New York City’s Interdependence Project has been, as they say, taking meditation to the streets. First there was their November 2009 “Sit Down, Rise Up” 24-hour meditation marathon in the windows of ABC Carpet. (Video here.) Now, the IDP has gone underground to bring meditation to light.
This new public meditation — which the IDP calls an “Inter-Act” and which Director of Arts and Communication Josh Adler describes as “a new type of performance art and civic engagement” — took place in an NYC subway tunnel: the one at Port Authority to be exact. A “challenging environment to try and meditate in,” to be sure. So, how did it go? Well, the cops may have not liked it so much, but there surely can’t be a problem with walking meditation when sitting doesn’t work. And, as Adler states, they intend to keep going. To join them, visit the IDP or treeplays.com.
i can't bare to click on the video. exhibitionism at it's worse. ugh.
Coolest thing ever. Could disagree more with the above comment. Confronting mindlessness with mindfulness is NOT exhibitionism.
Maybe it's all in the execution. From what I know of the ID Project, they are a wonderful organization.
totally agree — this seems like a helpful thing to do, and not pretentious like it really could have been. (weird, cbanko, 2 criticize so strongly right after admitting not watching.)
lodro NYD says
Regarding this spectacle:
"In order to help somebody, first raise your head and shoulders. Then, don’t try to convert people to your dogma, but just encourage them. Whatever profession they have—whether they are dairy farmers, lawyers, or cab drivers—first, raise your consciousness, and then talk to them on their own terms. Don’t try to make them join the Shambhala club or the Buddhist scene or anything like that. Just let them be in their own way. Have a drink, have dinner, make a date with them—just keep it simple.
The main point is definitely not to get them to join your organization. That is the least of the points. The main point is to help others be good human beings in their own way. We are not into converting people. They may convert themselves, but we just keep in touch with them. Usually, in any organization, people cannot keep themselves from drawing others into their scene or their trip, so to speak. That is not our plan. Our plan is to make sure that individuals, whoever we meet, have a good life. At the same time, you should keep in contact with people, in whatever way you can. That’s very important, not because we’re into converting others, but because we are into communicating."
(Thanks to Danny Fisher for the quote. The opinion regarding the spectacle is my own, he only provided the quote.)
interesting quote, but this read to me as an act of communication and not one of "conversion."
lodro NYD says
Sure, it's a communication — a shallow and self centered communication.
Its an interesting argument as to whether something like this is conversion or communication. To me, its show. And showing isn't being. I've gone through many stages of both and I've gotten good at telling when I'm showing and when I'm being. Not to knock the ID project, they seem like a great group. Maybe its an interesting art project but listening to the director speak about it shows that he intended to promote wellness and that kind of lost it for me. I thought it was a great juxtaposition in the video when they are doing walking meditation and you can hear a woman screaming about christ in the background. Both with intention.
This is exactly what I love about both New York and the Interdependence Project.
What I like about this: it allows the general public to see what meditation practice looks like. Perhaps the meditators sparked some curiosity from someone who might otherwise not have considered the practice.
I think the walking meditation was cool. if I were in that corridor, I would look at that and wonder and see things in a new way. sitting in the flow of traffic, however, was obnoxious and aggressive, not something that promotes mindfulness but something that draws attention and inconveniences people. I walk fast and I pass people and I probably would have walked right into a meditator. sitting in the corridor and forcing people to go around you is not being mindful or compassionate or present — it's self-satisfied and provocative.
this is not a spectacle but rather an opportunity for people who might otherwise never think about meditation to encounter people meditating. It's how these people chose to have a public conversation about meditation, just like everyone who wrote comments on this blog did. This is no more or less a spectacle than SunSpace, magazines about meditation, or Buddhist podcasts that people see ads for on iTunes even if they weren't looking for them specifically.
I don't see much harm in this; with a sense of humor, getting people to become aware of meditation as a potential alternative seems harmless, funny, performance art. It raises awareness without being aggressive.
dawn again says
but I do think that having a buddhist screaming "wake up" in the tone of voice in which people scream "repent" would be interesting. the goal, I would assume, is to get people to really see where they are, not to take the same zombie walk that they do every day withoutseeing what's around them
I think the only ones with authority regarding whether it was an act of vanity or not are the people who did it.
I'm saying, "Don't knock it till' you try it", and also that it's unrealistically cynical to assume their shitty motivation as if you were there and know why each of them did it.
I mean, I get that one of the guys might be there to impress a girl he likes. But how is that different from anything else, ever?
And you know, it is a powerful sight. Whatever you think about it, you are thinking about it, which means that as a piece of awareness-raising art/activism it was effective.
Probably more people will think it was lame at first. But I'd bet that in 2 or 3 weeks from now they'll still remember it and it might be the seed they needed to start their own practice.
Ramon Gutiérrez says
@Alec_S: I don't get your point about the only ones with authority to debate the act are the ones who did it. This may apply to "intentions", but not to actions. We all have opinions, we may express them in an open dialogue, there may be situations in which saying what you think is important. History has plenty of situations which make this obvious (one doesn't need to be under the skin of every Nazi soldier to be able to criticize Nazism).
As far as I can see, in any situation there's the intention, and there is how the situation is perceived, there are the results (which may contradict the intention or not), and in my opinion it's wonderful when there's an open dialogue including all of these. Your argument seems to be preventing this kind of dialogue, when you talk about authority.
About this kind of street initiative: I must confess I don't get the point, besides the spectacle (the unpredictable results of this included: one may be curious, or hate, or whatever), some sense of conversion (I can't see it as different from evangelical doing their practice in public).
In my opinion it's basically… irrelevant… and I truly don't get the hype.
Ramon, I understand what you've said but you've re-characterized what Alec_S said in a very important way.
Alec_S said: "the only ones with authority regarding whether it was an act of vanity or not are the people who did it."
You said: "I don't get your point about the only ones with authority to debate the act are the ones who did it."
Alec didn't say anything about the authority to DEBATE. He talked about who can comment with AUTHORITY about the intent behind the act, i.e., "whether it was an act of vanity or not." Additionally, Alec wrote: "it's unrealistically cynical to assume their shitty motivation as if you were there and know why each of them did it."
I must say that I agree with Alec. I find it very interesting that people feel like they "know" the intent of other people. As Buddhists, we learn to become mindful of our own thoughts. That's an ongoing process. I think it's hard enough to know what's going on in your own head. How in the world can one state with any definitiveness what's going on in someone else's head?
I have no clue what the intent of the individuals here was. At most I can you is what I think/thought about what they did. At the heart of Buddhist practice is understanding the difference between perception and thought and putting space between perception in thought. Seeing people on a video: perception. Concluding that the actions on the video are the result of vanity , exhibitionism, etc.: that's thought.
I think you can debate those thoughts, but I think you get into trouble if you begin to think of thoughts as facts.