I’ve got a special place in my heart for gypsies, Burners, and new age hippies.
They love like no one else can. They dance from the spasms of the spirit. They are the artists that can push the boundaries of what the human culture creates.
And they came to my country, 45 minutes from my house.
No dusty pilgrimage to Black Rock city for me; some buses and some hitchhiking, with my old hippie clothes and muddy feet, and I was at the Envision Festival for a day and a half.
Last year, Envision came when my son was three months old, and I couldn’t leave my wife alone for any extended period of time. This year, we worked it out so I’d get an overnight trip to dance with my gypsies in the middle of nowhere.
Packing up my tarot cards, my juggling balls, my good camera and the old Mexican blanket I once took on a year-long hitchhiking trip, I made my way to Uvita.
There were (predictably) difficulties in transferring my e-ticket into a wristband, but this is Costa Rica, and I’m used to setbacks like that. I made some new friends, explored around to find the right people to check me in (over a 5 mile radius) and finally made it into the festival grounds just as the sun was beginning to scorch.
I took off my shirt and wandered amongst my people.
The amazing thing about the transformational festival subculture is that it brings together people from all different countries and vocations into one place with the express purpose of tuning us with the next step in our ascenscion.
Whether you are awakened by art, or music, or dance, or drugs, or sex, or meditation, or yoga, there is a gateway into trance for everyone within the transformational festival.
Knowing what my accustomed gateways are, I went into the festival to walk through them.
I had an excellent Acro Yoga workshop with the Acro YoGals, Jill Campbell and Heidi Blais. I marveled at their ability to keep an unwieldy group of 75 people into relatively cohesive partners and teams.
Then again, everyone attending had an express knack at connecting with other people, so maybe this isn’t surprising.
It had been a long time since I had done any partner acrobatics, which was always one of my favorite aspects of the sport. Instead of being only the base, and my partner always being the flyer, we were instructed to find someone of a similar size so we could switch.
I was lucky enough to be paired with Kelly Lange of Costa Rica’s own Casa Zen Yoga Center. She was really strong and flexible, and for the first time I got to be the flyer in a myriad of new poses.
My only disappointment with the Acro Yoga workshop was that they scheduled it at the same time as the Capoeira workshop, so I couldn’t do both. All of the poi spinners and fire jugglers were at Capoeira, but my body needed some acro.
Next time, Capoeira, next time.
After AcroYoga I found a shamanic alchemy workshop. ‘Found’ is a misleading word. ‘Stumbled into’ is more accurate.
Juan Pablo Barahona is a master yogi and shaman. There are gurus that exude a divine connection in their presence, and it was present with him. He led the workshop through spontaneous chanting and dance, improvising based on the characteristics and energy of the group.
As a trained performer, I was able to note when he changed directions based on hedging in exuberant participants that threatened to spin the energy chaotically, and when he was able to nurture the physical exhaustion into a quiet contemplation of the group’s connection to source energy.
I have never had a meditation experience like this in my life.
I’d love to attend his workshop tomorrow in Dominical, but alas, I am teaching a meditation class further inland at the same time.
Such are the struggles of my life.
When Juan Pablo ended the workshop, he charged all of us with continuing the group dynamic, as we saw each other throughout the festival. He invited us to spontaneously combust into group chants with him, and periodically throughout the day, groups of us would see each other, and rekindle the energy that propelled all of us to states of higher consciousness.
After some food, I took a nap, to recharge before the night of dancing before me. This was the true purpose of my trip to the Envision festival; I wanted to dance my ass off.
But first, it rained.
And rained. And rained.
For thirty minutes, a couple hundred people huddled together in the Tea Lounge where I had been napping, waiting to see if it would abate, or if we had to make the commitment of getting wet for a long time by going outside in the mud.
People were huddled talking together, with too few seats and nothing to do.
Up on the stage were instruments in their cases, and all the electricity (in the whole festival) was off.
I reached into my juggling bag, took out a couple of maracas, and started playing some light percussion on the stage.
One by one, more musicians joined me. Soon we had an impromptu percussion session that lasted for forty five minutes.
It was while I was leaning out over the crowd, shouting “Give us your hands! Give us your hands!” and getting the crowd to all clap in time with the musicians, that I realized I had never had any intention of performing on stage today; and yet, by remaining open to the unexpected, and willing to fulfill an unmet need, I found myself doing what I love best.
Performing. Improvising. Playing loud.
The sun set, the downpour became a drizzle, and we all began to venture out onto the festival grounds.
It was muddy.
With no shoes, we were able to squish the soft earth in between our toes, and it was a glorious feeling.
Spending so much time connecting to the earth, in such a visceral way, was really healing for my soul.
I never would have considered trying something like this had circumstance not forced it upon me. It had been years since I was able to walk for hours and hours in the mud, and I felt better for it.
I broke out my tarot cards and began giving readings to anyone who would buy me a drink – an old habit I grew into when I wanted to go out drinking but didn’t have anyone to go with and didn’t have the money to spend. I made new friends, got to spend time interpreting symbols (one of my favorite pasttimes) and got a few beers from the excellent local Craft Brewing Company out of Cartago.
It has been years since I had a hoppy red beer.
I was a very happy man.
And then, the electricity came back on.
The stages blared to life.
We went in an exodus through the muddy fields to dance on the rushes.
I danced for hours.
I danced in a way that I seldom have the luxury to dance; without a care for how I was perceived, free of inhibition, connecting my inner rhythm and my skeletal structure to the beats of the music.
As I mentioned before, there were avenues for anyone’s gateways to trance available in this place.
For me, it was dance.
For others, it was sex.
Luckily, I had hipster repellent, and so avoided many an awkward encounter.
Early in the festival, I got some Henna work done on my shoulder by the Henna Lady. I’ve been thinking about getting my first tattoo(s), and wanted to try having one for a couple of days.
I ignored her advice to let it dry before getting it wet (like with sweating profusely in an Acro Yoga class, or walking around shirtless in the rain) so it smeared pretty badly.
There are, in all crowds, people who value surface looks before inner substance. People who judge the appearance before deciding to look deeper.
Many of these people looked at my shoulder with distaste, saving me from the need to interact with them.
At one point about midnight, I wandered to a different stage, walked to the front, and started laying down some of my big moves. Jumping around. Crouching into a squat. Pushing my rib cage against the beat, as my hips swiveled from corner to corner.
A girl to my right got wide eyes and yelled, “This guy!” as she pointed to me. I turned, she saw the smeared blue ink on my shoulder, and she started to dance away.
A lovely feeling when you want to dance alone in a crowd.
Some time late in the night, I stumbled back to the Tea Lounge and curled up to sleep on the muddy ground. I’m older than I used to be, and I wasn’t prepared for the soreness in my muscles that followed the next morning. It’s been fifteen years since I slept outside on that blanket, and it might be the last. I may have to actually invest in a sleeping bag.
The next morning moved slowly. People were focused on the mechanics of their camping amidst the mud. I walked around, cold and muddy, looking for something to do. Even juggling was not working; any ball I dropped, even on a tarp, got covered in mud.
The good workshops were starting later in the afternoon, and I promised my family I would be back by dinner. So about ten in the morning I started to leave.
It took me four hours to get home, due to mud, shuttle bus snafus, waiting for buses, etc. Ironically, my fastest method of travel during the trip (both to and from the festival) was hitchhiking.
When I was on my way to the festival, I took a bus from my house to Dominical. I wandered the town, looking for the shuttle bus, and found I would have to wait a half hour for it. Instead, I walked up to the top of the hill next to the highway, stuck out my thumb, and three Canadians turned the corner and picked me up in less than five seconds. They were going straight to the festival, and ended up driving me around to get my ticket/bracelet situation sorted out.
Then, when leaving the festival, the shuttle bus wouldn’t take me to Uvita because I didn’t have the right color bracelet (or something) and wanted twenty bucks to take me. I stuck out my thumb and hopped in the back of the next passing truck.
They knew a shortcut, across a river.
I forded a river in the back of a pickup truck, squatting on muddy feet, in the wilderness of Costa Rica.
It was amazing.
Looking above the cab as we entered the river, I saw two horses, with three children on them. A big sister and tiny brother on one horse, with a 9 year old boy on the other. They saw us, went ‘Yaaa!’ and ran their horses up the rocky embankment as we followed.
I made it to a highway, opening up the rides that buses and hitchhiking could give me to get back home. I returned, tired, muddy, exhausted, sore, and happy to once again be with my children.
It was quick, this festival, but rewarding. I found myself easily willing to step back into personas that I no longer use, and they were more comfortable than I remember.
Maybe, as we get old, the disuse of our old personas is a factor in the feeling that people get, that they are missing something out of life.
By having the opportunity to relive yourself, at a transformational festival, we become more in touch with who we are, and who we are supposed to be.
I’ve definitely got a better handle on that now, after dancing the night away.