(Written 8 days ago on Aug 9th) I’m at my second European Rainbow Gathering right now, Day 5, and I love it. This one is in Portugal, and the last one I attended in 2009 was in Ukraine. It is simply wonderful here. There is no commerce allowed here (save for the magic hat being passed around to raucus song after the food circle to collect money for food), and everyone is encouraged to give and share in whatever way they can to make the gathering function. Music abounds everywhere. At any given time, I imagine there are at least 5-10 different musical collaborations happening. So far there are about 1,500 people here (it’s Aug 8th as I write this and I suspect that number will double by the time the full moon arrives on the 13th). The gathering lasts a full lunar cycle peaking at the full moon and waning back down until the new moon arrives again.
It touches something very tribal in me, and I suspect in many of those attending as well. For millenia, life was lived somewhat akin to this, where people shared responsibilities for the common good, gathered to celebrate rituals, taught each other handicrafts and other important skills and ate meals together. Seeing the teepees and tents, communal kitchen, other spaces for various functions (Healing Area, Sacred Area, Children’s Area, Yoga of Nature Area, Shambala etc.), and the thousands of hands joined in a circle at mealtimes, singing and ending in a long Om chant before eating just makes me feel part of something bigger, something more natural, something kinder, something more intentional, something simpler. To boil it down, it feels much more like the way life is supposed to be lived, and it warms my heart to be able to be here and participate.
I’m still settling in here. At first my predominant experience was one of wonder and curiosity. What is this thing here? Who are these people? What is going on? I asked Sonia, whom I am here with, what her experience was like at our first evening food circle. She said it felt like she was “coming home to family.” She’s been to many of these and thus has many “Rainbow Family” members that she has known for many years. This isn’t my family, but I do feel a bit like I’m getting past just dipping my big toe in the water and perhaps am wading in a little above the knee and am beginning to splash about a bit.
I have some friends who every other year take a trip from the states, generally to Europe, to go on a week-long golfing extravaganza, golfing some of the nicest courses in the world. The tab for the trip tends to be in the $5,000 range and I did it once to Scotland about 10 years ago. While the trips are fun, I wish they would somehow leave that world for a week or two and attend one of these Rainbow gatherings. It simply is a mind expander. I love pushing the edges of my boundaries, softening the calcified folds of my mind, and this opportunity to wade around in an entirely different world is truly a mind-expanding blessing and gift.
In the spirit of mind-expansion, I ran upon a man walking backwards the other day on my way toward the food circle. I spun around and joined him for a backward stroll for several hundred meters. As we walked together, we bandied about the various benefits of walking backwards – exercising different muscles, more eye contact with other people, learning to trust, more focus on the present and less on the future, uses different synapses and neural pathways in the brain and nervous system, etc. etc. It was literally and figuratively an entirely new perspective on how I see things. I also have had several conversations with people who have very different worldviews, and I do my best to listen attentively and with curiosity rather than holding fast to the ways in which I have held reality.
I’ve volunteered a couple of times since being here, helping with food preparation in the kitchen, carrying food to the kitchen, and also helping to schlep and prepare some long heavy tree trunks for a communal yippee (a cross between a yurt and a teepee). I find the more that I give, the better I feel. By nature, I struggle some with generosity so this is a great place to practice that expansion. Perhaps this whole rainbow thing is simply a huge experiment in the power of generosity. The amount of volunteer effort expended toward making this gathering not only function,but become a beautiful, sacred event is inspiring. Daily there are at least 20 different workshops and classes that people offer, simply walking around the food circle and announcing their free offerings.
I also love the “Rainbow” of people I’ve met here, so far coming from these countries: Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Poland, Israel, Ukraine, Ireland, France, United States, Canada, and Finland.
What can I say, I’m fluffing out the wrinkles of my inner hippie and I’m loving it.