Blog by Rikki MacCuish
This blog was inspired by the inside of a porta potty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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! ❤ ❤