Lodro Rinzler got an early start in the practice of meditation. He was raised in the Buddhist tradition and began his own practice of focus and mindfulness at just age six (yes, seriously…six!). He spent a short time in a monastic setting, taking vows and wearing robes before attending college and studying further under Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Soon, with the encouragement of his teachers, he started teaching within the Shambhala Buddhist lineage himself.
Eventually he founded the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, and most recently, MNDFL, a NYC drop-in meditation studio. At the multiple locations, he and other teachers offer a slew of options. Rinzler also serves as the Chief Spiritual Officer of the popular and welcoming studios leading the front in creating more approachable environments for meditation. Similar to the tone of his books (The Buddha Walks Into a Bar...), his vibe and instruction walks that fine and engaging line of wise-in-that-ancient-way and practical-in-a-5G-modern-way. Learn more below.
SBS: You began meditating at a young age. How can parents help their children begin?
Lodro Rinzler: I really do think meditation can start at a young age. There are little things people can do: One of the early meditations I was offered was to put a few little red sticky dots at eye level. Every time a child sees one, they can pause, come into his or her body and then go back into the rest of the day. It’s a fun game for kids, and also a great tool.
SBS: What are the different, main streams of meditation?
LR: In the West, people are most often referring to either the Vedic stream of teaching or Buddhist.
Vedic is an oral, 5000-year-old tradition. We know about it largely because of The Beatles and Mia Farrow, who went to study with the Maharishi. Transcendental meditation is Vedic, Deepak Chopra, Dave Mensch and Thom Knowles are also from the Vedic tradition. In that tradition, after a point of initiation, they offer a mantra to do in the morning and afternoon.
The Buddhist stream offers a guy, a human just like you and me, who was able to wake up in a big way: enlightenment. He imparted his teaching, and in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, those teachings became part of the school of elders. In Japan and Korea it became more Zen. In Tibet, it became Tibetan Buddhism. But the root of teaching stayed the same, even if the outer layer looked different. Then all of them came west, and they continued to adapt it.
SBS: Why did use the specific word ‘compassionate’ versus another adjective in the title of your company, Institute for Compassionate Leadership?
LR: Compassion is so important because we live in a time of great interconnection, but a lot of the times when we connect it’s not in a heartfelt way. It’s double tapping on photos. I think the level of connection is less, so people are yearning for those heartfelt connections.
When we do meditation, at first we might be doing it for ourselves. But we notice the ways we get hooked in emotions. We see how that gets played out for others. Then we have compassions for others’ anger. We can say, ‘I know what that’s like because that comes up in my meditation.’ That is the birth of compassion: being there for others and connecting with them from an open-heart place. We don’t see a lot of that in leadership, but it’s a quality many of us strive for.
Also, anyone can be a leader. A leader may be a boss, or it can also be someone who shows up in moment. Perhaps it’s that person in the subway who helps a woman up that stairs. That’s a compassionate leader in the moment. Or someone who is the dependable person in the family: That’s a compassionate leader.
SBS: How did MNDFL come about?
LR: The first studio opened in 2016, and now there are three. About a year before the first one opened, I was at tea with my business partner. I wondered why there wasn’t somewhere I could go and do different styles of meditation. If I wanted to practice in Shambhala, there was one class Tuesday night. But what if I wanted to do Vedic meditation, but I didn’t want to do a full meditation? Where could I explore?
Based on my books and the traveling I was doing, I realized this was the wave of the future. More and more meditation options would be popping up, and we would be connecting with people in that way. My goal then was to bring the best teachers from around the city under one roof. Eli [Burrows, CEO] said if you can do it, I can figure out how it looks and feels. It was a no-brainer partnership.
SBS: What’s one of the most special nuggets of wisdom you’ve gained over your years of study?
LR: I remember when I was having a personal conversation with my teacher, and I asked about the role of meditation in today’s world. He said our whole job is in customer service, being there for another human being. That’s good for business, relationships, everything. Keep showing up for another person.
SBS: How can we use meditation to help us in romantic relationships?
LR: Meditation affects how we show up for another human being, noticing how they are changing, evolving and shifting. Don’t simply think they are one thing, which pertains to the Buddhist idea of impermanence. We are always adapting and changing. Meditation helps us notice if we are staying tuned into that.
SBS: What are common misconceptions starting meditation, and how do you tackle them?
LR: Meditation is becoming much more socially acceptable, but there are still hesitations around it. When clients start, they often think it should be easy. That’s not helpful. Even according to all the science surrounding it, it takes week before you see subtle effects on the brain. The number one thing is sticking with it and giving it a chance, just like you would an exercise routine or a guitar.
SBS: What’s the best way to add meditation into your day in a simple way?
LR: Sit in an upright but relaxed posture. Connect with your breath, and when you’ve drifted off, come back to your breath. Or, if you can’t come to the studio, there are videos you can check out.
SBS: Are meditation apps worthwhile and/or as helpful as an in-person class?
LR: Studying with a trained teacher is always the first choice. If that means interacting online through video, that’s perfectly fine. A live human being is usually best. They can notice things and say, ‘Hey, you look uncomfortable.” That creates a personalized practice. I don’t think there is anything that beats having a live teacher.
SBS: What’s your advice for potential students who are interested in meditation but resistant to any spiritual aspect?
LR: There are many places you can go for that. Then, at some point, someone might get interested in the background of mindfulness. Our classes are not religious or spiritual but instead are from the background of offering choices.
SBS: Especially in NYC, students have such busy schedules that they seem to be constantly rushing before and after meditation class. How does this affect the session? Is it worthwhile to resist this urge?
LR: One of the things of being mindful is taking time before and after class to transition. That’s why we have tea at MNDFL. You can hang out and read a bit. The more we do that and allow ourselves time to transition the more we see the effects in the rest of our life. Expecting the mind to settle and turn it off and on quickly is challenging. Instead, transition time allows us to see the effects of meditation when we reengage.
Lodro’s NYC Favorites:
Healthy Restaurant: Nix
Splurge Restaurant: Marc Forgione
Fun Activity: Boxing at Overthrow Boxing
Calming Activity: Steam rooms at the Russian Baths
Nightlife Activity: Sophie's
Coffee House: Alt Box
Park: Central Park
Lodro’s SBS Mantra: Be Mindful!