Yoga and dancing is a known mix in the Bay Area. However The Waking Hour opening ceremony to this year’s ‘All Day I Dream‘ Dance Festival was unique. The setting in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco was magical.
Colorful banners were dancing in the wind around a small ‘sci-fi meets Buddhism’ temple. Hippies with flowers in their hair, people draped in extravagant fur coats or dazzling kimonos, glitter on their faces, some doing yoga.
The sun was shining warm on my lower back while I was lying in child’s pose with a dozens of other yogis in the midst of the scene. The gentle flow led by yoga instructor Haley Ebersole had opened my body leaving me joyful and relaxed. I was soaking up the surreal scene with a sense of wonder and amazement.
The Waking Hour & All Day I Dream
It had been awhile since I went to my last dance festival. And I was slightly nervous to attend ‘All Day I Dream’. This festival seems to draw in more serious party people, mostly the Bay Area Burning Man crowd – not so much occasional dance enthusiasts like me. However, I love music and dancing. And since I was invited to attend the opening ceremony called ‘The Waking Hour’ it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dip my toe into the scene.
Yoga & Sound Healing Set the Stage for Dancing
‘All Day I Dream’ began on a Brooklyn rooftop in 2011 and since has become a global affair with dance parties from New York to Barcelona. ‘The Waking Hour’ is a two hour opening ceremony until now uniquely designed for the dance festivals in the Bay Area. It sets the scene with a blend of yoga and sound healing interwoven with pieces of modern yoga philosophy.
“Initially we designed the Waking Hour to entertain people in the beginning of the festival when amplified sound is not yet allowed and people are still trickling in”, says Brittany Tilleman, founder of Culture Vulture, the organizer of ‘The Waking Hour’. “Soon we noticed that the ceremony also makes ‘All Day I Dream’ more appealing to a broader audience who might just comes for the yoga and hang out a little bit afterwards. It also sets the tone for the event.”
And indeed, I felt right at home. I enjoyed the yoga and the Golden Gate Park scenery and the magical crowd. I loved how Haley grounded people through her guidance and let them set intentions for the dancing to follow. “Connectedness or love for example”, she cued the yogis. “And then take the intention with you – off the mat into your dancing and into your interactions!”
“Being used to setting intentions in yoga, I was still surprised by how powerful this simple ritual was right before a mundane dance festival.“
Being used to setting intentions in yoga, I was still surprised by how powerful this simple ritual was right before a mundane dance festival. I was wondering if invoking a sense of kindness, peace or connection in the opening ceremony really made the event more connected and loving. “My intention was unconditional kindness”, said Jackie, a thirty-something in a flamboyant red fur coat with oversized glasses. Her hand was resting on my forearm, her gaze open and friendly.
“For me, it just works” says Rob, a forty-six year old marketing manager, dressed in purple sparkling leggings and a sequined captain hat and nothing else. “Usually, the first thing I want to do at an event like this, is go to the bar and get a drink. Right now I feel more like getting some water or a good meal – I saw an oyster truck earlier!”
Haley, also anchored the event in the bigger social context. The event took place on June 30th, 2018 – the same day when millions of people across the nation marched under the banner of “families belong together”. It was hard not to feel a little selfish or at least self indulgent to attend a music festival that day.
“In spirituality, people often shy away from the messiness and heaviness of politics”
In spirituality, people often shy away from the messiness and heaviness of politics. Yoga teachers are cautious to bring it into their classes. Not Haley. In small modern dharma talk, she described the urgency of the situation and the importance of taking action. But she also brought it back to inner work. In order to be able to change the world, we need to take a good look at ourselves first. Along the lines of the Dalai Lama’s mantra ‘world peace through inner peace’, she said that activism needs to be grounded in self-reflection and inner stability.
One might argue that these are just phrases to make people feel good about themselves. However, the atmosphere of dozens of people practicing yoga under a cool summer sun in Golden Gate park, suggests a bigger impact.
“Tending to our own hearts, minds and bodies is not so selfish after all.”
I was reminded by ‘The Waking Hour’ that it is key to connect to our body and mind, and then – from a place of inner wisdom and groundedness – connect with those around us. No matter if it is a dance festival, a business meeting or a conversation with a loved one. Tending to our own hearts, minds and bodies is not so selfish after all. And like Haley said, ‘it takes a bigger consciousness shift to address the issues of our time’.
Information on their next event can be found here.
My professional career has been largely in economic development trying to make living conditions better for the poor. My vision is a world which is more equal, more just, healthier and happier for everyone – not only a select few.
However, through my own path in Theravada Buddhism and yoga, I learned that a big part of journey towards contentment takes place within. So I started teaching yoga and immersing myself into ancient wisdom. Due to my background in research, I am also closely following the emerging (neuro-)scientific insights into yoga, meditation and spirituality – trying to solve some of the contradiction between science and spirituality.
In my writing and teaching, I blend my own contemplative insights with the emerging scientific research, I add some “researchy” thoughts on bigger picture questions, ultimately hoping to inspire personal and social change.