By Paul Lenda & Ariana McCue
A journey that began for one of us in the winter north lands of New York and in the sunny but scorched earth of California for another ended up in the lush tropical paradise of Costa Rica is one that looks surreal looking back at it. I felt elevated as soon as I arrived at Envision Festival. With hundreds of people waiting for hours to come into the festival there was a lot of anticipation and excitement in the air. Looking around I saw we’ve arrived to our jungle habitat for the weekend and looked forward to all the incredible music, workshops, yoga, artists, and the beach for the infamous Envision sunsets. With over 5,000 people joining us for the next four days outside of the small village of Uvita, we knew we were going to meet plenty of amazing souls and imprinting lots of happiness, love, and play onto the Envision group consciousness. This being the fifth Envision to date, I was excited to see what this festival has accomplished in creating at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Would it have issues that other transformational festivals have been struggling with? Would it be paradise on earth? We were eager to find out.
A great milestone for Envision this year was that it sold out for the first time since its inception, selling around 4,200 tickets. With only around 100 people being a part of the first Envision, this is a testament to its success. I knew even before coming to Envision that this festival was performing a truly transformational role during this Time of Transition with the hosting of Permaculture Action Day just prior to the festival beginning. Educating people on permaculture growing techniques is an integral element in creating a sustainable world because, as the United Nation’s own report concluded, small-scale organic farming is the only way to feed the world without massive repercussions. It’s great to see Envision helping invoke meaningful change towards a sustainable future. With its founder, Stephen Brooks, being a permaculturist himself, it’s not surprising the festival makes sure that it isn’t just a weekend vacation retreat but is also a catalyst for global change.
With sustainability on my mind I was trying to figure out how I would sustain my stamina in the level of heat and humidity that I haven’t been exposed to for half a year. Going to a four day festival that’s less than 10 degrees from the equator is no joke. We learned very quickly how important it is to keep hydrated and mindful of the sun’s intensity. My yoga ambitions were hampered by my difficulty adjusting from the 100 degree difference between frozen New York and humid Costa Rica and was amazed at how many people participated in the yoga classes, even when the temperature neared 100 F degrees.
Yoga side, there was a wide array of co-creative experiences to be a part of. The four music stages, each with their unique décor and feel, pumped out soul-raising sacred beats almost non-stop through the entirety of the festival. The Luna Stage, which acted as the main stage at Envision, had an impressive 30 foot tall jaguar that was made our of locally-sourced driftwood, a nod to the commitment to sustainability by the festival. This majestic display contained within its belly the music artists such as Lulacruza, Living Light, The Polish Ambassador, Random Rab, and others. All the artists that I saw perform threw down such good sets that I danced more intensely than I have in a long time, high on the music and the energy of everyone around me.
Intermixed amongst the music stages were some well-known names in the visionary art scene such as Amanda Sage, Noemind, Chris Dyer, Android Jones, and others. There was even a gallery setup which made for an enjoyable psychedelic safari to see some of the most forward-seeing art being created today. Part of what makes a festival feel transformational is to see art that touches us multidimensionally. What’s even more soul-stimulating is when a festival actively encourages artistic co-creation as Envision did with a massive art mural awaiting to be turned into a visionary collaboration of anyone and everyone that wanted to. Some of my favorite art appeared on this wall of art and I hope the festival kept the art the art that was created.
Envision is also a learning opportunity. With a wide array of speakers and workshops, from Social Permaculture & Organizational Dynamics by Shaun Parkins to Yin Yoga & Bowl Healing by Shareshten, there was plenty of opportunities to make Envision a learning experience as well as a celebratory one. Each morning started off with a meditation to get your energy flowing and ended with a ceremony by the main fire that went on until the dawn of the new day. The wide range of opportunities that were outside of seeing the talented music performances drove home the premise of Envision being a model for a multidimensionally transformational experience.
Costa Rica is an amazing place all around and what made it even better this year is that the entire country was powered by 100% renewable energy for the first 75 days of 2015! Envision is a regenerative event committed to ecological consciousness and proper sanitation. The sincere focus on being an eco-conscious festival was driven home with the use of biodiesel, compost toilets, locally-sourced building materials, thousands of coconuts as a hydration source, free drinking water, and the lack of disposable tableware. Forgot to bring a plate to the festival? Not a problem since for a $2 deposit you’re provided one. Forgot to bring your own cup or water bottle? Not a problem with the plentiful bamboo everywhere which was cut up into cups that was just a small additional charge from a wide array of local and organic food vendors (I kept mine as a souvenir). In a world where over-consumption is polluting the one habitable planet we have to live on in every way imaginable, it’s decidedly reassuring to see festivals maturing to a point where they take environmental responsibility seriously. The lack of garbage lying anywhere showed me just how much festival culture has grown in environmental consciousness.
And perhaps it was because we were in Costa Rica where the Tico culture of Pura Vida influences and permeates everything people do, but I loved just how much co-creative play and magic-making there was at Envision. Acro yoga, poi and fire spinning, hula hooping, bamboo slide rides, waterfall slide rides, tribal drum circles, and so many more expressions of the playful human spirit were alive at the festival. When you’re in a tropical paradise it probably isn’t difficult to see why!
The White Procession
A conscious and transformational festival is a co-creative opportunity to experience and share higher levels of consciousness with one another. To spread happiness, joy, compassion, and love is something that flows out effortlessly when we’re in an environment that nurtures and promotes the outpouring of positive energy. One of the special participatory elements of Envision was a directed intention by two wonderful souls to generate a magnified field of positive energy and then imprint it onto the group consciousness of the festival. They called it the White Procession.
The creators and leaders of the White Procession were Baruch Roter, MD and Veronica Fernmoss. Baruch is a yogi and family physician who promotes holistic health by helping people to cultivate a present mind, an activated body, and a heart-centered spirit. Veronica is a transformational life coach who combines her deep connection with nature with her background in psychology, tantra, yoga and movement to empower people to live a juicy life connected with their higher self and Spirit.
We were invited to be a part of this very special transient ceremony near the start of the festival which included around 20 white-adorned magic-makers. I spoke with Veronica to get a deeper understanding of the White Procession and what it was created and designed for. Here’s what she shared with us.
Shift: So what exactly is the White Procession?
Veronica: The White Procession is humans reminding ourselves and each other of our exquisite we are. We do that through a very simple means of opening our hearts and revealing our essence to one another. And because that’s a very vulnerable thing to do we do it as a collective. We gather and unify and one of the ways we unify is by wearing white, which symbolizes our purity, innocence, and divinity. We use song, dance, and the ancient technologies we have within us to feel that unity. We elevate our vibrational frequency together and create that collective field so that it’s really easy for each one of us to maintain that loving highly frequency because all we have to do if we ever feel it fading is to just look at each other to share that high frequency of love. We go out share share it with others during a procession of the group through the festival. We look at others and see them as being reflections of us at ourselves.
Shift: Where did you get the vision and inspiration for the White Procession?
Veronica: When I went to Burning Man I saw a tradition that was held where you wore white and went to a temple where everyone welcomes the dawn of the new day. While I really enjoyed it, I was interested in adding more depth to it which I felt was missing. I was inspired to create a white procession and experience the same thing but with everyone that was a part of it to feel present and open-hearted. I started sharing it at other festivals and building upon how I started it in order to elevate the collective group consciousness of those who were a part of the procession and those who the procession interacted with.
Lulacruza and Their Shamanic Beats
There was so much musical talent at Envision that was both local and international in its source. It was really nice to see so many music artists from Central and South America performing at the festival since it shows Envision isn’t just an enclave of Americans on a festival vacation in another country. Supporting the local communities is an essential role to play in the emphasis of us all being part of the same Whole. The human family is a really big one, but it’s a family on this organic spaceship we call Earth.
One group we chose to focus on that played at Envision is Lulacruza. We enjoyed them so much at the festival we wanted to learn more about their music and philosophy.
You’ve been called an electro-shamanic duo and musical alchemists; can you explain what that means?
We use music to channel the voices of nature, utilizing folk instruments, found sound objects and electronic processing. I guess people call us alchemists because we blend different sound materials to create our music. Also, we invoke nature spirits and work with them in our live performances. Using sound and music to induce altered states of perception is something that has been done since times immemorial throughout history, but our work may stand out as shamanic now that so much music is used exclusively for entertainment purposes.
Your music makes use of instruments found in nature like water and electronic equipment. How does the blending of synthetic and organic shape the vibe and intention of your music?
We use all the sound material around that is appealing to us, with no distinction between medias. Since the beginning of Lulacruza, we have been interested in ritual music, from ancient shamanic ceremonies to modern-day dance raves. It’s been quite a natural process for us to use folk instruments and field recordings as well as electronics to expand our sound palette, creating a sort of earthly electronica.
In your video for Pensar Bonito, you create music by slapping water in a rhythmic way. I’ve never seen music created this way and was fascinated by it. What inspired you to use water as a musical instrument?
During Luis’ time at Mills College Graduate Program his main instrument was what you call Found Sound Objects. Instead of using traditional or modern instruments to make music, he would resort to whatever he could get his hands on in the moment: trash cans, pots and pans, leaves, glass, toys, random pieces of junk, etc. By approaching a new object every time and attempting to make it sound musical, he discovered that anything can be a musical instrument, anything can be used to make something beautiful. Depending on how you hit or stroke or bow an object you can achieve a myriad of sounds. The first people to walk the planet made music with the objects that surrounded them. Musical instruments are simply, found objects that have been fine tuned and perfected over the decades.
When we were looking for a spot to film Pensar Bonito, we were immediately drawn to this spot on the river, where the crystalline water was surrounded by huge rocks, creating incredible acoustics. Luis had left all his percussion instruments behind because he had the idea of using found sound objects as his instruments. He tried hitting the water and there was no turning back. It was amazing.
Of course we are not the first people to do this. There is an inspiring video online of Brazilian genius Hermeto Pascoal beating water in his music and even before him, there are indigenous tribes in Africa that use water in their age-old music.
What got you interested favoring to play in the transformational festival scene instead of other places?
We also play other places but the transformational festival scene has been especially receptive to our work. We feel that people have a need to reconnect and to have experiences to help them transcend the purely materialist / productive paradigm of modern urban life. The transformational festival scene is a sort of oasis where people get to experience community life as well as ritual initiations even if just for a few days. So, having people who are willing to have an experience that will transform them in one way or another, is ideal for the work with do through music. When people are open and feel safe to travel with us, we can be like captains of a ship going to far places; we receive a lot of spirit guidance and shape our music journeys according to that too.
Where do you feel music production will go in the next decade? Do you feel that the blending of electronic and folk music will become more popular?
As our culture becomes more homogenized, through technology and globalization there is also an increase in our need to differentiate ourselves and understand how we are unique. One of the ways in which people do this is by looking back at their own unique heritage, their own unique myths and customs.
At any point there are always a number of musical production trends happening simultaneously but what feels the most interesting to us is the production that uses technology to re-imagine and recreate one’s own heritage. Tradition, to us, is something that needs to stay alive, and the way this happens, is not freezing it in it’s original form, but allowing it to transform and grow. How can the essence of the Andes mountains, once captured by traditional Bolivian Huaynos (a style of music), be expressed using technology and modern aesthetics?
Right now there are a small group of producers that are truly reinventing tradition, and we feel that this will continue to grow, as we recreate our culture both locally and globally.
Their new album Orcas is a collection of songs about the risk and vulnerability of falling in love: falling in love with another, falling in love with the chaotic beauty of nature, and the ultimate need to fall in love with one’s self…” Sometimes one must travel far to find one’s self. To be released on April 14th, Orcas is not your typical music album. It is unlike anything you’ve heard, unless you’ve traversed the mountains and jungles of Ortiz’s native Colombia, sat at sacred circles and been witness to Native American chants, as Lulacruza have over their past decade together. The storytelling on Orcas is rooted in South American ritual and folklore. Lyrics are inspired by both sublime love and the calmest, darkest hour before sunrise, as well as ancient forces like the feeling of reuniting with what feels like a twin soul from a past life.
Orcas will be available through The Polish Ambassador’s boutique label Jumpsuit Records and Fertil Discos as a name-your-own-price download. Physical copies comes with two cds so you can give one to a friend and will be sold at the prestigious Club del Disco in Argentina and also available for purchase here. The album will also be available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Come, take the journey and purchase Lulacruza’s new album Orcas here beginning April 14 or purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp. You can get a taste for Orcas by streaming their single Lagunita on Soundcloud or you can listen to songs from their recently released visual album, Esperando el Tsunami on Soundcloud or watch the full visual album directed by the renowned French film director, Vincent Moon.
Invoking the Sacred Through Ceremony
While the music performances by the likes of Lulacruza and others could be thought of as being symphonic ceremonies, there was a whole subset of ceremonies facilitating specific transformational results. Throughout the four days of Envision there were ceremonies being held and performed, mainly on the beach and a fire circle.
I joined a few ceremonies at various times of the day and night, including a particularly powerful cacao ceremony, and felt a powerful magnification of the experience thanks to the others that joined the ceremony. Collectively creating a powerful field of intentional energy activated the higher domains of our beings and produced a powerful spiritual experience with an indigenous vibe.
Other ceremonies were held for experiencing ecstatic trance, connecting with indigenous ancestor consciousness, and men and women-specific needs. There was even a ceremony performed by the local indigenous Boruca people. In modern society there is a scarcity of intentional ceremony that connects us with our authentic selves but thankfully the rise of transformational festivals is filling that void.
What Are We Envisioning?
Envision Festival was a lot of things. It was charming, warmhearted, and light. It was daring, adventurous, and thought-provoking…a beautiful collective of endearing spirits. Envision was a great teacher in many ways. Of all the ways, there was one in particular that struck me the most. It was an unveiling of many, many shades. It reminded me of the balance, how the universe really does need a little bit of everything to work in order. A dab of good, a pinch of bad.
For me the biggest lesson I took away, and what resonated with me as the clearest topic to focus on, starts with the question, “Where are our intentions?” Our collective family is one that continues to strive to stay true to our truths, to remember why we came here, and what our grand purpose is. I hope our collective does not start to forget why we started these fun and free-spirited gatherings of souls in the first place, and to always do our best to avoid those ropes that may pull us to the less conscious side of things.
It seemed to me that Envision exemplified almost every festival I’ve been to lately (with the exception of Shambhala, Symbiosis, and Enchanted Forest gatherings) in how much of our community has noticeably forgotten about the very causes of our coming together in celebration in the first place. Amongst the love and light, high vibrational spirit and downright beautiful overall energy of the festival attendees, there were things I found going on that absolutely saddened me. And these things are those that have been seen again and again now. Things that make me scratch my head in disbelief, as it’s hard to believe they are occurring in what is deemed to be and what strives to be conscious and harmonious space.
If we could be more conscious as a collective, perhaps situations like this would no longer occur. Upon entering the festival, on just the line itself to get in, festival attendees were made to wait hours upon hours, some people we talked to waiting on line in the 100 degree jungle over six and upwards of ten hours, suffering heat related traumas before the event even began on account of a huge lack of personnel at the front. Why weren’t there more volunteers/hired workers? Perhaps if more attention was given to organization (instead of what appeared like complete disarray), glitches occurring like these could be avoided.
I watched and listened to several stories of festival goers who had fainted in the line, or waited all day just for someone to say “you’re not on the list” because of some lack of organization which always seemed to be that of the staff. And this experience is noted again and again at various conscious events, we don’t wish to make Envision seem like the solitary example as this is quite a frequent logistical issue that should be resolved. To have to go through such a thing all before setting up a camp and endure brutal amounts of humidity on a jungle floor for several days, in my opinion, is disrespectful.
Yet this happens at festival after festival. And what is it all for? Why weren’t there enough bracelets for every single person attending the festival? I heard countless accounts of people who experienced this situation, as well as even having had the experience myself in the midst of the logistical chaos at the front gate. I know that festival creators and the people involved are working incredibly hard, and must deal with grand matters of all sorts of difficulty, but I also know that situations that affect the health and well-being of festival goers should be handled with care. We should exemplify conscious culture in all that we do.
What can we do? How can we invoke more people asking more questions and how can we create that desire to look deeper into the events we spend our hard-earned money on and invested time into attending? Who and what are we really supporting, and what are we trying to achieve? How can we provoke positive change and call forth a deeper understanding, better communication and greater respect between ALL people involved with these events? I believe that most people are innately good, and start out with well-meaning intentions yet somewhere along the way, sometimes people in positions of power may falter and lose their way for one reason/lesson or another…but it is all just a reflection of all of the other puzzle pieces.
I also believe that sometimes all that is necessary to bring forth change is simply increasing communication and expression. If no one is opposing behavior, calling for change, or standing up for a solution, the remaining realities remain the same. One common goal of the conscious community is to rid ourselves of the shackles that money provides, but time and time again I have been witness to growing amounts of spiritual materialism and those who do not practice what they preach.
It is such an unfortunate acceptance I’ve had to come to. But as I function on positivity, I do keep mindful that I know that we all have the ability to take turns holding one another up as we may fall down a little, as rhythms go, but I wonder, if change needs to happen, how can we go about it calmly peacefully and rationally? I know that many have strong opinions on the shift that has occurred within so many festivals over the last few years, including Burning Man’s shift over the last decade, and I’m curious to know as both an observer of what’s happening, and someone who is in the mouth of it having an individual experience…just WHAT is going on with our collective. I’m interested in seeing what future events unfold.
Just like the TV shows we make fun of and the politics we abhor, we seem to suddenly be in the middle of our own silly, petty reality drama…complete with hierarchy, scandals and mischief. But our upper hand is that we are conscious humans who have all cuddled together for the same reasons, guided by the same light, and driven by the same force. Deep down we all love to dance, we all love to love, and we all love to grow. I believe this universal cosmic family is gorgeous and that these things are just little stones to overcome along the galactic wondrous journey, little blessings in disguise. There is no judgment here, nor bias, just a faerie along her way, preserving her accounts…her experiences, and revealing them as any storyteller would, for positive change, to abundantly share, and to hopefully make a difference.
I had a personal experience I’d like to share and open up about, which is one I would have not liked to have gone through, but is also one I feel had to occur in order for a ripple of change to start expanding. On Saturday night, an exciting evening just before Envision’s end, I was physically (not sexually) harassed by a security guard backstage. Not just any security guard, but the performance manager. This experience was so profound for me. It opened up major insight into where many are blind to see. As a professional circus artist, performer and acrobat of the last 20 years, I found it beyond disturbing to be emotionally, spiritually and physically ripped out of my sacred space before going up to share my art. To have felt comfortable and safe but to have been in danger in actuality, these are feelings I never dreamed of experiencing in a professional working environment (where I express what I LOVE), and this is a situation that unfortunately has affected me since, but hopefully all for the better, and wiser.
I had just completed a fire hooping set on the Luna stage, stretching on a yoga mat and getting ready to go up for my aerial routine, when a hot-headed security guard started screaming at me, claiming I had ‘The Wrong Bracelet’ and threatened to remove me from the premises. As I tried to explain to him that I was at Envision not only doing media work for Shift, but that I was also a professional seasoned festival performer and volunteering at the Kids Oasis for Natural Leaders Foundation, running a kids circus theatre workshop, but the festival itself could not give me three bracelets, just one, (Envision staff gave one per person, as they said they ran out of bracelets (I had a lot to say about that!) and before I could finish my sentence, he already had his hands on my shoulders, lifting me up off of the ground, and tossing me, like a rag doll, outside of the performer warm up tent. (With, might I add, a helpful physical push from the performance coordinator who ‘didn’t see my name on the schedule’ that we aerialists had reorganized ourselves).
After the belittling unprofessional harassment treatment that I endured, not a single finger of help was lifted by surrounding female festival performers backstage, and the security guard continued to call for BACKUP on a 4’11” faerie. I felt so degraded, so violated; never in my life had a huge man physically assaulted me (in gratitude for those blessings), and to have been assaulted in my sacred space…my peaceful place of comfort, the place in my mind and body where I go to prepare for a performance where I share and extend and pour out my art, my heart and do what makes me feel the happiest…was just jaw-dropping for me. It is hard for me to even think about.
After I collected myself I simply told the security guard it was impolite to put his hands on a lady, and walked directly to the actual festival security. Envision Festival did have quite a wonderful security team on site inside the festival grounds and a team of emotional handlers on standby for attendees who may need a helping hand, and for this I felt very grateful and was very impressed. Their team really took great care of me afterwards, and I appreciate that very much. I was even offered an escort every time I needed to walk backstage and be in passing of that man, especially during my upcoming performances.
The main question for me here is, how was this man hired in the first place? Will Envision actually take proper action as they promised they would, to not hire him again? How can we keep future performers safe from ill-equipped workers who provide an unsafe environment? I understand festivals are looking for big, stealthy individuals with an intimidating demeanor to keep order at festivals and keep attendees safe, but when the protection becomes that which you need to be protected from, something has got to change! A festival which aims to care about the well-being of their performers, attendees, volunteers and workers should not be hiring an individual with an anger problem that massive. Perhaps there can be some sort of screening developed for testing inflated egos before hiring takes place. The matter lies in the simple fact that if a grown man can take out his hard day on a harmless female co-worker in a physical and dangerous manner during a high energy, high intensity environment, a major festival is the last place that individual should be.
Time and time again I experience festival workers with rude attitudes and inflated egos to the moon and back…kids who are working an event for the first time and might think it’s cool to play a role they see on film, to be some sort of authority character and behave in any way they choose to deem themselves more important and falsely enlarge their self worth. Now that I can add physical harassment to my backstage blues list, I felt it’s worth writing about. It is emotional abuse when volunteers or workers are getting their rocks off crossing names of lists and giving out bracelets,
I’ve witnessed individuals be talked down to over and over again at various festivals. It is not okay to talk down to people because you have a festival worker t-shirt on, and it’s not alright to have a large man assault you backstage, either. Transformational festivals are where we as individuals go so that we can run free, be our authentic selves, let loose, spread knowledge, make love and have a wonderful time. These are experiences no female (or anyone for that matter) should ever need to worry about at the conscious events we go to in order to raise our vibrations, to aid in universal positive change and to escape from the ordinary hum drum of every day societal living.
I’ve been shaken up from this experience, and I have been moved to influence a change. I’ve made it a goal of mine to help to stop harassment and mistreatment of festival attendees and performers, to bring light and clarity to the realities, to bring to the surface what really goes on backstage at many of these events, and to spread knowledge and awareness on the situations that occur. We have the power to rise up above our boundaries as humans and take a stand against that which blocks us from pushing forward as conscious beings. I’ve learned this, and so much more magic from many of my beautiful and awakening festival and community experiences.
We are always more powerful than we think, and we must keep striving to use our magic for good, for the positive continuation of our species and for the continuous uplifting of all beings around us. We are all the carriers of great keys…keys that hold a bright and loving past, present & future. We lead by example with every breath, every footstep, every decision we make and direction we take. We have the ability to keep transforming and shifting this world into a more beautiful one. What do you Envision?
Creating something like Envision is no simple task, with over 1,000 people (staff and performers) coming together to help make it all happen. While there are notable difficulties with putting together a festival of this size and scope, the overall direction is definitely a positive and progressive one. With the festival signing a multi-year lease for the beautiful location it was held at this year, we can be sure to see it grow upon what was created this year and bring a transcendental and transformational experience to people who come next year wishing to be a part of a conscious culture that is genuine in actions and principles.
By bringing together visionary leaders in different areas of this emerging culture year after year, Envision is expanding is influence and role as a catalyst for social change. With so many societal systems teetering on the edge of implosion it’s reassuring to see festivals such as Envision stepping up to show a model of how the world can be more regenerative, more loving, and more inspiring. With around a third of the festival attendees being Costa Ricans and with plans to encourage even more, Envision is committed to making sure it is a truly inclusive event. It’s through the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that we can create an upgraded reality…and have a lot of fun doing it. The recent rise of festivals such as this one allows for people to bring their authentic selves to the surface and creates a safe space for people to be who they truly are or wish to be without worry.
With Envision finally making a profit this year after years of being in the red, we’re excited about the transformational festival model evolving to the point of being self-sustaining while not compromising what it stands for. Modern conscious culture is still very new and as it evolves and develops we hope to see it become a significant accelerator of our collective evolution and social transformation.
Tickets for Envision 2016 are on sale this spring. Keep your eyes peeled on the Envision Facebook page for more information as it becomes available. After this year’s rapid sell-out, we expect tickets to go quickly. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience “Pura Vida”! To stay up-to-date, follow the links below!