Everyone had recently encountered a frightening example of road rage before the meditation class.
One person was driving and saw someone yelling at another driver. I had walked by two people arguing over no-parking signs. And the meditation teacher recounted that the day before, on her way to class, she saw a man stop his car, get out and walk menacingly toward another driver.
She wondered, she recalled, did he have a gun? Others shared similar anxieties and agreed that, overall, the level of anger among strangers seems to be high.
Chill, a meditation studio in River North that opened in April, wants to help calm those anxieties.
This year has offered a steady drumbeat of blaring headlines, from concern over North Korean missiles to this week’s abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey. With headlines rotating so quickly, the studio hopes to bring relief to stressed-out Chicagoans.
«I notice a shift in my energy,» said Susan Ifergan after taking Insight, Chill’s advanced meditation class. She said she has taken four classes in a week, and they are helping her during a difficult time.
Thursday’s class was nearly full, with a dozen people stopping in at lunchtime. Instructor Kimberly Dunn began by recounting the story of road rage and explained that the class would focus on compassion. She guided meditation by suggesting how to bring awareness to thoughts and telling the class to think of someone who needed compassion — a friend or a person with whom we had a grievance.
When the 30-minute class ended, people languidly stood up from their cushions and slowly walked out, some saying they wanted to come more often.
The studio’s River North location is intentional, says co-owner Laura Sage. She wants downtown cubicle dwellers to feel they can drop in before, during or after work.
«I am perpetually in a state of frenzy, which I’m not proud of,» said Sage, who also founded the Lynn Sage Foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer. «I had always wanted to meditate and have a consistent practice, and I couldn’t find a place in Chicago that made that convenient for me.»
The rooms are softly lit with a variety of cushions and blankets, but not much else.
«We intentionally made Chill very minimalistic,» Sage said.
Along with Insight, the studio offers a variety of classes including Breath, an introduction to meditation; Rest, a night class aimed at calming the body before bed; and a class that’s a combination of yoga and meditation. Single sessions are $22, and an unlimited monthly membership is $150. The studio also offers massages.
Like many beginners, my mind wandered — noticing an itchy eye, wondering whether my contact was the issue, pondering how strange it would be to remove a contact lens in the middle of a meditation class.
But Sage offers the comforting analogy that meditation is like running a marathon.
«You wouldn’t assume you could run 26 miles day one. You would incrementally grow to that level,» she said. «Meditation is exercising your brain. If you haven’t done it before, give yourself a break.»