By Moriah Johnson and Dagny Pottersmith
Photography by Dagny Pottersmith & Shaunti LallyiAm
In the foothills of Loveland, Colorado lies a magical place called Sunrise Ranch. This precious land is stewarded by the hands of many and revered by all who visit. It is home to the Arise Music Festival, a gathering space for people to come and unite as one; to cultivate and share healing; to connect with and honor each other. Arise holds a safe space for us to explore what it means to accept and support one another. Through yoga and meditation, workshops, music, dance, ceremony and vibrant food, this festival nourishes our wholeness on many levels. We are allowed an opportunity to collaborate, explore our collective potential and celebrate together. We are pushed to practice showing up for one another.
A Shared Opening
What is it that makes a memorable, magical festival experience? Is it high-end production? The line-up? The location? As someone who often attends festivals and writes reviews, all
factors indeed contribute to the appeal and quality of experience at the event. However, what really makes a festival worthwhile comes down to how strongly the festival attendees are united in community.
Of the many ways to foster a strong bond between festival attendees, the first is an opening ceremony where all are invited to set intentions together for the days to come. I had the honor of contributing to the opening ceremony this year, alongside a handful of others from the Rhythm Sanctuary dance community in Wheat Ridge, CO. We held space and guided prayers inspired by indigenous practices honoring the earth and our connection to all of creation. Each prayer sent as a gesture of reverence, not to any particular God or faith, but rather to life itself and the gift of togetherness. Gratitude is a magnet for miracles. And thus, the miracles began.
The array of musicians on this year’s stages was truly a mosaic of distinct flavors and genres. The variety of musical textures made for a balanced and uplifting blend. We are so thankful to the musical artists who blessed the stages with their presence!
Ziggy Marley, accompanied by his full band, graced us with songs of love, social justice, peace, and hemp fields growing wild and free! A palpable unity wove through the crowd as we danced and sang along to potent songs of freedom. Something about the way Ziggy encapsulates pressing political and social issues is so stirring and full-bodied. Marley brought the reggae energy full force, inspiring our collective will to engage with our world in the spirit of right action.
16 year-old musician and activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez of Earth Guardians, a group of young Native activists, sang for the protection of all people, all life and clean water. They are giving a voice to the unheard, reminding the world that it is up to us to stand for what we know is right; to use our resources wisely; to demand justice; to protect the sacred; to honor the land. They are setting the bar for the youth movement, proving that age is no barrier to spreading a potent and far-reaching message.
On the Starwater Stage, Mike Love delivered a powerful dose of his usual medicine- the honest and often hard-to-swallow truth. His voice cried out for peace, love and justice. The atmosphere cultivated during his set was akin to a heightened reality, a supercharged experience of oneness. Mike Love emanates a profound humility that cleanses any space in which he performs. He is one whose unmatched presence cannot be overlooked.
Elephant Revival, whose beginnings are rooted in Nederland, Colorado, brought a special
cohesiveness to the stage as they showered the audience with spirited folk music. Their songs tell lyrical stories full of imagery and emotion, connecting the listener to the mysteries of life and curiosity of the human experience. They bring it all: sweet, soothing lyrics, up tempo dance tunes and down tempo melodies that easily evoke tears.
Every year Arise offers nearly non-stop yoga classes atop the Gaia Yoga Sanctuary, a perch overlooking the entire festival with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. It may be impossible not to feel a deep sense of clarity and peace just sitting up there, let alone practicing yoga! A majority of classes were accompanied by live music. It is an ideal space to
come and clear the mind, break out of the high energy environment and hit the reset button. With powerful classes from seasoned instructors including Mary Clare Sweet, R. R. Shakti, Valerie D’Ambrosio and Rob Loud, one could attend purely for the yoga and come out feeling more than satisfied. Thank you to all of our beloved yoga guides!
This year’s festival was well-staffed with qualified teachers, wise leaders and healers who tended dozens of unique learning environments. From converging in the women’s lodge to studying Ayurvedic principles with Akacia Rose and conversing with Josh Fox via Skype after his documentary screening in the Sunrise Dome, attendees were provided ample opportunities to be mentally stimulated and engaged. I highly recommend Josh Fox’s documentary “How to Let Go of the World and Love all the things Climate Can’t Change.” This film’s approach was largely focused on how to bring light into an undeniably heavy situation, contrasting the typically somber tone of most climate change documentaries. Visit http://www.howtoletgomovie.com to learn more.
The sheer number of workshop offerings necessitated at least seven different locations to hosting workshops! For those really looking to fill up their knowledge cup, prioritize workshops in your schedule next year.
A Transformative Doorway
Community is booming here. Whether you are native to Colorado or not, the abundance of open hearts and welcoming arms is palpable here at Arise. As social beings, it is crucial that we create safe gatherings where can explore new connections. My festival experiences are largely spent walking the grounds, gravitating towards people who are ready to drop in deep and share with me their raw, unfiltered selves. With so many fascinating and innovative attendees, the social interactions at Arise might as well be considered a workshop of its own!
Arise is a launching pad, and simultaneously a landing pad. Each year, we witness how far we’ve come since the last year, and we are humbly reminded of how far we have yet to go. We assimilate our festival experience and it continues to serve us long after the festival is over. We use it as fuel for our personal and spiritual evolution. One must make a personal choice to step through the transformative doorway that gatherings such as Arise Festival offer. How willing are you to come as you are, turn off the phone, forget the agenda and let the festival carry you like the wind?