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Saturday, 24 September 2016

A Summer to Remember - Overcome by Beauty

My favourite movie line comes from American Beauty, when the teenager is sharing his simple but captivating video of the plastic bag dancing in the wind: "sometimes there is so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in."

I've had this feeling often during this summer, by far the best of my life.

I spent the vast majority of my summer outdoors, communing with nature, and with people who have the same passion. I attended four festivals, each unique in their own way, and each building upon the previous one, adding another layer of love. The fourth festival added the cherry on top, and since then I've been bursting with love and often spontaneously on the verge of tears.

While many would negatively associate tears with sadness and misfortune, my tears are associated with joy and happiness. And those tears have been incredibly healing.

I've experienced such epiphanies in the past but, somehow, this summer I've summited higher peaks of beauty and joy, and seem to be elevating to higher states of love and consciousness. Even in recent weeks, as I have lived small, my mind feels activated, my heart open and overflowing with positivity. My creative juices are flowing and I am writing a lot. There are new creative avenues that I am keen on exploring.

I only wish I was able to convey this feeling and spread it outward. This feeling is indescribable, incommunicable, can only be experienced; this state of being eliminates the need for any judgment or negativity that causes harm to our world.

Consequently, it confuses me why most people cannot witness and experience this beauty; that society traps us in suffocating boxes which only offer small, short glimpses of such beauty, before shuttering the blinds.

On the contrary, it seems most people would rather focus on negativity and fixate on extremist ideals, rushing to judge different people as if they were a lower species (though all living things deserve equal consideration). It's especially ironic, since today's world is the most peaceful in human history. Peace like love, flows and has its peaks and valleys. We must not confuse this current valley as a precipitous drop off a cliff into war, despair and destruction.

The third piece of the befuddling puzzle is a deepening sense of becoming more and more disconnected from this world which I so badly want to showcase this beauty to. I no longer wish to conceal this conflict, for it forgives ignorance, which causes the same problems plaguing our world, and prevents open dialogue, which is what we need to move forward on these issues.

My family and I are growing apart, due to my own extremism. My extremism is centred on ideals of love and freedom, and have given me a lot of happiness; yet, instead of being happy for me, they judge me. I am consequently befuddled. Though my life obstacles are universal, my Asian-Canadian peers fully understand the challenge of growing up in a Western culture, but raised on conservative ideals.

My future is vague, but I do see an eventual resolution to my conflict with my family. However, my projection towards meeting their expectations won't come for several years as I still have a lot of growing up and soul searching to do. Before I can focus on them, I need to focus on me.

For now, I can only continue to focus on the beauty around me - around all of us. If I follow my heart and seek out the beauty, my footsteps will take me on a path towards success. And I encourage everyone to do the same.

I live life with no regrets. It's what led to the most memorable summer of my life.

A photo collection of the best scenes of my summer:

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Fantastic Four! The Soo River Faire

The festivals keep coming and the love keeps building and building.

After the magic of Shambhala, I thought I was ready to pull back from the festival scene, which I dove headfirst into this summer. My plan to visit Vancouver Island was delayed by one day. So, marooned in Vancouver one more day, I joined my ex-housemates at a drum circle that night on 3rd beach in Stanley Park.

I wore my Shambhala headband like a proud flag, and I was befriended by a few people about it. One pair invited me to a small festival they were organizing called Soo River Faire. I loved their energy, and my own energy was drawn to them and their event.

I ended up cutting my Vancouver Island stint short, to just 10 days, so I could make it back to the mainland for the fair. About 20 minutes north of Whistler, we turned onto the Soo River Forest Service Rd. We drove down this rough road for another 20 minutes or so, before arriving to the trailhead, where my car got a flat tire. As tough as the adventure was to get there, the location was perfect. A floodplain in the spring, the waters recede in the summer, giving way to a gravelly beach along the snaking Soo River, guarded by green and white mountains.

The festival was really intimate - around 50 people - and the music was really good, considering its size. The artists were humble and easy to talk to; some of them live in the same collective home in Vancouver with the organizer. One of the DJs was my ex-housemate, and it was a pleasure dancing to his set. Psychedelics were involved as usual, but on a more toned down level than Shambhala, and I got some good dancing in.
Main stage during the day; and at night (below)

I furthered friendships as well as met some truly special people here. In particular, I made one very profound connection, and we became very close, very quickly. We drove back to Vancouver together, further connecting on just about every topic, sharing stories and listening to music that moved our souls. For this, I want to thank this person immensely for the bond and understanding at every level of our respective journeys in this sacred universe.

By the end of the festival, the organizer conducted an emotional closing ceremony. During the first part, we huddled around a campfire and gave praise to nature by reciting odes of gratitude to each direction of the compass rose, while facing them. For the second part, the organizer put together some wood arranged to form a small tree, and attached written notes of peoples' fears and confessions. Gathered in a circle around it, attendees each read the notes one by one. Then the tree and all of the notes were burned, setting our fears free and, thus, concluding the ceremony.
Taylor conducting the closing ceremony
Cachou reading a note from the tree of fears and confessions

The organizer must have set his own fears free because, at that moment he kneeled to the ground in prayer pose and wept his heart out. In silent understanding, and with all of the emotions I already built up the past few days, myself and a few others knelt beside him, consoling him, and crying with him.

I've recently had a feeling that my summer was building up to something special - some cosmic gathering of the energies I have been nurturing. It all came together at Soo River Faire. I left the event feeling so full of love, it felt like my heart was bursting. For the next several days, I
I made a fun time lapse video at the festival, click here!
The event has been going on for 4 years, but for me, it felt like the start of something special. I hope to become a part of this event and its people in the future.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The (Vancouver) Island Connection

The latest leg of my adventures took me to magical Vancouver Island. To say I have been here before is a half-truth, like someone saying they've been to France, when they only visited Paris. That's because I have only visited Victoria, the largest city on the island.

This time I intended to change that. And though I cut my stay much shorter than I originally hoped, I still stayed 10 days and experienced the true island culture. The theme of my summer has been nature and people. So far I have camped maybe 90% of the summer and explored some really beautiful parts of western Canada. I have also made meaningful connections with lots of wonderful people.

Mat showing me the swim holes in Cumberland
The first meaningful connection on the island actually began on the mainland. Several weeks ago, I drove Mat, a Kijiji rideshare, from Vancouver to Kelowna, and in the course of the 5 hour drive, we were chatting like old friends. Our timing somehow aligned so that I later drove him back to Vancouver to the ferry. About one week later, my deed came full circle, as I visited him on the island.

On the way there, I wondered why he settled in this no name small town... Cumberland far exceeded my expectations! I connected easily with his roommate and some of their friends that came in and out of their cozy home. They took me to some beautiful swim holes in the area, as well as an abandoned ski resort, where we picked huckleberries and admired the sunset. I was getting stuck in Cumberland, already staying a few days longer than planned, so I reluctantly said goodbye to my new friends and took off to the west coast.
Exploring the ancient (for us, anyway) ruins of an old ski resort

I was in search of Rainbow Beach, a wild camping spot on Kennedy Lake, and found it a half hour drive down a forest road, just under an hour inland from Tofino. There was a lovely boardwalk that led down to the beach, through a grove of magnificent cedars. The place was absolute magic.

I wasn't totally surprised to see a bunch of crazy hippies already camping there, some already for a few months, just living a free existence. I knew this would be my kind of place. When I arrived, the free spirits were hula hooping and dancing on the beach. That night a campfire party swelled to more than 20 young people from different places all across Canada.

On the second day I visited the surfing towns of Ucluelet and Tofino. I ran all around the rocks on Big Beach, like it was a big playground. I later checked out Poole's Land, a welcoming ecovillage just on the outskirts of Tofino. I picked up a hitchhiker, a gentle native man, and he shared his story of loss and inspiration. That night, back at Rainbow Beach, the group shrunk to a more intimate size, and everyone took psychedelics and partied like it was the 70's all over again. I admired beautiful and awe inspiring displays of fire spinning with staffs.

On my last day, the grey skies finally opened up and it started to pour. Back at camp, we all worked together to put up more tarps, gather dry wood and keep a fire going. Huddled around the fire, we shared our life stories about how we arrived here in this point in our lives, coming together on this blissful beach in the Canadian wilderness.
Big Beach, Ucluelet

I've watched and been inspired by lots of fire spinning this summer
The next day I picked up a hitchhiking traveler and we connected the whole 4 hour drive to Victoria, swapping travel stories, people stories, good music and positive vibes. We got together later that evening, where she experimented for the first time with psychedelics, while we chatted on the beach.

In Victoria I got together with several friends, continuing the string of meaningful conversations and deepening connections across my entire island trip. I even randomly saw a friend on the bus, who I cherry picked with earlier that year! It's no surprise then that I spent a few more days there than expected, and eventually had to cut fabled Salt Spring Island out of my plans.

Vancouver Island was everything I heard about, and more. Beautiful nature, beautiful people. Here, the further and further I got off the beaten path, the crazier and more wondrous people I run into. And that's just how I like it.
Thanks May, for hosting me near Vic, and connecting about the island and Chinese things!