I drive away from Symbiosis Gathering at the Woodward Reservoir in California, enchanted by the warm and wonderful connections I made. I ventured here alone, not quite sure what to expect, but I did hope for something wonderful and unexpected. After I pitched my tent along the water, an endless adventure of yoga, meditation, dance, and artwork ensued.
Symbiosis is defined as an interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both; a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups. There isn’t a better definition that encompasses my magical experience that this event was able to create in such a short amount of time, simply because this festival is a gathering of people that have a similar interest of loving life, our planet, music, creativity, and the sustainability of everything in hopes to create happiness that is shared with one another by embracing our Mother Earth.
The hypocrisy of these major events is a relevant topic because the earthly-principled standards of what these festivals dictate do not always jive with the generation of trash and consumerism that they digest. However, this festival does provide a temporary environment for the “civilized” to live outside the normal commerce of civilized life. One can feel that our society is uncivilized when you examine the big picture of mass-consumerism which feeds our addicted, gluttonous economy while bleeding our generous planet of her beautiful resources and polluting her in the process. Freegans and their “anti-consumerist” ideologies proudly showed up at Symbiosis, digging for tasty vegan meals out of the trash. Mother Earth loves Freegans.
At Symbiosis you can easily get involved in a deep discussion about understanding how sustainable beliefs and behaviors are in conflict, and that is why events like these are important and relevant even though there are many hurdles to overcome until ideals equate with real actions by the majority. You can find eco-friendly, intelligent earth-lovers that are eager to converse about change.
The social conscious of the youth may be advancing towards understanding the consequences of consumption and how each individual has an unseeingly, substantial contribution to the cumulative effect of every problem and solution – if only we could come together and act on our unified understanding of this we could create no waste or at least manage it more efficiently to renew energy and sustain resources. Festivals like Symbiosis and Burning Man are trying to make a difference, but at times there purpose is lost in the shuffle of a seemingly endless party. Maybe there were answers found at the many available discussion groups and seminars at Symbiosis, if not, at least they tried and had a good time doing it.
If you have a conversation with a festival waste-management employee, then you will see the disgusting problem that exists at most festivals from Bonarroo to Coachella to Burning Man. It takes weeks on end for Bonarroo to clean up abandoned camp-sites and overflowing trash bins, and this problem is easier for them to solve because Bonarroo owns the land, allowing them to develop compost areas on site.
Unlike some festivals, Symbiosis Gathering is a festival on the move, which keeps a relatively small, dedicated following. Fortunately, this magical gathering is still a relatively small festival, and the movement helps keep the network of peaceful, music-yoga-lovers and vegans re-uniting in a mellow setting without too much disturbance from a local community; small towns embrace this festival as it temporarily brings in a good amount of business and exposure to remote areas.
The energy was very pure for me at Symbiosis because it wasn’t overblown with 50,000 guests, and people were accessible as you could run into a new friend, time and time again, actually bringing people together for the full event instead of just one magical moment lost in time. You will find “Burners” at Symbiosis Gathering most likely going through Burning Man de-tox, reminiscing about the crazy and beautiful artwork at Burning Man this year.
The relaxing atmosphere at Symbiois Gathering was enhanced by the meditation and yoga centers which I truly needed; i was wonderfully seduced into more then one venue by harmonium chants that would lay me down to downward dog and long yoga sessions – one of the main reasons I felt comfortably alone.
Water is one of the most undervalued commodities on this planet and it is one of the most important draws for me to come to Symbiosis Gathering. At Burning Man I find myself in swirling dust storms and I cannot dip into fresh water and swim from venue to venue, listening to music as I backstroke in the fresh water, and then dance next to uninhibited people after a long swim, pulsating my wet body to fresh rhythms with clean mud swirling between my toes.
This water-haven festival could be my temporary heaven on earth and this is why Symbiosis is so special to me as it will always be held on a waterfront area, allowing festival guests to naturally cleanse themselves in the buff and lay themselves on the grassy waterfront. Although skinny-dipping is not allowed, it is still widely done with no bother. I admit that I was naked in the water as well. Why not? Why should we be afraid to show our naked bodies when it is us in the most pure form. Power to the naked.
I would begin my long swims just beyond where my tent was pitched along the waterfront. I swam around the festival entrance where security checks wristbands, feeling like a water-ninja, although I was swimming with an expensive wrist-band. It was a very lovely, long swim; I just put my head down, flopping my arms in the cool water until I reached the first venue area, The Cove, with the wolf statue nearby that was brought from Burning Man. I got out, danced in the crowd, and warmed my body in the warm sun to sweet grooves.
The hill on the Cove proved to be a large gathering place and there was non-stop dancing on the bamboo towers. Climbing up the towers gave me an amazing bird’s eye view of the craziness.
After I got my fill of music at The Cove, I jumped back into the fresh reservoir and began swimming my next journey to the Empire of Love. It was a routine that felt so healthy, and when combined with Yoga and amazing vegan food at the Kiosks, I was energized with a very healthy weekend that gave me a high on good health and sobriety (well almost). Another great aspect of Symbiosis Gathering is the great selection of vendors that provided a wide selection of food, including a great selection of vegan meals and earthy desserts to die for.
I came to Symbiosis on a journey by myself not sure what I was looking for, but somehow it found me, immediate connections with positive people that were open to communicating. Some would immediately greet me with a hug when meeting for the first time – a wonderful, warm first reception that Americans normally aren’t use to. Most European cultures greet with a kiss, or two or three, on the cheek – much better then a handshake, well, at least for me!
Another great aspect of Symbiosis was the commerce that was allowed by artists. Artists were selling their artwork, goods, clothing, and creative wares.
I also noticed at Symbiosis that there were musicians that would wander around with their instruments, hoping to meet another wandering, soulful musician with notes to share. I witnessed this violin and trumpet player jamming not too far from the heavy beats of the Pantheon, feeding their impromptu jam-session.
I was ecstatic to see the band, Ecstatic Union, wandering barefoot past the food kiosks while jamming their songs, with their posse singing along. Their girlfriends were handing out free copies of their latest Album titled Sundog while they walked along the field singing their songs. http://www.ecstaticunionmusic.com
The most welcoming group I met was the Hare Krishnas, and one in particular, Chandra, was so completely magnetic with positive energy; I was drawn into their circle of open arms and soothing chants.
Chandra would spend her time face-painting new friends and entertaining them with her exuberant and animated conversation that would have me smiling and laughing. I spent a lot of time with the Krishnas, surrendering to their harmonium meditations in a relaxed state of bliss.
They gave me free cookies and taught me their prayers and beliefs. I wandered away with beads and subconsciously feeling and hearing the transcendental vibration of my consciousness being revived by the love of my new Hare Krishna friends. There chants remain inside me. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare…
Symbisosis festival really lives up to it’s definition of interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both; a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups – well, maybe it should be defined as an interaction of many different organisms living in close physical association. I learned from some people that were really different then myself, but we came together vibrantly because we shared the common interest of loving the people very much that care for our planet and really live it in celebration. The Hare Krishnas have contacted me again and I shared with them a blurp about my latest adventure, sailing away on the ocean to Alaska. We will meet again and I will venture to Symbiosis again and again! This love is to be continued. Thank you Symbiosis Gathering. No more words… just photography… here you go festival lovers…