Feighan: Mother-son duo go mobile with meditation

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Traffic buzzed along Woodward during a busy weekday in downtown Detroit earlier this week as seven Quicken Loans employees stepped out of the bright sunshine and into a gray and orange trailer parked along a side street.

They weren’t there for the burritos, but something healthier: meditation.

Meditation is hot these days as stress levels skyrocket, smartphones get smarter and our president can’t seem to stay away from his Twitter account. But who has time to meditate?

That’s why an Oakland County mother-and-son duo are taking a different approach — they bring meditation to employees across Metro Detroit with a mobile meditation business called Meditation Works.

Inside a customized trailer, benches upholstered in a sedate fabric stretch along both sides. Battery-operated candles flicker on the floor. Piano music plays quietly in the background. Employees step in for 10- to 11-minute sessions.

“Meditation is the best way to decrease worry,” says co-founder Joanne Leider.

Meditation Works was started in 2016 by Joanne and her son, Jake Leider. Joanne, who has practiced yoga for 20 years, was in the shower, wondering why people don’t meditate. Then an idea hit her. Why not take meditation to people? There are food trucks. Why not deliver mediation?

“I was like ‘How do you get people to meditate?” says Joanne. “It just all kind of came together.”

Meditation helps stop our brains from being on what Joanne calls “autopilot.” It re-trains our brains to better handle and respond to stress.

Today, Meditation Works is quickly growing. They work with roughly 22 businesses across Metro Detroit. After starting with one fully customized trailer, they’ve added a second and are now getting ready to add a third. They’re also expanding class offerings and thinking about franchising.

“We have law firms, insurance brokers,” says Jake. “There’s a need for it. Everyone knows they are stressed.”

Each session is no more than 10-11 minutes long so employees aren’t gone for very long. The Leiders say research shows small bursts of meditation are just as effective as longer stretches.

Regina Baldwin, a team leader at Quicken Loans, has been attending the Leiders’ mini-meditation sessions since April. She loves it, she said.

“It’s nice to come here and clear your mind,” she said.

Jake, 26, never set out to get into the meditation business. After graduating with a degree in finance, he got a job as a project manager with a company that specialized in commercial kitchens. He liked his job but in a matter of weeks, he noticed a common theme.

“Everyone was miserable and stressed out,” says Jake, who left his job to start Meditation Works.

Research suggests meditation does, indeed, work. After just one session, the Leiders say studies show it can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, diminish muscle tension and leave you with a “refreshed” feeling. After four weeks, sleep patterns can improve. Anxiety, depression and worrying can decrease.

Jake says it’s not that meditation eliminates worry or stress. It’s about managing that stress.

“You start to control your mind rather than your mind controlling you,” says Jake. People “are unconscious all day and don’t even realize it. They just go, go and go. And that’s what meditation is. It’s stopping for 10 minutes.”

And who is among the Leiders’ clients these days? The same business Jake left to begin Meditation Works.

“They’ve been meditating over a year,” says Joanne.