3,000 Buddhists, activists and spiritual adventurers gather at Buddhafield to live and express themselves openly and generously from the heart - united and enlivened by the shared intent of the festival. All photographs by Charlotte Baxter
Buddhafield - a riot of Courageous Compassion
8th September, 2016
With Buddahfield's Green Earth Awakening Camp next week (14th - 18th September) WILL GETHIN shares his experience of the annual Buddhafield Festival earlier this summer
Courageous compassion means having deep awareness for one and another because we're all inextricably connected,
As folk enchantress and singer-songwriter, Martha Tilston, finished her evening set on the Small World Solar stage - Buddhafield festival's antithesis to Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage - crooning, "It's a good world, it's a good good good good world", you'd have believed her too, as the crowd around you jumped to their feet and joined the chant, hands raised skyward in jubilant affirmation.
Yet this temporary nirvana haven of Buddhafield in the beautiful Blackdown Hills of Somerset - away from the harsher realities of "real life" - really is a good world. A place where, for five days, some 3,000 Buddhists, activists and spiritual adventurers, live and express themselves openly and generously from the heart, united and enlivened by the shared intent of the festival - to learn to care for and live in harmony with themselves, with each other, and with the earth we all live on.
"So much loveliness at Buddhafield - loud and quiet, bright and soft, goodness bouncing off in all directions," Dave, a festival volunteer, enthused over a veggie breakfast in the Buddhafield cafe, the next morning.
Watching the world go by, a seamless flow of bright, happy people in madcap costumes (wandering minstrels, winged fairies, feral children and naked bodies in the mix), I wholeheartedly agreed. It's kept me coming back again and again, enjoying the festival's intoxicating mix of natural drug and alcohol free vibes, accessible Buddhism and other transformation workshops, and the riot of wild creative fun, music and dance.
The eclectic variety of daily activities typically ranged from meditation, yoga, dharma teachings, rainforest singing and trail running to salsa, tantric comedy, skilful flirting and conscious speed dating.
While in the Permaculture zone, daily walks, talks and discussions covered land projects, community living, wild food, vegetable growing and beekeeping. And the programme's peppering of live music treats included Susie Ro Prater, and Bob, Hilary and the Massive Mellow.
Personal highlights included a Soulful Singing workshop immersed in multi-layered intercultural chants; Earth Dances with African dance legend, Denise Rowe; a Jung-inspired, improvised movement workshop with Sam Bloomfield; a Living the Dream workshop exploring how to integrate the tools learnt at Buddhafield into your daily life; and dancing to the magical mbira-infused Zimbabwean rhythms of Bristol band, Ombiviolum.
At the closing ceremony, one of the festival organisers - colourfully garbed in a purple robe and pirate's hat - ritually gave thanks to the four directions, serenaded by conches and horns. She then pointed at a giant banner, draped over a domed tent depicting a symbol for this year's festival theme of ‘Courageous Compassion': a hand in the "fearless mudra" position, the thumb raised upward from the palm.
"Courageous compassion means having deep awareness for one and another because we're all inextricably connected," she said. "It's an antidote to suffering and mental stress which can arise from insensitivity to barriers like race, age and class. May you give and receive courageous compassion throughout your life."
What did you enjoy most about the festival, I asked a friend, Will, as drumming kicked in and festive dancing resumed. "I felt a common passion was shared to have a good time," he said. "Naturally, courageously and powerfully."
Buddhafield's next event, ‘Green Earth Awakening' takes place 14-18 September, Blackdown Hills, Somerset, exploring engaged Buddhism, community living, land skills, nature connection and creative responses to social resilience. Featuring Satish Kumar and Mac Macartney, the programme includes talks, workshops, music, dance, bodywork and green crafts. More info/booking via the Buddhafield website.
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