by Ran Baron – It’s Friday, still in the am, I’m heading towards Brooklyn to be picked up by Alokananda and head with a few other super-souls towards an experience which will forever change our lives. The grand opening of Galiana, a new sanctuary/retreat center at the heart of Upstate New York. Galiana is the love child of Saraswati, Luba Evans, a Goddess, a lover, a friend, a mother and a free spirit dedicated to the evolution of consciousness.
We drove by nature’s fierce beauty, leaving the concrete monuments of New York City behind us, with no expectations, unprepared for the bliss to come. We arrived early, being blown away by Galiana’s wealth of natural and divine surroundings. We were all waking around the house, taking in its unique features, the amazing decorations, the wondrous Goddess tent that was set up outside, the Lotus Dome that seems to have organically grown out of the ground. Sri Kala and Jesse found their spot on the porch, and suddenly out of nowhere, the beating heart of Sri Kala’s Mridunga drum and the harmonious cry of Jesse’s harmonium was all one could hear. Invoking Ram’s name, calling in the divine love affair, allowing our dance to begin. One by one, everyone started trickling in, as if drawn by a flute player’s tune. The melody grew thick, Ari Moshe brought in a guitar, Masha was assuming Krishna’s pose, playing her flute, one after the other, as if sitting around a ceremonial fire, we all just sang, beaming with excitement for the amazing events to follow.
As presenters and staff, we were assigned to our posts – registration, kitchen, vibe-control, camp-finders, car parkers… the works. Our guests, our future family to be, started arriving. Camps were set, cars were driven away, rules for mandatory smiling were given and we’re off: it’s magic time.
Friday evening was a slow flow of hesitant yet powerful souls, slowly opening up to a new vibe, allowing their hearts to melt and crack open, allowing their guards to slowly fade away. We were dancing together, eating together, Ekayani was leading us through her depths in chanting and dance. It’s late. We’re all going to sleep; tomorrow is going to be an explosive day.
I think its 7 am. Ron is holding a Kundalini Yoga class in the main hall. I’m looking through a window overlooking the room. It is so beautiful; the room is filled with aspiring Yogis and Yoginis, lifting their arms into the air, breathing their fire into the room. It’s almost electrifying… There are sounds of laughter coming from all directions in the house and kitchen; it feels like a flock of hummingbirds singing their hearts delight.
Following the Kundalini class is a Chi Kung class taught by the legendary Alokananda, which I can’t describe as I’m sharing a talk about the origins of Sacred Sexuality using Shanti and other unexpecting participants for demonstrating what Daoist tantric practices are all about. Or explaining why in a different era, Japanese men would go to brothels to take a break from their over-stimulated sex lives…
Next on our schedule are two heart opening events, A women’s circle – ‘Embracing Self as Beloved’ and a masculinity circle – ‘Keeping Our Balls As We Open Our Hearts’ taught by the almighty Thor look-a-like Bruce Lyon. I feel that for me, on a personal note, this event marked the beginning of my own personal journey for this weekend. Bruce was shining as he was expressing and talking about the conflicts us men have when confronted by the feminine and masculine forces in our lives, our connection to our dads, to being born to a woman, yet being expected to “tough it out” and turn into a young fierce cub by age 4 and to a roaring lion when we turn 21… needless to say this workshop was phenomenal, Bruce held us gripping to our seats as he was traveling with his fluent words inwards and out over the landscape of awakening our masculinity. Since we were holding this event in the basement floor, I can say that from the amount of laughter and roars we could hear coming from the women circle above us, I’m sure it was as phenomenal for them as it was for us.
Lunch was a special treat! And I don’t mean just the amazingness of the kitchen crew, and the yumminess of lunch itself… We were guided to be fed blindfolded by one another, an ancient tantric practice aimed toward building trust and heightening awareness to the senses. I was again watching this miraculous event happening through the small window above, relishing and taking in all the moans and cries of delight that were coming from the room. What started as a simple feast, turned into a flowing harmony of taste and sound, trust and sharing.
It started raining outside, and as our next couple of events begun I was wandering around the house, observing the magic of Galiana happening in front of my eyes. The distant strangers of yesterday were now the cohesive family of today. Everywhere you looked people were laughing, hugging, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. Somehow, as if a magic wand has sprinkled its pixie dust over the entire house, Galiana turned into a safe haven, a trusting, nurturing environment where each and every step you took was confronted with abundance, love, laugher and infinite hugs. It is as if you just knew, at the bottom of your heart, ‘yes, this is what I’ve been waiting for’, this acknowledgement, this assurance that truly, love is the way.
After dinner we were all assembled at the main hall. Some as audience, some as musicians, and some as actors to what would turn out to be the most amazing theater enactment of the divine romance. `When the Gods Were Laughing` is a play written by Luba Evans and performed by her ‘Tantra Without Borders’ group of Boston. The divine love affair between Shiva and his long lost Shakti. I can’t even begin to express how magical this performance was. It was hilarious, colorful, sexy but above all it was filled with wisdom and bliss.
So just a little bit about the cast, Ron Ortenberg was playing Shiva, and his performance was so professional and so inspiring, I can’t think of a more trustworthy Shiva, funny, witty yet masculine and full of power. Luba as Saraswati, the wise, all seeing mother of creation, shining her light and basically just being herself… no acting needed. The all mighty, yet hilarious Ganesh was played by Bob Johnson, there are literally no words to describe his performance, it was hard to tell if this is an actor or was it Ganesh himself gracing us with his presence. Svetlana Yuzhelevskaya playing Shakti, portrayed as a lost soul, turning prostitute after Shiva has decided to leave her behind to tend to the dishes while he meditates on the absolute… what can I possibly say, Sveta is as an amazing actor as she is a powerful and intense goddess.
Kali was played by the beautiful Denise Cunningham, just wow… frightening… fiery, destructive and seductive, flowing and powerful. The all-knowing Brahma was enacted by the magical Misha Zolotnitski, with his blue beard and beautiful costume Misha was hilarious (on and off stage that is…). The all-powerful Indra was amazingly enacted by Max Pugach. I actually think Indra looks like Max, and I can only hope he’s as powerful, as funny and as adorable. The fair Parvati was played by the stunning Volga Bo, who was dressed as a Goddess and expressed her Parvati nature as no one else possibly could. The shining Lakshmi came to life through the amazing Nelly Mentor who made her acting feel almost as if flowers will be falling from the skies while she spoke. We had more supporting characters, Ella, Marc and Nadia as the frightening Asuras or Demons, though they were almost too cute to be frightening… and last but not least the supporting cast of musicians which made the performance almost too delicious, so amazing gratitude goes to the great Sri Kala, Mridunga drum and vocals, the pure hearted Jesse, Harmonium and vocals, Masha Evens playing her divine flute, Bhakti – Brecken Swartz, percussion and vocals and last but not least, the unbelievable, stunning Yogi Adam Bauer – Bass guitar and heart melting vocals.
After the show, as if our hearts could take any more nectar, orchestrated by Luba was the most stunning, beautiful, creative, harmonious Grand Opening ceremony. One after the other, the tribes were called to the main stage. The elements, the Fairies, the Jews, the Hindus, the Gypsies, the Egyptians, the Muslims… paired by choice of heart, and each sharing in their own unique way, whether it be song, dance, sound, puja or presence, each shared their gifts, showering their love to the Galiana family, blessing this new space with their wisdom and infinite love.
It’s late… we are supposed to go to sleep. Yet a mysterious pull and an endless flow of energy keeps us awake. We are staying in the main hall. Dancing, lying around on the floor in what looks like a cuddle party where you don’t know where your arm begins and your neighbor’s foot ends… Adam is playing on the Harmonium – our hearts are filled to the brim.
I’m looking at Luba, smiling as she sits there by one of the cuddle pools, so humble, so happy and so loving. It’s decided… we’re holding a Goddess puja. Adam sits by me chanting Durga’s names, filling the room with his devotion and love. Luba sits in front of us quietly as the puja elements are being prepared, gathered and brought in. The purification mantras have been said, the bell is ringing as the puja begins. Incense, fire, flowers and lemon grass, all offered to her divine self, bringing out her deepest beauty, her Sacred Goddess self. I look into Luba’s eyes, and all I can see are depths of oceanic bliss. Durga, Kali, Ma Ma Ma… Adam is chanting, Luba is holding the space with her motherly love, all that is left is to embrace this magical moment, the expression of love is almost overwhelming, knowing her feminine power is pervading each and every part of Galiana, transforming its core into a blossoming source of bliss.
So much is going on, Thai massage and Tree Hugging, guests running to and from the river, all happy, loving, hugging, you see groups of people hugging each other almost everywhere you look. More activities are taking place, Tantra and Kundalini, Tango and dance, an outrageously funny comic spiritual cabaret and so much more…
For me, for us, it’s time to leave Galiana behind. We have to leave early and head back to New York City. Alokananda, Samantha, Erica, Melody and I are attempting to get to our car. ‘One more hug’, ‘hey don’t leave yet’, ‘can I get a photo with you guys’ – it’s almost impossible to leave. The bonds that were formed, the family ties, the heart felt connections, we want to stay…
We start our drive back, and as we did on our way here, we start our sharing circle. Tears of joy, happiness, and explosive emotions of recognition are flowing from all directions. As Erica puts it, she’s now Erica 2.0… we’ve all been transformed, opened, vulnerable sensitive lions and lionesses, hearts enthused and filled to the brim, Galiana – we will return.
First and foremost, again all gratitude, love and infinite hugs go to Luba Evans for holding the space and creating the sacred haven we all call Galiana.
Credits for photography on this page go exclusively to Jesse Johnson and her loving vision.
Cast of `When the Gods Were Laughing` – Luba Evans (Saraswati), Ron Ortenberg (Shiva), Bob Johnson (Ganesh), Svetlana Yuzhelevskaya (Shakti), Denise Cunningham (Kali), Misha Zolotnitski (Brahma), Max Pugach (Indra), Volga Bo (Parvati), Nelly Mentor (Lakshmi), Ella Awakening-Truth, Marc Israel and Nadia Shi (Asuras), Mary Fries (Production and Love), Bhakti Brecken Chinn Swartz (percussion/vocals), Masha Evans (divine flute), Sri Kala (Mridanga/vocals), Jesse Johnson (Harmonium/vocals), Ran Baron (Kartals/vocals), Adam Bauer (bass guitar/vocals). And I’m sure many others I’ve forgot to mention (please… forgive me).
There were many people making this weekend such a glorious success and such an auspicious event yet I can’t list them all here as it would be 30-40 names and page long praising and recognitions, but maybe just one which holds us all, Ella Awakening Truth, or Baby-G is she is called by Luba, holding the fort, supporting, nourishing, making sure everything falls into place.
Presenters, Staff and Family
Alokananda – http://www.alokananda.com
Brynn Bishop – http://www.meetup.com/tantric-intimacy
Bruce and Shakara Lyon – http://www.simplysacred.com
CC Treadway – http://www.treadwayesoteric.com
Charlie Gonzalez and the Green Bus – http://www.greenbustour.com
Ekayani Chamberlin – http://www.ekayaniandthetomglidespace.com
Jesse Johnson – http://bhaktishaktij.blogspot.com
Melody Kiersz – http://www.nakedwellness.com
Ran Baron – Original location of this article can be found here on Ran’s blog: http://www.soulbound.me/reviews/galiana-grand-opening
Ricardo Frota – http://web.me.com/carolynbessette/Site/Welcome.html
Richard Anton Diaz – http://www.sacredsexroundup.com
Samantha Ibarguen – http://www.igwell.com
Sri Kala – http://srikala-itj.blogspot.com
Trinity Schmidt – http://www.thedancingpath.com