I admit that years of performing at hippie festivals have cooled me off to most things that qualify as “new age.” But, when I was the guest musician at the reopening of the Beijing Mindfulness Center (BMC) this past weekend, I was not just warmed, I was moved. Frankly, the center’s environment, staff, vision, and patrons are the kind of people I want to be around. Count me in as an advocate for mindfulness.
The word, itself, is not one I’m unfamiliar with. I have always considered it a step above “thoughtfulness” and seemingly interchangeable with “conscious living.” Being conscious or mindful of our path is the ultimate in elevated existence, is it not? So, when I was asked to perform, I readily agreed.
I learned that BMC has been in operation for awhile, but their formal re-opening coincided with the full occupation and renovations of an exceptional hutong space near Yonghegong. There are several rooms designed for mediation, counseling, regular classes (like yoga), and special workshops. There is also an amazing rooftop patio from which the Beijing view of hutong rooftops soothes even the most cynical. (And the accordion-style, spring-loaded metal steps to get up to the rooftop are frankly the coolest stairs I have ever seen.)
The chief executive coach, Dalida Turkovic, is a woman whose wide smile greets everyone and whose wise experience is an overarching presence in the center. For fifteen years, she has been practicing internal martial arts, meditation and mindfulness and she shares these experiences within a growing community of people. The center operates with this vision: “to foster authenticity, diversity and creativity and create an exchange platform for Western and Eastern practitioners with diverse backgrounds in mindfulness and integrated wellness.”
Dalida and her team of devoted staff and volunteers host “Mindful Mondays” (which seems quite popular judging by the warm group of participants I met at the opening), as well as many free events such as “Conscious Cinema” (free film screenings), and “Full Moon Meditation” where a group of people gather (presumably on their rooftop patio) to collectively meditate every full moon.
I was asked to perform as background music and so I prepared two sets of light jazz-folk material and intended to simply stand in my corner and watch things from behind a microphone. In the end, the music garnered several listeners and after the sets I was engaged by so many interesting, genuine people that I am fully convinced the Beijing Mindfulness Center will be a regular destination in my life from here on in.
Photos: Courtesy of Claudia Mameli