Aria Morgan and her daughter celebrate family and fun at the Lightning in a Bottle Festival

Aria Morgan and her daughter celebrate family and fun at the Lightning in a Bottle Festival

Festivals and the State of Flow

A self-labeled “conscious music and yoga festival,” Lightning In a Bottle (commonly known as LIB) presents an impressive conglomeration of performers, artists, vendors, speakers, large-scale art installations, and interactive experiences. Over the past eleven years, LIB has continuously exploded, growing to capacity and changing locations several times.

Enter the festival. Enter the world of Lightning In A Bottle.

The state of flow is feminine, ever-shifting, and hard to pin down. To enter her chambers requires the temporary dissolution of some of the filtering or judgmental activities of our pre-frontal cortex accompanied by the simultaneous disengagement of the ego, both of which are nearly impossible to achieve on a consistent basis in our hyper-adrenalized modern world.

Playing around practicing yoga at Lightning in a Bottle

 

In its current incarnation, LIB welcomes attendees every Memorial Day Weekend at the San Antonio Recreation Center in Bradley, CA, about three-and-a-half hours from either SF or LA. This year, LIB reached maximum capacity, selling out at 20,000 tickets a week before the event began. The line of cars to enter and exit the festival took over two hours and spanned for miles. Car camping passes, which allow campers to bring their car into the campground, sold out months before the event began.

When you consider the effort it takes to get to the site, you may ask, “Why spend so much time prepping for an outdoor camping music festival?” It’s not as if the conditions are that friendly: there are burrs all over the camping ground, intense heat during the daytime, and chilly nights. The answer is simply because the experience as a whole allows us to enter the state of flow and therefore it is tremendously nurturing to our soul.

No matter how much energy we put into attending a festival like LIB, the amount of energy received is always greater than what we have invested because what we receive is long-lasting. It warms our hearts. It inspires our spirits to live our dreams. It inspires us as human beings on this planet to live better than before. The festival becomes our opportunity to recharge, to live in that state of flow.

If you’re an artist or a creative person, you already know that you require these flow states in order to feel fulfilled. You might choose activities like yoga, ecstatic dance, lovemaking, prayer, chant, or plan medicine to bring you back into that highly charged flow state. For those of us who may not consider ourselves an artist, our soul nonetheless craves regular doses of the flow state in order to be content in its current human experience. We intuitively sense that without regular contact with the flow, not only the spirit, but our body begins to suffer disease.

The Family Experience

My daughter (age 8) and I were showered with joy, community, and art. Energetically, people are at their best throughout the festival. Of course, LIB isn’t all butterflies and rainbows and unicorns (though unicorns did make a strong presence this year!). But rather, people are at their brightest in terms of how they communicate and share with others.

Our experience began on a Thursday evening, when our new camping buddies/neighbors came out of their tent and offered to help me – a single mommy – set up camp. “Come on, mama,” said Jaime, a massage therapist and chef from Washington DC. “Let us help out.” With Jaime and her husband Stuart’s help, my tent and Easy Up were unpacked before dark. For the next few days, we ended up sharing meals with Jaime, Stuart, and their son Devin. Insta cool neighbors and friends. That’s the kind of energy that exists at LIB. Giving. Joyful. Community.

A few nights later, when a couple was having an argument in family camp and the argument grew louder and louder, five different folks, women and men, came over to counsel and check in on the couple. They offered an extra tent for the father to sleep in. The argument quieted down and everyone went back to sleep. Prior to this incident, no one knew the couple personally and many of the people who came out to help did not even know each other. But the community came together for people to care for the couple and ease their stresses. The next morning, the mother acknowledged and thanked her neighbors for their support.

Outside of Family Camp, everyone was just as giving. Our first night at LIB, we passed the Favela Bar, and my daughter dragged me over to the dance floor, right up against the speakers. She LOVED DJ Diva Danielle’s set. “She loved DJ Diva Danielle’s set, but because I had forgotten her protective ear headphones, which mute the volume and make it safe for little ones to experience a show, I had to move her away from the speakers and over to a group of gals, hula hooping off to the side.”over to a group of gals hula hooping off to the side. Less than a minute later, one of the gals gave Kaia her glow-in-the-dark LED hula hoop. A small crowd gathered and cheered. One of the gals told me she’s just flown in from Missouri to be at LIB with her sister, who came in from NorCal. “It’s so amazing that you are bringing your daughter here,” she tells me. “I love festivals. My mom helped me pack for this one. It’s such a beautiful festival.”

I agree. Bringing kids to a place like LIB, if done with integrity and respect for their little bodies and sometimes cranky minds, is an experience like no other. It is beauty and connection to art, humanity and free-form artistic expression. Kids are invited in. We were never once pushed away.

At LIB, I saw people of all ages, enjoying life like a child again. Smiles, laughter, and the genuine gift of sharing lives all around us, all the time. At festivals, in the absence of the stressors of life, we see it even more clearly everywhere. People are allowed to be themselves and in doing so, JOY is created. That joy is infectious and it permeates LIB. They high-five each other on the bridges over the ravines that connect one part of the festival to another, and they hug each other in the yoga tent.

Inspiration

Every single minute of the day LIB at presents multiple options for entertainment, education, spirituality, rest, dance or social communion. If the idea of enjoying killer DJs, yoga classes with the best in the world, shamanic healing ceremonies, sound baths, art installations, opera singers, dancers, and performers — all within a 15- 20 minute walk of each other — makes you happy, then LIB is for you. And that’s just the start. Everywhere you go. Everything you see if created from pure joy. We are invited, compelled to experience that joy, experience her as sways and swishes and fills our hearts with a newfound sense of purpose. This year, for example, LIB Co-founder Josh Flemming created, by hand, a 1.5 mile string of lights that connected the festival from one end to the other. He made the string of lights himself and rigged the lights to stretch from pole to pole, over 1,000 poles that had to be installed the ground. If this is the kind of dedication that goes into this festival from the top, it’s no wonder that as attendees, we feel the love, the art, and spiritual inspiration it brings.

The Music

The music was insanely gorgeous, spread out over five unique spaces, each with their own vibe. Imagine two massive concert-like stages: The Lightning Stage and Thunder Stage, alongside a Burning Man-esque art-directed outdoor spaces with killer sound – the Woogie Stage. Spread throughout are three were smaller music spaces: The Grand Artique, The Favela Bar, and the Pagoda Bar.

The Woogie stage drew the serious dance lovers. Think funk, deep house, tech-house and even vaguely glitchy ambient house, alongside a fundamental spirit of breaks and dub. The 2016 headliners included the amazing Lee Burridge, Josh Wink, Four Tet, Sacha Robotti, Jami Schwabi, Jonas Fathsman, and Lane 8.

Aria and Musicians at Lightning in a Bottle

The Lightening Stage offered an array of musical experiences and talent that included a transcendental music/yoga experience known as Sonic Shamanic with Nicole Doherty and Marques Wyatt, alongside the incredibly talented Marian Hill, Jamie xx, Lucent Dossier Experience, William Close and the Earth Harp, Chet Faker, Grimes, and Big Gigantic.

The Thunder Stage blasted bass-heavy hitters like pantyraid, Cashmere Cat, TOKIMONSTA, Mila, The Polish Ambassador and Desert Dwellers Life. If you party at the Thunder Stage, earplugs are highly recommended.

The Favela Bar was perhaps the surprise sleeper hit of the festival. It was always going off. Diva Danielle kicked off the weekend. On Sunday, “Favela Gets DEEP” brought it home, with DEEP DJ’s all day long including DEEP founder Marques Wyatt closing down the festival, surrounded by the warm energy of blissed-out dancers, hearts swaying and body-shakin’ with the spirit of funk.

DJ Marcus Wyatt at Lightning in a Bottle

Pagoda Bar artists like A Sol Mechanic, Datphat and Oscure offered hip hip and dub and bass-heavy dance music, alongside mellower R&B influenced grooves.

The Grand Artique also provided a similar showcase of stunning, unique, and hard-to-pigeonhole-in-one-category talent. Most of the acts at The Grand Artique involved stunning acoustical talent and singing. My favorites included Chris Brochu, and Whilk and Misky.

Lightning in a Bottle's nighttime stages

At LIB, Yoga is as Important as the Music

Yoga and movement always steal my heart at LIB with styles as diverse as Tai Chi, Tantra, Belly Dance, Ecstatic Dance, Contact Improv, Sound Healing, Forrest Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, 5 Rhythms, Tibetan Yoga, and even a David Bowie Tribute Flow. The three classes that inspired me the most were:

Jo Tastula, with DJ Tasha Blank, Friday morning, 10am

Jo teaches from a grounded, uncomplicated space. She does not rush or hurry her class. She’s talented at holding space and allowing what needs to unfold to become known. We began with breath and body-centered meditation, followed by Sufi grinds, the combination which released pent-up energy and created a space to discharge static emotional baggage. Tastula invited us to quiet our inner mind and critic, continuously posing the question, “Who is watching us but ourselves? Who is criticizing but our inner critic? We are not that critic,” she reminded us, and invited us to release that inner critic. The core and body activation sequence involved beautiful circular movements and Shiva Rea-inspired flow sequences. Beautifully accompanied by DJ Tasha Blank, Jo’s Friday morning class was a real treat, a beautiful way to begin a weekend of unwinding and joy expansion.

DEEP Exhale with Cristi Christensen and Marques Wyatt. Saturday morning 11:30am

Cristi and Marques have offered the DEEP Exhale experience for four years running, now, and it never disappoints. The DEEP Exhale Tribe co-creates seamlessly, transitioning body, mind and spirit in and out of physical and sonic joy. Cristi’s teaching style is also influenced by Shiva Rea and includes flowing, dynamic sequences that gently build heat while dissolving tension. At certain points, Cristi deliberately stopped the yoga flow and asked us to “shake it all off.” She stood on the stage, shaking one leg at a time, one hip at a time, her shoulders and her body. With such a gorgeous inner spirit that’s not afraid to be silly, Cristi invites us to dive deeper into a sacred childlike space of free-form movement and creative expression, a space that has no boundaries. Her spirit is joyful and ecstatic. Equally skilled as a navigator of energy, Marques is the musical shaman accompanying the yoga journey. His gifts us inspiring, truly beautiful music. A devoted yogi, Marques understands the power of music and yoga and honors the sacred flow between the two.

Guru Singh teaching Yoga at Lightning in a Bottle

Guru Singh – Sunday morning 10am

Guru Singh’s class was not a planned excursion for me, but it ended up being the most spiritually well-rounded class that I attended, and coming from someone who isn’t normally drawn to Kundalini, that says a lot. Guru Singh rocked my inner world. I was floored by his wisdom and his energy, his compassion, his exuberance towards life, and his ability to inspire, unite, and free others from their deep inner limitations. He moved our hearts, mind, and bodies with a combination of simple yet very powerful mudras, kriyas, and songs.

One of his offerings included the simple phrases, “I am love. I forgive myself.” Though there is nothing new about the practice of self-love and forgiveness, but when offered into the combined energy of a group state and sung over and over again for 10-15 minutes, the effect is beyond powerful. People cried, hugged each other, and experienced a safe place to be with themselves.

Forgiveness was a key component of Guru Singh’s message. He emphasized that we came here to be with ourselves, to be in power with who we are. If we but forgive ourselves and step into our power, people will flock to be around us. People are attracted to those who fully inhabit themselves. The only way to inhabit ourselves fully is to forgive ourselves. His explanation of forgiveness will forever stay with me:

“To forgive is to give forwards,” Guru Singh explains. “it means to give forward from a memory into the present moment.” Forgiveness does not mean that we should take back our abusive ex, or involve ourselves in relationships that are damaging to our sense of self. Forgiveness is not merely the acceptance of something harmful. Forgiveness is not passivity. Behaving like a victim and in passive, perpetual “forgiveness” actually binds us to the past and prevents us from moving forwards. Try forgiveness is giving forward to our heart. It is the ability to give forward to ourselves, to free our body, mind and spirit from past entanglements and energy drainages. “Giving forward is truly healing because it releases us from the past. Forgiveness is giving this moment forward into the next one.”

Guru Singh's class cultivates community at Lightning in a Bottle

LIB’s Workshops and Community Building Opportunities

LIB offers outstanding workshops that span day and night: healing ceremonies, meditations on the mount, chocolate cooking classes at beautiful locations like The Pineal Playground, The Mystery School space, The Community Lodge, Casa Sagrada, EO Learning, Ancestral Arts, Mentor Hub, The Haven, and The Learning Kitchen. The Temple of Consciousness offered larger-scale workshops in areas like yoga, dance, and sonic healing. The Village area also hosted its own community engagement offerings.

What is LIB?

This is a festival for those who crave life, love, and joy. There is something for everyone here! Have kids? Stay in family camp and enjoy art, story-time, and interactive games at Family Love Village, all day long. Don’t want to be around kids? Stay up all night and party to the best artists in the stratosphere. Want to meditate and infuse your life with a non-stop dose of spirituality? You can! At LIB, like life itself, we are invited to do everything that our spirit desires so that we can dive back into that state of sacred flow, so that we can return to our regular daily lives and be better lovers, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and human beings on this planet we call home.

LIB invites the “Movers, Shakers, Dreamers, and Doers” of this world to commune, create, and be inspired. Thank you, Do-Lab, and thank you Josh and Didi Flemming and Dream Rockwell for co-creating this amazing visionary festival.

Check out Lightning in a Bottle on their website.

Aria Morgan is a writer, yoga teacher and birth coach who loves music, dancing and the outdoors.