Lightning In A Bottle (LIB) unites the worlds of yoga, dance music, self-improvement and social awareness. This fusion of worlds and ideas in one, easy-to-attend location creates a profound experience.
2018 was my third LIB. Each one I’ve attended, I’ve had my daughter with me, starting at age five, then seven, and now nine. Being a single parent at a festival is limiting in many way. For example, I don’t get to see the late night acts, nor do I cram myself up into crowds, especially once night falls. My daughter and I stay on the periphery as we explore.
But in so many ways, LIB provides an infinite canvas of possibility, learning opportunities, inner growth, and absolute fun, even when I’m attending solo with my youngster. It’s truly incredible to walk through a space and never once feel out of place, to feel that my child is safe and welcome wherever we go, and to simultaneously enrich my life through immersion in ritual, learning, and via alternate lenses of life experience.
Lightning in a Bottle–an Overview of the Experience
LIB combines music, yoga, meditation, consciousness, social justice, ritual and learning. Multiple massive stages featuring artists like Sofi Tukker exist alongside Burning Man-esque DJ zones where art and self expression collide. Ample areas for rest, play, food, and fun are found all along the yoga grounds. The space includes not one, but two yoga stages. They are equally beautiful and spread apart from one another. The two stages offer hours of back-to-back yoga practices, from early morning until late night.
The Family Love Village allows kids an absolutely separate place to explore, make art at ArtClave, listen to stories with Dr. Solar and Friends, and even enjoy family yoga.
All along the festival’s walkways are food vendors and a festival-themed artisan marketplace. The festival itself borders a lake bed which was empty for years. In 2017, rains filled it in and for the past two years, revelers are out on the lakebed, floating, swimming and enjoying nature’s beauty. The camping areas skirt the edges of the festival, circling the lake. In addition, RV camping areas as well as boutique glamping options are on offer.
In our three LIB visits, my daughter and I have stayed in Family Camp. I don’t think that regular camping is appropriate for a child. Why not? Well, people party and stay up late in the regular camping areas. For the most part, everyone is very considerate. But ya never know. Festival partying can be a bit much for young ones.
At least in Family Camp, everyone settles down at a reasonable hour. However, and this is an important however, this is not to say that it’s quiet in Family Camp. The bass travels on, folks. So, bring your earplugs or simply exhaust yourself so much that the thud-thud-boom-boom up until 4am doesn’t keep you from sleeping. We generally don’t sleep so well the first night, even with the earplugs. By the second night, nothing keeps us up. It’s a good thing we slept, since there were a number of don’t miss moments every day–including our exploration of awareness and activism with engaging speakers.
The Compass as a Center of Citizen Activism
In the center of LIB is the Compass, a multi-space area whose intent is to bridge the gap between festival culture, ancient arts, mysticism and activist culture and in doing so, foster citizen activists, inspired by causes that ignite their souls.
The Compass is specific to LIB and a concept partnership of Living Village Culture, which believes in galvanizing the activist potential within transformative festivals by partnering with social, environmental and political movements. Living Village Culture was born out of the latent desire of festival-goers to participate in some form of village life, and the need to do something with the energy and potential created through the social communion they experience while at a festival.
With an eye to balancing the five elements, LIB’s The Compass speaks to our contemporary desire to experience village life, and that longing deep within our DNA that calls upon us to unite with others of like mind. The Compass consists of tented areas intermixed with outdoor ritual spaces and indigenous-minded cultural offerings.
Workshops at the Compass
Each area invites festival-goers into an array of experience and workshops. These areas include Memory Palace, with the Grandmother Tree in the center, which offer opportunities to sit with elders and learn. Crossroads offer interactive cultural workshops. Last Supper Club, aka the Nightcap, offers storytelling, performance and fine dining by evening, morphing into fine drinking through early dawn. Healing Arts, Cultural Hub, Earth Arts & Crafts, and The Learning Kitchen offer an array of interpersonal/cultural workshops, self-betterment through nutrition and social-environmental awareness.
The Cauldron became my favorite exploratory space. Energetically held in the middle by a water fountain altar combination, The Cauldron featured several distinct areas with workshops on topics ranging as far wide as psychic protection from the dark forces, indigenous art, an apothecary and a witches’ hut, along with opportunities to witness fire tenders who light sacred fires and keep them burning, as well as water ceremonies which incorporate the central water altar.
Women Protectors of Mother Earth Across the Americas
The Beacon was the largest of the Compass spaces. Tented, it contained an array of astounding speakers and workshops focused on social, political and environmental change. I was so excited about this workshop and to attend it in peace with my nine-year-old. We made a bargain. As much time as I spent at this workshop, I would give her back, having water gun fun at the Woogie Stage. During the workshop, I let her use my camera to take pictures and she had a notebook to draw on. Half the time, she ended up playing with a ladybug that landed on her arm.
I had the honor of listening to Amy Goodman moderate a panel: Women Protectors of Mother Earth Across the Americas. The panel consisted entirely of indigenous women who have risen up to create social change and who are all a part of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
This Network is a collaboration of many groups focused on one similar goal, “To Protect the Sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by Respecting and Adhering to Indigenous Knowledge and Natural Law.” The panel included Leila Salazar Lopez (AmazonWatch), Pennie Opal Plant (GatheringTribes), Erial DeRanger (IndigenousClimateAction), and Violet Cavanaugh of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council and a representative of Indigenous Women Rising.
Be Steadfast when Saving our Planet
The women encouraged us to remain steadfast and focused on saving our planet. “We’re here to defend Mother Earth against the extraction of oil. This is her blood,” said Leila Salazar Lopez. In fact, not only must we get involved, said Violet Cavanaugh, but, “This is a time of prophecy being fulfilled, wherein the feminine rises and it is the women across the world who will save our planet.”
“Transition is what’s going to save our planet, not just driving a Prius or installing solar panels. We don’t have the same definition of wealth. We’re wealthy in knowledge and spirituality,” Eriel DeRanger continued. “We need to challenge white supremacy, capitalism, and colonialism. We’re talking about reharmonization of everything and everyone on this planet.”
And to those who are polluting our planet? Pennie Opal Plant responded, “They need our prayer
Powerful, potent, beautiful feminine energy is rising everywhere. It’s nurturing our planet in exactly the way that she needs right now. This message struck deep inside my heart, bringing me to tears at the beauty and simplicity of it all. These educational and soul-igniting opportunities are part of the ethos that sets LIB apart.
Comparing LIB and Burning Man
When you compare LIB to the massive, non-structured, and radical Burning Man, which seen by many as the grandmother of transformational festivals, LIB is relatively easy to experience.
LIB is family-friendly and attracts a different festival goer than at Burning Man. Still be conscientious; even though nudity is not permitted at LIB, there is still a lot of skin on display. If you’re easily offended by the sight of partial breast or tushie, this festival may not be for you. Or you may opt to stay strictly within the Family Love Village area.
When it comes to logistics and supplies, water on site at the festival is abundant and free. (Bring your own bottles for easy refill and portability.) In theory, you don’t have to bring anything other than your clothes. You could, if you wanted to, eat out every meal, and sleep in a luxury tent or an RV. LIB’s marketplace vendors may sell handmade crystals next to Doc Martin boots and flashy fairy wings, just in case you forgot your festival outfit at home.
For the Burning Man purists, this is absolute commercialism since Burning Man promotes radical expression and radical self-reliance. It is a part of Burning Man’s culture. Everyone is a participant. There are no spectators. Everyone brings all their of water, food and every possible thing they might need for the week. The only items on sale at Burning Man are coffee and ice. When I first went, in 1999, you couldn’t even buy those.
For families looking for the immersive experience who simply cannot commit to the intensity that is Burning Man, LIB is heaven. In addition, LIB offers a profound space for social-political change that is much more accessible than Burning Man. Don’t get me wrong, Burners: Burning Man offers far greater radical, artistic self-expression than anything else on this planet. But LIB is not trying to be Burning Man.
Behind the Scenes Fulfillment at LIB
Everyone I spoke to at LIB, from the volunteers at the Woogie stage to world-renowned yoga teachers and DJs, all agreed that their work at LIB feeds and nurtures them. It’s far more than simply a job, a gig, or a campout party. Everyone alluded to the same thing. In fulfilling whatever within them that needs to be expressed, they fill themselves with the expansiveness of being in alignment with their inner self. It’s this expansiveness and inner light that gives them the energy to keep going and keep offering more and more of themselves to others.
When I asked people about their experience. I received different versions of same response. “It’s part of who I am,” said yoga teacher Cristi Christensen. “I can’t not do what I do. I resisted teaching for years. And then it go to the point where it was selfish not to share my life because yoga was changing me in so many ways. I want to wake people up and shake people up to the power that’s inside of them so they can celebrate this gift of life they’ve been given.”
DJ Joshua Heath, aka ‘Lonely Boy’ said, “It allows me to be the best version of myself. When I’m performing, the energy exchange is really what does it for me. Afterwards, hearing people’s stories of how something I did affected them in this really positive way — that is the fuel.”
This energy of sharing who we are is like a massive ball of positive self-expression that transmits itself to everyone.
What’s the Why
Dede Flemming, CFO of the DoLab and co-creator of LIB, says that it’s the smile on people’s faces that still does it for him. “I’m fed by what I do because of the stories that we hear from people–whether they’re an attendee or they’re working–about how their lives have changed. They are different people because of this festival. A local vineyard manager in his 70s wrote to me that he had a life-changing experience in a few hours because of the people and the energy of this event. And that is what keeps me going.”
Nasty Neil, who is the Woogie stage assistant manager and provider of Woogie Water Gun fun, said that it is the A-ha moment in people’s eyes that nurtures him. “When it’s all said and done, whenever anyone comes up to you and says, ‘Thank you for that magical experience,’ that’s why I personally attend these things and am a part of it.”
Marques Wyatt, creator of DEEP and co-creator of Deep Exhale with Cristi Christensen, remarked that LIB was his “absolute favorite festival. I remember them as being one of the first to incorporate health and wellness as part of the festival while all the other stuff was going on. I can’t tell you how many people hear me at LIB and find me at DEEP after that.”
People are exposed to somethings that they may normally not ever have noticed. Says Marques, “People that go to LIB to dance, they might know me from the clubs and they think, ‘Hey, I wonder what Marques is doing with this yoga thing,’ and they show up. I can see it in their faces. They’re blown away. They’ve had an experience. LIB makes it easy for people to try it out. To take their first yoga class, to hear their first talk. And vice versa – for a yogi to go – hey, lemme check out some of this dancing.”
Shiva Rea at LIB
Shiva Rea is so committed to LIB that she came in the day before surgery back in LA. She spoke to me 10 days after her surgery, “Festivals, particularly LIB, are a way of giving back to the spirit of collective gathering; and for me, the diversity at a festival is very different than when I’m going to teach in a specific community.
We have a choice to see the challenges of the day as a challenge or as a creative potentiality. As you know, I came to LIB and the next day I went into surgery. Not many people do that. My son and I were looking forward to it. I was nurtured by that. It wasn’t draining for me. I went in with joy and circulation in my body.
This feeling allows me to taste the best moments of life and that nurtures me. I’m a Rasika. I’m one who goes with the Optimal Flow of Life.”
What’s My Why
And what about me? What’s my WHY? WHY do I spend hours packing up my car to drive for hours to wait in line for hours to unpack for hours to festival with my nine-year-old, when, clearly, booking an Airbnb somewhere out in nature would be far more relaxing? What is it about festivals and crowds and music and yoga that draws me in? Why do I interview people and write about them?
I’m completely intrigued by those who share themselves freely, without tempering their spirit. In fact, the sharing of who we are serves to brighten our inner light even more. As someone who struggled for years trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t me, I understand the powerful nature of being present with people who are completely themselves. It’s inspiring to us all.
Shining Our Lights
There’s that famous quote about shining one’s light allowing others to shine theirs. My light is my life. This includes: teaching, writing, dancing, writing, teaching, coaching, parenting. I share by experiencing and relating my experience to others. That is what nurtures my soul and brings me joy. If I can touch your life through this article and inspire you to attend a transformational festival like LIB, and if that festival shifts even one iota, one inkling of a thought that later on cascades into a complete shift of self expression, then I, too, have become a part of this infinite space of being and existing and bettering not only ourselves but the world around us.
You can buy tickets for LIB 2019 up on their website very very soon. Super early bird. LightningInABottle.org
You can find me @yogawitharia
And the beat goes on…
Aria Morgan is a yoga teacher, doula and music lover who finds inspiration in nature: ariamorgan.com.