I knew Somadome would be perfect for me when the manager setting up my pod explained that the most enjoyable part about it is how it takes all the work out of meditation, but preserves all its benefits. Having done many types of meditation sessions (DIY, person-led, audio-guided...) with varying degrees of success in the past, I knew exactly what he meant by "the work." While I can pretty easily achieve a zen-like state the minute I close my eyes, I have a hard time—as I assume most do—not letting my thoughts drift off for more than a few seconds. One minute I am focusing on holding my breath, the next I am thinking about what I'll be getting at the nearby Trader Joe's on my way home. If I don't consciously fight to refocus my thoughts inward, by the time the session is over, I have my entire shopping list memorized, my entire week planned out, and an email already mentally written.
All to say, on my way to Manhattan's Modrn Sanctuary wellness center last Friday, I had no idea what to expect from a pod that promised to make me better at freeing my mind. In theory, a Somadome pod combines light and binaural beat therapy to help one meditate and achieve spiritual balance. Outfitted in “microcrystalline tiles,” the pod is meant to counteract the effects of electromagnetic fields from everyday electronics (they distract you from being able to disconnect) and exude healing frequencies to restore the body, reduce stress, and bring about a state of mind ideal for carrying out intentions. In experience, it prompts a variety of reactions, with some claiming to have had a sensation of flying and others raving about the best power nap of their lives. Having just finished my first full week of work in the new year, I was simply looking to start my weekend on a more peaceful note.
One of the first things that surprised me is that the pod—looking, more or less, like a geometric armchair with a futuristic cover—can be located anywhere. In the case of Mdrn Sanctuary—and many other studios—this means it's in the reception area. Seeing the hesitation in my eyes (there were a few people sitting on the nearby couches), the attendant assured me that I wouldn’t hear anyone and would be sectioned off with a sheet once inside the pod. She also explained that I had the option to set an intention for my 20-minute session or treat it as a meditation session and go with an open mind. The pod was then closed over my head and my upper body, with my legs and feet, propped up on a stool, sticking out and covered by a blanket.
Once inside the cushioned space (which didn't trigger any claustrophobic feelings, by the way), I had the option to select what kind of intention—Physical Wellness, Mental Performance, Going Inward, and Attract Intentions—I wanted to work toward. I selected "Physical Wellness" from the touchscreen menu, and was then prompted to select from categories like Fit, Heal, Recharge, Relax, and Snooze. Opting for Recharge, in the hopes of resetting and calming my brain, while also promoting creativity, I put on my headphones and sank into the pod as the light turned to a soothing turquoise (this color is supposed to stimulate impulses in the brain to promote balance, relax, and improve intuition; depending on what your intention/setting is, the light will be different) and a track came on.
Whereas in meditation classes, you might need to adjust your crossed-over legs and shift for a bit before you get physically at ease if you’re not used to the lotus position, with a Somodome pod, you instantly feel comfortable and ready to meditate. As I listened to the "binaural" beats (in my case, birds chirping, wind chimes, and water flowing; in others, it could be actual verbal guidance), which are meant to help brainwaves return to their natural state and, as such, promote better meditation, I sunk deeper into the padding. With no sound distractions (think: fellow meditators' fidgeting, breathing, or coughing) and the complete cocoon-like enclosure, I was able to block out the outside world better than I ever have during a meditation. (This felt ironic given the pod's public placement, but it's true.) What's more, I spent almost the entirety of my meditation doing just that—meditating.
After the 20 minutes ended (a bell chime signaled the end of the session), I came out more relaxed and refreshed than I feel after several hours in the spa. While I can't vouch for the benefits of light and sound therapy and microcrystalline tiles, afterward, I felt light and rejuvenated mentally. It was like I emerged from a wellness sanctuary and not an egg-like structure; it was fascinating to contemplate that all I really needed was 20 minutes to recharge, relax, and restore. In all, I could see how Somadome can, over time, carry out its promise of reducing stress and promoting mental and physical well-being. For me, though, it helped me achieve my meditation potential.
And yes, the irony that I need technology to unplug and disconnect from technology isn't lost on me.
Somadome, $35 for 20 minutes, available at Modrn Sanctuary.