Experience as much as you can. This is what we came here to do as humans. Experience. The only way to truly ever know anything is through experience. Living vicarious through others robs us of this blessed life existence. There is no substitution for experience—it is the greatest teacher of all. Live for now. Live for right now.
Despite feeling a pull towards solitude, silence, and stillness lately, over Memorial Weekend I decided to go to Lightning in a Bottle, a festival in California focused on art, music, and yoga. It was a wonderfully challenging experience for many reasons and as always the lessons were bountiful.
I have come to appreciate the environment of festivals because they offer a unique space for life reflection and relating to others. Generally they create a space for people to come together and connect. Hearts tend to be more open than in everyday life. This offers a mirror to look within at where we are, where we’d like to go, and what we wish to shed and embody.
This festival filled me with some life reminders–perceptions to cultivate a more peaceful, connected existence. Perhaps they will resonate with you in some way and offer assurance on this journey through the human experience.
1. Dance to the beat of your drum
It is absolutely okay for us to do whatever we want in life, whenever we want (for the most part). We don’t need permission from others to live our lives the way we want to, nor permission to do what makes us happy. At the same time, who cares what others are doing, we have one life, so do what makes you happy. No matter how challenging this can be at times, I’m grateful for the courage to do so.
I enjoy being at festivals solo because I get to do exactly what I want to do in every moment. Perhaps meditate, dance or rest. I’m not busy caring or thinking about what others are doing —I’m living life for me. Sure I have friends attending, and I can choose to see them if I wish.
I’ve come to embody this more and more in everyday life as well. Dancing to the beat of my drum gives me the freedom to explore this life in the way I choose. When we do what we love, we find the people we love. When we do what we love, we exude love out into the world and this inspires those around us.
2. Be here now
Too often the chattering monkey mind is reminiscing of the past, a space long gone that cannot be changed, a space that no longer exists. At other times the mind is racing far into the future, thinking about what could be, though there are no guarantees. The only way to create a tomorrow we love, is to live for today. To be present in the moment is the only way to truly live. To be present isn’t always easy—it’s an art form.
Several times I caught myself looking at the schedule of events while I was still participating in a workshop or listening to a speaker. I was pulling myself away from the beauty of the moment to think about what was coming next. I even caught myself and silently reminded myself, “Be here now.” Interestingly my favorite moments from the festival were not planned and happened because I was mindful to the moment and was paying attention to the situation and those around me.
3. Feel Everything
It is imperative for our health to feel everything. The happiness, the anger, the pain, the joy—all of it —feel it! Otherwise it becomes repressed in our bodies, creating blockages that are the perfect breeding ground for disease.
It’s ok to feel the “positive” and the “negative” and express it in the way we must so that it can be released. Emotions and feelings are meant to come and go like the tides of the ocean.
Recently I was interviewed for a podcast and was asked, “What do you do to get out of a funk?” “Nothing,” I replied. I allow myself to be and feel whatever state is presenting at the moment. This is part of the human experience. None of it is good or bad—it all serves a purpose.
The first day of the festival I was feeling in a funk. My moon cycle was coming and I always cherish this time because it really allows me to feel really deeply. I tend to cry more often during this time too and I’m grateful for it. It is cathartic, a great release.
4. Vulnerability Fosters Connection
Vulnerability is key for deep connection, and this is the only way I want to connect with people these days. I want to know the dreams in your heart and the blueprints of your soul. Festivals provide a space where most people agree to meet each other in this space. This also encourages us to take this vulnerability with us into our everyday lives.
When we show up in a vulnerable space by sharing personal things about ourselves, it gives others permission to do the same. Go deep! The more we open hearts, the more love we exchange in our lives. The more love the better!
As always I’m so grateful for the connections I made this festival. When I reflect the deeper parts of myself to another, it allows me to gain a deeper understanding of myself. This invites others to share beneath the superficial layer that often fills the space of new encounters.
After sharing my deepest fears and challenges about living from a space of inspiration instead of logic and expectation with a soul sister, I felt encouragement when she told me I’m not alone and that same pattern comes up for her.
Whew! What a relief! The reminder we are all humans sharing in this magnificent experience.
5. Appreciate the beauty of the finite moment
Change is inevitable. Change is one of the few constants of this physical existence. We change. Others change. Life changes. And mostly it happens unexpectedly. It causes pain and suffering when we attempt to hold on to something, be it a person or a feeling forever. When we come to a place of acceptance and knowing that change is inevitable we can live a more peaceful existence. When we shift our perception to appreciate the beauty of the moment except focusing on the future, life becomes more peaceful.
One night a friend went to the bathroom, and we lost her. Since we had made the choice to disconnect from technology, we had no way to get in touch with her. At first we were sad, and did our best to look for her, but after a certain point we chose to continue on our way and enjoy the evening.
The guy she had been connecting with was dragging along, exuding a sad energy that was affecting the group. I looked at him and said, “I know you’re sad, and we are too, but life is all about change, people come and go in our lives. When we become too attached it creates suffering such as in this moment. Appreciate the beauty of the time you spent with her and keep them as fond memories. You’ll see her tomorrow.” Thankfully this put a smile on his face and so the evening continued.
6. Listen with an open heart
How often do we listen in order to reply? When was the last time you listened just to listen? I’ll be the first to admit I’m naturally a talker and sometimes I need to just shut up. On my path I’ve come to a place where I talk less. I’ve come to appreciate silence. Perhaps it was the ten day silent retreat or the fact that I enjoy my solitude time, whatever it is, I’ve come to admire and appreciate the art of being silent and listening.
I’m still learning and practicing this art, and with every beautiful soul I meet is another opportunity to listen with an open heart, listen with love, compassion, and understanding for the happening of their human experience.
One of the days at LIB I was having a hard time deciding what to do, there were so many workshops happening I wasn’t sure where to go. And so I found myself in a workshop about listening with an open heart. I learned about the different levels of listening. There is level one—when someone tells us something and we immediately retort back to ourselves about our human experience. There is level two–listening in such a way that we choose to respond by summarizing what they just shared without our own personal input. And then there is level 3–listening in a way that we are able to see and listen beyond the words and reflect back to the person something more profound.
Of course there were many debates about proper ways of responding but ultimately, we know when we feel heard and when we don’t. But often times we don’t know if we weren’t listening because we humans can be reflexively self-absorbed. It takes practice to shed this way of being but it is possible.
The first night at LIB when I was feeling in a funk I ran into a friend’s friend and he was really listening to me. I felt supported and loved in that moment. I’ve been setting the intention to talk less and listen more and it has been a really wonderful experience. This past weekend I interviewed someone about the work that they do and it was wonderful to listen and take in their human experience without the need to talk or share my own experiences. It felt good not to need the validation and instead choose to be fully present for someone else's human experience.
7. Follow the signs
Lately I’ve been asking, “Speak to me in signs.” There is so much noise in the world, and really, anything is possible. We are given infinite possibilities and the choices are endless. So how do we decide? How do we know what to do next? Where do we go next and how do we choose? Even if we are following the desires of our hearts perhaps there are many things that would ultimately lead to bliss and happiness so how do we decide? And since I’ve changed my life for the better I’ve intentionally followed the signs, or call them coincidences if you like.
When I hear about something multiple times, especially when I’ve never heard of it before, I follow up on it and learn more about it, allowing it to guide me in some way. When someone crosses my path multiple times I pay attention perhaps they are meant to serve some role in my life.
I was in a Kundalini Yoga class breathing all kinds of crazy when I could feel a presence to my left. I turned my head and opened my eyes to find a photographer peering at me from behind a lens. He smiled and blushed and I smiled in return. I remember thinking he was handsome and was drawn to him, but I continued my concentration in the class and when it was over I left.
A bit later as I was coming out of the restroom in another area of the festival, there was Mr. Photographer with his sparkly blue eyes, “Hi,” he said. “Hi” I replied, feeling as though I knew him. It took a moment but I remember he had liked one of my Facebook photos a few months back, he wasn’t a friend so it caught my attention and I actually poked him (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but hey it’s about vulnerability right?) Well even more embarrassing is he never responded! And so I said, “You know I’m really embarrassed right now because you didn’t even poke me back.” He laughed and said, “Well the only reason I’m saying Hi is because you poked me.”
Needless to say we spent some time together at the festival and I realized I actually met him briefly at last year’s festival. We have since been in touch and have spent time together because he serves some purpose in my life, perhaps as a friend, a teacher, or a lover for a lesson, a season, or a lifetime. Or perhaps to simply provide me with some of the photos you see in this post...we shall see.
And so perhaps you’ll take some of these words with you. Perhaps not. Either way, experience it all. I know I want to. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly—all of it—because in fact none of it is any of that. It’s all simply the human experience. There are lessons to be learned with every person, situation, place, thing—everything, everywhere. Every experience is serving, even a trip to the market. If you feel drawn to something, experience it. And in the process we can choose to show up more fully, with intention. We can choose to be present in the moment to get the most out of this one time journey. There is only wisdom to be gained in the experiencing of this beautiful human experience.