But I have to admit, even as a veteran of perhaps one-too-many “New Age” events, last night’s Seed Dance still managed to catch this old-guard veteran off-guard. Think about it…for all of the focus on light, beauty, and bliss, it seems there often isn’t enough focus on the blood, the guts, and the depths of the darkness within the caverns of our souls. Without reaching down deep within, to grasp hold of the gooey innards that we’ve done our best to ignore, we can never fully know and love ourselves…and to ignore half of our own constitution is to ignore one partner in the sacred inner marriage of self.
What better time of year to take that deeper, darker journey within, to touch those unknown and unseen places--those vital jewels that we've done our best to overlook, stuffing them away into the closets we've left sanctioned for the "dark and scary".
Last night’s journey—The Seed: Blindfolded Movement Journey with PrayerformanceART —was a journey that a lot of us were in dire need of taking. Dominique Warfield, Matthew Romero, and a cast of co-inspirators carried a room full of very lucky people on a journey into the darkness and unknown, to retrieve the pieces of ourselves which were begging to be re-claimed...
What are you going to do, when you get together in a room full of creative, vibrant, and flowing people who like to dance, at a time of the year when—traditionally—our ancestors prepared to take the journey down deep into the Darkness, to fully celebrate and honor its beauty and prepare to re-emerge on “the other side,” renewed and ready for a new cycle of life? Harvest complete and feast done-devoured, what’s left over are the seeds. Warfield’s production—appropriately named “the Seed Dance,” represented the grand opportunity for each of us to glean and select the best seeds to be put away, stored, protected, and nurtured in the dark, until the light is ready to return again for a new spring….
Many associate “Ritual” with secrecy and mystery. For others, it's something to be cherished, kept safe from the eyes of those who might not understand. In many traditions, it’s prohibited to photograph anything during a ritual…and yet, it’s easy to forget that Ritual is the very Root of what we call Theatre. In our modern world, Ritual and Performance have become separate entities. Ritual is something far away—something you go to find in Mexico, Africa…or Siberia. Performance, on the other hand, is something you go to see at The Metropolitan Opera. Our modern-day society has literally divorced Performance from its intimate partner—Ritual. On some level, the two can never be separated, but if marriage is supported by the structure of a Family, Warfield and Romero are the priests who are needed to stage a re-commitment ceremony for the modern-day human family.
Lights dim. Stage set. We’re on the second floor, at least 12 feet above the sacred earth. And even though the traffic outside is not far away, the sounds of passing cars seem distant, in the silence which has been created in the sacred place we call Home. The “cast of characters”—Dominique Warfield, Matthew Romero, Julia Loretta, Genji Souren, and Jess-Sparrow—converge at the center. Loretta sings beautiful lyrical incantations. Cloaked in black, she represents the very darkness which we are invoking. My inner voice says, “the show is starting,” but before I know what’s happening, I feel as if I’m being drawn in, toward the center. A part of me begins to panic, as I try to grasp hold of the sensible part of myself, which says, “HOLD ON!”
“Center stage,” Loretta becomes the song she is singing, and Romero’s resounding, reverberant body—filled with life and voice—becomes the drum for this ceremony. Romero takes the form of a seed, even while still resounding as a human drum, and I start to feel that I have no other choice than to lose contact with the things of the world outside…
I let go. Some part of me knows that there is no reason to hold on anymore. In fact, I have every reason to let go. There might be a busy city street right outside, but it’s thanks to Dominique Warfield and her weeks, months—lifetimes—of efforts, that I can now let go and rest assured that I am safe now to journey, home.
You know, I’m no stranger to letting go. The realm of the unseen has become familiar terrain to me. I’ve let myself fall down to the beat of shamans’ drums from Italy to Siberia to New York City…but that still doesn’t make it any easier, when I reach the place where the lights end, and the unknown darkness looms….
Scenes from my life drift past me. I’m starting to see an image emerge in my consciousness. It’s an image of a guy I slept with in San Francisco 17 years ago. Why am I seeing this? Is this the vision of a one-night stand what I really want to be seeing during this trance-dance journey? Is this what I’m “supposed” to be seeing right now? I realize I have the will-power to change this vision, to see something else if I want to, but the Voice from deep within says, “Don’t try to figure it out. Just pay attention and let the vision carry you. You don’t have to be in control here. You’re right where you need to be. Just Let Go…”
Just Let Go…
To the accompaniment of a world-class music mix of mostly-original music created by Shamanique’s network of creative artists, I surrender…back into the dark…
He was on of those one-night stands I would never forget. Cute, adorable, hot as hell, fucking BUILT head-to-toe, and VERY hot in bed…but, ironically, those aren’t the reasons I remember him.
I had met him during that era of one-night stands that characterized my coming-out years. He was one of many—so many—and yet, I can’t say that I ever had a BAD one-night stand, nor that I ever regretted any of it…nope, not one fucking BIT of it!
But he was different. Why? Not because he was smoking sexy. Not because he lived in San Francisco at a time when young creative men could still afford beautiful apartments. No—the reason I remember him is because of the after-math.
The “after-math” of an incredible one-night stand was anxiety—anxiety, that maybe he, this beautiful, wonderful, bright-light spirit had given me AIDS.
I had fallen asleep in his arms that night. When I woke up, it was the next day. He was still smiling. We kissed goodbye, and then…when I got home….the panic. The panic set in, that maybe I hadn’t really been asleep, but had been “knocked out” by some drug he had hidden in the glass of water he put beside my bed. Yeah, maybe I had been “knocked out,” and in my void of unconscious darkness, he had infected me with HIV.
I lived in anxiety for a full month, waiting to live out that “30-day window”. I was working for an HIV education outreach program on the streets of the the inner city at the time, so I knew the drill—it could take up to 30 days after any suspected “exposure” for anything to show up.
My test came back negative. It keeps coming back negative, time after time, even after another half-a-lifetime of joyous, ecstatic love-making. The difference today, while I dance in Asheville 17 years after that night in San Francisco, is that I no longer live in fear.
Yes, today, here, dancing here in this room full of screaming banshees, I'm digging up that old casket full of irrational fears and prying open the lid to have another look. Inside, I see myself as a young man, scared, a bit naive, and relying on information delivered to me by a society who depends upon Fox News murder-mysteries as their information source. NOW from this future moment, 17 years ahead of that game, I can look back and bless that 25-year-old, irrationally afraid person that I still call "me".
Suddenly, as if in a lightning flash, as the techno sounds escalate, I find myself in the wilderness, where I once slept on the ground beneath an ancient pine tree, alone, in the middle of a high mountain meadow in Colorado. I went there in search of myself when I left San Francisco later that same year.
“Bum-Boom!” I hear the sound of a drum, but when I awake from my place beneath the tree, there is no one there. I am alone, just me and the tree. I am awakening within the dream, awakening within the vision I am seeing while I dance here, upright, to the cadence of the techno-drum, in a room full of people I can’t see. I awaken within my own dream, awaken on the ground beneath the tree on that high mountain meadow of my past…past, but now present, here!
I hear the call of coyotes in the distance, and an owl comes even closer.
I want to understand why I am seeing, hearing, and re-living these scenes from my life now, as I dance blind-folded in a room filled with 90% strangers, in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2015. It’s hard now to remember where in the world I am, what century I’m in, or…even WHO I am…
It occurs to me, on some deeply subconscious level, that part of what’s happening to me is the disappearance of ego—the vanishing of everything it means to say “I”. It can be a scary place to be, to say the least, but fortunately, this is not the first time I’ve been there, and this room full of people who can’t see me is a place where I’m encouraged to go deeper. In her opening words to us, Shamanique invited us to carefully consider our intention for the journey at hand. Mine was to trust and know in each moment that I am following my heart’s true guidance.
A hand touched me. The touch excited me. I didn’t expect this dance to be about touch, but clearly, now, I wanted it to be. I waited to see if the hand would retreat or touch again. Much to my delight, it caressed by body, my whole torso, from the scruff of my beard to…my abdomen. Whoever was touching me was doing so with full consciousness and care. Had the touch been anything less than fully considerate, I would have chosen to back away from it, but…
I stayed. I touched the hand with enough tenderness and care so that the human who was attached to it would know that I relished this touch, and that I was open to continuing the touch—or not. I recognized it as the hand of a woman.
It felt good. Everywhere she touched me was orgasm. I became surprised by my own excitement—a guy who mainly likes guys, at an event that was probably never intended to excite me this way. But it did. I was only wearing tights. I knew everybody could see me there…in all of my excitement...but then I remembered—-everybody was blindfolded! So I continued my dance, aware that only the facilitators might notice, and hoping that these Shamans of modern times would allow me to fully dance in my power. After all, like Jesus, like the Dalai Lama, like Mother Theresa…I’m a Tantrica. I can’t shut out my life force…especiallly when I’m committed to an intuition like “follow your heart’s truth in every moment”!
Is it too scary to follow your heart’s truth? Not here, not now, not in the space and time beyond space and time, which is beyond Asheville, WAY beyond the 21st century, beyond this room full of blindfolded people, each dancing their own journey…
And so I followed it.
The hand retreated. I made myself open. My arms and heart were open. The invitation was there. My new friend could come in to dance with me…or she could leave…and still, I would be there, dancing, ecstatic, gleeful, and fully ALIVE!
In the darkness I dance. Shamanique tells us all that we can remove our blindfolds if we want to dance without them. But I’m having WAY too much fun with mine on! I mean, really…I can SEE BETTER with a blindfold on!
Image after image, scene after scene, drifts past the back of my blindfold-anchored eyelids. To repeat them all here would mean writing a book—and maybe I should. The Shamanique experience last night was just the reminder I needed, that within each one of us lives an infinity of stories, scenes, faces, songs, and people from this life, this place, this past, this future, and that world beyond what we see every “normal” day of our lives. This place, this dance, gave me a place to safely take that journey, backwards and forwards—but, most of all, DOWN deep into the depths of my heart’s reservoir of truths.
Yes, Shamanique….clearly, you KNOW of that infinity, that immense well of Truth that lives within every human heart. Thank you for helping us get back there, too. Thanks to you, we’ve been given a place to each re-member ourselves—to put it all back together, for ourselves, our loved ones, and this world. Thank you. Amen, and All Our Relations.