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Peace (or, at Least, Quiet)

The North Woods, Central Park.  

Guest-edited by Dominique Browning

New York isn’t exactly the first city that springs to mind as the place to find peace and quiet. The day passes in clamor and stress and strife. Most of us can’t get through the night without being awakened by ambulances screaming past, neighbors arguing, heat pipes clanking—to say nothing of the noise and anxiety we carry around in our heads no matter what we’re doing or where we are.

But sometimes people do achieve that state of grace called silence. A woman decides to become a hermit—and without removing herself from the din of the city, she loses herself in prayer. A doctor explores the mystery—and powerful appeal—of going under, into the temporary coma induced by the chemicals of the anesthesiologist. These are extreme ways to find peace, not paths most of us will follow, and yet there is something deeply alluring about an encounter with pure, profound silence. Frightening, too. Is there a state of mind so blissful that you would never want to return? Or couldn’t?

As usual, what New York taketh away, it also returns. The city offers countless places to visit, classes to take, doctors and experts to advise, for those of us mere mortals who want to practice some sort of stillness in our everyday lives—or simply sneak off for a mud bath. Zen fashion goddess Donna Karan shares her C-word mantra: compassion, care, candles, cotton, and cashmere. And for those of us whose mantra is MetroCard, we’ve chosen some pockets of silence throughout the city that you can zip into for a moment’s refreshment. Just don’t tell anyone where you’re going.

A Hermit of the Heart
With no convent but the city itself, one woman finds a prayerful solitude as a contemplative order of one.
Pockets of Stillness
In the middle of a high-intensity day, here are twenty places to decompress, get lost, or duck for cover.
Extreme Stress Cases
Five excruciatingly harried New Yorkers explain how they cope.
The Peaceful Cube
It’s not impossible to give your tiny workspace a semblance of sanity.
Become an E-mail Ninja
Tips for e-mail artistry.
Losing the Language of Silence
As more deaf children are given the chance to hear, the eloquent system of signing is under attack.
A Head-to-Toe Pharm-Free Tune-up
We asked Dr. Woodson Merrell to suggest non-prescription remedies for every inch of the body.
The Deepest Sleep
A doctor explores the allure — and terror — of going under on the operating table.
Retreats Around the Corner
Why schlep to the mountains or the islands when you can have a wellness weekend right in the city?
Free Yoga
It’s exercise. It’s calming. And at these local studios, it costs nothing to try out.
Donna Karan: Zen Mistress
A portion of proceeds from the Urban Zen boutique will be used to support integrative medicine.
Full-Volume Meditation
One woman’s search for peace, equanimity, and a perfectly pronounced om.