A "Blue Mind" for the New Year

The combination of interior  and  exterior beauty makes South Shore Cultural Center a unique space for the event

The combination of interior and exterior beauty makes South Shore Cultural Center a unique space for the event

With the start of another new year, the Chicago Parks Foundation returns to the iconic South Shore Cultural Center for our fourth annual sound meditation event in the parks. ”Dream In Your New Year” invites participants to set an intention for 2019 during a 90-minute restorative sound journey led by local group GongLab.

Below, ceremony leader Shu Shubat shares her concept behind this year’s theme, “Blue Mind,” which pays tribute to the recalibrating presence of natural water, a particularly powerful focus given South Shore’s proximity to Lake Michigan.


Honoring the Space

As I began thinking about putting this year’s program together, I wanted to find a way to make the meditation a little more site specific… to pay tribute to the fact that this majestic South Shore Cultural Center ballroom, with its towering 30-foot windows and crystal chandeliers, is perched right on the edge of Lake Michigan. Since our annual event takes place in January, it may not have occurred to attendees that the water is only steps away, just beyond the wintery landscape of trees outside.

South Shore Beach

South Shore Beach

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The “Blue Mind” State

Being near the water literally and metaphorically allows us to relax into a state of flow that’s becoming known as “Blue Mind.” Many of us instinctively gravitate to the shoreline when in need of clarity and serenity, but research has now shown that our brains actually undergo a physical change when we spend time near the water. While observing or interacting with water, the brain shifts into a contemplative state becoming more calm, more focused, and more deeply at rest.

In addition to the benefits to our physical well-being that proximity to water can create, I find that the image of a lake has much to offer us as a guiding symbol and can hold within it a powerful teaching on the process of containment.

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The Sound

GongLab has an objective of bringing the sound and rhythm of the lake into the ballroom with us this year. We visited the site to record the sounds of the water on location, and we’ve been experimenting with layering those sounds under the meditation and the reverberating gong.

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Cultivating OUR “CONTAINER”

The pace of modern life, along with the over-stimulation induced by our computer screens and electronic devices, can leave us in a state of chronic anxiety and toxic stress. The more stressed or emotionally blocked we are, the more difficult it becomes to contain intense emotions. We lose our ability to manage our more challenging feelings, and we sometimes find that our inner container has shrunk or fractured to the extent that we are no longer able to hold and enjoy even our most positive experiences without distracting ourselves and disconnecting.

While observing or interacting with water, the brain shifts into a contemplative state becoming more calm, more focused, and more deeply at rest.

Over time, a daily meditation practice - that repeated act of taking a moment to return to our center - begins to develop and expand an emotional container much the same way that a lake is created as water begins to flow and collect into a hollow in the landscape.

We soon find that we’re not getting thrown off by negative triggers as easily and are able to handle a wider range of emotion without getting overwhelmed. A shift in perception occurs as our nervous system is strengthened, and we become more like the container of the lake itself rather than the ever changing and extreme rhythms on the surface of the water.

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Looking Forward

Walking along the shore while making our recordings of the water, I thought about how powerfully Lake Michigan models this idea of containment. It’s a lake of such enormous vitality and capacity. I tried to imagine stretching myself to its edges as far as I could see so that I could sense what it might be like to hold that amount of energy - and something shifted and began to buzz with aliveness on the level of the body.


About Shu Shubat & GONGLAB

A Chicago native, Shu developed an early interest in the mind-body connection as a means of self care during her teen years. She is a certified instructor of the Realization Process (body centered meditation), a graduate of the Clinical Training Program in Analytic Psychology at Chicago’s Jung Institute, and the former Artistic Director of the renowned Jellyeye Drum Theater, which she co-founded in 1992 with Oliver Seay.

Since their artistic collaboration in the performing arts, Shu and Oliver have been researching an eclectic blend of subjects related to the earliest roots of theatre - dreams myths, folktale, ceremonial instruments, ritual, trance states and the psycho-acoustic properties of bells, bowls, metallophones, drums, and gongs. Their current project, GongLab, is a nomadic laboratory dedicated to community ritual and healing. GongLab  draws on a “palette of energetic sound,” including a 38 inch Earth Gong, vocals, and a combination of ceremonial and orchestral instruments to guide participants through a healing meditation journey.

Dream In Your New Year 2019 Sunday, January 20thTICKETS • #DreamIn2019

Michaele StrauchComment