Experiencing The Enchanted Forest Gathering In Magical Mendocino
By Keegan Mills
Twerk Shop, Nectar Temple, Sacred Fire, Crystal Dome, Mojo Green. Just a taste of what I experienced while at the Enchanted Forest Gathering in the magical Mendocino Forest. With values of balance, cultivation, connection, participation, and actualization, this festival offered an incredible lineup of musicians, visual artists, immersive environments, and workshop facilitators, coming together to stretch your body and mind.
Looking at the list of workshops, one in particular caught my eye. Called “Twerkshop”, it was hosted by Tristan St. Germain. At first, I was very skeptical. My mind immediately centered around the shame I had about my body. As a matter of fact, I didn't believe I had the physical body or the moves to twerk. Tristan shared how she came into teaching this workshop, revealing that women can hold a lot of shame in expressing their sexuality and moving their bodies, which led her to the realization that through teaching this form of dance, she could thereby guide other women to embrace their full intimate selves. After releasing some of the shame and judgement I held within, I embraced the workshop and went with it. Tristan led the group through a series of moves, taking us on a dancing journey from standing to the floor and even incorporated some yoga poses, with the intent of getting us to move every aspect of our bodies. The floor was packed with people of all sizes and genders, with a few curious bystanders on the outskirts. I left the workshop with a feeling of freedom to move and share my body without shame.
Every corner of Black Oak Ranch was uniquely designed to invite you in. I was greeted with a beautifully decorated ganesha and then followed a path to a chakra meditation station, where each chakra was represented by a series of artwork designed with affirmations as well as a sitting area to meditate and embrace the healing powers of each wheel of energy.
People gathered to meditate, engage in conscious dialogue, and/or share their music. I observed someone playing the hand-pan, sharing his love of the instrument with others.
The sun began to set and the crowds made their way to the main Grove Stage to see Tipper for his only California show. Near the stage sat the Branches Art Gallery with artwork from talented artists of all genres. Live painting from the artists on display took place with the backdrop of the ambient, trip hop sounds that tickled your ear. <picture5>
Later in the evening, a sacred fire ceremony was held by the river, led by Tata Pedro Cruz. This wasn’t on the schedule; it was just a byproduct of conscious people coming together in the sacred place that was Black Oak Ranch. This is often the case at these gatherings--a coming together of consciousness that invites a fluidity to events where you are taken from one place to another serendipitously. Walking into a gathering such as Enchanted Forest, it’s hard to have a plan and schedule of what you will do because at some point you will be pulled in another direction by an event or person who shares something extraordinary with you. And the fire ceremony with Tata Pedro was extraordinary.
Tata Pedro is a traditional Mayan Ajq’ij, Spiritual Guide, and Day Keeper. Upon walking up to the fire, one could feel the energy of those who sat around this sacred fire. This Mayan Elder led the group through counting to 13 and invoking each language that was represented in the circle. This is done in a traditional Mayan sacred fire ceremony to draw forth spiritual protection and healing. As the ceremony closed and Tata Pedro made his departure, several others continued the evening through storytelling by the well-lit fire.
The evening closed out with a stop at the Nectar Temple. I was curious about the “nectar” part of this temple and soon realized why. It was covered with cushions and pillows from edge to edge. There were bodies laid out relaxing under the red-lit dome, in what appeared to be a massive cuddle party. I sat down for a moment amidst the cuddle-goers and a woman next to me asked a perplexing question. "Do you want to get buffed?" the woman asked. I looked at her in complete puzzlement, trying to comprehend the underlying meaning of “buffed”. Did it have something to do with smoking? Was it a sexual action of some sort? Perhaps it was drugs? I soon realized that none of my postulations were accurate. The woman picked up a saucer sized buffing machine. You know the ones that you buff your car out with? Yea one of those. Essentially, it's a high intensity personal masseuse. "Buffing out" basically soothes every muscle and point of tension. It was every ounce of sweetness that I expected from a nectar temple.
On the last day of the festival, I took a morning yoga class with Dave Solomon for Yogic Unity. The air was bitterly cold and Dave had us moving and shaking in order to warm up our blood and in turn, heat up our bodies. We soon moved through a sequence of yoga poses that opened our hearts and cleared our minds. The class ended with partner work whereby the participants connected with one another to express gratitude and positive affirmation; it was a way of connecting beyond the basic hello and smile we often exchange when passing others. It was a way to truly be intimate with each another. As we laid in Savasana, he played the hand-pan, imparting a soothing sound upon all of us. This allowed the practice of being intimate with ourselves and others to sink in deeply.
Later that day, I sat under the drumming tent as rainfall commenced. The drum circle began and the lead drummer, Andrew, began singing (or should I say he more was more so chanting or rapping) and then created a song dedicated to the port-o-potty cleaning crew, given that the port-o-potties were directly across the drum tent. We were led in song to show gratitude to the “shitty crew”. “Oh we love you shitty crew yes we do” , we chanted. I sat in the back of the tent in a large papasan chair with two others as we joined in as backup singers. There are not many times in which you can sit in a drum circle and show gratitude for the people cleaning the place where everyone leaves their human waste. It was definitely a unique experience. It was something about Enchanted Forest that gathered people together to spread love and gratitude to everyone that crossed their path.
Later in the afternoon, a workshop titled “The Eros of Self-Betrayal: Being True to our Heart and Avoiding Self-Betrayal" took place, being led by Toni Bernbaum and Ron Nadeau. These two beings are both spiritual community leaders who have a center in Fort Bragg known as the Spirit House Center for Attitudinal Healing. This session was a culmination of two separate workshops for men and women, designed to have both parties come together and debrief what was learned from exploring the eros of self-betrayal, the incredible unlearning we need to do, and the discovery of what lies within.
Toni and Ron Nadeau shared their own journey of their relationship and what it means to be in a conscious partnership. In a relationship, we come together to make living better for each other, growing seeds in ourselves and others. Toni and Ron reminded the group that we are in relationships all the time, whether it be with a loved one, someone at the grocery store, a neighbor, a friend, or a coworker. This uniting workshop left everyone with a greater understanding of connecting to self, others, and within personal relationships with a newfound sense of peace, forgiveness, and truth-telling.
There was much enchantedness in the forest of Mendocino on the grounds of Black Oak Ranch. This was much more than a festival; it was truly a gathering of conscious-seeking individuals merging together to see more clearly, feel more authentically, and connect more intimately. This gathering lived up to its' values through the mind-opening art, expansive sets of music, life-flowing movement, and thought-provoking teachers and students alike who shared their wisdom from across generations. One left a little lighter and more connected to this world and the conscious movement that is Enchanted Forest Gathering.
To stay in touch with the Enchanted Forest Gathering visit http://enchantedforestmendo.com/.