Divine Celebration

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By Shannon Skillern

Bhakti, the Sanskrit word for devotion or connection to God, can be an intimidating concept even for experienced yoga practitioners--if not for its religious associations, for its scriptural context within the ancient mythology of the Bhagavad Gita. If its namesake event, Bhakti Fest, a four-day celebration of around-the-clock kirtan, yoga, and the healing arts in Joshua Tree, California last weekend was any indicator, Bhakti is experiencing a modern-day renaissance.

Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Sean Johnson, and Dave Stringer were among the musical headliners while Saul David Raye, Seane Corn, Krishna Kaur, and Dana Flynn led back-to-back yoga classes in tents and halls across festival grounds. Ram Dass made a video appearance and workshop content ranged from Ayurveda to yoga psychology and the symbolism of Hindu and Tibetan deities.

The festival is certainly visionary in its mission to create a sacred space and vibrant community. The desert setting, a sort of surrealistic playground reminiscent of Burning Man, fostered a palpable air of magic as attendees of all ages from as far as Australia and Ukraine sang, danced, and constructed impromptu altars in celebration of the present moment.

Bhakti Fest also featured an impressive array of raw and vegan culinary offerings and a healing sanctuary that appealed to my newest of new age desires. I felt my former analytical constructions of Bhakti dissolve to the sound of a drumbeat after a transformative session of subtle-body healing, lecture on the Mayan calendar and an hour or so of ecstatic trance dance with the festival's Ombassador Shiva Rea. As Radhanath Swami explained in a Sunday address, "Bhakti makes no sense to the intellect, but perfect sense to the heart."

Photo Credit: Julianne Reynolds

Shannon Skillern is a yoga teacher, designer, macrobiotic cook and student of ayurveda.