A trek across one of New York City’s most bustling bridges may not come to mind when considering meditation, but that’s exactly what’s happening Sunday.
And anyone traversing the Brooklyn Bridge might see it in action — very slow action. It’s a guided music-set meditation in motion, with a soundtrack that only headphones-wearing participants can hear.
Meditation teacher and composer Murray Hidary will lead one of his signature meditative walks across the storied span with his company, MindTravel, which he formed with the idea of helping people calm down in the chaos of today’s world.
He takes participants on a mindful walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and has also walked the Williamsburg Bridge and led saunters through Central Park.
“The ingredients for MindTravel are music at its core, and then nature, motion and community,” the Brooklyn-born and New York University-educated Hidary told the Daily News.
The physical benefits of walking, the experience of immersing oneself in music, and doing it with other people is a way of “bridging the external and internal landscape,” Hidary said. “There’s a sense of healing that takes place.”
Though he began practicing and teaching long before the coronavirus pandemic and the recent deadly mass shootings, Hidary finds the practice even more useful and relevant today.
Most meditative traditions have people focus on the body or the breath “because it’s always with you,” Hidary said. “It’s a very pragmatic reason.”
What unites those two methods is the way they ground someone’s attention to the present moment. And it’s not just about sitting on a cushion.
On top of that, Hidary has found that music helps people hold their attention longer.
“Music by nature is ephemeral, and so it only exists in the moment,” Hidary said. “By paying attention note-by-note, you maintain an intimacy in the moment.”
Paying participants will meet at the park near City Hall in Manhattan, and Hidary will hand out wireless headphones for the walk that begins at 7 p.m. As they slowly begin to walk, he’ll play a musical recording that he’s curated “specifically for this journey,” he said. “And I narrate and guide the experience with my voice.”
Once crossing the bridge, the group will end up in Brooklyn Bridge Park, with views of the Manhattan skyline.
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Most of those taking part are people seeking equilibrium in what can be an unbalanced world, and in one of the noisiest places on the planet.
“We don’t have to escape to the far side of the world to find that. We can find that at any moment within,” Hidary said.
Vacations and retreats are all well and good and restorative, he said. But maintaining that mojo afterward is the real challenge.
“Most of the time we’re in our lives, in the midst of it, in the thick 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 infuses a person with a sense of empowerment and agency.
“It’s about, ‘How do we get people to bring this sensibility to all areas of their life, not just on the cushion,’” 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 across one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares Sunday, enjoy it.
“There’s magic in that moment,” Hidary said. “Because when you slow down, you know what becomes available. Everything starts to bloom and unfurl, and you have such a deeper experience of the moment and your own state.”