Take Shambhala Home with You

Blog by Rikki MacCuish

This blog was inspired by the inside of a porta potty.


Photo by Patrick Latter, 2012

I’m a skeptic when it comes to flowery peace-and-love “hippy” talk. I don’t believe in goddesses or messages from the stars; but I do believe in the power of community. On the outside Shambhala Music Festival is a five day freak fest full of flashy lights, loud bass, and beautiful bodies. But as they say it’s what inside that counts, and it’s what’s inside Shambhala that makes the festival special. This special quality is something each and every one of us brings to the festival and something that we can all learn from and take home with us.


Photo by Louis Bockner, SMF Media Team 2013

Many of us come to the festival from big cities, places that alienate people and create material jealousy. We’re bombarded by persuasive advertising, our lives are dictated by money and energy wars. We’ve lost touch with the importance of social capital and have focused instead on surrounding ourselves with cars, clothes, and Apple products. Many studies point to the facts that we’re fatter, more stressed out and more out of touch with nature than we’ve ever been. Our view of reality is falsely constructed and slowly caving in on itself.

Events and places like Shambhala offer an opportunity to get back to your roots, to discover what really matters in life. It’s amazing how liberating ditching your smartphone for a weekend is, and how great a cup of camp stove coffee tastes while you share funny stories with your friends and new acquaintances. The one thing that I’m most impressed about whenever I go to Shambhala — 2013 was my sixth year — is how nice everyone is. No one yells at you in traffic, or skips the coffee line, or scoffs or gawks at a naked person on the beach. People smile, hug and encourage. I hope everyone will take this positivity home and share it.


Photo by Charlotte Dobre, SMF Media Team 2013

My aim isn’t to put Shambhala on a pedestal as if it were Mecca — there are many great places in the world and big festivals do have their flaws (environmental damage, etc.) but they offer us a glimpse of what life could be like if we tried hard enough to maintain the community lifestyle we take on for that week on the Salmo River Ranch. Eco-villages and co-op living situations around the world are already proving this is possible long-term in our post-modern age, and they’re not just “hippy communes”. It’s a social movement and anyone can be a part of it.

Photo by Phoenix Photography, SMF Media Team 2013

Photo by Phoenix Photography, SMF Media Team 2013

The Dalai Lama XIV said in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Hugging strangers, sharing and helping each other out may happen in what seems like fleeting moments, but I’m sure that many of you can recall a special moment from Shambhala that made you feel, for that few moments, that all was right with the world. For a moment war, famine, environmental destruction, human rights violations, drug abuse — it all stops. And I don’t think it’s escapism, I think it’s a form of personal and maybe even social evolution, knowing that no matter what happens there is always an opportunity to change things for the better.


Photo by Patrick Latter, SMF Media Team 2013

How do we take this back to the real world? I still feel uncomfortable making eye contact with people in the streets here in Victoria, I still get road rage when someone doesn’t use their turn signal and I still feel annoyed when someone talks on their phone while ordering coffee. I’ll be honest, everyday ignorance physically and emotionally exhausts me. But like many of you I’m sure, I’m conscious that opportunities will present themselves wherein I can help make someone’s day better by passing on good feelings and compassion.


Photo by Patrick Latter, SMF Media Team 2013

I was inspired to write this blog by the doors of porta potties at Shambhala. I don’t know if the festival will condone this type of expression because I’m sure those things are a pain in the ass to clean but there was a lot of wisdom scrawled on those dirty doors! Shambhala needs a positive message board with glow pens next year (hint, hint). Let’s bring it out in the open (and hopefully decrease those washroom lineups!). One of the messages I read was, “take Shambhala home with you”, something no doubt copied from their schedule pamphlet but important nonetheless. In marketing they call it the rule of seven. You read something seven times before it sinks in. Well, I had the joy of sitting in that same porta potty at least seven times over the whole weekend and it’s sunk in.

I think the best place to start is by expressing gratitude and paying it forward. Let’s practice what we preach (and let’s be honest, there is a LOT of preaching that goes on online).


Photo by Kate Mada Photography, SMF Media Team 2013

I’ll start: thanks random guy who gave me a cherry ring pop because you thought my terrible dubstep thrashing was cool; thanks to our lineup neighbour who shared his cold-water spray-fan in the blistering heat; and most of all, thanks to my amazing now-fiance Tom for making my life so amazing and for sharing so many great adventures with me — we decided we were officially in a relationship on the way to Shambhala six years ago and he proposed to me on our anniversary Saturday night in Shambhala’s beautiful new garden space. I know we weren’t the only ones to get engaged that weekend and it’s so awesome knowing that our story is a familiar one there.


Rikki & Tom


Rikki’s engagement ring

By now, most of you are back home, back at work going about the motions of daily life. It can be a bit of culture shock returning from somewhere that allowed you to feel so free. But I hope we can all continue to evolve this emerging social movement where youth can take charge of our own futures, rearrange our value hierarchies and allow one another to be without judgement. And most of all, I hope to see you all again next year at Shambhala Music Festival!

❤ ❤ HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on your engagement, Rikki & Tom, from the entire Shambhala Fam. We love Shambhalove! ❤ ❤


Photo by Patrick Latter, SMF Media Team 2013


Photo by Xavier Walker, SMF Media Team 2013

About Shambhala Music Festival

It's all about the people on the dancefloor.
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2 Responses to Take Shambhala Home with You

  1. Ryan Carty says:

    I have a confession to make, I a few years back, and this was my 5th mission tour in a row, was guilty of theft at a local store in Salmo, BC. It was the New & Used place everyone who goes, loves to stop in at before going to party their face off. I was high on ketamine at the that moment in time, and I was with a old friend, turned new hippie, and I was looking at this amazing rock that was formed with three outer darker shades of rock, and solid white crystal in the middle. The perfect surface to do any nasal drug with really. Well this friend through a message to me, she says ” You can take it, If you really want something, you can take it, Ryan” I being a bit overwhelmed by the statement in the first place, was a little drawn back. I don’t believe in just taking items that don’t belong to you, where I come from, it’s called stealing, theft of personal property. Well I being on a drug that makes you feel like a little kid again, just took it! Terrible I know, but this year. I couldn’t pass the store by without going to the back of my holiday trailer and taking the stone back to the original and rightful owners of the property. I knew I made a childish mistake that day, and I’ve been paying with hardcore addiction every since, not that it was the main cause. I had a nice conversation with the fellow who was a local logger, and a personal friend of the owner. He says to me “son it sometimes takes people a lifetime, but we eventually do the right thing” I felt an immense weight lift off my shoulders! Sharing is caring people, and the universe will give back.. please don’t think because you’re out of money, at the time. That it is your right take anything, that you know in your heart isn’t yours. The do hold too much value in our material objects, but please don’t preach a faith of spirituality based on taking what you want from others… People are willing to trade with you for anything, a personal song, dance, piece of artwork. anything really. My belief is strong with the force 😉 and I know our farmily, can learn from any personal experience.
    Thank you, from the rock bottom of my heart, that message was full of soul, and all the powerful emotion that Shambhala represents. It generally has the same consensus with almost everyone I meet, with just some Love; Peace; and Elbow Grease. People band together, put away their petty differences, and join hands, give random hugs(my personal favorite) , and nostalgic playful kisses.. The Farmily, is one big smiling joy of awesome. In all my years, this one being 5 in a row. I have never been disappointed with anything Shambhala brings. Each year it teaches me a little more about my addiction to life and yes, drugs are included in this addiction. That is my journey though, the festival is each one’s journey to chose, some like to lose themselves in the music and connect with the DJ, some walk around all day long to find new and interesting people, because lets face it. There are no awkward stares, only awkward people. I myself haven’t felt that since Sham 2012, a very personal start to something beautiful inside me 🙂 I always knew that place we go to year after year, just had to be special, and more than that, a magical realm of existence(Mother Earth). I even started to feel a presence of weightless energy. that had been missing in my life, for one my best friends who was a guardian angel on earth, through his memory , he is never forgotten. Even more than that, he really does surround the people he loves. He was avid party man, who always had time for family and friends. I honestly was stunned at what I felt and soon after I left, I quickly let the real world consume me with my gambling, and drugs. Losing grasp that someone/something(my own minds perception even) was trying to intuitively guide me, to do better in the world. ” YOU should always strive to do better in the world, and not fall victim to the sunken few that don’t”. Because what we are to learn is that, our new “Home away from home” is just as easily transferable to the real world. The next time you have an perceived awkward stare. guess what? Smile, nobody can be mad at a smile, and initiate conversation to find out the awkward stare, was really all about. You’ll find generally that they were mostly like looking at a wall behind you and not YOU. People are so kind and warm and nice, that they feel personally attacked, at the center of their emotional core. It’s actually nice to see people open up to complete strangers, and yet have more in common with them, then some of their life long friends. I’m only child so it’s definitely a lot easier to go do my own thing and explore, because my true friends know I’m not doing of not wanting to be with my friends, but passing on a message that I hold dear in my heart and soul. I want to keep the drive alive by helping Virgins(you know who they are 😉 the beautiful and often naive first timers!) I really can only do this because I was grandfathered in through a group of friends and a production company in Edmonton, called All Blown Up! If it wasn’t for them 5 years ago, I wouldn’t be coming back, and I wouldn’t be alive to tell the story either. I was inadvertently trying to push the limits of my body knowing that my now dead friend was no where to be found except, photographs and memories.. I literally dreamed about my first year, the entire year. Obviously to intense, not to go back! I then skip ahead to this year, and the only keep getting better. I was able to cry with someone who I knew was real all along, big old Mother Earth. There were no bushes on fire, where gods spoke directly too me ! Only the fond love of a long lost brother from another mother, in the everything of this earth! I grew up, trying to be a man , while being a boy, not letting my emotions go with words and expression, rather with anger and pain. With this being said I took the time to actually clean my trailer to be a home and not a pig sty(which never happened before). I started to feel the need that all though, I regret nothing life, if it’s not moving you forward it’s time for change. Basically my year was to find a fire inside and use it to change myself for the better of my own well being. Then in due course, I can try and help others. but first im helping me, or this plan won’t work. I really am trying to maintain the Sham vibes we all sometimes tend to forget we experienced, with our greedy money torn world. Even if we take one thing and pass it on, it helps. I myself went to the soup kitchen and helped feed the homeless and cook spaghetti and meat sauce for the crew. I went because my friend was doing community service, for a crime he was ill fatally ratted on(life goes on). I was lucky enough to want to go with him, on my own accord. I finally gave something back, to the real world, instead wallowing in my own self direction on addiction after addiction. Drugs aren’t bad, only the context in which some disrespect and abuse them.. ” The Devil Takes Care Of His Own” I saw what true drug addiction was like at a young age.. These people at the soup kitchen, had experienced every day of their lives, and once something consumes you, it becomes you.
    Therefore, thank you Rikki MacCuish for sharing your lovely story about sitting on the toilet seats, and you’re well written meaning behind it! You’re language is powerful with you, it is! You conveyed a strong message, that’s I want to let people know. Yes we do these drugs, and other enhancers. Yet the message is clear, you don’t have to be in “the clear” on 10 hits of acid, to appreciate what it has to offer. Respect yourself and it and life will respect you back. I hope to see everyone again next year, because I have a lot of love to share, and I’m not going anywhere, only there, where everything is fair. beautiful, magical, and all too real, unless you’re high. Love it, embrace it. Its only a high, and highs have lows…. you can’t have the good without the bad in this world, otherwise you would never have to put yourself on a timeout from copious amounts of every drug and end up in the sanctuary twice(a record for me) and the earliest one ever on tuesday, after pulling through security. I knew I would be fine, with the help of those fantastic people at the Sanctuary and First Aid tent, of course. We are so fortunate to have a place like that, for people like me, who push the limits of what they’re body and mind, can handle. I went back the very next day, and let everyone know who appreciative, I truly was that they are here, and have the best and toughest job. These people are genuinely scared for our well being, and that’s why the do that wonderful thing they do. Volunteer to help watch over the craziest and dangerous to themselves only, or the innocent and naive, with the all to familiar story of buying drugs they knew noting about! 99% of the people are good soldiers of love, just keep a mindful eye for that 1%, always. For this I complete my conveyance of acknowledgement and appreciation from the staff, the Sanctuary(some know me by name now), first aid, the vendors, the artwork, and honestly last but not the slight least,the musical talent. Who year after year prove to me that you can truly and willingly due, whatever your mind is ready for 😉 Shambhala, One love, Forever. Written by Ryan Thomas Carty a.k.a. Z I L L A

  2. Ember says:

    My favorite part of festivals is not just the event itself, it is the message boards.
    Participants have decompressed and start to reflect on what made that event memorable.
    We get to read into a strangers experience and live throught what they want to take home and store in their memories.
    We, as a reader, are learning.
    We take what we want and feel is important to us, to the festival, to the people in and around us in every day life and the life at the festival.
    I read a post from a friend of mine who was raving about Sham and all the selfless love and giving as well as friendships made. I posted back to him that he needs to come out and experience XXX Festival because it is so much the same thing but more organic. What right did I have to say that as I have never experienced Sham?
    I am blessed to read this story and the reply to the story because it opened up my heart to know that there is love and light everywhere, all the time and at all festivals.
    I have been to three big Festivals in the US, Saskatchewan and Alberta. They were all amazing in their own unique way. They all have wondrful people who are selfless and help out where they can and when they can. From volunteering to offering water or just a hug to a random stranger with deep and caring honesty and emotion; expecting nothing in return. What you give does not have to be of a monetary value. Gifting is so much more than that.
    Rikki and Z I L L A – thank-you for your insite full of feeling, love, remorse and brutal honesty. You can’t have a sucessful festival without the likes of all of us. One is not better than the other – they are just different, with different principles, rules and venues.
    The bottom line is that it is the people that make the experiences what we blog about and what makes others tear up over true heartfelt stories of laughter, pride and love; love of not only an event but love of one another and the small chance that we can, if we try, bring a little piece of this event home with us to share with random people… we really can make a conscious effort to look one another in the eye. A smile is worth so much

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