Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media
In his first few jobs, former Greenwich resident and Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Julio Rivera helped develop the sorts of software and apps he now worries consume too much of people’s attention.
“My career revolved around looking at a screen,” Rivera said. “I’d get up at 6 or 7 a.m. and code, code at work and maybe after work. I guess you could say technology was suffocating me.”
After working in several jobs in Connecticut and Manhattan as a software developer, Rivera recently quit to pursue Zen Compass, a small business, full time.
“I want to devote my life to this,” he said. “We’re constantly looking for escapism. We’re always in doing mode and scrolling our social media feeds. It’s tough to unwind our bad habits.”
Zen Compass provides a community for people who want to develop meditative and mindfulness practices. It includes events for people to learn about and practice meditation, as well as a subscription to Rivera’s newsletter, which offers his meditation journey and advice.
In the future, Rivera hopes the newsletter will do more to prompt subscribers to interact with him and each other, in the spirit of forming the community he has made the basis of his business.
Rivera held his first Zen Compass event in the city last October and has followed it up with a few more since. The high return rate and positive responses make him optimistic about its future, he said.
“I think one day, as a generation, we’re going to prioritize mental health first,” he said. “I want Zen Compass to be a support system for people’s journey.”
This community aspect to Zen Compass differentiates it from other meditation and mindfulness studios around Manhattan, Rivera said.
For him, this venture is personal. Learning how to meditate rescued him from growing anxiety stemming from frustrations in his personal and professional life. Rivera first tried meditating about a year or so ago with the app Headspace.
“To sit down for 10 minutes, close your eyes and focus on breathing is really hard,” Rivera said. “I didn’t know if it was working at first. I thought I was supposed to feel all zen and have an instant stress fix.”
Sharing his initial obstacles with meditation can help newcomers to this “form of exercise,” Rivera said. “It took a month or two until I saw the benefits everyone talks about. I started to see that I could manage stress and anxiety a lot better and build better relationships.”
To him, now is the perfect time to get into the business.
Everywhere he looks, people are paying to accomplish fitness goals with expensive juices and gym memberships.
Emphasizing mental fitness through mindfulness has helped Rivera find contentment those methods did not, he said, and he hopes to guide others in pursuit of the same sort of increased satisfaction.
Rivera encourages people interested in learning about meditation and mindfulness to follow his blog and contact him at
[email protected], 203-625-4411; Twitter @Macaela_