L.A. Has a Stunning New Shrine to Meditation, So I Tried to Find My Zen

Think SoulCycle or Drybar — but for meditating.

You might say that Los Angeles is the most natural place on earth to support the proliferation of meditation studios. Our city is filled with hard-working people (don’t roll your eyes, New Yorkers), many of whom toil under pressure in “The Industry,” who also tend to hike a lot, buy organic food at substantial cost, fully get the whole mind-body connection thing. We are a people who embrace nothing more wholeheartedly than a chic, modern studio, impeccably branded — think SoulCycle or Drybar — in which to attend (efficiently!) to our own self care. Ideally with validated parking.

So it’s extremely logical, then, that beautiful spaces to meditate are proliferating around the city. The first space in exactly this ilk was Unplug in Brentwood (a tony enclave, you may recall from Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, where your $4 million home budget doesn’t get you far enough).

And its C.E.O. and founder, Suze Schwartz, has just opened a gleaming new location in West Hollywood. If I may paint a picture, this studio is located directly across the street from as-seen-on-TV spinning studio Cycle House — where, yes, I once enjoyed a very sweaty and very L.A. ride alongside Khloe Kardashian. It shares a block with a very fancy coffee shop, a superfood cafe, and budget-busting British athleisure shop Sweaty Betty. Soon, a talent agency and fashion PR company will occupy the new building alongside Unplug.

I attended Unplug West Hollywood’s VIP opening party this week on a day I was particularly unlikely to achieve any zen. I was coming off the flu, for instance. Work has been crazy, the kids have been sick. Driving there, I could barely hear my favorite new self-care podcast for the sexy grown ladies, “Forever 35” (get there — it’s so good!), over the nonstop clatter in my head.

But there’s something about walking into a beautiful space intended for self care, filled as it was on this night with nurturing female energy and many women friends and media colleagues, that immediately calms the mind. After a little welcome in the reception area from Suze — who in a previous life was fashion editor and is no stranger to the burnout — the group all headed into the meditation room, which looks like a chic hotel. 

It’s a white space, all streamlined and minimalist, rigged with a lighting system that can be programmed to any color on the spot. It’s also filled with comfy black cushions — think more luxury car interior than beanbag chair — that can be adjusted, so you can fully recline, or have your back supported in a seated position during the session.

Danish instructor (slash ballroom dancer slash life coach) Camilla Sacre-Dallerup — who had done a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, the British precursor to Dancing With the Stars, and has a very soothing accent — led the group on a 40-minute guided meditation from upon an elevated platform up front. It involved visualizing a walk through a park in autumn, trying to see in our minds’ eye the leaves falling gently like so many thoughts from our heads. Release.

At some stage in the meditation, we were invited to meet our future selves walking through this park. What did we see in the versions of ourselves we’ll be several years into the future? I wasn’t exactly sure — but I could clearly visualize what I didn’t want her to be, which was burned out from life’s rat races. So I noted that with some self compassion and positive intention. 

Camilla invited us to select a word or phrase: What did we see on a falling leaf that could serve as a positive intention for our future? Mine was “peace of mind.” (Is this like a birthday wish that might not come true if you say it out loud? In that case, forget I told you that.)

And then Camilla warned us gently that she would ring a bell and welcome us back into the room, to rejoin our physical bodies and environment. I can’t say at that point that I felt like I had any mastery over my mind (in fact my mind would not shut up about my parking meter threatening to expire on La Cienega Boulevard). But it was an ideal place to wrap up a hectic day, provided significant food for thought, and underscored the importance of the whole practice.

For me, this is the end game of meditation, and it’s always worth it: carve time out of the week for self care, give my iPhone to the front-desk person even though (precisely because) it’s so painful to do that, breathe quietly, set positive intentions. I’ll never quiet my mind entirely — not in my DNA — but I’ll for sure be back at Unplug, with its intoxicating self-love branding, alongside L.A.’s chicest meditators, working on the worthiest of goals.

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