A year of being the Befana

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

Advertisements

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

ITALIANO

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

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.

Continue reading

As in the temple, so in the parking lot

This time, for my Apprentice Befana sharing, I choose to communicate through an image.

parking lot

It might seem like a banal image, but for me, there is an entire world behind this pattern of interlocking blocks on the ground that we contact almost every day at Damanhur. For me, they are the symbol of an emotional experience that I’ve been wanting to share for some time, although I hadn’t found the right occasion until now. Let’s see if the Apprentice Befana can transmit this feeling from a few years ago…

I had just come back to Damanhur after a long period in America. I was drifting through everyday life with open eyes observing everything with a deep sense of happiness and amazement. I am at Damanhur, at home. Here I am again, finally! Seeing things, seeing you. Touching you. Touching with the hands, the senses, without the digital or astral filters of distance. Everything was real, present, a tremendous gift.

I was walking through the Damjl parking lot, gazing downward with slitted eyes due to the brightness of the summer sun, and all of a sudden, I stopped. For the first time, I saw these interlocking blocks that I had ignored for so many years. I observed their uniform rectangular shape, with colors ranging from brick red to orange-grey. They – the blocks that is – started talking to me. Some had sweet voices. Others were more enraged. Each one reminded me that someone had put it there, someone who had worked up a sweat. I saw a vision of wheelbarrows full of blocks, emptied and filled up again. Every piece in its place, one after the other, gradually completing the covering on the ground.

Hall of MirrorsI felt such a strong wave of emotion in my heart that tears came to my eyes. I was struck by how much love and effort was invested in building this parking lot ground cover, so simple, essential and taken for granted. I felt as if I were in the Temples of Humankind, in the Hall of Mirrors, with feet planted on the ground, neck craned and mouth agape, astonished by the stained glass dome above, appreciating every color, every piece of glass that had been traced, cut, broken, ground down to the perfect shape, covered with a strip of perfectly balanced copper tape, and bound in liquid metal, slipping and densifying.

In that moment, I understood. They are the same: the thousands of blocks underneath my feet and the thousands of glass pieces above my head. As above, so below. The only difference is that the glass is gazed upon and admired every day, and the interlocking blocks are hardly ever noticed. Although, they are the same because the love, attention and devotion that is in each piece is the same. I quickly started walking toward my office again, to avoid the embarrassment of having to explain why I was standing there crying in the middle of the parking lot at Damjl.

Sometimes, when the everyday efforts of constantly moving forward and building Damanhur start to weigh on me, and I feel tempted to stop, retreat, fly away with my imagination to a less demanding reality, I think of those parking lot blocks. I think of the anonymous hands that have placed them there in perfect right angles. I am strengthened by this image and the certainty that one day, every piece that has been built in whatever material will speak to someone who is listening.

 

Questa volta per la mia condivisione da Apprendista Befana, scelgo di comunicare attraverso un’immagine. Potrebbe sembrare un’immagine banale, ma per me c’è un mondo dietro questo intreccio di masselli che contattiamo quasi ogni giorno a Damanhur. Per me è simbolo di un’emozione che volevo raccontarvi da tempo, ma non trovavo l’occasione o le parole giuste. Vediamo se l’Apprendista Befana riesce a trasmettere questo sentimento da qualche anno fa… Continue reading

Fire dancing in the circus and riding wild horses

Ayoto 350[crossposted from the Damanhur Blog]

In making the choice to be a Damanhur citizen, my initial sadness over leaving behind other possibilities in life transformed to deep gratitude as one by one, everything came back around and manifested synchronically…

I came to Damanhur while I was traveling around the world for two years, relishing the nomadic freedom of moving around the planet and through my days and nights with no fixed schedules or destinations. I let synchronicity be my travel agent and intuition my compass. As much as I was thriving while living in the moment, I also was seeking a place to make a home and sink in some roots. Seeking sacred space, ritual, communal living, art and healing as a way of life, and land for growing organic things. I found Damanhur, and thought: this place has it all. I can’t believe it already exists! … I wasn’t ready to commit to being here yet, though I felt drawn to stay connected as I kept traveling.

Everywhere I went, I sensed possible timelines to the future solidifying. It seemed like, no matter where I was, no matter how exotic and absurd the situation was, there were peopleMacau jade elefant offering me long term places to stay and sources of income, transportation, food, everything I needed to live a comfortable life, as networks of love and friendship materialized. I knew that if I chose to stay, this place could be my home… Despite the glamour, beauty, or adventurous story surrounding my options, I always felt in my heart that it wasn’t right to stay in those places. Every time I said no to something, I felt this enormity of gifts from the universe and flow of events in a certain direction, collapsing back down into the void. What were the situations? Well, here are two:

At one point, I was on the island of Macau, a former Portuguese pirate colony turned Las Vegas of China, off the coast of Hong Kong, visiting a friend who was coordinating the construction of a Cirque du Soleil theatre at the newly erected Venetian hotel and casino complex. MacauIt was a surreal experience on many levels, including the fact that I was in Venice the week before, and I found myself in a sparkling new, still-being-constructed version of the time and water-worn, crumbling medieval city on the water. There were even brand new gondolas! In Macao, with my friend at an Indian restaurant, I met the director of the Cirque du Soleil show that was to debut in the Venetian theatre, and when he found out I was a fire dancer, he encouraged me to audition for the show. Fire dancer, in a luxury casino circus show, on a Chinese island. This was one of the timelines I hopped off of as I followed my path back toward Damanhur.

Macau fire dragon

Cappadocia jade horse 2Then, there was Göreme. In central Turkey, Cappadocia, way out, amongst Sufi mystics, cowboys and a Brazilian belly dancer, in a dusty landlocked alien landscape of infinite volcanic tuff rock protrusions and millennial cave homes. That timeline included a band of authentic cowboys, extremely rare (for a non-Muslim non-Turkish woman) whirling dervish ritual dance lessons from a Sufi master in the backroom of his carpet shop, a job at the local travel agency and nightly belly dancing at the tourist show for an absurdly high return, given the 15 minute caveperformance time. My own, simple, serene remodeled yet traditional “wall-to-wall” Turkish carpet-covered cave palace with organic vegetable patch and apricot, mulberry, fig and cherry trees out front, and famous cave temples right above. Hot air balloons, UFO museum, vast underground cities. The warming marble slab at the local hammam. Most of all, what drew me to stay in this tiny, remote, completely unique and incomprehensible place, beyond the rousing nights with a cave full of Spanish tourists, raki liquor flowing, spoon clacave2cking and dancing… were the horses. A small, cave ranch with the most beautiful wild brown horses. Contacting these deeply wise animals everyday and riding them through the strange, dramatic landscape. Occasionally, the cowboys would trek to Kayseri, ride into the mountains and come back wrangling more than 400 wild horses, including day old ones amongst the bucking stallions.

Cappadocia wild horses

Well, there are ever more places and unforgettable scenes, though let’s flash forward to Damanhur.

When I came back to Damanhur, to stay this time, I started a program to become an ‘A’ citizen, and after a Game of Life viaggio adventure and intensive communal living experience with other new citizens, I moved to my first established nucleo community, the one that synchronically had space for me… It was Tin, in the heart of the Sacred Woods Temple. And there, in the horse stables, were Lucy and Nuri, two horses, the only ones we had at Damanhur at that time. So, my love for living with horses returned, fulfilled.

Hamurdan

Then, a few years ago, Arciere Aglio, one of the Damanhurian artists with a flare for directing provocative theatre shows, was casting for a new rendition of a musical theatre piece that was written and performed nine years previously, called Circus Hamurdan. He asked me to play a new part, written in specifically for me: Ayoto Kome Co-Chen. A Chinese. fire dancing. circus performer. My few spoken lines were all in Chinese… and purposefully, humorously mis-translated into Italian. So even that seemingly released dream came to be. As I was dancing with fire fans in the middle of the Damanhur Crea conference center Ayototurned big top circus ring, with my (fictional) Spanish bull-fighting fire-eating companion, this realization really landed in me. Seven years ago, when I made the impassioned choice to live here and become a Damanhur citizen, I thought I had cut off the other possibilities that were presented to me on renounced life paths. Little did I know that living in the heart of a mystical paradise, with golden node of Synchronic Lines, ritual connection to Oracle forces and divinities, populated with alchemists and magicians… the events here move in such magical and unexpected ways. If the intention is pure, and the will is strong, then all dreams, desires and wishes come true in time, even the forgotten ones. Life at Damanhur spans time and space in an infinte way so that everywhere is here and all time is now. And anything and everything is possible.

Ready to make a bold choice and experiment with living and manifesting your dreams in Damanhur? The Syncho-door is open. Destination Damanhur… Looking forward to playing in the synchronic field of possibilities together!