There’s a definite feel of Autumn in the air, and at long last – perhaps in some elegiac longing for summer – I’m getting down to writing about Buddhafield Festival.
Before I get into what the Generositree (and I) got up to there, I want to say a few things about Buddhafield, itself. In Buddhism, a Buddha-field (Sanskrit: Buddhaksetra) is a place that is in the sphere of influence of a Buddha, or awakened being. That isn’t to say that this being behaves with a god-like omnipotence, but rather that his or her presence influences the place… kind of the way a great teacher creates a certain vibe in which students flourish. In the Mahayana, this vibe definitely carries with it a certain sense of magic, of potential, of transformation.
So Buddhafield Festival, you might say, is a place in which that vibe, which enables a flourishing of the creative and spiritual life, is present. It’s full of Dharma talks, workshops on art, movement, music, transformation. Lots of yoga, meditation, ritual, storytelling, musicians, poetry and dancing. A whole section on permaculture, a fantastic sauna. Kids running around with no shoes, dirty clothes, messy hair, having a great time. There’s an openness between people that enables authentic connection to take place very quickly. I was surprised, coming this year, how many people I recognised from last year – and how memorable our conversations had been (I do think this kind of connection is very much enabled by the fact that it is a dry festival. People are just more present).
I brought the Generositree to Buddhafield Festival, and for two afternoons I set up in the Village Green area, and played with the passers by. I had decorated it a little more, and changed the rules a bit. Previously, I had drawn people in by offering a gift, and invited people to make offerings to the tree… but this seemed a too transactional. Instead, I put up a sign inviting people to join me… And I did… well, whatever I wanted! I vocalised (improvising), I danced, I meditated… and amazingly, people did step into the space. I tried not to use words – only gestures and sounds. I paid attention to their presence, and used that as a basis for where to go next.
With one man, I simply sat with him, and sang quietly.
With a little boy, I danced, and offered him a dancing soldier toy.
One guy and I found many different uses and ways of interacting with a fish-shaped rattle.
And one man was brave enough to let me blindfold him, and we experimented with abstract sounds and embodied movements.
When each person left, I offered them something from the tree that was connected to our experience together. This seemed to really amaze people – in a way that somehow giving the gift in the beginning hadn’t. Some spontaneously came back with gifts (in fact, one man who had simply watched what was happening for a couple of days, decided to offer something!).
I felt that in taking the risk of stepping into the space (and it was really a risk), they had made the greatest offering – offering up their self-consciousness, surrendering to whatever may happen, and freely giving their presence and creativity, without which I would have had a long afternoon of singing on my own.