A year of being the Befana


Best wishes to everyone on the day of the Epiphany (La Befana)! I have been playing the role of the Befana (fully in the role and no longer an apprentice) for a year now. I still remember the wonder and also the fear that I felt when I received news from Shama Viola that she had chosen me as her apprentice. I remember the day of the official passing of the role, staying up at night to respond with the right action to the first challenge: a letter from Zela and Nilo (Damanhurian children) asking for particular gifts.

Here I share some lessons that I learned throughout the year, listening to the voice of the Befana within and beyond:

I am ready. I am a young Befana. At first I thought maybe too young to fill a role that requires wisdom and represents a mystical appearance in connection with divine forces. However, all throughout my life I have found myself in situations where I didn’t have all the traditional qualifications, although by overcoming doubt and choosing to be there, to do, to act, to learn, to offer myself to others… I find that something always comes together to support: inspiration, synchronicity, the knowledge of the Popolo, mysterious aid, rewards that are proportionate to the courage involved in making the choice.

Listening and communicating. There are messages, always. To receive and to give. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to listen. Sometimes it’s silence. Sometimes it’s an observant eye. Sometimes I need to let go into the flow of connection that is always moving around me. Sometimes I don’t quite understand: why this message, in this moment, and for whom? But I trust in it, and I express it, and the open channel surprises me with synchronic results, like the story of the parking lot blocks and the dome of the Hall of Mirrors!

The broom. Part of the Befana myth says that she is always occupied in housecleaning. Even when she is flying out and about, she leaves the floor clean using her Befana broom. And this represents sweeping away of the problems of the year. It’s true, I have always swept the floor in the spaces around me attentively and a little obsessively. There is a distinct feeling before and after, renewed energy, lightness, a stage that is reopened to welcome new events and presences. The broom is a symbol, and it is also a tool for taking action in the material world.

Happy cleaning and celebration!

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana

befana-quagliaAuguri a tutti nel giorno della Befana! Svolgo questo ruolo da Befana (piena e non più apprendista) da un anno adesso. Mi ricordo ancora lo stupore e anche il timore che sentivo quando ho ricevuto la notizia da Shama Viola che mi ha scelta come apprendista, e il giorno del passaggio ufficiale, rimanendo sveglia di notte per rispondere con l’azione giusta alla prima sfida: una lettera da Zela e Nilo chiedendo doni particolari. Continue reading


Take heart, Popolo of artists.

Even though at Damanhur we hold optimism as a spiritual value, so much so that it is mentioned in our Constitution, and usually I am the first one to wave the optimism flag in any given situation, in these weeks I’m finding it really hard to feel and believe that everything is going in a direction of growth, toward union and peace on earth. Looking at the political situation in the country where I was born (United States), sensing the rage and division that’s behind it, seeing that the movement for protecting the Native American sacred lands and waters of Standing Rock in North Dakota has a lot of support, but also a lot of economic interests in opposition, and victory is not yet certain, knowing that a fire has taken the lives of many young people who were at an event at the Ghost Ship, an artist space in Oakland, California in an area where I used to go when I was living a similar creative life there 10 years ago…

ghost-shipA fire that wouldn’t have started if only a small percentage of the money that goes to wars and oil went to artists and the spaces of beauty and freedom that we create with determination while the cost of rent rises, along with the risk of eviction. It all makes me wonder if there is a reason to feel hope for humanity, if what we are doing at Damanhur is making a difference or if it is all in vain.

With this turbulent cloud of grief and thoughts circling in my mind, I remember that I need to find the energy to go to another dance practice tonight, for a performance of music and dance of the indigenous peoples that we are holding in the Temples of Humankind. In overcoming the inertia, finding the strength to be with my brothers and sisters, to practice and sing and dance, to express ourselves, to laugh, to value the native cultures of the earth, to seek beauty and emotion, continuing to make art and create like we’ve been doing here in Damanhur non-stop for more than 40 years… I find an answer, a point of light and clarity:

Art is an antidote for the shadow that surrounds us and sometimes enters into us. Thanks to art, I’m still alive to write this thing today.

Art is a revolutionary act that is just as important as signing a petition, going to a peaceful protest, voting, taking things to court, changing the law and organizing social change movements.

artistsIf we make art and do what we do every day with a pure heart and consciously directed thoughts, it will change the direction of the events in our lives and all around us. It will change the future of the planet.

Take heart, Popolo of artists!

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana


Forza, Popoli di artisti!

Anche se a Damanhur manteniamo l’ottimismo come valore spirituale, al punto di averlo inserito anche nella nostra Costituzione, e personalmente faccio sventolare in ogni situazione la bandiera dell’ottimismo, in queste settimane trovo davvero difficile sentire e credere che tutto ciò che accade nel mondo stia andando in una direzione di crescita, verso l’unione e la pace nel pianeta… Continue reading

election time and the illusion of separation

Many people ask me my thoughts about the result of the American presidential election.


There’s quite a lot to say about the need for change in the political and electoral system, going from the obsolete Electoral College to direct popular vote, introducing ranked voting with possibility for more than one candidate per party, so we vote for people who truly reflect our values, not out of fear of the alternative, or the lesser of two evils, or not voting at all to protest the inadequacy of both candidates. Well, here I share a message that I have wanted to write especially to Americans for a long time; I am taking advantage of this moment of debate and emotion to send it out into the waves.

Dear Americans with pure hearts and visions of the future,

Whatever you do, please don’t leave the country.
If you are following your dreams to Canada, Europe or New Zealand, beyond the momentary reaction, then by all means go. Though please let’s not be lured into the divide and conquer plan. I’ve been witnessing the events and media messaging of our home country from this vantage point on the other side of the planet for many years now, and perhaps the distance grants a certain perspective. It seems like so much of the highlighted news trends, even the progressive and liberal-seeming public messages, are carefully crafted to incite separation, suspicion, criticism and blame across all possible lines of race, class, gender, political and sexual identification… from police violence cases to whatever else.
They are seeds, planted, on purpose.
It all serves the forces of control that benefit from keeping everyone who believes in life and love, separate and fighting our own fights in our own corners and even turning against each other. Keeping the numbers down to manageable and manipulable and expendable fringe upsurges.
Please see beyond all the triggers and diversity of anger points and embrace our common humanity, see the light in each others’ eyes, realize that we are one and we ultimately want the same thing… life on this planet to survive and thrive and be a paradise of abundance and true fulfillment with happy children and country-life-1animals and flowers and trees and beauty, clean water and air and food and soil. Nobody wants to live in a war zone and see it all go spiraling down.
At Damanhur, early on, people came together from vastly different places on the political spectrum, some from the extreme left, others from the extreme right, and they learned how to live together side by side, love each other even, or at least see each other as sisters and brothers, see each other not as enemies but as fellow human beings nurturing the same divine spark within, allies – albeit with different perspectives and identifications – fighting for free will and choice, freedom and light for all of humanity, not just those who think and look and dress and talk and vote like me.
We can create this new world of love together, with our neighbors. Recognize the Bodhisattva nature / angelic light / divine spark in everyone you meet today.
This is our home.

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana


Molte persone mi chiedono i miei pensieri sul risultato dell’elezione presidenziale negli Stati Uniti. C’è molto da dire sulla necessità di cambiamento nel sistema politico ed elettorale, andare dall’ormai obsoleto collegio elettorale al voto diretto popolare, introdurre il voto classificato con anche più di un candidato per partita, per fa sì che si esprimono voti per le persone che riflettano i propri valori e non per la paura dell’alternativa o il meno peggio o il non votare proprio come protesta contro l’inadeguatezza di entrami i candidati proposti… Comunque qui condivido un messaggio che volevo scrivere da tempo sopratutto agli Americani, ho utilizzato questo momento caldo di dibattito ed emozione per inserirlo nell’onda. Continue reading

Community alchemy and building a home

california-quailNow that I am “home” in Damanhur after a 33 day journey, I reflect on the viaggio of the past month, beginning with bringing Damanhur School of Meditation teachings to Tamera in Portugal and concluding with a Burning Man Symposium held like an egg in a nest at Esalen in Big Sur, California. It’s so heartening to see those of us who carry and move within group identities connecting in with each other deeply and dissolving boundaries in these collaborative endeavors.

I have noticed that Damanhur facilitates transformation within people in a certain direction, and Tamera does so too on a different and unique trajectory. Holding the Damanhur Path to Spiritual Freedom course in Tamera brought the participants into a movement that ended up in a different place than either of those, a beautiful synergy of the gifts from each source, sparking joy, authenticity and liberation.

tameraThe same thing happened during the Burning Man Symposium at Esalen I feel. The unique alchemy of each container poured together to create softly exploding fireworks of pure magic that mixed the sound of the Pacific ocean waves crashing into the night with the smell of sulfur in the sesalenteam of the baths and the taste of miso soup and marinated kale, together with the roar of power tools and high caliber laughter, swigs of tequila, pink hair and building up something colorful and creative just to set it on fire immediately. Somehow it worked.

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Inside the Befana’s closet

I am at my parents’ house in Houston, Texas, in my old bedroom from childhood and adolescence. Looking for a book, I began to open the boxes in the closet (in America the closets are spaces as big as some of the bedrooms I’ve lived in at Damanhur), and it unleashed entire worlds and universes. I found the book I was looking for… and everything else.

le-coseThe photos from New Year’s in Chiapas, Mexico with the Zapatistas together with those of the grave sites of my great-grandparents in Taiwan. Years of documentation of my artistic projects and art books. My mother’s glasses from the 1960s and her traditional Chinese wedding dress (red) that I intended to wear when I got married (hasn’t happened yet). An edition of Romeo and Juliet printed in 1909. My copy of the book Eat, Pray, Love, gifted to me by my sister when I went to Italy in 2007, of which I’ve only read the “Eat” section, because reading the part about Italy while in Italy, I thought I would also read the part about India and Indonesia when I go to those countries (haven’t quite gotten there yet). Letters, art and handmade gifts from many ex-lovers. Vaccination documentation, poetry, nearly a decade of We’Moon with my writing inside, a book of prayers from the hospital I was born in, a complex family tree with names in Chinese and lineages of multiple wives. The black dress my mother sewed for me when I was 16 years old (still fits me).

I ask myself, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” They are all things precious enough to have survived many phases of clearing out, selling, recycling, giving away and moving. And now? Do I leave it all here? Bring some things with me to Damanhur? Where will I put them? Do I really need them? When will I go to India? and Indonesia? Will I ever come back to live on this continent in this lifetime? Do I burn everything in a bonfire? Will my children (If I ever have children) want to see these relics from the life of their mother and her family? If I don’t figure out where these things are going now, I’ll need to do it someday, anyway.

One thing I know for sure is that every object feels so alive. I sense the vitality, the emotions felt, the love transmitted, the energy invested. and Time… How much information can be conserved within an object… it’s really incredible!

Something else that is certain: I won’t be taking any of this with me into the threshold (the beyond), which is just as well, otherwise we’d need to figure out how to make everything fit in our bedrooms there too. I will bring nothing but the imprint of my experiences on the personalities within, the absolute purity of living every moment fully, here and now.

Quaglia Cocco
The Befana


Dentro l’armadio della Befana

Sono nella casa dei miei genitori a Houston, Texas nella mia vecchia camera da letto da bambina e adolescente. Cercando un libro, ho cominciato ad aprire le scatole dentro l’armadio (negli Stati Uniti gli armadi sono spazi grandi come alcune stanze in cui ho abitato nei nuclei di Damanhur), e si sono aperti tantissimi mondi e universi. Ho trovato… il tutto.

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