As reported on the Good blog, meditation flash mobs are now a thing. The international organisation MedMob the Wake Up network are using the social media driven format to make interventions into public spaces and to raise the profile of meditation practices. Local groups such as Wake Up London, claim direct inspiration from engaged Buddhism pioneer Thich Nhat Hanh and are taking meditation to the streets as a form of active intervention into public life.
It’s an interesting form of social engagement, using a loose global network, connected through social media to allow a particular kind of non-violent activity in public spaces. Just the mere use of meditation as a form of engagement is itself pretty interesting, seeing as meditation is sometimes held up as an example of socially disengaged Buddhism, primarily concerned with personal transformation rather than transformation of the world. However, from my own knowledge of Thailand and other countries in that region, meditation — and lay meditation in particular — has often been a highly politically charged activity, although usually because of its implicit challenge to the spiritual monopoly of the monks.
Meditation flash mobs are of course a different kind of intervention, posing a different kind of critique. Indeed, they would seem to share a lot with the logic of #occupy, where just being in public space in a particular non-orthodox way draws attention to the taken-for-granted assumptions associated with the space while simultaneously providing a sort of exemplary alternative model. The “protest” comes less from the address to the powers that be, demanding change, than from the presentation of an alternative model of social organisation. Just as “this is what democracy looks like”, was the rallying cry for #occupy, the motto for meditation flash mobs could be something like “this is what non-attachment looks like”.