Tapestry goes on the Silent Hike, a musical take on walking meditation

The Silent Hike is a group walking meditation created by New York composer Murray Hidary. It’s all-quiet on the outside - but a world of wonder, once you put on the headphones.

It's not that we were self-conscious, or anything. Who doesn't love to be in the middle of a walking meditation - while onlookers point at you and stare? 

To be part of the MindTravel Silent Hike (which made recent stops in Montreal, Toronto, and the Burning Man festival), is to brave the quizzical glances of people passing by. The hike, created by composer Murray Hidary, is admittedly an unusual sight: dozens of people sporting glow-in-the-dark headphones, walking oh-so-slowly, many with vaguely blissful expressions on their faces. 

Murray Hidary performing at MindTravel SilentHike (submitted)

We, the walkers, are listening to a recording of Murray's tailor-made piano compositions, along with his live narration, a series of guided meditations. But as far as the onlookers know, we could be listening to Metallica.

"The reactions of the people that we pass are priceless," Hidary said. 

"Because they see a huge group of people wearing headphones - that actually glow when it starts to get a little darker… and you don't hear anything but their footsteps."

Hidary is a big fan of the walking meditation offered by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh; he says turning it into a group activity takes it to another level. And, perhaps unusually for a musician, he believes it's the silence that contains multitudes. 

"By going into silence, we get past that superficial surface layer, and it's about 'how do we connect with people on a deeper level?'" Hidary said.

Composer Murray Hidary (Copyright 2014 DANIEL DEARCO All Rights Reserved)

"We live in a society that is all about goal- orientation. Like the saying goes, we forget about the journey. The journey is where it's at. And so each step becomes its own arrival. And that really helps drop people into that present moment."

Hidary has been playing music, the piano and cello primarily , since he was five years old and knew at a young age that he wanted to be a composer. He went on to study music with Phillip Glass. 

Years later, after witnessing the tragic death of his younger sister, he turned to music to help move through his grief. 

"It really was my deepest companion. Along with, of course, the support of friends. No one can get through anything like that alone… To get through that kind of profound grief, you have to feel your way through it, you have to express your way through it, you have to get the pain out of you somehow. And the pain at that level - there's no words  that you can use to adequately describe it … Music picked up where the words left off."

As he moved through his grief with both music and Zen meditation, Hidary came up with the idea for the multi-sensory experience that is the Silent Hike. He hoped it could be as transformative for others as it was for him.  Hidary has been traveling around the world, offering the Silent Hikes ever since.