Variations on a Theme of Conscious Community

In celebration of the super moon-blue moon-blood moon-eclipse Wednesday, a healing music center in T or C invited a large circle of like-minded souls to dance and drum. The evening was semi-structured, with guided meditation followed by free-form dancing, drumming, singing, and story-telling. The opening meditation encouraged us to share self-expression in a non-judgmental space.

When I’m attending a ceremony like the Apache dances of the Mountain Gods or a Pueblo corn dance, every drummer and dancer seems to merge with the ceremony. Apache Ga’an dancers are painted and masked. The women who circle the dance arena are wrapped in shawls, and all do the same step. At Pueblo corn dances, the entire community filling the plaza becomes one flowing pattern, the men in white leather kilts and red-brown or turquoise-blue body paint, and the women in one-shouldered black dresses and rainbow crowns, subtle individuality showing only in their jewelry and parrot feathers. The clowns are painted, losing their personal faces to the role they fulfill.

In T or C at the full moon event, we danced as our individual selves. Entering a spiritual, ceremonial mind space was more psychologically challenging. My head kept filling with questions. Whose little girl was that, doing happy somersaults in the middle of the circle? Why wasn’t a certain person dancing—was she okay? Was it all right to use a drum I found near my chair? Was I taking up too much space when I danced? A lot like the dance of daily life in a community.

A healer and dancer led the opening breath work and imagery. For those who weren’t aware of it, she mentioned that she has a degenerative condition that affects her muscles, so she depends on chi, and called her illness a gift that helped her truly appreciate and experience this vital force. She guided us to raise our energy and awaken our spines, and she then danced, graceful and expressive. During the drumming portion of the event, she was often the only person moving. She wasn’t performing for an audience; the circle was giving her energy, chi, and sharing the joy of moment, with awareness of the limited time in which she may be able to move this way. As Castaneda’s teacher Don Juan told him, death is your advisor; he walks by your left shoulder. Listen to him. The difference between her and the rest of us is that she is always listening. She opened the evening with the analogy of the body’s web of connective tissue and how it enables one small part to affect another at a distance, saying we were connected in a web of life energy the same way. Briefly, while drumming for her, I felt myself disappear into the rhythm, and there was only the sound and her dance.

I had hesitated to schedule a hot spring soak at the Charles Spa right after this event—it meant leaving before the music was over, and missing the closing meditation—but my legs were sore from the previous night’s yoga class in Albuquerque and I knew I needed the mineral bath. When I arrived at the Charles, the young man at the front desk informed me there were other women in the baths. He knows I like peace and quiet when I soak. No chatting, no loud groans and sighs. Noisy relaxation isn’t relaxing for me. “They’re part of a silent retreat,” he said. I was more than willing to share space with them.

The tubs at the Charles are private, each person behind her own curtain. The knowledge that the other people were observing silence as a spiritual practice put me into the same frame of mind. I’ve done half-days of silence at various retreats and taken college students on silent walking meditation, so it was a familiar zone. A welcome one. No sounds but water. Stillness. Then someone moving in water. I was in a new communal spiritual space with unseen people. Consciously silent. Respectfully present.

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