Tag Archives: spiritual

Guest Session: The Spirit Festival liberates more than just the yogi

Featured writer: Chad Kolcze

Whatever your perception of the Spirit Festival, whatever your inhibitions or expectations were, the weekend long multi-venue event in Mullumbimby left spirits high for all involved.

As your common Byron Shire surfer, teacher and beer drinker, I wouldn’t class myself as a devoted spiritual guru or devoted yogi by any means. And as a regular guy, that includes the odd yoga class every now and then. I was pleasantly surprised and grateful for experiences I was offered and the diversity of classes that made me look inward rather than out for a change.

There were 22 different sessions offered on the half day Friday (not including the high-spirited good times had during the evening concerts). Plus, 43 sessions on the programme for Saturday and equal number on the Sunday. A third in attendance were beautiful men and the rest were radiating females exploring their divine feminine.

Filled with caring compassionate everyday people, I was amazed at the lack of hippy-trippy patchouli oil smelling folk I thought I would see there. Instead it was genuine, bright-eyed, smiling faces dressed in modern colourful sport wear and talking excitedly about the experience they just had at one of the many sessions on offer. Mix in the colour of the peace flags, the Tee-Pee’s, the colour of the graceful skies and the opposing healthy green grass or the many rugs and cushions that were on offer for all and I found a truly well decorated and catered for event.

Of course the expectations of great tasting, super nutritious food was met. There were also stall holders selling their products, others offering various therapies or spiritual readings etc. However they weren’t the focus. The focus was very much on the programmed sessions, the entertainment and the gurus who made them a reality. The level of professionalism and knowledge shown by these teachers/spiritual practitioners was very deep, very much like a university professor or TED speaker. They offered very informative and well lead journeys for the punter to embrace through mind, body and consciousness.

I was one for one, after experiencing Darpan’s ‘Shamanic Sound Journey’ class. This was the very first class I under took and I had my first positive journey for the weekend. He was able to tap into this body that I carry around day-to-day and predominately use only for external use, looking, seeing, touching and so forth. And open me up to expose the beauty of looking inside my exo-skeleton and the senses/ power/ energy within. And since doing so, it may have helped me find the love in my heart that’s been missing for many years.

Another highlight for many who packed the venue, beyond its capacity, was ‘The Future Sound of Yoga’. A modern yoga delivery that combines a DJ  like character offering wicked symphonic and electro sounds, combined with the gorgeous passionate smiling Angel as facilitator. They offered yoga poses and dance steps to be conducted with free expression yet offering a basis of directed movement. And so the list of amazing classes went on; the renowned yoga guru’s educated in ancient languages such as Sanskrit doing their bit, Tigress yoga aimed at empowering the feminine, Women’s only Tantra or mixed Tantra sessions,  yoga in the public pool, belly dancing in the Drill Hall, Kirtan in the open, Goyto Monks humming their mantras and chai tea everywhere.

However, it was the Mullum High School Hall that was the focal point once the sun went down. Saturday’s headlining act, Deva Premal, exposed me to Kirtan and the empowerment of vocalizing mantras. All good stuff, but the more familiar all out dance sessions on Friday and Sunday nights was more my cup of tea. Thanks to OKA, Deya Dova and Future Sound of Yoga, the transformed school hall was alive with a packed house moving like perfect swell hitting a reef break. Perhaps high on chai tea, or whatever, undisputedly the dance floor was absolutely pumping yet no one was inebriated.

The Spirit Festival, as participated by a regular Byron local like myself, was one of the best festivals I have experienced in my life. I met so many genuinely gorgeous people, experienced new things, expanded my perceptions and explored my conscious being.

I also spoke with the festival organizers and they indicated it was a successful first year, on many levels. They were exceptionally pleased that they could offer several volunteer performers, part of proceeds that were raised from high ticket sales after all.

The Spirit Festival was a positive result for more than just the yoga community it perceived to target. It offered an abundance of joy and experience to the broader community for all walks of life who bought a ticket, the teachers and performers, the organizers and the town of  Mullumbimby itself…



Chad is a keen surfer and skater and a good guy all the way. And open minded enough to open up to the Spirit Festival. Chad is also an Australian writer and the founder of Active Kids Books. He draws inspiration from his interesting and varied life as a sponsored snowboarder, footballer, fitness instructor, business owner, PDHPE teacher and father. His books aim to challenge the lack of sports related picture books for children. Currently available: Skate Session and Surf Safari. Check out the website and video on the front page for more info.

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Filed under australia, culture, dancing, festivals, guest posts

Shaman or charlatan?

He was sitting there quietly in a long blue smock, adorned in a range of colourful necklaces when we entered his surgery space. We all had our theories about whether he was a shaman ‘real’ or a shaman ‘turistico’, whether our guide had called up some guy and said ‘Get your costume on, I’ve got some tourists who want to see some traditional culture. Do a bit of a spiel for them and they’ll be happy’.

The truth, as I chose to believe it, was that this shaman had started his training aged 8 and graduated at 39 with an advanced knowledge of plant life and spirituality so that he could help the 100 or so people of his community as well as the members of the wider organisation that he headed. Sitting in his ‘hospital’, we learnt how locals visit shamans, who, under the influence of ayahuasca, can identify the true causes of their problems and read their auras (providing the ayahuasca hasn’t been contaminated by any contact with a menstruating woman, which would make the shaman sick).

Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink made from vine leaves, is an integral part of the practice with people in communities drinking it from as young as 8 years of age, all under the guidance of a shaman. It is said to awaken the spiritual self and connect one with the world, with the universe as a whole. Many Ecuadorians I met had tried it, some many times over. No one viewed it as a drug; everyone discussed it as a spiritual experience.

The Western definition for shaman, our guide explained, is linked to that of being a charlatan, with fairly negative connotations. Within South American communities, however, the meaning of shaman is much more associated with expertise and a link to the spiritual world, and many people respect and believe in a shaman’s powers to diagnose and heal a host of mental, emotional and physical complaints (not to mention more sinister practises of putting curses on people).

Back to our visit, and yes, our shaman did do a bit of a spiel, – a little demonstration of the ritual that he performs on a daily basis that included swishing vine leaves and chanting and muttering in a repetitive manner that started to trance me out somewhat. It was an introverted display, one that reassured us that the meaning was true to him and less about us onlookers.

What happened next felt slightly voyeuristic. Patricio, an Ecuadorian tourist in his thirties, has requested to be ‘cleansed’ and we witnessed as he sat before the shaman, naked from the waist up. The chanting and vine swishing started anew before the shaman picked up another plant with links to the stinging nettle family and started to stroke it across Patricio’s back. Once Patricio’s skin had adjusted to the prickly pain, the shaman progressed to more vicious raking, dragging and beating with the plant until welts started to form. He concluded by being hands on, stroking the mottled skin, spine outwards to rid Patricio of any negative energies.

Patricio’s back was a bit red and sore for a few days but he seemed happy enough. Was it what he expected? ‘Yes’. It wasn’t his first visit to a shaman, and it wouldn’t be his last, he assured me. Shamanistic faith and healing, it would appear, are an accepted and utilised part of Ecuadorian society.

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Filed under culture, ecuador, south america