[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen believes we all have our 100% natural groove.]
by Philo Hagen
On my way to Hoopcamp 2012 this year I was in kind of a big rush, roaring up Interstate 5 in my 21-year-old Volvo hoping to make it to the redwoods in time to pitch my tent before nightfall. I had someplace I needed to be and in my big city hurry to get there, I soon found myself miles off course. Navigating a confusing highway construction area incorrectly I left Interstate 5, racing off on Highway 14 in the wrong direction. Eventually realizing that nothing looked familiar I consulted my iPhone and noted a road that could take me back to the 5 called the Pearblossom Highway. When I saw a sign for it I quickly made my exit, scurrying along even faster to get back where I needed to be and make up for lost time. But when I landed in Littlerock, population 1,377, I knew that I’d done it again. Between my ADHD, a lack of patience, my not being grounded and my reliance upon gadgets rather than guts, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere – or at least anywhere I wanted to be.
Parking the car by the old water tower I took a deep breath, then I took another. I put the technology away and looked up at the sky. Starting the engine I changed course, listened within and immediately got a “that feels right” recognition. When I arrived at Pema Osel Ling, a Buddhist center located on 104 acres of stunning redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains, our home once again for Hoopcamp this year, it was already night time and I was hours later then I’d hoped. And yet, given that it was still the night before camp would officially begin everything was so peaceful. For the first time I truly saw what a magical and harmonious place it is when we aren’t there. Pitching my tent as the waxing moon rose to give me light, a deer appeared on the trail. It nodded as if to say, “Welcome. You are right on time”, and as it wandered off into the trees I realized my Hoopcamp experience had already begun several hours before on in Littlerock. It was about simply breathing, being still and listening to my inner voice. It was about rolling with the flow, rather than against it. It was about letting go.
With my home for the week set up in the woods I wandered about Pema Osel Ling at night. I listened to the crickets, the sound of water and soon found Hoopcamp organizer Heather Troy hard at work preparing a place for all of us. The amount of effort that goes into putting the largest annual gathering for hoopers together in a place this size is truly heroic. The Temple Stage far below is a vast open field, while Te Fire Stage mid-way up the mount offers spectacular views. The Water Stage while only a step above balances the fire energy while Hoopcamp Headquarters on top of the hill offered a place for our community to gather. For those that haven’t been to Pema Osel Ling the grounds are so large and built within the natural mountain framework that I often wonder if I lose weight every year at Hoopcamp from all the hooping or from simply hiking up and down the hills throughout the day.
The lights in the trees, the colorfully lit structures, Hoopcamp 2012 proved to be a very special event and with the addition of an extra full day for all of us this year it also brought with it a true sense of retreat. No longer was there this feeling, at least for me, that I needed to do it all, nor could I. The class curriculum this year was momentous with so many instructors offering a plethora of classes and workshops and discussions, many held only once, that I doubt there is a singular clear picture of the hoopcamp experience this year with so many having a different one every hour.
Hoopcamp 2012 kicked off for the fifth year in a row with a special hoop dance class led by Baxter of The Hoop Path. Gazing across the Temple Stage field as he spoke I spotted hoopers from Australia, Japan, Sweden, the UK, hoopers from across North America, all of whom who had made their way to this very special place to hoop, and to fellowship with other hoopers from around the world. After dinner and with very little structure for our first night at camp I popped into the Roundhouse for a sound healing by Jahsah Ananda, then spent some time hooping with friends into the wee small hours. The nights at Hoopcamp can be pretty spectacular.
Thursday brought an action-packed schedule for all of us with classes ranging from Bootcamp Hoop Fitness and HoopYogini to Drills That Drill and Breaks, Reversals and Paddles. The World Hoop Day silent auction officially opened with all kinds of great prizes for hoopers to bid on for the cause while vendors galore offered an array of truly awesome things for hoopers to shop for. In fact after dinner there was a Hoop Vendor fashion show with a parade of amazing outfits and items making their way across the dining area. And speaking of dining, I must say that all of the meals this year were delicious. After a day chock full of hooping classes most of us reveled in the evening to our own hoop groove, hooping it up even more while working on things we may have learned in classes throughout the day.
On Friday the value of our extra day really began to pay off when I awoke to realize we were only midway through this incredible experience. With classes on the schedule I was wishing I could attend, I needed to focus instead on preparing for my own class called “Legs! Legs! Legs!” My nervousness about teaching was soon replaced with a calm when I let go of it having to be anything in particular and the enthusiastic turnout was exciting for me, given that so much of my hooping life happens online, rather than face to face throughout the year. Together we spent an all-too-short hour focusing on our hoop dance below the belt. Another lower body class on Friday was Funky Feet, while other classes focused on partner hooping, on body transitions, body rolls and so much more. On Friday night The Renegade Show proved to be quite hilarious and it was there that the official song of Hoopcamp 2012 emerged in a performance by Kandice Korves-Kaus and Megan “The Cat”.
Hosted by Rainbow Michael, Shellie White Light and Patricia Louac – a woman we haven’t seen since her appearance at Hoopcamp 2008, the Renegade Show proved to be ridiculously awesome. And later that night many of us turned on our glow hoops for a late night walk through the forest to see and hoop at the the Stupas with Merlin.
Saturday opened with more yoga in the morning and other hooping classes to awaken our chi. Other classes got us core hooping, working on fancy footwork, head hooping and learning how to prevent hooping injuries. There were Nia classes, Zumba classes and so many other classes it was a challenge to even keep track of them all. And on Saturday night, after an incredible dinner together, we gathered at the Fire Stage for the annual Hoopers Performance Showcase. Honored to be the host for the festivities again this year it wasn’t long before I realized we had way more awesome performers than we had slots available. “Let go” I heard a voice from within say so I set up a lottery that resulted in quite an incredible lineup of amazing favorites and surprises. Under the light of the full moon surrounded by the redwoods with act after act bringing their own unique and amazing hoop talents to the stage, I was struck by the perfection of it all as it unfolded. It was a truly magical night I will always remember.
Jelena Mitra Thiessen performs. She lives in Karstad, Sweden.
GroovinMeGzz performs. She lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Jo Mondy performs. She lives in Brighton, England, UK.
Shakti Sunfire performs. She lives in San Francisco, California, USA.
Maryève Gaudreau performs. She lives in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
Shredder performs. She lives in San Francisco, California, USA.
The program on Sunday was quite light with many hitting the road early, but Shredder’s “Courage To Shine” workshop really got me thinking – even if I was too tired to physically do what she had in mind. And Casandra Tanenbaum’s closing class on Hoop Dance Flow and the Five Wisdom Energies proved to be an awesome classroom experience of her masters thesis, which you might remember from her Hooping.org column about it – and to hear it all at Pema Osel Ling surrounded by the symbols and imagery of the five energies, it was a wonderful way to wrap things up.
As I exchanged hugs with hoopers as they departed throughout the day, many of whom were on their way to UnScruz, I sat down in the Pema Osel Ling information booth to take advantage of their often sporadic wi-fi in an attempt to upload the many photos I had taken over the weekend before hitting the road. I wasn’t in any hurry to get home and as I sat leisurely working suddenly day turned into night and my crowd of beloved hoopers became increasingly sporadic until I found myself once again alone. On the information area bulletin board there’s a list of expectations for residents and visitors alike, a list of Buddhist rules of conduct they all honor at Pema Osel Ling, and one kept standing out to me in the light from my laptop – to value life and to refrain from killing anything at all, even an insect and as I walked to the restroom a deer appeared upon my trail. It nodded at me again before taking off down the hill and I thought about how lucky the residents of Pema Osel Ling are to live in such a magically enchanted place and how lucky we all were to spend time together there again.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003.