A Quiet, Mindful Evening in NYCSeptember 9, 2013
I had the most remarkable experience on Friday night here in NYC. Yes, I ventured out on a Friday night. Not to a club, or a party, but to a flash mob meditation in Union Square, organized by the monks and nuns of Blue Cliff Monastery. The meditation was in honor of their teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, artist, writer of over 100 books, and peaceful activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After the meditation we were to mindfully and silently walk to ABC Home, a few blocks away where we would get a sneak peak at Thich Nhat Hanh’s upcoming exhibit: “Calligraphic Meditation: The Mindful Art of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh”. “However were they going to pull this off?”, I wondered.
I showed up at the designated spot in Union Square and there were already about 100 people, quietly waiting. Union Square is a very busy place and there was a lot going on – all of it NOISY. Street performers, students, the remnants of the farmer’s market, and lots of tourists. Pretty soon I saw a quiet procession approaching, led by the brown-robed monks and nuns. They smiled, said just a few words, sat down, rang the tiny brass singing bowl, bowed their heads and began to meditate.
Anyone who meditates knows that one of the greatest challenges is being able to drop into that quiet space, while the noisy world carries on around you. Noise-canceling headphones can help, but the real task is to be able to get there in spite of the chaos. Certainly, living in NYC–or any big city for that matter–makes the challenge seem greater.
Ironically, I went down to the river yesterday to sit under a tree and write this article. No sooner had I started than the peace and quiet was shattered by the deafening sound of a speedboat race on the Hudson River. But let’s face it, you can be smack dab in the middle of a peaceful forest and be distracted by the cacophony of birds, monkeys, cicadas, etc.
Funny thing was, as I sat there meditating, I was able to dismiss the noisy people in Union Square, but the person behind me whose camera kept clicking the entire time – not so much! Perhaps because I didn’t have a chance to get some good pictures of my own before we started…it was more of an envious distraction! At any rate, it’s a beautiful feeling to hold space with like-minded people in the midst of chaos.
When the meditation ended, one of the monks spoke with affection about Thay (Vietnamese for “teacher”) and the exhibition that we were going to see. We walked a few blocks to ABC Home, and without any drama, ticket-taking or waiting on line, we walked through the beautiful store and up the stairs where Deepak HomeBase is located–an amazing salon-style space where thought-provoking, meaningful events are hosted by Deepak Chopra in partnership with ABC.
We sat on the floor as the nuns and monks led us in song and then we were left to view the heart-opening, peace-loving calligraphy of Thich Naht Hahn. Beside each piece was a paragraph with a few lines – sometimes words of wisdom, sometimes a poem. Straight-to-the-heart kind of words.
Calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hahn
The space was artfully decorated to reflect the simplicity and beauty of the artist and his work.
As I was leaving I noticed a bin where they had some small original calligraphies for sale. I leafed through them and this little gem caught my eye:
It was as though Thich Naht Hahn had written it for me. Someone who needs a constant reminder to breathe. To slow down. I brought it home and can’t help feeling as though a tiny piece of this precious bodhisattva’s heart lives with me now.
It was a perfect NYC evening in my book.
P.S. If you’re in the city, please visit the exhibit. And if you’re not, well, the book is a piece of art in and of itself to treasure. Here are the details, including purchasing of the book.