La Vie Bohème? Exploring Privilege, Creativity and Activism at Wanderlust. ~ Katie Sachs

Via on Jun 30, 2011

PART ONE: Wandering through privilege and Lusting for music.

When my partner, Ari, scored us press passes to cover the Wanderlust Yoga, Music and Nature festival at Stratton Mountain, VT for Elephant Journal, I was ecstatic. I am a musician and activist who gravitates towards festivals, and I recently started practicing yoga with Ari after he completed his teacher training. The event embodied our two passions combined into one – all an hour and a half drive away from us in my favorite state: Vermont. Perfect.

In the weeks leading up to Wanderlust, I envisioned Ari and I frolicking in the lush, green hills from tent to tent – interviewing accomplished musicians and yoga teachers, dancing to music everywhere and taking a few classes. When the forecast predicted rain my imagination shifted to include muddy hippies dancing with each other and slippery yoga mats underfoot of warrior posing yogis. Of course, my vision included Ari and I laughing and scrambling to do everything in our power to keep our camera and computer dry as we typed out our reports.  For better or for worse, I was in for a very different experience, not realizing that the billed activities of “Yoga. Music. Nature.” were to be emphasized in that order.

As we pulled up to Stratton Mountain ski resort after driving through sheets of rain, I was surprised to discover that I would not be spending very much time outdoors at all. The parking garage connected directly to the main building, and housed the cafeteria- called “the food co-op;” where coffee, beer and pizza were all available for purchase. When I heard there was going to be a food co-op at the festival, I was excited, however I later learned that the food service in the main building cafeteria was provided by the Village at Stratton (resort caterers.) The festival did bring in local food vendors, and there were a handful, including the Krishna Kitchen, selling food out of a tent outside.  Different locations throughout the ski resort were labeled with titles of sponsors or other themes.  Despite being comfortably dry and entering a co-op that looked nothing like my local food co-op, the fact that the festival labeled one of its venues Rue Bohème made me hopeful to encounter other artists.

Our first stop required a 4-minute stroll through the rain to the Gaiam tent, for a class,
lead by yoga activist Seane Corn and other leaders of Off the Mat Into the World.

I had heard a lot about Seane from Ari, who is interested in spiritual activism, and was
impressed by the way she communicated her message to the over 100 practitioners
present. I appreciated her acknowledgment of the privilege in the room, and wondered, in my judgment, about the thoughts and feelings of the audience that was; well groomed, mostly female and mostly white.(See Ari’s article on the class to find out more.)

The Off the Matt class was my first practice in examining my own judgments and prejudices at Wanderlust. As the day went on and I began to get more acclimated to my new surroundings, I started to feel a bit like a fish out of water.  The music, which was supposed to happen outside, was moved into the cafeteria because of the rain, where talented and captivating artists like Sonia Kitchell ended up playing either to a mostly empty room (her first set) or a room that was packed with hungry yogis, who’s chatter was equal in volume to her sound system.

As I people-watched, I couldn’t help but feel a little ratty in my Salvation Army sweatshirt and free pile yoga sweat pants as the other women walked by, sporting new tight-fitting Lululemon pants. “Is this a gathering for wealthy fashionable women?” I wondered. “Where are the musicians and bohemians?”

Though I ached for more music, the yoga class I took next was extremely nourishing and challenging. It was John Friend’s class, entitled “Creating Art Through the Body.” I felt that he really understood the connection between movement and art, and how yoga and music are intrinsically connected – something I discover more and more about as I deepen my own practice (more on this in part two).  Mostly, however, I felt comforted and grateful for the invocation of creativity in the yoga practice, as well as a sense of inclusion.

As soon as I left the tent and returned to the gloomy weather, however, I sunk back into feelings of isolation and guilt. The restriction of the rain to greater outdoor exploration pushed me into these emotions even further. My mind was flooded with thoughts like:

“How can you complain?! You got to come here for free! Do you know how many people would kill to be in your position?!”

And…

“Look at you judging these people,” I said to myself. “They are probably really nice and work hard for their money. Though you are currently a low-income Americorps member, you do have a college education and come from a middle class background. What right do you have to judge?”

I was back to a familiar internal struggle, sprinkled with self-doubt and guilt. There I was, staring face to face with my repulsion/rejection of privilege, while at the same time not wanting to part with the benefits I receive from it.  My attitude towards the festival reflected my attitude towards the rain: I wanted to go out, get dirty and explore, but also wanted to stay warm and dry.

Stay tuned for part two and find out how my perception changed over the course of the weekend. Also, check out my interview with Wanderlust co-founder, Sean Hoess.

By Katie Sachs

Katie Sachs is a musician, activist and writer from Greenfield, MA. She received her B.A. in Creative writing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is completing a two-term AmeriCorps service at The Brick House Community Resource Center in Turners, Falls, MA. Katie is the co-founder of the Greenfield Dharma House – an intentional community dedicated to social service and spiritual practice. She enjoys baking, painting and swimming.

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