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As the sunset over the desert mountains and miles of Joshua trees, it painted the sky purple, pink, orange, and every shade in between. I sprawled on the side of a hill, serenaded by the ecstatic chanting and drumming of spontaneous musicians nearby. Surrounded by groups of dancers, cuddle puddlers, and general frolickers, I felt completely enlivened and uplifted. This moment encapsulates my Bhakti Fest experience.
One of the fundamental components of Bhakti Fest is the workshops offered at various locations and times throughout the venue. Two such locations include the Men’s Sacred Space and the Women’s Sacred Space, which provide sanctuary for brothers and sisters to gather separately. On Friday, I attended a workshop at the Woman’s Sacred Space called “The Transformational Power of Play-Nurturing Your Wild Woman Medicine.” Facilitated by Larisa Stow, this workshop combined kirtan, a dharma talk, and sisterhood connection with a focus on channeling the prana of fear. Stow likened fear to a wise dragon and proposed that instead of “slaying” the dragon as we are taught in Western society, we can collaborate with it and ride it into the depths of our experience. She offered the acronym “Face Everything And Receive” as a reference point for reframing our perception of fear and harnessing its power. Saturday I attended “Women’s Sacred Sexuality,” where Dawn Cartwright led a beautiful red tent ceremony with about 50 women. First, Dawn guided us to form a human mandala honoring a woman’s transition through each stage of life – “maidens” in the center, “mothers” in the middle, and “crones” on the outside. Next, each woman introduced herself and invoked the essence of her maternal lineage by declaring “I am Paisley, daughter of Janet, and granddaughter of Mary.” After everyone had spoken, we were instructed to break into groups of three with one women from each phase of life. We took turns cradling each other, giving each other unconditional love and affection, and hearing each other’s deepest desires. This exercise was intended to renew and awaken our sacred sexual energies, and it was extremely beautiful.
Though the Women’s Sacred Space was extremely powerful and healing for me, there was no shortage of workshops open to everyone regardless of gender. These included extensive classes exploring yoga asana, pranayama, and meditation, as well as kirtan (ecstatic chanting and singing) and yoga philosophy. Other offerings included aerial yoga, Ayurveda talks, and various cacao ceremonies. And then, of course, there was the music. My personal favorite performance was Mike Love, a highly talented reggae musician who performs solo by recording one line of music at a time and then looping it back. There were also performances by well-known kirtan artists such as Porangui, DJ Drez, Jai Uttal, and MC Yogi.
The Men’s sacred ceremony workshop was also facilitated by Sacred Sons. Misha Barshak decided to join this men’s group and found it to be very bonding. Some of the work that was held in the space, created a beautiful self-reflection and awareness practice. This healing type of healing is done for the collective to embrace one another in a harmonious way. Breaking into groups of 2, there was intimate eye gazing, chanting, masculine movements and group sharing. This type of practice allows for each partner to be seen in the raw state we all wish to be witnessed by. By the end of this workshop, everyone who participated felt the brotherly love and a sense of community/support.
The food vendors there were all incredible. I have never been to a festival that was so health food conscious. The types of foods ranged from falafel, vegan burgers, Indian food and so many different juice stalls that you won’t have time to pick what to eat because it is all so delicious. The pictures below are from Lidia’s booth. All of her food is plant-based and extremely delicious. They even make their own cashew cheese which is very hard to find in the city and many places. YUM!!!
Overall I would highly recommend going to this festival if you are ready for a fun, transformative, open-heart experience.
Written by Paisley Yoder and Misha Barshak