Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thoughts from Camp

Every August for the last five years I have traveled to a special place up in the redwoods for one or two blissful, exciting, relaxing, challenging, scary, inspiring, cell phone-free, gourmet food-fueled, love-filled weeks at California Brazil Camp.  This is not a comprehensive summary, but just a couple of stories about some of my favorite parts.

Brazilian music and culture have become such an important part of my life that the majority of my time and energy is spent studying the music, learning the language, making time to go to camp every year, and saving money to travel to Brazil.  Imagine then getting to spend two weeks with a group of people who feel so strongly about that very same music and culture, that they have the exact same priorities.  These people, most of whom I only see once a year plus on facebook, have become family.  When I rolled into camp I was greeted by a few of them with "welcome home."  I receive more smiles and hugs walking around that place in one morning than I receive in a month elsewhere.  That strong sense of community creates an atmosphere of positivity and encouragement at camp.  I constantly hear people complimenting each other and allowing themselves to receive compliments in return.  That atmosphere gives me confidence to express myself and take risks without the fear of making a mistake.  It's a great environment for self-improvement and self-empowerment.

My attempts at pacing myself at camp are futile against the all-night jams and early morning yoga.  There is this moment of clarity that comes when I am utterly exhausted.  It’s the point past the breaking point where I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.  I’m running on fumes and my brain is over capacity having been memorizing complex rhythms, dance choreography, chord changes, and new friends’ names.  I am overwhelmed with inspiration, energy, adrenaline, and love, but I’m physically and mentally exhausted.  The overwhelm transforms into a kind of meditation where I’m only able to be in the current moment.  In Derek’s Self-Breema class he always emphasizes “single moment, single activity.”  It’s there, in that moment, that my brain shuts off and my body takes over.  I rely on intuition and muscle memory.  I can let go and dance and dance and dance.  And everything inside me breaks apart and leaves me open to listen and receive: receive inspiration, answers, blessings, messages, ideas.  It’s that moment when I push past that I am reduced to my pure self.  All I need to do is create the space to allow myself to hear.

I’m still very much in a place of uncertainty regarding my life and its direction.  What better spiritual place to contemplate my life than in the middle of 2,000 year old redwood trees?  Mestre Nininho shared a lot about the spiritual energy he felt up there, and that the trees contained the spiritual energy of our past selves.  Also with me for the trip was my necklace of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of destruction, creation, and change, who I felt was also appropriate for this chapter of my life full of major endings and beginnings.  One night I dropped her through the slats in the floor of our tent structure.  After I lost a series of coat hangers down there, Brian said the only way I'd get it back was to get under there.  I crawled through dirt and spiders (!) to retrieve her which felt terrifying but also somehow symbolic.  Also symbolic was in Mark's Bata Ketu class when he taught a rhythm for Olokun.  Olokun is the orixa of the mystery at the bottom of the ocean and in ourselves, which served as powerful imagery for me.  So much is a mystery right now.  While I didn’t return from camp with it all figured out, I am filled with inspiration and ideas.  The loudest message I kept hearing over and over again is that I’m where I’m meant to be and I’m on the right path.  What a comfort in a time of uncertainty to feel at peace with the unknown.

The best advice I received at camp was from Greg when I asked him how he manages to do so many things in his life and do them well.  He said "do what you love and do it a lot."  What a perfect sentiment to summarize not only the Brazil Camp experience but how to take it home with us throughout the year.  So that's what I will keep doing, do what I love and let it guide me to the next step.  And keep creating space so I can keep listening.


  1. Yes!!! I love this. Thank you Stephanie.

  2. Stefanie, love the blog. Keep it up. My motto to live by is: do what you love with enough motivation, spirit, and blind determination and you won't have to do anything else. It usually involves taking chances that are uncertain and frightening.

  3. Bravo Stefanie,

    like many who returned from CBC, we had to embrace life the way we left it...yet I steal 5 minutes to 10 minutes everyday before the client gets in and rehearse the Brazil Time (the cool CD they sold at the store) so I don't forget.
    My Duo Partner Robert Kyle (who I believe you know) did a little show-and-tell after our concert last night in Pasadena, 2 pandeiros, ---and the people in the audience loved it gets passed on everytime we stay true to what we love in the manner a child loves.

  4. Uau Stef,
    You really transcribed what's being part of the California Brazil Camp.
    Lindo text, beautiful energy and beautiful person you are.

    All the best;)