(Courtesy of Within Meditation)

Be Still: Meditation Pop-Ups Promise Quick Moments of Quiet in the City

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Mindfulness is a buzzword that's been creeping into realms with previously no ties to zen living—while we can get down with meditating over our morning coffee, we're just not that into those conference room meditations startup HR managers keep pushing.

At this point, we should all be meditating—the practice has been clinically proven to help our brains with everything from basic function to anxiety disorders—but on the other hand, places like Spirit Rock and the San Francisco Zen Center aren't exactly welcoming for casual practitioners or beginners: Their days-long workshops and 90-minute classes, while amazing, are best suited to those who know what they're doing. We need a better point of entry. There are various meditation apps out there, and that two-minute meditation at your desk is better than nothing, but we want a place where we can focus for a short bit, and a real live person to guide us through.


The answer: San Francisco's new meditation pop-ups.

"Life in the Bay Area has become crazier and more hectic than it needs to be—everyone I know now wants to integrate meditation in their lives to offset stress," says Jing Lee, a former Athleta exec who recently founded Pacific Pause, which teaches beginner-friendly mindfulness meditation sessions that are short enough to work in between commuting and conference calls. Lee plans to open a modern, brick-and-mortar space soon, but until then she's popping up inside The Assembly, a new Mission coworking space that also offers fitness classes, on Thursday nights this fall. Lee's sessions last just 30 minutes, and there are three options on offer: Mindfulness 101, ideal for beginners; a body scan meditation to promote physical awareness; and a gratitude practice to help cultivate kindness. Lee says half an hour "is the sweet spot that makes it beginner-friendly but still enough time for someone who meditates on a regular basis."

If you keep hearing the word mindfulness, it's because many modern practitioners subscribe to the tradition, also known as Vipassana. The reason, Lee feels, is that "Mindfulness meets people where they are. It's an especially approachable type of meditation for the western world," she says, because it uses "non-esoteric, everyday language." It can be more accessible to beginners than some of the more traditional styles, such as Zen and Transcendental mediation, that require specific sitting postures or time- and cash-intensive trainings.

Opened in June of this year, Within is another pop-up offering half-hour mindfulness classes, located inside FiDi's chill second-floor yoga studio Moksha Life Center. Founded by Hannah Knapp and Megan Parker, a New York ex-pat accustomed to Manhattan's various drop-in meditation studios (that's right, SF has, oddly, been slow to adopt this trend), Within aims to capture worker bees before they start their day, offering just two classes with 8:15 and 9am starts, two days per week. Knapp says classes are intended for students to "exercise the muscle of attention in the present moment, and then use that muscle to set an intention for the day ahead. Getting still first thing in the morning," she continues, "really gives people the spaciousness to see what they want for that day." The founders, both refugees from the world of startups, plan to begin offering classes five days a week in September, and are thinking brick-and-mortar after that.

Pacific Pause and Within are currently the only two studios dedicated to super-accessible mindfulness meditation teachings in SF, but there are other opportunities to cultivate your mindfulness practice. The Pad (1694 Union St., Cow Hollow) offers a weekly, 45-minute Monday night "sit"; Against the Stream (rotating venues) offers longer sessions in a variety of styles in SF and the East Bay; and, for ambitious beginners and pros, veteran instructor Howard Cohn gives a 90-minute weekly meditation and talk through Mission Dharma (rotating venues).

// Pacific Pause classes are $18 at The Assembly, 449 14th St. (Mission), theassemblysf.com; register at eventbrite.com. Within, classes are $18 at Moksha Life Center, 405 Sansome St. (FiDi), withinmeditation.com.