A trek across one of New York City’s most buzzing bridges might not come to mind when you think of meditation, but that’s exactly what happens on Sunday.
And anyone crossing the Brooklyn Bridge might see it in action – very slow action. It is a guided, music-based meditation in motion, with a soundtrack that only participants with headphones can hear.
Meditation teacher and composer Murray Hidary will lead one of his signature meditative walks through the storied period with his company, MindTravel, which he founded with the idea of helping people calm down in the chaos of today’s world.
He takes participants on a mindful walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and has also walked the Williamsburg Bridge and ambled through Central Park.
“The ingredients for MindTravel are music at its core, then nature, movement and community,” Brooklyn-born, New York University-educated Hidary told the Daily News.
The physical benefits of walking, the experience of immersing yourself in music and doing it with other people, is a way to “bridge the external and internal landscape,” Hidary said. “There’s a sense of healing taking place.”
Although he started practicing and teaching long before the coronavirus pandemic and the recent deadly mass shootings, Hidary finds the practice even more useful and relevant today.
In most meditative traditions, people focus on the body or breath “because it’s always with you,” Hidary said. “It’s a very pragmatic reason.”
What unites these two methods is the way they draw one’s attention to the present moment. And it’s not just about sitting on a pillow.
In addition, Hidary has discovered that music helps people hold their attention for longer.
“Music is ephemeral by nature, so it only exists in the moment,” Hidary said. “By paying attention note for note, you maintain an intimacy in the moment.”
Paid participants meet in the park near Manhattan City Hall, and Hidary hands out wireless headphones for the walk that begins at 7:00 PM. As they slowly begin to walk, he plays a music recording he composed especially for this journey,” he said. “And I narrate and guide the experience with my voice.”
Once across the bridge, the group ends up in Brooklyn Bridge Park, overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
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Most of the participants are people looking for balance in what can be an unbalanced world, and in one of the noisiest places on Earth.
“We don’t have to flee to the other side of the world to find that. We can find that inside anytime,” Hidary said.
Vacations and retreats are all well and good and restorative, he said. But sticking to that mojo afterwards is the real challenge.
“Usually we are in our lives, in the middle of it, in the middle of it, at work, at home. That’s when life happens…where it’s often messy and chaotic,” Hidary said, noting that maintaining that state of centeredness gives a person a sense of empowerment and choice.
“It’s about, ‘How do we get people to bring this sensitivity to all areas of their lives, not just the pillow,'” he said. “It can be done, but you have to work at it and build that muscle.”
So if you see a large group of people moving almost imperceptibly on one of the busiest arteries in the city on Sunday, enjoy.
“There’s magic in that moment,” Hidary said. “Because if you slow down, you know what will become available. Everything begins to bloom and unfold, and you have such a deeper experience of the moment and your own state.”