour in this elegant building. Buzz the doorbell after hours. You will pass through the metal detector and an imposing portrait of Gandhi on your right. Regular patrons, most of them in their 30s, sit in chairs and follow instructions for a light stretch, a few rounds of pranayama and a meditation.
Upper East Side
The suggested admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., is $25. But you can pay what you like and spend tranquil moments seated in spacious exhibits like the Temple of Dendur or European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.
Bryant Park (open)
Nothing suggests timelessness more than stacks of leather-bound books at the New York Public Library at 42nd St. After a skate at Bryant Park, duck into any art-strewn space to read or just chill. For a bonus, sit in the newly renovated Rose Main Reading Room, made famous by Ghostbusters. Or outside, across the street in Bryant Park, under the lovely plane trees.
Chelsea (guided, open)
The Rubin Museum, 150 West 17th St., offers free Friday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. Use that
time to sit quietly in the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. Or you can meditate in the Shrine Room any time if you have an entry ticket.
While the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, 118 W. 22nd St., doesn’t advertise itself as a free place to meditate, you can drop by for public seatings from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 9 to 11:45 a.m. on Sundays. There is a suggested donation for these sessions that include walking meditation led by a timekeeper. You are welcome to come and go as you please with respect to the other participants. Another insider tip, if you want to schedule a private room, you can call ahead and arrange space for a much needed break.
Hells Kitchen (open)
If the Rockettes are tap dancing in your head, rest your tired dogs in the Actor’s Chapel at St. Malachy’s, 239 W. 49 St. Even if you aren’t Catholic, take a moment to light a candle for good luck and clarity.
Midtown East (guided, open)
After retail therapy on Park Avenue, try Meditation Mondays at St. Barts Church, 325 Park Ave. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., you can enjoy the jaw-dropping architecture and be still in prayer or thought. Some clients stay for five minutes. Others stay the whole hour in this unguided time slot dedicated to quiet. The meditation is not guided, but Monday yoga nidra sessions, from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. are led by trained iRest instructors. Like many churches, St. Bart’s is combining Buddhist philosophy. Living Christ Sangha is 3 to 4:45 p.m. on Sundays. This practice combines seated and walking meditation.
Downtown Brooklyn (open)
After perusing the Brooklyn Flea and Atlantic Terminal Mall, check out one of the city’s most curious venues, the Meditation Room at the Barclays Center. Here’s the trick. You have to be a ticket holder for an upcoming event, like a Nets or Islanders game. With tickets as low as $9, the request isn’t unreasonable, just unusual. Then ask a staffer to escort you to the lavender-hued room on the Main Concourse near the medical center. The room is usually empty.
Staten Island Ferry (open)
Nothing beats sitting on a boat watching Manhattan get smaller and smaller. Each 30-minute trip to and from St. George Terminal is completely free and the view is totally different in the winter.
Your Home (guided)
Set yourself up for a morning of self-care with Reverend Nafisa Shariff, a Harlem-based minister, who offers free meditation through her daily 6 a.m. meditation conference calls. Dial 712-775-7031 with the access code of 621968#.
--illustration Lia Strasser