Jon lifted a nebulous green crystal to my face. “Stare into it,” he said. “It will transport you to another universe.”
A handful of people huddled at a low table, shoulders wrapped in woven pashminas. The cream-colored drapes of the tent hung around them. Some sat on the ground, others on small pillows. Many had chemically altered perceptions and flying saucer eyes to match. The neon cobweb tablecloth was covered with gems and minerals in a dazzling variety of hues, leaving barely enough space for the tiny glass tea cups.
Jon was an imposing man with shoulder-length dreadlocks and a small peyote cactus in a glass terrarium dangling from his neck. He was the host of the tea ceremony. He spit into the terrarium and explained that he wanted the cactus’s DNA to fuse with his. As I lost myself in the meanders of my gem, he pulled out a tangled mess of dark twine which reminded me of a bird’s nest. I thought some bird would fly into the tent and snatch it out of his hands but, as he explained to the group, it was actually a type of pu’er, an aged tea from the far-fetched Chinese province of Yunnan.
In the corner, a captivating woman claimed to be an Oracle, just like the one at Delphi — where Greek warriors went to divine the fates of their wars. She was decked in jewels with cat eye eyeliner up to her temples. White dreadlocks draped down her shoulders and twisted past her hips. She quietly beckoned curious people to come and discover their fate.
As Jon jumped into a tirade about the likelihood of UFOs on Earth, a man in his mid-20s leaned closer and whispered to me, “I think he’s a god disguised as a human.” With a solemnity that seemed to confirm this utterance, Jon poured another round of tea. I gulped it down and stood up, deciding it was time to leave the entrancing spell of the god of tea and his otherworldly collection of gems.
Jon’s tea house, which travels from festival to festival on the west coast, is one of the main attractions at California’s Lucidity Festival. The transformational is so much more than a nonstop weekend party. It encourages attendees to learn to live mindfully, although not without their own share of mischievous fun. Attendees wander at night through the Live Oak Campground in the hills of Santa Barbara, guided by the psychedelic lights attached to the trees around the paths, creating an electric forest like something out of Dr. Seuss.
“I don’t even like this music, but the people here are great,” one teenager told me when in line for the cafeteria.
I heard this sentiment echoed several times throughout the weekend. That’s not to say the music wasn’t a main attraction. Night or day, whether a small artist or a headliner were playing — huge crowds danced to the beats or performed some flow art. Most of the bands playing weren’t even big names but nearly all were trance artists.
There were several stages around the sprawling campsite, so attendees could easily wander through completely different music and completely different vibes. The western stage, for instance, was surrounded by a replica wild west town, with musicians at the center strumming their instruments hypnotically. One of the attractions around the western stage was a store in which guests could trade items. I browsed the boxes of rainbow-colored clothes and jewelry and found a boho choker with a dyed quartz crystal hanging from it. Attached was a handwritten note that jokingly read, “Coachella starter kit.”
At California’s Lucidity Festival, the daytime is dedicated to self-betterment and understanding, with morning nature walks and yoga sessions, as well as workshops that you teach how to be a better human. This can be anything from painting, empathy, spirituality, conscious culture, lucid dreaming, family, among many other topics.
Sitting in the grass in the shade of an elm tree with other attendees enjoying the calm morning sun, I had the opportunity to unwind after the endless dancing and partying of the previous night. On the stage in the near distance, an ethereal young woman in a white robe tapped melodically on a gong, as people laid in the grass around the stage. Everyone was silent except for the gong’s entrancing sounds. These events, called south baths, help listeners get into a calmer or even meditative state.
One of the most talked-about events at Lucidity was the cuddle puddle. It involved cuddling with other scantily-clad strangers, which didn’t seem too inviting — especially since the majority of these strangers hadn’t had the time to shower much — or at all — during the weekend. But experiencing the platonic touch of another person was incredibly refreshing. Right after the cuddle puddle, a workshop was held on seduction techniques that aren’t sleazy or disrespectful.
While wandering around through the workshop area, an electrifying and magnetic woman in a floor-length skirt invited me to join her openness workshop. It was just about to begin, she said. With nothing else to do, I agreed, though I wasn’t expecting much. I could hardly imagine it would become the most inspiring moment of the festival for me.
The transformative experience began with a group of 20 people gathered in a tent, leaving just enough room for everyone to sit. Pillows were strewn about the room. We started by going around the room and individually introducing ourselves to everyone. We then paired with someone and were invited to talk about our day — with complete honesty, not just the “it’s been good!” soundbite that is hard-wired into us — for an entire, non-stop five minutes. After each of us talked, we had to stare into each other’s eyes without a word for five more minutes. I was paired with a 20-something man from Arkansas. He looked like the stereotypical California surfer boy. I soon found myself close to tears while talking to him about the anxiety I had felt the previous day.
“It’s not uncommon for someone to say they’re in love with their activity partner after this activity but, I promise, you’re not!” the instructor joked, which gave me a clue of how powerful these activities were for everyone. Most of us were so emotionally distant and congested by our day-to-day lives that an opportunity to show our true selves — negative emotions and all — brought about an intense emotional reaction. Nearly everyone left the tent in tears.
The Lucidity Festival is focused on being a kinder, more conscious human, so there is plenty of food for those on vegetarian and vegan diets. The line of food trucks served almost no meat — save for one fried chicken truck. In the cafeteria, which served more affordable options, was a nice variety of locally sourced food, most of it plant-based. Even in California, it was a blessing to have access to a buffet of probiotic drinks, vegan carrot cakes, veggie burgers, and even vegan fish tacos.
Walking around Lucidity Festival is a chance to see how truly open, friendly, loving, and just plain weird humans can be. It is a magnet for all the crystal-wielding, yoga-practicing, party-loving empathetic souls of the west coast, who converge in an entrancing and unique atmosphere. Whether attendees want an opportunity to open their hearts and experience true connection and understanding or just party with good vibes all weekend, Santa Barbara’s Lucidity Festival is the best place to get weird. And I mean really, really weird.