It has officially passed the one-month mark since Waking Life 2018, the magical festival that took place between 14 – 19 August. Now that the dust has settled, the true reminiscing begins. I face the impossible task of attempting to reduce feelings, sounds, connections and movement to words. Yet somehow, the process of putting pen to paper proves therapeutic - a tool to express, release and share my journey that I hope you can all connect to in your own way.
On August 1st, 2018 I left the bustling streets of London and set off on a liberating journey to Portugal. I set the intention of opening my heart, mind and soul to whatever experience awaited me. Landing in Lisbon, I got a bus to a little town named Crato where I was picked up and driven into a wild Portuguese land that was to become home for the next few weeks. I had the pleasure of joining the set-up crew, a ‘dream team of talented individuals and collectives who each gave their own personal stamp on the festival’ (Goff, 2018). The majority of them (including myself) were volunteers. We lived and worked together with money as no object and passion as our drive within the shared ideology of environmental sustainability and conscious living. ‘Leave no trace’ was the motto we lived by.
During the first week of set-up we were greeted by a 46° heat wave. It was a test of mental endurance and physical survival that pushed everyone to their limits. The rhythm of production had to flow according to the temperature; the midday sun paralysed most strenuous activity and it wasn’t until the later hours, as the air cooled that the hum of engines sounded and the tough graft began. The creative inspiration was awoken as artist’s transformed local materials into magical structures overnight.
I remember one afternoon when the power of the sun flared its feathers. The art-deco team and I were working under the white tarp as cyclones of dust whirled around us through the hot air. All of a sudden, a low grumble shook the earth. The sky went grey and the clouds rolled in, releasing a cascade of raindrops. We all emerged from under our shelters allowing the water to cool our sun-baked skin. A loud CRACK penetrated through the eucalyptus trees, igniting the red glow of a forest fire that could be seen in the distance about 2km away. We were called in to the communal area to await the all clear from the local fire martial. There was a mixed feeling of fear, anticipation and thrill in the air as we were hit by the reality of our wild surroundings and its hazards. But management were prepared and ‘Mother Nature was on our side; [like a sacred initiation] the wind changed direction, protecting the site from the red flower’ (Neils, 2018). From then on, we were safe.
Over the next fortnight, supported by a tireless kitchen crew, the tribe bound together and lifted, hammered, weaved and built the wonderland that we could finally play in when the festival officially began. Many of us felt anxious about the transition from the land being our private garden to a shared playground for all but we were eased into it softly; new friends arrived in staggered intervals and the stages opened up one by one. The energy shifted and lifted, wiping the slate clean and giving everyone a chance to settle in and connect to the space and its people. The crew were finally able to play in its creations while the punters appreciated the novelty of the wonderland in its final stages of glory.
The experience was holistic. The festival attracted a friendly, open and international crowd described as ‘a psychedelic gathering’ of sorts who were drawn to the conscious vibe, incredible techno line-up, vegetarian goodies and the various healing and well-being sessions on offer. By day, we would relax by the lake, float on rafts, eat well and enjoy performances, workshops and yoga sessions. By night, the lights and sounds transported you to another dimension; you could find whatever you were looking for: intimate soirées in secret rooms, ecstatic dancing on magical stages or chill out sessions in tree houses, hanging nets and delicately woven structures.
I asked a friend and fellow volunteer to describe his experience: “waking life has given birth to a new niche in electronic music: providing an experience which culminates my love and dedication to the music scene. Booking upcoming talent, rare pioneers and future legends you rarely, if ever will see in one place. Music insane, yes. But it’s the ideology which sets it apart” (Goff, 2018). From bathing naked on the rocks, to dancing at incredible stages under infinite stars - it was all a dream.
As the final crowd gathered for the last set on August 20th, Mother Nature bowed down and blessed the ground with a final rainfall. It was the closing cool down of Waking Life, a cleansing ritual after the sensory whirlwind that had constituted the last 5 days. I spent the following week with old friends and new, sharing endless nostalgia, admiration and gratitude for the festival and its creators. It opened up a space of manifestation and magic, raising our awareness to the individual and collective synchronicities for the simple reason that we were all in flow.
As we eagerly await our return to Waking Life, 2019 and look forward to welcoming other likeminded souls, summer is coming to a close and we are now transitioning into the next seasonal shift. So a final take home message from this journey that I feel is an important reminder for us all; to hold that wonderful feeling of summer flow that occurs when you open your heart, mind and soul to an experience. Let us re-member that feeling and cultivate it in our waking lives, beyond the festival season and into the next because the magic doesn’t have to end here
My top 3 lessons from Waking Life
1. Travelling solo is liberating - an amazing way to discover who you are and own your power.
2. Opening your heart, mind and soul to an experience eases the nerves associated with diving into ‘the unknown’ and allows you to connect to places and people with ease. Your vibe attracts your tribe!
3. The power of community and collaboration - teamwork makes the dream work and waking life was a dream come true.
Jessie Fuller was born in Kenya to British-Chinese parents and raised multi-culturally in Croatia, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. She has a degree in Psychology and Sociology and is currently living in London, completing her Masters in Psychoanalytic Studies at Birkbeck University. While she continues to work in the psychosocial field, she connects to her Eastern roots through her yoga teaching and practice (https://facebook.com/fullerflow/). Her intention is to merge her academic background in western psychology with a holistic, Eastern approach to healing and combine the best of both worlds in her writing and practice.