Whilst romantic couples exchange roses and gifts in the hub of Piccadilly Circus, another group of people celebrate Valentine’s Day with a different display of affection.
Busy people scurry around and across the Angel of Christian Charity statue (commonly known as the Eros statue); the iconic, brightly lit billboard shines down on the throng of traffic; and street performers show off their break-dancing skills to a growing circle of spectators.
All of a sudden, a group of strangers gather on the steps of the statue, lay their mats on the stone-cold surface, wrap themselves in shawls and scarves and settle down to meditate.
Although they make no fuss or announcement, unmoved by the cold February evening, they draw increasing attention from passers-by: hurried individuals with places to go and people to see suddenly become curious about the silence they were missing.
Even the street performers stop their fervent dancing and join the crowd of bystanders. Unusually, the onlookers keep a generous, respectful distance between themselves and the steps.
Mind the gap
A homeless man steps into this unmarked space of esteem, and attempts to taunt the peace seekers out of their meditative state. But his futile attempts to disrupt the peace are ignored along with all the other sounds of the city.
Some people smile or laugh out loud, some take photographs on their phones and cameras and others look on in confusion. Certain individuals understand immediately: “Ah, they’re meditating!” identifies one spectator.
This meditation flash mob is one of many that have arisen across the city, organised by Wake Up London – a community that practices Buddhist methods of mindfulness. These events are also coordinated with over 200 cities worldwide every month.
Wake Up London is inspired by the Zen Master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh – one of the leading figures in Buddhism alongside the Dalai Lama. His efforts to help those affected by the Vietnam War were recognised by Martin Luther King, who nominated him for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize.
The organisation says that the intentions of the flash mobs are to “spread awareness of meditation to the public, come together as a community to send positive intentions out into the world and to show that leading by example is the best way to lead”.
The spontaneous flash mobs are leading up to a mass meditation event called Sit in Peace in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday 31 March 2012, led by Thich Nhat Hanh who will be touring the UK during this time. The event aims to bring together people from all walks of life and faiths, regardless of their depth of meditation experience.
Visit the Wake Up London Facebook page for up-to-date event information.