Hundreds of meditators are converging in public spaces in London to take part in â€˜flash mobâ€™ meditations. The pre-planned events have startled passers-by when, following a signal, groups of strangers seemingly going about their business have suddenly sat down to meditate together.
Since June 2011, events have taken place at Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, and City Hall by the river Thames. They are coordinated by Wake Up London, a group of 16 to 35-year-olds inspired by the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Wake Up London believe the flash mobs are a demonstration of peace and show how anyone can sit down and experience inner silence, even in the centre of a huge city.
Elina Pen, a member of the group, says the events raise awareness of the joy of meditation while enabling people to unite as a multicultural group of all ages and backgrounds.
â€œWe are a microcosm of the rest of the world here in London,â€ says Elina, â€œand we are very proud of that fact.â€
Marie Kennedy, also a representative of Wake Up London, adds: â€œMeditating together creates so much peace, within and without.â€
Simultaneously, significant numbers have been gathering together in the more traditional setting of the Swiss Church in Covent Garden, for group practices of transcendental meditation â„¢, organised by a new charity, the Meditation Trust.
What is a flash mob?
A flash mob is when a group of people assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual activity for a brief time, then disperse
â€œOver the past few months, diverse meditation groups have seen a significant and what seems to be a spontaneous growth in interest and enthusiasm for group meditation experience,â€ says Colin Beckley, director of the Meditation Trust.
Marie Kennedy agrees. â€œThis has gone global. There are more and more groups being created every day; pods of meditators.â€
Wake Up London is working with an international movement called Med Mob, which is coordinating meditation flash mobs across the world at around the same time each month. Fourteen groups are involved in the UK, from Aberdeen to Brighton, as well as many more globally.
Innerspace, a meditation centre in Covent Garden run by spiritual education organisation Brahma Kumaris, is also experiencing a surge of interest. The centreâ€™s co-ordinator, Arti Lal says that although meditation has become more fashionable in recent years, there are more people not just attending their meditation sessions this year, but wanting to explore the practice more deeply.
â€œPeople are looking for two things in particular,â€ she says, â€œto create a better quality of life with more personal responsibility for their own peace of mind and emotional responses, and to develop a meditation skill that can be used anywhere and at any time.â€
The Meditation Trust meanwhile, has opened the second half of its regular 2-hour group sessions, beyond TM practitioners to any member of the public who wishes to sit quietly, practice their own silent meditation, or use a simple mindfulness technique as instructed.
â€œThe public are invited to experience some degree of the power of a group meditation,â€ explains Colin.
Meditators notice that even in a group of two there is a greater settling of the mind, and this effect grows in accordance with how many people gather, says Colin. â€œRegular meditators have reported much stronger experiences of silence and bliss than they normally experience alone or in their usual groups of 20â€“50 people.â€
This effect even has an impact upon others who are not involved, Colin believes. â€œMothers learning meditation have noticed how their children begin to behave better and school teachers see the same effect on their classes.
â€œThis is because consciousness, the silent level of the mind, is a single, unified field, known experientially by the yogis of India for thousands of years and now inferred from the discoveries of quantum physics. Or, as the yogis have always said, we are all waves on the ocean of being.â€