by Kara-Leah Grant
What a trip.
It began like it ended last year – with Pete Longworth. We’ve become amazing friends over the last year since meeting at Wanderlust Great Lake Taupo 2015 (one of the best things about this gathering – the quality of friendships you form) and this year, Pete flew out early to hang with me.
We drove over on Wednesday, stopping at Kerosene Creek to do a four hour photo shoot. There’s almost a novel in that experience alone. Suffice to say that I pretended Pete wasn’t there and did my usual style of self-practice (sahaja, no mat, wearing whatever, integrated into the natural environment).
Pete moved around me, shooting. And when necessary, he would engage, entice, invite and draw out the aspects of me that he knew needed to be seen. (See right).
As we shot, I was having a deeply mystical experience and insight after insight washed through me on the nature of life. In particular, various people from the past would spring to mind and I could see with clarity the great gifts that they had brought me in my life – even though I often didn’t like the way they’d shown up at the time.
Waves of gratitude kept washing through me, something which shows up in the photos.
On arrival at Wairakei Resort, I scooted to the bathroom leaving Pete to check in for us (oh to have a man on hand to take care of me like this…). After peeing, I turned to flush the toilet and there on the ground was a gold heart with green gemstones. Nestled inside the gold and green there was black gems on one side and white on the other. Found objects and I have a particular kind of relationship. I’m the kind of person who picks up litter whenever I can, and almost everything else I find on the ground because you never know when you might need it. I often find things, including jewellery.
This green heart, with the blend of the white & the black epitomised the journey of Wanderlust for me – how we learn to ingrate the dark and light within so that we can radiate out pure love.
I handed the heart into reception, with a blessing that it would find it’s way back to it’s rightful owner, and headed up to my room to get some much needed sleep. However, it was not to be. Every night, no matter when I went to bed, or what time I set my alarm, I would get four hours sleep, and wake at 6:30am. Yet it felt like this was right – part of some larger process where I was playing a role and sleep deprivation was required. So I rolled with it.
This too become a theme for me at Wanderlust – control and surrender.
I noticed, in relationship, how fear generates my controlling nature. I noticed how I don’t have basic trust – especially in men. This came up strongly in the photoshoot with Pete. We’ve built a strong relationship over the last year and I trust him deeply. Yet once he got behind the camera, and we were in shoot mode, I noticed that fear arose in me. I was literally afraid of him… he could sense this, and we worked with the trust over the four hours we created images together.
The first official day of Wanderlust, Thursday, was my ‘day off’ as a presenter. I dove right in with the most sublime yoga class I have ever attended at 10am with The Digital Shamans.
I won’t tell you very much about it as it has to be experienced rather than read about… however, there was not a single verbal instruction throughout the entire class. And we were blindfolded. There was music, voice, smell, touch, movement… Mostly I surrendered into a state of sahaja self-practice, all the way through to savasana (spontaneously arising movement). It was a beautiful way for me to experience total trust. No coincidence that this was led by Pete as well… and close friends Michael K. Chin, supported by Chante Neblett, Franko Heke and Josh.
As we moved through that experience, it was a delight to experience a deep sense of trust in an environment where I felt completely safe.
Later, as I engaged in triggering events, that state of trust kept calling me back. Could I let go? Could I trust the experience? Could I allow things to just unfold?
Shiva Rea’s first class was at 2pm and started with a powerful and moving Powhiri with the local iwi. Such gratitude for this. (See below for images).
Ali Kaukas took a photo of me being welcomed with hongi at the end of the Powhiri and emailed it to me that evening. When I saw the photo, my heart exploded and I started sobbing.
In that photo I felt welcomed to this land for the first time ever. Someone had asked me, as we stood in line to be greeted,
‘Where are you from?’.
I stared blankly at her and replied,
‘I don’t know. I was born in Dunedin. I live in Mount Maungaui’.
And unspoken, I felt,
‘But I’m not from here. This is not my land. I don’t know where I’m from.’
It’s something I’ve felt all my life, deeply in my cells. This is not my land. Which is not to say that I don’t belong here. But that in order to belong here I needed to be fully welcomed and I need to integrate into the spirit of this land. At that powhiri, captured in Ali’s photo, I felt that deep sense of welcome for the first time. I felt like I came home – to myself, to this land, to my heart.
This was one of the strengths of Wanderlust this year – the acknowledgement and integration of Maori culture into offerings.
In part this is because of Jase Te Patu of Power Living Wellington. He grew up speaking Te Reo as his first language and so brings an effortless sense of what it means to be Maori, and how to bring that into everything. The presence of Taane Mete and Matiu Te Huki also helped enormously. These men all have such mana. (Photos below).
Among my closest friends (and we call each other a tribe), we use the hongi to greet each other, encompassing it with hands in prayer and eye gazing, generating a sense of bringing two powerful cultures together – that of the Vedas and of the Maori. In all of my presentations, we used this combination greeting as a way of deeply meeting each other in presence. Eyes connect, breath shared, heart open. Seeing and being seen.
Friday was game on. Two presentations a day and let’s go. First up was Blogging Series 1: The Fundamentals. When Jacque had suggested I teach a three part blogging series instead of more asana-orientated classes I was almost disappointed… however as it turned out, Jacque is a genius.
I was able to effortless transmit more yoga in those three blogging sessions that I could ever do in an asana class.
We started with a chanting practice to attune – the way I’m starting everything I do now. It’s an effortless way to get everyone to settle (muladhara chakra), open up (anahata chakra) and connect into divine flow (ajna chakra). This too become a theme for me – how do we find our roots and sense of belonging so that we feel safe enough to open up and share our inner rockstar? How to we surrender to the flow of the divine within us so that we can shine? How do we trust the longings of our soul? How do we feel strong desire without grasping at it or being greedy and attempting to suck the juice out of it?
Duncan Peak often talks about vasanas, which give rise to samskaras and therefore suffering. Before Wanderlust I had understood this on an intellectual level. Now, I get it on a deeply personal level. I had wondered, when Duncan fist shared this with me at the Bali Retreat I attended in 2014, which vasana I was prone to (there’s three – anger, lust, and greed). I knew it wasn’t anger. But I wasn’t sure about being deeply affected by either greed or lust.
Boy was I wrong. Turns out I’m greedy as all hell – for experience, for the sweetness in life (svadistana chakra), for the high (witness my drug taking years), and for merging with the Other.
And oh fuck… was that a revelation or what.
Suddenly I saw my relationships with men in an entirely new light. I saw how my lack of trust in men and in life combined with my greed to hold on to the experience and my desire to control everything so I felt safe led to my deeply insecure, needy self and starved relationships of space and light.
I was helped in seeing this vasana of greed clearly in myself, because first I clearly saw it in a close friend.
And this is how sacred friendship works – we mirror each others darkness so it can be brought to the light and released (there’s that heart I found). I see how this dear friend is where I was ten years ago – and I see how I’ve used control to completely cover that up, so afraid of going there again. But when control is released, my natural vasana of greed arises and panic ensues.
And there’s people out there who think that Wanderlust is all about the surface aspect of yoga, with none of the realness!
Another dear friend came to Wanderlust for the first time this year, with my encouragement. She had many doubts and concerns about the way Wanderlust is marketed, about the commercialisation of yoga, about the safety of classes with hundreds of people in them, about the lack of restorative yoga, meditation and Kirtan represented in the offerings.
Over the course of four days, we shared many discussions as she explored Wanderlust and her relationship to it.
My gut feel is the only way to change anything is from the inside. It’s to bring and offer, with love, what you see is lacking. Last year I was disappointed in the lack of Kirtan, and so this year I brought chanting to all my classes. Plus made sure I showed up to support Franko Heke and Chante Neblett when I knew they were performing and intending to flow from performance into Kirtan (a wonderfully accessible way to bring this Bhakti practice to the people.)
Another dear friend had suggested that what Franko does ‘isn’t Kirtan’. And perhaps it’s not, in the classical sense.
However, from a sense of the bhava (feeling sense ) of Bhakti (devotional yoga), what Franko does serves the same purpose. Energetically, kirtan is happening.
One highlight of the festival was the jam session at The Spot on the Thursday night when some exquisitely talented musicians (like Paul from Yoga Rhapsody) rose to share their gifts. (And I wish I had all their names!!!) So much heart-connected and open talent. So many amazing messages.
I particularly loved when Arterium shared his spoken word piece and song on Medicine Women. He forgot the words half way through, and stood with dignity internally feeling his way back to the flow while we the audience held him in our hearts. It showed how we don’t have to be perfect yet to stand up and share. That often there is much to be gained by stepping forth from our imperfect selves.
That jam session ended with Kirtan, the entire bar on it’s feet, danced and chanting ecstatically. I’m not sure if the bartenders would ever have seen something quite like it!
The four days of Wanderlust both flew past and seemed to last forever. Unlike last year I didn’t greedily (vasana!) attend as many classes as possible. I was more mindful of my energy levels, that I was going straight into an immersion with Shiva Rea, and that I wanted to connect with the many beautiful people around me more than my practice.
Sunday rolled around, and I delivered my last presentation at 3pm. There were 100 people booked in, and perhaps 45 made it to session… such is the nature of Wanderlust.
By that last day, people are wrung out in the best way possible. They’re full up, and exhausted, and walking around in a state of bliss barely able to speak. I know I was. I tried to buy a stainless steel water bottle and handmade leather holder from Vesica before my session but couldn’t get my thinking brain together enough to arrange payment. The thought of leaving the premises to go to an ATM to draw out cash was way too much. Fortunately my awesome assistant Helen, who I could never do Wanderlust without, kindly made the trip for me while I did my final presentation.
From there it was off to catch the end of Xaviar Rudd’s set. I love this man. He is the epitome of the divine masculine in human form and his clarity, presence and love for people and the planet radiates from every pore. (Photo below.)
If last year’s Wanderlust was the best four days of my life, this year’s was the most insightful four days of my life – so much clarity and understanding.
It was, at times, challenging, as I rode a personal wave that asked me to change life-long patterns of relating while also showing up to present every day. I was able to do this because I felt so held and supported – by those who welcomed us to the land, by Jacque and Jonnie and the entire Wanderlust team, by the vendors that feed and watered me, by the Prana tribe which gathered in force this year, and by my close friends. Everyone had my back and I felt it deeply.
And that heart I found on the ground the first night? When I checked out I asked if anyone had claimed it. And yes, they had. The heart had found it’s way back to it’s rightful owner, even as I had found a way to rest more deeply in my own heart with both it’s light and it’s dark.
Wanderlust Great Lake Taupo 2016 so much gratitude to you and the platform you provide for love and awakening within New Zealand and beyond.
See you next year.