NEW YORK—About 1,000 Falun Dafa meditators from all over the world gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Friday, near the United Nations in New York, to kick off three days of activities, including a conference.
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a self-improvement practice involving gentle exercises, meditation, and the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
It consists of four standing exercises and one sitting meditation. The second exercise is a standing meditation that requires holding your arms in a stationary position for between 2 to 7 minutes at a time.
Those who practice Falun Dafa say that performing the exercises on a regular basis makes them feel stronger and more energetic.
Doris Chan, who has been practicing Falun Dafa since 1999, noted that the second exercise is simple and easy to do.
“It is my favorite exercise because I love the feeling,” said Chan. “I feel very relaxed after doing it and very energetic and much calmer. It really helps me in my life.”
Another Falun Dafa practitioner who traveled to New York from Romania for the weekend of events said he likes doing the meditation exercises in a group.
“So many other practitioners are here, and I find that precious,” said Szabolcs Kuki, 33, who has been practicing since 2004. “We can do the exercises together and I find that helpful.”
Following the group exercises, there was a large demonstration protesting the persecution of Falun Dafa in China that ran along Fifth Avenue between 56th and 59th Streets. Practitioners held banners with messages about the persecution, which has been ongoing since 1999.
Ms. Yoshinaga, who traveled from Osaka, Japan for the weekend events, was handing out informational fliers on Fifth Avenue and 56th Street to passersby.
“People see the banners and read the fliers we are giving out, and they say ‘Oh, I get it,'” said Ms. Yoshinaga, who said she had made the long journey to New York to help raise awareness because Falun Dafa has been persecuted for thirteen years.
Others stood silently on the side of the bustling New York City sidewalk holding bright yellow banners that read “Help Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong.”
According to Michael Brackx, a 35-year-old Falun Dafa practitioner from Belgium, many pedestrians were stopping to ask questions about the banner he was holding.
“I try to tell [people] that it’s a positive and spiritual practice, and it’s free [to learn],” said Brackx. “But in China, if you practice it you can get arrested or imprisoned and we are making that known.”
The weekend events also include a rally protesting the persecution of the practice in China. The rally will take place at Dag Hammarskjold later on Friday, and a grand parade in Manhattan’s Chinatown on Saturday will begin at 12:15 p.m.