by Danny McColl Smith
Spoiler alert: the good qualities outweighed the bad qualities of Zen Awakening. So let’s be clear, overall Zen Awakening was a good time. I went solo, but ran into familiar faces and met some amazing people. I did find some appreciation in the grounds. The workshops I participated in were empowering. The artwork and crafts were unique. The stages, entertainment, and displays during sets were pretty sweet. And the music was killer!
The venue was not the best I have attended, but the layout seemed better the more familiar I became with it. The festival had a venue change and so the event relocated to an off road park with cement cylinders and huge tire pits…though the tires were actually pretty fun to jump around on. Cars got stuck in deep ditches, and the excessive dust and dirt everywhere did not make things any better (dirt boogers for days). Information distribution was poor. No concrete schedules or maps ever surfaced; some signs were posted but not until later into the weekend. “Check your cell phone” was the information I received frequently.
Overall everyone was super cool, but there were a few bad seeds. Granted we needed more trashcans, but the number of people I saw throwing trash right on the ground or in port-a-potty urinals makes me think people need to be re-potty trained. Luckily, they were cleaned daily.
I saw friends from past festivals, usually a good sign. From the start I received generosity from others with help setting up my tent in the dark. Throughout the weekend my neighbors had my back with cooking, blankets, good vibes, introducing me to Sonic Butterfly, and so on. Camp F*cking Awesome even helped as a marker toward home with their sign and tree lights. Our campsite was in prime real estate. High traffic area, porta potties close by, and easily accessible stages.
The workshops were awesome. Introduction to Zen Meditation with Anthony Profeta was enlightening. It taught me the initial steps of practicing meditation and the benefits it produces for our mind and body. My first meditation was even ten minutes! I stepped in for the end of the Empowerment Training Basics workshop with Kevin Walton of The Light Beings Community. I could see some people were extremely moved by the message being taught. I felt the love from a closing group hug. Lastly, Sonic Butterfly Yoga with the delightful Andrea Brook was possibly one of the best yoga classes I have experienced. Sonic Butterfly teaching while playing her twenty-six string Earth harp overhead is much to credit for the unforgettable class. I shared serious unexplainable energy throughout the session. By the end of the class we were crowned as superhero-dog-warrior-fish-kings/queens.
The artwork was distinctive. One vendor’s butterfly wing earrings and a ceramic art installation of over two hundred clay mushrooms by Clay & Ink Co really stuck out. Artmosphere and Cheeta Art had work present, and Morph Mobile provided an extraordinary visual art experience setup by the Heady.Made.Weird stage. It was a 3D sacred geometry display. If you were lucky enough, there were fire poi spinners in the background sometimes.
All four stages were pretty cool, and flashy dancers, hula hoopers, and poi spinners helped bring extra color to many of the sets. Middle Earth and Galactic Guru were more on the traditional-looking side, while Heady.Made.Weird. and Flaming Buddha – named for the fire that blasted over performer’s heads – were more unique. That said, the music made the weekend. Andy Bruh had a comical Rack Ball Willy mashup, running closer to the stage at Psymbionic’s command, amongst multiple live bands showing off their musical talents were just some of the Zen music highlights. Leisure Chief had a good set performing songs like “Saturday” and Space Kadets with other bands made me feel like I could be coolin in a jazz lounge. The serene sound of Sonic Butterfly was priceless. A big cuddle circle of pillows and bodies manifested up front during the set. I thought I was in Valhalla briefly until I heard a girl call out “Does anyone have a cigarette for me?”
The snapshot memories I have from the weekend all revolve around the music…Parent and child dancing around the drum circle fire. A guy with crazy legs during Leisure Chief had me cracking up with laughter. A unicorn kitty silhouette having an amazing time dancing and hugging friends at main stage. For the most part everything fell into place almost perfectly, and Zen Awakening proved to be a unification of a functioning group of people from all walks of life. Thank you for the rides, thank you for the fun, and thank you for the enlightenment. Namaste.