The Namaste Counsel


Bhakti Fest Midwest: Heaven on Earth for Yogis

I’ve racked up beaucoup miles on three airlines. Beyond being a road warrior at my former workplace, I used to take one “deep dive” a year. Israel and Turkey. Poland and the Czech Republic.  India.   (Click on the Articles and Rx buttons on my website to read and view images.)

I love exploring.

I love different cultures and different languages, as my students will recognize from my music playlists. So, my big summer vacation this year is … (drum rolls, please) … (now for the unveil) …

Madison, Wisconsin.

Bhakti Fest Midwest is what’s reeling me in to Madison.  In its fifth year, Bhakti Fest Midwest brings yoga, kirtan music, wisdom workshops, and a healing sanctuary to America’s heartland.

I love yoga.

Although I’m a native mid-westerner, for the last three years in a row I went to Bhakti Fest West in Joshua Tree (near Palm Springs). Now, I’m going for the green. As in grass, not bucks. Lakes, not deserts. Campus town vs. retreat center.

I’ll be joining an estimated 1,500 people of all ages for a one-of-a-kind experience this June. My sister has been to Madison about a dozen times. She calls it “the Berkeley of the Midwest,” and says it’s “cool like Austin.”  So I think I’ll fit in. If I didn’t live in San Antonio, Austin would be my home.

I couldn’t say no to Bhakti Fest Midwest because my heart feels nowhere better than when I’m here, in the bhav.  At Bhakti, something special happens. Not just to me, but to pretty much everyone that attends. No wonder the return rate of Bhakti-goers is greater than 90 percent. Once you go, you gotta go Bhak.

I love music.

As a yogi and a music lover, Bhakti Fest is my heaven on earth. The smorgasbord of non-stop Kirtan (devotional music), yoga infused with live music, and workshops on breath work, astrology, sound healing, and Vedic studies is like a battery recharge for me. For optimum operation, recharge at least yearly.

Bhakti Fests turn me on to some of my now-favorite artists that my students may recognize from my six dozen yoga music playlists. Practicing my asanas to some of the best yoga teachers, some of whom double as talented musicians, is pure bliss for me. I’m in my zone flowing to the rhythms and vocals of Bhakti regulars like Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. Bhava Ram. Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band. Govind Das and Radha. Saul David Raye.

This is also where I’ve been blessed to meet and interview kirtan favorites, Deva Premal and Miten, and GuruGanesha Singh. I’ve slept outdoors, dozing off to ecstatic beats of the Mayapuris, and awakening to the lull of pre-dawn Kundalini chants.

I love Bhakti Fest: celebrating the devotional path.

It embraces ancient and modern sacred wisdom. The festival is a vehicle for the evolution of human consciousness through a heart-centered revolution.

Sridhar Silberfein is the founder/producer of Bhakti Fest. Silberfein was the one responsible for bringing Swami Satchidananda from the Integral Yoga Institute to 500,000 people at Woodstock.  In 2009, 40 years later, Silberfein’s dream of infusing the spiritual with the musical at a large festival came to reality in the high deserts of California.   A few years later, he ventured beyond California and brought Bhakti to Madison.

“I envisioned Bhakti Fest to be all over the country and we started going cross country 2012,” says Silberfein. “So many areas are just so open for what we bring. Attendees know that when they come to Bhakti Fest they are coming to a safe environment, with no alcohol, no drugs, vegetarian food. Many families are coming with their kids, we take really good care of everybody, we put on a wonderful show.”

Musicians from all across the country provide a wide range of Kirtan, from the traditional, to hip hop, to Bluegrass. The stage is on fire June 26-28, from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.  Yoga classes, with celebri-yogis spans twelve hours a day, June 26-28, with mind/body/soul workshops 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. all three days.  For those seeking even more (like me), there are pre-festival intensives on June 25 and a post-festival intensive on June 29.

I love hanging with my favorite yogis.

While Bhakti Fest Madison continues to grow and become an important part of the yoga movement in the Midwest, it is not just for yogis. It’s a great destination for music lovers. The festival is also great for those wanting to learn more about spirituality, or meditation. Speakers like Zat Baraka and Michael Brian Baker lead workshops that attendees say are transformational.

Beyond the yoga, music, and MBS workshops, (who could ask for anything more?) Bhakti Fest strives to be green. It doesn’t hurt that Madison was ranked as the #1 Greenest City in America (NerdWallet, 2014) and #8 in Happiest, Healthiest Cities in America, (Huff Post 2014).

There are healthy foods and hand-made items from all over the world to buy. And all vegetarian, mostly vegan and gluten-free, food and purified water filling stations?  For once, I don’t have to BYOF and D.

“Attendees know that when they come to Bhakti Fest they are coming to a safe environment, with no alcohol, no drugs, vegetarian food, we have a kids program, many families are coming with their kids, we take really good care of everybody, we put on a wonderful show,” says Silberfein.

In the past, Ram Dass has been live-streamed into the festival. This year, a new video with Ram Dass will be shown. The Bhakti Fest crew went to Maui to shoot Ram Dass discussing spiritual contemporary topics.  It’s like your own private chat with the author of Be, Here Now, and other writings.

“We are continuing to bring love, compassion, and happiness to everywhere we go and bring more folks into their real true self,” adds Silberfein.

Bhakti Fest will offer free admission for veterans and active military, and kids under age 13. Special reduced rates are available for seniors.  Admission packages range from the full festival to one-day passes.

Somehow, in the I me mine world that we live, emotional and physical well being has escaped the vast majority. The Namaste Counsel encourages simple proven practices to live a healthier and happier life. Any time. Any where. By anyone.
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