"You never know what will happen. There is a thing called zeitgeist. You have to hit it."

~ Andrew Lloyd Webber

Have you ever thought about the Zeitgeist of an era? Are there any moments in your past that evoke strong feelings? What makes a particular atmosphere so unique?

Memory and contemplating the future are two sides of the same coin with much in common. When we think back on a specific moment or happening there are any number of factors that contribute to our experience. When we look to the future and forecast or plan, it’s like a looking glass version where we have entirely different material to work with.

In the former case of looking back, we have heaps of solid information to work with. And while two different people might have wildly divergent memories of the same set of circumstances, they each have a set of facts and concrete recollections to inform their view. The feelings become set in stone as well, a summer’s picnic might bring always evoke a pleasant glow while an harsh word or incident of violence may embed long-lasting trauma.

When we focus our attention on the unknown future we’re in the land of pure speculation and have far less to go on. Some folks simply go with the flow while others work hard to pin down every detail in advance. But as the old bard says, “even the best laid plans…”

Planning, outlining, forecasting are all crucial skills to develop as you move through life, it’s a fact that folks who are armed with a checklist get better results. As Atul Guwande says in The Checklist Manifesto, “under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.

“Proper planning” vs “going with the flow” are like the two sides of a tightrope walkers balance beam. It makes sense to develop the skills, habits, and methods of the former while maintaining the forgiving resilience of the latter. It’s wise to begin with the end in mind and adhere to a plan, yet life’s road has unseen turns and every game has a curve ball or two. Consciousness and confidence play a big part in setting your intention so that you get to where you want to go.

It’s much the same with cultivating an atmosphere. When you’re part of putting together some sort of future event, be it a child’s birthday party or a tropical retreat, you work to carefully assemble the elements in advance in hopes of creating a positive and memorable or transformational result. Looking forward you can make sure all of the pieces and players are in place, yet any number of factors can either appear out of the blue to make it better than you could have ever expected, or go sideways causing you to careen into damage control.

Every atmosphere is the sum total of both planned and random elements and for that reason are very much part and parcel to the mood of the moment. It’s one of the reasons physical artifacts such as art, books, or vinyl records hold so much resonance, they are not just a representation of the creators touch, much like people, they are also imbued with the spirit of the moment in which they were conceived.

Cultural movements and events are much the same way. In recent years I’ve had occasion to attend a number of ’throwback’ style events meant to evoke the spirit and atmosphere of an era gone by. Having lived through and experienced first-hand the heyday of The Grateful Dead years, Punk Rock, Industrial Music, SRL, the early Rave years, and the birth of Ecstatic Dance, I’m able to contrast the memories of the original atmospheres with the nostalgic recreations in my mind.

The difference boils down to novelty. When a new cultural movement is bubbling up into human consciousness, it takes shape in reaction to and in the context of whatever else is new and happening in the world at the time. The connective spirit of the 60s sprang forth as a reaction to the buttoned-down 50s, new awareness of the environment, and the first images of Earth from space. Punk Rock had Reagan and Thatcher to rail against. Ravers were reveling in the utopian promise of technology and belief that the power of positivity could overcome the problems of the past.

Most movements have their moment before the wave crashes into the shores of reality. The lessons are learned, the pendulum swings, and humanity lurches towards it’s next incremental awakening. Yet, in the modern era of the internet, it seems that every subculture somehow lives on. Online you can find like-minded souls who are happy to get together in whatever period garb of the day and keep on raving or thrashing or ‘rolling away the dew’ as the case may be.

“Zeitgeist” is a concept derived from 18th to 19th-century German philosophy loosely translated as “spirit of the age.” It is the “defining mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” When you’re putting together your workshops or events, or even just having a dinner party, keep in mind the element of novelty. Nothing you do exists in a vacuum, and when you stand firmly in the present moment with one arm around the past and the other reaching towards the future, you make a valuable contribution to the human chain of culture in the here and now.

Atmospheres are ineffable, yet their imprint is enormous. Allow yourself to step back and see the bigger picture of what you are doing in the context of the overall impression you will make. It’s more than just what people do, it’s how they feel long after that counts. The tiniest of details can make the difference!

Wishing you the best from a high elevation on this April Fools Monday, much love until next week!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Conscious Dancer Community Spotlight :: Dance of Liberation - Expression of the Soul retreats!

This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight shines on Parashakti and the Dance of Liberation – Expression of the Soul retreats that she is co-hosting with Karen Berg at the Kripalu Center and The Omega Institute! Parashakti is a well-known luminary is the movement world, and a long-time friend of Conscious Dancer.

“Ding, ding, ding! What’s that sound?” It’s your Soul, and it’s time to answer it’s call! “Expression of the Soul” is your invitation to expand with Dance of Liberation this spring and summer!

Parashakti says “ Dance of Liberation is a powerful combination of movement therapy and ceremony, rooted in ancient shamanic tradition that clears blockages in the body, mind, heart, and spirit.” As a participant you are blindfolded which allows you to “step beyond your conscious fears and limitations, allowing your innermost creative expression to break free.

Using a system known as the Seven Foundations as a spiritual map, “the experience allows dancers and non-dancers alike to explore their relationship to pain and the shadow, and learn how to work with the body to release the shadow and get in touch with lost parts of the self.

During this transformational multi-day retreat, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Reverse limiting beliefs, habits or mindsets. 
  • Shift thought patterns and behaviors that keep you from expressing your best self.
  • Integrate spiritual teachings within, to allow an embodied physical understanding of the Self.
  • Understand your soul’s purpose in this lifetime, through the framework of your soul’s energetic journey.
  • Connect on a deeper level to the power of your soul.
  • Gain strength and confidence to express your true Self, from the soul, with others and in your everyday life.

Kicking off this coming Sunday, April 7th at the renowned Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts , you’re in for an epic journey. As a guest at Kripalu you’ll enjoy full use of the grounds with a lakefront beach, labyrinth, meditation garden, walking, biking, and hiking trails. There are optional daily yoga and YogaDance classes. You are treated to nutritious meals and have full access to the Kripalu Cafe, sauna and fitness room.

You’re encouraged to take advantage of a-la-carte services from Kripalu’s robust healing arts program including facials, massage, ayurvedic consultations, bodywork, energy work, metaphysical services, private yoga or meditation sessions, life coaching, and more.

Another rendition of this Dance of Liberation – Expression of the Soul retreat is happening at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York on June 9th to 14th . At Omega you’ll immerse yourself in one of the premier transformative environments on the planet. A wide variety of spa services and healing arts modalities are offered and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the tranquility and peaceful atmosphere of their library, labyrinth, meditation garden and ponds, as well as biking and hiking trails and basketball and tennis courts.

Parashakti says: “ The ancient wisdom and teachings of Kabbalah embody simple and universal spiritual truths that have existed before the advent of modern religion and exist for every person to connect with – regardless of age, gender, race, background, spiritual practice or sexual orientation. This wisdom was captured in ancient texts, and also exists within the soul of every person. Connecting to this wisdom helps to awaken this knowing within us, and it is part of each of our spiritual paths to re-connect to this energy, to the root of our soul and to express the infinite nature of our soul to our mind, body and outwardly as we share it with the world.

Book you spot and make your travel plans now to either one of these fabulous upcoming retreats!

Dance of Liberation – Expression of the Soul
April 7-12, Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, MA
June 9-14, Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY