Since entering this human world as innocent newborns, not yet aware of the beautiful chaos in this universe, all of us have grown up within a society that had already had established norms, traditions, ideas of success, and other ideologies. Whether this society (or multiple societies) that you personally adapted to was comprised of 10 people or 10,000, there was nevertheless a culture that had been deep-rooted into your surroundings.
As you grew from a newborn to a child, to an adolescent and perhaps an adult, you gradually formed your identity within this culture, firmly searing your role in society like a scorching symbol branded into cattle: permanent.
While I write this review on this year's Lucidity Festival: Crossroads, a three-day music and arts festival with a focus on learning and self-growth (featuring Lucid University, "course week" and much more), the most striking takeaway from this mystical community was that your identity in this life is not permanent. "Who you are" is nowhere near decided. Rather, Lucidity gives us a chance to start over.
Lucidity Festival (which took place at the gorgeous, green Live Oak Campground near Santa Barbara) seemed much more like a miniature city than a music festival, for a handful of reasons.
For starters, a city never sleeps, and neither does Lucidity. Instead of segregating the event into two spaces - the stages and your campground - the entire experience is interwoven together; it never stops or begins. As detailed in our Lucidity Preview, the Lucid City is comprised of 7 villages: Lucid University, Trixster's Playground, Goddess Grove, Nomad's Nook, Lover's Nest, Warrior's Way, and Family Garden. Each village boasted its own stage, among other activities relevant to the respective village title (Warrior's Way, for example, had staff spinning workshops). Thus, it was each area that gave personality to the community, offering a different ingredient to the equation, like a real city with cozy neighborhoods. The magic didn't vanish when you left the stages.
Going off that point, the second (and perhaps the most important) reason Lucidity resembles a community more than a festival is through the collaborative, welcoming crowd. Most music festivals bring an audience that is seeking to be entertained, rather than to contribute to the entertainment. But isn't that why everyone goes to music festivals, you might ask, to be entertained by dope music? The answer is yes - but you can compare the entertainment seekers to the Coachella crowd, while the Lucid City dwellers are comparable to those who head to Black Rock City for Burning Man every year. The first group waits, while the others create.
Being an open source festival, one that encourages open participation from attendees, there were memorable creators at Lucidity Festival all around. Renegade stage curators and DJs provided music to enhance your experience, like the "Underground Souls" that highlighted the Nomad's Nook near our camp. Builders manifested towering structures (and tore them down) just for the three day event. Independent roaming artisans peddled their unique crafts, like a blacklight-spray-painted lighter I purchased "for any donation". Generous folk invited us into their low-to-the-ground abode shaped like a garlic bulb, to offer us samples of kombucha tea. Have you ever had cold *free* kombucha at a festival? It's fucking phenomenal.
Yes, there were official vendors, pop-up food shops, and a myriad of planned activities, but Lucidity wouldn't have been such an impressive display of humanity's prowess without the 'gifts' attendees brought. These gifts were not material, but encompassed all sources of the spectrum: gifts of friendship, welcoming all passerbyes like family; gifts of generosity, from a hug to a work of art; gifts of openness, confessing raw and vulnerable thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on anything and everything; demonstrating flawless flow skills, spoken word, breakdancing, acoustic music; the list goes on. This interactive, back-and-forth amalgamation of efforts is the glue that really binds the community together.
Lastly, in a working community there are many gears that must grind together in order to function efficiently. Think about it; you can't have a functional school in the day, for example, if all the students are up all night. For this reason, the loud music at Lucidity stops at midnight each night, with a silent disco featuring 2 live DJs spinning afterwards to revelers with wireless headphones. And thus, the city sails smoothly: those who want to prepare for long days of sunlight can get rest, while those whose focus is on late-night music and antics and can rock out without disturbing the peace. After experiencing the way Lucidity does things like this, it now becomes apparent why other festivals try to do it all - around the clock - and as a result, fall short.
With the concepts we talked about above - the collaborative element of the crowd, the array of villages, and the ability to rest or party whenever you wanted - you can imagine how open and free the setting was at Lucidity.
It certainly felt like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, without the fear of missing out (or, as us 'millennials' say, FOMO) that you encounter at other events with live music.
"You missed the best DJ?!", friends at other festivals might ask you. "That's so unfortunate!"
Not at Lucidity, however. There's something wildly liberating about knowing you're always in the right place, at the right time. Sure, you should try to get out of your comfort zone and try new things, but also just be present. Be here now. Be happy with wherever you are at the moment. Because the focus at Lucidity is on the community as a whole, the big picture, not on seeing one performance or one activity or one specific thing. And thus, the city sails smoothly...
I spoke with one young man named Greg who doesn't go to music festivals often, and I assume he doesn't due to the hectic, rushed atmosphere of most, based on what he told me. "I like Lucidity Festival because it just feels like camping with my friends," he explained as he reclined in a camp chair mid-day. "But then why do you pay over $200 for a ticket to come out here, when you could just camp for free on your own?" I asked him. "Well, because you get both!" he declared. "You get to party with your friends and see music, but you can chill whenever you want."
With the intimate landscape of Live Oak Campground, he was right. It was easy and convenient to get around the compact event, contrasted with overwhelmingly large venues that take miles to trek across. The carefree energy and loose structure of the festival creates the unconfined experience, but the physically smaller location literally makes it possible. Otherwise, when the stages are miles away at other events, you would have to think ahead, you would have to plan your schedule, you would have to bring everything you need with you, and additionally, you would worry about where your friends are at and base your decisions around theirs, if you don't want to get lost. At Lucidity, I always felt comforted knowing my group was somewhere closeby, along with the fact that it was as effortless to make new friends around you as it was for the sun to set; it just happens.
The remarkable quality of Lucidity was not the fact alone that there were all different types of people there, young and old, but that they were able to integrate together so beautifully.
Families roamed happily through the town center, blissfully enjoying a pleasant environment for both small children and parents alike. Family campgrounds and kid's activites gave plenty of opportunities to have a blast without being bombarded by raging festival-goers. Out of all the music festivals I've attended, Lucidity is definitely the only one I would feel comfortable taking small children to for both the night and the day.
Speaking of which, Lucidity still brought these "ragers", the nocturnal music mavens that keep dancing after the beats have stopped. There was always music happening somewhere, so if that rager is you, then carry on, skipper.
There were the "campers", like the young man I spoke to before, who like to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Of course, everyone there was camping, there wasn't a choice. But I'm referring to the ones who aren't trying to stay up all night or to attend every workshop; they were there just to soak in the osmosis of this magnificent life and wondrous forest. Whatever happens, happens, they might say. As long as they are at Lucidity, basking in the sun with good friends, they are content. No schedule, no problem.
Finally, there are those who come to Lucidity seeking personal growth, spirituality, or other greater purpose. Rightfully so, as I truly found Lucidity to be a place to facilitate a transformative experience. The peaceful nature was felt as you walked through the Lucid University, potentially listening to speakers touch on out-of-the-box topics and ideas to influence our somewhat crazed modern world in a positive way.
Yet you didn't have to get highly academic to catalyze the transformation within you. Rather, the intentions of the event were felt throughout the seven villages when you connected with people, or did something active, like a lighthearted flow arts workshop or a yoga class. Finding personal clarity or becoming more spiritually aware at a campout retreat like Lucidity was not restrained by rules or a how-to guide. The way to grow is through reflecting on your path, practicing what you want to practice, being positive, and most importantly, having fun. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was sitting alone and writing under a "Poet-Tree" in a scrapbook that had been left for anyone to contribute to, pondering as verses slipped from my pen onto paper. As the spotlight at Lucidity was not solely on the music, it was a fantastic place to boost these efforts towards becoming more conscious, open-minded, and understanding of our reality.
Perhaps this acknowledgement that a transformation is needed comes back to the theme of Lucidity's 5th Year in 2016, "Crossroads". On their festival website, Lucidity Festival LLC explained the significance of the crossroads in their second to last year of throwing the annual event:
"Without denial or judgment, we acknowledge the bursting cities and poisoned seas, the weeping jungle and waning ice worlds. As the Dreamers of the New Dawn, only moments are spent on grief, as we are here to envision solutions. We resolve to cast light upon the darkness, to dig our hands in the dirt, to sing songs of a peaceful future, and actively sweep away that which no longer serves us."
When I read this quote prior to the event, keeping in mind that this was my first Lucidity Festival, it made me imagine the epic depths of time between Earth's beginning until now, the grandiose evolution of human existence, leading to the disastrous habits of industries today. I pictured a melodramatic scene from the "dark ages", with tragic cinematic music and perilous endings. Next, I envisioned a group of people bridging the "crossroads" into a cliche lime green meadow of flowers to the "awakened" side. Hah.
Attending the event itself brought a much more sobering affair; we were not crossing treacherous cliffs, Lord of the Rings-style. (Dammit!). Instead, I believe the theme of Crossroads was actually a metaphor for the turning point within ourselves as individuals, not just as a global society. It's not a matter of opinion - the latest generation is undoubtedly much different than the previous generation, around the world. Many of us are becoming more awake and aware of the changes needed to make for the next couple generations to even survive on our planet. Not surprisingly, it all starts within each one of us. Festivals like Lucidity include eye-opening performances, classes, acts of unity, and all other activities for this purpose; not just for pleasure, but to help us "wake up".
So that's the meaning behind Lucidity, huh? To make our lucid dreams a reality... to re- build our identities and roles by finding our place in the community, finding our appropriate village and circle of friends... to grow as people mentally, emotionally, and spiritually... so that we can return after the festival weekend and feel fulfilled enough to return to our reality.
What I actually realized through the inspiring people I met, through the raw talent I witnessed from the stages to the campgrounds, and through each memorable moment spent at the diverse festival, was that there is no separation between Lucidity and my reality. Lucidity is reality. This is our reality, here and now. You don't have to separate the life that you want (the person you are at these open-minded gatherings) with the life that you currently live (at your job or your home).
It is often easy for all of us, even the most "awake" of individuals, to separate these events from our own day-to-day routine, but if we truly want to engross ourselves in this forward-thinking lifestyle, changing our age-old customs of the way we treat other people, the way we treat our world, and the way we treat ourselves, then well... we really oughta apply this new way of thinking into our daily life!
This is probably a common, massive realization that many have after attending these week-long freedom rides, whether at Lucidity, Burning Man, or countless other mind- bending occasions: How can I make my deepest dreams blossom in my own life, outside of a festival or gathering? as well as, How can I, just one person, change the problems I see around us for the better?
The answer that Lucidity gives us, in my opinion, is that the change has already begun with your efforts. There is no "trying"... you are already who you choose to be. You can choose your path, your identity, your adventure, at any moment. You are free at all times to make that decision for yourself.
By realizing we are in a lucid dream, we can highlight our reality by implementing what we learned from our reflective retreat, by staying connected with people we met, by sharing our thoughts with the people in our current "reality", by implementing new habits in our lives, and by remembering the spirit that was alive in us when we are lucid.
We've seen the society we want to strengthen, we've liberated ourselves from prior judgment, and we've become the characters we want to become. Now, it's time to bridge the crossroads into the next chapter of our lives.
Sincerely written by...
This article is dedicated to Nicholas Alvarado, a.k.a. Pumpkin. The most memorable moment at Lucidity 2016 was the tribute set to Pumpkin on Saturday evening, where the entire festival celebrated, mourned, rejoiced, and danced, all the while remembering and honoring Nick's life. Here's to you!