So I decided to go to a sober festival, full of creative workshops all on my own. Before going to the festival I sat on my bed circling which workshops I wanted to go to, excited by the mixture of dance, song, tantra and self enquiry. My plan was to steer towards tantra and general connection workshops, loving the sound of ‘Intimacy and Sensuality’, ‘Conscious Relating’, ‘Single Conscious Women’…but boy oh boy did the universe have other plans for me!!
I arrived at the festival site, unpacked my car and stood in the walkway between two camping fields. With the sun beaming down on my skin, I took a deep breath and scanned across the fields observing who I thought would make nice neighbours for the weekend. I dropped my bags down next to Amy and Rosie, two sisters from London who looked lovely and friendly. I later came to realise, with a heart full of gratitude, that I was camped with two like minded souls, a sisterhood with inspiring life experience, knowledge, creativity and passion…and a shared love for glitter.
My first workshop was a 5 Rhythms dance workshop. This wasn’t my original plan, I remember thinking I wont do a dance workshop first as I’ll get super sweaty and have to get changed before the next workshop. But I found myself sat outside of the tent just as the workshop was starting and got drawn in to taking part. As the weather was so hot I was wearing a beautiful pink silk wrap around skirt (that I bought in India) and a bikini top. I held this inner confidence inspired by this Facebook post written by Brene Brown, it was time to drop the armour, release those limiting beliefs and just be who I wanted to be, something that is perhaps easier to do in an environment where you don’t know anyone. This turned out to be a happy, dancing, face scrunching, super sweaty Lesley that needed to get changed before the next workshop because she was drenched. I loved it. I enjoyed how you sometimes work with a partner and dance together, it was so much fun. Later in the weekend I had a lovely chat with a lady that I had danced with and we both acknowledged the incredible connection we had whilst dancing. I’m generally quite a flowy dancer and I liked the shift when I was encouraged to channel a more primitive energy. I felt quite emotional at the end of the hour and a half workshop, as the music slowed down, I was making gentle shapes with my arms and hands gesturing an outward acceptance of who I am, unashamed of being seen in all of my sweaty, body revealing glory.
Day two and workshop number two… Conscious Relating, facilitated by Dakini Cat inspired by the work of David Deida, exploring the first, second and third stages of the masculine and feminine. I entered the tipi and sat next to a woman who explained that she had left her purse in her hotel and had no money, to which I responded by getting out my purse and giving her £20. It reminded me of the time when I was alone in central London at 4.am with no money and the cash point had eaten my bank card. I tearfully approached a member of staff at Waterloo train station and explained my situation and the man responded by walking to the cash machine and giving me £10 of his own money to buy a ticket. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough money to buy a ticket and the gates were open so I got home later that morning and blue tacked those two £5 notes to my wall for a year and a half as a reminder of how amazing people can be and waited for an opportunity to give the money away in the right situation. Two weeks ago I was in London and I decided to give the money to two buskers on the underground to repay my thanks, although it didn’t quite feel like the best scenario to give the money away. What did feel right was giving the festival lady the money to show my thanks. I smiled at the idea that when you let go of something (the original £10) then it gives space for new opportunities to step forward.
Next up was ‘Singing Ourselves Home’ lead by community choir leader Sophia Efthimiou, teaching 4 part harmony songs by ear to a huge group of willing participants. A petite woman huge in character, had an effortless style that commanded attention without needing to raise her voice. She was circled by well over 100 people eating out of her hand…magic wonderful singing was sung.
I was gutted to discover that the ‘Intimacy and Sensuality’ workshop was full and felt quite fidgety not knowing what to do with myself next. Rosie beautifully said ‘be here now’. Perfect words, perfect timing so I went off on my own, sat under the prayer flags in the sun and wrote in my journal. I wanted to do the intimacy workshop because I had a desire to connect with others in the beautiful way that I have experienced Tantra workshops in the past. I concluded that perhaps what I needed to do was spend the time connecting with myself and not other people. I soaked up the lush familiar feeling of being on my own, reflecting on how much I flourish being on my own.
I glided over to my next workshop called ‘Somatic Flow’ lead by the wonderful Will Softmore. I can quite honestly say I have never and I mean NEVER danced like this in my entire life. Take the enjoyment I had from 5 Rhythms and times it by a million. This was all about connecting to my body, forgetting everyone else and being the only person dancing in the space. The ambient music started and I shed a small tear letting go of what I needed to in order to fully engage. Throughout the 90 minutes I was in bliss with my eyes half open as though I was high, channelling the super sexy, the floaty light feminine, the strength of the masculine, the core of the primal. By the end I was drenched in sweat, drenched with love, owning my space, the different parts of the feminine and masculine, letting the sexy be seen, letting the base primitive me step forward, letting the high energy playful out to play and the soft and floaty sway. I felt so good I totally sacked off the ‘Conscious Speed Dating’ workshop and sat in the wonder of my own space, under the prayer flags in the sun.
Day one and two blew me away. I woke up on day three with broken sleep as the man in the tent next to me was snoring really loud – GAH! So I was up and making porridge at 7am on a Sunday at a festival, this was so far removed from previous festival experiences where going to bed at 7am was the norm. The first workshop of the day was called ‘Revealing Our True Nature’ which set the tone for a really challenging day of self enquiry, heightened emotion and processing. In the workshop we got in to pairs, the listener would say ‘tell me who you are’ and the second person had five minutes to respond and then we changed over asking the same question of each other. This took place for 45 minutes and with each round my responses got deeper with key themes emerging accompanied by a huge wave of sadness. Just as I was going to sit with my sadness and see where it came from the workshop ended and I was left on a cliff hanger. I spoke to the facilitators at the end as I felt incredibly raw and vulnerable as I was connecting to the emerging felt experience of loneliness, to which the facilitator responded by reciting a poem by Hafiz.
Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
Tears of sadness rolled down my cheeks as she spoke those words. I went back to my tent to process and just felt awful, I started to unpick what loneliness meant to me and so many uncomfortable thoughts and memories emerged. I remember Will saying in his Somatic workshop that if you feel stuck then change environment, move. So I left my tent and went along to his second somatic flow workshop. A gentle, laying down, ambient music session inviting me to connect with what my body wanted to say. The process was beautiful, I felt incredibly sad though. At the end of the workshop Will suggested we hold hands and get in to a closing circle, as I went to do this a lady next to me could see that I was welling up and hugged me, I sobbed my heart out on her shoulder. Once I had calmed down I looked up and realised that the whole group had formed a circle and I was at the centre of it sobbing. At the time I was incredibly embarrassed and joined the circle until the closing had completed.
After the workshop I sat to one side and could not stop crying, I went back to my tent and could not stop crying. The message ‘it’s time to be alone’ kept coming through and I kept responding with ‘I’m not ready for this message’. Over the past few years I’ve worked so hard on myself and this feels like the thing I have been afraid to tackle. The strength of need from the younger part of myself to not be on my own is so powerful and strong. ‘I’m not ready’ little Lesley wails in my tent, ‘I can’t be on my own, it’s too painful’ and then the image swirls through my mind of me sobbing in the centre of a group of strangers, being held by a lady I didn’t know, being surrounded by love and in that moment I got it.
It felt like so many things had been leading up to this moment. Two years of therapy that enabled me to stop striving, stop over eating and drinking, love myself, care for myself. Quitting my job and going travelling showed me that I can face my fears and do things on my own, on my own terms. Arriving at the festival showed me that I can be on my own and connect and experience joy. This festival has stripped everything back, removed distractions, connected me with me and showed me the work I need to be doing next, facing my biggest fear of being alone. Little Lesley is sulking in the corner somewhere and adult me is sat in stunned eye raising disbelief that I’m about to embark on this next chapter. It’s time to let go and experience, really experience my loneliness and let it cut deep.
Well on that somewhat heavy note it was understandable that I decided to pack up my tent and leave. I said goodbye to the sisters and headed back to Dorking silenced by the experiential learning that had just taken place.
Into the Wild Festival, I had a plan of what I wanted to do but there were bigger and greater things in store for me. What a magical festival, incredibly family orientated, great value for money bursting with great people and nice vibes. An immeasurable amount of gratitude that is exploding my heart and mind, thank you.