Upon arriving at the Envision box office in Uvita on Wednesday, February 27th, I was greeted by a wrapping line of some of the most beautful souls that were about to take Costa Rica by storm. We waited about 20 minutes for the internet to pop back up (trials and tribulations of jungle livin’), checked in, and then hopped in a van that had definitely seen better days. While driving elation filled me – I was finally here. Yet, no number of gorgeous palm trees or tropical birds could distract me from the site of a proud tractor sitting on top of a defeated, barren hilltop. This was just the first live introduction to the effects of unsustainable globalization practices plaguing developing nations such as Costa Rica. The heaviness of that reality stuck with me while transferring from a dilapidated van to a full on cattle truck, when all of a sudden the truck stopped.
We had arrived at the gates – hot, sweaty, and ready. That same spatial confusion that comes with each new festival descended, as I tried to maneuver my way through what was about to become, as the sign read, my “Om Sweet Om.” We set up camp between a community that welcomed us to the Jungalow (and yes, they certainly had fun and games) and the Magic Monkeys kids zone. I set out to explore my surreal surroundings.
Nestled in a beautiful field and surrounded by tropical plants and distant mountains, Envision Festival managed to bring a familiar feel to an utterly new experience. The shakedown was a straight shot, with food vendors to one side and crafts across the street. This was the first festival I have ever attended where the majority of vendors sold hand made items in which case materials were either acquired through fair trade and made into beautiful art, or the money made went back to benefit that community. This was just the first invocation of the palpable tribal oneness. At 3pm I headed over to the Healing Sanctuary for my first workshop of the week: Kaypacha – The Astrology of 2013. What a contagiously silly energy that man has! 2013 is definitely going to be a year of huge change, and it won’t come easy. He advised that we have entered an age of extreme potential, yet this potential cannot be reached without hard work, internal work. As Kaypacha put it, we are descending from an age where spirituality meant extricating oneself from the community, finding “God” through separation from others.
Yet, 2013 heralds a time where we move from separatism to community, and with the sudden surge in communal and sustainable living, it seems that people are truly waking up to the realization that we need to work together to save our planet from destructive corporate greed and create eden on earth. After that most inspiring opening workshop, we headed to the actual opening ceremony at the Luna Stage, where we invited the spirits of the four directions in to guide and protect us throughout our stay. The Luna Stage itself was an absolutely stunning altar made of various pieces of wood and colored lights and was set up as a musical offering to the gods of tempo and beat. With so much traveling, learning, and prayer packed into such a short time period, a nap was definitely in order, and so into slumber I descended only to arise for Adham Shaikh‘s set. This Canadian DJ was one of the many amazing new artists I was lucky to experience. His mix of worldly tunes and dubby undertones continued to sway me as I fell asleep that night.
The next morning started off at the raw food stand with an aloe, honey, and ginger concoction that completely invigorated my soul. Riding that surge, I headed over to the Templo de Bambu for Dancing the Art of your Soul with Parashkti and Gus. Due to some technical difficulties the dancing was put on hold and instead we headed straight into the shamanic journeying aspect of the workshop. Each person grabbed a blindfold and laid down while the drum beats entered our roots, lulling us journeyers into a blissful trance state. After the drums stopped, we were invited back into the physical realm and onto another journey – mandala creation. In keeping with the sanctity of the ritual, we silently headed to the back field of the festival and were guided through creating a floral mandala out of various native flowers and leaves. This was truly one of my favorite moments of the entire week: how special to be invited to help create the space, to leave a sacred imprint designed to enhance the vibration of our Envision family. Contemplation and lunch proved to be a lovely second course, a simultaneous digestion.
As 2pm rolled around, I headed to the Tea Lounge to listen to Julia Buttlerfly and discover what my tree is. Although I never figured out what my tree was, Julia was absolutely divine in her ability to guide us through a journey inside as we made a list of qualities we love about ourselves and others, narrowed down a pattern, and came to realize what our true essence and direction in life was. Her description of unconditional love (that state in which nothing else exists but complete compassion for ourselves and others) is still stuck with me. Julia’s down to earth nature and intuitive ability to understand people had me convinced for a while that she was more than just a butterfly – perhaps even a fairy? Her past discretions of sitting in a tree to protest deforestation sure lead me be to believe so. At 4:30 yoga under the Earth Harp beckoned…
If ever you have a chance to experience this divine creation, please do yourself a favor and take it. Not only an instrument, its span ranging from 50-1000 ft., the Earth Harp is a giant sound healing technology whose effect is similar to tibetan singing bowls, but manages to attain octaves and pitches too low and loud for a small bowl. The vibrational resonance was felt throughout every fiber of my being, as Andrea Brooke led a group of about 100 people through a chakra aligning vinyasa flow, with each pose and each note specifically chosen to clear and open the corresponding chakra. Fully activated we grabbed some fresh tea from the Chai Lounge, a lovely communal space for people to relax and, well, lounge!
Floating over to the vendors to have dinner we happened upon a drum circle at the cacao stand, and proceeded to shake and dance until the hunger drew us to dinner at the Krishna Kitchen. Fire Groove at the Luna stage was absolutely gorgeous. I am always amazed by those who have the courage to manipulate pure energy, allowing their internal flow to guide their art. As I was watching a guy juggle four flaming torches at once all I could think was, “Wow, it must have been SCARY doing that for the first time!” Next up was a Costa Rican band named Caca de la Vaca, aka “Cow Poop.” This local band is absolutely amazing, blending rock, reggae, folk, hispanic music, and various other genres to create an utterly unique sound, while maintaining a ridiculously outrageous stage presence.
Their name was made a bit more clear towards the end of their set when they made a point to address the subject of GMO’s, and point out the attempt to draw Costa Rica into that intimate circle of countries who impose this food upon its people without knowing the true long term effects. As I learned about this external push, I was amazed at the solidarity of Costa Ricans, how so many citizens absolutely refused to accept something “civilized” – Americans should take notes. Inspiration fueled my dancing storm as I raged the next few hours to The Human Experience and ill-esha, both of whom I had never seen before. The Human Experience had a minimal feel while still managing to provide a unique multi-layered soundscape, while ill-esha’s worldy dub beats were a perfect way to end the night.
Friday I awoke with exuberance, fully in love with Uvita and its surreal greenness. Appreciating the beauty of my surroundings, I wandered over to Awaken my Shamanic Self Yoga with Juanpa Barahona. My mind was completely tossed aside as the drum beats and didgeridoo took over. The explorative dance we began with quickly turned into vocal release: deep, enthusiastic breathing, and invoking the animal within (no metaphor here folks- we were literally crawling on all fours growling at one another). After that invigorating awakening, someone busted open a jackfruit and it was then that I tried this extremely hedgehog like fruit for the first time. Full of fruit and self-empowerment, we were invited to join Juanpa in the middle of the vendor area to grab ahold of other Envision family members and draw them into the state of pure release that we had just experienced.
Once my internal heat rose to a similar discomfort level as the external heat, I made the executive decision to visit the Dr. Broners shower area. I have to say that, besides the baggage check for the weekend idea, a free shower area fully equipped with delicious holistic soap was one of the most amazing aspects of this festival. Not only was the ability to clean myself in the intense heat a much needed relief, but the communal showers proved to be a breeding grounds for bonding and shower dance parties. Feeling minty fresh I grabbed some food and headed to a back part of the festival where someone had crafted an amazingly beautiful altar at the base of a tree. Spirals of different colored beans, grains, plants, and rocks draped the roots of the tree, while crystals and photos of hindu gods and goddesses blessed the trunk. After giving many thanks for the abundance of beauty life has to offer, I sat down on a giant wooden swing and proceeded to eat in silence, a moment I truly treasured as one doesn’t get too much complete silence at a festival.
As my savory meal came to a close, so did my time at this sacred tree, and I headed over towards the vendors. It was during this time that I once again came to truly appreciate the special nature of Envision festival. At most festivals I have been to, the children’s area is more of a place to drop off the kids while Mommy and Daddy go party. Yet, this festival provided workshops for the little ones, and even had a sort of counselor guiding them around the grounds, as if at summer camp. Throughout the weekend, a troupe of kids would be running around, chanting, “we are natural born leaders!” and with the guide telling the children to stick together, “remember, all is one!” How utterly beautiful it was to see spirituality and collective values being taught to children at such a young age.
At 4pm I headed over to the art tent for a workshop with Alex and Allyson Grey. Using guided visualization of first the sacral chakra to channel creative flow and then the heart chakra for expansion, we channeled our energy centers as a study of internal form so as to then sketch the beauty of external form in relation. As we were finishing up our second piece, the sky opened up and down came the first of many rain flows. A friend of mine living in Costa Rica said to me upon my arrival that even though it was dry season, he believed that so many spiritual beings in such close proximity would herald a need for emotional cleansing through rain. Boy, was he right. The rain lasted until around 8pm and from then on the entire festival was a muddy endeavor. It was as if Mother Nature was forcing us to ground, to be in touch with our Earth star and root chakras. We had no choice – get muddy or get out. How beautiful it is to be in an environment where it is strange NOT to dance in the rain.
One of the most amazing groups I saw at Envision played that night after the rain – Sonambulo. Another local Costa Rican band, these artists ROCKED, for lack of a better word. They managed to combine reggae, folk, middle eastern sounds, hispanic music, hard rock, and even a bit of metal influence into a truly unique auditory experience. Following that amazing music was an equally mind blowing performance by the dancers of Quixotic. Their blend of modern and lyrical dance with acrobatics and visual display was absolutely breathtaking, largely due to the hauntingly beautiful live violin and drum music. Emancipator was next, and all I have to say is that it was nothing short of a spiritual experience. I had never seen Emancipator with a full band before, and they pulled out all of the stops for this performance. Live instruments accompanied gorgeous dancers, whose impromptu moves fully embodied a physical essence of the melodic ecstasy that was flowing out into the crowd. After catching the end of Love & Light, we went to sit in the prayer circle by the Luna Stage, which house a few different altars depending on one’s astral disposition. I almost got lost in the beauty of sitting when Phutureprimitive saved me from a downward spiral into the sweet oblivion of lounging, and as the night faded, Desert Dwellers came on to welcome the morning. WOW. Desert Dwellers ripped open my soul that morning. This was my first time seeing a new favorite of mine, and it was so much more than I could have imagined. It was as if every sound, every beat was absolutely perfect. Halfway through I gave up on my shoes and Gaia welcomed the sole, each move invigorated with Earthly energy, each step down an offering to the mud. However, I was quickly distracted from my reverie as a few people jumped into the giant mud puddle that had formed to the left of the stage and started giving mud massages. At some point a girl got in and started to give an extremely sultry mud performance. Yet as she was grinding her crotch into the mud, the only thing going through my mind was “damn, that’s going to be difficult to clean out tomorrow.” As night grew into day, my eyelids grew weary, and I drifted off to sleep truly amazed at the brilliance of the day, entranced by the possibility of the next.
Saturday was a slow, gray day after the first full night of music and mud. After lounging around for many hours, meditation was had and then it was time to volunteer at the Krishna Kitchen, helping to prepare food for hungry family members. Afterwards much time was spent in the art tent, marvelling at the unbelievable talent arising out of our generation. I have always been involved with art, in both creation and appreciation. Yet until I discovered Alex Grey’s work a few years ago, I never could have imagined the expansiveness of the visionary art world, how the integration of spirituality, hallucinogens, and meditative awareness can manifest into art that embodies a space within I once thought to be inexpressible.
At 9pm, Alex Grey gave a hilarious presentation on Anthropocosm, a demonstration in the holographic fractal reality we all inhabit. The human body is a temple – literally, the orifices and organs representative of sacred sites and rituals. We even got a glimpse at the future of the Entheon, Alex and Allyson’s current project which is an absolutely stunning church devoted to spiritual awareness through pure creative expression. After the slideshow, EOTO did their thing, and of course, as usual, melted all of our faces. Their essence of pure creation never fails to impress me, the ability to make impromptu music for the masses is a special gift held only by those truly in touch with their creative flow. Exhausted from the intensity of the previous night, a nap was had until the Envision Orchestra graced us with their presence. I have to say that this festival truly sought to embody this ongoing notion of intuitive creativity. Comprised of Andrea Brooke with the Earth harp, Jason Hann, Michael Travis, Ilya, Santos Sitar, and Jamie Janover, this gathering of auditory magicians was absurdly magical. The constant shifting of artists, genres, and instruments led to shifts in energies, moods, and insight. This performance reawakened me to the power of sound, to the ability of frequencies to alter our states of consciousness to enhance our states of being. I felt truly blessed to be a part of the atmosphere, of the collective vibe created not just by the artists, but by the beauty of their audience.
After that magical experience, I sauntered over to Andreilien, one of my absolute favorite artists from the West Coast. His music embodies an extraterrestrial boogie, as if aliens really had landed their form of communication in glitchy bass. Thriftworks was next up. I absolutely adored this worldy-influenced minimal electronic sound, for I hadn’t realized that it was even possible to take worldy music into a minimal influence. Yet this man did and and it rocked my world. If you haven’t heard of Thriftworks, I highly suggest introducing yourself to his repetoire.
On Sunday I headed towards the tea lounge for Brad Burge’s talk on making psychedelics into medicine, in which he discussed ongoing research into the treatment of PTSD with MDMA. While eating a delicious cacao bliss ball, I learned about controlled trials being conducted right now in Canada, with extreme success (above 80%). If researchers can continue to prove efficacy in the face of pharmaceutical and political opposition, hopes are that certain “drugs” that are scheduled as not effective for medical use will be more readily reintroduced into the scientific arena for further research, and possibly even schedule changes and non-experimental use. This too will hopefully decrease self-medication and destructive habits of those using drugs without proper guidance to gain the full spectrum of their healing ability.
After that enlightening talk, I headed to a workshop in emotional intelligence led by Alokananda Walla. Sitting with a partner we were asked to look into one another’s eyes and hold the gaze. After a short period of silence, we then expressed what we were feeling at that moment to our partner without breaking the gaze. I must say, holding a stanger’s gaze is so much more difficult, so much more intimate than I had ever expected, and exposing oneself while holding that gaze takes extreme courage. After that challenging but extremely rewarding experience, I headed towards the Dance of Liberation workshop with Parashakti. Here we welcomed in the spirits of the four directions, along with Mother Earth to protect us, to guide us. After being visited by a crab guide we grabbed blindfolds and, thanks to our psy-trance conductor, were free to fully express and explore our psyche without the distraction that sight often proves to be. This process is absolutely transformative. One does not need sage, Parashakti, native prayers, and a live DJ to gain from an experience such as this. There is so much freedom, so much liberation in full expression without the fear of judgement, without the distraction of judging. After that beautiful expansion, I caught some of Amae Love‘s performance. Her voice, eerily beautiful, tinges the soul. I left her set feeling extremely emotional and decided some tent chillin’ was in order. Chillin’ quickly turned into a nap, and I awoke around 2:30 with an “OH CRAP!” I was initially upset with myself for sleeping through a bunch of music, yet I quickly realized that didn’t serve me. It is so easy to ignore our bodies at these types of festivals. With so much happening at all times, the thought of ripping ourselves away from an amazing workshop to eat or missing an awesome artist to get some sleep in seems pointless. How can a festival be considered “healing” if it is designed to deprive its attendees of sleep? Yet, it is not the job of the festival to make sure we take care of ourselves. As with any aspect of life, the potential to be healthy – food, healing, sleep – is all available. However, we are responsible for our own lives and, especially in this important time of radical shift, it is pertinent that we become aware of our power, both a constructive and destructive force that depends entirely on our decisions. The temptation to self-destruct is thrown in our faces at festivals, just as in regular life, and it is up to us to make sure we care for ourselves first, that we Use Our Heads so that we can continue to have them. As I boogied down to Govinda, I couldn’t help but look around at all of the beautiful souls I had connected with over the past week. We were all so interconnected without having to say a word, for Mother Earth managed to shatter our perceptions of separation, to suck us down into the Earth and join us together – one big, muddy family.