[FESTIVAL RECAP] Okeechobee Bridges Gap Between Live Music and Mindfulness
I stand head first, arms back, one bare foot pointed back in the air and the other nestled in the dusty grass of Yogachobee. My balance shifts and I start to shake, starting from my core and reverberating to my extremities. The uncertainty hits my knees and just as it begins to buckle, a hand reaches out to grab mine. I look up to the stranger next to me, gripping my hand in his perfect pose as he mouths “You got this.”
My knee disagrees. I fall. He falls. We’re laughing like maniacs. Namaste.
- Okeechobee’s Yogachobee, Healing Sanctuary, and Earth Art’s Academy
This is Okeechobee, a Florida based music and arts festival that blasted through it’s second run this year March 2nd – 5th. It’s an event that that puts as much effort into vamping the arts as it does with it’s lineup. In fact, organizers sectioned off an entire area in the grounds (called “Chobeewobee Village”) to feature a slew of extracurricular activities. But in the midst of these options, Yogachobee, The Healing Sanctuary and the new Earth Arts Academy were a trifecta of experiences that truly stood out from the rest.
The three hosted a litany of spiritual and holistic activities scheduled from sunrise through late night. The variety was incredible; donation-based Thai massages, Urban Herbalism discussions, sacred sound workshops, bonfire sunset ceremonies. The lineup was studded with experiences set to heal the most skewed internal compasses.
- In Defense of Festival Yoga
“Sometimes we have to ask ourselves why. Why are we here at this festival? Why are we so invested in this culture of music and partying? Yoga and meditation can guide you to that answer…we’re all hurt, searching for something. Drinking and drugs are just band-aids. Mindfulness heals within.”
-Barbara Alfonzo, Co-instructor of BoomYoga (w/ Lava & Joaquin Antonio)
Just putting it out there: I am everything yoga is not. I’m pragmatic, sarcastic, and can’t touch my toes to save my life. After trying out a few discouraging sessions at my local gym, I was jaded. Maybe yoga has been reduced to an expensive form of exercise that commercializes our visceral longing for inner peace.
My experiences at Okeechobee this weekend provided me with a much needed change of perspective. I realized that these activities were not about prodding open third eyeballs or getting fancy poses right. If you strip it down to it’s core, they’re simply means to bridge the disconnect between you, your consciousness, and your surroundings. My takeaway from each session was an active sense of clarity and awareness. Whether I was swooning to Mac Demarco or head banging during Bassnectar, I carried with me this secure feeling that I was an active participant of my own experiences. It’s no wonder the main stages in Okeechobee are called “Be”, “Here” and “Now.” This festival heavily invests in every aspect of our well being to help us enjoy everything the grounds has to offer.
This kind of realization is indispensable to our rapidly growing festival culture. The reality of festivals can be a stark contrast to the values it claims to stand for. Does “peace, love, unity, respect” hold any value when we’re numb to our minds and bodies while preaching it? How respectful can we really be when we’re scarring the grounds with, literally, mountains of trash?
Other festivals can learn a thing or two from Okeechobee. Yogachobee and it’s counterparts has elevated the festival experience to it’s fullest potential by placing value on the individual. Attendance was up, arrests were down, and nobody died during OMF17 – their bottom up approach has clearly brought massive success to their second run. We can’t wait to see how they progress in the years to come.