We Went Rogue for a Mass Meditation Flashmob Inside the Oculus World Trade Center
Earlier this summer, our friends at Kit and Ace proposed that we bring The Big Quiet to the Oculus World Trade Center Transportation hub for the first ever mass meditation and sound experience at ground zero.
We put months of work into turning a vision into a reality —applications with the building were filed and approved, architects were hired to build out renderings for an “in the round” seating map and circular stage, a 16 person choir + string quartet rehearsed a post-meditation concert experience and 1000 impassioned New Yorkers sold out the event within 48 hours of announcing— amassing a waitlist of thousands and a Facebook event page that reached 450,000 unique eyeballs. The NY Times and countless press outlets were set to cover the evening and a documentary began production on the event.
We received messages from people flying in from other countries and individuals who lost family members on 9/11, all coming together to share in this experience.
The enthusiasm to bring love to ground zero was overwhelming.
48 hours before the event, without warning and with little reason, the powers that be retracted their agreement for us to host inside the Oculus. They knew we had already been approved, they knew we had 1000 eager New Yorkers signed up, they knew we had spent countless hours planning and rehearsing, they knew our city had been waiting for this experience to happen on this sacred ground — but it didn’t matter, the event was canceled.
We were devastated, but we could not take no for an answer. We felt a responsibility to our community to see this through.
Within a short window of time, we put our heads together with Kit and Ace and built a rogue plan to have a flash mob version of The Big Quiet on the Oculus floor — without chairs and stage, without amplification and without knowing if the police would break us up.
Before updating our community on the change of plans, I was nervous. I was afraid of upsetting eager attendees, and felt the weight of making a call that could potentially result in our community getting shut down in the eyes of the public and press.
I reminded myself of The Big Quiet’s greater purpose: to celebrate human connection. It was clear, that regardless of the outcome, this change of plans was an opportunity for New Yorkers to deepen their connection with one another — through a shared act of courage and love.
On the morning of The Big Quiet, we received this email from the building staff that had learned about our new plan:
The stakes were high. We were organizing to come together at one of the highest security zones in the world. But we felt called to move forward and announced the rogue plan to our community.
A few hours later, this is what happened:
About 1000 people showed up strong and fearless, we all sat down at the same time in a giant makeshift circle on the floor, we shared a spontaneous mass meditation with sound bowls, the string quartet circled us with violins, violas, cellos and an upright bass, and the 16 person Young New Yorkers Chorus rose up and sang an A cappella version of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love.
We we’re joined by hundreds of public transit onlookers (several of them came and sat with us) and 260,000 livestream viewers from around the world.
The NYPD, the machine-gun bearing Port Authority and the Oculus security staff became our friends (many of them took photos and filmed from their phones, some of them even asked us how to get into meditation) and they allowed the Big Quiet to happen in its entirety.
Under the center dome of the Oculus I was reminded of the power of community and inclusivity. I felt a sense of belonging; of being a part of something greater than myself.
Our community was not defiant; we did not express hatred to the powers that be that changed our plans. Instead, we showed up with open hearts and it permeated through that building and onto the streets of NYC.
Last night was a moment of unity.
My biggest take away: without defensiveness, we remember that we belong to each other. And when we remember that we belong to each other, we are able to share the most profound experience of all — collective love.
The BQ inside the Oculus wouldn’t have been possible without Shawna Olsten, Brian Ellingwood and Courtney Chew from Kit and Ace, Lauren Bille, Ant Demby and Angelica Radacinski from HumbleRIOT, Zeshan Malik, Sara Auster, Alex Falk, Jenavieve Varga, Gabriel Royal, Morgan Paros, Peter Stopchinski, Paul Niwinski, The Young New Yorkers Chorus, Lucy Biggers, Nic Jammet, Nate Ru, Sweetgreen, Jonni Pollard, Kerri Kelly, Michael Ventura, Emily Fletcher and our new friends at The Westfield Oculus World Trade Center :)