The Zen Project, bringing bitesize meditation to Camden’s streets

The Zen Project, bringing bitesize meditation to Camden’s streets

The Zen Project, bringing bitesize meditation to Camden’s streets 1920 1236 Caroline Simpson

The Zen Project is a mobile wellbeing station that offers guided Zen sessions from a converted American school bus. The Camden-based organisation came into being last year, when Corinne Gardner and Kaye Smith – two friends suffering from corporate burnout – decided to focus on ways to heal their tired minds and incorporate a sense of zen into their own lives.

Corinne and Kaye hold numerous qualifications in breathwork, meditation and yoga. The two friends benefited so much from these practices, they wanted to find a way to share them with more people. For them Zen takes the form of meditation, yoga, sound healing and breathwork. 

“We always wanted to create something together and it evolved gently. But as soon as we had the idea for The Zen Project, it picked up speed extremely quickly,” Corinne tells We Make Camden.

Accessible for all

“We made a decision to create a mobile solution in the interest of finding a way to make these practices for everyone.” For them, this meant buying and kitting out an old American schoolbus to make it the perfect meditation space. “We bought the bus on Valentine’s Day in 2020. It arrived in July right in the middle of the pandemic. We got it renovated and took it out in July of last year. It has taken us into places we haven’t anticipated. It is all happening really fast.” Corinne says.

“London is an expensive city. We wanted to make this easy and accessible for everyone,” she adds.

For people who haven’t tried these mindfulness practices, it might seem too daunting. Corinne says, “We always hit the same barriers when talking to people about meditation or yoga. ‘I can’t sit still’ or ‘I’m not flexible’ or ‘I’m not a hippy’. All these stereotypes that alarmingly are out there, so we wanted to create something accessible for everybody that wasn’t as expensive as yoga studios are.”

Accessibility is at the heart of what The Zen Project do, as Kaye explains, “Making these practices free is hugely important for us. We are a non-profit, so any corporate work and the events we run help to fund the community work which is always free.” This isn’t just about cost though. “The idea is that the bus can get right to the heart of communities. Physically it can reach places, easily, but it also removes barriers by making these practices really accessible.” she says. It’s not just the in-person sessions though, anyone who boards the bus gets a Zen tips pack, which outlines simple breathing techniques and other resources to try at home.

Experience zen in 11 minutes

This project is the first of its kind in the UK, and Corrine and Kaye can’t wait for as many people as possible to experience the benefits. With their bus they can visit schools, hospitals, offices, parks and public spaces to give everyone the gift of 11 minutes of zen. No experience is necessary to be able to access the benefits of the Zen sessions.

“We are a mobile sanctuary. When people get on board, they visibly shift. It is designed to be airy and light – like a lovely studio space and the accessibility allows us to park right where we are needed,” Kaye says.

“We want this to be a service the community knows it can depend on so they know when we are going to be somewhere on a certain day and time.”

Kaye and Corrine of The Zen Project

How is it funded?

At the moment, The Zen Project’s community work is funded via grants but the duo are working to form partnerships, for example, with a big business based in Camden where they could support their workers, as part of their social responsibility commitment, while also funding some community work.

“These are the conversations we are having. We want to reach a wide range of people,” Corinne says. This summer, they have been taking the bus to festivals and offering paid sessions for festivalgoers.

What are their ambitions for the Zen Project?

“A bus on every corner. We are going to reach a point where we are going to have to get more Zen buses to be serving the community, because, of course, having only one at the moment means we can only be in one place at any one time. People always ask ‘when are you coming back?’” Kaye says.

“We want this to be a service the community knows it can depend on, so they know when we are going to be somewhere on a certain day and time,” she adds.

How to get involved with The Zen Project

The Zen Project is teaming up with youth groups, charities and schools to make young people’s mental health a priority. More information about ways you can help is available here 

Photo credits: The Zen Project

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