Meditation is trending and there has never been a better time to feel more stuck than now. From the app Headspace to recent articles published in Time and The New York Times, the practice is slowly becoming mainstream. Ever one to commodify trends, cities like New York, Los Angeles and London have started premium meditation groups, often invite-only, one-time fee guided meditations held at premium spots such as Soho House and The Refinery Hotel.
Our neighborhood now has its own meditation darling: Bushwick Meditation, a newly created, donation-based meditation group that meets every Tuesday at Brooklyn Fire Proof (119 Ingraham Ave), and like most people drawn to the practice, it was born out of necessity.
“Feeling hurt is a natural process and meditation is a break from our usual style of living and interacting.” Hearing Bushwick Meditation founder, Casey Velasquez speak is a mantra itself. He speaks low and gentle and you feel transferred to his space as he walks you through a Bushwick Meditation session which typically lasts 45 minutes, with 30 minutes of guided meditation and 15 minutes of group discussion.
When I expressed hesitation at being still for such a long period, he told me to think of it as a yoga class. “There are different ways people work with the experience,” he says “It’s best to begin with a body scan, notice the feet and pressure, and work your way up.” By allowing yourself to concentrate on different parts of the body, your mind is constantly in the present leaving less room for distraction and wandering thoughts. Mindfulness.
Throughout the session, Casey leads a guided meditation but there aren’t any boundaries. You can get up and stretch, walk around the room, “whatever feels natural.” During the last 15 minutes, the group sits together and shares their thoughts. After each meditation session, Casey has taken to blogging on Bushwick Meditation’s website. The reflections, titled Weekly Words read like an intimate journal as they show Casey’s vulnerabilities and liveliness through meditation.
Casey started Bushwick Meditation over a month and a half ago when conversations with friends brought up recurring themes: feelings of tension and stress, being overwhelmed and feeling alone in the city. It felt like déjà vu as those same feelings brought him to meditation almost nine years ago when he was eighteen and living in northern Virginia, consumed by alcohol and feelings of separation and anxiety.
Mentally exhausted, he sought counseling and his therapist recommended meditation. He has meditated ever since with this past year seeing himself devoted daily to the practice. Casey says, “I really started to get into it – opening up and letting go, feeling compassion for others.”
Casey doesn’t romanticize meditation, however. He notes that it is a practice of healing and awakening that can result in resistance and discomfort: “Meditation can at times be difficult because we can come face-to-face with our demons, so to speak, on a level not previously experienced. Our response to this discomfort often times is resistance: our mind wanders, so we focus harder; our thoughts are uncooperative, so we reprimand them; our back hunches, so we sit up straighter.”
For now, Casey shies away from the term teacher or instructor. On a recent Weekly Words, he referred to himself as Bushwick Meditation’s facilitator who offers light guidance and suggest practices that have been transformational for him.
But even he is struggling with the group’s future and feels the pressure of the meditation trend curve. In a post-interview email, he wrote “Despite the ostensible trend of meditation in the country, it is still very new and so many have yet to figure out what it is about and if it serves them. It is a little terrifying and very exciting for me to be dedicating myself to an endeavor around which exists so much unknown.”
If you can’t make it to Bushwick Meditation’s weekly sessions or 45 minutes feels too daunting, Casey encourages you to find ten minutes per day to sit and do nothing. Focus on the breath. If not ten minutes, then begin with five or two. Work your way up.
Bushwick Meditation has about eight participants each week who are a combination of friends, friends of friends, and word of mouth, and even with only seventeen followers on Facebook, they already have one commenter saying, “Check it out! The most open and loving group to get into or deepen your meditation practice. Thank you, Casey for opening this ‘space’ for us in Bushwick!” Namaste, indeed.
Bushwick Meditation meets every Tuesday at 7PM at Brooklyn Fire Proof, 119 Ingraham Ave, Brooklyn. The admission is donation-based.