03/07/2012 10:11 am ET

Metro Is A Strawberry, And Other Stories From Open-Mic Meditation

WASHINGTON -- Behold the strawberry. If you look at it closely enough, under the right circumstances, it may resemble a Metro station.

The right circumstances are the weekly open-mic meditation sessions held in different homes around the nation's capital on Thursday nights.

Open-mic meditation is the co-creation of Rachel Sillman, who used to be a marketing assistant for a D.C.-based nonprofit. Sillman moved to D.C. from Boston about two years ago, just out of college, ready to change the world.

"Superman-style!" she says.

You can imagine how well that went. Sillman was thinking of moving to San Francisco, where she thought she'd find more community.

Then this last fall, at a class designed to help people "authentically relate" to one another, Sillman met a man she knows by the name of Sachin Iceguy -- get it? He's a nice guy? ... They related to one another well and decided to start meditating together.

They'd meet once a week, and issued an open invitation -- on Facebook, on various listservs -- for anyone to join them. Now they have a group of about 20 to 25 people each week, of all ages, all backgrounds, all practices.

The direction of a given meditation session is determined by what it is that the people coming to the group want to do.

"If someone has an idea, bring it," says Sillman.

This has turned into a weekly event that could involve candlelight, full-moon healing, Buddhist traditions, yoga, gongs, Shamanic drumming, or staring at a strawberry, connecting it to living in D.C. during a food meditation.

On food meditation: Sillman says that one woman in the group had the idea of food meditation. She told people to bring raw foods to their Thursday session -- fruits and vegetables.

"A few people brought some banana bacon bread. We put that in a separate corner," says Sillman.

The fruits and vegetables were spread out in the middle of a room. Pomegranates, blueberries, strawberries, mangos.

"We got the food on our plate. My first piece was a pomegranate seed," says Sillman. They were to hold the food up to the light, and really look at it. Then they were to smell the food. Sillman was thinking that she'd made a mistake, picking a pomegranate, which isn't much to look at or smell.

"Finally she has you break into it," says Sillman. "And it was like, pomegranate awesomeness in your mouth! You really just become aware of what you're putting in you."

The strawberry was more immediately rewarding. She saw patterns in the strawberry. Patterns that could be meaningful to commuters.

"I got a flashback to the ceilings in the D.C. Metro. This looks exactly like the D.C. Metro! Who would have thought that?" Sillman says.

Stillman recently quit her job as a marketing assistant. She's just finished training to be a hypnotist. She'll be leaving soon for a six-month internship at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in upstate New York.

The weekly open-mic meditation sessions are due to go on while Sillman is away and she plans to come back to them after the internship is over, in large part because of the community she's found in the meditation group.

"Knowing that I can come back to this is the most comforting thing," she says. "It's so beautiful."

Through the meditation practice Sillman now sees the beauty in D.C., just like she sees D.C. in a strawberry.

Open-Mic Meditation is every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. -- details are on the event's Facebook page

Rachel Sillman