ADDING to our Gallery of Great Men in our Tribe….Elliot Rasenick, founder of Beloved Sacred Art & Music Festival, just look at that smile!!!
Elliot has done more for this community than he knows, very few have looked to see it, because its so invisible – but its a HUGE contribution. Let me try to articulate….By naming his festival “Beloved”, he created a meme in everyone’s mind that our gathering is Sacred, which created a new depth and common understanding about who we are and why we gather, why we Love To Gather, that shifted the entire paradigm across the festival map. Its in our bones now. His quiet declaration, opened hearts in a way that no one saw coming, and so invisibly that we all assume thats the way it is, that it never was any other way. Pretty darn remarkable. BTW tickets still available for Beloved Aug 8-11, 2014.
Heres an interview we did for the 2013 Festival Guide, that really gives you a peek into who he is. He’s BE-You-Tifull.
Elliot Rasenick is the founder/producer of Beloved Sacred Art & Music Festival, held in Oregon each August. From his very first event, Beloved has been creating a buzz among festival veterans up and down the west coast. We gave Elliot a call to ask what’s going on.
FF – Your event came along at a time when the rest of the festival scene had been rolling for several decades. But Beloved stopped people in their tracks. It was the buzz up and down the coast. People said, “Something is going on there, you’ve got to go feel it.” I kept hearing about the incredible experience people were having. What’s going on? What’s happening there?
E – I think of Beloved as somewhere between an immersive spiritual retreat and an overtly celebratory festival. That can be a really special thing. While it doesn’t take the place of the deep inner work we might do at a meditation retreat, it does do something, in that it will never take itself too seriously. That spirit of playfulness within an environment that is an invitation to go in and do deep work…can free us up to go deep more safely and to have that depth more easily.
FF – What sort of activities do you offer to serve that?
E – For most of the time that people have been alive, some of the deepest spiritual work has happened when listening to and playing music. So we don’t think it should be taken lightly that we’re dancing and experiencing music together. That is in itself an opportunity for deep and potent work. Especially now, when most people have had an experience sometime in their lives, when they were at some rock concert and they had a moment where they felt connected to everyone around them. They felt connected to the earth and they got into their heart. I believe that that happens for most people at some point.
The most important job at the festival
is to be there seeing and engaging
in the Beloved in each other.
The fact that a lot of these festivals grew up out of the concert industry, is relevant because at the base level, we’re creating an opportunity for people to have that experience with music in a different way. At Beloved we’re able to potentize that deep, collective music experience, by taking it seriously within the context of a celebratory, playful environment. So that it’s safe, and easy and fun to feel connected to each other, to feel connected to the earth, to feel connected to our own hearts.
FF – How do you do that?
E – There are a few things. On the one hand, getting people away from their normal work and home life, and being in nature. And I do think that the place is very special, being in Oregon, close enough that we can smell the sea but far enough away that we’re in a beautiful forest. We’re connected to the spirit of the ocean and connected to the spirit of the forest, that’s powerful right there. Being in nature, within the context of connection with themselves and with each other and with the earth and with spirit, is infused in every piece of the event. The people who are greeting you have a notion of, “You are now invited to connect with each other, to be in your heart.” As you move into the event, you become safer and safer and it becomes easier and easier.
FF – And the “sacred” music, is it chosen for its reverence?
E – There’s a funny thing about reverence and the Sacred. I want to preface any conversation about the nature of the music by acknowledging that I don’t believe that there’s a fundamental difference between the Sacred and the profane. It’s funny in some ways to call this a Sacred Arts & Music Festival. We can invoke the presence of the Sacred into anything. Sacredness is about the way that we have attention for any act, or thing or interaction. At the same time I’ve done a few things in terms of how I do booking for the festival.
One thing for me about booking for Beloved has been saying, “I want to acknowledge that by putting someone on a stage, I am giving them real power and influence”. I want to be careful about how they live their lives and who they are as they walk in the world if I’m giving them that power. I only want to put people on stage who are coming from the heart, and who are sweet, good people. That’s one of the ways that I’ve been doing booking. Another is the notion that separation is an illusion, that there is a fundamental unity among all people, among people and plants, among people and the spirit of the planet, and that we’re not actually separate from God. I am choosing music that speaks to that unity.
The neat thing about the music at Beloved, is that there are so many different kinds of music that speak to that connection. It’s such a powerful statement about that fundamental unity. You’ll hear an Islamic band alongside a Hindu punk rock fusion band alongside kirtan. And over the last 15 years, I’ve watched an exciting new form of sacred music that’s teaching people all over the world how to create a sacred space and how to be engaged in a ceremonial context. That is the conscious global electronic dance music community. It’s been wild to watch that happen. Not all electronic dance music is in a ceremonial context. But I believe that something important is happening in the global conscious dance community. There is an electronic dance celebration with a specific objective to create a safe space within an all night dance ritual.
What’s special at Beloved is that
we’re able to potentize that deep,
collective music experience.
FF – What do you have in store this year?
E – I talked a little bit about what I think about when I’m doing booking. I really think about who people are, and what their music is saying. But more than booking particular acts, what I’m doing is trying to tell a whole story. Watching how the energetic arc of the music on the stage is moving throughout the weekend.
FF – So you’re choreographing the sequence…
E – Exactly. No one artist gets booked in isolation. I start at the peak night and then move forward and backward from that framework, for how the whole story is going to be told.
FF – It sounds like you’re saying the festival is a theatrical immersion that is designed to take people from A to B to C to D, to go deeper and more connected, and the music is part of the choreography.
E – Exactly. We talked a lot about the programming on the stage, another thing that sets Beloved apart is that we have only one stage, and that’s really important. I haven’t gone to lots and lots of festivals, but the few that I’ve been at there were lots of different stages and your attention is getting pulled in so many different ways. You get into a state of consciousness at a festival that’s very ungrounding. The general global festival movement has a very airy quality.
One of the reasons people love Beloved is that it is in many ways, an antidote to that airy quality. Beloved is being very clear about its objectives. It also has only one place that’s pulling on your attention. When we say, let’s do this thing, we’re actually all going to be together in one place. Instead of flitting about all over the place, where we never get to be present anywhere, it’s encouraging us to get present where we are.
FF –Do you offer other activities than the music?
E – There are four different themed workshop zones. One area is around Relationship: what does it mean to be close to people? What does it mean to really be honest? As we develop our connection to everyone, what does it mean to be in a committed romantic partnership, when we are trying to see everyone as the Beloved? Questions like that get explored in one workshop area.
Another area explores movement practices: yoga, chi-gung, contact improv, different movement and dance oriented workshops.
Then, some of the master musicians from all over the world will be giving workshops on how to use your voice, or what is the nature of the Beloved, or what is music doing, how do you listen to music? There was one incredible workshop by Alan Khan, the son of Ali Akbar Khan, talking about how to listen to Indian music and what it means to engage into a raga…super powerful.
The other area of education is exploring a right relationship with the planet. One of the ways that I originally got excited about organizing the festival was the idea of engaging everyone’s enthusiasm around participating in a temporary village. What it means to have a village that is regenerative. When I use that term I am intentionally not using the word “sustainable”, because often, as good-willed as attempts to create sustainability are, we lose the basic tenet. It’s like the difference between tolerance and acceptance. My sense is that we need to go beyond the notion of just sustaining our current relationship with the planet and with the resources that we are dependent on…we need to start regenerating to heal the damage that we’ve done. My intent was that we could build a village in a way that would actually regenerate the land that the village is held on. We’re a long way from a deeply regenerative festival at Beloved, but there are some little things that we’re doing. One of them is composting all of the food waste on site and engaging everyone there in the process, so that everyone gets an understanding of how we’re using the food waste to build the soil on the land.
FF – I liked what you said too, about right relationship with the earth. I get invited to so many things that are focused on the bad guys who are destroying our planet, we’re angry and we want you to know how bad it is. I believe in building the new, that if we build the world we want to see, all the other stuff will become obsolete. I appreciate your approach.
E – I do believe that it is important that there are people out there saying, “no”. At the same time, for me, saying no to what I didn’t like created such a toxicity both in myself and in my no-ness, that it was just creating more toxicity, instead of the change that I wanted to create. Saying, “let’s model what it looks like for us to live in the world we want to live in for a weekend” and find some things that we can say “yes” to, felt much more productive.
FF – Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
E – One of the things that I like to say to people after we’ve filled our volunteer needs, because the volunteer spots go very, very quickly, and there are constant inquiries, is that the most important job at the festival is to be there seeing and engaging in the Beloved in each other. From the stage, on the website, in the program guide, and in every way I can, I’m trying to communicate to everyone that one of the most important volunteer jobs is to engage with people and not be afraid to be connected. It’s important and powerful that we create a temporary framework that we can see as the world we want to live in and that we get to live there for one weekend. When we live there for a weekend, if we stay connected to each other throughout the rest of the year, then we can continue the work of building the village of life in our homes. And then impact other people with the possibility.