Subway Yoga – Blackout: A virtual glimpse into the lives of strangers by Specular

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Public transit and I have rocky but passionate relationship. Though it’s anonymous, you become a member of a temporary community whether you like it or not.
You can make a million a year or live paycheck to paycheck but when you are stuck you are all stuck.
It appeals to my sense of fairness. You get to share collective groans or sneak a smile at someone when something hilarious happens. Occasionally, you witness a meaningful exchange that wouldn’t have taken place save for the fact that two random people are on a train. Last week, a guy in his mid-forties hopped on the train wearing a baseball cap. A older man in his seventies asked, ‘Is that a Brooklyn Dodgers cap?’ It sparked a lovely 5 minute exchange about baseball, college life and history. The older man ended the conversation by saying with a tinge of nostalgia, “Wow…Brooklyn Dodgers. When I saw that hat, I just had to say something.” And just like that the curtain closed. Everyone went back to reading, headphones and staring into space. But for five minutes we were all there with two people and a conversation.
Most of the time I wonder what’s happening with folks who ride the trains. I make up stories. I wonder what people think about me? I think about my ‘commuter community’ most when I tavel to and from Rikers. I try to guess how many people are getting off with me at 21st Queensbridge and taking the Q100 to Rikers. Are they volunteers? Are they visiting family? Do they know what its like to be in jail? 
Mei-ling Wong and the creative team at Specular have created an amazing experience that explores this very idea. The project is called Blackout and it’s on Kickstarter.
Check out a brief description from Kickstarter:

A Documentary Set In a Fictional Environment

Who are these strangers?

The people in Blackout represent a snapshot of a single subway car in New York. Since this isNYC, our group includes an illustrious international cast of underground performers, artists, educators and scientists.

The project began with in-depth interviews with a group of 27 people for our virtual train. Their stories and observations interweave to create a beautiful documentary portrait of a crowd of strangers struggling to find their place in the city.

Today more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the world’s cultures are displaced and newcomers flood urban centers, it is urgent that we not just educate ourselves, but empathize with the lives of strangers that surround us. Through immersive technology and raw documentary stories, Blackout shows how one stranded group of city commuters has more in common than they ever imagined.

What makes this project even more dope is the fact that it’s a virtual reality film. As a viewer you get to be on the train and explore 27 real stories. One of the stories is about a yoga teacher who teaches at Rikers Island (hint, hint). She talks about what it’s like have to protect yourself and your soul. I hear she’s cool.

 

All jokes aside, I love what Specular has done. They’ve found a way to take technology and humanize it. So often our experiences with technology take us out of the moment and into the land of self. Blackout does the opposite, it uses VR so people let go of ego and explore another person’s viewpoint. This is revolutionary. In a world that is being ripped apart, a group of creatives are finding ways to draw us closer together.

It gets me thinking….none of get out of this thing called life alive but we have a shot to make it a better trip.

Check out the campaign and get a peak at my thoughts.

Namaste y’all.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/specular/blackout-a-virtual-glimpse-into-the-lives-of-stran/widget/video.html

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Rikers Yoga – Timing is Everything

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Adrianna Keener, a fantastic trauma-informed yoga teacher and I jogged across the street to catch the Q-100 bus. I was excited, not just because is an anatomy nerd like me but because it’s nice to go to Rikers with someone. Hey, we all get lonely. We saw a social worker who said we may not get on the island. There was a make-shift sign that said Rikers was on lockdown. No movement was allowed. This essentially means that people are on their beds all day. Since the sign was handwritten we decided, hey- we’re on the bus let’s go and see what happens. When the bus took the same mysterious turn it did a few weeks ago I knew something was up. Sure enough the driver said last stop (before the bridge to Rikers). We stood around for a few moments thinking what to do. You can’t walk over the bridge unless you’re looking to have a chat with DOC employees who carry assault rifles- so we thought the day was a bust. Employees could catch a shuttle. But, volunteers? Not sure. Fate intervened. Anneke Lucas, founder of LPY and apparently a woman who has perfect timing zipped up in her car. We hopped in and decided to see if we would be turned away. I was sure we would be, but when Anneke waltzed back with a parking pass I decided to keep my trap shut and surrender. We crossed the bridge without incident. Anneke was going to the men’s jail and Adrianna and I were headed to Rosie’s. We weren’t sure if we’d get to teach- but we had made it this far. The vibe at Rikers was sedated buy not heavy. But instead of yoga we led a meditation for 11 women on the 4th floor. Cheri Clampett’s meditation on meridians and chakras seemed like a good fit. Before the meditation Adrianna and I talked about meridians and how they relate to our body (geeks unite!!!). This set the stage for a powerful meditation. And while there were a few distractions everyone was grateful for the break in the day. One student talked about getting frustrated with noises and as a group we were able to talk about unhooking from the small stuff. Grateful for perfect timing. Namaste y’all.