british museum, community, conversation, eye-gazing, grand gathering, human connection, inspiring, just breathe, just breathe london, life, london, meditation, michael james wong, Music, yoga panther
I stared into her eyes for what seemed like eternity. A far-off chuckle caused a ripple effect and soon a cacophony of guffaws filled the British Museum – ourselves included. This proved just how contagious laughter is, and that gazing into a stranger’s eyes in a room of almost 1000 people for 4 minutes is bloody difficult!
Now I’m not great with eye contact – I don’t think I’ve even stared into my boyfriend’s eyes for more than 10 seconds. So when spiritual gangster and leader of the session, Michael James Wong, asked us to ‘do a bit of eye-gazing’, I was filled with dread.
But after composing myself, and going through a few more Mexican waves of nervous laughter, I managed to settle in. I noticed my companion’s perfectly winged eyeliner, her neatly applied mascara and finally her eyes themselves. Afterwards a few people spoke out about their experiences, which ranged from feeling like a rock, to bursting into tears.
Not what I was expecting when I came along to the 8th Grand Gathering from Just Breathe London. I thought we’d just receive some wise words and finish with a meditation.
As Michael explained, we were going to be human for the night. Something we’ve forgotten how to do in this digital age, especially in the city. We were going to connect with total strangers on a deep level. And that meant putting our phones away and getting quite intimate with people we’d just met.
(Spot my ugly mug at 1.03)
“What lights up your life?”
As we walked into the impressive venue, we were asked to write down our answer to the above question. After finding a cushion to perch on, among the sea of fellow humans, our first task was to turn to a stranger and explain what we wrote. Sounds easy, but it’s amazing how fast we defaulted to discussing our day jobs.
“What do you need to let go of?”
Another exercise involved getting into a group of people we hadn’t spoken to yet and talking about what we could do without. A couple of common themes were ‘worrying’ and ‘self-criticism’. We vowed to go more easy on ourselves and chill out a bit!
Finally, we ended with the meditation (what a relief!). We all sat back to back, so we were physically connected with our neighbours. We used the mantra ‘Just breathe’ – which served as both something to focus on, as well as a reminder to pay attention to our breath.
During the evening we were also treated to beautiful singing, gorgeous piano playing – both emphasised by the British Museums’s excellent acoustics – and immersive dancing. All of which brought us truly into the moment. I left feeling very human and connected with the community.
We need more ‘big talk’
After our group discussion, we agreed that we needed to apply our learnings. Life can sometimes be a tide of small talk, so using exercises that get us to share our hopes and fears, our passions and our weaknesses, would make us more open and better connected.
I dare you to ask your friends, family and colleagues, ‘What are your dreams?’ and ‘What holds you back in life?’ and let the human interaction unfold.
You can get tickets for the next Grand Gathering at the British Museum on Monday 18 June – I’d book sooner rather than later as they tend to sell out.
Yoga Panther x
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