From the pages of our 2015 Festival Guide:
Elliot Rasenick is one of the great visionary thinkers of our time…the founder of Beloved Sacred Music & Art Festival and Inspire Truth. We talked about the rise of education in the festivals.
Saphir – Lets talk about education as an aspect of the festivals, why would we look to education, what does that say about who we are and what we are doing?
Elliot – I can speak to my own personal journey with transformational events, which began with profound experiences of connection just on the dance floor. As I continued to engage with the community that I was dancing with, I became as excited about the conversations at the back of the dance floor as I was about the intensity of the connections in the middle of it. At first, there was the moment of awareness, being on the dance floor and feeling my oneness with everyone – which at its highest moments is really what it’s like, where we all feel so connected that it’s as if the change in the world has already happened.
“What does it look like for us to
remember that we’re not separate,
that we are in truth, deeply connected?”
So while we experience the alchemy of the change in the middle of the dance floor, we can talk about inventing models of living in a new way, and engage with each other about how we’re changing the way that we’re living; how we’re learning to take more responsibility for our effects on the planet and our effects on each other.
I think that the next evolution of that cultural exchange, for me, became, “What is it like for us to really create a new platform to tell much more in-depth stories about the ways that we’re evolving to live in?” What does it mean it to bring the people from outside of our culture who have influenced us, who are bringing these multiple threads together? What does it mean for us to bring in people from outside of our culture to teach us?
That’s the evolution that happened in my own personal experience – from having a profound moment as if the new world already happened, on the dance floor, to standing at the back of the room and having an engaged conversation. Sharing ideas like , “Oh wow! You’re changing your diet also?” “You’re not interested in eating poison anymore either?” “You’re finding ways to avoid producing so much waste?” “You’re learning about new models for intimate relationships?” “What does that look like?” And then the next evolution being, “Lets actually create a designated space where we’re really engaging in a much more sophisticated conversation”. For me, that’s the personal history of the involvement of education at transformational events.
Saphir – The fact that we include education as part of our events really informs the fact that we’re doing something different at these festivals, it’s not just watching a band play, we’re creating a new way of being together.
So what’s new in education this year at Beloved?
Elliot – At Beloved, most of the educational program takes place in the individual workshop areas. But we’ll continue to find ways to address pressing issues right on the main stage. This year we’ll be focusing on consent and sexual boundaries. Because the festival is such an open and loving environment, many of us feel very safe to explore a deeper intimacy. But we’d like to teach men and women how to maintain and how to pay attention to boundaries. We’d like to cultivate an environment where everyone knows how to say no to any intimacy that they don’t want and where everyone knows how to pay attention to the subtle “no.” We’ll also be hosting conversations about how to address transgressions of boundaries. We want to hold everyone accountable for their actions and we also want to ask the question, “What does justice look like when we know we’re not separate, that we’re all deeply connected?”
Another shift over the last few years at Beloved, is that we’ve learned that there are three major environments for education at the festival; and that each area can tell separate stories, and can help us to explore full themes.
One space is designed to help us learn embodiment and energy awareness practices. Here we are offering chi gung and yoga in parity; acknowledging each of them as valuable systems to help us understand how energy moves through our body.
The organizing principle of the music and everything else that we do at Beloved, is “What does it look like for us to remember that we’re not separate, that we are in truth, deeply connected?”
All of the education that we’re doing at Beloved is organized around this idea. So the movement practices help us remember that there is no disconnect between any sense of who we are and the vessel that we’re inside.
And then there’s the new project that we launched last year, the Temple of Awe, which is the temple of ancestral wisdom education. The concept was that some of the representatives of ancient cultures that are performing on stage, what if we give them a voice to teach about how their cultures understand the connection between their music and the world that they’re living in? We’re understanding that the different sacred musics from around the world are each doing the same thing, telling the story of connection: our connection to God, our connection to ourselves, our connection to each other. Because of course, within that organizing principle at Beloved, where we want to learn how we’re not separate, we see that music is one of the most powerful tools that we have, to tell the story of our connection. And then, the idea that bringing different sacred musics all together and showing that these sacred musics from different cultures are telling the same story of unity, becomes like a meta-unity teacher,… teaching about unity in different ways, and then showing that all of those lessons are the same lesson.
Saphir – You’re saying that you’ve taken those musicians off the stage and put them in a speaking format to talk about how their music speaks to our connection?
Elliot – Exactly, that’s a really exciting shift. And by creating one space to house education related to the ancient cultures we present on the stage, we were able to create a new temple of seven generations, which is then also a platform to talk about both ecological sustainability in relation to the idea of thinking ahead seven generations, and to talk about how we can repair the way that our relationship with the earth has become one of disconnect rather than one of complete connection.
At the same time, another part of that story is looking at how can we repair our relationships with each other? Because, as a community, both in individual relationships between two people and in our general social relationships, we’ve lost our sense of always being strongly connected. So the Temple of Seven Generations also becomes our platform to remember how to live as a village.
Saphir – What does that bring in, as far as speakers?
Elliot – Last year we had begun the process Michael Meade connecting old stories to the way that we explore being a (new) culture, asking us to find our deepest purpose and to live to awaken that purpose. We also offered Solsara workshops, where we’re looking at “What does it mean to be more authentically honest with each other?” and “What does it look like to have relationships in a world where we know that we’re always connected?”
Saphir – Wow, it is so inspiring that your organizing principle is, “Understanding how we’re all connected.” That is not something that’s a given in anybody’s mind – most fest’s organizing principle at some of the other shows would be, “The world is a mess and we need to learn to be more sustainable, we need to learn permaculture, we need to learn gardening so we can eat healthier food, and have a cleaner environment, etc”…definitely the premise is not “How can we organize around being more connected”.
Elliot – And my answer would be, “The world is a mess because we have forgotten that we’re connected to each other, we’ve forgotten that we’re connected to the Earth, we’ve forgotten that the divine is right here and we’ve even created a disconnect between our spirit and our bodies.”
Beloved Sacred Music & Arts Festival, www.BelovedFestival.com.
Saphir Lewis is the founder of www.FestivalFire.com.