Is Public Meditation an Act of Aggression?

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I was moved to read this story about Pancho Ramos Stierle, the meditator arrested at Occupy Oakland, who also faced the possibility of deportation after his arrest. This picture of him and a friend being arrested went viral:

Pancho Ramos Stierle, meditation, arrest, occupy, occupy oaklandPancho was also recently interviewed on Democracy Now. This whole story made me wonder about the efficacy of public demonstrations of mindfulness. Is it a good way to practice? Is it effective? Is it indulgent? Is it aggressive?

I have participated in many public meditations, and the Interdependence Project has created an active presence of mindful meditation practice in the Occupy movement. I have sometimes been confronted by those who believe that public meditation is an act of indulgence, an aggressive confrontation, instead of what should be a quiet and private practice. At the funniest extreme, this resulted in a very drunken man using his gum to glue the flyer for a strip club onto the glass in front of my face at 4:30am when I was participating in a 24 hour meditation marathon in the windows of a ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. He screamed at me “You need a woman!” as he got in his car and drove very drunkenly away.

The idea that public meditation is overly confrontational seems to miss a very basic fact, which is that public space is always some kind of confrontation of different beliefs and views. Advertising billboards in public spaces are a confrontation for everyone who does not want to see them. It does not seem possible to enter public space without making a statement, so why shouldn’t we “occupy” the present moment with mindfulness? Below is the youtube of a public meditation that the IDP did a few years back in a subway. I was not involved with it. Some people thought this particular event was indulgent and confrontational. Thoughts?

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