Longtime Montclarion Jackie Corwin invites stressed workers in for 15-minute mediation sessions.
In today’s go-go world of video conferences, constant social media updates, and gourmet meal ingredient deliveries, setting aside some precious moments to slow down, take stock, and meditate may not seem doable. Until now. Thanks to the unveiling of a mediation center on wheels dreamed up by longtime Montclarion Jackie Corwin, a well-earned contemplative break is now as easy to take as ordering a Philly cheesesteak from a food truck parked outside the office—and nowhere near as greasy. Called the PauseNow bus, Corwin came up with her mobile meditation center idea as a way to transition from her 30-year “high-stress” career as a Wells Fargo banker. Today, she is the proud owner of the 27-foot Chevy outfitted with seven private meditation spaces. Each is decked out with cushions, a tablet to guide users through their 15-minute session, and even a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Meditators can choose from different sounds ranging from “Relaxing Thunderstorm” to a “Soothing Rainforest” complete with flute music to get them in the proper mood. I’m relaxed already. I caught up with Corwin recently to find out more about getting my “om” on.
Paul Kilduff: When you told people, “I’m leaving the banking industry to open up a bus for people to meditate in,” were they like, “Are you crazy?”
Jackie Corwin: Pretty much. Oh my god, I had all kinds of different responses from, “Did you say medication on a bus or meditation? It’s marijuana; you’re gonna be selling . . . ” And in fact, that’s not a bad idea, actually. I should double up on medication and meditation. Well there’s a saying actually: “Don’t medicate, meditate.” What really triggered this for me was when my ex-husband, who was one of my best friends, was fishing in Alaska and he dropped dead. He had a heart attack—it was two weeks after he retired. That was a wake-up call for me, because I was already thinking about an exit strategy, and I wanted to do something in the healing arts or meditation. My first idea was actually to open up a brick-and-mortar meditation center in the Philippines, and then I thought, “I don’t really want to live there. Who will I be serving if I did that? It would be the rich, just like I was working for the bank.” So I was meditating in my cubbyhole at Wells Fargo. I was looking down, and I saw all these food trucks, and I said, “Oh my god, why not a meditation truck? People who have only 15 minutes—it’s like taking a coffee break.” So, that’s how it came out.
PK: Most Americans know what meditation is, but they don’t do it. How do you get over that hump?
JC: When I was first starting meditation, I couldn’t really do it just by sitting silent. So, what helped me was guided meditations—music, nature sounds, things like that. So my clientele will probably be mostly first-time meditators. And nowadays, a lot of the millennials, they have an app. “Oh, yeah; I meditate; I use Headspace.” There’s over 800 apps now for meditation.
PK: Just for meditation? Wow.
JC: Yes, but what happens is people have the app, and you get tired of it, and you don’t continue your practice. I want to introduce meditation to as many people as possible, so I thought I have to have some guided meditation, so I decided to do six categories.
PK: A lot of people probably think that you need to chant “om” and sit in the lotus position. Is that really necessary?
JC: In my bus, I have seven private spaces. Five of the seven, it’s just like a regular bench. So I wanted people to see that you don’t have to do that. You can if you want, but pretty much people just go in and sit like they’re sitting in an office. Two of the seven are special meditation seats that really make it easy for you to do lotus position, because it contours to your entire body.
PK: Hypnosis is not going to work on you if you don’t believe in it. Is meditation like that? Do you have to believe in it for it to work?
JC: It’s mainly about being aware of your breath. I mean, we all breathe, so I mean it’s basically believing that you can focus on your breath. I learned how to meditate focusing on the inhale and the exhale. That’s an activity we already do. There’s really nothing to “believe” because you already breathe, right? Then you can even try to focus, just be aware of your breath. And that’s basically what meditation is: being aware of your breath, which brings you to the very present. Most of us are not aware that we breathe. Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my best teachers. At first, I was like, “I can’t meditate; I can’t meditate.” But you know, I read that the way he teaches his students to meditate is you breathe in and you say “here,” you breathe out, you say “now.” So here and now, here and now. And then later you can add things to it like what you want for yourself. Like breathe in peace, breathe out love. Peace, love. I mean whatever it takes to help you stay focused.
PK: Is there other staff there with the bus?
JC: No, it’s just me.
PK: Do you drive the bus, too?
JC: Yes, Paul, I had to learn how to drive this bus.
PK: Is it your goal to become the Martha Stewart of meditation?
JC: That’s funny that you say that because phase two of PauseNow is PauseNow design. I will help you design your own sacred sanctuary at home or in your office.
PK: So I was right. You are the blossoming Martha Stewart of meditation.
JC: Well, I don’t know. She went to jail. Can you use Mother Teresa?
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This report appears in the December edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.