Burning Man-Inspired 'Mindfulness' Festival Coming to Brooklyn Parks

By Serena Dai on July 2, 2014 7:59am 

 Andrew Belcher, left, and James Puckett are the founders of MassBliss, a company that aims to promote "mindfulness."
Andrew Belcher, left, and James Puckett are the founders of MassBliss, a company that aims to promote "mindfulness."
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

BROOKLYN — Two former yoga teachers with aspirations to start a Burning Man-inspired festival focused on "mindfulness" are offering a preview of the event next week in local parks.

Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Andrew Belcher and his business partner James Puckett, a former computer programmer and yoga teacher, are offering a one-day-only "MassBliss" mini-festival in parks in Williamsburg, Prospect Heights and the Bronx.

The group will set up three 10-by-10-foot tents — also referred to as "Breathing Booths" — at sites in Grand Ferry Park, Prospect Park and Barretto Point Park on Saturday, July 12.

A host of free programming including yoga, hip-hop, pilates, tango, drawing and more will take place in the tent and on the surrounding lawns throughout the day.

The booths are a preview of the duo's planned larger, four-day festival where they want people to connect with themselves on "a more authentic level," Belcher said.

The upcoming festival, with a date and location yet to be determined, is inspired by the Burning Man festival, where thousands of people descend on the Nevada desert for a week-long creative event.

"Our mission is to inspire and nurture the joy of presence," Belcher said. "We feel that an authentic connection to the present moment allows individuals and communities to make more intentional, deliberate actions and choices."

MassBliss is already talking to sponsors and scouting locations in New England for the larger festival next year, which will be part Burning Man, part Austin music and tech festival South by Southwest and part Tennessee music fest Bonnaroo, Belcher said.

Activities for next year's festival could include concerts where artists would engage with the audience, theater performances where actors transition to sudden street art spots and workshops where attendees can learn yoga or pilates.

Workshops and talks will be filmed and uploaded online later, so anybody can experience them, Belcher said.

The variety of activities stems from idea that "mindfulness," or being in the present moment, can happen in different ways, including movement, interpersonal connection, art-making and live performances, Belcher said.

Next year's festival will cost money and have sponors, Belcher said, adding that MassBliss believes that being for-profit and doing good in the world can go hand-in-hand.

That said, the former school teacher said he thinks restrictions on access to yoga and meditation, through expensive classes or pricey gear like Lululemon clothing, have become barriers to entry for many people.

"This mindfulness stuff is so powerful," he said. "Its presence is available to anyone at any time, if they're willing to just listen."

Breathing Booths will pop up in Grand Ferry Park, Prospect Park and Barretto Point Park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 12. A schedule of programming can be seen here.

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