The YogaFest Experience
Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2016
BY: AUDREY CONN
I love a weekend getaway. Just a few days to break the routine and reconnect with the things that give me joy. Music festivals were a great way for me to do this. I'd get on the road with some friends and spend the next 4 days camping under the stars, listening to music all day, and dancing all night. It's a massive celebration with love overflowing.
Now imagine my excitement when I discovered a festival geared specifically to yogis - YogaFest! I knew instantly that I had to go and bought my ticket 4 months in advance. Some uncertainty set in, as I had no transportation and no one to go with. This was going to be a solo adventure into the Northern Michigan Forests.
First lesson learned - if there is a will there is a way. The universe WILL show up for you if you put your intentions out there. I found a carpooling option and linked up with a lovely woman from Muncie. Her name is Isabel and I thoroughly enjoyed our 11 hours in the car together.
We arrived late and missed all of the Thursday Yoga workshops but we did attend the opening ceremony and I stayed for the late night Kirtan. I danced freely in the grass to the sound of the harmonium and chanting voices. There were others, twirling and skipping around me. I felt completely open and free to express. The stars were gorgeous and the air was so incredibly refreshing. I hoped this would be the delightful foreshadowing of my weekend – it was.
I didn't sleep well that first night - my senses were overwhelmed. But I did manage to rise with the sun and start my day. I wanted to take full advantage of everything scheduled and ended up attending 6 workshops on Friday. All of which had something unique to offer, but I would have to say the Cacao Ceremony was most impactful. About 30 people attended and believe me, everyone showed up wide-eyed and open-hearted. We introduced ourselves and our intentions, shared a sacred drink made from the cacao plant, meditated, sang, danced, and then we hugged. It all happened so organically in genuine fashion. It reminded me what it felt like to be human again. To be open and venerable. To be curious and creative. To love without limitations. It was a beautiful ceremony and I left feeling very connected to myself and everyone around me.
Saturday, I decided to sleep in but still got in 5 workshops, an evening hike through the woods, and tribe time at the community dinner. The scenery at Song of the Morning is truly remarkable. I stumbled across the Lahiri trailhead by chance. I was barefoot and I’m glad I decided not to go back for shoes. I could literally feel the energy exchange between the soles of my feet and the soil of the Earth. Humility and gratitude washed over me. I felt like I could have cried if I weren’t partially dehydrated. Or maybe I was elated past the point of tears?
I wandered back after my trek through the woods and found myself in the longest line to get the tastiest Indian food. The lady in front of me was friendly and we ended up chatting until it was our turn to eat. She told me she was selling Malas in the vendor ally and I said I’d stop by to check them out. We parted ways and I ran into Leslie, a friendly face. Not long after, Isabel and our camping neighbors came to join us on the grass. We shared watermelon and stories. I even got to trade one of my macramé water bottle holders for a couple crystals.
(Photo by Michael Swartz)
On Sunday I had plans to go to morning Yoga and other workshops but it wasn’t in the cards for me. Instead I stopped by the art vendors and bought my first mala from my friend in the food line. It’s beaded with rose quarts and pink tourmaline. It feels cold on my neck and I’m hoping it will bring balance to my hot head ;)
Afterwards, I ventured back into the woods. I hiked to the Lake Shrine and worked up an appetite. I got my last plate of food and chatted with a couple people I had met earlier in the weekend. It was a great way to close out the weekend and say last minute good-byes.
I had many ‘aha!’ moments during my time here, but the concept of connectivity seemed to be the lingering theme. This weekend allowed me to revisit my connection with myself, with others, and to Mother Earth. All of which are important and vital to a meaningful existence.
I found a deeper connection with myself by stepping outside my comfort zone. I made a promise to myself not to let fear or discomfort hold me back. My heard and mind were open and this allowed me to experience YogaFest in all its raw unedited glory. I also had no way to charge my phone so it died on Friday morning – which was a beautiful thing. No one to call or text. No photos to upload. No Facebook to distract my thoughts. I was present in every moment.
I found a deeper connection with others by opening my heart to love. Not only to receive but to give as well. I came to this awareness during the Cacao Ceremony, and it led me throughout the weekend. I’ve never felt so loved in my life, and by complete strangers! Honestly, I’m still a little baffled by it all. But I finally understand the nature of duality and how giving is the way to receive love. I’ve found the simplest way to share love is through smiles and hugs. It is my new intention to spread as much love as possible.
I found a deeper connection with Mother Earth by walking barefoot in the forest, eating her fruit and vegetables, dancing in the grassy fields, swimming in the sacred Pigeon River, gazing at the stars, and sleeping on her soil for 3 nights. We were celebrating life and Yoga but mostly we were celebrating Mother Earth. “Spirit & Nature Dancing Together.” That was this year’s theme for YogaFest; it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Overall this festival was everything I wanted/needed and more! The scenery was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The people were extremely gracious, supportive, compassionate, and downright full of love. Even though I went solo I felt as if friends and family surrounded me. Not once did I feel out of place or unwanted. The schedule was well thought out and organized. I really appreciated the diversity in teachers and classes. They did a lovely job of including ALL aspects of Yoga into the experience. And best of all it’s not just a weekend vacation. Song of the Morning hosts workshops and retreats all year round. The Clearlight Community also stays there continuously, living in harmony with the land and Yogic philosophy. I would highly recommend and encourage anyone on a spiritual journey to take the time to visit this sacred place. You will leave transformed.
IF YOU WISH TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CLEARLIGHT COMMUNITY, SONG OF THE MORNING RANCH, OR THE NUMEROUS RETREATS THEY HOST ALL YEAR LONG CLICK THE LINKS BELOW.