Written by Andrew Seale

If you paused for a moment between the frenetic crowds of Collision, one of North America’s largest tech conferences, and looked towards the greenhouse in the heart of Toronto’s Enercare Centre, you would’ve found a peculiar space irritating an incomprehensible calm.

It was a quiet place for reflection, for a reset, for anything at all that set the 1,000 attendees streaming in and out of modern meditation startup Hoame’s pop-up studio over the course of the event at ease.

“Here we are bringing this ancient practice that doesn't necessarily need any technology at all to this very tech-heavy, very modern conference,” says Carolyn Plater, co-founder of Hoame. “And from when we opened to when we closed three days later we never had an empty cushion in that little tent.”

For Plater and her co-founder, Stephanie Kersta, it was further validation of how much people are craving time to just “sit on a cushion for 10 minutes or 15 minutes and enjoy the benefits of meditation.”

The pair met a decade ago while working in mental health and addictions at a methadone clinic. Having both studied psychology in university, the pair clicked despite the fact they’d both pursued separate fields – Plater as an emergency room psychiatric clinician and Kerst in community mental health both at the ground and policy levels.

They’d been running groups together at the clinic, so they got certified for suicide intervention and mental health training and started running private sessions out of a co-sharing space.

“We were on our own mental health and wellness journeys,” says Plater. “And by this point, we’d gotten really into meditation.”

They realized a lot of their job was reactionary care, and the pair saw meditation as part of the preventative side of things, something that fit nicely with the growing awareness surrounding mental health. “We were throwing around ideas one day at Steph’s house about this beautiful space (where) we could do our trainings… crazy ideas like, ‘Oh we got a salt cave and a starry sky in there,’ ” recalls Plater. “And that’s what we have now at Hoame.”

They launched the space last September and it’s quickly become a hub for people to dip their toes into meditation and continue their practice.

“It's been incredible… we have many classes that are sold out, we have a huge community of members and we have more and more people coming into Hoame every day,” says Plater.

The studio has an array of guided classes spread out over a variety of rooms with themes like light – designed to charge and energize – and heart – which is a dark, candle-lit room where proceeds are donated to charitable causes. The space also has a salt cave and an infrared sauna.

Kersta says the underlying theme between the different rooms is duality – light and dark, salt and heat. “Meditation, I hate to say it, is trendy but it's still a bit fringe,” says  Kersta. “So we were like how do we get someone in the space and meditating in a way that doesn't feel like meditation?”

Hoame’s concept connects with the city’s growing startup culture – a culture known for long hours in high-stress environments. And while the workplace culture of the day often touts the benefits of quiet rooms and candy bars and in-office recreational facilities, there’s something to be said for finding a quiet space away from work.

“People are now starting to search for an antidote because they're realizing that our lifestyles are not sustainable,” says Kersta. “People want to be their best self, and so meditation is a really big thing to help people boost creativity and productivity and focus and really help you excel in your job.”

Photo credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com