Gratifly Music and Arts Festival was an amazing, beautiful, inspirational and simply magical festival. Everyone I talked to took something from it that they plan to share with the world. We should all do our best to be a better person to ourselves and others and do anything, no matter how small we think it is, to make a difference on this planet. Electronic music artist and DJ Polish Ambassador and others shared their views on permaculture and sustainable living that we can all use on a daily basis. Serendipity danced in front of my friends and I the entire way to Gratifly, and its transformational offerings not only educated everyone on how to protect the earth and the creatures that inhabit it, but reminded me how powerful we can truly be as a whole when inspired and committed to truly making a difference.
When I first stepped onto the wooded land of Gratify, it was late Thursday night and I had no idea what to expect. I knew there were going to be many “transformational” aspects such as yoga, meditation, permaculture talks, inspirational workshops and more; however, I had no clue that Gratifly would actually change my life. The first night we watched the sun rise while sitting on the roof of the protruding, lit-up, hammock-graced gazebo at the Celestial Stage with Desert Dwellers and Pumpkin emitting smooth, tribal tunes and a fire spinner dancing on the edge of the lake as I got my first glimpse of the magnificent forest and the soft-spoken river that would be my home for the next three days. I walked back to our campsite full of hope and excited that this peaceful and energetic night was going to turn into a truly one-of-a-kind festival. This was not your average festival. Gratifly is what every music and arts festival hopes to be and should be and can be if it tries.
The Fox and Beggar Stage in the midst of the campsite held workshops and resembled a worship center with crystals, stones and other trinkets. Dancers behind the screen projected moving images onto whomever was passing by. There were a couple large hammocks in the trees and long bungee ropes, upon which talented, athletic performers climbed up and down, twisting their acrobatic bodies into intricate shapes and poses. Friday was a beautiful blur of the lake, hopping between the Celestial Stage and the Summit Stage (main stage), with live art for sale by some of the most talented psychedelic, mystical artists today, including Michael Garfield, Krystyleyze, my friend Chance Losher and others.
Saturday, I went to J.D. Burnette’s permaculture workshop, where he talked about biofuel replacing fossil fuel and shared with us about the medicinal mushroom Lion’s Mane (hericium erinaceus), which is good for all aspects of your body, including energy and brain and nerve functions; he spoke about easy ways we can cultivate the earth and encouraged us to think about where we are and where we want to be.
Saturday night, Polish Ambassador, who encouraged everyone to wear a onesie (his notorious fashion statement) in the biggest onesie party, brought his impeccable, incredible show with lights, visuals, funky-fresh electronic and ambient music. It honestly stands in my mind as a moment where everyone finally came together and communicated in a comfortable “let’s love everybody” way, with light-up hula hoops, poi-spinning and other flow toys in the background. After that, due to an apparent noise complaint and an “unhappy” neighbor, the music was cancelled for the rest of the night. At first I was bummed out. How could a music festival stop the music? No OPIUO? However, Saturday night turned out to be the most wonderful and truly enlightening gift offered during the festival.
We wandered the festival in areas that we would have normally not spent time exploring. We had more time to look at all of the art installations and swung at the fog and laser-imbedded Jelly Dome for a while. I held the best conversation with a 7-year-old who had vivid memories of being between age 1 and 2, when yellow was a dominant color in his vision. It reminded me of being a child and swinging! If you are stressed about anything in life, no matter how old you are, I encourage you to go outside and swing. I have not felt the bliss of spinning myself up in a swing and barreling downwards in a spiral until completely dizzy in 15 years, and it was breathtakingly glorious. We then walked to an area where Gratifly provided a huge fire display, with suspended flames that afforded the impression of seeing what a flame looks like underneath. Ah, a different perspective in life! It was magical. It reminded me that perspective is everything. We then ventured into a tent where shoes were not allowed and we sat cross-legged in a very peaceful environment where hot, rose-like tea was passed around throughout the night.
After wandering around, we sat in the midst of the Fox and Beggar Stage where a DJ played quietly at the small stage. We brought a speaker and played music from a phone throughout with our friends fire-spinning on the side stage and acrobatic guests climbing the stretchy rope in the center. We, as a community, created our own festival in a way. We had the opportunity to sit around and find out about each other. I met people from all across the country who are doing things in their home community to make a difference, such as booking bands, manning venues, playing music, painting and more. Everyone was brilliant! It is a beautiful thing when you start to realize how powerful working together can be. You can create and inspire anything you put your mind to and can come together to really change any current situation. You really do get as much as you give, and the more we each contribute to our community and give all that we can, we start to find all the beautiful possibilities and growth that is possible.
The music resumed Sunday, and that afternoon Polish Ambassador, David Sugalski, presented a panel discussion about a current project, Pushing Through the Pavement: A Permaculture Action Tour. The tour hits some of the biggest cities across the county this fall, providing education and promoting permaculture—the act of coexisting with the ecosystems we are a part of in a balanced life on Earth—alongside Sugalski’s musical tour. The projects allow participants hands-on activities at urban sites and provide the tools for living a sustainable and regenerative life. Local organizations, permaculture groups, food growers and other will travel with TPA, focusing on sustainability, food justice, ecological education and more. These wonderful people, including vocalist/loop-pedal artist Ayla Nereo, are giving us this progressive, proactive opportunity to get involved by growing food, collecting rain water and more while giving back to our planet; it teaches us how to work in collaborative groups, organize projects, make decisions, and communicate effectively.
I have so much respect for Sugalski, and I was fortunate enough to run into him while walking around Gratifly. I went up, hugged him and thanked him for everything. “It’s just so great to be able to get out and talk to the people,” he said. His brown eyes were soft and genuine, and I wished I could hang out with him longer. His Facebook page speaks for itself, “In my opinion, the role of an artist and the role of artist supporter both come with a great responsibility.” (facebook.com/thepolishambassador)
“It’s my belief we are entering an era where the message of the music is just as important as the waveform hitting your brain and body, if not more,” Sugalski claims on his Facebook page. He encourages everyone to get involved and contribute their thoughts, beliefs, new ideas and passion to the project. “Walking around festivals and chatting with you, speaking and fielding questions on panels, reading your beautiful e-mails, discussing with festival and community organizers how best to evolve our culture and music scene.”
I find one of his Facebook quotes so profound. “I’m dreaming of parties where instead of people saying, ‘That party was so awesome, I got so wasted!,’ they say, ‘That party was so awesome; we built all those amazing things.’” For more information on how to get involved and donate, find Polish Ambassador’s Permaculture Action Tour on indiegogo.com.
Sunday, I went to Vicktoria Lariche’s Detox Flow Yoga class. My eyes teared up a few times as I relished the fact that I needed to connect more with myself and my body. Lariche not only showed us moves that stretched every single part of my body and that were actually doable, but she also encouraged and inspired us throughout to listen to our bodies and to appreciate this holy experience. The sun was out, the breeze was beautiful and as the grass blew gently with a fresh, green breath of life, I was reminded how connected we truly all are to the earth and every living creature. I was reminded how much we should listen to our bodies every second and move with ease instead of embracing strain, pain and unhealthy habits. That day I felt sheer gratification and inspiration to only put good, beneficial things in my body and I had a refreshing awakening that I subconsciously been longing for.
The food and water that was at the festival reminded me, once again, how I should treat my body. The media tent offered cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli, natural granola, guacamole, salsa, yerba mate tea, local kombucha and more. The food vendors featured local honey, juices with kale, apple, lemon, ginger and other fruits and vegetables, plates with locally farmed peppers, potatoes, beans, lettuce and more, and the alkaline water filtered by Scott Atkins of Hydrate Nashville (https://fundly.com/hydrate-nashville), hosted superfood snacks and blue-green algae from Klamath Lake. I also scored some cau cau and was introduced to some of the superfoods and quinoa that permaculture enthusiast J.D. Burnette eats on a daily basis. I was floored at how turned off I felt towards the chemically manufactured, processed and GMO food that we are surrounded by every day. I remembered, ‘Wow, this food is around me every day and for some reason we make it seem so difficult to find!’ We should love ourselves enough and realize that our health is the most important thing.
We can do little things by buying locally, because we know that growth and stress hormones and antibiotics that make us stressed, overweight and attack the healthy organisms in our gut are not present in organic food. We can participate in local farms so that we have sense of recognition that the earth, which we are from, provides us with everything that we already need to survive and the fact that we can produce this for ourselves. We can remember that superfoods like algae and kale can give us the protein and energy we need to make it through the day without energy drinks or other unhealthy alternatives. You don’t always need a Western or chemically derived medicine; often, natural oils and herbs are preferable. Why spend more money on bug spray that has chemicals that are harmful to breathe when you can mix a couple natural herbs that are safe enough to digest and do the same job? I have started to do little things on a weekly basis like boiling my water for tea instead of using a microwave, because studies have shown microwaved water actually does not help plants grow; this is disturbing (health-science.com/microwave_hazards.html). I have started to cook popcorn on the stove instead of microwave it and buy my meat and produce from the farmers market. Asking why is important. But asking why not is equally as important in my opinion. Why not try?
When we were hanging out in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, one of my new friends from Electric Forest turned to my other friends and told them her favorite thing about me was that I had told them to stop and hug a tree one night at Forest. I had forgotten about that moment, and even forgotten over the years to hug a tree even though trees are one of my favorite things. If you haven’t done it, you should try it. It is proven to calm you down, and I have found it to be invigorating and a reminder that we are all connected. I found myself hugging a few trees throughout the rest of the weekend, and I could only hold back tears as I whispered in my head, “Thank you. Thank you for helping give me life and for giving me the oxygen I need.” When you hug a tree you can feel it breathing, and you remember that everything is alive all around you all the time.
That weekend there were a lot of signs from the universe reminding me that I am on the right path and how fortunate I am to be able to share these experiences with others. I overhead speeches throughout the festival of speakers saying things like, “Let yourself be free. Just say, ‘I’m going to jump off this ledge into the water,’ and instead of thinking and debating it and letting fear creep into your mind, allow yourself to embrace the courage to go out into the world, to make a difference and to love.” I met people who are doing things that I want to be doing, like creating and traveling, and I realized that I was the only one stopping myself from doing all of these things. My fear of trying something new had shuttled my mind into blaming everyone and everything else for not doing the things I wanted. I realized that I had let other people stop me from pursuing dreams and goals, and had begun to carry beliefs like “it’s too hard. I’ll have to give up this and that. They said no.” I was awakened to the fact that I was responsible for my actions and that I was the reason I have accomplished so much and also the reason I had not accomplished what I wanted. “When you tell the Universe, ‘I can’t,’” said my friend Alex, whom I view in the highest regards, “You tell it that you don’t have faith in its undeniable ability to help you do anything you put your mind to. Anything is possible.” This was another realization that I had known up until now but had been hiding behind the everyday “problems” I surround myself with.
I found myself saying mistakenly to one of the guys who help set the festival up, “I’m just media.” I was then reminded by him and Alex how important it is for the media and for everyone to do whatever we can to get the word out there. It reminded me that the reason I started this process was to help the world understand and see all the changes that we as a community are striving for to make the world a better place by protecting the environment and teaching love and compassion. I was reminded that no matter how small you feel your efforts are, they do have a deep impact even when you think they don’t. Every word, every thought, every action can become embedded in someone or something and become a link in the chain of new evolution and higher consciousness. Someone can see your actions or listen to what you’re saying and think, “You know what, I should be nicer. I should help others. I should recycle or be more conservative with the trash I produce. I should clean up after others and most importantly not destroy the earth that I am a part of. I should thank the earth every day for its beautiful fruits, flowers, trees, animal life and more that I would not be able to exist without.” And next time they go to throw their trash on the ground or be ugly to someone, this most likely will cross their mind. Why not tell our children when they’re younger to not kill that bug that’s just sitting on the ground. Why not put that spider outside instead of killing it. It is just a natural part of life as you are, and who is to say that its life is any less important than yours? If you eat meat, have respect for that animal in the sense that it died so that you can live. Make sure it has a good life and that it does not need to suffer. The universe and life itself is the most magical, phenomenal, brilliant thing and we should never stop being grateful to be a part of it.
I liked how Gratifly encouraged everyone to pick up after themselves and others at all times, and it was not uncommon for us and everyone to pick up cigarette butts and plastic bottles along the way. Artists such as William Close and the Earth Harp Collective used futuristic technology like long, silver “guitar strings” that stretched from the stage to the soundboard and were strummed by the musician onstage creating funky, bass-filled tunes. Many of the vendors there, like Enlightened, Moon Glory Gears, Third Eye Pinecones (which plants a tree every time you buy a pinecone), Magic Love Bus, which teaches and encourages “fear less, love more” through motivational speeches, all helped encourage us to get involved. At one point these inspiring pioneers stood exactly where we are before they took the extra step in spreading their message.
I once heard the quote “Happiness is only real when shared.” I did not understand this at first, because I felt that I was truly happy when alone. And I am. However, I realized that love is the basis for all life. The universe which you are a part of is love. Helping each other is a beautiful thing, and once you realize that all humans, pigs, birds, cows, bees, ants, flowers, trees, and every single living organism are all the same and all worthy of a beautiful and free life, you start to have love towards all that the universe is. Alex made a good point in that his goal when he left the festival was talk to people more when he passed them. It is easy as a festival to smile, stop and talk to and be friendly towards everyone you pass. It is not uncommon for people to come up to you and say, “Hey, you’re beautiful, I love you,” and to give you a heart-to-heart hug. People are so caring and relaxed. No one is in a hurry to do a job they can’t stand or angry at someone else for passing their frustrations onto them. It is easy to forget in our day-to-day society how we should carry that friendliness onto others.
Do not get discouraged because someone does not smile back or because someone does not seem to want to hug you back. Remember, just because a creature has not been shown love or respect the way that you have does not mean that you cannot radiate that light onto them and hope that they can pass that onto to others. The love then is passed on so that eventually love overtakes greed, pity, fear, jealousy and other negative emotions which only negate our spiritual journeys. As Alex reminded me, we are all born into human conditions and raised by these such as racism, hate, self-entitlement and more, and it is our goal to overcome these man-made ailments and to reach self-enlightenment and become more divine. We are all truly divine and magnificent in a way we cannot imagine until we truly open our hearts and see and feel the energy that is constantly around us.
Every act of kindness is meaningful. As I struggled to figure out the past few months how I could make a difference, I realized slowly by talking to others that I was making a difference and that I have been making a difference by simply being nice to others, helping my friends and even strangers as much as possible when I can, and by being conscious of the environment’s needs. I remembered how hard I fought to get a recycling bin at my past apartment-complex job, how much I always talked to others about reducing, recycling and how bad GMOs are for you. These are things you think that others already know, but maybe they don’t. I realized that I have been making small waves my entire life and that it was unfair to myself and the universe to put my efforts down or mistake my mind into thinking that I couldn’t make a “real difference.” We can. We all can! Every day, every second, be aware of your thoughts, words and actions. They become reality, and as I realized how much I truly touched my new friend from Electric Forest by hugging a tree, I realized that I will never again have those thoughts and instead further push and encourage myself and others to be the best person we can be at all times to ourselves, each other and Earth.
We have to have hope and faith, just as we would like others to have hope and faith in us, that change and growth is inevitable. As I met a beautiful man who grew up in the late ’60s and explained that his ability to read other people and connect with the world would have classified him as a “wizard” in the time of the Mayans, who would have granted him lessons on how to harness this energy. He told me that my moon sign (dated by my exact birthday) was a Solar Storm. He then handed me a card explaining what that meant. The first quote was in bold letters:“Be the change that you wish to see in the world,”– Mahatma Gandhi.
I hear you Universe. I hear you.