Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Build a Bridge Over Your Generation Gap

Black Light Flashback
Prompted by a notion that popped in about three months ago, I stepped into a neighborhood church , the Church in Ocean Park.  Built in the 1920s, it is a bastion of alternative cultural and progressive political events.  In the entry way there was a group of five holding hands and praying; a tall, long haired young man and four young women dressed in yoga togs.  Instant hit of calm and peace.  

Going upstairs, the glow of the black light highlighting a fluorescent paint mandala summoned old memories of concerts, darkened apartments, and head shops. The yoga class was finishing, with a room of about 100 lying in savasana (corpse pose) deep in meditation.  Mats rolled and stowed and then we were ready for the dance, the Sacred Dance.  

Christo Pellani & crew
On the pulpit festooned in Indian fabrics and prayer beads was the eclectic band of violin, didgeridoo, djembe' drums, guitars, and bass.  Unfolding slowly and meditatively, the crowd of all ages and genders, but mostly twenty and thirty something women, awoke.  The free and unconditional dance of individual souls merged into a diaphanous body of twirling, jumping, gyrating oneness.  Flowing sarongs covered whole back tattoos, yoga pants, skintight tank tops, and hand woven vests.   Hairstyles ranged from dreadlocks to waist length blonde to bald to gray to colored spikes.

Looking at the crowd it could have been 1970 and not 2012 except for one crucial element.  In this youth culture there was a sprinkling of older people.  Individuals like myself, original hippies who were in such places in the 70s.  Back in the day the old generation would have nothing to do with us and vice versa.  This segment of the youth today have taken the torch handed to them by the Boomer generation (yoga, meditation, free dance) and improved on it with a powerful infusion of globalization.  On stage the performers were a mix of ethnicities and played a variety of world beats, melodies, and chants.  Above all the apparent differences, there was a celebration of oneness.  

Walking into that setting with my 1970 ideas, I feared that they might not be cool with an old guy in their party.  Nothing of the kind.  By the second thirty minute song I was jumping and contact dancing with the best of them.  In keeping with the theme of unity in the many, a giant circle was formed to close the night and each dancer said their name.  Not anonymous consumers of a performance but a members of a group--the Sacred Dance. 

1970 or 2012?
Some great lessons were learned that night: 1) The generation gap has bridges, 2)  The seeds of love we planted have bloomed, 3) Movement liberates the spirit. 

The Sacred Dance had been on my  to do list for months. Each month I had something pressing that kept me away; the undone taxes due next week, the emails unanswered, the dishes not washed, the Lakers on TV. I always had a case for staying home--the default position for most people in the evening, especially those over fifty.  Breaking out of that inertia and into active life took effort.  Without effort I would have been sitting like a stiff on the couch with a glass of champagne or two.  

In this inner dance is the paradox of the spiritual path.  Often spiritual teachers suggest to surrendering to spirit/ god/ etc.  Usually this is interpreted as going with the flow, not making stuff happen.  It is a balancing act of trusting the inner call and making right effort.  Buddhists call it skillful means or in more colloquial language 'knowing when to hold'em and when to fold'em.'

That night I tasted the gift of these times.  The kids are alright.  The generations are not at war.  I know many people in their twenties and thirties that are fun to be with and enjoy my company.  One fellow, Evan, at one of my 'offices' (coffee shops) considers me a peer even though he is thirty years my junior.  He said, it is what is in the heart that matters, not age.  This young man  has many tribal tattoos, piercings, and earns his living on his computer.  Definitely not a Boomer. 

Renewing, reviving, refiring, and reinventing post-work Boomers can learn a lot from the young people today.  Go to a yoga festival, attend Earth Day celebrations, join Facebook groups of mixed ages, and get out and do something new and different.  Don't be afraid to stand out, you won't.  With any luck you may be considered a wise elder.  Regardless enjoy the seeds we planted then and know the fruit today is sweet.  You'll probably find it rather familiar.

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