A couple months ago I was tagged in a post about needing a yoga teach at the big Oregon Eclipse Festival out in Ochoco National Forest by Prineville. I didn’t put much thought into it as I responded, tell me more in the comments. After an email conversation back & forth I became more interested & it wasn’t long until I committed myself to the event. I would be co-teaching 4 rounds of ‘Space Yoga’ & I would need to camp on site.
I left my house last Thursday at 7am, plenty of time I thought to make the 4 hour drive out to Ochoco. I stopped in Sisters, OR to sight see a small bit, I had never been to that quaint town before & it was really amazing. I arrived to Prineville at around noon. I read one last email from my contact from the company I was working for, it read: it took us 10 hours to get inside the gate yesterday, be prepared for long waits, & you will lose cell service outside of Prineville. Sure enough, both my phone & a long line of cars stalled right outside of town. I was still optimistic, we were only 40-ish miles away from the site, I had plenty of food & water, & there was still 8 hours of daylight ahead. I thought it would be easy to set up camp on site. How wrong I was!
I arrived with the hordes of other festival goers at the ‘gate’ at 3am. The main camping area entrance & parking lot got filled so they created a new road on the opposite side of the festival to guide us into. I parked & made my bleary way to a staff welcome tent nearby. I was given my wristbands & was told there was a shuttle up to the gate. I loaded my crate of camping supplies & bedroll on the fold up hand cart my step-dad had let me borrow. Thank goodness for that little cart! Everyone I met at that parking lot area was in a less than stellar mood. A group of us gathered by the shuttle area. There were no lines set up to qualify who was there first, I experienced this many times at festival, the lack of lines meant anyone could cut if they really wanted to. This was annoying but was part of the whole deal of festival, we are all one, we should learn how to work together & put each other before ourselves. It was an interesting concept & sometimes it worked & sometimes people did cut! Such is the nature of us all, eh?
Within my bleary, tired state, I witnessed this group of waiting artists (which comprised all sorts of professions such as musicians, or yoga teachers as in my case) yell at a staff member on a go cart. She zoomed by us telling us to move back & behind her were 4 or 5 buses which almost ran over someone’s luggage & kicked up a whole wave of dust all over us. This happening upset the artists even further & I made the questionable decision to ditch the shuttle area & walk up the hill with my precarious cart.
I walked. & walked. & walked, later learning that the distance from my car in the far reaches of the parking lot to the festival interior was about 2 miles. This was a walk I would come to know very well, & would later refer to as the ‘festival workout.’ I burned a lot of calories on that walk! Everything was dark & who knew where my head lamp was. The ground was super uneven & there were rocks all over the place. There were also many different hills to walk up & down, some larger & some medium sized. All that to say it was an insane place to try to roll a cart through in the dark. Now it had to be around 4am & I somehow made my way to the prairie gate (one of the entrances inside the festival past the normal camp area). From there I bumbled along asking countless drugged out wanderers, do you know where the Guerilla Science tent is? No one knew, it was the first early morning of festival & the show hadn’t started yet. Finally a drunk, tall Australian dude with long dread locks asked, do you need some help love? Yes, yes sir I do need help & very desperately, lol. I now had an extra set of strong arms to help me & it turned out that there was probably no one else at that festival better suited to help me get to where I needed to be. He was super kind & resourceful asking everyone where the tent was & scouring my map I had screenshot of on my iphone. I started crying at one point & he refused to continue on but insisted on pulling me in a beer soaked hug until I stopped! I believe that my higher power definitely put him there to guide me. We finally found the tent & he even stayed to help me set my tent up. I told him to come visit me later but I never saw him again! That was the nature of festival, there were so many people there (estimated 30,000), cell phones didn’t work as communication devices, you never knew if you’d see someone again. I fell asleep that early morning to beats from the music tents pulsing up at me through the ground.
I hauled the rest of my stuff up the hill twice the next day with the aid of a shuttle truck. I co-taught the space yoga that late morning & it actually went very well even though I was so tired. Out of everything at festival, teaching & being present for that was by far the easiest thing I did. After the class I got settled with my stuff & began to take in my surroundings. We were camped within the center of festival. The Big Top (circus type of shows & music performances) was to our right & the Dance Shala (hopefully self explanatory) was to our left. Countless different type of performance types of tents were our neighbors left & right. My tent backed up to a small see through fence which was separating us from the our stage. I could literally look out my tent & see all the action. Not coming from a performing/stage background this was all really amazing to me. Also, the dust! You have to wear a mask most of the time or you won’t be able to breathe. This dust covered everything, I could even smell in in my covered tent.
Further away from us was the Yoga Shala & I spent most of my time there, setting my mat down & taking multiple classes. This was my thing at festival. I came there with too much physical baggage, looking back I would have packed differently & lighter. I also arrived with a bunch of spiritual baggage. I heard it in that first yoga class the first full day I was there, my soul was speaking loudly to me, desperate thoughts like, why am I so stupid? What am I doing with my life? Why am I here? Why am I such a failure? My eyes clouded & I let the tears flow over. It was the perfect place for that, mats pressed edges together, during poses your neighbors arms & legs resting on your own, a stranger reaching over to you to give you a hug. Everything was dirty, we were dirt, everything was very raw, simple, & clear in that yoga tent. & even though I spent so much time there, I literally wished I could have spent all of my time there. After 3 hours I walked out empty. Souless so to speak. All the baggage dropped & gone. I went back to our backstage tent site, ate, put my ear plugs in, & slept from 9pm to 6am through multiple rave like music events all around me & well into the early morning.
Day 2 passed much like day 1, I taught, ate, visited the yoga shala once more. I discovered that the shala was really the only draw of festival for me, the rest of the time I stayed back stage with the scientists. The differences of conversations backstage & within the festival being pretty starkly different. The scientists having deep conversations about sound therapy & doing research about how to change the soundscape in hospitals to make people feel more connected with nature (the topic of sound came up a lot since there was so much sound all around us all of the time!). I would step outside our campsite & hear snippets of conversation, he offered it to me & I was like sure! I’m not going to turn down free drugs....Lol, very different perspectives.
Day 3 I started to worry about my exodus. After class I made a trip down, I think with the shuttle the walk was about a mile between the interior of the festival to the shuttle stop & the rest of the way to my car after the shuttle dropped us off. Right about that time I began to have an idea, what if I camp by my car??? My car sat parked next to this amazingly beautiful field & I had already seen plenty of people doing the same. I told my contact at GS & she didn’t disagree so I started breaking my tent down. I set up my tent down by that field by last light & I trekked back up to get my last load. I had my head lamp this time! Walking down to my car my soul began to fill back up. You’re gonna be okay. You are so strong. All of those desperate thoughts I had days before in the Yoga Shala were gone, filled over & full with assurance & peace.
Waking up at the edge of this field, the festival pulsing away in the distance, not mere feet away from me, was the most amazing experience. Birds chattered & flew by. A mouse like creature came out a couple times but ran away when I moved. I took my time drinking coffee, meditating, eating, & getting ready. I watched the eclipse, grateful that I was here by myself instead of standing in a throng of people. I watched the world get dark & snuggled into my flannel shirt as the temperature dropped. After it was over I walked up to teach my last class. I hugged my co-teacher & my contact & said good bye. I looked at the vacant spot next to the stage wall where my tent had been. I walked away & made one last long walk down to my vehicle.
So my festival experience was probably different than most. Or maybe it was exactly the same. Going someplace strange to realize who you really are deep down inside all over again. A place to meet your Higher Power. Maybe other people felt like that. I also really enjoyed teaching Space Yoga & the company I worked for, they were so amazing & kind.
Wishing that all of you out there can realize how special you really are & that you can come back to that truth if you’ve wandered away.
Xoxo & Namaste~