Lightning in a Bottle: A Model for the Evolution of Festival Culture


As Lightning in a Bottle shifts locations every few years, so too does the energy & spirit. There is an allowance for a completely new experience of an already experienced something. This year LiB found itself in Bradley, CA…with a population of only 92 people! This made the grocery shopping at their local market very interesting. As the nearest Whole Foods wasn’t for 49 miles, we got to experience the Bradley way…and were still able to obtain some nice goodies for our stay.

Amidst rolling hills of water-deprived grass and the occasional tree, you wouldn’t think that there were 15,000 festival revelers hidden in a dried out lakebed celebrating LiB. However, that’s exactly the scene we were greeted with when we arrived…and we loved it. Getting out of the car we first thought we somehow time-traveled into the future to Burning Man given the sudden dust storms that made us second-guess whether we should’ve brought masks and goggles. These died down as we ventured deeper into the festival and before we knew it we were surrounded by a wonderfully eclectic array of people with smiles on their faces and energy that made us feel right at home.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 40-edited

It was alot of fun seeing so many captivating arrangements and happenings, like stilt-walking dinosaurs, fire-breathing steampunk machines, spontaneous hooping, rebuilt old-timey buildings, human nests and webs, people in meditation & doing yoga, hugging circles, and the occasional taking on of amusing personas like little old ladies with walkers.

This is what co-creation looks like. Gone are the days where people went to a festival primarily to watch a concert of music artists perform on a stage. We’ve come a long way from Woodstock. Today, just as music has evolved in an astounding way, so too has festival culture and LiB is a model example of that. Everything from being conscious of making the festival experience a sustainable one by minimizing waste and energy to providing a diverse spectrum of non-musical experiences and installations that are oftentimes participatory in nature. The workshops are worth the price of the ticket alone.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 66-edited
You never quite know what you’ll end of seeing and experiencing, especially if you wander without any destination in mind. At around 4 in the morning we found ourselves at the Temple of Consciousness, coming upon a journey being created by Shaman’s Dream that was as mystic as it was bass-induced grounding into the Earth. It’s rare for musicians to tell a story with their music in such a captivating and eclectic way. After such an impressive performance the night fades away and the bringers of the new dawn are none other then Desert Dwellers. Playing their neo-tribal bass music, they make you feel as if you are truly part of an organism, Gaia, that is breathing and you breathing with it in unison…expressing that breathing in the ebb and flow of dancing at the bottom of a dry lake in California.

This is the definition of a magical experience.

It’s fascinating just how much synchronizes when you’re at a place like LiB. Lost your friends? You’ll somehow come across them at just the ideal time. Ran out of water? Not only does LiB provide free water to anybody at any time, others will gladly help you out because we’re all brothers and sisters on this blue marble hurtling through space at 490,000 miles per hour. We’re all in this together, so why not reflect that in all that we say and do? LiB is nurturing an environment where this kind of consciousness is encouraged and promoted. Meeting someone becomes a much deeper and connective experience, especially when you directly feel their energy by placing your hand on their heart and their hand on yours…a profound way to say ‘Hello’ that you have to feel to understand.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 168-edited

There are many that meet new friends who become integral parts of each others’ lives in a way that a place like LiB is able to make possible. Before I came to LiB, I was told by its producers that probably the best way to experience the festival for the first time is to come by yourself because once you’re there, you’ll meet so many great souls and have an experience that may shift your life path towards a new direction…one that is more aligned with what your dreams, passions, and aspirations in life are. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone and a conscious festival like LiB can dissolve those boundaries and help you become a conscious and intentional evolutionary.

The Moments

It was no surprise to me that some of the most profound experiences I encountered at LiB were not the ones I planned or knew about, and were not the workshops or speakings or my performances…but the moments in between, the moments that make LIB and other conscious festivals, our community, and our uplifted shift in human spirits as a whole…the moments that make life itself…so rewarding.

One such moment I had came at the very end of the festival. Paul had already left camp to head for San Francisco and I was waiting on my ride back to Los Angeles, wandering about, just being. I found my way to a tree, climbed it, & started sleeping in it until a man who looked like he needed someone to talk to, started talking to me. Intuitively I thought he may need a listening ear, so I invited him up into the tree with me when he asked. After a while of talking, I found this stranger crying in my arms, expressing & releasing so much of what he had pent up inside for what seemed like so long. He than offered to buy me pizza, which was the one thing I had been craving that morning, but could not afford to buy. We spent a few hours together in each others presence, eating pizza, laughing with friends, and going to and fro on top of his really cool bicycle.

It was such a lovely reminder of how you can make such a huge difference, how everyone can help one another in some way (whether it be a shoulder to cry on or a pizza to be eaten!), how good it feels to give give give and see all that is naturally given in return—how much one gets from giving—and how easy it is to take some time out of your day to give a gift to someone else who may need it more than your to-do list. Remember the last time someone was there for you when you needed them most. We are all there for someone at some point, and at some point…someone is always there for us. And what a beautiful little thought that is!

I could go on and on about all of the moments, all of the friends encountered, friends made, friends I hadn’t seen in a while (Paul!), art seen, laughs shared, beautiful memories gained, music enjoyed and on and on…but my favorite surprise of the festival was getting to see a live poetry duo that I have been wanting to see for a loooooong time. Climbing Poetree!

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 198-edited
This dynamic and seriously empowering duo of goddess women sing word songs like I’ve never heard before. I had originally heard of them from someone very special to me and resonated with them immediately upon learning that they too, hail proudly from NYC. Their tone, diction and attitude is one I can only recognize from my home, the Big Apple…and so much of the time it feels like home when I listen to their flow. I got to see them open up for Little Dragon at first, and then since I had already reveled in their intoxicating words, I thought, “If I have to choose between seeing them again and experiencing a different source of inspiration during this festival, then indulging in something new is what I should do”.

Well, when they performed again, I had decided to go up to the beautiful Meditation Lookout, with creations by the amazing Nate Hogan, nature artist extraordinaire. I went with Paul, and a new friend of ours. Turns out, the silent group mediation being held there was missing its instructor. Everyone was kind of just lying around. This was a beautiful thing in itself, but I took that as a sign to go check out Climbing Poetree once more and I brought my new friend along with me. The universe, as always and forever, lead us in the right direction. The two of us, my new friend and I, found ourselves crying and leaning on each other, watching a performance that moved us both in the same way, in such a way that it allowed for a vulnerability between two new friend souls that formed a closer bond.

It was a beautiful experience to have shared with her, and a beyond beautiful experience in general. If only I knew how to describe the uplifting feeling you get when these two women come together and open their mouths, and are heard. The music their voices sing is so powerful, so motivational, so right. They are gorgeous pioneers for the feminine voice. For standing up & taking charge & being heard. They leave beautiful reminders to us all of the ways in which we all could be living, of the things we have gone through as humanity, of the glorious shift that our consciousness is currently experiencing, and how we can all survive and thrive with oneness and unconditional love resonating deep within our purely peaceful spirit.

I found myself leaving their artistic display with a new sense of purpose, a higher state of being, and a huge smile across my face. Inspiration; that, to me, is the grandest thing you can achieve as an artist, the most fulfilling award you can accomplish. For me, I take their ability to inspire to such heart, I take it with me on my circus endeavours as in my personal artistry that is what I strive to always be; simply inspirational. There is nothing better than making the world better through your art, from your heart.

Lightning in a Bottle sure had its moments. Think about your moments. All of the beautiful moments shared and the beautiful moments to come, and be in full gratitude for THIS one. Be In LOVE in every moment!


A Temple of Consciousness for Intentional Evolutionaries
An Interview with Dream Rockwell

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 21-edited

The Temple of Consciousness, which this year was in the middle of the festival that served as its spiritual heart, is a place all should immerse themselves when coming to LiB. The producer of this sanctuary is Dream Rockwell and we went ahead and spoke with her to learn more about the motivation and philosophy being the Temple.

Shift: The Temple of Consciousness has an eclectic mix of different elements that help with the nourishing of peoples’ bodies, minds, and souls. What went into the process of bringing together all of these elements together to form the Temple into what it has become?

Dream: From the beginning there was a solid vision, a well thought out concept of what was being desired to create. And yes, the idea of nourishing the body, mind and soul was/is at the heart of it. Because we humans are all so unique and different in what nourishes us the content from our perspective also needed to be just as wide and varied. Something for everyones’ evolutionary journey. The truth is there came a point in my life where dancing and going wild just wasn’t enough anymore. I needed to learn and challenge myself in other ways. But I still am, at heart, a free spirit. The idea of the temple inside the festival is the idea that we can have it all. We really can be wild and free, dance and dress up and also do yoga at sunrise, learn from empowering speakers, take classes in a wide range of disciplines and interests, share space and honor the native people who have been on the land for hundreds, maybe thousands of years before we ever arrived, chant, and meditate. We can do it all.

Shift: Moving the Temple into the center of LiB made it feel like it was truly the spiritual heart of the festival. Do you feel this was a move long overdue or one that came when the time was right?

Dream: Thanks, we agree!  All things in perfect timing. It’s perfect. Yes earlier would have been nice too but the time is now.

Shift: Do you see other festivals creating similar sanctuary space at their centers?

Dream: Yes I think we have pioneered a movement that has rippled out into the collective consciousness and changed what festival producers understand is possible and desired by people. We believed and understood this 10 years ago. It’s taken the world a moment to catch on but now we see a lot of festivals emulating our model. All I can say is it’s the wave of the future and the time is now to create fuller spectrum of experiences for people. We have proven that it’s what people want. We want it all.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 179-edited

Shift: LiB has won sustainability awards for several years in a row now. In the spirit of continuous evolution and promotion of environmental sustainability, does the Temple of Consciousness plan on using clean energy sources to run its infrastructure?

Dream: We are always looking for new ways to make our festival more sustainable. When we brought in Katrina Zavalney in 2006 to green our festival it was a bold move. I first met Katrina at another event. We spoke at length about our passion for creating and practicing more sustainable habits in a world that was becoming so disposable. Her spirit and excitement was so infectious and though well educated on sustainable practices at the time her knowledge and experience went way beyond mine or anyone on our team. The next LiB I made the call and asked her if she would come and help us out. She agreed. She was later join by Shena Turlington, who was a Lucent Dossier performer at the time, and we continued to grow the initiative. It’s definitely more expensive both for the festival and the vendors. At the same time, Josh and I had the idea that we could ‘require’ people to carry their own water vessels by providing free water and no ’throw away’ cups. There is great revenue in selling water in bottles so this meant losing out on that revenue, but we felt the practice and statement was a strong and important one. Again, I believe we were ahead of the curve and hopefully other large events will follow us in this.

Shift: What are some ways in which you can see even more progress towards actualizing the goals of the Temple of Consciousness in the future?

Dream: We are always conspiring to improve upon ourselves and create a move diverse, yet focused, experience for the LiB participants. I spend the year taking workshops and exploring what new/ancient spiritual technologies are emerging. We then seek out leaders in these fields to come share their wisdom. We are also looking to see what people are digging. For example, we know that one of the largest growing areas in terms of what people are doing physically outside of yoga is something called Ecstatic Dance or Contact Improv Dance. We added a really solid line up of the best music producers and teachers from the West Coast scene this year and invested in a ‘squishy’ floor in the Yoga Om area so that we could have hundreds of people exploring ecstatic dance together each night as the sun went down. That was amazing and super successful.

Shift: What’s in the works for next year’s Temple?

Dream: We are entertaining the idea of turning the nighttime into a very downtempo chill area. We realize that this would add something super valuable to the overall festival experience and the Temple is the perfect place to house that type of music experience. We’re also in talks with a speaker that we’re been wanting to book for 3 years now, his schedule hasn’t permitted attending the festival but it looks like 2015 will be the year. Join our mailing list to find out who and what we have planned for next year. These secrets will be revealed in time.

Creating Sacred Spaces at Lightning in a Bottle
An Interview with Nate Hogan

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 112-edited

We consider Lightning in a Bottle to be part one of the pioneers in the emergence of a new kind of festival…a conscious one that has as part of its philosophy the idea of co-creation of consciousness-raising experiences and facilitators of those experiences. Once such co-creator is Nate Hogan, also known as Nature Dreamweaver. He’s built altars for art galleries, weddings, sculpted countless earth mandalas, decorated stages at conferences and festivals, installed human-sized nests, natural archways, and collaborated on giant recycled art gardens. His art has appeared at just about every major west coast festival and beyond including Beloved, Alchemeyez, Burning Man, Harmony Festival, Symbiosis, Emrgnsee, Mystic Garden Party, Horning’s Hideout, Rothbury Festival, Wakarusa, Bhakti Fest and of course Lightning in a Bottle. We caught up with Nate to ask him about his amazing creations at LiB.

Shift: Your nature installations for Lightning in a Bottle at places like the Temple of Consciousness, the meditation lookout, and others were absolutely beautiful and felt very comforting energetically. How did you come to realize that they would become synergistic with conscious festivals and integral to them?

Nate: It just kind of happened and just started showing up. I was inspired by going to festivals and after I had a visionary experience I started showing up and creating sacred spaces out of anything I could find and started building. I was doing it on my own and then ran into others doing similar things. Scott O’Keefe inspired me, as well as Shrine, and Alex Grey and so I started creating sacred space out of natural materials.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 126-edited

Shift: What was the defining vision or reason you had to start making sacred spaces out of things you found in nature?

Nate: When I was setting up a dance floor at a festival I went into trance and started building a pyramid out of sticks and rocks and started channeling creative life force energy, prana, coming through me. It was something I never tapped into before and knew I wanted to keep doing it. Every time I did it I got deep insights into myself, life and the world and decided to continue following that path.

Shift: What are the internal processes you are going through when making these installs?

Nate: It was mostly intuition, improvisation and imagination since I don’t know what materials I will have. Anytime I try too hard it doesn’t turn out best so I let things create themselves.

Shift: Do you feel there is a unique energetic signature to your nature installations given there’s no artificial or synthetic materials used?

Nate: We do buy glass beads and rocks from places like the dollar store for alters but other than that its the shamanic transformational process of creating something out of nothing and the intention put into the space that is what people like.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 117-edited

Shift: Considering the future of conscious festivals and the emerging new paradigm culture they are helping cultivate, where do you see the integration of these nature installations going and do you see them having a greater and greater role in the festivals?

Nate: People want more and more of this type of art and spaces for it and integration for me was creating spaces at eco-villages, Alex Grey’s CoSM, Evo in CA (an evolutionary village), and the Atlan permaculture village in WA. I helped inspire people to create these in their homes and gardens and there are now a dozen or so of permanent nests around the country. reconnecting people to the natural world.

Shift: Outside of festivals and gatherings, do you and will you be bringing installs that are more permanent than the span of an event?

Nate: I would hope so! There’s a growing movement of creating things from recycled materials. plenty of bamboo, natural, and cob builders. It’s not well publicized in mass media but alot of people are out there doing what I’m doing in their own way.

Shift: Despite the persistence of outdated myths and illusions in the established layers of society, there is a massive search by people all over the world for alternatives, one of these being to create a home for humanity within nature, not outside of it. Do you find that what you’re doing will become embedded within the planetary consciousness and culture itself with people decorating their living spaces with creations from nature rather than from manufactured and waste-creating products?

Nate: Something on alot of peoples’ minds right now is having land for permanent festival communities. Land isn’t cheap and festivals that are being thrown have to set up and tear down and so it’s a slow process. It takes a village to build a village and raise money to get the land and a big factor is interpersonal dynamics. Everybody’s got to get along and this is the biggest challenge. It’s easy for everybody to love each other for the weekend but getting people to liberate themselves from day jobs and the current system is difficult. If we get people to tap into their artistic expression that’s how we can liberate people (how I did at least). I definitely think it’s possible within 10 years but it depends on the intention. Right now it went well for LiB at Bradley so they’ll keep the festival there but it will be an ongoing conversation. It definitely is already happening but you’ll have the polarity (big festivals just looking to first and foremost make money and smaller communities creating transformational festivals and buying land).

Visionary Vendors
An Interview with Luminary Optix

Luminary Optix

An element of LiB that produces an element of conscious depth to it is the inclusion of visionary vendors. There was a wide array of vendors that were oftentimes festival goers themselves and not big companies or corporations coming into the festival as sometimes is the case, especially at bigger festivals. One group of conscious culture creators is Luminary Optix. We spoke with the talented Barry Moran about the intricate wearable designs Luminary Optix creates to find out more about

Shift: What got you to start creating such amazing fractal, geometric, and captivating designs?

Luminary Optix: I’ve always been super interested in geometry and have done extensive study in unified field theory and the inherent geometry in nature and space and I discovered that everything, from microcosm to macrocosm, is based on geometry. Things like crop glyphs, ancient pyramids, and others…it all can be explained in terms of geometry.

Shift: Is there a deeper message you’re expressing through the Luminary Optix creations?

Luminary Optix: Absolutely. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, seeing certain geometries definitely affects the whole way you live. The Sri Yantra for example has 9 interlocking triangles (5 Shakti triangles and 4 Shiva depicting man’s journey of enlightenment). I have a reason why I used them and whether or not people know about it requires a pursuit on their part. It’s up to the interpreter if they want to dig deeper. There’s multiple layers to each piece, like the artists’ intentions. Even if you just see it, it will affect you.

Shift: Is Luminary Optix doing anything to further spread understanding about the designs used, such as the Sri Yantra?

Luminary Optix: We give links to information on the geometric patterns and promote different kinds of research. We’re building a site right now and incorporating info there as well if people are interested and are also talking to people about it. Some people want to know and some don’t care. I’ll ask if they want to know about it since I don’t want to ram it down their throats.


Shift: How long have you been going to conscious festivals? How long have you been bringing Luminary Optix to festivals?

Luminary Optix: About 6 years or so but even before that I went to local festivals that had good messages behind them. Last year was the biggest year for Luminary Optix and this is my 2nd biggest. Everything is in the works and we’re expanding and getting better as new technology comes out that’s applicable to our needs so I’m finding different ways to show the world these different pieces of art. It started out as hand etching acrylic which was basically me taking a sewing needle shoved into mechanical pencil and sketching. Three years ago I was taking a print-making class and also saw interesting stuff at Burning Man (like digital art that was backlit) and was really interested in backlighting since it brought a new dynamic to the pieces. I made this little lightbox and put LEDs into it and a piece of acrylic in a lightbox. My intention was to do some painting but when I put the pieces of acrylic into the lightbox there was scratches in the acryclic and all the scratches lit up and thought WOW this is really amazing! I’m currently using a 150 watt laser with a 3x4ft engraving bed that can run industry-size panels.

Shift: What attracts you to come to a festival such as Lightning in a Bottle?

Luminary Optix: Right now I’m traveling with Geometrix and going to whatever festivals they get into. There’s alot of competition out there and sometimes you don’t get in. Alot of vendors apply for those positions (for example, 200 apply when there’s only 50 spaces). I think it makes sense to allow as many small vendors to come into the festivals since it brings more attraction.

Shift: Any east coast plans?

Luminary Optix: I’m still trying to get all my products dialed in. Laser cutter only came 2 months ago. I’m just doing alot of learning and putting in work on getting new designs and getting my tech straightened out so I can be really proud of my products we’re now working on some sacred space to bring to festivals for people to appreciate and recharge their minds, bodies, and souls. I’m bringing free art to places which is what I really love to do, be it stickers, posters, or putting time and energy into creating a sacred space that people can enjoy. I’m currently working on laser engraving selenite slabs with sacred geometric patterns and edge-lighting infinity mirrors. A big part of my art is functionality which is why I made backlit Sri Yantra necklaces that act like lights to help people find their way around the festival and easily finding friends. The festivals Luminary Optix will be at this summer are Raindance, Northern Nights, Shambhala, and Burning Man.

Evolving Societal Culture through Festival Culture

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 128-edited

We love Lightning in a Bottle. It practices what it preaches and does so in a way that allows it to be a model for not only festival culture but also is gearing up to be a greater model for culture at large. Mainstream culture is having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment, with certain elements with alot of money and power attempting to pull it one way, towards a culture of death, whereas another is an emerging culture based on a worldview of humanity being part of an intricate and intimate matrix of consciousness where everyone and everything affects everyone and everything else.

While we still see plenty of opportunity for LiB to become an even greater model for a more conscious and sustainable world (we’d love to see people like Charles Eisenstein speak), it’s taken leaps and strides, with other festivals and gatherings following suit. It’s providing people with an experience where they can grow personal and where society as a whole can see this new movement, this new consciousness that’s developing has the ability to take humanity into a brighter future where the greed, anger, repression, stress, and hatred are minimized and compassion, understanding, and love are ingrained into every facet of culture.

Wishful thinking? We don’t think so. In the past decade the conscious festival movement has grown from being almost non-existent to there being so many today in 2014 that there’s not enough weekends in the summer to go and immerse ourselves in all of them. There’s an ever-increasing number of people hearing about the experiences their friends had and seeing the pictures and videos from them and desiring to be a part of something that is so desperately lacking in today’s contemporary culture…the feeling of community with other human beings. Are we in an archaic revival, as Terrence McKenna believed?

Not quite.

However, what the new paradigm festival culture is doing is taking the elements of tribal cultures and combining them with our modern technology and understanding that didn’t exist previously. We are gearing up towards attaining critical mass and when that happens, there will be a culture shift towards a society that will celebrate life and lucidity. We all feel that there are some deeply disturbing things happening in the world but if a society normalizes behaviors that put one person or group over another then we will continue to see people used, abused, and worse. We aren’t saying that the conscious festival movement has all the answers, but if we’re to look somewhere for hope and inspiration as to what a world would look like that’s based one all of us being one family then the new paradigm festival culture is one place worth looking into.

Lightning in a Bottle 2014 144-edited Shift
Coverage by Paul Lenda & Ariana McCue.