We found the Be Time Bus on instagram (of course), and were fascinated by the concept. A mobile meditation studio — in a bus — that looks like a spaceship inside? We knew immediately that we had to check it out. We were excited and grateful to have had the opportunity to sit and chat with Carla Hammond, the bus’s founder & CEO, in the meditation spaceship bus (!!!), in October.
Click the video above to watch the full interview, or read on for excerpts! (Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, which is full of awesomeness!)
Meditation Magazine: This is a pretty amazing and unique space! How did you come up with this idea?
Carla Hammond: I’ve been meditating for quite some time, and I have — now almost five year old(!) — twins. I meditated at home, and when they arrived, it got a little… hectic. And I found myself really wishing for space, where I could go at least once a week or something to do my thing. I started looking [for a meditation space]. And I thought “I’m in New York!”[But] this was five years ago before any formal meditation studios were yet existing [in New York], so what I did find was either way out of my area, and like a weird schedule. So I noticed that there was space in the market for something like this. It kind of crept up on me, and I obsessed about the idea for a while. I wasn’t sure if people were ready to pay solely to go meditate, or pay for a class. And because the brick and mortar spaces were so expensive, I thought, well, OK, maybe it’s a little risky, let’s keep that on hold.
And then I saw the food truck movement! And there was this non-profit bus parked a couple blocks away from my house one day and I’m like “Wait a second! What if we make it mobile? And we can get to more people, more places…” and it kind of snowballed from there.
MM: What kind of meditations do you do in the Be Time Bus?
CH: We broke it up into five different thematic focuses; we wanted to try to incorporate some of the bigger categories of techniques for meditation. We have some mantra repetition (that we call “be intention”), some mindfulness (that we call “here”), creative visualization… so that people have the possibility of exploring different techniques if they’re just learning, and also try to incorporate whatever works into their practice.
MM: Religious gurus tend to say you should stick to one meditative tradition, but people from more secular paths tend to say “yeah, try everything!” What do you think about that? Do you think that there’s value in picking one and going with it, or do you prefer to stay more broad in your own practice?
CH: I personally prefer to stay more broad. I guess it hasn’t even been so much a matter of preference as it’s been an organic progression. It’s been more like a wave of what I’ve had experience to try out and what has come up in my life, so I’ve explored different traditions, different techniques. I find that, looking back on it now — and there’s still so much to explore of course — there is some richness in being able to have different types of skill sets or techniques to use and incorporate into your daily life. I find myself pulling from some [techniques] while I’m experiencing some things in my life, and pulling from others while I’m experiencing other things. So I think it just brings a lot of wealth. Sometimes I kind of admire the people who are very steadfast on their one path, and I think I had a moment where I really wanted that, but it hasn’t happened for me in that way, and now I’m enjoying that aspect of it too.
MM: Which ones are your go-to meditation practices?
CH: Right now I’m very much in a mindfulness set of practice, and I also like to do creative visualization. So I think a combination of those two.
MM: So, the mindfulness is more of the day-to-day being aware of what your’e doing as you’re doing it? Is that right?
CH: Yeah, but also, while I’m sitting, or lying down — sometimes I practice lying down — just being aware of my breath. I find myself going back to the basics and keeping it very simple, and that’s working for me right now.
MM: What’s the creative visualization like?
CH: I feel like it’s kind of a personal journey I like to take… I evolve different colors, it varies…
MM: So you close your eyes and you kind of go on your own journey in your visual mind?
CH: Yeah! And sometimes bringing in visuals of gratitude, things that I’m grateful for — or things that I’d like to manifest.
MM: Do you decide where you want to go, or do you just let whatever come in there?
CH: I kind of feel like I sit with an intention, and then I just let it happen.
MM: How did you start meditating in the first place?
CH: I had my first experience meditating when I was 15. My mom coerced me into going to this weekend retreat, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And it was a wild experience but I remember really panicking for a moment, since I was 15 and I was like “this is not my perfect weekend plan.”
But then when we were invited to actually sit in meditation, it was the first time I ever had done anything like that, and it kind of just really resonated with me. I had a really magical experience and it was very clear that it was a very powerful practice, and so it’s just kind of been a companion that stayed in my life. I wish I could say I’ve been meditating since I was 15 — I haven’t — but it’s been kind of like a constant presence, which I find myself going back to, and going back to.
MM: Where was that? You have an accent that’s not from New York. Where was this experience that you had?
CH: This was in Mexico City. I’m half British and half Mexican — my dad’s British, mom’s Mexican — I could say broadly, childhood in England, I was born there, and then teenage years in Mexico.
MM: So how did the meditation affect you as a teenager? Did it affect you right away, change the way you looked at the world?
CH: Yeah, it definitely had an effect right away. It kind of opened a door for me to explore myself in a way that I consciously had never done before. And also I was very perfectionist and had all these ideas and expectations and judgements about myself that were really all self-imposed. So I was going through a hard time, because I felt like that was so much to manage. So when I found this space, it was bliss because I didn’t really have to do anything other than just focus on my breath, and be. So it was really liberating actually.
MM: Did you feel like that affected your relationships with the people around you, your parents and your friends?
CH: Definitely! It was a slow process because I didn’t continue to meditate daily as of that day, but yeah, it’s definitely had a great impact, first of all on myself… and I think that always tends to kind of expand beyond yourself. So yes, I would say that it has definitely had a very positive impact. Especially on family relationships.
MM: Where do you see this meditation bus going? What’s your plan for the future?
CH: We definitely want to continue to expand the invitation for people to explore themselves in meditation, have the experience, bring the practice in their everyday lives. I believe very strongly that it’s a very cool and necessary addition to our everyday wellness routine, so I want to invite people to hopefully see it that way and give it a try.
Beyond the bus — there’s of course room for more busses, I feel like there’s room for these kinds of mobile studios in most major cities — and we’ve just launched our retro-fits and popups, so now we’ve been asked to kind of bring a bit of this experience into hotels and conventions and corporate [settings]. So that’s another way we’re going about scaling this.
After our chat with Carla, we sat for a beautiful, relaxing, 6-minute guided meditation with Be Time meditation teacher Prerna Bhatia @prernayoga
To experience the Be Time Bus for yourself, check out betimepractice.com. Meditation Magazine readers get 25% off their first Be Time Bus meditations with coupon code MEDMAGTIME ?