Dancing is working. Music is working. Art is working. Big bass is working. Mandalas and ceremony are working. Sound healing and superfoods are working. Celebration is working. Happiness is working. Peace is working. Life is working.
Reflecting on my experience at Cosmic Convergence Festival five months later, I’m happy to report that I’m still feeling “it.”
“It”—being that precious feeling that life is working. “It” dwells deep inside our tissues. “It” remembers what life was like here on the planet before fear, war and violence decided to run the show.
“It” is the reason we dance and sing late into the night, getting sweaty and dusty until we lose our mind and come back into our body, our heart, and the present moment.
Transformational festivals, brought to you by “it.”
I’m grateful for all the people involved in creating Cosmic Convergence to be dedicated to “it.” I came to Cosmic Convergence because I could feel “it” resonating a YES in my body. Following my “yes,” I discovered a gathering that blended the ancient wisdom ways with modern ways.
What resulted was a four day celebration of dancing, singing, praying, crying, and laughing with Indigenous Mayan Tz’utujil people and people from all corners of the earth.
“What color blood do you have?” asked one of the local indigenous spiritual elders during the festival’s closing ceremony. She reminded us that we are all one.
That’s what Cosmic Convergence is really about — by “co-creating a legacy for the ancient future,” as their stickers say, we remember what it means to live in the global family. Indeed, everyone’s blood is red.
That’s “it.” So simple.
And that’s what makes Cosmic Convergence so fantastically beautiful.
“We call in all of our relations, and we see that everything is related. Everything is interconnected here, and everything has happened for us to be here now, sitting here, listening in presence. The whole universe has turned for this moment to arise.”
~ Jayananda, opening a Cacao Ceremony during Cosmic Convergence Festival
Taking place in the highlands of Guatemala on the mystical and sacred Lake Atitlán, Cosmic Convergence Festival is a “transformative cultural initiative designed to leave a positive social impact” through the support of “artists, organizations and community projects.” Cosmic’s main objective is to expose their audience to “music and dance, sacred fire ceremonies, art, workshops, exhibitions, forums, galleries, and presentations” to grow a “regenerative life style.”
Wandering the festival grounds upon arrival, I could feel the love and good intention poured into the space. I ran into an old friend right away, who was there to work on the zero-waste initiative. Another crew member pulled a jackfruit out of a trash bin, examined it, and wondered, “Do you think it would grow into a tree? Then we can be eating fresh fruit in a few years…let’s try.”
I smiled and could feel my body relax, happy to be with like-minded people and ready to decompress after my journey. I had recently moved to San Marcos La Laguna, a small village across the lake that’s very popular with nomadic spiritual people my age, and I’d arrived in Santiago in the morning by boat. I opted for a tuk-tuk (like a taxi) instead of the back of a pick-up truck to cart me and my backpack the couple of miles to the festival grounds. I had a lot of road dust to wipe off, not just from that day’s travel, so I set off to scout for a camping spot.
My cousin and I, who came together to the festival, found some friends from her travels to camp with, and we set up a little tent village. Feeling nested, I was ready for more exploring.
I eventually found myself in the Healing Sanctuary for a “heart activation” workshop. It was the perfect way to start the festival, and truly needed. I sank into deep breathing, calm mind, and happy heart. We gave hugs to each other under the geodesic dome.
I noticed how each person felt somewhat familiar, like a long lost relative. Granted, I was there at the festival with my blood cousin, but I felt at home with everyone at the festival. Global family, reunited.
Turns out, I’m not the only one that correlates Cosmic Convergence with the feeling of family. I talked with Greg Clough, festival attendee-turned festival organizer, and asked him why Cosmic was special for him.
He shared that his first Cosmic experience felt like he was “coming home,” to “the most amazing party” nonetheless. Clough expressed, “we have our family, our genetic family, but maybe for the first time you really feel the word family is appropriate for non-blood friendships, because you share something very beautiful.”
The specific festival vibe of Cosmic creates a very special container, one that is capable of holding space for intimate and vulnerable connection. LostInSound.org describes the “feeling of the event” as “that indescribable family feeling…pulsating through the air day and night…. Deep connections were being made at every twist and every turn; old ones, too, were being rehashed.”
Absolutely. A cosmic reunion, I’d say. It’s that kind of family feeling, community support and global perspective that makes good things happen. Belonging to a family, blood or cosmic, can help us feel “it,” that wonderful feeling, where all of life is supporting us to do what we came here to do.
Clough knows the feeling well, describing how “it starts with little moments, or longer moments, of being in a certain mindset, or “heartset", that make you go, ‘Wow, I feel in flow right now. I feel so happy right now. I feel….this is amazing.’ Those kind of moments of feeling a miracle is unfolding.”
One moment to the next, I could feel the miracles unfolding.
I think Ric Victores, a producer of Cosmic, would agree. He said, “For me, being able to be a part of this, and help create and help curate this experience is a dream come true. So, now I can go and let people know, and show them that dreams are literally coming true right in front of your eyes, in front of my eyes. If you wanna come, let’s make dreams happen.”
That kind of passion is beautiful to behold. It’s what sets Cosmic apart from other festivals I’ve attended. I felt really safe, with the baseline that I belonged there, that I was a part of the family, too.
Intention - Creating the Container
One thing I noticed was the deep intentionality present in the organizers I talked to.
Victores shared his reason for working on Cosmic with me:
“We’re at a time when we need to go back to the earth, go back to the ancient knowledge, and go back to ways of living that are more natural, and through that, I want to create experiences where people can feel and learn, connecting with the earth and the self.”
Cosmic expanded the range of experiences offered this year with many different pathways for sharing. There were three main stages for music: Trance Temple, World Bass Camp, and Xibalba Gates. For workshops, there were two zones, 7th Dimension and Tribal Village. An entire Healing Area was a new addition this year, which I mostly ventured into for sound healing workshops. There was plenty to do and experience; I found myself enjoying time in all the spaces.
The Sacred Fire area was the Mayan heart of the festival. It held the Opening and Closing ceremonies. There were also new satellite areas of the Sacred Fire, including a sweat lodge and moon tent. All of this, in addition to the Cosmic Kitchen, tea lounge, art gallery, vendors and and drinks bar, made for a very complete village feeling.
There were ample opportunities available for people to drop into a feeling space, to connect with themselves and the earth, as Victores and the rest of the Cosmic team intended.
Among the plethora of offerings were live and electronic music, dance performances, live painters, cacao ceremonies, conscious workshops, meditation circles, morning yoga, permaculture demonstrations, song circles, talking circles, and even a tobacco ceremony. There were even a few opportunities to continue the transformational journey after the festival, including the Open Channel Retreat, which I attended and wrote about here, as well as a couple of trips to visit the Mayan sacred ruins, and even a Permaculture Intensive in the Mayan heartland.
As any good instigator knows, the Cosmic team sets the example and inspires others. Following through with their “transformative social initiative,” Cosmic organized a local impact day following the gathering, where festival attendants could come to a local school, meet the kids, and paint a mural with them. I didn’t attend myself, but a friend told me it was a very sweet and cultural experience to connect with the locals in that way. I think Cosmic is setting an example to inspire not only for their participants, but other festivals as well.
They might make it look easy, but achieving what you set out to do takes a lot of heart and dedication. Victores spoke to his experience as an organizer. “We are working with such magic together. The producers, the people—we have to, because producing a festival of this scale, in a country or in a town like this is not the easiest thing to do.”
Working also with a language barrier, Victores has taken the challenge to learn to “read people without knowing their language,” which I see as a huge lesson in making world peace. It requires walking with an intention, or as he puts it, to “go in with a certain energy.”
That’s when magic happens. “No matter what the language is, if we just take a moment to feel, we can still get what they are saying.”
It’s a huge learning that’s being undertaken. I was very impressed with the level of integrity and clarity of vision I found when speaking to the festival organizers. Actually, every person on the Cosmic team that I interacted with was calm, cool, and collected. Their dedication to their work certainly shows in the overall feeling of Cosmic Convergence.
To me, the festival’s intention and follow-through represents a radical shift in the way we make agreements, contracts, and relationships with people. This way of relating sets up a foundation of goodwill and trust between people. This is the kind of relationship Cosmic is building with the local spiritual leaders of Santiago, Atitlán.
“Party and Ceremony”
One of the main things that attracted me to Cosmic Convergence was the fostering of relationship between indigenous Mayans and the global family. Ivan Sawyer, a festival producer, and coordinator for the Sacred Fire along with Sophie Moon, shared with me that the festival is a space where “party and ceremony, and culture and celebration and healing, all come together in one place…. Not a lot of places, not a lot of events offer that.”
I agree — transformational festivals like Cosmic Convergence are bridge building for many people from my generation. I myself came from being exposed to popular entertainment of electronic dance, trance and rave music and through music festivals. It was there that I found elders and ceremony, and wanted to work with them.
To Sawyer, the blending of worlds is a source of beauty:
“That’s what’s so beautiful about this, that we are all to choose from a great rainbow of opportunities and options, and we’re all here to discover what calls our heart, what calls our bliss. And that’s so beautiful, just to allow each person to find their space. And the ones that want to walk with the fire and the elders in the simple ways, well it’s open to whoever wants to come, and whoever doesn’t, it’s okay too.”
Sawyer laughed as he spoke. He came from being “a full trance raver” and loves Cosmic Convergence for the opportunity to bring different parts of himself and his path together. And the cultural exchange is mutual. “Even the Mayans go and dance a little bit at the trance stage and have fun…. It’s all a family, we’re all learning from each other,” he says.
And, considering how fashionable aspects of indigenous culture have become with young people, especially in North America's west coast festival culture, it’s very special to experience a ceremony where the elders are completely open to sharing their way of life.
Cosmic is on the forefront of creating cultural renewal through interconnection, by throwing a party that attracts the global festival scene and creating space for the Mayan wisdom keepers to share. Sawyer says the elders are “not seeing this as a party, or as a trance festival. For them, it’s a cultural reunion with other cultures, where they get to share their Mayan culture, which is what they really want to do.”
And, with a little historical context, it’s easy to understand why they are so happy to share. Guatemala “has suffered a lot of cultural repression,” said Sawyer. They've endured the Spanish conquest, government corruption, and a civil war that ended only 20 years ago. “And this area (Santiago, Lake Atitlán) was one of the areas that was most hit by the civil war…there was guerrilla fighting going on right here, in the mountains.”
Mayan Elders were specifically targeted and imprisoned, persecuted, even killed, Sawyer told me. “They weren’t allowed to practice their religion, their traditions. So, they did it in hiding.” Bewildered with new understanding, I replayed the words the Mayan Elders, or Tatas, spoke in the Opening Ceremony. With a bit of historical perspective, the cultural revival taking place at Cosmic Convergence is even more sacred and beautiful.
“Now is the time to share it, and they are happy to share…. [The Tatas here] are very happy to share their culture because they know that it does not belong to the Mayans, it belongs to humanity.”
And what they shared in ceremony touched my heart. Their way was simple, to the point, and profound. They asked for unity, for peace, and for things at the festival to stay in the realm of what we can handle. How downright practical…
For me, the Sacred Fire with all that it offered is the best part of the festival, and what truly sets Cosmic Convergence apart from other electronic music festivals. This is where I sank deep into that feeling that everything in the universe is working itself out; everything is already okay. Sitting next to the fire, that’s where I feel “it” the most.
Moving forward into future years, one constructive idea for the festival is to make more comfortable spaces. An outdoor lounge, more tea (and food in general) available, and more containers for people to chill out and relax without impeding on a workshop would be much appreciated. Also, the compost toilets (which in general I love and have lived with for two years) were lacking in privacy, which makes it quite difficult to feel comfortable inside. It would be awesome to partner with the land owners and build some permanent outhouses on the land for the years to come.
And that’s what I really like about Cosmic — yes, it might be a transformational festival that takes place over New Year's for a few days, but it achieves a lasting feeling of change and community. It feels natural and sensible for the festival to work on a long-term infrastructure project that would better the grounds.
Overall Cosmic Convergence offers a world-class cultural festival, with a huge heart and impactful initiatives bringing together modern and Indigenous cultures. The family feeling of belonging, the intention of the organizers to inspire and do good, and the blend of Mayan ceremony with the party atmosphere makes the festival truly unique and awesomely beautiful.
That’s enough to make my heart sing. That’s “it”!
Learn more about the festival at http://cosmicconvergencefestival.org/.
Tickets now on sale for 29 Dec 2016 - 01 Jan 2017!! Purchase Here