Walking outside on the final day of Bhakti Fest Midwest, I found the morning to be clear, cool, and bright. The stillness that occurred the night before after deep-rooted devotional chanting with Krishna Das, clearly carried over through the night, as this morning was very tranquil with a power that held a subtle benevolence.
Feeling vibrationally hungover myself, there was nothing like ‘hair of the dog’ mantra practice to wake up dormant energy that may have remained after slumber. It was a perfect time to go chant to Hanuman. The Hanuman Chalisa is a 40-verse devotional hymn, written by Hindu poet, Tulsidas, and honors Hanuman who embodies devotion, service, and faith. We were led by Nina Rao, assistant to Krishna Das, who first started learning chants as a young girl from her grandfather in south India.
With the sweet smells of freshly applied essential oils and morning hot coffee filling the workshop room from my fellow devotees, Nina soon ushered us into the Chalisa by simply saying, “Shall we just sing?” and we were off together warming up our voices and hearts with “Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.” I chanted a few rounds, but then placed myself in the back of the room for self-led asana and meditation among the community vibrations, letting the mantras wash over me. I could have stayed there all day, but there was still much to absorb and look forward to including returning to the main stage and announcing more amazing artists set to perform.
It was my absolute pleasure to introduce Saul David Raye, although this man needs no introduction. He is certainly a transformational teacher and a Bhakti Fest favorite, but what I enjoy most about Saul, is his kindness as we spoke, and the smile he gave me whenever we passed each other on the festival grounds. Those are the kinds of moments I’m taking home with me.
Watching him on stage I came to recognize another layer of manifesting my weekend’s intention of finding inner power. ‘Inner power’ does not have to mean loud, forceful, or overbearing. In fact, it can be found in restraint and ease, doing simple practices with humble intention.
That in mind I discovered key elements for sustainability and reducing the noise of chaos while attending any event, such as a festival, that has a lot offered to your system in a concentrated amount of time. You must keep up hydration and nutrients, regulate your immune system, and practice self-care.
For hydration and nutrients my go-to drink is ALOHA Green Powder, a dried green juice filled with potent nutrients. With samples available all weekend at the registration desk, I would grab one for my water bottle whenever I passed by.
Herbal Zap has given my immune system a good swift kick in the butt to get back in action on multiple occasions. It is a hot beverage that works from Ayurvedic principles to boost your own capability of self-healing and resiliency. Being around hundreds of yogis who love to hug, share food, and chant as close together as possible, Herbal Zap is always in my back pocket.
My experience of body work today was probably the most profound I’ve had out of any previous festival, and a real essential gift to practicing self-care.
I was given acupuncture for the very first time at the vendor village with Shane Berquist of Sage Legacy Acupuncture and Healing Medicine in Minneapolis. With it being my first time getting this treatment, Shane was sweet, considerate and attentive to any concern I may have had. He was able to identify imbalances I carried by studying my tongue and feeling my pulse. It was an amazing sensation to feel the energy released from the point of contact with needle down into each part of my body. Then, as a human pin cushion, I laid and relaxed while Rich Logan played live just a few feet away.
Pair that with a massage I received later that evening from Francine Brown, who co-runs the healing sanctuary, and I had everything I needed to rest well tonight after a wonderfully exhausting weekend. Again, being just a few feet from the stage as I received the massage, this time as Govind Das and Radha “gave it to us” Bhakti style, I could tell Francine was using the energy from the stage to guide the rhythm of her work.
I planned strategically a double-dose of Saul David Raye, first hearing him on-stage and now attending his yoga class at night. Saul carries a spiritual message and emotional connection to his work while keeping it all very simple and pure. In fact he even says that simple poses done with breath are more healing than executing a fancy pose without awareness.
His message is tender yet thorough, “The taste of Bhakti is sweet. As Bhaktas, we just want to strengthen love.” It was sometime in between deep navel breathing and dancing and singing our prayers for the safety and freedom of all beings, that I realized what that subtle inner power I had discovered really is. It is prana. Prana is what I had felt during my morning walk to the Hanuman Chalisa and it was the flow of prana we had been cultivating all weekend. I planted the intention for the weekend, it manifested, and I allowed the result to surface. Turns out, the result is simple, I had been looking for prana all along.
My final time to emcee on stage was introducing David Newman aka Durga Das, a well-known and loved chant artist throughout the bhakti yoga community. In addition to his CD’s available at White Swan Records, he will also be headed into the recording studio this summer with members of Paul Simon’s band.
Gearing up for the evening’s All Star Jam, I took one last look through the vendor village, taking more time to have conversations with the owners of some amazing products and hearing their stories that led to their businesses. I found new products I love like Arize Artisan Kombucha, a small-batch artisanal brewing company in Chicago. They provided a lounge to enjoy everything from cold-pressed coffee with raw cashew cream, to ‘Kombucha Shrubs’, draft kombucha mixed with fresh fruit and herbs.
Of course, I had to stop by for a hug from some favorite vendors that have since become festival friends. Brook, owner of Bhakti Chai, has an amazing story of looking to re-discover her adventures in India by creating the beloved chai recipe she had experienced in the north. What resulted is a company that not only has an amazing product that is fair trade, organic, and delicious, but also supports global sustainability incorporating conscious practices into business. They are based out of Boulder, CO which must be filled with this type of consciousness, because it is also the home of our seva partner, Give Back Yoga Foundation.
Finally, I stopped to buy a tank top from my friend Paula at Playful Buddha Designs. We share an interest in not taking our yoga practice or life too seriously, and her products reflect that with sassy and fun phrases to bring a smile to the most austere yogi.
The All Star Jam is where it all really comes together. It’s not just the artists you have seen up on stage throughout the weekend, it also includes all the hands that make the Bhakti Fest dream come true. Instead of being ‘at work’, Bhakti Fest staff also takes the stage singing, dancing and bathing in the bhav. As Amy Dewhurst, the festival’s Consulting Producer says, “Bhav is the new black.”
Being only one person, I don’t get to see and attend every single class and event in the three days we have together. I was looking forward especially to Missy Balsam’s class who combines joyful vinyasa with her original devotional chants. I’ll have to go visit her in Naples, Florida, or wait until next year at Bhakti Fest Midwest 2015, June 26 - 28. Tickets go on sale in October. Even though I missed Radhanath Swami’s workshop here in Wisconsin, he will be first on my list at Bhakti Fest West September 4 - 7.
Until then, I will hold on to my newly discovered inner power (prana) using it to practice devotion in the simplest of ways, maybe even by just showing kindness to a stranger. The wonderful thing about cultivating this energy, is it doesn’t have to leave you once the festival is over; prana quietly stays with you.
See you in September. Haribol!
Olivia Kvitne is serving as Bhakti Fest’s blogger and social media Goddess for all three festivals this year. She is Assistant Editor for LA Yoga Magazine and specializes in teaching trauma-sensitive yoga to veterans/military and first responders in addition to teaching hatha, yin, hot yoga and more. Twitter: @LoisLaneofYoga
Photographs By Mitchell Manz Photography