Living in the moment. Simplicity. Emptiness. It all may seem foreign to Western business culture. But a growing number of executives think relaxed, “mindful” workers—themselves included—have a serious leg up on less-grounded competitors.
Across the country, high-functioning (and, in some cases, highly paid) urbanites are gravitating to a new breed of secular meditation centers: oases of structured, carefully branded serenity, like Unplug in LA and the Path in New York. In Northwest Portland, the white-walled space of Hush lures a select but dedicated crowd of corporate execs, small-business owners, and tech gurus, according to Ryan Hildebrand, the start-up’s chief financial officer.
“A lot of tech CEOs in town are saying, ‘OK, I know this is going to give me an edge,’” he says, adding that employees and execs from creative agencies and giants like Nike have visited the snug, airily designed room. But he also notes walk-ins from people not looking for a competitive or creative edge as much as simple help dealing with daily stress.
This last point, according to Hush program director Krystyn Strother, speaks to a key aim: make “mindfulness” accessible to anyone and everyone interested, regardless of spiritual background or previous experience with meditation. “We’re looking at the very simple—the anatomy of sitting, for example,” she says. Hush does offer more sophisticated practices, she says, some influenced by transcendental meditation and other techniques drawn from Vedic, Buddhist, and secular traditions. But ultimately, Strother adds, the studio’s goal is to provide its clients with concrete, practical advantages of meditation.
Cofounder Kristin Reiter agrees, adding that the evolving Hush curriculum is highly researched and focused. “This is something we’re working with neuroscientists on,” she says, explaining that Hush is out to unlock studied and documented physiological and psychological meditation benefits, not just offer a leg up on some sort of spiritual fulfillment.
Open since October, the business is already looking to expand. This early success isn’t all that surprising, considering that all three founders come from business backgrounds. Reiter is Nike’s global concept director; Hildebrand previously served as Simple’s vice president of finance; and Strother cofounded an adventure company and founded a meditation service. But while that experience informs their appeal to business-oriented clients, the people behind Hush say they’re open to anyone looking for a dose of tranquility and an upgrade to their mental software.
And at least for Strother, helping people find that clarity of mind is the best part of it all. “It’s really cool to see people walk in and be like, ‘I get it! I’ve landed!’” she says.