A few years ago, Alex Cequea Fuentes wondered what would it be like to meditate in a public place where there is a lot of traffic, like a busy intersection or a shopping mall. His question ultimately led him to create the Public Meditation Project, a social and spiritual movement dedicated to bridging the gap between inner peace and world peace. The group now holds events in public places all over the country, including San Francisco, Chicago, Iowa City, and Houston. Alex’s says his goal is to create change from the feeling level. “The best case scenario is that people walk past and feel the peace. Then they momentarily become peaceful, and the people they are with become peaceful. This is world change from the core of our beings.” Reactions to these events vary, as you can imagine, but some of the funniest come from mall security guards. Check out this absolutely hysterical entry in Alex’s blog that describes one such experience at the Katy Mills Mall in Katy, Texas, then take a look at this video of Alex meditating in public places:
In a similar vein, in 1977 two American Buddhist Monks from San Francisco’s Gold Mountain Monastery began a bowing pilgrimage from downtown L.A. to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talamage, California near Ukiah. Heng Sure has made the vow to bow to the ground in a full prostration every three steps along the road. Heng Ch’au vowed to accompany him on the journey, to protect him and to assist in the work. It was a journey of more than 800 miles that took two years and nine months to complete. They bowed in peace and for peace. Touching their foreheads to the ground, opening their hearts with one wish for the world. Peace. For everyone, everyday, everywhere.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this remarkable journey, you can read online excerpts from the monks’ book, “American Pilgrimage – Three Steps, One Bow for Peace ” or download a free copy of the e-book in a pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format. Although I have not yet read the book, if the first paragraph of its preface (see below) is any indication, it promises to be a fascinating story:
“Three steps, one bow; three steps along the side of the highway, then a bow to the ground, so that knees, elbows, hands, and forehead touch the earth, then rise, join the palms together, and take three more steps, then begin another bow. Hour after hour, day after day, for two and a half years, this was how they made their pilgrimage. In China, devout Buddhists sometimes undertake the arduous and prayerful practice of three steps, one bow, for the last few hundred yards of a journey to a sacred site. But this was California, and these two pilgrim-monks were young Americans. Dressed in their robes and sashes, carrying no money, armed with nothing but discipline and reverence, they walked and bowed 800 miles along the narrow shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway. Progressing a mile a day, they bowed from downtown Los Angeles north along the coast, through Santa Barbara and along the Big Sur, through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate, then 100 miles farther north to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, a newly founded religious and educational center in Mendocino County.”
At the bottom of the online excerpts I found Heng Ch’au’s summary of the lessons he learned as a result of the trip:
“Be hard on yourself; compassionate and soft in criticism of others. Emphasize the light, the positive, the proper. Make bridges, alternatives to greed, hatred, and stupidity. You are not a teacher. If you were an enlightened teacher and these people were your disciples then scolding, prodding, severe criticism, etc. has a place but I don’t know anything of that. Most important, don’t be arrogant, forgetting that you are able to see and know only because you yourself have just recently begun to ‘reverse’ it and only because you receive countless others’ patience, compassion, and teaching.”
Perhaps it is not such a bad thing that I am so hard on myself when I fall short of treating everyone with non-judgmental, unconditional love. His advice is certainly something to which I can aspire.