It sounded like fun. So despite my almost complete inability to muster a meditative state, I attended Indy’s first Meditation Flash Mob (aka "MedMob").
The event unfolded Thursday, Dec. 22, on the solstice.
If you’re unfamiliar with the flash mob concept, it’s fun and simple. A group of people shows up to a public space, then, at an appointed time, do something goofy like break into song or dance. Lately, though, there has been news of a different, less innocuous, species of flash mobbing, wherein a group mounts a mass shoplifting. Thankfully, the event at Circle Centre wasn't like that.
About 30 of us met in the Arts Garden, and received instruction from Andrew Smith, who’d cooked up this local version of the MedMob gathering.
MedMob is an established organization with an international scope. Their mission: “Our intention is to create an environment for people from all religions, all world views, and all experience levels to join together in meditation. Our vision is to continue inspiring world-wide meditations until the entire world is invited to join - literally!”
Not very threatening, eh? But still, I was nervous, which my more experienced, meditation-savvy friends were happy to tease me about.
My anxiety was confirmed, because the moment my pod of meditators sat down, a security guard came over and told us to leave.
I responded: “But we picked this space because it was totally out of the way.”
It was true. The four of us had chosen a space in the mall that would not disrupt shoppers whatsoever. Still we were seen as some kind of threat.
Smith intervened, assuring the guard he had cleared the flash mob action (or, rather, non-action), with mall officials early in the day.
That assuaged the guard, but as my friends settled in and became quiet, I couldn’t sit still. So I got up and began to wander.
This was the evening of the Colts game against the Texans, and it seemed everyone in the mall was wearing blue. I’d neglected to wear my Colts blue, nor were my meditation friends bearing horseshow logos. In retrospect, we should have. Perhaps we wouldn’t have been looked upon with such amazement by shoppers.
Because that’s how it appeared to me. Once I got up and began to wander around to find the half dozen or more pockets of meditation, I observed the observers. People, bedizened in Colts blue, looked on, wide-eyed, smirking, pointing, laughing.
It was weird what we were doing, I grant you that. But it wasn’t threatening or scary, except maybe when you think how terrifying it is to so clearly not be shopping in a mall.
Smith was wandering, because he had to make sure security understood it was all in (serious) fun, no malfeasance was afoot. I stopped him and he told me a group of four had been joined by a half-dozen shoppers.
The fruits of meditation
While I was unable to meditate for any period of time, the experience did slow me down enough to notice a few things. One is the smell: the mall is full of smells of all kinds! I usually feel so assaulted by the visual stimuli that I don’t even notice what my nose is noticing. Pretzels, chocolate, pizza, cologne.
The sounds were compelling as well. I heard distant music, a persistent strain of Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” pulsing from somewhere. A small brass band played carols. I heard the happy chatter of shoppers, of Colts fans; laughter and conversation.
I began to relax and get into the flow; I began to meditate in my own way. I remembered as a teenager I would go to the mall in South Bend, where I would read a book. I found the mall an essential setting for reading. I felt a kind of center-of-the-storm calm; as the chaotic world was swirling around me, my book and I the one sane spot in all the cosmos.
I remembered years ago, former Dance Kaleidoscope dancer Andre Megerdichian and I decided to start an initiative where we would go to malls — and dance.
We did so on a couple of occasions. Somewhere in the archives of NUVO is at least one “review” of a mall-dancing event, where we assessed who had the best music and space for grooving.
With a bit of a shock, I also remembered when Circle Centre Mall was a vacuous hole in the ground. I used to get as close as I could to the hole, and imagine what downtown would look like once this empire of consumership was built.
It looks like this: thousands of people in a utopian setting, replete with food and appliances and clothing and whatnot, all dressed more or less in the same blue uniform. Most of them are named Manning. If these Mannings see something out of the ordinary, like people sitting and doing nothing, they (understandably) gawk.
For me, the meditation flash mob proved I am a failure at meditation. I am the object of teasing among my more expert friends, something I can handle. And I like to do new things, out-of-the-ordinary things.
Since this is the Age of Occupy, the year of the Apocalypse, I figure we have to get used to out-of-the-ordinary things.
One member of our mob was Los Angeles-based Jaime Collaco, who told me after the event that he is chief ambassador of an organization called Do As One. Do As One started 7/7/07 and their goal is to get one billion people to “breath together synchronously” by 11/11/12.
Hey, why not.
In the climate-change-challenged world, on the cusp of enormous upheaval — weather, war, overpopulation, dwindling resources, economic tumult — we should be reminded of things most fundamental.
It’s all each one of us has, ultimately. The only thing to call our own.
For more on MedMob:
For more on Do As One: