The Underground Retreat

This is a retreat for people familiar with depression. Each day, there is a new, short exercise below New York City. I developed these exercises over a year to treat myself. They provided a way to cope.

Official Map

Next Session

May 13th-May 26th, 2019

About the Retreat

Some of the activities may appear to exploit your depression while others may appear to remedy. Regardless, this is a meditation on depression using the train, station, or elevator as a meditation room.

Origin

I got a divorce and lost my job. Depression happened somewhere in there. I was already a performance artist working in the subway for many years, so it just made sense for me to go out and do some actions. That’s how this got started back in May 2018.


Exercises

Difficulty Focusing
42nd St-Grand Central

In a rare occurrence, sometimes one of the mechanical doors on a subway car breaks, and the entrance only opens half way. It frustrates riders obviously because there is less room to enter and exit the train. Maybe you have seen this nuisance? Do your best to find a broken door in the subway. There is a cheat that we will not use. Most parked trains at the end of their line have doors opened half way. I don’t know why.


Restlessness
L train-8th Ave stop

At the end of the line, you will find two parked trains. One is ready to depart, and the other will follow. The exercise is to always be sitting on a train, but never leave the station. Once your train is about to depart, cross the platform to the other train. Just keep getting up and walking over. Back and forth, back and forth. If you sit in the same place on each train, it’s possible to track garbage. I saw the same piece of fried chicken once.


Isolation
PATH train-World Trade Center stop

Find the perfect elevator for this closest to the end of the platform or on the Hoboken side. The other elevators are used more, and you won’t have as much privacy. Stand in there alone. They are always clean, so no pee smell. It’s nice, thick glass and quiet. Watch people get on their trains. A full PATH train can sit up to 10 minutes before departing. Glance at the people through your glass. There’s also a TV where you can watch some news. If you are asked to leave by the police, please don’t make a fuss.


Oversleeping
Union Square

On board any train, pick a destination. Go to sleep, and intentionally miss your stop. Turn around the other direction, and go to sleep again, and miss your stop a second time. Turn around the other direction, and go to sleep again, and miss your stop a third time. That’s probably enough.


Insomnia
6 train-Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop

Board the downtown 6 train, and try to fall asleep as it rounds the corner to the uptown platform. If you can’t fall asleep during the ear piercing U-turn, get out on the uptown platform, and walk back to the downtown platform and do it again. Repeat until you fall asleep or give up. As you pass around the corner, you’ll see the secret, old 1904 City Hall station part of the first subway line.


Suicidal
6 train-Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop

You’re going to want space to run, so board the downtown 6 train, and find an empty car. This is an easy place for that because it’s the end of the line. As you go around the U-turn towards the uptown platform, watch through the train window for lights zooming by. Chase a light, and you can stop time for a moment as the train moves, and you are “stationary.”


Negativity
Anywhere

My own negativity gets out of proportion sometimes. Complete strangers on the train become grotesque. They start to smell. I hate everyone, and they did nothing.