As I sit here still recovering from Backwoods, I feel called to share what’s on my soul before the memories fade. Let me start by saying that I had extremely high expectations for this festival. Why? Let me give a little back-story.
Jacob and I started attending festivals early in our relationship 15 years ago, but Wakarusa was our first camping festival together. Wakarusa happened on Mulberry Mountain, which is the new venue for Backwoods. Wakarusa always happened in June. We spent 3 magical seasons on that mountain. We made some awesome memories and that’s where I fell in love with festival-life. There was some corporate drama that killed Wakarusa. When I found out that Backwoods was moving up there, I knew I had to be a part of it. I’ve literally been visualizing myself teaching yoga on Mulberry Mountain since last summer and know in my heart I manifested that reality through mere expectation, alignment and allowing it to unfold.
However, I had not contemplated the reality of attending a festival on Mulberry Mountain (in the Arkansas Ozarks) in April. Most of the trip was cold and wet. It rained so much, our campground was literally a swamp with puddles of water covering the earth by the end of Saturday. Yes, Jacob and I experienced “Swamparusa” years ago…but rain in June is way different than rain in April. Rain in June is often refreshing. This rain chilled us to the bone.
That said, it was a great festival. It was significantly smaller than Wakarusa, but it now has room to grow. There were 3 main stages and electronic dance music was bumping from 3 pm to approximately 6 am daily. There were multiple yoga instructors on the line-up – and my class was at 2 pm Friday-Sunday. The cool part about this schedule was, it gave me ample time to enjoy the night-time festivities and still have time to sleep throughout the morning. Actually, one positive aspect of the cool climate was the possibility for sleep. When the sun rises in June, it’s extremely challenging to get good sleep when you cook in your tent. However, on the flip side…just being real…festivals are always my and Jacob’s opportunity to reconnect as a couple. We usually spend all our time in our tent naked. Not this time! Instead of getting in sexy mode for the shows, I became a snow bunny. I piled on as many layers as I could muster and dreaded taking them off at night. Don’t get me wrong, intimacy happened…but it was tame compared to our usual.
Now let’s talk about the music and my experience…
We had never seen Figure or Snails live. They played the first night before Griz and we got down hard! We danced our asses off! Actually, Figure and Snails are a bit dark and grungy. Throughout my conscious dance training I’ve learned that angst, tension, anger, fear, rage, all the dark emotions leave the body through the 3rd eye. That’s why we cry when we’re sad and that’s where head-banging came from. During Figure I dropped in. I felt the rigidness of the music and I allowed all my pent-up stress to release through the dance. I thrashed, I moshed, I popped my hips and my heart, I banged my head. And then I heard my own voice in my heart. I remembered a guided dance meditation I facilitated. We were “shaking off” all of our unwanted habits and patterns…until we shook so hard, we started to make peace with the friction and allowed it to smooth itself out. And before I knew it, on Mulberry Mountain my dance shifted. I noticed that most of my fellow dancers where still thrashing as I was finding a smooth and soothing flow. I imagined myself smoothing out the energy for the collective. Massaging the energetic field for all my new friends. And in that moment, I felt grateful – grateful that my suffering is so little that I can literally shift it within a few songs. I no longer felt the need for release and that was liberating! Within those first hours of dancing, I got what I needed and knew it was time to shift my intention to service.
However, within in my state of cathartic gratitude, I witnessed all the people around me still amongst their release. And then it hit me…
Yes, most people at music festivals are on some sort of substance – mostly illegal. However, when and if you research the history of most substances you’ll find that many them were all produced by a pharmaceutical company at some point in history with an intention of medicinal usage. Cocaine was originally a medicine. So was opium. Hell, MDMA (the active component in ecstasy) was created for marriage therapy in the early 80s. Now, I’m not advocating the usage of illegal substances. However, a lot of the stigma behind the substances are purely their legality alone. The collective unconscious believes the hype we’ve been fed about them being evil and that the war on drugs is necessary. (Side note: Whatever we push against, pushes back. What we focus on grows. Drug usage has grown since the “War on Drugs” began…just like terrorism has expanded since we declared war on terrorism.)
So what if…
What if every drug was legalized and decriminalized? What if the stigma about using substances to destress and release was let go of? What if they were looked at as medicines? Every medicine can be abused. So why discriminate? The intention behind the user is what makes the difference. Yes, most people use substances to numb but they can also be used to intentionally expierence reality from a different perspective and even elevate experiences. My son takes a form of Adderall to help his performance at school. That’s what it was made for. So, why should a couple get deemed as criminals for enjoying a substance that helps them communicate more clearly and lovingly while boosting their sensuality and desire for each other?
So, what if we educated our youth about the reality of substances, the truth about what they do inside your body? The good. The bad. The ugly. How they are used as medicines and the tragedies they produce when abused. What if we let go of scaring people into sobriety for control? What if we let go of condemning this culture?
I asked myself these questions in the middle of dancing, because what I saw was beauty. As a society we are bombarded with a shit-ton of images and information that is challenging to process at the rate that it’s thrown at us. And so thus, we store more in our bodies than they can handle. And as I danced I witnessed my community releasing and processing it all. Releasing in a safe and contained manor. And then I asked myself, “What if this was not only deemed ok by our society…but encouraged?”
We would have less gun violence in our country, because there would be less pent up rage!
Call me crazy, but that’s the realization I came to.
Can you reach those expanded states of consciousness and release without substance? Yes! Absolutely! I’ve experienced them personally through seated meditation, breath practices and conscious dance. However, I first found them through substance. I think a lot of people do. However, many people never go down that road because of the condemnation they fear of being “bad” or called “a looser.” And then some build up so much tension they eventually explode in a violent rage.
Here’s the thing….
Doing substances on a regular basis is not sustainable. The human body is awesome, but it’s not made to continuously detoxify the body to that degree. That’s what evolution and growth are all about. Often substance experimentation is a stepping stone towards mental shifts that spur evolution and the desire thereof.
And THAT is why yoga is so important at music festivals!
People who attend music festivals are often seeking something. Seeking escape. Release. Community. Acceptance. Freedom of expression. Everyone comes in at a different stage. But the combination of the music, the movement and the deep breathing that dance requires initiates an opening of the psyche and soul. The practice of yoga is a natural catalyst to this unfolding. People who practice yoga regularly realize this already and appreciate the opportunity to practice and stretch their bodies. However, many festival attendees have no clue about the healing properties of yoga and may not even realize that they are subconsciously searching for something. However, what I know for sure…these people are like fertile soil…ready for seeds of new possibilities to be planted. Many of these attendees wander into yoga class looking to step even more out of their comfort zone intentionally or simply want a release from tight muscles.
But it doesn’t matter…
Yoga assimilates and smooths out the edges that the festival substances leave behind. And thus, I went in with a conscious intention to empower everyone who joined me with the awareness of their breath. I reminded them that their breath is their life force, their power source, their connection to infinite wisdom and their means to reconnect with themselves. For when we are grounded in our breath, it doesn’t matter what life throws at us, what the substance stirs within or the music unrattles. When we remember our breath, we remember our pathway home. And isn’t home what we’re all really looking for anyway? Deep down, we all just want to feel like we belong somewhere.
And so we return to the festival. We return to the music. We keep coming home to remember what it’s like to be a human BEING, not a human lost in the doing of life.
Yes, the rest of the music was great. Griz brought a nice lightness at the end of Friday night. The rain during Space Jesus on Saturday night was cold but looked like glitter in the air. It was honestly fucking beautiful. The Floozies killed it on Sunday.
So over all…
The music was great. The people were open. The weather sucked. However, as several told me on Monday morning that yoga with me was a highlight to their festival, I feel a deeper confirmation today that THIS is EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be doing with my energy. This community feels hungry for what I’m inspired to teach, and I can’t deny my desire to feed them!
Dear Backwoods producers and powers that be, It was a great festival, but please consider moving it to May or June next year. Mulberry Mountain will be more pleasant when the weather is warmer.
Until next time…