|Christian, the creator of the festival is in the middle, with the two instructors from this workshop. Image found here.|
We did so much in this workshop, so it's hard for me to remember it all! Peter led us in some qi gong exercises, which for a first-timer like me seemed like moving in certain ways to gather good energy in your body, expel bad energy, and share good energy with others. I wanted to feel something while doing it, but I didn't. I think I may have been distracted by our large group, or I was just thinking too hard; perhaps if I tried to do this by myself with a video or something, I might feel the flow of energy around me.
Another exercise we did was finding a random partner, and then staring into each other's eyes and imagining something. One time we imagined that we were looking at our 7-year-old self; another time we were looking at ourselves on our deathbeds with only 20 seconds to live. The latter REALLY impacted me: I saw kind eyes telling me that everything was going to be okay in the end, even when I'm feeling a lot of inner turmoil at the moment. I almost immediately started tearing up; my partner started crying, too, and afterward we just held each other before moving to the next partner. At the beginning of the workshop, we were reminded that this was a safe place, and that we should explore and express our emotions, no matter what we were feeling. That note gave me the freedom to show my emotion AND connect with a complete stranger (on a level I maybe haven't even felt with people I've known for years). With our next partner, we were supposed to think about our greatest longing, what we were truly searching for. I started thinking about how much has changed in my life in the past year, and how everything seems so mixed up; I feel like I'm lost with no direction or grounding, and all I want is some peace, for everything to be stable again. Then my partner was supposed to whisper one word to me to sum up what I was wishing for, and he said, "serenity." MIND BLOWN! Again, this person who I knew nothing about connected with me on such a deep level that he could tell what I was feeling. I do feel bad because when it was my turn to tell him what his greatest longing was, I drew a blank. I had been focusing so much on my own experience that I forgot to really look into HIS eyes to see what HE wanted. I think I said "total acceptance" (which is two words, bah), but I should have said "love." Even then, I'm not sure if that was right. If I ever did an exercise like this again, I would make sure to SHARE the experience and not just think about my own feelings (hmm, kinda applies to all relationships in life...).
|Toning. Image found here.|
Then the entire class participated in what Monique calls a "heart fuck," which means imagining your energy as a penis or vulva and using that energy to penetrate/receive the energy of another person. So we were all in a huge circle kneeling over each other's backs with our hearts on their sacrums, imagining that we were penetrating the person in front of us and receiving energy from the person behind. Again, I didn't really feel anything, but I think my prudish mind was still getting over the imagery and term of "heart fuck."
The last exercise of the class was to find a partner, sit across from him/her, and ask each other questions to delve deeper into ourselves. So I would ask my partner, "Who are you?" then "Who are you really?" and finally "Why do people love you so much?". I would ask each question multiple times, so my partner had to give several answers to each question. At first I thought he wasn't taking it seriously, because he'd answer with, "I'm a man," "I'm a person," "I'm a human," etc. BUT these questions actually are hard! I was finding it difficult to come up with descriptors for myself, too. I especially found the last question tough. I know my friends and family love me, but the only reasons I could come up with were that I'm loyal and fun to be with; I even gave the answer "because I'm smart," which I know isn't a reason why the people in my life care about me. It was kind of sad that I couldn't see in myself what other people see, even though I do consider myself a confident, self-loving person. So I'm not sure how to practice this exercise, but I know I could do better!
Each of us then ended our part with dancing for the other person, as a gift. So I asked him the questions, he answered, and then he remained sitting on the floor while I danced for him. I really liked this part, because they played a song that was very similar to the 5rhythms music from the previous night, so it was very freeing and flowing. PLUS I'm a good dancer, so I don't get nervous dancing in front of people (although I will admit I closed my eyes the whole time, so I wasn't completely open). After he asked me the questions, he danced for me, and he had to dance to Lady Gaga's Born This Way. I love that song, but it's not easy to dance to, especially for someone who isn't a dancer! So while I was trying not to be judgmental, I was a little uncomfortable watching the awkward dance. But I'm definitely proud of him for putting himself out there and doing it!
Like much of the festival, sometimes things clicked, and sometimes they didn't. But when they did, it felt SO good! The festival, and this workshop itself particularly, allowed me to feel and express things that I didn't know I was suppressing (or knew it but didn't know how badly I needed to connect to those feelings). I think of myself as a very rational person, so exercises like these at first glance seem...silly. I was originally thinking, "I'll try this festival once, it'll be fun, and I'll move on." But this workshop has impacted me SO much. I can't stop thinking about it, and I'm already looking for other places to explore mindfulness and meet with others looking for a similar connection.
So while I keep saying to myself, "The festival was good, but it didn't change my life," because I know that's what I rationally should be thinking...it did change my life. I don't think I can go back to thinking with a black-and-white, and mostly negative, mindset. Already I'm thinking in terms of "sending good energy into the universe" and things like that, what I would have considered hoopla before. I'm not 100% converted, but I'm at least partially transformed by this experience. THANK YOU to all of those who made the festival possible!