On Saturday night Reality Sandwich had its first major event, Evolver: Wake Up and Dream, produced in partnership with Jivamukti Yoga School. I’m RS’s Community Director, and now two days later I have nearly caught up on sleep and regained my voice. I want to express my thanks. I’d also like to share some of the intentions, inspiration, collaborations, problems, and magic that went into producing what was a remarkable event – in some ways staggeringly successful, while in others challenging and instructive. 750 people were there; another 100-200 couldn’t get inside.
That part sucked. We expected half as many people, and we were blown away – in more ways than one.
In my introduction before the dialogue between Daniel Pinchbeck and Sharon Gannon, I mentioned how the idea for the Evolver series first came to me (it came to others around the same time, but of course in different ways). I was bummed out one day when paying close attention to what you see on the streets of NYC: offices, shops, bars, restaurants, and banks. They are all based on a banal, lonely consumerism and I seriously questioned if this was the best humankind could do after 10,000 or so years of civilization. I had already experienced a different way of living and connecting at Burning Man, but that only lasted one week a year, and too often had nothing to do with my daily NYC reality. But that night, as coincidence would have it, I was sitting alone in the beautiful little café at Jivamukti Yoga School, and it suddenly struck me that these guys were already doing it – they were building a different kind of place, where we can gather and transform. And they were doing it right here, in the financial capital of the world, NYC.
But it wasn’t just Jivamukti. Places like CoSM, Grandspace, East West Books, and Centerpoint were already doing it, not to mention all the art collectives, spiritual centers, Burning Man theme camps, musicians, performers, and healers who were constantly reinventing their relationship with the city. I started to imagine an emerging nouveau Alexandria. With this in mind, and mimicking the alchemical mix of content that you find on Reality Sandwich, a small and dedicated group of volunteer organizers came together to work on an event that would bring these sometimes disparate scenes under one roof, with a call out to inspire their fellow New Yorkers to break out of the confines of our usual “reality fabric” to “wake up and dream.”
In the Reality Sandwich tradition, this was to be an unusual and
extremely ambitious experiment with only minimal resources. Expanding well outside our comfort zones, we had a humbling understanding that we were going to make some mistakes and learn an awful lot, especially for the first event. We were also concerned about turnout. Who was willing to come to a nonalcoholic event where you had to take off your shoes on a Saturday night in Manhattan? But strangely, our turnout created the opposite problem. The large numbers were absolutely inspiring, but completely unexpected and overwhelmed our small crew. Fortunately Parashakti and her gatekeepers came to the rescue, saging people and cheering them up after a long wait in a long line. That was a theme that ran through the entire organizing process, into the night – people constantly appearing at just the right moment to perform their magic.
The doors opened at 8:00 and by 9:30 we were at capacity. We never could’ve imagined that 750-plus people would turned out so early for our first Evolver. The house ticket process was slow and unfortunately we filled up and had to turn many people away at the door. Next time we’ll smooth this out by encouraging advanced ticketing and a quicker process at the door to get everyone in. We learned from this, no question about it, and it won’t happen again. I apologize to those who couldn’t join in the fun and promise we’ll have lots of great events for them to participate in during the coming months.
We all go to panel discussions, and we all go to parties. The intention behind Evolver is to start the night with stimulating information and thoughtful engagement, and then to have the rest of the evening blossom into celebration/dance/discovery/revelry. We also want to bring a touch of transformational intention to the evening. To that end, we started the night with David Life’s wonderful slithering through the crowd in a full body lizard costume (“The Lizard King” as he called it), coming center stage to lead us through a poignant, funny, and energizing opening body prayer. It was both touching and fun, and a great way to kick things off.
On this website, we make a deliberate effort to bring together different communities into a shared space, to make new and (hopefully) surprising connections. Our intention is to also have events that unite distinct communities in the off-line world. For Wake Up and Dream we created a night that would bridge Burners and the NYC yoga world. Jivamukti has been an enthusiastic, creative partner that has been inspiring to work with. Given that intention, the somewhat divisive nature of the discussion was disappointing. Daniel and Sharon are good friends and the back and forth was playful sparring, but apparently not everyone in the jammed room realized this. And it was unfortunate that the conversation veered away from the topic that everyone came to see.
As someone pointed out in a comment on the site, this was actually a simple structural problem. We had all been planning so much for the rest of the evening — with its many components and events — that we didn’t consider the value of a host/moderator, who could’ve kept the conversation on point. From this, we learned another major lesson of the night. Also, next time we will flesh out the questions and dialogue more, emphasizing how to bridge across our communities. Our tribes share a lot, but we also have some learning to do about each other – and we need to deliberately reach out and speak in ways that can be properly heard by every person there. In addition, in the future we’ll change the room layout to accommodate larger numbers, so everyone can see. Believe me, all of this has been duly noted for the next event.
The talk was only the first part of a long night of wonderful
happenings. Six hours still laid ahead. I’ve read some comments on the site that truly saddened me, by people who traveled a long way to be at the event, but who were disappointed by the discussion and didn’t stay for the rest of the evening. Those comments shook all of us at RS, because they were unexpected. My feeling is that by leaving early, those people missed something rare and wonderful.
It was an exciting and electric night. Globesonic, Haj, and Hercules spun some amazing beats on the dance floor. The café filled as participants watched fabulous performances by sitar player Dawoud and Sufi poet Asad, not to mention some truly funky astrology by Courtney Weber, fresh freestyle from Moon, music from Jessica Star and Martin Dockery’s dreamy storytelling. The classroom was one of the biggest surprises for me. I had expected ten, maybe fifteen people, to check out these consciousness-raising activities in a party setting. Who knew the room would be swelling with transformational revelers enjoying Kiana Love’s Chakracize, Jay Michaelson’s and the Kirtan Rabbi’s ecstatic drumming, and Rodger Kamenetz’s Dream Revelation?
There was Kostume Kult painting up smiling faces in the hallway, a lighted forest to meander through, strange blinky art shapes, and newly altered wardrobes courtesy of Peripheral Media. There were also the magical little secrets — those who wrote or drew out their imaginations on the gaggle of dream geese, the mysterious giggles coming out of the fabulously built and performed Masked Meal, not too mention the portentous crystal ball of Cassie Thorton’s Future Incorporated.
People drifted around the party with a magical gait and gleaming smiles. “A light vibe,” “good energy,” “a gentle space,” were some of the terms I overheard to describe the night. “This is the biggest hallway party I’ve ever seen.” More than a few people remarked to me that they kept running into friends they didn’t expect to see, that there were many surprising re-connections. The space was full well past 1:00 a.m., and we didn’t close up until after 4:00 with many of the participants hanging out afterward to help us clean up – a big thank you to all of you who did that! The continued energy amazed many of us, particularly since no alcohol was served. One participant, who favored the hallway and the classroom, said to me, “Look at everyone, they don’t need drinks or DJs – they’re all just happy to hang out and meet.”
And for me that’s when it finally came true. Our vision was actually happening. We’d overcome the obstacles and growing pains of the unsuspected turnout and everyone was now resonating on a different level. Synchronicities started to happen, connections were being made. We were waking up and dreaming. This was only the beginning.
As many of you know, organizing any event isn’t easy, especially when you’re building it from the ground up without many resources. The experiments we try in order to shift consciousness are going to raise challenges. There’s going to be risk, elation, and tough lessons along the way, especially for those who step forward to try to make change happen. We at Reality Sandwich will try to learn from our mistakes, and do our best to keep moving through the uncomfortable moments, the ones where true transformation can occur. I invite all of you out there to join us in this. Create your own events. Make things happen. You’ll succeed, you’ll fail – you may do both at the same time. No matter what, you’ll learn. And who knows, maybe together we can all make a difference.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us.