[This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn gets into the Hooposophy of our hoop dreams.]
“This bowl is the community. This rock is you. When you feel supported by the community, put the rock in the bowl.”
These were the instructions I heard on a public radio spot the other day. They were given to a journalist visiting the spiritual retreat where her parents had met years ago. Now, the purpose of this exercise at an isolated hermetic retreat is lost on me, but I’d say that as a metaphor it’s got bigger problems than that. For one, how are you supposed to feel supported by a community before putting yourself in it? And yet, I wonder how many of us think this way, safely pocketing our “rocks” until we get an embossed invite from “community?”
As far as the hooping community goes – local, regional, global, online and in-person – we appear to have an abundance! Our community is made up of almost as many kind of folk as there are in the world. We find ourselves in more and more places every day. We watch and encourage one another through our online forums and videos across cultures and oceans. But each year, with increasing options and locations, we have the added opportunity to convene, collaborate, and commune at a major event tailored exactly to our interests and needs. It’s one of the fastest routes into head-on community involvement we have. Whether you’ve never been to one, have trouble justifying the expense, or are a bit intimidated by the whole idea, here are my top five reasons for attending a hoop gathering (or starting to plan one in your community!) this year.
1. Scared you won’t fit in? Fogetaboutit. Your sense of community-in-hooping in all its forms will be strengthened beyond what you might imagine. I couldn’t have been more nervous when I arrived at my very first hoop gathering last year. “What if I’m the odd-hooper-out in groups of old friends? What if I can’t hack the three hour-long workshops – what if they’re all work and no play? What if they’re all in bikinis while I’m left to double up my sports bras (Ha!)? I already feel perfectly safe AND involved in the community from behind my computer screen – is this really necessary?” Please … I hadn’t even slapped on a name tag before I had to steady myself from the happy greetings and excited hugs. What I knew as familiar online avatars sprung to life, transforming themselves into smiling faces, and real-life, human, hooping miracles right before my eyes. By the end of the weekend, I counted myself as having at least 50 more friends than I did when it began. And I’d at least exchanged conversations, understanding glances, or hoop time with a hundred more. When I came home, my online hooping life was an even more meaningful and personal experience.
2. Worried that hoop conferences are just for showboats, pros, and groupies? Nope. Hoop gatherings are carefully conceived, planned, and designed for YOU. The whole idea behind these things is to meet, greet, eat, hoop, live and learn together for three days or more. That’s what everybody’s there for. Even the pros. Even the ones with a whole closet of super-cool and funky clothes. Within minutes, it becomes clear that they’re all regular people with arms and legs and eyeballs. Yeah, you’ll see some hooper-worship … and you’ll get some, too! But mostly, when the hooping’s on, everybody’s concentrated on what they’re doing and their own process.
3. Think it’s too expensive? When you break it down, hoop gatherings are a whole lot of bang for your buck. At first glance, registration costs for these events can seem like a lot. To some, they can appear insurmountable. But even the most practical and frugal will find dollars-and-sense value upon closer look. Let’s conservatively imagine a three-day gathering. Go ahead and write down what you’d be willing to pay for at least 6 mind-blowing, two-hour workshops. (Keep in mind that you’re paying for the instructor, the event planning, the space, even the port-a-potties). Now add what you’d pay for 9 well-rounded meals. Figure up the cost of lodging for 3 nights. And then, if it’s even possible, account for the value of rubbing shoulders with your community and benefiting from the big-guns in hooping being all in one place at the same time. I’m willing to wager that the cost of the hoop gathering comes in far under the figure you’ve got in front of you. You can save on travel by making the road trip with a friend (or three!) or cashing in your frequent flyer miles. And you can make a hoop gathering happen simply by planning for it. Put the event on your birthday and Christmas lists for family, and put aside a certain amount every month towards your goal. Some might even offer a discount if you volunteer to be of service for part of it.
4. The Hooper’s Mall and The Hooper’s Ball. While you’re soaking in all the support from your fellow hoopers, you get the opportunity to give some back to the inventive and creative folk there. When you walk past the vendors at a hoop gathering, you’ll find it hard to keep your jaw from dropping. It’s as though someone has assembled all the stuff you’ve been drooling over in one place. You can see it, touch it, try it … and there’s no shipping! But even if all the fantastic handcrafted or designed-by-hoopers gear isn’t in your budget, nothing’s to stop you from ooohing and aaahhing, and letting them know how cool their crack is. This ain’t WalMart … hoop-ware is another of the ways that our community expresses its talent and ingenuity.
As the conference draws to a close, there’s likely to be some form of party. And if you’ve not yet been to one, you may have to really amp up your imagination here. Because not only does everyone look slam-tastic, they are ALL hooping. Step back, and take it all in. You are among your own kind, your kin, sharing the one thing that has brought you all together, moving en masse as though you were hundreds of dervish spirits occupying one body. Sure, I’m letting my prose run away with itself here. But seriously, it’s awesome.
5. Hoop gatherings are a gift to yourself that keeps on giving. I did a lot last year. But attending my first hoop gathering was the single biggest and best thing that I did for myself, my business, and my hooping. The workshops were so astounding and uplifting, I can practically replay them in my head whenever I want or need to. As a whole, the gathering informed my art and my teaching, exponentially increased my appreciation for the hoopers that build and participate in our active community, and catapulted me out of my personal hooping routines.
Perhaps most importantly, I was reminded in live and vivid color of the power of collaboration. As someone who often feels it won’t be done right unless I do it myself, that’s always a welcome lesson. Two hoop-heads are better than one. Three hoop-heads are even mightier. I’ll bend my no-cliché rule this once to say, it is truly amazing what we can do when we come together.
Whether you join in a hooping gathering this year or not, I hope you’ll feel moved to amp up your physical presence and involvement in your local community. Knock heads and hoops with the hoopers closest to you … you never know what could happen! Maybe your very own hoop gathering. They all started small, and they all had their first year.
I’ll see you at one or more of these this year. I’ll be the overly-friendly redhead whose name tag says, “I’m Lara. And I really want to meet you!”
2011 HOOP GATHERINGS
• European Hula Hoop Convention: July 29-31, Regensburg, Germany
• Florida Flow Fest: November 4-6, Florida Location TBA
• Hoop Convergence: May 12-16, Carrboro, North Carolina, USA
• Hoopfest New England: July 7-10, Brunswick, Maine, USA
• Hoop Path 5: June 23-26, Carrboro, North Carolina, USA
• Hoop Village: Apr 22-24, Ojai, California, USA
• Hoopy Happening: Dates TBA, Sydney, Australia
• Northwest Hoop Gathering: Apr 29-May 1, Bend, Oregon, USA
• Madskillz Vancouver: June 24-26, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
• Sacred Circularities: Mar 12-20, Bali, Indonesia
• Spin Matsuri: April 28 – May 5, Tokyo, Japan
• Spin Summit: July 17-21, Winter Park, Colorado, USA
• SW Hoop 2011: Nov 11-13 and Nov 18-20, Bristol, England, UK
• UK Hoop Gathering: (4 weekends to choose from) June 24- August 14, England, UK
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.