A Series Of Mystical Experiences: Interview With Marc Titus, Founder Of Sedona Yoga Festival
By Keegan Mills
I had the privilege of speaking with Marc Titus, founder of the Sedona Yoga Festival, which is set for March 9-12, 2017 in the mystical and magical Sedona, Arizona. Marc shared with me the story of founding this festival and the journey he took to making it happen as well as the transformations along the way, both for him, the festival and the community.
In speaking with Marc, I could hear he was not your typical yogipreneur (yogi + entrepreneur). He is a man that followed a dream, a vision that came to him. A man that listened to the inherent wisdom within and saw clarity in the messages that came his way. His journey of co-creating the Sedona Yoga Festival began with his own journey of yoga.
“Yoga saved my life and I wanted to share this very powerful practice and healing tool. Coming from major physical injuries, where doctors told me I would never walk again; I proved them wrong through my own journey in yoga. As I settled into Sedona and connected to the yoga community here, I was surprised there was no Yoga Festival, especially given how spiritually nurturing of a place Sedona is. In 2009, I said, Screw it, I’m gonna do it! That was the mind-based story, but there’s a mystical story which is much deeper. Something other than me welled up inside of me and said you need to do this. It took until February 29, 2012 to start the Facebook page. It took three years for me to get ready, spiritually, to start the festival. Something had opened up in me as a result of my yoga practice.”
He never dreamed that his journey in yoga would be to co-create a yoga festival. He was looking to relieve pain, to walk and enjoy life prior to his injuries. As yoga saved his life he was opened up to a new path, one that he could not predict nor imagine at the moment.
In 2012, Marc was living in Los Angeles, CA for about five months, following a friend to the city of angels on a quest to step away from his life in Sedona. Toward the end of his time in L.A., Marc was in a rough spot in life, surviving off of free meals and with two dollars in his pocket.
“When I was living in L.A. those last few months, it was a hard time for me and I was at a really rough spot in my life-- without a place of my own and down to the last two dollars in my pocket. On my way to the store, I passed by a toothless homeless man to use those last two dollars on toothpaste and a toothbrush. I looked at him, he looked at me, and he smiled this toothless smile. I found God in that toothless smile and those eyes. There was no separation. He was happy and joyous and free in his own way and I was happy and joyous and freein my own way. For that instance, I knew God, for what I know to be God. After this encounter and spending my last dollar and change on toothpaste and a toothbrush, I stopped at this little spot that I could meditate in this park, the only place I could meditate given my small living conditions. It was here during that meditation that the vision came to me to return to Sedona, that it was time to come back and start the Festival. The spirit of Sedona and Yogananda showed up as I dropped into my meditation. Yogananda was very powerful for me as I spent five months in deep retreat at the Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine. It was a clear signal of approval to move back and start the festival.”
Within two weeks, all the logistics to get Marc back to Sedona fell into place. His belongings made their way back to Sedona and the money came in to move back to fulfill this vision that he had in 2009 and affirmed in 2012. It can be hard to see how the world is working in your favor, especially when the odds seem against you. And in Marc’s case, he came upon this vision at a low point in his life when his situation required him to really see the spirit (God) moving through him, to see with clarity of what his purpose was and what he was destined to do for Sedona and the world. Subsequently the Universe conspired to make it happen, bringing people, places and things to assist in a great many ways.
“I lived in West Hollywood for exactly 40 days in what I called a Himilayan Cave because it was an old recording booth retrofitted into an apartment. It was so small I couldn’t even do yoga or sit on the floor. I spent 5 months in solitude meditating at Lake Shrine. I went 4-6 times a week and spent several hours a day meditating. Spending that amount of time in that inner world, you see things. The Yoga Sutras were right. How was I able to see this vision? I had been quiet enough and dedicated enough to my practice, as they say in the Sutras, that all of a sudden I was having visions, mystical experiences. You, me, anyone is able to have these experiences. It is available to everyone. The world needs to wake up. The world needs to find that inner resource to make it through these tumultuous times. When I am living a mystical life, life is good—feeling more than thinking, moving from a place of knowing rather than speculating, fear is dissipated and you feel you’re on the right path.”
Many practitioners, teachers, and those interested in the path of yoga go to India to find themselves and find these mystical experiences. As Marc shares, India is everywhere. You don’t need to go anywhere. There is this notion of pilgrimage, which is an experience.
“I was called to West Hollywood to experience what it was like to live in a city among all the distractions. As a yoga student, I hypothesized that one didn’t have to go anywhere. Yet this notion of pilgrimage that is so powerful was very true to me. And I thought to myself, what if one couldn’t go to India? I had been bedridden before, so I identified with the experience of being unable to move or travel. So in essence, when I went to L.A. there was a little bit of that pilgrimage. And I say to others now, come to Sedona! There is something to the ‘go-to-a-place-to-have-a-transformation’. You don’t necessarily need to go somewhere, you can tap into it within yourself but it is easier to drop into the mystical, transformational experience in places like India and Sedona. So, come to Sedona!” He says this with a humble and knowing smile.
The Sedona Yoga Festival transformed over the past few years since its inception. What is unique about this festival? Sedona. This location allows it to stand out from the many other yoga festivals around the country and world. Co-creators Marc and Heather Titus have cultivated a teaching tradition deeply rooted in the traditions, maintaining a deep authenticity from teachers and participants and within themselves as the organizers. From the start, Marc inspired presenters and teachers to share what “lights them on fire”, not to teach what other people or society or corporations think they should teach. The Sedona Yoga Festival Team encourages teachers to teach from their heart and be in their heart.
After the success of the first year and into the planning of the second year for the Sedona Yoga Festival, Marc believed that Sedona Yoga Festival could be a platform for doing good-- Yoga for Veterans was added to the festival, which over time evolved to what today is offered as the Sedona Yoga Festival Gives Back: Traumatic Stress, Healing & Resiliency. This intensive training is offered as a track within the festival for the first-time celebrating the 5th year of the Sedona Yoga Festival. This experience is integrated into the festival and is experienced in a cohort of festival attendees. The idea is that as a yoga teacher you have the potential to impact hundreds of lives, to serve the world.
It took these transformational, mystical experiences for Marc, Sedona and the world to be ready for the Sedona Yoga Festival. San Francisco Yoga Magazine looks forward to being at the festival to see these mystical experiences unfold. Purchase your ticket today, to take a journey to Sedona and experience the transformation that Sedona Yoga Festival has to offer for you.
Visit sedonayogafestival.com to learn more!