Welcome to festival season! The summer is a magical time, with warm weather, long days, and a sense of ease in the air. This is also prime time for checking out the glorious temporary communities that pop up all over in the form of music festivals.
A good festival gives you the opportunity to see your favorite bands in beautiful outdoor venues, surrounded by people who love the music as much as you do. It also sets up what often amounts to a tiny city, bringing in people from hundreds or thousands of miles away to camp and groove and love. What could be better?
While there is definitely the chance to embark upon a life-affirming experience that could turn your world upside down for the better, festivals are also prime territory for over indulgence, chaos, and choices that can ruin relationships and lives. I’ve put together a few tips garnered from my experiences that can help guide you toward a more centered, spiritually grounded festival season.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~ Thomas Dekker
One of the most important elements to maintaining a sense of stability is a healthy amount of sleep.
Of course, during a festival you’ll inevitably shift your normal schedule, but do endeavor to get at least six solid hours a night. Getting too little sleep has an immediate detrimental effect on will power, which can have all sorts of unpleasant consequences.
Try to find a campsite in a calmer area, possibly near the volunteer camp, which will have some noise restrictions in place. You’ll have the chance to hang out in the crazy camps, but still have somewhere chill to come home to. The one time I camped at “Loud Camp” (yes, that was it’s official name) I ended up melting down halfway through the festival and left for a night so I could get my bearings. Get your sleep. You’ll be happier that way.
“Many of us who have experienced psychedelics feel very much that they are sacred tools. They open spiritual awareness.” ~ Stanislav Grof
Festivals and drugs go together like peanut butter and jelly, most of the time. If you’re choosing to partake, do so with respect for your body and for the plant or chemical you’re working with. This article on tobacco talks about approaching tobacco as a sacred plant; the same concept applies to alcohol, mushrooms, lsd, molly and marijuana. Anything that brings you into a different state of consciousness should be treated with care.
To do this, bring a space of ceremony into your use. Take the time to set a clear intention about what you are hoping to achieve, and get clear on your motivations behind that intention. We are in this world primarily to serve, and to raise consciousness so that Divinity shines through more clearly in this manifest world.
Sacred plants can help us access that process. When we abuse or exploit them, however, we end up further alienating ourselves from our true nature. Meditate, pray, ask for guidance, and let your journey be one of learning, and not just sense gratification.
Maintain and expand your practices
“Krishna consciousness brings one into spiritual life even while one is within the jurisdiction of matter, for it is an arousing of spiritual existence by practice in the world.” ~ Srila Prabhupada
Just as with your sleep schedule, your practice (whether that consists of yoga, kirtan, meditation, etc) will likely be thrown off balance, too. And, just like with sleep, it’s crucial to maintain some kind of consistency in order to stay aligned with your Self.
Morning is, not surprisingly, the best time to do this. While most of the festival goers are sleeping off the night before, you’ll often have the perfect opportunity to use the main dancing area when it’s nearly free of people.
I’ve always found it really rewarding to enter into that physical space when the energetic dimensions are so different. It seems to help integrate the wild festival energy with the personal work I do on a daily basis, allowing me to learn more from my experiences.
You can also take your practice to another level, or in a new direction, by making use of the workshops and classes many festivals offer.
It’s not hard to connect with a festival who offers yoga or meditation, and there are a growing number of festivals who feature a wide array of spiritual practices as an integral part of their programming.
Research your options
“We are what we see. We are products of our surroundings.” ~ Amber Valletta
Whether you’re heading to your first festival, checking out a new one, or going back for round five of your favorite gathering, take the time to consider the vibe of the festival before making solid plans. The energy of the different festivals chart all over the place.
For example, Beloved is a notable festival in that they don’t allow alcohol on the premises. This drastically changes the dynamic between people. The Rainbow Gathering operates completely on barter–no money is exchanged during the festival. With a little bit of sleuthing work, you can find a festival that will cater to your intentions and motivations, and help you grow a little bit faster, and burn a little bit brighter.
Friends make the world go round
“Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character.” ~ Corinthians 15:33
Lastly, surround yourself with excellent people. So much about the festival experience – and the life experience – is influenced by the company we keep. Go with people you love, people who help you feel supported. Then, be open to discovering new friends once you’re there. Live fully, shine fiercely, and the Universe will collude with you to bring positive, beautiful souls into your life.
Some practical tips
Never pass an opportunity to wash your hands
Put your keys and wallet somewhere safe but memorable, BEFORE you enjoy the festivities
Practice love: for yourself, for your friends, for the Earth, for all your relations