Two weeks ago Greenpoint’s spiritual center, The Golden Drum, celebrated its fourth anniversary and invited Greenpointers along for the fun. Having never heard them before, naturally we here at the news desk were intrigued. Armed with curious minds and hearty dose of New York instilled skepticism, the fabulous Julia Moak and I visited the Golden Drum to see what the center was all about and why it was attracting all these shiny happy people.
The Golden Drum is everything you would expect from a spiritual learning place. It has white walls, smells of freshly lit incense and is filled with the smiling faces of Buddha, the Dalai Lama, and the center’s founder— Maestro Manuel. The anniversary brought together all walks of life—hippy mammas in batik skirts, tattooed hipsters, lots bangle bracelets and beaded moccasins, and yes, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the large amount of bearded white men rocking turbans.
First up on the agenda was a sampling of vegan delights from the center’s vegetarian restaurant, The Jungle Café. But before we could dive into the Jungle Café’s amazing lasagna made of layers of delicately flavored corn tortillas or their divine desserts, the group gathered around, held hands and hummed in a variety of yogi frequencies. With the blessing complete, we chowed away and never once did I miss the absence of meat or dairy products.
Next, the party moved into the main room for a little raga music. A raga, as it was explained, is like a seed that is planted and grows into a tree. Firmly planted on my little magic carpet, I closed my eyes and let the sounds of the sitar wash over me. Forty-five minutes into my ride Julia turned to me and whispered, “I can’t believe we’re in Greenpoint. I feel like I’m on vacation!” Eyeballing a woman several feet away, her curly head swaying like a flag come Labor Day, I had to agree. Let me tell you Greenpointers, these people know how to throw a party.
Rounding out the night’s festivities, Maestro Manuel made an appearance. Here is where things got interesting. “Tonight I want to talk about humanity,” said the smiling man, tribal beaded necklace swinging from his wiry bearded chin. With a glint in his eye, he pressed onward as if he were letting us in on a grand cosmic joke: “But to begin to talk about humanity we must first clean our minds. Some people call me a brainwasher and to that I say, ‘Yes, I am. I want to scrub your brains because your minds are dirty…like whoa, really dirty.’”
The Maestro spoke of our incessant need to bury our heads in our technology and how memories—good or bad—are cluttering the mind and disabling our sense of humanity. He stressed we need to live in the present and strive to free ourselves of negativity; these were essential ingredients for a happy existence.
No matter how much I wanted to chalk off his speech as some high and mighty guru preaching, I couldn’t. Some of his words resonated with me. Dare I say, perhaps my dirty little mind really did need a good scrubbing?
The next day, Julia and I arrived back at the Golden Drum with loofahs in hand, prepared to scrub our brains and powwow with the Maestro in order to gain some practical tips for stressed out Greenpointers. While Maestro Manuel agreed meditation was the best form for relaxing the mind, he also believed it wasn’t for everyone. Instead he suggested, “Everyone should do some form of art every day: Writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, dancing—these are all easy ways we can tap into our creativity and free the mind from everyday stressors.”
After a little more chitchat about the current astrological storms hitting the Earth this month, and how modern day man doesn’t give ancient civilizations enough credit, it was time to say goodbye to the Maestro and be on our merry ways.
Upon my departure I had to ask him one last question,” Of all the places in the world you could have set up this spiritual center, why did you choose Greenpoint?”
He flashed a serene smile and said, “I love Greenpoint because of its sense of community—the harmony and connections. This neighborhood makes the city special.”
No matter where you fall on that Zen scale of enlightenment, I think we can all agree with the Maestro on this one: Greenpoint is a special place indeed.
For more information about upcoming classes or group meditation sessions, check out the Golden Drum’s website for details.