BhaktiFest. Outdoor Kirtan. Madison, Wisconsin. 2012.
My aunts, mum & I had a "sister" reunion at the first Midwest "Bhaktifest". What's Bhaktifest? Depends on who you ask! Basically nearly non-stop kirtan music at the outdoor stage. All types of physical yoga, some classes with music. Talks about environmentalism. Yoga Sutras. Eating Raw/Vegan. Gong Baths (no water involved :). Ganesh, Shiva & Parvati stories. So a mish-mash of anything/everything yoga related. Had no idea what to expect. And now lusting over glow in the dark hulas and Baggy hemp pants. Tie Dyed of course :)
So many different Kirtan bands playing. Only wished there was a shadier or indoor venue. The sun alone prevented me (and I am sure many others) from attending more daytime kirtan events. There was no shade and it was hot and sunny. Yeah, I know that our "body" isn't supposed to matter. But my "body" doesn't want anybody carving it up to remove suspicious looking moleson it from soaking up too much sun. (I totally overdosed in my youth.)
If you don't know what kirtan is....It is chanting the names of God. But typically, Hindu God/s. I say God or Gods, because sometimes there are many names/forms of one God. I know, people think there are "all of these" Gods, but just think about how Christianity has the Trinity-Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, and they are all One, the same thing. Well.....to me, there is an awful lot of that going on in other religions as well. It is just not always to see the commonalities when we were taught to view other religions so differently from the ones that are prevelant in our own country. So are these all these people at the kirtan Hindus? Um, nope. There are likely some Hindus in the crowd. I think of Kirtan as music. It is spiritual music. It is meaningful music, and it probably means something a little different to everyone. But no, Kirtan at festivals like this, are not "Hindu Events". And yes, you might hear a Hare Krishna chant, but that is just one of the many chants. It is also not a Hare Krishna event. Yes, there are both Hindus and Hare Krishna people there. But there is just a little bit of everything there including Catholics, Jews (not Orthodox), Jains, Pagans, Unitarians, Agnostics............It's odd, but really very cool.
I stuck with indoor daytime events. Like Preston Klick's GongHealing. The Gong Bath (we all went to this). Yep. A man and his wife (He did gongs, she had long blonde hair, flowing clothes, and did brain healing) did this one together. You lay down. He plays Gongs. The room vibrates. You are "bathed" in this ocean of sound that starts with nothing and works up to a crazy climatic gong high, likely integrated with the man screaming (most likely releasing energy??) and she walks around and rubs scalps and helps to healed our cooked cerebral cortexes. I couldn't help but wonder what their home life was like. I mean, my husband drinks beer, eats vegan pizza, and watches football. I personally couldn't imagine what their evenings might look like? My mom (seriously never making jaded remarks-I got THAT from my dad), said, "They probably fight all the time". Ha. Who knows. I adored the Gong Bath. Yeah. Some stuff & Vibes get a little "new agey" for me. But I love sound. And experiences. So it is just a really cool experience to just let all that sound vibrate your body. In addition, most "new agey" type of stuff is really just ideas extracted from really ancient stuff. But if you ever get a chance to go to a gong bath (yes you are fully clothed!), do it. If nothing else, it's interesting. And it prompted me to change my wake-up alarm to the "gong" setting! And for the record...I loved it. I have a tendency to freak out a little when people "talk" about art, music, poetry too much. I just like to do it. I just hate intellectualizing art.
And Durga Das (aka David Newman). Great guy. Non pretentious. Flannel Shirt & Jeans guy. Usually has his wife sing with him, but I believe that she had a family issue so was not able to come. Enjoyed the kirtan. This clip is not from BhaktiFest, but gives an idea of what a Kirtan is and who DurgaDas is.
Yeah. The kirtan peeps use color in their dress. Lots of it. Color. Beads. A fair amount of tattoos and dreads.
David Haberman. EcoMan. Professor at IU (Bloomington, Indiana) and talking about an issue he cares deeply about. A forest near in Monroe County.
I also went to what somehow we all kept calling the "eco terrorist" man talk as well. My mum thought the bio sounded interesting. Okay, so it was interesting. But in a weird way. So I had read in some true "Yoga girl Goes to India" type of story (there are SEVERAL), about "eye gazing". Guess what? We got to eye gaze. So partway into the talk, we are instructed to get up and walk around the room. (He also lets us know we can stay seated, but he doesn't say what is to come when he offers that!!). We are supposed to be looking at people or just keeping our eyes open or something?? While walking. Then....we are supposed to "find" a partner. Somehow this guy & I are the last 2 people left. I look over at my mum (who has been to a load of zen, Buddhist, retreat, yoga, blah, blah, blah, events before and while she is SUPER shy, She is not an eye gazing virgin. ) You know what "eye gazing" means to me? Okay, in my city it is don't look anybody in the fucking eye, or you might get shot. Or, at a milonga it is don't look at anybody in the fucking eye, because you are there to listen to live music and nothing else, and if you make eye contact "he" will come to ask you to dance. Except that "dance" may not be "open" embrace and it might be close embrace and some people's close embrace might involve a sweaty old crotch attempting to grind you or some creep thinking your ass is a way to steer you-partly because he can't lead worth a damn, and partly because he just wants to be up in there and learned to dance because he knows there is a world wide shortage of good leads. Oh, and eye gaze could mean you want to take a coffee. Which apparently means fuck. So you know what, I haven't looked anyone in the eye, for years, with any sort of penis. Yeah, even strap on. :)))). Okay, I have to drop ALL of that because we are in some "eco" talk & I am supposed to be thinking about how the earth is being destroyed by us and how we are killing all of the animals and how all of these deeper concerns are really occupying the apartment in my head, when all I can think about it, I don't want to gaze into any one's eyes. No. Uncomfortable. Yikes.
This video is not from BhaktiFest.....but is used in another context here. I know my mom has done this practice in yoga classes, and not in a dating/sexual/attraction sort of way at all. But it does seem to invite an openness to vulnerability.
So the last man standing & myself sit down across from each other. I breathe deeply and see my mum not hyperventilating across the room. Arrgh. She already knows how to do this. I don't remember the order of events. But we were basically supposed to be staring into each other's eyes while the teacher (we called him eco terrorist man, I am not sure why, but that is what we called him for the whole time) talked about imagining that we are sitting across from another soul that was deeply concerned about the earth. The planet. Mother Nature. That this soul was so concerned and had so much love for the planet, the earth, living things, that this soul was in this room today. That this soul hurt. Suffered pain from knowing what was happening in the world and not being able to do anything about it. About a place that this person cared deeply about and what may be happening to it because of pollution, environmental damage, carelessness, and lack of respect. All while gazing into the other person's eyes. Wow. Okay, this was really weird and at the same time somewhat cool. A new experience. But I was still scared shitless. And the teacher kept talking. And all of a sudden, many people burst into tears. Not fake, I am having a melodramatic experience tears. But this explosion of emotion. Just this kind of release, outpouring of emotion from this "soul gazing".
And yet another context...."Speed Eye Gazing" as a Dating Technique??
I wasn't in a relaxed enough state to let too much vulnerability penetrate my nervousness. But I was trying to soak it all in, while trying not to be too freaked out that I was staring into this stranger's eyes for a really long time. And then I tried to let go for a bit. And yes, most likely there was a male across from me that truly loved Mother Earth and woke up each day, really thinking about & feeling pain & suffering much from all the things that were happening to Mother Earth. All the things that we could not just change. Not just make go away. And so my jaded self vacated the BrainApartment for a bit & allowed my SevenYearOldSelf (before I became jaded and I was just happy all the time and sat outside and read copious amounts of books and didn't know there was anything wrong with the world) to live in the BrainApartment, or at least rent out the space for the duration of this workshop. Anyway, I don't know what I thought about all of it. It could have gone either way. But I felt that I was really sitting across from a good soul who was committed to the exercise and nothing more, and that in any case, the whole thing made me very uncomfortable until I just settled into it-or what I say, just surrendered. And then it maybe was very very cool. But I would still be nervous about repeating the experience. It is bizarre to stare into someones eyes for that long of a time, without any sort of knowledge of the person, but then you are looking past the person, the body, etc...and gazing into "the soul, their soul, the oneness" or something like that?
At one point we were instructed to have one person talk for a certain amount of time about a place that they care deeply about and how it is being affected by environmental factors. The other partner was supposed to just sit there and still look into their eyes and just listen to the other person's love of this place and their concerns for it's future. That was weird. I hate talking by myself and actually have someone pay full attention to me. It was awful and I got stage fright about what I was going to say and all that other stuff. All of this stuff was new to me and I am an UberShy girl. At the same time, sometimes I thrive on forced uncomfortableness.............and now I am at least glad for the experience.
We also all went to a talk about some of the Gods and Goddesses and the stories behind them (abbreviated versions) and how to find the ones that speak to us by being around the deities and picking up on the energy. The man giving the speech actually told the story about a young man who picked up a Ganesh for his girlfriend (I think that's how the story went), and was pretty cynical about the whole thing-but then the story went on and we discovered Ganesh had helped the young man in the end and that the "young man" ended up turning into a Yogi & Musician that we know as MC Yogi!
My mum & I went to an ayurvedic talk. Not on purpose. We thought it was the EcoMan one. But no.......And the man giving it was very Kapha. And I'm not. It was a lot of talking, and It was a lot of Ayurveda & Kapha. And I was a little tired.
We hit some yoga classes too. One with live music (which is nearly always a good thing in my book) and FamousMaleYogaTeacher. He is kind of a yoga star and I didn't really know that much about him. Basically when he first opened his mouth and started talking I immediately thought he was the type that had a lot of female followers (of course most of them are, right!!)....but you know.......So he was completely smooth & ran a great class that was a yoga & music "experience". Okay, but my first impression was that he was a "YogaStud" and I am more drawn to OldWiseYogaWoman. I am jaded. Oh, and I am a realist. Oh, and I do have some sort of general distrust of really smooth, confident men in the YogaWorld. There are so many tight PranaPants and PushedUpYogaBoobs and SuperCutYogaTri's and all while sucking up that root chakra (only strenghtening that sexual yogic muslce).........that it would take a true Saint not to capitalize on all that SexualYogaEnergy being thrown around in classes like this. And everyone lets loose because generally YogaRooms are primarily women. And we think we are supposed to "let it all go", release the tension, blah, blah, blah, ALL the same things you need for the BigO, you need for the BigR (Relaxation). At one point we were just gyrating our hips, boobs, butts, bodies to a wild drum beat and FamousYogaTeaher's SmoothVoice. SeriousEstrogenOverload in the Room. Then we were all "shaking". First we start with one body part and just kept adding more, all to this driving beat. Something about tapping into the NativeAmericanEnergySpiritMovement. So we were all shaking everything, all over, the room. And there was a group of musicians and FamousYogaTeacher Grooving. Watching. Again. While I am somewhat hesitant to gyrate anything except in front of my husband (can you tell I could never be a lap dancer??)-I just did it and pretended all the men were gay. Ha. They weren't, but I had to pretend to even go there. So the shaking thing feels pretty cool, yes. And it's kind of cool to do it in a room full of other people and tap into some sort of energy. But I think I would have been more comfortable if no male energy was watching all this female energy fly all around the room. Once again...very fun....cool...love the music. But I am JadedYogaGirl and somehow think that many of HotYogaTeachers aren't preserving their SexualEnergy or practicing TantricSex, but just acting on lust and creating dramas and messes and dramas and messes. Maybe I am just jaded? Maybe I am just a realist. And it's not all of anybody, I am sure. But just an energy I get sometimes.........In addition to the fact that there are constantly new revelations about SaidYogaTeacherHotFamousOrJustFamous using/abusing their YogaPower. Yoga Teachers fill a weird, ambiguous function in the States. Such a cross into spirituality, texts, religion, etc.....and they get followers. And there are often stories of misconduct. Melodrama. Messes. Breaking Trust. That is why I go for the OlderYogaWiseWoman. The ones I know won't be tweeting their Va-Jay-Jay's or probably won't be risking it all to score a hot young lad-probably.......Okay, class was fun & well directed. I didn't get all spiritual in it or anything. Way too much tight BootyShaking for that.
Note: There are many Yoga Teachers, Presenters from which to choose at events like this! So you can choose the peeps, events in which you feel most drawn. You don't have to go to any power yoga classes. You don't have to go to a talk about deities. There are so many offerings at one time, that you just choose what you want to do.
Then we took a GetAway. To the Green Owl. A Veggie/Vegan place in town.
The Green Owl had a booth at BhaktiFest as well, but we took an excursion to go to the Fair Trade store & ended up going to their brick & mortar location. Such a cute exterior.
Local Kombucha Brew. Madison is such an earthy, crunchy town. I think they have more than one LocalKombuchaBrewer!
The interior is nice-subdued & comfortable. A nice break from being outside and running around.
One of my aunts got a Vegan Bread Pudding with Vegan Sausage. It looked Yummy!
Mum & I got scrambled Tofu & Potatoes. Green Owl has a big menu and I really wanted to try their jackfruit burritos and some raw food dishes. But this was a Brunch day, and so they had a pretty small & fixed menu. Basically this was the Gluten Free Vegan option.........Like that place a lot, but would be much better to go on a non-brunch day so you can try all the super cool stuff they usually offer!
And back to the Festival........
I discovered this place Sunday night, the last night of the festival. Really, a stand that sells sprouts by the ounce and has WheatGrass Shots? Um, amazing. I will doing grass shots the whole weekend next time! In addition, after I told them I lived in St. Louis, the guys at the booth started talked about the Cahokia Mounds and Dragon Caves (in Illinois). And underground pyramids. ? They were fun.
|Cleopatra had magical shakes.|
|Lots of Raw Cacao, Hemp Seeds, Dates, Maca, Wild Chaga, Greens & all the other stuff Raw Yogis love.|
All the food booths were circling around this main Kirtan Scene. Sing. Eat. Sing. Buy Hippie Yoga Things. Sing. Dance. Hydrate. Hula. Sing. Yerba Mate Fix. Sing. Hula with your flower skirt and humble hippie panties beneath.
|Camp Rawnora. This place has some land and uncooking classes & other workshops. They didn't bring a ton of food, but I stocked up before they ran out. These were my favorite Kale Chips. Think my mom & aunts loved as well.|
Green Spirit Kale Chips. They also had sweet potato chips & crackers. All raw & vegan. Lots of crackers, cacao, chips. They had crackers with seeds and then veggies like cabbage & carrots. And Sweet Potato chips too. I got the Salt & Vinegar style and for me there was too much salt. But I think my threshold is just quite low now, because generally I wasn't adding salt to food.
Beautiful Sunset before the final Kirtan. Several people camped around the lake. There was kirtan going on from 9 in the morning until midnight each night-so they got their share of chanting!
Love. Kombucha & Yerba Mate in one stand? Locally Brewed Kombucha at that. Was going to hit this tent later to give it a try. My mom & I walked up & there were a few people chatting. And the guy at the tent who was "taking orders" was talking to a young, very muscular yogi about spirituality. Hmmm....interesting, what comes next? KombuchaStud "Wow, I can tell you are in really great shape. I mean, it obviously enhanced your spirituality/inner growth". MuscleYogi "It's all just yoga", she seems to be trying to shrug it off, and perhaps just really wanted a cking Kombucha. But you had to love the pick up lines. Anyhow, he was pretty focused on trying to talk this chic-clearly because she was so deeply spiritual. Saw that was going nowhere, so took a detour. Did get to try my aunt's Kombucha later-and yes, it's a good brew. All flirting aside.
Jai Uttal. His BhaktiFest kirtan infused a bit of reggae. This is an old clip, not from BhaktiFest.
Krishna Das did an indoor Kirtan the last day (Sunday). Love how the musician on stage is taking a photo of the audience while I am taking mine :) This event was billed as a "workshop", but really it was KD talking & regular kirtan (call & response). KD is pretty much a rock star in the yoga world now. He is played in yoga classes around the world & the KirtanMan around the globe. I personally adore him. His stories are so great, really funny, and he possesses so much insight but and delivers it without the sometimes seemingly pretense that accompanies a lot of this kind of "spiritual talk". His dress & style is simple. His body is not decorated with obvious tattoos, piercings, no Indian clothes or the wearing of all white to "catch the energy". Not that there is anything wrong with any of the above. And he makes references to watching late night tv. He just seems to put it all out there, not attempting to be some guru or anyone "higher" than this American guy who had some really incredible experiences when he was younger. He isn't ultra "suave" or the type of guy that seems to put out the message that he wants a million yogis bowing to him. His voice & message speak for itself.
Not from BhaktiFest....but something he did with an acapella group, Prana.
Not from BhaktiFest...But gives an idea of his typical style. Sometimes a little more traditional, sometimes a little more rock. But simple melodies and always a deep, soulful voice.
He also opened the floor for questions. Pretty much from the getgo. First one was from a gal in the front row who asked something about how her son choosing to leave the planet was supposed to help her practice. Wow. Not really an easy starter. KD (yeah, that's what all the cool kids call him), allowed the space to breathe for several minutes. Then he calmly responded. Not by having "an answer" at all. By kind of saying (obviously what I "heard"), that for whatever reason her son was not able to exist here anymore. That it was terribly difficult and he offered his condolences. I don't know how he did it, but somehow he mustered up a completely eloquent and meaningful response.....once again........not trying to be a "guru" at all. But it kind of comes with the territory. Of his experiences. People ask him questions. Open up to him. Of course I don't really know him at all, but it appears that he has no intent on thriving on that "power" or abusing the fact that people are naturally drawn to him for some sort of "advice". He is really quite funny. Quite serious and no bones about it when it comes to the important stuff. But quite grounded and has been through it all himself.....and obviously still going through it.
During the Sunday Krishna Das Workshop.
A little MidWest Fusion.
A little Video.....The style freaked me out. But finally I just embraced it, jumped up and down, and had fun.
Dave Stringer. The last night. Such an odd combination of music. Just wasn't sure if I really liked it or if it just was too "heavy metal" for me. Really, the Kali tune seemed like there needed to be a mosh pit. So basically the age old artistic question-how much altering of an idea is cool? Or maybe he doesn't alter the idea, but the sometimes heavy metal accompaniment to an old Sanskrit Chant.....Loved some of the fusion though. So in the end I shrugged my shoulders and just enjoyed it, but I was seriously puzzled and taken off guard for a moment!! There was a couple in front of us jumping up and down and pointing at each other yelling Kali whenever her name came up in the tune. They were about 30, white, casual boho gear, and doing the Kali groove. It really seemed like a fusion of a Rock/Dead/Phish scene maybe? Except there were really so many older, a bit more reserved yogi peeps there as well. Truly a diverse audience in age. I did not see the diversity in color and I am not sure about economic groups. Overall, it seems this type of crowd is generally educated. Even if some may roll their eyes at advanced degrees, I kind of get the idea that most people came from educated (in the traditional sense) places. Just a hunch?
I really didn't think we were going to stay for the closing ceremony. Just sounds so bureaucratic. Um, it wasn't. First the organizers came out & talked about how great it went. And how there was some doubt that a Bhakti Fest could make it in the Midwest. Usually it's just something people fly over to get to their coasts. But I think there was so much value to having something like this in a place that is slightly more grounded. I haven't gone to the other yoga events on the coasts, but apparently some of them have a different feel. Even though we may all be "the same", often the New York/Boston & LA crowd has a different energy. Madison is a funky place. Really just enough going on to be content, yet it feels a little more earthy and a little less tolerant of so much "yoga bling". I could be completely off base, but it felt like they really tried to make this an authentic event. There were not LuluLemon booths & no ubercommerical "food bars" and I don't think I saw any YogaJournal magazines. It had a little bit more of a grassroots feeling, and guessing that was super intentional. Maybe because that was their "marketing" plan, or maybe because they truly wanted to more carefully pick their businesses. Have no idea, but either way, I'll take it.
Overall.....I say go & have fun......Don't read too much into any of it. A lot of different vibes and some you will be drawn to and others you may or may not find yourself being pulled towards...but it's a fun experience! So glad I have family that does this kind of stuff! Oh, and this is Cute! Top 10 things heard at BhaktiFest Day 2. Love the one about the Hula.
A little bit of the Closing Ceremony. Everyone took the mic. Quality not great...taken with my IpodTouch........But you get the idea.
Okay, this is goofy. But turn your head sideways to see people square dancing. What a fusion..........See.....they probably don't do that at Joshua Tree! Kirtan just got infused with a little bit of the MidWest!