**A quick note: I will be out of town at Playa Del Fuego from May 21-May 27th (I’m taking a couple days of recovery time). If you can’t reach me, that’s why!**
I’m a person who prefers a hotel room to a campground. I prefer swimming pools to murky lake water. I prefer needing sunscreen to needing bug spray. I prefer to have wifi when I go on vacation, and if not wifi, at least cell phone reception. I love big, soft, comfy beds, and air conditioning, and hot running water indoors. When people meet me, they don’t say things like “oh that girl loves camping.”
So what the fuck was I doing saying yes to spending two nights at a retreat in the mountains of West Virginia. This is what I was asking myself around the time that my phone call dropped out for the fifth time. I had been asked about speaking at an event called Spring Poly Fever, which is an event held by the Allegheny Crest Tribe, a group of people who have created something called an intentional community. This is a sustainable community that exists to create a new culture and create a space that can bring about social change. ACT owns and maintains a number of properties, and is highly invested in creating connections. They even have options for people who want to live off of the money system for a while.
This was around the time that I raised my eyebrows, and understood the kind of people I was going to be around. These were the types of people that practiced prolonged eye gazing, and talked about energy exchange. These were the types of people who preferred to be off the grid. These weren’t “my people”. The types of people who hug instead of handshake, and are super open with emotions and feelings. You know, crunchy granola types.
I anticipated that when I arrived, everyone would be perfectly nice, but that I wouldn’t make any real connections or friends, or anything. This has happened at similar events for me, and I am usually pretty okay with the quiet calm of being able to be by myself, though often it makes me feel a bit lonely considering how often I travel.
The first thing that happened when I arrived was that I was immediately welcomed into the fold. I was sat down to be a part of something called Forum. The Zegg Forum is a practice within intentional communities that started in Germany, and has since grown. The practice of the Forum allows people to express themselves freely, and work through their personal issues, as well as to reflect back on how someone’s personal pieces made them feel. This is a grave oversimplification of what really happens at these. Immediately I was struck with how open people were, and how comfortable they were sharing some of these incredible, intimate thoughts and feelings.
I certainly am not the kind of person to do that sort of thing.
The first day was super intense, and I sorta played along, not really connecting, sorta just letting thing ride. But then something amazing happened after dinner on the first day. People started talking to me. They started looking into my eyes. They asked for hugs, and asked for touch. They were warm and friendly. They asked deep questions that made me really reach in deep and get in touch with feelings that I hadn’t really wanted to dredge up again. I went to bed that first night feeling more connected to strangers than I do to some of my friends.
The next day was mostly a blur for me. I soaked in the kindness I received from people. I participated and was braver than I typically am. I connected with folks, and talked with them. I felt weirdly energized and social in ways I typically do not.
And then the evening happened, and the evening knocked me on my ass. In fact, I would say that what happened to me Monday night changed almost everything I know about myself, how I relate to people, and who I am as a person. I attended my first puja ( Defined by Google as the Sanskrit word for the act of worship). Pujas (from what I have been told and I can find on this website) range from white (spiritual growth and experience) to red (sensuality and sexuality). They exist on a scale between the two and can even have pale pink (mostly spiritual with some sensuality thrown in) or any color in between. Prior to this, I had never gone to one, because it sounded a bit too crunchy granola for me.
In this particular puja, I had individual connection with different people, and walked around a circle after each individual connection exercise. These exercises ranged from just gazing into someone’s eyes, all the way to allowing someone to touch you (you got to choose what you were comfortable with), just to have the pleasure of touching someone else. All events were completely, 100% at choice (meaning that I did not have to participate in anything at all, and no one would judge me for not), but I felt safe enough to push my comfort zone a little.
I am so fucking glad that I did.
I touched into things that I don’t even think I can being to explain. I felt emotional and vulnerable in ways that I barely even get with my partners. I am a person who encourages other people to feel their emotions however they need to, but I wouldn’t cry in public because for me I feel it’s undignified. I am also the person who during one particular exercise, didn’t realize I was crying, freely, nearly sobbing, until my face came off a pillow and it was soaking wet.
After the Puja I went to the Sensual Temple, a place that at these types of events typically houses tantra demonstrations. This is a space where sexual connection can be expressed freely. The connection I made in the temple was something new for me, and I’m going to remember it quite some time. (Go ahead and take that however you want folks, this was a connection I’m not ready to share in full.)
One of the things that really struck me with this event was that I got to witness a part of someone’s life that I’m not sure other people ever will. Likewise, they got to witness a part of me that I don’t know if I’ll ever share with someone else. It was like a snapshot into who this person was, even if I didn’t know anything else about them, and it was fucking beautiful, and I am so lucky to have been there for it.
So no, I may not ever be a person who prefers camping to hotel getaways. I may only eye gaze for a moment, rather than a long time. I may prefer science to faith, and I may think some things are silly. But that’s okay. I learned how to connect with people, and push my boundaries in healthy, encouraging ways, and I’m literally tearing up as I write this post. I may never be a campy, new-agey girl, but I’m happy to have a bit of crunchy granola on top of of my sciency yogurt parfait.