Dr Kelly Neff, The Lucid Planet
My favorite time of year is here… transformational festival season! I was lucky to attend Envision in Costa Rica this February, and my first stateside festival is Firefly Gathering in Flagstaff AZ June 12-15, followed closely by Sonic Bloom in Rye Colorado from June 18-21. I will be covering both events for my website and radio show The Lucid Planet, as well as offering sexuality workshops on the topic of love, polyamory and open relationships.
Last week, I interviewed Sonic Bloom director Jamie Janover on my show, as well as festival photographer Matthew Cremer. (You can listen to the full podcast of Lucid Planet Radio here).
What I really took away from these interviews was how transformational festivals connect us to ourselves and to each other on a much deeper level, and much more rapidly, than other events that happen in our daily waking life. In many ways, these events are the physical and energetic manifestations of the revolution of consciousness currently taking place on our planet.
What are Transformational Festivals?
Last year, I wrote this article about 8 Ways Transformational Festivals Can Change Ourselves and Change The World, where I describe what makes these events special and unique from other experiences.
For those of you who are new to the concept, transformational festivals are interactive, co-created events where attendees participate together in activities designed to transform themselves and the planet. As opposed to watching others perform on a stage, at transformational festivals we are encouraged to engage in workshops, educational initiatives, artistic expressions, flow sessions, sustainable living, and activities that encourage self-reflection like meditation, yoga, sound baths and more. Rather than being passive observers, at these events we become active participants in the growth and development of our community.
Where Does The Healing Come From?
As a psychologist, I am naturally drawn to the healing potential of these events. In my opinion, the integration of true healing is something that happens best when we are immersed in the deepest and most ecstatic throes of life experience, not sitting quietly in a therapist’s chair or lying in a hospital bed (which ironically is where I was exactly two years ago clinging to my life, but that’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say, discovering these events and this community has been integral to me finding my identity and my voice).
In this article, I shared a story about a close friend who is a military veteran with PTSD . He found an immense amount of healing and peace through his festival journeys, and for the first time ever he felt comfortable around large crowds of people. The update on his story is that he is planning to attend Burning Man for this first time year, along with myself and many of our close friends: After several tours in Iraq he vowed never to willingly return to the desert, but he is now ready to reclaim it as a place of joy and creative expression, as opposed to one of pain an destruction.
At Lighting in a Bottle last week, my close friend holistic pharmacologist Dr. Nick Berry was able to help offer remedies and resources in the healing journey of first-time festival-goer and leukemia survivor Stephanie Stearns. Stearns describes dancing with her son, who never dances at home, and how the music and environment offered a beautiful and happy place for them to connect. When I read her story, featured in LA Weekly tears of joy streamed down my face as I was overcome with emotions over the power the events and how lucky I feel to be a part of them.
There are many reasons why festivals can have such healing power, including:
1. Joy of Self-Expression and Freedom
Transformational festivals offer a sense of freedom, creativity and experimentation that many of us have craved but few of us have discovered until we found these events. There is a childlike joy in wandering through interactive art installations and psychedelic light-up wonderlands that we could only have dreamed of, while dancing all day and night and connecting to our tribal roots.
While you are at these events, your usual routine and stressors are replaced by completely new ‘schedule’ where you can pursue what makes you smile all day long, with a bunch of other like-minded people. As I mention in the podcast, I get to turn off my phone, disconnect from the external demands on me, and tune in to a world of endless possibilities, smiles and colors. For me, this type of unbridled joy and release is one of the most important pathways to healing.
2. Rapid Personal Growth
The opportunity to pursue joy and freedom brings about rapid personal growth and transformation. The educational opportunities at these events are profound and far-reaching, and through this access to knowledge and information we can make personal changes in days that might have taken us months back in the ‘default’ reality.
Perhaps this is why, as Matt Cremer I discussed, dreams and goals can manifest much more rapidly in the festival environment than in ‘normal life.’ We are all intimately connected to each other- (Jamie Janover describes it in our interview as the Noosphere, I refer to it as Collective Consciousness, and so on) and when we are rapidly growing and evolving with a group of like-minded people, the pathway to create our dreams suddenly shortens…. leading to a sometimes nearly ‘instant’ process of manifestation. (Perhaps it is challenging or ambiguous to explain the mechanics or metaphysics of this process, but I just know that I have experienced it, and so have many people I have interviewed at these events)
3. Removing the Illusion of Separation
When I asked Jamie Janover why festivals can be healing, he explained that it is because “they remind us of the interconnectedness of everything in the universe.” I certainly a believe that on spiritual and energetic levels, we are all connected and made of the same material (i.e. ‘star-stuff!’) Quantum physics, the Unified Field Theory, Noetic Sciences and many other disciplines certainly seem to support this notion, but often in our daily lives of separation, we do not always feel these deep connections unfolding.
But at transformational festivals, the feeling of connection is palpable, at least in my experience. When we are at these events, we become more connected with ourselves, with each other, with our communities and with the planet. Being able to see and feel such synergy can remind us of the incredibly healing and universal truth of this universe that separation is an illusion because we are all ONE consciousness, made from unconditional love that lives on forever (Go on and call me hippie dippy for believing this, but according to world famous neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander on Episode 4 of Lucid Planet Radio, this could be the truth!)
4. Opportunities for Global Synchronization
We have been coming together outdoors as tribes since the dawn of civilization. The evolution of the transformation festival movement gives us opportunities to bond with more people than ever before, including people who are not only physically present. By fusing ancient rituals and modern technologies we have the ability to connect people across time and space, giving us greater options for celebration and growth.
Transformational festivals can now offer live-streams and synchronized global meditations, so that at several sites around the world people can simultaneously meditate and celebrate in unity consciousness. What is more healing than people all across the Earth getting together to celebrate life, sustainability, community, music, art and self-expression? The amazing people at Unify use these synchronized meditations for World Water Day and World Peace, and you can read more about synchronized meditation, collective consciousness and the unified field from the links here.
I’m sure there are many more ways that transformational festivals can be healing, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
You can connect with me via The Lucid Planet, FB and Twitter, or come connect in person at my workshops at the following transformational events this summer:
Firefly Gathering, June 12-15, Flagstaff AZ
Sonic Bloom, June 18-21, Rye, CO- BUY TICKETS HERE
Absurdia, July 9-12, East of Denver, CO
Burning Man (MY FIRST!) August 30th- Sept 7th, Black Rock City NV
Symbiosis Gathering, Sept 17-20, Oakdale CA
Photo Credit: Robert Yager Photography also on FB
LIGHT AND LOVE!