What A Sweet Special Experience The Midwest Yoga And Kirtan Fest Was Last Month!
Cover Photo By The Bhakti Beat.
By Jennifer Goodman
Huge gratitude to Gary Brachmann for his hard work and devotion to making the Midwest Yoga and Kirtan Festival happen. I was so excited to have a Yoga and kirtan fest here in the Midwest again after Bhakti Midwest was no longer happening. I had just gotten back from Bhaktifest at Joshua Tree the previous weekend and was elated to see some of my favorite artists and teachers from Bhaktifest here in the midwest. Dave Stringer, David Newman, Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band, Ragani, Johanna Beekman, Brenda McMorrow, and Michael Brian Baker graced us with their gifts and presence.
I was only able to attend the last day of the festival due to my teaching schedule but I packed in as much as I could in that day. I arrived at about noon to The Jefferson County Fairgrounds, which was an excellent location for the festival. Easy to get to from Chicago, ample parking, plenty of land to pitch our tents for camping options, and plenty of offsite lodging options as well. I believe most of the artists were put up in nearby hotels. There were 4 separate buildings each with a different offering going on simultaneously. Once I checked in and received the schedule I found myself feeling the familiar "festival stress" I feel at Bhaktifest of how can I attend all of this at the same time?? With so many amazing artists, teachers, and healers to choose from.
There were 2 stages with kirtan, a Yoga space, and a healing sanctuary. We were well equipped with bathroom facilities and the main building with the main stage was like the big hang out and communal area. In this main building we had a large area in front of the main stage to sit, stand, or dance during kirtan and the rest of the room was filled with vendors, food , and a seating area. Some vendors from Bhaktifest also made an appearance here, such as Radhanath Swami Divine Creations, Old Delhi Music, and Intuitives Lisa Gniady and Lisa Nomikos. What stood out for me was the Kombucha booth that made little Kombucha cocktails with fresh muddled berries, mint, or lemon and served in a cocktail glass. Non alcoholic of course!
As soon as I registered in the main building I could hear the sound of kirtan coming from the main stage and I recognized the angelic voice of Amy Treciokas from Amy and the Bliss Tribe. I was so excited since Amy is a dear friend, mentor, and teacher of mine and the founder and owner of Yoga Now Chicago, where I happen to teach. I ran and grabbed a spot to sing along. I have attended many kirtans with The Bliss Tribe before and they have never sounded better. Just three members of the tribe that day and yet they filled the entire room with high vibes, sweetness, and blissful energy that was the perfect start of the festival for me.
Next on the schedule was Michael Brian Baker from The Breath Center, also a dear friend and huge inspiration to me, I was not going to miss his workshop! I had an hour to spare so I checked out the food booth and was so excited to see kitchari on the menu, especially since the kitchari booth was not at Bhaktifest this year, score! I chose to sit outside. It was a bright, beautiful day with a bit of chill in the air. I sat at a bench and began to eat when I heard a small group of artists that sounded like they were rehearsing behind me. Again I recognized a voice, it was the beautiful and pure tone of Sean Johnson. What could be better than this, sitting in the sun , eating kitchari , listening to the sweet sound of Sean Johnson. I was already in bliss.
I had a brief chat with Michael before his workshop then we cleared the space so that they could clear the space, a staple ritual before one of his workshops. I have been to several of Michael's workshops throughout the years and each experience is unique. I have learned not to try to create a similar experience to a previous one, no matter how profound or special it was because that will limit and alter the present one. As usual, this one was a truly new and different experience and I came out feeling in a different space and realm. Peaceful and full of love. Michael closed the festival on Sunday with a workshop called “Post Fest Pranic Immersion 108: Five Hour Introduction To Breathwork Training.” I was sad to miss it but had to get back to the city to teach my Sunday classes.
Next on my schedule was Preston Klik, he was taking the stage for his “Ocean of Devotion Sound Healing.” I have experienced Preston's workshops before, so I knew the surreal experience he was about to deliver. It was getting colder outside so we lied down and bundled up with blankets and pillows and Preston provided each of us with eye pillows to perfect the experience. Preston's sound healings are unique with his combination of gong, singing bowls, melodic chanting, and a few more sounds I wasn't able to recognize in my blissful state. Once again I was transported somewhere and as I left the space I felt like I was floating and in a world of my own, yet connected at a soul level to everyone else at the fest.
The main event of the evening was Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band!! So I headed back to the main stage to sample some more food, grab a kombucha cocktail, shop the vendors, meet with familiar Bhakti faces and meet some new. As I was mingling, the powerful, sultry voice of Johanna Beekman was cascading from the main stage. What a voice, what a presence!
Then it was time, for what we had all been anticipating, for one of my favorite kirtan artists that I have grown to love over the years. I never miss them when they take the stage, whether at Bhaktifest, Shaktifest, or when they come to Chicago offering workshops and kirtan. Both Sean and Gwendoline have truly unique voices, pure in tone, authenticity, and full of heart and New Orleans soul. They were sweet, they were strong, they sang us a lullaby, and they rocked the house. Everyone was up and dancing from the first song and the energy, vibe, and connection in the room was vibrant and radiant. I feel elevated again just writing about it.
The evening and festival came to a close as Gary Brachmann came to the stage, asked us to gather close and led us in singing "Let It Be." We all sang, swayed, connected, and loved together, in Bhakti bliss. But that wasn't the end! After a brief moment of silence the stage began to fill with all of the artists from the weekend and they broke out in an All Star Jam, passing the microphone around, leading their mantra of choice but mostly versions of the great Maha Mantra. The room was booming with energy again and I reminisced about the many All Star Jams at Bhaktifest lead by the revered Shamdas. As always, the jam is endless and infectious and though I didn't want to leave I had to. It was was late at this point and the temperature had dropped enough that I decided not to tough the cold in my tent so I packed up and drove back to Chicago.
Midwest Yoga and Kirtan Fest, you delivered. You delivered the bhakti, the love, the bliss, the deep soul connection of every heart at the festival. I wish I had been able to attend more of the fest and experience more of the many amazing artists, teachers, and healers that shared their presence at the fest. I look forward to the next and many more to come!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I bow to you.
To learn more about The Midwest Yoga and Kirtan Fest visit midwestykf.com.