ForestDance 2016 – Costa Rica
By Hollis Taylor
The rain-forest, the Mother Earth’s womb. The Rain-forest has always had a huge call for me. I used to imagine myself as a doctor making medicine in the forest. As if it was something I needed to do, wanted to do, but also as if I had already done it. My connection to the rain-forest has always been a huge source of my values such as vegetarianism and a basic awareness of the source of my food and supplies. So when the opportunity arose for me to attend ForestDance 2016 – Costa Rica there was no question about my desire to go. As time grew closer I found myself full of excitement and anticipation. The more I thought about the blessing I was receiving the more my heart grew with deep gratitude. Not only did I finally get to visit a jungle, AFTER 40 YEARS, I finally got to see it with my own eyes but also I got to be part of a spiritual event that gets together twice a year for a magic fire circle. My heart swells with love and gratitude for everyone that had their hands in helping me get there.
As we began to travel towards the land where the event would be held I became aware that we were going deep into the jungle. We had to be driven up with a 4×4 in order to handle the dirt road that went deep into the jungle and was often washed out. I was ecstatic to look out and see such beauty across the land. Although much of hills were shaved bear, something meat production must do. This was a reminder of just how seriously damaging it is to cut down the Rain-Forest so American’s can have their daily burger. The biggest perpetrators of the Rain-forest is fast food, this might be called a sin from my perspective, if I believed in such a thing. We entered into some deep jungle and soon I would arrive on land that was taken over by the “Rainbow Warriors for the Rain-Forest”. I don’t know if they would happily accept that term if they fully understood it but we can understand that on the piece of land that was hosting the event, was a piece of forest where it was being restored. VerdEnergia Pacifica is a piece of the forest purchased in order to restore the Rain-Forest, a very special calling. They have been working diligently for 10 years to restore this piece of the rain-forest with great success. The karmic energy of this land felt like she was healing. As I began to acclimate to the land and the people at VerdEnergia I felt like at the root of our spiritual event we had a place that was doing the “good work”. ForestDance planned to bring many people to this land for spiritual work and frankly I was relieved to hear we were honoring the land by choosing to support a place that was doing such special work. An amazing foundation to begin with and the organizer for certain had thought it through. If I was hosting an event like this I would also try to support a sustainable farm that was working to restore the damage humans have done in our short stay on Earth thus far.
The first couple of days more and more staff began to arrive. Together we joined forces to create a space in the Fire Circle that was functional, spiritual, and could hold the size of the event. The circle was a short walk into the jungle. As I did my work with the space for the children of the tribe I noticed the amazing view of mountains and hills filled with gorgeous and deep jungles. The trees were massive and seemed to call to me. There was a very large Kapok tree at the root fire that seemed to connect us all to the earth and forest around us. A gorgeous spiritual experience regardless of your spiritual perspectives. The space was surrounded by smaller trees and vegetation. There were minimal impact buildings and campsites in the area but gratefully they were not penetrative to the space for the magic fire circle. This is my first time on the set up with this crew for this event and although I at first struggled to figure out how to help, eventually I was empowered to build a space for children. My personal desire to empower a team to build the space was drawing up inside me and I was grateful for a few willing people to help with the process.
Later, as I began to work with the snack team I was again feeling that need to empower people. I enjoy empowering people around me to do what their heart calls to, to follow their inner drive and ideas, even if it does mess things up a little, well some people would call it messed up…I call it divinely perfect. After my years with empowered teams I often feel that the leadership I learned and taught through those years is empowering for myself. So when I find the opportunity to empower others, I do it. It feels like I am lighting someone else’s candle and that feels like community to me! I was thrilled to see the team pretty much function without much from me and that is my first clue that the team is high performance and empowered! The snack team wanted to create all sorts of deliciousness and I truly enjoyed the treats that came out of that group. Including fruits from the local farms that were unusual and different. As well as old favorites like rice pudding and ginger tea, since both were in abundance. Our snacks were inspired by not only food from the farm but from the area, making it extra special. I was grateful for those willing to step up and help out. Each person on the team brought something special from driving the food up and down the hill to simply making ginger tea. Delicious treats for the community through the night.
The welcoming portal was the first piece for most people to experience after their journey into the jungle. I happen to take my passage through as Bright Hawk was playing her Hang PANArt. The vibrations of the instrument in itself inspires healing in all that are willing to melt into its sounds. As I listened and was smudged in the forest I knew I had arrived. This was my time to get in touch with my connection to the forest, my connection to the jungle, and my connection to community. In the past years I realized that the largest craving my heart and soul desired was community. It’s not always easy to be connected to community in fact it can be challenging at times, in the past 10 years I have experience a large variety connections with a variety of types of community. Some more spiritual than others, but I needed to see where I could connect as my most authentic self. I was not always an easy fit with being an Androgyne Peaceful Warrior Two-Spirit with deep values around the environment and humanitarian efforts. I know that my next step in healing will be in my connection to communities, it has already began through Drag. Then the GenderQueer community online and around the globe. Now I am looking for connections in spiritual community. I am there to connect with other souls, some wise souls would carry the message that “connection to other souls” is the meaning of life. So as I was greeted by a dear friend and sweet loving energy I felt welcomed and celebrated. Her respect for me in our regular life, regarding my 3rd gender, helped me feel like I could really trust her to treat me authentically. I felt welcomed by her eyes and gentle touch. Just after this welcoming portal I proceeded down the hill into the jungle. I stared down at the rocks carefully moving my way down into the jungle and found I needed to cross a small stream. Just a little rock to step across, nothing too tough. Just enough to remind me of my happiest memories as a child when I played in the forest. The life around me felt like it was vibrating as I continued my hike down to the fire circle to get a little work done on the child’s space. The welcoming portal and my journey to the circle was filled with great realizations about my connections to community, space, and even certain people. I also realized just how important it was for me to connect, not just exist, but connect.
Each night, of course, feels different. The event began with a cacao ceremony along with a concert with Incus and Bright Hawk. Music that brings us together, inspires us to evolve into our most authentic selves. It helped bring the community together after their journey into the jungle. Creating space for people to gather and connect or reconnect. This space provided a great way for the event to begin and help settle everyone in. I felt welcomed and uplifted by the community around me. I felt connected in a way. As I was able to talk and connect with parents I was reminded of all the work it can be to raise a child. Reminding me of my own son back in Pennsylvania. Several times he came up as I worked with the families and inspired me to try harder to keep that very important connection with him. I also was reminded of my love and appreciation for good lyrics and voices with Incus‘ live set with Debo Ray and Esperanza Yenni! Their voices captured me and soothed me in just the way that feels good on my soul. As I sipped at my Yerba Mate, as I have a preference for it over Cacao and so other options were served, I was gifted a great journey with Incus live. Incus is best live unlike a lot of newer music. I love live music and find live music to be more inspiring for my soul connection to the vibrations, voices, messages, and inspired movements around it. Live music is also better for the soul. When Bright Hawk stepped in after Incus we were all lifted to a connection together. Bright Hawk’s ability to unite people is profound and obviously natural for her. As she inspires the group to not only enjoy the live vibrations of the Hang PANArt but also to sing along and interact with her, anyone could recognize her skills to not only unite and to play gorgeous music, but also to inspire joyous energies. Her interactive storytelling on the Hang PANArt united the group in a way that I rarely see. The highest point when everyone was chanting along to her original story with “a hippo dance trance” was the moment in which the community realized their connection. We all loved to dance with each other, a dance trance around the fire. Everyone could identify with the hippo!
Each night around the fire held a different experience for everyone. I was inspired to arrive in a variety of ways and I enjoyed the experience. I talk a lot about it in this article, The Third Gender. What I noticed was that many people had profound experiences that helped them do some serious internal and communal work. Each person was inspired to arrive authentically and by design this event inspires that through basic tactics on time, environment, and community connection. This event was designed to help people get to their deepest authentic self and find support in community, something many of us are searching for. Our current culture doesn’t always provide community that can hold us not only as our authentic selves but as emotional beings. The design allows for our grumpy side, our sad side, our not so great expressions to surface and then fall away to bring out our authentic selves. The love and support of a community as a whole can have profound effects on people that are looking to heal and change.
Each dawn as the dance ended I experience something completely different. Each person seem to be having their own experience but as a community they were supporting each other. The community united in music, dance and singing all night long with a variety of very talented musicians including Dan Bailey. His best show through was when he held silence for the forest. Reminding us all to fall silent and just listen to the forest around us. Listening to what the insects, birds, and trees had to share with us. Often we forget to listen and even though he could have filled the space with his great music he instead reminded everyone of our most important connection to nature. I appreciated the silence as it is one of my favorite meditating places. After meditating pretty much the entire night to the music created by this amazing community is was a very needed moment of silence. I welcomed it with big heart and love for the jungle. I had fallen in love with the jungle, but it was no surprise since it had been in my heart my whole life.
This event is for all spiritual paths. This is not only in their literature but also in their actions. There are many types of spiritual perspectives that arise within the ForestDance Community. I met many in the community that don’t really do what we traditionally call “spiritual paths” or “religion” and many of them are not really into spirituality at all. What the draw of this event is the community, the connections, the dance, and the music. This community inspires itself to dance for 3 all night fire circles deep in the jungle of Costa Rica. Many of the Envision Community joined in on this music and dance event, ForestDance Costa Rica, as a deeper more intimate communal connection. I was inspired by the alcohol and drug free community to bring herbs that are legal and gifts from the earth that inspire us to know her deeper. I used many of these herbs to quit my habitual smoking habits and was inspired to share them in community. In my sharing many people shared with me about their experience of stopping drugs or alcohol for the event. Many people shared how even their tobacco use had changed. I was inspired to share an intentional smoking piece with a few eager smokers and experience a very intimate touching connection to more community. Since this was the end of the festival the intimate share about what they had experienced in my smoking circle with them meant so much to my soul. To know that others could understand my perspective and even relate to it, gave me a deep inner knowing that I was on the right track. My experience that I too could connect to community authentically and love them as their authentic selves left me with the feeling that I was on to something special at this uplifting event.
I wouldn’t say the event was perfect as there were a few bumps for people. I found that the community seem to support each other through these bumps in a way that felt good to most attendees. I think this is the part that makes the event special, that even through bumps the community supports each other. Events are hard to create a perfect experience for every single person, even with a huge budget and tons of cooperation its hard for any event to be perfect. I was inspired though by how the community united to support each other through these uncomfortable pieces. This is what can make or break a festival in my experience, I have witnessed community separate in community. When separation happens this is not pleasurable for either sides but when the community unites to solve the problem together the entire community is lifted up in a positive way.
Music Lovers, Dance Trancers, Musicians, Catalysts, Peaceful Warriors, Magicians, Inspired, Loving, Compassionate, and Present people attend ForestDance Costa Rica. As a community they are welcoming and desire only to heal and uplift anyone that arrives in their community. A community with a true desire to be empowered and evolved as they embrace each other authentically and emotionally. This event calls to all of those that are also looking for that connection, that community connection. When your ready to step away from the drugs, the alcohol, and when you just need a little break. When you need to find what life has for you.. those looking for a deeper connection past tv, movie stars, and politics. A truly healing and uplifting event that inspires the soul.