The tradition of the Summer festival
It is the brightest fire of the year, June 21; the longest day; the shortest night; a time spiritual communities have celebrated for thousands of years. This is the Summer Solstice Sadhana, and in June of 1969, the 3HO began its tradition of gathering from all over the world for celebrating with Kundalini Yoga, meditation, and White Tantric Yoga.
In Europe, the first festival was held in Loche (France) in 1977 and soon it was growing to become the high point of the year for hundreds of teachers and students throughout Europe, and was a time to meet teachers from all over the world, peers and friends, and was indeed a rare opportunity in Europe.
BY GURBASANT SINGH
My first EYF in Loche (France) was in 1985. there were about 200 to 250 people at that time.
Every year there were about 50 more, until 1999, the last year in Loches, and the last visit of Yogi Bhajan to the festival, there were almost 900 people! The grounds were bursting at the seams!
I can still remember very well the following incident from my first festival, which reflects quite well the mood and energy of those days:
I always hitchhiked there, including this very first time, and all I knew from my two yoga teachers at the time was: “a bit outside Loches, in a small chateau with a forest, in front of it is a field of sunflowers”.
When i got a ride to Loches, I told the driver the “precise” description of my yoga teachers with my few words of French… who then threw me out at a crossroads outside the town, slightly annoyed, by which time it was about 10.30 pm.
There was still some remaining twilight, I recognized the outline of a castle on a hill and thought “that must be it” – so I went up there, but it turned out to be only a ruin… I decided to unroll my sleeping bag there and sleep for a while
The next morning I was woken up very early by a few raindrops and walked back down the hill, where I also saw the described big sunflower fields – so I walked straight across the field towards them.
On the right, well hidden behind an avenue of very large, old trees (very beautiful!), I recognized a kind of old tower, and when I looked there – as if perfectly ordered! – a person with a white turban was stretching out of the upper window, who must have seen me and gestured for me to turn around the field to get in.
Then I came up the beautiful avenue driveway, a few hundred meters, I recognized the gate, enthroned with the large and impressive “Tantric Mandala” sign, below another sign “Kundalini Yoga Festival”.
I knew then that I was in the right place – it was all very easy, and without a navigation system etc.
Through the gate, immediately on the left was the large Sadhana meadow, when suddenly it started to pour like a bucket… I walked on quickly, but then had to stop in amazement: there were a lot of people sitting on the sadhana field, despite the heavy rain (no tent, nothing), on the stage a man with a guitar who kept chanting and playing the guitar, asking people to stay seated and continue meditating – it sounded: “Keep up! Keep Up!” (it must have been the last meditation).
And indeed, only a few people left, most of them stayed seated and chanted blithely and got rained on – I was really impressed by this “keep up” attitude!
So I walked on leisurely, also letting myself get rained on and thought: great that I’m here, what a reception – and how we are all one under this rain.
At the same time, I felt – in a very real way – a wonderful, warm and powerful energy flowing through me – that “magical” energy of this special place, which I felt again and again in the following years as soon as I entered the grounds. No matter how tired or worn out you felt, it was always like diving into a fountain of youth.
And with me, many others – for we often exchanged ideas about this effect and were delighted each time, even years later, that it was still the case.
“Magical” really sums it up best – and so was the energy of those festivals in Loches, even when I was then working a lot (first setup, then buyer, then Grounds Manager + Bazaar…) – somehow you always got a good boost of positive energy as soon as you were at the festival or just entered the grounds.
What I also found interesting at my first festivals was that somehow you really did greet everyone directly sooner or later, and everyone met and behaved like one big, benevolent family.