I release so I can recieve

I manifested a sexy man to make out with at Envision Festival. But he ended up being a jerk. Then I learned to be more specific in what I ask the Universe for.

Let’s just call him “dream body.” That’s what I told my friends, “I met my dream body.” As soon as I saw him I knew Continue reading

The Death and Evolution of My First Love or My Changing Perspective on Music Festivals

***This post has been published in a slightly different version at elephant journal! Read the article here.

There’s something you need to know about me: I love music festivals. I love folk, world, bluegrass, indie rock, psychedelic dance, weekend-long, week-long, camping, non-camping, you-name-it music festivals. But recently this love felt different. I attended one of my favorite music festivals and didn’t feel the all-encompassing, “oh my goodness my life is altered,” riding on the waves of bliss kind of love and pure joy that I usually feel. Instead Envision Festival left me feeling jaded, sad and heartbroken in ways that I couldn’t quite understand.

Envision Festival is a four day camping, music, yoga, art and movement festival in the Costa Rican jungle alongside a beach. Over the past few years there’s been an emergence in music festivals that are centered on conscious community and transformation, Envision included. Throughout the day at Envision there are multiple yoga classes, permaculture discussions and healing workshops. At night and through the sunrise hours there’s live music (mostly electronic).

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab's sunrise set.

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab’s sunrise set.

This year I went to Envision straight from living at the Mystical Yoga Farm, an intentional yoga community in Guatemala. It was my first time leaving the lake and leaving the farm for more than 24 hours. It was also my first time in a long time being around thousands of intoxicated people.

Many magic moments happened at Envision. Nahko and Medicine for the People’s set fueled me with energy for days. Ayla Nereo inspired me to not waste time in following my heart. Suzanne Sterling’s yoga class brought me to my knees in prayer, love and tears.

Suzanne Sterling's class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Losing ourselves to ecstatic dance in Suzanne Sterling’s class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Running into the ocean naked revitalized and invigorated me. I made connections with people who helped me to see with clarity. I connected with my tribe of festival friends from around the world. I overheard a toddler call to their friend over and over, “I love you so much. Bye. I love you so much. Bye.” These words echoed throughout the night.

Many beautiful things happened. But I didn’t feel cradled in community. I didn’t feel supported. I connected with people when I needed, but those were mostly fleeting connections. I was slightly overwhelmed by all that was going on. I saw the warped connections that occur once it gets dark and people start taking too many drugs. Especially since I’ve been living at a drug and alcohol free community, I felt ultra-heightened to these bizarre hours of the night and day when shit just gets weird.

I didn’t feel jaded because of my personal experience (more on that in a different blog post), but overall something seemed missing. I came to realize that what I really felt was a lack in overall intention. The Envision program reads, “Together we are here to celebrate our spirits, heal our bodies and minds, and revitalize our souls…” Yes, I do think Envision provides a space for that, but it also provides a space for people to partake in and possibly abuse drugs and alcohol. Depending on the music festival, drug and alcohol use are going to occur, but I think there can be a stronger balance with drug use and wellness. Even though there were yoga classes and there was a healing area, I’d like to see a greater space devoted to wellness and connection at these types of events.

After Envision I spontaneously landed at Tribal Alliance Retreat, a visionary leadership immersion in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. Once Tribal Alliance was in full swing I realized why Envision left me jaded and upset.

At its core Tribal Alliance was a journey into the heart of community, sacred celebration, regenerative culture, rites of passage, empowerment, and embodying the vision of a new Earth. All this and more at an alcohol-free event with limited participant space and three vegetarian meals daily led to an intimate, inspirational gathering. At Tribal Alliance people were united in their intentions to be vulnerable, to go deeper, to build and maintain lasting connections and to remain centered on ultimate wellness and love. Focused on the more engaging, learning, grounding aspects of community, Tribal Alliance bridged the gap between music festival culture and tangible aspects of health, wellness and permaculture.

Where music festivals provide a plethora of options to partake in at all times, Tribal Alliance provided one workshop at a time. Where music festivals provide multiple stages with multiple musicians playing at once, Tribal Alliance provided one stage with one band playing at a time; there were no overlapping sets. Where music festivals provide a space to be pulled in a million directions, Tribal Alliance provided a space to be grounded and to be a part of community.

Another important aspect to Tribal Alliance: the food. The event included three vegetarian meals a day, and we all ate together. Eating with others and connecting over a meal is a beautiful bonding experience. I love being able to share the joy and fortune of food with others. There was live music every night, but it ended at 1 a.m. It was easier to rest when I didn’t have to worry about missing any late night music or have the remnants of late night partyers stomp through the campground.

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

I still think there’s a place and need for music festivals and I always will, but my personal needs are changing. As my life becomes more focused on health and wellness, I find myself questioning how nourishment fits into being at a four day party without getting the best rest or eating properly. As I become more myself, my values are changing. I value getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, looking people in the eyes, mindfully eating, learning who people really are, practicing yoga daily, connecting to people without the influence of drugs or alcohol and carrying an awareness while remaining grounded.

The more immersed I am in community, the more I realize how important a support group is. The more time I dedicate to yoga and health, the better I feel in every way. I want to live life as intentionally and mindfully as possible without fogging my perspective with drugs or alcohol. But at the same time, I love live music. I love dancing all night until past sunrise. I love the magic that can only occur at music festivals. How does all this balance? Where does it fit? At Tribal Alliance I felt the balance. I experienced how nourishing, healthy transformational events are possible.

Right after Envision I realized I was slightly heartbroken because at Envision a piece of myself died, a piece of myself who I’ve been for years, a piece of myself that was so intertwined with my identity. At Tribal Alliance I realized it didn’t die; it evolved.

So will I always be in love with music festivals? I can’t say for sure, but I know I’ll always love them in a special way. They’ve shaped my life tremendously. I’m constantly growing more into the person I want to be, more into the person I am. I’m recognizing what I really want out of life and how events like Tribal Alliance combine my interests in the most positive, meaningful way. I want to bring concepts and ideas from events like Tribal Alliance into music festival culture. I want to attend and be a part of events where ultimate wellness involving mind, body, spirit, land and community is the root.

This is my last blog post under the name ‘aprilsfestivals.’ I’m keeping the blog, but I’m ready to make the official transition to Smile and Be Free. Smile and Be Free represents the evolution of my love of music festivals and my ideas on life.

What are your thoughts on this emergence of “transformational” music festivals? Where do healing, yoga and permaculture fit into music festivals? How can we foster lasting positive change at these events? How do you remain present, grounded and mindful at music festivals when the chaos spins all around you?

Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you very much.

Feeling the spirit of love and friendship all around at the Mystical Yoga Farm, I decided to indulge this Valentine’s Day. As I was growing up I enjoyed having a special someone be my Valentine. This year I’ve decided that that special someone is me.

Leela, a lovely Karma Yogi who inspires me every day, led a poetry and yoga workshop last week. It was my day off so I missed the workshop, but Leela gave me the prompt: write an ecstatic love poem to yourself. Be as mushy and loving as possible. Read Leela’s gorgeous love poem at her blog Zen BootCamp.

Love and acceptance are broader themes to personal subjects I’m working on constantly. Loving myself is an important part of that process. Happy Valentine’s Day to the people I love very much, including myself. Please share your self-love poems in the comments section. Click to read my poem and be swept away in self-love

What Life is Really Like at the Mystical Yoga Farm

Most days at the Mystical Yoga Farm feel like a dream. I feel like I’ve been here for an eternity. I’ve been here for 32 days.

I’m living in a lush roadless forest without a town name. I’m surrounded by the growth of green plants, flowers, vegetables and fruits. Sunlight dances across the lake almost every day. I stare at volcanoes every single day.

Loose leaf tea is served all day along with fresh fruit. Most of the food is cooked in coconut oil. The salad greens are picked fresh from our garden for every meal. A gong is rung when meals are ready. We sing songs to bless the food before we eat. I eat hand rolled freshly made tortillas a few times a week. We om before and after everything. Click to fall in love with life at the farm

Montezuma: Be a light unto yourself

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful for these objects and people that keep coming into my life at exactly the right moment. I’m thankful that I’ve had full days to do nothing but read. I’m thankful to have the power of both no-thingness and alone-ness. I’m thankful for all the lessons I continue to learn along the way.

One of my first days walking the beach in Montezuma I found a semilla ojo de buey, eye of the bull seed, washed along shore.

semillas

These seeds drift all over the world, getting picked up and tossed around by the ocean’s pull, but are native to the tropics. Sometimes they spend years drifting along. They are good luck charms with healing properties that help develop strength to face change. I read somewhere that,  “When we know we have to deal with something that requires great effort, this seed gives us all the energy we need.” I instantly felt like I was meant to find the semilla ojo de buey.

In my previous post about Montezuma, I wrote about mine and Elizabeth’s conversation about the people who are drawn to Montezuma. At the end of our conversation she said, “And then I wonder if people look at me and think these things. I’m lost, but I’m purposefully lost.”

Montezuma is the perfect place to be purposefully lost.

While in Montezuma I spent full days doing nothing but reading. I spent a lot of time alone contemplating what it means to be purposefully lost, and I found out more about myself.

Afterall part of the reason I also came to Costa Rica was to be purposefully lost. I was drained from constant years of schooling, taking 16 to 20 credits every semester while working two jobs and maintaining internships, scheduling hangout dates with friends between lunch breaks, going from one relationship to the next, and feeling like my life was turning into a never-ending to-do-list. Since being in Costa Rica for the past four months, I’ve definitely learned a lot about slowing down, being comfortable with doing nothing, and finding the courage to be alone, sometimes with only the roar of the ocean drifting into my ears.

After revealing a few things about myself to my roommate Nolita, she told me I needed to speak my truth more. “You are a powerful being when you speak your truth.” But what does that mean exactly? She said that the Universe keeps putting certain patterns into my life so I can realize that they are happening and deal with them. She told me to shift perspective and be in gratitude for things that happened instead of picking them apart. There’s that gratitude, once again showing up in some form of my travels.

Speaking your truth means standing your ground, not giving up, not giving in, and sticking up for what you believe in no matter what.

The next day at Devaya Yoga I picked a card from a deck similar to a Tarot card and it said,

“Growth comes not by fighting with what it wrong, but by loving what is right.”

Instead of looking at a situation and thinking about everything that went wrong, remember what went right. What went wrong antagonizes you. While this can act as a driving force of change for you to be better, you need to also focus on what you know is already true in your heart, what is already right for you. If the reason for why things went wrong has been a similar pattern in your life, then be in gratitude that that pattern presented itself once again, and move forward with what is right. This can also be applied to people and relationships. Learn to love what is right about someone instead of picking apart their flaws. Of course all of this is easier said than done, but another lesson in growth is good for all of us.

03

A few days later at the 03 Institute I picked some Osho Zen Tarot cards. Lately anxiety kicked into my brain as I thought about the future and life post-Costa Rica. The present moment slipped away as my mind constantly wandered to the nonexistent, the future. Before I knew what the Osho Zen Tarot cards were, I picked a card from the top of the deck to look at it. It was completely black and said in white type, “No-thingness.” I thought that was a little weird so I put it back and walked away. Later I shuffled the deck and picked the card, “Alone-ness.” I laughed, showed Nolita and she said, “There’s another one in there that seems bad too,” and showed me “No-thingness.” I couldn’t get away from this card.

No-thingness says, “Relax into the nothingness of not knowing. Treasure each empty moment of the experience. Something sacred is about to be born. The nothing is not just nothing, it is all. It is vibrant with all possibilities. It is potential, absolute potential. It is unmanifest yet, but it contains all. Why in the middle become so worried, anxious, why create such despair? Nothingness to nothingness is the whole journey.”

It’s okay to not know what comes next. In Western culture we are taught the opposite. We are pushed into college straight from high school and then pushed into careers and family life. We often have plans far in advance. We have family and friends who nag us about what we’re doing with our lives. The future looms over us. What we forget to realize is that, it’s okay not to know. It’s okay to let the Universe unfold exactly as it should. It’s okay to not be in control of every little thing that happens to you. It’s okay to let go. Everything, even the nothingness, is part of the experience.

Which goes hand in hand with Alone-ness:

“When there is no significant other in our lives we can either be lonely, or enjoy the freedom that solitude brings. We can either feel isolated and bitter, or celebrate the fact that our vision is strong enough even to survive the powerful human need for the approval of family, friends or colleagues. Take responsibility for the choice you have made. The humble figure in this card glows with a light that emanates from within. Gautam Buddha said, ‘Be a light unto yourself.’ Ultimately each of us must develop within ourselves the capacity to make our way through the darkness without any companions, maps or guides. There is a tremendous difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.”

Remember that being alone is okay. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. Remember that each one of us carries a light inside of us. We can access this light, this power, anytime.

Learn to feel joy in solitude. Learn to know the thoughts that flutter through your mind when no one else is there to influence them. Learn to know how you want to spend the day when the choice is completely up to you. Learn to feel comfortable with nothing but your presence and your breath on your skin. Learn to sit in silence and observe. Then you’ll see how beautiful everything can truly be.

anamaya

Sunrise Sessions and Lessons in Perspective

Attitude of Gratitude:

I´m thankful that my friend at the ranch lent me her computer so I could create this blog post. I´m thankful for the merengue and bachata lessons the ranch workers have been giving me. I´m thankful that my friends just showed me Jamiroquai and now I can´t stop dancing. Read my previous blog post here to learn about my attitude of gratitude.

One of my favorite things about being at the ranch has been waking up daily to hike a steep, narrow incline for about 30 minutes to watch the sunrise along the volcano. Witnessing the first breaths of morning, the first movements of the day. The newborn light in the sky. The chirps of noise. The way these stretches of light and sound slice into the stillness, while remaining tranquil, harmonious. This beginning always fills me with inspiration, with belief that anything is possible, with gratitude for being alive.

Everyday is a beginning, a clean slate. It´s one thing to say this and realize it when you wake up, but it´s another to witness the beauty of it enfolding right before your eyes. This daily dose of sunrise fueled me with invigoration and joy for the rest of the day.

sunrise

Brad, another volunteer who became my sunshine and dear friend at the ranch, and I made hiking the mirador for sunrise part of our daily routine. Sometimes we´d watch in awe and silence. Sometimes we´d greet the day by dancing and drumming new beginning into life.  Other days we´d just talk about travel, society, open-mindedness, and being in love with life.

sunrise

sunrise

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from,

One of our favorite trees to watch the sunrise from.

At the top of the mirador on a clear day you can see Lago Arenal, Volcano Arenal, Cerro Chato, the volcanoes on the other side of the lake, the town of El Castillo and the ranch, nestled within a valley sheltered by mountains. Most of the buildings at the ranch melt into the landscape, hidden by the natural green roofs. You can see the outline of the ranch, a few cars in the reception´s driveway, the Caño Negro Rio.

Not until I was off the ranch, gazing at it from above, did I realize the significance of its location. As I stood on top of the mountain looking at the place I´d been living for the past two weeks, a deep sense of appreciation warmed me. Here I had been living in the middle of nowhere, in a location undetectable by the untrained eye, with volcanoes, forests and bodies of water as my neighbors. And yet I had gotten so accustomed to the routine of buffet meals, walking the same path to la casona, and weeding in the garden that I forgot to appreciate where I was. Even in a beautiful lush ranch, the mundane details managed to sneak into my life and steer me away from what´s important. Looking at the ranch from above, my perspective totally changed. Sometimes you need to leave a place in order to appreciate it.

The ranch from above

The ranch from above covered in shadow

The first time this perspective shift happened to me was my first semester of college, 3,000 miles from home. All the sudden everything I despised about my hometown in New Jersey came rushing back to me in the form of nostalgia. When living at my childhood home post-college, I drove around neighboring towns and entered antique shops I´d never set foot in, shops that had been there my whole life. Sometimes we need a perspective wake-up call to rise to the beauty of every moment, to stop and look around, and to discover what´s already there, right in front of our eyes.

And just for fun, here are Brad and I´s sunrise photos from a pajama sunrise session:

sunrise jump

Greet each day with a smile. And a jump, if possible!

sunrise jumpsunrise jumpsunrise yoga

The day I left Santa Teresa

It was one of those days where you don´t know whether to laugh or cry at the end of it. So I shook my head and did a little bit of both as I thanked the universe for everything that had been happening to me.

“Lord I´ve got to keep on moving,” Bob Marley sung over the speakers at Casa Zen as I was signing my farewell in the hostel´s guestbook. Even though I´d met some wonderful people and learned a lot, Bob Marley reaffirmed what I already knew, it was time to move on. I hugged my friends goodbye and sadness rushed through me. Goodbye. Why did my friend, Adrian, a yoga instructor at Casa Zen, say goodbye as he hugged me? Goodbye was too definite for me. After he left, I realized I should have said ´see you later´ or ´nos vemos.´

To get to La Fortuna from Santa Teresa, I had another long day of travel ahead of me. Buses and ferries and taxis, oh my. I took the 6 a.m. bus outside of Casa Zen to Cobano. There I transferred to the San Jose bus and told the driver I was getting off at San Ramon. Because they oversold the bus I had to stand the whole ride to Paquera, where the ferry was.

When I got off the bus at the pier, I was shocked to see what was in front of me. Adrian, my friend from Casa Zen, was standing there with a huge smile and open arms. “It´s a coincidence,” he said. He happened to be taking the same ferry.

We sat together and talked the whole ride. We spent the first part of the ride making animal noises and the second part of the ride talking about death.

“Are you afraid of death?” He asked me out of nowhere. He told me that all fears stem from a fear of death. To be aware of death is to be aware of life. To live for each moment with the constant knowledge that death can happen at any moment. From that we started talking about attachments and letting go. He said that we´re like monkeys reaching for vines. We grab on to one, use it to help us on our way and then we let go. So we must be attached for a certain amount of time; we cannot be completely unnattached. We are attached to our bodies, and through our bodies we are able to express our minds. Without our bodies, we would just be floating in consciousness. In this way we cannot become deattached.

As I spoke about letting go, Adrian stopped me. “You are referring to letting go in the past tense. We have to let go in the present too. This moment that we´re having already passed.”

He showed me that letting go means letting go of small moments and not just the big moments. Letting go means being able to release every single moment. We agreed how important it is to try to let go of something everyday and then we had to let go of our shared ferry ride. We each went separate ways, but we didn´t say goodbye. We learned to say see you later.

On the next bus ride my mind was still reeling over my conversation with Adrian. I boarded the same bus after the ferry and then got dropped off in San Ramon. From there I had to take a taxi to the next bus station. While I was on my final bus to La Fortuna, a boy with long dreadlocks sat next to me. We found out that where I was going was down the street from where he was going. At the bus station, my ride wasn´t there so without my knowledge Juan phoned Rancho Margot to arrange a ride for me. I was so grateful for his kindness.

After I ate my first meal of the day at a soda, which I was so pleased to find was 500 colones cheaper than anywhere Id been, I walked back to the bus station. A man with gray-tinted facial hair, green eyes, a cowboy hat with feathers attached and a long, thin braid approached me and asked, “Are you coming or going? Let me help you with your bags.”

He lead me around the corner to Red Lava, an information center. He told me he´s on morphine for bone cancer and mentioned the book that´s being written about his life. At Red Lava, a tico teenager with short dreadlocks and lots of friendship bracelets brought my bags upstairs and hid them in a dark corner as he reassured me in perfect English, “Don´t worry, these are incredibly safe.”

Jesus, the cowboy known to the locals as Tomas, asked me if I wanted anything to drink. When I told him I didn´t have money, he said, “Ah some women never change. Come on sweetheart, I´ll buy you something.”

On the way to the supermarket he mentioned the book again and said, “Maybe you´re too young to know about the revolution in Cuba and my father. Did you look at my name on the card? I glanced at the business card he handed me. Jesus Ernesto Guevara. “Che was my father.”

For the rest of the afternoon while I waited for my ride, Che´s so-called son took me around town. He pointed out the best foods and wines to buy and ones not to buy. He picked me flowers and named each one.  He waved at everyone on the street, knew them by name and introduced me to them. Throughout the afternoon he kept making vague references to friends of his like John Lennon and Bob Dylan and referencing dirty jobs he had to do to protect people, jobs like the ones in the movie The Dirty Dozen. He said if I ever needed him, show up in town, mention his name to someone and he´d be there within minutes. When I told him my name he smiled like he knew it all along. “I knew I´d seen those eyes before. My first wife´s name was April. She was both an angel and the devil´s wife.” He said he felt like he was back in the ’70s.

Back at Red Lava I swung in a chair hammock as I continued to wait for my ride. Tomas continued to bring me flowers and he even brought me a baby rabbit. When my ride showed up, Eric, the tico teenager who worked at Red Lava, took off his neckalace that I mentioned I liked and handed it to me. “A present for you. Welcome to La Fortuna.”

When I arrived at Rancho Margot, the first volunteer I met was William. Within five minutes we discovered that he lived on the same floor as my best friend did their first semester of college at University of Nevada Reno.

“There are no such things as coincidences,” he said. No such thing as a coincidence.