I often contemplate the concept of overlapping soul circles of people who were not even on my radar screen years, days or even moments ago, until we step on life’s stage at the same time. I marvel at the idea that we cross paths with certain individuals for various reasons that may not become apparent until an aha moment emerges and we realize the grand plan. Such was this case this weekend as I dove into a life-altering experience known as Interfusion Festival. I had heard about it from several friends who had attended and was urged to go since they knew it would be a delightful experience for this mover and shaker. Perfect, since moving and shaking is a central focus of this gathering that was birthed by visionaries Umka Pele and Christian Rodriguez in August 2016. The second came about in February of 2017 and this most recent, a true labor of love, was held on Labor Day weekend of 2017.
According to the vision: “Interfusion’s mission is to cultivate a multicultural community of visionaries seeking to elevate individual and collective consciousness and wellbeing through immersion into the unity of creative expression and to provide a welcoming space for searching souls to Explore new art forms, Share their arts with others, and Connect with like-minded spirits from around the globe.”
That it did. As I drove down from north of the Philadelphia, PA area to Alexandria, VA, a nearly four-hour trek, I found myself wondering what memories I might bring home with me a few days later. There were a few things I knew for sure. I would be reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen face to face or greeted hug to hug, in some cases, in months and others, years. I was also certain that I would be carrying in my heart, new connections since this seemed to be the kind of place overflowing with those I would consider kindred spirits or soul friends.
As someone relatively comfortable in her own skin, but no longer in the compact container I inhabited in my 20’s, I wondered if I would feel self-conscious amidst tiny yoginis and tiny dancers. This 58-year-old Goddess body was right at home with people of all different ages, shapes sizes, and fitness levels. Much of what I did was observing. I am a consummate people watcher and am fascinated with the ways in which we interact with each other. The dance classes, which included various forms such as Bachata, Zouk, Samba, Mambo, Improv, Capoeira, 5Rhythm, and Biodanza brought with them a sense of magic. Energy work included Tantra, Acroyoga, Qigong Mindfulness, and Laughter Yoga. Themed parties beckoned participants to dress as suited their fancy…and some were indeed fancy. Costumery, cuddly animal critter onesies, feathers, masks, body paint, and sparkly henna tattoos embellished human canvasses.
Initially Umka and Christian wanted to find a way to connect the different communities represented in those classes since they share similar traits. It was a place for everyone to be exposed to others.
“This is part of my dharma and what I was born to do,” says Christian. “It is what I wanted to share with others, but didn’t know how at first.” Clearly, he found his path.
According to Umka, “Interfusion is a community-funded grassroots effort to elevate collective consciousness and spread healing through arts.”
Both of them put their heart and soul into this festival and I heard so much positive feedback throughout the weekend and since it ended, and watched deep soul sharing take place between participants.
I had the joy of assisting at one of my favorite workshops to facilitate. Cuddle Party ™ is a 3-hour experience in communication, boundary setting, community building, relationship-enhancing, and safe, nurturing, non-sexual touch offered and received with consent between all parties involved. Monique Darling who is one of the most active certified Cuddle Party ™ facilitators on the planet has well exceeded 600 of them since she began in 2009. I have had some catching up to do at something like 325 in my repertoire since 2005. She had the idea to offer a massive record-setting official Cuddle Party ™ at Interfusion. The goal was to surpass 500 attendees and by the time it was complete, we estimate that 400 or so cozy cuddlers had joined us in the grand ballroom of the hotel where it was held. As I perched on the edge of the stage with Monique and her partner Peter Petersen and gazed out over the crowd, I felt a tremendous wave of love wash over me. It is what I feel whenever I am in the presence of those who soften enough to let their hearts open to each other.
Monique offers her observation of the beauty and magic of the experience, “ It was such an honor to get to facilitate my 671st Cuddle Party ™ at Interfusion this past Sunday. Cuddle Parties have absolutely changed the trajectory of my life, from trying to find a way to say yes to everything so as not to ruffle feathers or not to miss out, I’ve found my own internal powerful “no” and in doing so, I’ve found a way to my most passionate “yes” Watching the faces of 400 people opening up to their own inner “yes” and “no” melted my heart, and made me feel like I truly have the best job in the whole world. Giving people back the gift of their voices. Still feeling so utterly grateful for having the opportunity to be supported by Edie and Peter as those Interfusion attendees began to reclaim their power around touch, saying no to the things they didn’t want and asking for the things they really really did.”
Peter adds his witnessing of the event, “ To me, the truly extraordinary thing about the Cuddle Party ™ at Interfusion, other than the sheer size and scope of the event, was the amount of presence and willingness I felt from the crowd. Everyone seemed to be locked in onto what Monique and Edie were saying and one could feel their focus of attention.”
At the end of the Cuddle Party ™, we were led into an Om Puddle. One of the participants named Eric asked for a volunteer. Not knowing what he would be inviting that person to do, but feeling brave, I raised my hand. He then directed me to lie on the floor in the center of the room and guided people to gather around and place their heads on my body. Once they did so, others touched them, in a web of connectivity (see photo above) that spread throughout the entire ballroom. By the time we were all interwoven, he instructed us to take a deep breath in and chant o00o0o0o0o0o0mmmm which is said to emanate with the sound of the Universe. Over and over, the chant reverberated in the room and I am certain, beyond the confines. As I often do in settings like that, I feel I am immersed in love soup. I would bet that I was not alone in that experience.
One of the dynamics I experienced as I walked around the venue throughout the weekend with my FREE HUGS sign and open arms was the willingness people had to melt and stay enwrapped in the embrace for an extended period of time. Not wanting to let go. Remaining present. Breathing. Sighing. Toning.
The gathering was a microcosm of how we can all live. Imagine a world in which a multi-cultural, diverse group of people could share space cooperatively and non-competitively. One where the common language is love. Can you see it? Are you willing to co-create it with us?
Their community is raising the funding needed to create Interfusion Festival 2018.
This post was previously published on huffpost.com.
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