Blowing Up The Bliss Bubble: Maui’s Transformational Festivals

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Whether the transformational festival was reborn from the need for artists to express themselves, musicians looking for a new way to perform or simply the passions of body and movement enthusiasts, it  doesn’t really matter. They’ve evolved into their own.

Perhaps their roots lie in hippie festivals of the 1970s or the underground rave festivals of a decade ago. But the well-established global circuit of postmodern transformational festivals now translates into more than 90 interactive art, music, body movement, spiritual, and musical exchanges over the course of a year. In the next week, Maui’s seventh annual Mystic Island Festival will kick off as one of their strongest years with five days of visionary art, yoga camps, workshops for body, mind and soul, and music from sunrise to moonrise.

Maui has carved out its own niche as a destination for transformational festivals, where attendees are just as much the content as are the performers, speakers and artists. Mystic Island is one, Maui’s own Source Festival is another. The islands of Hawaii and Kauai are also growing festival destinations.

The idea is simple: create your own microcosm of bliss and fulfill your own planetary ideology, even if just for a few days. Zero garbage, fully composted, nature-based, organic sustenance, alternative healing, art-centralized, dance-driven, ritual blessings–these are just some of the community concepts explored in the festivals that are basically ecological and spiritual conferences sustained with soul food, electronic music and art.

“I think the experience is different for everyone, but I think it’s important to understand that the culture and community that we experience at the festival goes far beyond our interactions at the festival,” says Phil Lindsey, Mystic Island Festival’s producer. “Those of us participating in the culture are often in touch with each other and sharing our selves, our values, uplifting and inspiring things all the time. Our inspiration and motivation to impact culture is something we bring to our communities in a variety of ways in our daily lives, in our communication practices. Many things we learn at the events via workshops, yoga, dietary and other inspired lifestyle practices are things we continue to integrate into our lives.”

Lindsey spends at least three months out of the year working on the Mystic Island Festival here on Maui, and produces and consults on many other festivals around the Mainland. This year, he’s bringing Jeet-Kei Leung to the speakers panel on Saturday. Leung has presented at TedXVancouver with insight on festival culture.

Leung’s project, called Bloom Series, created a set of documentaries following the festivals. He describes the festival experience as “temporary reality containers to create our own realities for days at a time” and points out that we can “create the liberated world we wish to live in.” The Mystic Island Festival starts on Thursday at Camp Maluhia, where Leung will be joined by sacred artists Alex and Allyson Grey, author Daniel Pinchbeck and Rev. Kedar of the Temple of Peace, among others.

“Mystic Island Festival will be my first time to Maui but based on what others have shared with me, it seems like a place where the power of the earth is very present and people are engaged with this nurturing power on a daily basis,” says Leung.”By all reports it is paradise.  Since restoring that honoring connection to earth is an essential component of the transformational festival, I expect that Maui may facilitate an extra powerful experience!”

The event will feature healthy foods, ecstatic dance and world dance, men’s and women’s empowerment, healing arts, community building, communication skills and ceremonial & ritual techniques. Attendees will range from those willing to travel to Maui for destination transformation, as well as its own following of festival co-creators. You should bring your own water bottles, canteens, and bliss kit with plate, fork and spoon, as well as rain gear, just in case.

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“At Mystic Island, we will be making a variety of living foods made from the freshest local ingredients, like kale chips, acai bowls and superfood salads,” says Kathryn Dahm, of Choice Health Bar Maui. “The food at festivals is the fuel to charge up the festival goers for long days of workshops, music, sunshine and dancing. Often the decision to go get food is an event of its own, and a group of festival-goers will stumble upon a place that blows them away and is a nourishing and refreshing experience. Although even the largest festivals on Maui seem small compared to the average Mainland gatherings, more than anywhere Maui’s aloha spirit and natural wonders make the whole island and its residents [into] one big year round transformational experience. Many people come here to heal, or be free from other people’s paradigms of success or happiness. The actual festivals on Maui may only play a small part of the worldwide circuit but Maui is cherished as emblematic of festival ideals, almost a place where that ‘bliss bubble’ is more permeable and all-inclusive.”

You can buy passes that include camping overnight, and kama‘aina pricing is available, too. There will be music from over a dozen entertainers including Random Rab, David Starfire, Chris Berry, Diane Patterson, Leah song (Rising Appalachia), the Human Experience, Dustin Thomas (of Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People), Shimshai, Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. Camp Maluhia will be decked out with electronica all night in the long house, and there will also be a second stage–called the Mystic Gazebo–and a circus tent area with other speakers and performances.

“Maui is important in the circuit to me because it’s a rare place in which some of the more dense energies of the mainland are dissipated and people can often more easily feel open and expressive to let their light shine a little brighter,” says Lindsey. “The Maui Mystic Island Festival, to me, is where we get to showcase and experience the ultimate of our transformational culture. It’s more of a leadership retreat and celebration. Maui offers a more concentrated yet also just relaxed island-style experience where we can integrate our higher aspirations of the kind of healthier more vibrant lifestyles we want to live. Without some of the mainland stress it just seems as though we can more easily drop in and let go.”

Go to mysticislandfestival.com for more info and tickets. For information on the Source Interactive Arts Festival check sourcemaui.com.

Top Photo Courtesy of Kyer Wiltshire, KyerWiltshire.com