NEW YORK– Here comes 2014! Three! … Two! … Mum.
While hundreds of thousands of revelers cheer, shout and yell in the new year in Times Square, hundreds of New Yorkers will gather not far away to pass the waning hours of 2013 without a word.
They’ll be quietly observing a 25-year tradition at Jivamukti Yoga, which opens its doors to people who like to spend New Year’s Eve reflecting, meditating, crafting resolutions, maybe doing a headstand, all in “Auld Lang” silence.
It’s a year-end bash with no pressure to mingle, no need to bring anything, no drunken regrets, and no small talk — or big talk, either.
“The only thing that we ask,” Jivamukti Yoga co-founder Sharon Gannon says, “is that you shut up.”
If that sounds like a rather muted way to celebrate, participants say it’s a refreshing one — a way to go out but look inward, and end the year on a note of mental tranquility.
Drawing on a long history of silent meditation in yoga, the event certainly isn’t the only venue for people who are less interested in spirits than spirituality on New Year’s Eve. Many churches hold reverent services on Dec. 31; the custom holds particular resonance for many black churches, where Watch Night observances commemorate the Dec. 31, 1862, services at which congregants awaited word that the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect.
Some yoga and spiritual centers advertise multiday silent New Year events. That’s regularly the most popular retreat at Yogaville in Buckingham, Va., which began the New Year’s sessions about four decades ago and expected 65 people this year for more than four days of yoga, meditation, small tasks and listening to lectures, the Rev. Lakshmi Bartel said. “People who come to Yogaville really want to live better, happier lives … and New Year’s is the perfect time” to focus on that, she said.
The New York event requires a lesser time and financial commitment — it’s free, while retreats can cost hundreds of dollars or more. It started in 1988 because students were disappointed that Jivamukti Yoga planned to close for New Year’s, Gannon said.
“We wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve but didn’t want to do it in a party-down kind of way,” she said.
Now, as many as 1,000 people come to the school on bustling Union Square, about two miles south of Times Square, for at least part of the evening, and about 500 are usually there at midnight, Gannon said.