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Envision Festival 2016 Review: Surrendering to the Jungle

March 11, 2016 - by Molly Sinclair

"You lose your body, you forget your name, and you disappear."

The compelling phrase stuck in my head like a thorn the entire weekend, after hearing the words ooze from the voice of the soothing yoga instructor at Envision Festival. As I eased into the savasana, or "final resting pose" of my restorative yin yoga class, I noticed the sun had fled and the late afternoon session had now turned to night. Deep in the Costa Rican jungle, tiny bugs had begun to brush against my sweat- drenched skin as I lay beneath the dark jungle sky.

Photo: Matt Cole

You forget your name. That was the eerie part of the phrase that really dug into me, as I tried to fathom the ultimate bliss of forgetting your entire existence. She was only trying to help us relax, but just the suggestion of the act of forgetting your identity on this planet opened up an enormous realm of possibilities and pathways in my head. If everything associated with "you" in your current "reality" dissolved, down to the most concrete foundation - your own name - then all your "problems" in this reality would diminish. You would be a free bird, nothing more than an idea, floating around in the universe, not clinging to any concern or affliction... or, you would "disappear", like the yoga instructor detailed. If you've seen Miyazaki's iconic film, Spirited Away, you'll remember that if you forget your name, you disappear into the spirit world. A fictional fantasy film it was, yet this was no different.

As I reflected on the trivial issues of our long trip from California, strewn with travel problems, injuries and lost possessions, I suddenly laughed internally, let them go, and allowed my soul to wander into the abstract abyss of the universe, otherwise known as my brain. Yet in this same moment, I recalled the words that Envision Festival founder Stephen Brooks had spoken to me in an interview a month prior to the event:

"I want people to take a turn in their life," he had told me. "Coming to a festival and place like this, it's so inspiring about how things could be, so all of a sudden it's like, wait a minute - why am I working at a job that I hate? Why am I living a life where I'm not happy? If you come to Envision, so much is realized. It's like, wait - I could be doing so much more."

Photo: Matt Cole

Yes, 'twas a far-fetched connection between my experience on the yoga mat and the ideas that Brooks aforementioned - starting a new life path - but the concept is interchangeable. When you abandon your identity, your expectations, your "plan", even your name, that is when the clearest thinking can emerge. An open mind, truly free of excess thoughts and societal norms, is the only place that creativity brews, where you can have space for your dreams.

Envision Festival aims to foster this obvious, yet crucial realization - that when you enter a free space and shut off the noisy bubble of the daily hustle, whether this occurs in the stillness of your mind or at a festival in Costa Rica - you allow room to dream and achieve your dreams.

The goal "was to create an experience that is transformational," Brooks had explained. "The sooner you can find your dream life and who you want to create it, the more direct you can go there. That's kind of what we want to extract from people and help people to realize."

Photo: Jess Bernstein

Culture of Contentment

A Sense of Pura Vida

Without question, the principal factor that separates Envision from the rest of the transformational music festivals is the obvious one: you are partying in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. However, the organizers didn't just book a bunch of DJs that normally play at U.S. festivals, sell some tickets and call it a day. On the contrary, Envision engaged the community by booking local bands, involving local vendors and offering discounted ticket packages for locals. Rather than invading the sacred space, Envision Festival is a beautiful immersion of festival culture and the Costa Rican community, that lives la vida sencilla - the simple life.

Photo: Jess Bernstein

By the simple life I am not referring to a plain life by any means, but a natural way of living. Costa Ricans in general love life, and why wouldn't they? Besides living in one of the most breathtaking locations on Earth with an abundance of tropical nature and rich wildlife, they live a life of pura vida, a peaceful lifestyle that appreciates family, friends, and the earth. "Pura Vida" translates to pure life, the good life, or enjoy life, but they even use it to say hello and goodbye, which in itself speaks a lot about their culture.

Throughout our journey in Costa Rica, both at the festival and in the community, I felt the deep sense of pura vida. We were treated like extended family at our hotel, all the meals we ate tasted like homemade cooking, and locals we met were kind and helpful, despite my blatant appearance as a 'tourist'.

Photo: Jorg Photo

Living Natural is Easy

Saving our Planet through Sustainable Systems

With such a precious environment and harmonious atmosphere, it's no wonder that Envision went to great lengths to implement eco-friendly practices at the 7,000 person gathering, and these are some that I have never experienced at any other festival.

For starters, there were no disposable items sold at food and beverage stations - yes, that means no plates, cups, forks or spoons. When you bought a drink, you had to either supply your own bottle, or purchase a cup ticket for $2. When you were done with the cup, however, you could return it and get your ticket back, and repeat. Food was served on different platforms; when I bought an empanada, it was wrapped in a leaf. Imagine how much waste this would eliminate at other festivals!

Photo: Luis Hernandez

Secondly, there were no porta potties within the festival - only composting toilets. Beyond that, there were separate bathroom areas based on whether you had to go number 1 or number 2... because I learned that urine can ruin the compost, without getting too much into detail. There were also signs posted around the festival showing diagrams of a food / waste system that is sustainable (Envision's) versus a system that is broken (U.S. and other countries). It's mind-boggling how simple our systems really could be, and unfortunately, how corrupt our basic daily routines are, but this is nothing new...

Another sustainable practice, though definitely not the last, is the fact that all food vendors got their supply from local sources - and Envision even helps them source it. Furthermore, everything was 100% organic, and tasted DAMN good.

Photo: Loriana Raquel Fernandez Nunez

Speaking of a natural way of living, Envision combined their herbal clinic with the conventional medical tent this year, so you could choose either one if you needed aid; they were right next to each other. I wasn't feeling well on Sunday so I headed to the herbal clinic for some natural remedies, but there were so many people waiting in front of me, so it was going to take a while. However, a fellow Envision-eer recommended that I head to the Village Witches, an elixir bar down the way that could stir up a concoction for me. It seemed the right choice for my predicament, and when I got to the witches' tavern I found a menu full of drinks for every ailment, from upset stomachs to bladder infections to those just needing a pick-me-up. I had never seen anything like it at a festival before, and boy was that drink helpful!

In terms of natural mental health, Envision knows what's up. "Zendo" was a center within the festival where you could go if you were having a "bad trip" (or just stressed out). Zendo had workers available to chat, make you feel comfortable, and even give you snacks. A relaxing area like Zendo should be at every festival. Not only does it take the intimidation factor away from seeking help, but it is a safe and natural way to cope with stressful situations that medics or security may not be able to manage.

Photo: Jess Bernstein

There were also several talks and workshops throughout the weekend on natural medicine and food with some of the most renowned herbalists in the world. Beyond the 4-day festival, Envision even hosted retreats the weeks before and after to educate attendees on the useful, natural practices. One more pivotal point to note is that organizer Stephen Brooks has his own permaculture farm in Costa Rica called Punta Mona, where anyone can go to learn how to grow organic food and medicinal plants, use eco-technologies and create conscious, creative solutions to modern world dilemmas such as the issues of natural medicine and food that I mentioned.

The main thing to take away from all this is that Envision doesn't only throw a festival for 4 days to talk about these solutions, but that it is a true lifestyle that they live, breathe, and strive to help us implement ourselves. The festival week is just a sliver of a glimpse into the projects that Envision works on year-round. I probably won't be starting my own food farm anytime soon, but I learned several practical changes I can apply back in the states.

Photo: Jess Bernstein

Keeping it Real

The Pros and Cons of Envision Festival

Located in the deep jungles of a third world country in Central America, I'm going to be frank - the four days spent at Envision were not a walk in the park.

If you camped at the festival, you could definitely say you were roughin' it. 90 degree temperatures plus thick humidity made you sweaty immediately after rinsing off. Even if you didn't camp, the heat would tire you out, with very little drop in temperatures even in the middle of the night. Tropical bugs were rampant, and bug spray would sweat off with the humidity. Scrapes and sprains and rashes and bites graced many in our seasoned group. A couple viruses were spreading throughout the festival, making many people ill. As far as safety, you had to be extra protective of your belongings since Envision can be a target for thieves, with 7,000 people coming to Uvita. Furthermore, just to get to Uvita took 5 hours on a bus from the airport, after taking two planes from the states.

Yet Envision is not the type of festival that's going to hold your hand, and they shouldn't have to. Learning to take care of ourselves and others was a common theme dispersed throughout the weekend; to be self-reliant and mindful. You're in a country that speaks a different language, so learn some of the Spanish phrases! Bring your own reuseable water bottles. Climb the towering structures at your own risk. Although both fellow attendees and workers were willing to lend a helping hand when needed, the independence seemed to be a part of the agreement when venturing off to a festival in Costa Rica.

Photo: Jess Bernstein

So why did I go?

It was the small moments - just like my philosophical awakening on my yoga mat - that made Envision the ultimate experience.

The moments, like the feeling of the blazing hot water washing over your barefeet as you stepped into the ocean at Playa Uvita.

The moments, when you admire the progress made each day on an elaborate mural by a live painter, not knowing what creations will appear next.

The moments, spent turning casual friendships into close bonds over a weekend, after traveling across nations to meet.

The moments, watching the intense, fixed gaze of a fire spinner, and being able to see the hours of grueling practice that went into mastering a split-second trick.

The moments, witnessing an artist complete the final stencil of an abstract art piece, and listening to crowds murmur behind him, attempting to analyze the meaning of the finished work.

Photo: Jorg Photo

The moments, receiving a thoughtful keepsake as a gift from a Tico (a Costa Rican local), or giving a gift to someone special you may never see again.

The moments, taking the first juicy bite into a citrus-rich ceviche, mixed with fresh fish from the neighboring waters.

The moments, laughing hysterically as your friend, a grown man, leaps at the sight of a baby crab teetering towards him.

The moments, when the first burst of fire explodes into the jungle sky during An-ten-nae's set, and the whole crowd howls in unison as the bass pummels sound waves into the earth.

The moments, being galvanized by femme fatale Clozee's booming set, then hearing her soft-spoken voice thank all the performers after the last note played.

Photo: Jess Bernstein

The moments, seeing the audience go wild for Elephant Revival's passionate rendition of Jefferson Airplane's iconic "White Rabbit", as an angelic goddess performed upon a spinning aerial hoop, center stage.

The moments, observing a group of vagabonds sitting in a cheerful pow-wow circle, noticing nothing but the present moment in their smiles as they sang a pleasant song.

We all had our reasons for traveling thousands of miles out to the global gathering. But for me, it was the moments of artistic brilliance, creative passion, and meaningful personal connections that made it all worthwhile.

Photo: Jorg Photo

Because in the end, the minor drawbacks are forgotten, but it's these moments that stick, growing more and more powerful in our lives as they soon become memories.

When we let go of the physical needs ingrained in us - to be perfectly clean, pampered and dry - and release any mental expectations, we now allow ourselves to enjoy every beautiful moment of this life, and to create our own realities, choosing to make them tragic or inspiring.

If you come to Envision Festival, you surrender yourself to the vigor of jungle, the rhythm of the beat, and the enveloping warmth of pura vida, the simple life.

You lose your body, you forget your name, and you disappear.

-- Molly Reports

Photo: Jess Bernstein

Envision 2017

As this year's tickets sold out early, Envision has already released tickets for 2017's event which are now on sale.

Buy Tickets for Envision 2017 Here!

Word to the wise - jump on tickets now at this incredible early-bird price, with plenty of time to plan flights and accomodations.

Vive La Experiencia!

Photo: Jess Bernstein

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