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Awareness Magazine
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Being in the Bhav

By Janice Hall

Outdoor concerts are a ritual of summer, but if you are aching for more than a musical romp in the sun, look to Bhakti Fest for a musical infusion filled with passion, purpose, community and a conscious living experience. www.bhaktifest.com

Make your travel plans for an end-of-summer adventure that will feed your soul through the seasons ahead. From September 6-9, immerse yourself in four days of yoga, kirtan music and workshops from extraordinary teachers and performers. Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Donna De Lory, MC Yogi, C.C. White and Dave Stringer, to name a few, will lead chanting music (kirtan), some of which is traditionally performed, while adding creative adaptations based in jazz, blues, rock and even hip hop — fostering an artistic integration of cultures that has become extremely successful.

Billed as the spiritual Woodstock of our times, I had to attend one in order to verify that it was truly possible to experience the awe-inspiring sense of connectedness, as I did attending Woodstock all those years ago. It was a life-changing event. I had no idea of what I was getting into, and the same was true of Bhakti Fest. I saw amazingly blissed-out people, only this time without the alcohol and drugs, and much better vegetarian food!

As one of the attendees told me, “the Bhakti Fest adventure begins before you even get there. Unlike most concerts in a club or a stadium where you go and return the same day or overnight in a hotel in a city, Bhakti Fest brings you to the desert and that takes a certain intention. People say their car seems to cross an invisible line somewhere on Palms Highway, where all of a sudden the world as you know it seems to drop away.

Performer C.C. White notes, “Something comes over me that is calm, positive and surely magical.” Joshua Tree Retreat Center is the venue and its 450 acres was founded in 1940 as a place of peace and meditation. It is rightly described as “a powerful and rare fusion of sweeping vistas of desert, mountains and centuries of Joshua Trees” — a perfect spot for an ephemeral community of souls seeking a transformational experience.

Donna De Lory shares, “I tell people if you are into yoga, the spiritual teachings and music, come to Bhakti Fest. She hails from a family of pop musicians and even sang back up to Madonna, but found her devotional nature through kirtan. Donna’s first performance at Bhakti Fest was “quite mystical, like finding my home — a great meeting of spirits — with a complete sharing between players and listeners alike.

When I asked Donna about her plans for this September Bhakti Fest she tipped a teaser about a new CD merging rhythmic fusion of transdance, world music and classical. Her father just passed and playing his Steinway she will infuse Hebrew, English and mantra into a “soundscape to open the heart.” I felt she was carrying a special sensitivity to the immortal and the Divine, which could just become a rite of passage with her music as the medium.

C.C. White, a rising kirtan star reflects, “sitting in with the other musicians is priceless. Everyone is there for the love — the stage keeps lifting and never comes down. C.C. performed her first solo kirtan at Bhakti Fest and brings her musical family traditions of soul, gospel, southern blues and old-school jazz.

Kirtan is time-honored, beloved and respected, so if you choose to do your own version, then be true to your roots. Bring a piece of your own heart and soul.” She chanted kirtan with a great variety of wallahas (kirtan leaders) who encouraged her unique approach. “I am grateful, as it is the inspiration that led me to releasing my first CD, This IS Soul Kirtan!”

When I asked how she spent her time when not performing, she recommended the massages and loves to check out the clothing and jewelry. “The food is so healthy — creations from the heart. You can taste the love.”

The limits of your body and mind can be stretched by Shiva Rea, Sara Ivanhoe, David Saul Raye, and “Hoop Girl,” Christabel Zamor. Whether you have years of expertise in yoga or are a neophyte who is appreciative of it being called a ‘practice’ because like me, you need plenty of it, you will definitely up your game several levels and get to know your body and mind in a new fashion. Yoga teacher, Mark Whitwell capsulizes it so well, “This is direct intimacy with life… when you link the breath to the whole body, you line the mind to the body and the whole body is life itself.”

If variety is the spice of life, then this is the hot sauce of the desert. From recycled hippies and middle-class mamma’s, to business professionals, urban hip hoppers, and yes, Wall St. refugees, I found the level of trust amazing for an event so large. Everyone brings their own brand of love and community. This is what they call “Being in the Bhav.”

Swami Radhanath passes on a story about how people have different names for the sun and water yet it’s the same sun and the same water to which they are referring. Similarly, it’s the same God to which all religions are referring. Likewise, Bhakti Fest is a spiritual festival that encourages the coming together of a caring community that embraces all faiths.

Invoking the creative power that is in all of us seems to be the nature of this path, while unleashing the freedom to see the reflection of your true soul. When you invariably do, you have no choice but let the bliss fly.

It must be true, or maybe it is those 18,000 vortices on the Joshua Tree land that are said to amplify an experience, but “The Bhav” sticks to you when you leave. It shifts your being. I know it for a fact.

Janice Hall is the President of Natural Network International (NNI), a business development and trends specialist, consulting for LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) sector companies since 1991.