Event provides relaxing practice, holistic health education
December 12, 2010 7:29 AM
The lights dimmed as a ring of Christmas lights illuminated a white-walled classroom filled with blankets, candles, massage chairs and drums. Fourteen people sat cross-legged inside the lights and quietly chatted, did yoga stretches, and used Hula Hoops.
The soft ding of three chimes silenced the small group, and Music and Community Night had finally begun.
"Let's introduce ourselves, and share one highlight of this semester," said group leader Katie Herron, a member of the student organization OrangeBand, which hosted the event on Dec. 8 in HSS 306.
"The event serves the purpose of bringing people together and encouraging them to be comfortable with each other," said Usha Gubbala, 20, president of OrangeBand.
Every semester OrangeBand, which promotes meaningful dialogue between peers and teaches the power of diverse perspectives, hosts different events and brings speakers in to discuss the core values of their beliefs: "mind, body, spirit."
The night started with strangers sharing their highlights of the semester with each other, breaking into smaller groups to detail what they learned, and then describing the discussion in a brief phrase to the entire group.
Bongos, a West African djembe - or a hand drum - and a bass drum kept the flow of the event and led to an open-mic scenario, where people shared personal short stories, poems, songs, and meaningful passages of inspiration or wanderings of the mind.
Guests munched on a free assortment of food as they listened to the unique expressions of their fellow participants.
"We're connecting with each other, holding a space for people to come together and connect on a deeper level instead of, 'hey, you're in my class,'" Gubbala said.
The tranquility of the night prevailed over the chaos that the end of the semester has brought to many students. The rhythm of the drums and some traditional a cappella Hindi songs provided the soundtrack to the evening.
Chris Gonnerman, 20, a sophomore Spanish major, came for the first time with his roommate who had been once before.
"This type of gathering is outside of what a lot of people do in their daily lives," Gonnerman said. "I'd come again. It's nice, I'm trying not to stress about finals."
Herron provided free massages on the floor and in the massage chairs as the group circle dispersed around the room and Marlee Shore, 23, a junior communications major, sang Erykah Badu and The Roots songs.
A frequent attendee of events hosted by the holistic health network, Shore said the welcoming environment is what brings her back.
"The thing I like most about it is the people are just really conscientious," Shore said. "They're open-minded and show up in the world. It feels safe to be yourself."
Past events that OrangeBand has put on have included an election debate and a "Healing the Stressed Out Body and Managing Stress" discussion that took place during this semester's midterms.
The Holistic Health Learning Center, where OrangeBand meets weekly, has been a part of SF State since 1995, and the Institute for Holistic Health Studies has offered a minor in holistic health since 1981.
"Our three words: mind, body, spirit. It's about understanding our relationships to culture, nature and communities; moving away from the individual paradigm," Gubbala said. "We strive to build a community based on meaningful conversation about all topics we ponder."
At the end of the night, when guests asked when the next event would be, Herron answered the question with her calm demeanor.
"Whenever the vibe is right."
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