Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 10 Transformational Summer Festivals for 2012

Last summer I had the opportunity to discover a remarkably inspiring and consciousness-shifting cultural phenomenon that has been evolving for over fifteen years, yet has remained predominantly ‘below the radar’ of mainstream awareness: The transformational summer festivals movement.

As writer, DJ and speaker Jeet Kei Leung says during an engaging and dynamic TED talk about transformational festival culture, these transformational festivals are “convergence points for many forms of cutting-edge content. They are playing a significant role in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people”, and this has a palpable ripple effect out into society at large.

With participant-driven art, ceremony, healing spaces, music circles and a wide variety of forms of creative and spiritual expression, transformational festivals invite us to “come together and inspire and empower each other to be our best selves, our brightest selves, to find our place in value within a community, to step into our leadership and our mastery and to start to create real change.” (Jamaica Stevens, producer of Tribal Convergence)

Festivals such as Beloved Sacred Art and Music Festival, which I found to be exceptionally remarkable, boast over 30 different cutting-edge empowerment workshops as creative and varied as: Ecstatic Life in Dark Times, Classic Raga Singing of Sufi Pakistan, New Relationships/New World, and Daoist Full-Moon Qi Gong Ritual.

I spoke with Elliot Rasenick, the producer of Beloved and he told me that he was inspired to create the festival by asking himself “What am I saying YES to?”, and from that place of consciousness, Beloved was born.

Live visionary art painting, prayerformances, spiritual workshops, nature mandalas and mini temples all around, combined with the late-night tribal ecstatic dance to sacred, prayerful music, made Beloved Festival an incredibly magical and uplifting experience.

Rasenick and I discussed feedback we have heard, that festivals such as these are a place where change agents, evolutionaries and thought leaders can come together to revitalize their spirits and fill their cups. Additionally, with Beloved Festival staff and volunteers living together during the month the festival is held, exploring their edges, and seeding new systems for being together sustainably and harmoniously in community, measurable positive outcomes are being generated that can then be brought back into the communities these leaders are a part of.

I was particularly struck by quotes from festival participants, speaking to the profound places that these experiences were able to touch and transform in their own personal process: “We went deep! Many of us are now calling it a “work”, much like an annual ritual or ceremony where we drop away what we do not need and invite in what has been knocking on the door all along.”

I was also inspired by how vibrant and dynamic so many of the people who flock to these festivals are, and how much co-activation takes place when they converge to exchange inspiration, teachings, spiritual practices, healing, arts and music.

Councils of elders and wisdom-holders are often held, sharing prayers and visions for ways of being in community and being in connection with the land that merge our new reality with ancient wisdom, and create a bright legacy to pass on to our children. The idea is not that one festival organizer or spiritual teacher has the solution, but that we can come together and find the solutions collectively.

Another potent aspect of these events is that emergent fusions of healing arts both new and ancient are synergistically joining together, and as Kei Leung notes and I have also personally experienced, these healing containers “support spontaneous episodes of healing catharsis” and clearing out unexpressed emotional trauma that is often bottled up in our mainstream society. In these supportive and resonant energy fields, we realize that it is safe to let our guard down and speak and act from our hearts. These gatherings create a safe testing-ground in which to explore the co-creation of a new reality and new ways of being with one another.

These festivals are often timed in harmony with the moon cycles, and seek to bring participants back into greater harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

Ancient tribal rituals such as shamanic trance dance, vocal toning and sounding circles, and full moon ceremonies are rediscovered, catalyzing many vitalizing experiences of personal metamorphosis, that are a deeply welcomed contrast to our fast-paced, high-tech daily culture.

As Kei Leung befittingly sums it up: “These temporary autonomous zones (allow us to) escape for a moment from the hierarchies and agendas embedded into the very material of our mainstream consensus reality, and we are freed to co-create and share the momentary realization of the liberated world we would wish to live in.”

There are a tremendous number uplifting and activating transformational festivals being offered this year and this list is just a small taste of what’s on the menu for 2012. Here are my picks for 10 of the top transformational summer festivals this summer, in chronological order by date: 

  • Tadasana Festival, ‘A three-day transformative experience on the famed Santa Monica Beach’-April 20-22, Santa Monica, CA
  • Symbiosis Gathering, ‘Intends to facilitate peak experiences through a synaesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable living’ -May 17-22, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
  • Lightning In A Bottle, ‘A Celebration of Art, Music, Performance, Sustainability and Life’- May 24-28, Silverado, CA,
  • Entheos Gathering, ‘Visionary art, technology, intellectual exchange, cooperation, consciousness, and an optimistic view of the future. "Entheos" is Greek for "the divine within."- June 22nd-25th, British Columbia, Canada
  • Dreamtime Festival, ‘Weaving themes of sustainability, personal development, creativity, health and holistic healing’-July 16-20, Paonia, Colorado
  • Mystic Garden Gathering: Gathering Of The Tribes, ‘One of the most beautiful and mystical festivals’-July 18-23, Lake Selmac, Oregon
  • Wanderlust Festival, ‘One-of-a-kind festival bringing together the world's best yoga and wellness teachers and top musical acts and DJs, in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty’, July 26-29, North Lake Tahoe, California
  • Gaia Festival ‘is dedicated to serve a growing community of conscious people who are seeking sustainable ways to negotiate the emerging paradigm.’-August 3-5th, Laytonville, CA
  • Beloved Sacred Art & Music Festival, ‘Open Air Sacred Art & Music Festival: A Sneak-Peek of the New Paradigm’- August 10-13, Tidewater Falls, Oregon
  • Tribal Vision, ‘A gathering of music, ceremony, prayer and dance’- August 17-19, Taos, New Mexico

Prema Gaia is a freelance writer, 'new world consciousness publicist', dancer, artist, Lightweaver, lover of nature and co-founder of the Goddess Temple of Ashland. Her writing can be found in publications such as Spirituality & Health Magazine and Open Ways Magazine.

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