I recently attended a Yoga Music Festival in Joshua Tree, BhaktiFest West, and had a phenomenal experience that opened my eyes even more to the beautiful world we live in and what is possible when 4,000 people come together ready to be seen and heard, to be vulnerable and open, to release the pain and fear, and to spread love. I decided to sign up to volunteer, mostly because funds were low and I was excited about the opportunity to participate in the Festival in a different way than I did the previous year. I served in the Chai Lounge, which was the perfect opportunity for me as I got to serve delicious Chai tea and meet lots of people. An added bonus is that all proceeds went to a foundation in India called Food for Life Vrindavan, which supports this impoverished North Indian communities in Vrindavan and educating girls in order to rise out of poverty.
My first day started off with an inspiring yoga session with Saul David Raye, who reminded us that yoga is the practice of returning home and that meditation is the spiritual experience of yoga. We connect with the spiritual elements of ourselves so that we can go home. This rang so true for me and in my practice of yoga, I often feel like I am going to that place that feels like home within me. The place where no fear and only love lives. The place where I feel confident and strong and the Queen I know myself to be. The place where all the noise drowns out and I can hear the gentle voice of my inner wisdom reminding me who I really am, rather than what the world tells me I should or shouldn’t be. Immediately after the class, I sat down on a tree stump in the shade to take in all that had been stirred up from that class. A photographer came by to take shots of a dog and woman, and then me. We began talking and it was if he was reading my mind and all that was stirring from the class. We talked about how the universe gives you projects because you are worthy of overcoming them, you are meant to overcome the challenges that come into your life. We discussed the importance of healing ourselves so that we can heal the world. It was a profound interaction immediately following such a profound yoga session.
Later that night at the Chai Lounge, I chatted with a young woman who was doing her own healing work and how she was coming into her own as a woman, letting go of the pain from the past and what she experienced. All of this was possible through yoga. I smiled and felt that our stories were similar. I heard so much of her in what she shared. I then shared my own story of strength, resilience and gratitude. In the background MC Yogi was spouting off lyrics and one in particular struck me.
I looked at her and said, “Wow! Did you just hear that?” We stopped and repeated it again. We both looked at each other and smiled, recognizing this serendipitous moment of two strangers meeting at a festival in the desert and reminding each other to keep moving forward and that we are not alone, that we have the power to remove those obstacles we place in ourselves. And we are capable of so much love and joy in this world, if we are only able to remove the obstacles within to receive the abundance of joy and love.
As the weekend went on, I continued to make many more of these auspicious connections. I met a young woman named Saskia in a yoga class on my third day, whose name means Brave Woman. She traveled from Germany to come to the festival and I could see in her eyes the journey she had taken already at a young age. I looked at her and said, “You are a brave woman”. She briefly shared her story with me and I was touched at her ability to be vulnerable and to embrace a loving hug during the class we took together. The next day she passed me as I was talking to another woman, Natalia, who I met through a volunteer who was also working at the Chai Lounge (also ironically named Natalia and both of them were from Colombia). Saskia stopped and I introduced them to each other. We talked for a short while and I went on my way to check in to my shift at the Chai Lounge. They ended up talking for a few hours sharing their stories and finding commonality in their shared struggles and triumphs in life. I believe that if I hadn’t sat next to Saskia in the yoga class and hadn’t volunteered to meet Natalia, those two wouldn’t have had that encounter to share their stories and make a connection, which I later found out from Natalia was quite inspiring and profound.
One of my final encounters occurred when I was covering two booths at the same time, the Not Dog Stand (Vegan Hot Dogs) and the Chai Lounge. A young girl came up whom I had met the previous day when she painted an Om symbol on my foot. She wanted two not dogs and was very astute in reminding me of the cost. She was proud of the money she earned throughout the festival working at a few booths selling items and painting. She was with her mother and we started talking. I explained that I met her daughter yesterday and the man she was with told me that her mother, Kelly, was coming up the following day to meet them. She laughed a little and said, “Oh yes. I met him a few months ago and he’s been so wonderful.” As we continued talking she shared with me about her family and her kids. I was curious so inquired more about these “kids” she referred to. She explained that she hosts people from all over, and she considers everyone her family. She has a house in Orange County that she runs as a Bed and Breakfast but hasn’t charged anyone for their stay as they take care of her home, clean the house, take care of her kids, make meals together. Tears started to welt up my eyes. I look at her and saw the beautiful love that she shared with all of these people who passed through her home. It reminded me of my grandmother. My grandmother desperately wanted to have many children. Instead, she had six miscarriages before she had my mother, which I only recently found out. My grandmother always hosted people in her house so there were people always coming and going. And while it wasn’t the healthiest situation as many of them were alcoholics and addicts, I realized in that moment that my grandmother was trying to create her own family, to heal the wounds of her past. As I began to have a full on cry at this point, Kelly and her “kids” embraced me with a hug. I explained the story of my grandmother and then I shared about how I dreamed to have a house in the country to host lots of people, hold family dinners and have many of children (not necessarily biological). This was one of the most beautiful heartfelt connections I made from a stranger that helped me connect to something I did not know lived inside of me and that needed to be released—the dream of holding space for others to co-create a family surrounded by love and support, the need to recognize the pain my grandmother lived with and that she did the best she could with all that she had and the release of that pain knowing that it was not my own and I no longer needed to carry it.
My time at BhaktiFest ended with dancing and singing with strangers arm-in-arm to the sweet sounds of Govindas and Radha. We sang Hare Krishna and We Are One, We Are Love. You could feel the energy in the air and with the embrace of each arm, strangers who were all feeling the love, a raising of collective consciousness, an awakening to the deepest sense of our true self, an affirmation that we are all in this together and that through love we can overcome. The festival reminded me that there are serendipitous moments every day in front of us. And only if we pause, look people in the eye, listen to each other and share our hearts, can we truly see what is before us and the gifts that are being offered to move us gently along this path called life.