When I talk about hooping, I may speak briefly about nailing a hoop trick that has eluded me. I may also reveal my latest hoop crush; an individual or group of individuals who have inspired in me a kind of puppy-dog loyalty and fascination. If I'm feeling keen and teacher-like, I'll talk about the benefits of developing a hoop practice. That is, practicing with a goal in mind like getting better at hooping or discovering new ways to move and dance.
What excites me most, though, is the potential that playing with a hoop has for helping me grow as a human being. The key word in the previous sentence is not "hoop" but "play". Playing has helped me remember the simplest things about being happy. And since playing, more often than not, involves interaction with others, I am re-learning what it's like to share, to be vulnerable and sensitive, and to participate and connect with other people.
And I'm not the only one. Thousands of people are playing again and choosing different toys to initiate that forgotten joy. For most people reading this, the hoop is the gateway object to new found joy and embodiment. I believe that the people who come to Sacred Circularities plan to have fun, learn new hoop skills and meet other hoop community. They want to see Balinese culture and be wowed by Bali's landscape. That's exactly what happens and then there's more.
We are anywhere between 35-45 people when we come together. Most of us have never met before. The excitement is there as well as apprehension and curiosity about the new. What's going to happen here? The deeper question is: What will I allow to touch and penetrate the identity I have created for myself up until now? During the opening circle, I ease the group into exploring these questions. "Get ready for something inside you to shift. Your time in Bali will stir the waters of your soul. You will be a different person when you leave here."
I say those words with confidence even though they may seem a tad dramatic. We will be different because we are complex creatures that are affected by our surroundings. We create new memories and new ways of being related to what happens to us everyday. We're constantly shown invitations to change and morph. Plus, any traveler will confirm that partaking in new and perhaps foreign experience changes you.
The change I'm really referring to has to do with the blend of two things: The intensely unique experience of living on a volcanic island amongst the Balinese people and culture for seven days and the intermingling of the retreat attendees, who are sharing this intensely unique experience. Every retreat week is different, not simply because the teachers are different but because the community becomes the process that is the inner-workings of every person who is there, in the wantilan (hoop space) doing their thing. There is someone in the wantilan grappling with their shyness. Someone else is feeling a self-esteem challenge. Shadows are coming out everywhere. And so is light. We're dancing and weaving our embodied realities together. We emit and reflect all of our stuff and make light of it through play. If each human being has a field of energy that surrounds her; her own human energy field, then perhaps we can consider the intentional field created when we gather as a conglomeration of all our HEFs put together. I'm thinking of this collective energy as a communal Light Body.
The Sacred Circularities Light Body builds cumulatively through the expression of our shared experience throughout the seven retreat days. It starts with the opening circle and an agreement that we will listen to our bodies and respect each other. Days later, during the closing circle, each person speaks for 1-minute about their personal journey. Hearts swell, tears flow and if the Light Body could be seen, it would be a huge vibrating golden orb enveloping all of us.
What happens to the golden Light Body when we all go home? My guess is that some of the energy stays in Bali and some of it is absorbed by each attendee, ready to bubble up from time to time, to shimmer like a sweet memory weeks after the retreat has ended. It settles in each of us differently yet, like a corpus luteum, has the potential to assist the birth of new ideas in us or inspire the follow through of an old idea that just needed a little push to come to the surface. My friend, RT sent me this note a few months after her time in Bali:
The retreat was such a life changing experience and I just honor and appreciate all of the work that you put into it. And when I say life changing I mean it. I came home to NC after the retreat, told my boss that I was quitting because I was unhappy and worked towards realizing my dream of living in New York City. I'm now working in the city and I have a cute little apartment in a brownstone in Bed Stuy. I know I wouldn't have had the courage to leave safe NC for the unknown of NYC if I hadn't been surrounded in Bali by people who actively went after their dreams. So thank you for helping me realize that my life can be what I want it to be.
Sometimes it's a good idea to go far away to hula-hoop and sometimes it's good to stay home. One thing for sure, the realm of shared experience is a rich terrain filled with life-expanding opportunities. It doesn't matter if we're in Bali or Sedona or some other transformational gathering. When we're together, we can make it great.
Jaguar Mary is a filmmaker and hoop dancer and the creator of Sacred Circularities Hoop Dance and Movement Meditation Retreats in Bali, Indonesia and Sedona, Arizona. Photos by Cadencia Photography