Wrapped Around Me
September 15, 2014
My experience with Bad Unkl Sista—Anastazia, Goyo, their work space, and the incredible individuals who have participated in trainings and explorations—is something beyond words, beyond feelings. I have had the honor of participating in several of the “Studies in Stillness” trainings over the last year, each of which has been unique and radically moving. In June of 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-day intensive with Bad Unkl Sista. What follows is what I can, in my best words, recount of an intensely textural, aural, vulnerable, and beautiful experience:
When we walked into the door, the sights and smells of the space greeted me as they had each weekend before. Wafting aromas that pulled down gently on my nostrils and softly wiped my eye lids. The sounds of soft feet moving about on the floor, deep hums and voice-like percussions in the music; sounds that penetrated deeply into my mind and body, wrapping me in a blanket of peace and anticipation.
We were asked to find each other’s bodies, without the use of our eyes. Slowly fumbling and feeling, we spread towards each other from across the room, becoming one interconnected bulb emanating from the floors, the walls, the air. That feeling of all particles, all bodies, all parts of the same being, was something of such intense human beauty. This sentiment would hang from my neck and shoulders for the duration of the weekend.
We engaged in a variety of exercises, explorations, and experiments in witnessing our selves and ourselves. Each person was like a priceless painting; a work of true, unbridled creative energy. What each person brought from their heart, their own history and consciousness, slowly and lovingly moved over each day through journeys that were deeply personal, undeniably connected and raw.
In my own study, I saw the golem of my struggles: self-worth, hurt, and pain throughout my life in a more tangible way than ever before. This was frightening and exhilarating. For the first time, I did more than wish this entity away; I sat with it, nurtured it, had a conversation, a fight, a reconciliation, and a silent embrace that could only be described as real, true compassion. This was a part of me, my life, my experience, and all those who had experienced me, that was allowed to exist in way it never had.
The people and the space we all created in those three days made that experience a reality, and the healing and wonder surrounding it will be with me, always.
There is something incredible about waking up with the grey, dusty light of the early morning, after deeply intense experiences of one’s self, while sharing so many things with others who shared just as much. All these beings sitting about in a warm room, sipping coffee and tea, writing thoughtfully in notebooks and stretching limbs, floating piano keys softly raising the brightness of the light. What I was so incredibly thankful to witness was, to me, everything that is beautiful about the human experience. Right there. The incredible warmth and love emanating from that space could have wrapped the world over and over.
While this certainly does not capture everything about that weekend, what Bad Unkl Sista creates in every piece, installation, training, and work, it does attempt to take a glimpse at what I was enveloped by: serenity, magic, and a feeling on all levels of and beyond, the human experience.
Ryan Bealer is a social worker, poet, musician, and graduate student in the school of social welfare at the University of California Berkeley.