“Mass Bliss”: Brooklyn Gets Inspired by Burning Man

DNAInfo New York has a story about two yoga teachers who are offering a preview of their Burning Man-inspired festival of mindfulness. The Mass Bliss mini-festivals will be set up next weekend, Saturday July 12, in Grand Ferry Park (Williamsburg), Prospect Park (Prospect Heights), and Barretto Point Park (the Bronx).

Andrew Belcher and James Puckett; photo credit: DNA Info/Serena Dai

Andrew Belcher and James Puckett; photo credit: DNA Info/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 sponsors, Belcher said, adding that MassBliss believes that being for-profit and doing good in the world can go hand-in-hand.

lululemon assThat 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.

It sounds like they have picked up the principle of “Immediacy” from Burning Man. They’ve also got the principle of making public statements about “making profit and doing good in the world” from BMOrg. It’s not clear what other aspects of their events will be familiar to Burners. This is the first time that I’ve heard the theory that Lululemon is a barrier to entry for yoga – you can buy the pants for $39 on eBay, but I’m pretty sure that you can wear other types of clothes while doing yoga if that’s a problem for you.

Andrew Belcher says:

When has anything in your life happened at a time other than right now?

Despite all our wanderings into the past and worries about the future, our lives continuously unfold in the present moment. Right here, right now.

bad-girls-club-yoga-pants_3633d0edMassBliss was created to produce fun, immersive events that explore tools and skills to deepen our experience of the present moment and use that in tangible ways in our personal, professional and playful lives. Where to begin?

Most importantly, breathe. How much time do we spend thinking about our breath? Chances are, not very much—though without our little buddy breath, life isn’t going to happen. Our breath is a vehicle into our bodies, which always exists in the present.

Try it. Really. Pause.

Stop reading for a second, close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath or maybe three.

Anything shift?

Our lives are an infinite series of little moments woven together by our breath. In connecting with ourselves in the present moment we align with what is really happening right now as opposed to some thought about what we think is happening. Aligning with the present moment can inform a more deliberate decision about what move to make next. That’s when we create. Our ability to see the world in its present form, imagine something different, and then create that dream makes us human. None of us really know what we are truly capable of.

Take a deep breath and see what you find.

If any Burners attend any of these festivals, please take some photos and share.


LOVE FOR SALE: Bruno Throws in the Towel

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo by Consumptionblog

Photo by Consumptionblog

Big news in Gerlach this week as real estate magnate Bruno Selmi, the Ted Turner of Northern Nevada, puts Bruno’s Country Club up for sale at a whopping 1.5 million dollars. The property is well-maintained and consists of a bar, a restaurant, a 53-unit motel, and a mobile home/RV park.

Selmi came alone to America on a boat from Italy at a tender age, leaving the post-war Old World behind for a life of better prospects. He wandered the States, picking up odd jobs and cooking for a living, until he settled in Gerlach and opened a restaurant.

After his first venue in Gerlach burned down, he opened Bruno’s Country Club in 1953, and has presided over the place (and the town) with little to no competition to worry about ever since. Selmi has gone from success to success in the intervening years; he must own at least half the businesses in town, and they say as a commercial entity, he was second only to the railroad for decades. When Burning Man moved from a San Francisco beach to the Black Rock Desert, Bruno got pushed to third place, at least seasonally, but his business interests began to boom.

If you had to guess what the secret to Bruno Selmi’s success might be, luck would no doubt figure prominently in your mind, but you would be slighting the man for his hard work and thrift. He still drives the Jeep Cherokee he bought new in the ’80s – the receipt is on the wall in his restaurant – and he never misses a day of work at the Country Club. He even tends the bar from time to time. . . and Bruno Selmi is a multimillionaire.

The townsfolk of Gerlach seem to love him and his place. “Bruno’s a genuine Gerlach icon,” one tells me. “He likes to play surly, but he’s a good guy. He throws free chukar bird feeds for the locals in season, and lots of us come together to make ravioli for him by hand. It’s sort of a town tradition. He’s like our unofficial mayor.”

Bruno and friends enjoy some world-famous ravioli. Photo: RenoJohn

Bruno and friends enjoy some world-famous ravioli. Photo: RenoJohn

Thanks to Burning Man and the annual gathering and diaspora of burners from all around the globe, the ravioli at Bruno’s place – a hundred miles from anywhere, in a town with a population under five hundred – is genuinely world-famous. The service is notorious, too, but Bruno is cherished for his cantankerous demeanor. One Yelper described the place as “an oasis in the desert” with “a dash of Stockholm syndrome.”

With all the turmoil, secrecy, and misinformation swirling around the Burning Man event, it’s hard to say what the sale of Bruno’s Country Club portends. There has already been some talk online to the effect that Bruno must know something; speculation is that Burning Man will be moving soon, and Bruno is getting out while the getting is good. As an explanation it sounds legit enough, but unnecessary: Bruno Selmi is no longer a young man, and it seems perfectly reasonable for him to want to retire. Indeed, the real estate listing at BizBuySell contains an entry that says simply “Reason Selling: Retirement.”

No matter how you slice it, it’s the end of an era. . . and who will feed DPW?