I could feel my boots kicking up water as I bobbed and weaved down the sidewalk. Man, I hate that, I grumbled as I tried to keep my umbrella from poking any innocent tourists in the eye. How fitting, I thought, that as I was making my way to a mobile meditation and relaxation studio I’d become so aware of the small pet peeves that clutter our minds. Letting the zen sounds in my earbuds fill the space between thoughts, I pleaded with myself to slow down, but not be late.
When I finally made it to the BE TIME bus quietly perched on 42nd street between 6th avenue and Broadway, I was mesmerized by the glow of the serene face painted onto the black exterior. Even in the hustle and bustle of New York City, amidst grey clouds and downturned faces, the bus looked peaceful on this little corner of the Earth.
Entrepreneurs are always on the go. Finding time to be still can at times be hard to come by. BE TIME is on a mission to change that. When you first see this quiet sanctuary it smiles and calls gently to you. I remember discovering the mobile meditation and relaxation studio as it sat quietly near Madison Square Park one June day. The flow of sunlight illuminated the rays of the smiling decal, and beckoned for anyone passing by to step in.
BE TIME just celebrated their New York City launch this past January with family and friends testing. In February they opened the doors to their classes and the team, led by CEO and Founder, Carla Hammond, has been steadily spreading the joy of meditation and mindfulness ever since. As an entrepreneur and mother of twins, Carla has seen the importance wellness plays in staying grounded.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the bus first hand and chatting with Carla about how BE TIME is bringing bliss to one of the busiest cities around. In a day and age where getting peace of mind is becoming more and more sacred, having 15 to 30 minutes to vibe out is a blessing. I hope you’ll enjoy stepping into this gem with me and learning more about the inspiration behind the BE TIME bus below. For more chill vibes catch their meditation memes on Instagram.
As the door opens and I climb into the quiet sanctuary, I watch all my thoughts float away. Light sweet scents of jasmine fill the interior, and a vibrant pink glow from behind the white curtains summon me and another attendee into the space. The interior of the BE TIME bus opens with cubbies and flows into two rows of lined meditation seats. I glide down the aisle, taking note of the neatly folded charcoal blankets, wheeled cushions and seats with back support.
Our instructor, Prerna, greets us warmly and fills us in on the two different seat options. To keep my legs from falling asleep, she suggests I grab one of the cushions. Once I take my seat, she explains to me and the other woman, seated towards the back and to the left, that the weighted blankets are to provide an added measure of grounding. The blanket feels secure and soothing across my lap. Which makes sense, considering Prerna also shares that the blankets were originally designed to imitate human contact for autistic children who find touch too intense. Ah, safety. I can get used to this.
I run my fingers across the interior of the bus, feeling the small metal etchings through where the soft rose LED light beam out. The orb, or oculus eye, where Prerna is seated unifies the entire space. Raindrops gently ricochet off the bus. It’s a nice rhythmic lullaby.
Prerna asks us to close our eyes and begin to let go, to let the city meltaway. Begin breathing gently, she encourages us. In and out. In and out. With my eyes closed the jasmine scents begin dancing on my nose. The raindrops sound closer, and the swish of cars seems to draw ever nearer. With her melodic voice, she challenges us to forget the outside and create space. Today’s practice Be Love, focuses on patience and compassion. The breath is just the first step.
We sink in with creative visualization. Seeing ourselves sitting across from us, we send out a blessing from our heart to this mirror image. Then to a number of loved ones: a friend or family member we love deeply, a spouse or partner we miss, someone we care for, a buddy we aren’t necessarily on good terms with, an acquaintance we don’t know well but would recognize.
As we cycle through each visualization, I feel the tension rise up and out of my body. My shoulders droop down, my breath finds it’s pace, my crown begins to tingle. My thoughts start to wander away, and I let them go. I let them circle around as I see parents, siblings, exes, friends appear before my mind’s eye, smiling and full of joy. One or two of them even sticks their tongue out at me. My cheeks find their way up to my eyes, my smile spreading as I send them a blessing heart to heart. The inside of the bus hugs me gently. I feel the love walking through my body.
The thought of lightly falling asleep in the middle of New York City, in one of the busiest cross streets, without a care in the world is lost on me. When I finally come to, it’s to the gentle notes of Prerna’s telling us to wiggle our fingers and our toes. In that moment I realize my foot has hit the snooze button, and I thank it for the power walk it put in to get me here. Following one more in and out breath, I let my eyes flutter open the way Prerna suggests.
The hustle and bustle of New York City come floating in, softer, kinder, a bit more easeful this time. How lovely, I think, to be able to take this time out in the day. I thank our instructor and step back out into the rain, letting the drops soak me in their serenity.
Dronile: Hey Carla. Thanks so much for being open to talking with me and sharing more about the BE TIME mobile meditation and relaxation studio. The first time the bus caught my eye was right near Madison Square Park in the middle of the summer. I’d never heard of or even imagined a mobile meditation and relaxation studio. A lot of our creatives and entrepreneurs want to create something meaningful and different like your meditation bus, but have yet to found that *spark*. I’d love for you to share with the community what inspired you to start BE TIME?
Carla: I practice at home so 4 years ago when my twins arrived, and it got a little crazy I found myself wishing for a quiet, cozy space where I could visit at least once a week to do my thing. There weren’t any formal meditation studios back then and the meditation classes that were offered were at inconvenient times or locations, so I realized there was an opportunity in the market for studio/space like this. I then started noticing the food truck movement and it suddenly clicked – imagine creating a mobile meditation studio?! That way we could serve more people and more locations… and BE TIME was born.
Dronile: That’s such a beautiful visualization! A meditation space that comes to you. As you mentioned, apps like Headspace and studios like MNDFL are just the start of the meditation movement happening now in our culture. You’re really passionate about giving people “time to just be.” I love that it’s reflected in the name. How did it come about for you? Did it come organically or were you mulling over the name for some time?
Carla: It actually came about pretty organically – I was always inspired by having a space where we could all have some “me time” and just let ourselves disconnect, reconnect and BE. Because that is what I believe meditation offers us. I feel like we forget to set that time aside for ourselves in the midst of our busy lives. So, in the spirit of mixing “being” with making time, the name BE TIME came about.
Dronile: As a society we definitely don’t take enough “me time.” We’re constantly plugged in, turned on and connected. Based off this idea of disconnecting, BE TIME offers 6 different opportunities to do so: Be Creative, Be Here, Be Intention, Be Love, Open Space, Quick Rest. Tell me more about these classes. How’d you zero in on what to offer and what was needed?
Carla: We wanted to make sure that we offered people the opportunity to explore different meditation techniques – mantra/intention repetition, mindfulness, creative visualization – so we integrated that into these thematic focuses for everyone to try out.
The Open Space was created for people who might have their own practice and prefer to enjoy that or use their favorite app while in our serene environment.
Quick Reset was made for people on the go – it has been proven that even 10-15 minutes of meditation practice per day does wonders for both mind and body!
Dronile: That’s dope. I had a chance to try out the Be Love practice with creative visualization and it was really calming and peaceful. The space plays a huge role in that as well. The interior of the bus looks absolutely stunning! Architects Rolando Rodriguez Leal and Natalia Wrzask of AIDIA Studio created a very futuristic vibe with laser-cut wall paneling and high-tech LED lighting. Clearly, there was a lot of intention behind how to mix mindfulness and wellness into the space. There’s aromatherapy, there’s chromotherapy, there’s weighted blankets. What was the interior design process like? What were you hoping people would feel when stepping onto the bus?
Carla: I’m so glad you enjoy it! The idea was to create a unique and unexpected space where you can walk out of the city hustle and walk in to a sound-proof and expansive-feeling cocoon that welcomes you to take a breather and promote a deep and personal experience.
An oculus serves at the far end of the studio acting as a focal point – the third eye of centered consciousness and the interior lining pattern derived from studies of sacred geometries and fractals, taking cues and inspiration from nature and the universe.
The fruit of life symbol was used as the base module for the wall pattern. McKenzie then helped this design come to life incorporating efficiency, safety and durability elements including: an efficient diesel ten-kilowatt industrial generator to comply with NYC’s strict idling laws, high durability flooring, kinetic switches, air purifiers, and insulated walls for temperature and noise control, amongst other key elements.
Dronile: Wow. I actually didn’t know you’d need ten-kilowatts of diesel in NYC! That’s a lot. Food truck entrepreneurs take note. :-p I’d love to transition now to your journey, Carla, as a business owner. You started in the non-profit world as an International Relations professional and shifted to entrepreneurship. What was that like? Did you have business experience beforehand? How’d you navigate the leap?
Carla: I had a career in the non-profit sector and, somehow always landed at start-ups. That really gave me great insight and experience into how to build an organization from the bottom-up and those skills have helped me tremendously in starting out this new venture.
That said, I had no idea the amount of learning and challenges I would be facing! There has been a constant learning curve that I am trying to adapt to everyday. It can be overwhelming at times but it is also part of what makes it fun and keeps me on my toes!
Dronile: Your story is really encouraging. Many business owners fear that they need to come out of the gate already knowing it all. But you’re affirming that someone can build their dreams while still learning.
When BE TIME launched with classes this past February, you’d been meditating since the age of 15. Which is incredible! And you’re a mom to twins. What role has meditation and mindfulness played in your life since starting? How do you keep both at the center of your day as an entrepreneur and a mother?
Carla: My first experience meditating at 15 has been a practice that I keep on coming back to, having it be a constant presence in my life. This project, along with my children, has been one of the best ways to truly use my practice: when things seem like just too much and/or there is a problem to troubleshoot I make a conscious effort to come back to my breath and focus on the present moment, on what I can do now. That is how I try to go about my every day.
Dronile: “Focus on the present moment.” Love! We’re seeing more and more mothers strive to create that work/life balance and be present. Have you seen motherhood affect your role as a business owner?
Carla: I have had to be very strategic and careful with my time. And I am going to be honest, it can be a lot to handle! I used to feel guilty sometimes when I missed my kids and I realized I am not spending as much time as I would like with them, but then I remember that I am teaching them how to work hard and follow their dreams; I remember how fulfilled and happy I feel by having the opportunity to do so – and that translates onto them.
I want to offer them that example. Although I might have less time to spend with them at the moment, I make sure that I am being truly present during the time we are together. I believe that is the best gift you can give anyone: your mindful attention. Quality can be so much more valuable than quantity.
Dronile: What advice would you have for other women looking to start their own businesses and be their own boss?
Carla: I would suggest that they explore that spark. Sit down and write things out. Make it real. Transform that into a business plan. Look into the current offerings – how can yours be unique? Once you have that, take responsible baby steps into it. Find mentors who can help guide you along. Trust your inner compass. If all aligns – give it your all!
Dronile: That’s great advice Carla, thank you! BE TIME is “committed to providing meditation classes to as many people and in as many locations as possible.” With the huge success you’ve had so far in NYC, what’s next? What’s on the horizon?
Carla: We have exciting new things in the pipeline, starting with the launch of our merch line in the coming month! We are exploring the many opportunities presenting themselves for BE TIME to expand its offering in inviting people to meditate and make it a cool, essential part of their everyday wellness routine. We‘ll keep you posted and hope you will join the meditation movement!
Dronile: Thanks so much Carla! I’m really excited to continue to see BE TIME and the meditation movement grow. I hope more and more creatives, entrepreneurs and business owners will carve out space in their day to unwind and disconnect.