The pace and complexity of technological change continues relentlessly, and alongside it mindfulness has emerged into the mainstream.
Neuroscience has advanced, and we’ve seen innovation in biofeedback instruments over the last few decades. These tools have enabled us to get convincing data about meditation, and it has thus descended from the remote caves of the Himalayas into suburban homes and metropolitan boardrooms.
This once esoteric practice (aka: Woo Woo) of sitting quietly for extended periods has been proven beneficial to health and wellbeing.
In past eras, before Internet, before TV, before newspapers and electricity, there were extended periods in each day with nothing much do except sit (or lay) silently. Today, that just feels unproductive. But as it turns out that time was vital to our mental and physical well-being. We need to build it consciously into our lives again.
Multiple studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter in the brain, lowers physiological stress markers, calms neural networks related to anxiety and impulsivity, alleviates symptoms of depression, improves focus and memory, and yields an overall state of serenity and contentment.
Like exercise and healthy eating, meditation is something we all know we should do for optimal health. But many people find it hard to build a meditation habit alone.
We ask ourselves, “Why struggle to do an irritating, fringe, new-agey thing that’s taking up my valuable time?” And beyond the idea that ‘meditating is good for you.’ it’s tough to connect to a sense of purpose deep enough to keep you motivated to stick with it.
Bottom line: it's hard to develop the discipline to sit down and do nothing for a while. But what about doing it alongside a few hundred other people? What kind of effect could that have on the individual and the community?
These are some of the questions that led me to start Mindful Mass -- a flash mob meditation community in Vancouver, BC.
By bringing people together to meditate in public spaces, Mindful Mass does three things: a) it creates a unique and empowering community for spiritual city-dwellers, b) it normalizes meditation, and it c) amplifies meditation to the public.
How Mindful Mass Begun
I was inspired to start Mindful Mass when I saw a video about a meditation community in New York called “The Big Quiet”. I immediately knew Vancouver was the perfect place to replicate the concept.
Active lifestyle, diet, nutrition, and alternative medicine have become part of our city brand. Where else but Vancouver can you find as many yoga studios as Starbucks?
We began planning our first event, and Carolyn Anne Budgell, an outstanding local yoga and meditation teacher, noticed us online and sent us a message saying she’d love to participate.
I knew she’d be a perfect fit, as she hosts international retreats and courses on practicing and teaching meditation. I also loved her personal philosophies and the fact she was mentored by legendary figures like Adyashanti. So, we teamed up with Carolyn and held our first event on December 21st, 2016. It was unforgettable.
I’d already been doing yoga and using float tanks for years, so I was quite familiar with the practice, but this was something entirely different. I was used to meditating in isolation (or with a small group of people for a few minutes at the end of a class), but being immersed in a huge crowd of people had a profound quality I'd never experienced before.
We followed a simple recipe for this profound experience. First, we gathered in the courtyard of the Woodward's building in downtown Vancouver. I sat beside Carolyn across from 150 people, while we collectively attended to our breath in silence for twenty minutes with eyes closed.
As the hushed rustling of a nearby fountain and brushing of passing footsteps echoed through the atrium, rather than feeling judged by onlookers, I found myself thinking, “Huh, I'm not alone, there are tons of other people doing this ‘weird’ thing with me. This is really cool.”
But the most powerful part came at the end, when we simultaneously opened our eyes and everyone was looking back at me. There was extraordinary presence behind their gazes such that I felt I was seeing the Universe observing me back.
The Power is in the Experience
The Transcendental Meditation community has done research suggesting that group meditation causes brainwave patterns to synchronize and things like crime rates, violence, and drug abuse lower in areas surrounding the meditation.
These are nice ideas I'd like to believe, but I haven't found any convincing evidence that shows this to be true. Regardless of the truth of these claims, I can attest to the experience of group meditation.
Everyone in attendance is united by a common purpose. Each person cares about his or her mental wellness, community, and receiving support from like-minded people. There's indescribable power in knowing this and feeling the surrounding presence of a conscious tribe. It takes the meditation to a higher level.
As humans, we need to take breaks from the stimulation of internet and media more now than ever. This is why my brother and I were originally fascinated by Flotation tanks and why we created Floathouse, opening our first location in downtown Vancouver in 2013.
After spending hundreds of hours floating in darkness ourselves, we knew it was a therapy that would literally improve people's lives and create the possibility of bringing greater levels of harmony to the community, starting from the bottom (individual consciousness) up.
This mission is what gives me a sense of purpose: the idea that I can influence collective consciousness and make the world a better place by elevating the people in it. And it all starts at home (Vancouver). Individual mental health in our local communities is where we must lay the foundation.
Mindful Mass is another vehicle to engage the public in cultivating more mindfulness, presence and fulfillment at large.
If this cause resonates with you, come join us for our 4th event on September 12th at Sunset Beach and see what it’s all about. The 30-minute session begins at 7pm sharp, so be sure to arrive early to settle in and get the full experience.
Article Written by Float House founder, Andy Zaremba.