Serendipity Yoga Festival 2014


photoThis weekend, I decided to venture out into the unknown. My weekend plans had fallen through and everyone I knew already had plans, so I decided that instead of sitting around the house feeling lonely, I would dedicate time to self-care and growth. As an introvert, it is difficult for me to push past my comfort zone and do things alone.  But, when I’m traveling, I turn into a different person; I make friends and seek out new experiences with relative ease. For some reason, it’s tough for me to do that at home, when my familiar space is so close and I can curl up into it and be safe. This weekend, I decided I would try to do things differently. After all, I am trying to make a life here.

On Thursday evening, when searching the web for things I might do, I discovered Serendipity Festival- a yoga festival loaded with classes on everything from Kundalini yoga to gong meditation to fire hooping. Let me first say that I am skeptical and cynical about “new age” things (which is funny that have that name considering these things are older than America), but I’m always looking for new adventures and since I don’t have the time or money right now to take a trip to India or Nepal, hanging out in the woods in Central Indiana seemed like my best shot to see what this was all about.
photo 2-3On day 1, anxious to make sure I was there on time to get the full experience, I arrived right on time and quickly realized that this was a festival full of people who are easy going and accepting, which means that… nothing was ready to go. So I hung out, checking out the grounds and  looking over the schedule deciding what I wanted to do. When things were finally ready to get started, I decided to begin with some yoga. It was a vinyasa yoga flow taught by an MC (MC Yogi, if you’re interested) and his DJ (DJ Soulshine). These are small buildings with no a/c, so it was hot, it was stuffy, and I spent the entire class dripping sweat onto my mat. But he was an incredible teacher, mixing in humor and insights and music. Next, feeling pretty high from my yoga class turned hot yoga class, I sat outside and wandered around the vendors, watching the other yogis and noticing how everyone was so unique. When I had finally stopped sweating, I decided it was time to try something new- Kundalini Yoga. I won’t even try to describe what this is, so if you’re interested, check out the link above. Either way, the next two hours were spent doing chakra meditations, incorporating flow, lying in savasana while listening to a gong, and chanting. I have no idea what I was saying, all I know is that the vibrations and energy form those around me hit somewhere in my soul and lifted me up to a place of concentration and focus. In all my experiences this weekend, Kundalini yoga isn’t something I can see myself getting into- perhaps somewhere in the future I’ll find more appreciation for it.

I ended the evening by making my way to the stage and listening to MC Yogi and DJ Soulshine perform. I wanted to feel at ease, I wanted to let the music take me over, but I couldn’t shake the loneliness that comes with attending a concert alone. In my experience last year at Esalen, I felt a sense of community. So many of those people had come alone, all for their own reasons and seeking their individual experiences. Here, most people came with others, and as I sat there, watching everyone around me in their own little communities, I tried hard not to feel alone. On the drive home, however, it washed over me. I felt more alone than I have in a very long time- perhaps since I first moved to Chicago and was struggling to navigate myself through big city life. I went to bed that night questioning whether or not I would return the next day.

Day 2. I woke up refreshed and ready to go. It was as if all my loneliness from the night before had been discharged and I felt invigorated and ready to go. On the drive there, I let go of my expectations that I would meet people and we would become instant best friends; I decided to let my experience play out however it played out. When I arrived, I began walking from the parking lot to the festival grounds (about a mile walk) and someone pulled over and offered me a ride. I talked with Michael and Michelle, thanked them for the ride, and went on my way. I packed my day full of yoga, workshops and meditations. I went to a “shamanic journey,” a workshop on relationships, did a gong wash, accomplished a new posture during vinyasa flow, and ended with a “full moon flow.” The funny thing was, right when I got there and was sitting on the concrete steps waiting for my first workshop to start, I met a woman with whom I instantly hit it off. We shared some things during the workshop, spent some time talking and snacking on the hill overlooking the lake, and then decided to go to the shamanic journey together. When that ended, I decided I needed yoga, and so we parted ways. We made very loose plans to meet up at the concert that night. That never did happen and I never saw her again, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent together.
photo 1-2Feeling sore, tired, and dirty, I made my way to the bathroom to rinse off and change my clothes. I then ventured down to the stage and plopped down on my yoga mat to listen. Andy Suzuki and the Method were playing, and if you haven’t heard them, you really should check them out- they’re a band based out of NYC and his vocals are incredible. They have nothing to do with Yoga or Buddhism, in case you were concerned. Then, Joshua Radin, a man whose music I have loved for years, played. Let me tell you, he is more incredible live than he is on CD. He was genuine, passionate, and honest. I have never seen a performer be so real with his audience. If you follow me on Instagram (jenmariesims), you can listen to a few seconds of his singing. I would like to say that during these concerts I was totally at ease, but I wasn’t. I spent some time in that place, but I also spent some time wishing that I had people sharing this with me. And during one of his songs, in complete transparency and at risk of embarrassing myself, I started crying. Openly. In front of other festival goers. The tears came up and spilled out of me, coming from a very deep place I didn’t want to access.

Given that it was almost dark, I decided it was time to make my way back to the parking lot and drive home. I started my walk alone, tears still streaming down my face. There was a man walking ahead of me at a slower pace and I quickly caught up to him. We talked, we laughed, we shared stories, and we watched the beautiful sunset and the fireflies start to flicker. And then, like everything else in life, we parted ways. I felt better, but I still cried on my way home. From loneliness, from releasing guilt, from releasing pain, from places I’m still not sure of- I can say one thing, spending a 12 hour day really being with yourself does not let you hide from anything. It surges up and out of you like water bursting through a dam. I returned home, exhausted. I didn’t have any dreams that night, a stark comparison to what came out the night before.

Day 3. I woke up with horrendous allergies. The tree pollen in Indiana, combined with crying and all that time spent in downward facing dog, made me a stuffy mess of congestion. I didn’t wake up with the zest I did on day 2. I felt exhausted still, tired from the hours spent in poses and seated meditation. I looked over the schedule and made the tough decision to not drive the hour drive to the festival. There is still a part of me that regrets this, but also a part that is grateful to myself for giving me rest. I solidified the decision when I realized that the best decisions I’ve made in my life come from really listening to what I need- and on this morning, I realized that is what I needed. I honestly don’t think I could’ve made it through another yoga class- every inch of my body, including places I haven’t felt in a long time, was sore. So instead, I spent the day doing my own meditations and looking for places to build community in Indianapolis. I signed up for a few events and committed myself to attending.

So at the end, here are my conclusions:

-I would attend a yoga festival again, this time, preferably with friends. I would go alone again if I had to, but I’d do things a little differently- I would stay overnight there. There is a strong sense of community with these people- everyone is open and accepting. The way to make friends at these things is to attend the night time events.

-Even though there are some things I will likely not practice again, it was nice to leave the ordinary and discover something new- and I didn’t have to travel thousands of miles and pay for a plane ticket to do it.

-There really is no way of knowing what will come up- I can’t say yet what affect all those hours spent with myself has had, but I know that something is working in there. And I know that I felt past pain in ways that I haven’t in a long time. It was trapped and it’s just now starting to be released. I have to trust it’s leading me in the right direction.

– The people here truly are beautiful- they are nonjudgmental, accepting, kind, and loving. They appear to be “out there” but they are some of the most grounded people I’ve ever met. At one point, I overheard a woman talking angrily about someone and was taken aback; and then I heard what she was saying- “I just want to shake her and say- ‘you just need to love others!’, you know?” I laughed to myself. You can judge these people all you want, but most of them won’t do the same in return- they will respond with love and compassion.

So at the end of day three, I have so many answers and so many more questions. I have peace but I have more yearning. I guess that’s what self-discovery is. Life keeps on going and there are always so many more things to find. It is beautiful that way.

If you want to check out more on Serendipity Festival, follow this link. Namaste.  

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