Playful distractions designed to experiment with the non-competitive, traditional spiritual practice.

Brooklyn Meditation Championships
Brooklyn, NY, July 21, 2018
Scott Wayne Indiana
Stills taken from video by Ari Joseph

Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong, but just to watch it and move with it. -Krishnamurti

Who can withstand, with clarity of unencumbered mind, the distractions of feathers, drones, tambourines, and ribbon dancers? Only the strongest of meditators have the relinquishing power to retreat from their carnal brain and transcend into a noble silence, a velvet frame for all sensual and mental experience. A frame that allows for objective observation. And then, is it ok to laugh? To smile? Perhaps everything observed takes on a similar, curious essence, maybe everything becomes slightly humorous when decoupled from context. Or, maybe the very concept of humor vaporizes into a neutral ether where vast ecologies of judgment are rendered powerless.

Amidst a lineup of street games–part of the Come Out and Play Festival–this tongue-in-cheek experimental competition had some unexpected and welcome outcomes. Laughter, reflection, mindfulness, these things both happened and were also articulated in reflection and sharing afterwards. One participant had tried meditating dozens of times over the course of decades, and he commented that having something to focus on ignoring helped him to clear his mind in a way he had not been able to do before. In this way, this silly exercise can flush clutter and ironically become a unique strategy for a clear mental state. The physical nature of these distractions brings abstraction of thought into the realm of the concrete; wrestling with monkey mind is externalized. There is clear understanding of cause and effect directly linked to the distractions. In essence, participants are yanked out of mindlessness to mindfully cultivate reactions to direct experience. This is a primary goal in the development of most meditation practices. While humorous distractions are probably not ideal for the every day sitter, perhaps it is fruitful to sprinkle in some laughter and fun experiments along the way.