Shambhala is a mid-summer nights dream. It is a sanctuary for friendship, laughter, river play, and world renowned stages. I’d like to take you on a journey through my experience at Shambhala, because this year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
It all began the weekend before the festival. My press pass was accepted at the last minute and I basically freaked out like a kid on Christmas morning. I was going to Shambs?! YES! Shambhala straight into Oregon Eclipse… I knew I was in for the ride of a lifetime.
Time to pack my bags.
As I danced around the house, I realized that my dream of dancing on stage for Illenium was now right there in front of me. I was determined to make it happen. I posted my excitement and anticipation to my Instagram story and told my followers that I was one step closer to my Illenium dream. Before I knew it, I was on my way.
When I first arrived at Shambhala I had butterflies in my stomach. It was my first festival as press without any other duties (ie. volunteering, staff, artist, etc.) so I knew it was going to be a kick ass experience. I was flooded with memories from my last excursion to Shambhala in 2015, where Zeds Dead played a surprise set on Sunday night at the Pagoda Stage. The same stage Illenium would be playing at on Saturday night… The best night of my life was about to be topped with an even better best night of my life. I just knew it.
As I settled into a camp site behind The Grove Stage (home of the bass) I was greeted by a friendly neighbor who was grilling up some fresh Coho Salmon that he’d caught himself. Let the abundance and blessings begin!
The weekend kicked off with the opening ceremonies, where hundreds of people gathered to give thanks to the land and show gratitude for the beautiful adventure ahead. This year was particularly special, because it was the 20th year anniversary and the festival creators were in the highest of spirits. The sky was filled with smoke, but that was not going to stop us from embracing each moment that we had.
When the ceremony ended, I took a trip over to the yoga zone to check out the class schedule.
Not only does it feel amazing to stretch out between long hikes or dance sessions, but it also helps to slow down the mind and bring my intentions into focus. My intention for Shambhala was to fully embrace the direction of my career and to be open to every sign and opportunity that would come my way.
The yoga instructor, Jenna, returns to Shambhala year after year to open our salutations to the Shambhalan sun. Aside from the mind body connection that feeds my soul, festival yoga is a wonderful way to connect to the people around you. Breathing together, saluting together, chanting together… it is a great reminder that we are all in this life experience together and at the end of the day, we are all one.
After getting the blood pumping and the body moving, I am usually called toward the river for a swim. Shambhala is located on Salamo River Ranch in Canada, and even though the water is cold, the people are so hot that you can’t help yourself but jump in. When I started walking toward the Living Room Stage, which is nestled along the main river bend, I began to feel as though I was stepping into a cartoon. So many bright costumes and rainbow floaties! I allowed my mind to sleep into a fantasy, where this comic book became my life.
I love festivals on the river. Water adds such a cool element to the experience (literally!) With the smoke from the fire filling the air, the water became a life saver. It was a really nice break from the dust and ash surrounding us.
The wild fires in the Pacific Northwest are no joke. The ash was so dense you could hold it in the palm of your hand. On Saturday afternoon, the festival creators were forced to notify us of evacuation. It was rumored that unless we were magically blessed with rain before sunrise, the festivities would end a day early. Some people chose to pack up and leave Saturday evening to avoid Sunday traffic jams. But for those of us who believed…
We celebrated Saturday night with the hopes of a miracle. Everybody partied like there was no tomorrow. We danced, we laughed, we embraced the night as if it were the last. As far as we knew, it was the last.
At this point all I could think about was Illenium. I was so grateful that he wasn’t scheduled for Sunday, and I was more determined now than ever to make sure I got up on stage. As Vanic’s set came to an end (which was killer, btw) I started bubbling with excitement. I was about to see my favorite artist perform at my favorite festival. Yesssss!
When Illenium came on, I was jumping up and down like a little girl. His current album resonates with me so deeply that for me, this was a spiritual experience. I set my eyes on the platforms that ran across the fence line at the front of the stage. I decided to try my luck dancing there first, but as soon as I pulled myself up and got started, security made me get down. Damn.
I looked up on the stage and saw that there were only three or four photographers up there. Some DJ’s don’t allow media to be on stage, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I quickly made my way to the back of the stage, flashed my pass at security, and she let me right up.
Well, that was easy.
From there it was a breeze. I took up the entire stage and had the spotlight. I had been fantasizing about this moment for months, before I even knew I’d be attending Shambhala. It was a dream come true.
As I walked around, cloud 9 beneath my feet, I could feel the intensity of positive vibes all around. I saw friendships being formed, people laughing their assess off, and everyone was partying in the highest of spirits because it was going to be the last night of music. May as well make the most of it!
I was sitting beneath the wishing tree when a young man walked up to me and blurted out, “Pray for rain!” I looked up at him with a smile and said, “I’m on it.” I said a little prayer as he skipped away singing “Pray for rain! Pray for rain!”
Two hours later, we got DUMPED on. Out of nowhere. I was talking to a girl at the Phad Thai food cart when all of a sudden raindrops the size of nickels started pouring down on us. I ran under the awning of the cart to wait out the rain flash, and before we knew it the entire awning came collapsing down full of water! It was nuts, but the festival was saved.
I “woke up” Sunday morning to cheers and howls. Those of us who chose to stay were going to have another full day of adventure, and this time the sun came out! Spirits were so lifted and gratitude was so vast, that everyone was running on a natural high. When night time rolled around, every stage offered plenty of room to dance, and everyone was connecting on a new level. Usually by Sunday night everybody is haggard and the stages are still packed, but this magical night had a completely different energy to it. I knew that this same connectedness would roll over into The Oregon Eclipse Gathering, and I could hardly wait.
As the smoke cleared, I walked around with a new glow. A new sense of hope for the future. The connection I felt with the people around me on that fateful Sunday afternoon was unlike any festival experience I had ever had. It warmed me from the inside out and gave me an even deeper sense of confidence in the direction I am taking my life. My intention for Shambhala was to focus on my goals and I succeeded. Every moment was a blessing.
Shambhala is a place that many people call home. Some attendees have been with the festival since it’s birth in ’97. People travel from around the world to explore this magical land of treehouse, and making friends here is a breeze in the trees. Everybody wants to help one another have the best possible experience they can have, and it really shows. The people behind the scenes have done it right and I feel so blessed to have celebrated twenty years with them. Until next year… Happy Shambs!