Coming Soon: Festival Stories

My latest project is a collection of festival stories that take a fun and, sometimes, frightening journey into the fringe! All the stories are based on my true, lived experience. I’ve been compiling these for a few years, and I’m loving the way they’re coming together as a whole. I can’t wait to share some of these wild writings with you!

This collection is my second, coming after Varanasi Sage, which is comprised of true stories that honor our sacred existence and the ordinary miracles manifesting on earth. Varanasi Sage is available in audiobook, paperback, and ebook. Click here for more info!

Photo by JPZ Image

✨ New Audiobook Now Available on Audible! ✨

It’s here!

After months of recording and fine-tuning the words, the Varanasi Sage audiobook is now available on Audible! Varanasi Sage is a series of vignettes that describe the deep connection we can feel with nature and celebrates the ordinary miracles of everyday life. Click here to check it out!

“Walk through nature’s bounty in lyrical, nonfiction prose. Each sensory, rich, hypnotic step illuminates time and place, navigating nature’s creation in contrast to man’s destruction. Written in a series of vignettes, Varanasi Sage honors our sacred existence and ancestral communications through the unseen power that connects all. Varanasi Sage explores life, death, and the ordinary miracles manifesting on earth. Journey the depths of self-discovery to find the truest self, connected and whole.”

Soon, it’ll also be on iTunes!

If you want a quick sample, click play on the icon below to hear one of my favorite chapters, A Call to Vision.

Burning Intentions 2019

I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.

Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:

    Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
    Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
    Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
    Deepen into a gratitude practice

If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!

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Burning Intentions 2018

It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.

This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.

I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.

My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.

May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!

The Inside Joke

After a full day building camp, several friends formed a group to go out. Of course I wanted to join! I grabbed my necessities (headlamp, toilet paper, goggles, emergency champagne) and hopped on my bike. As we turned onto the esplanade, art installations rose from the dust as far as I could see. I lagged to catch glimpses of them as we passed. Art or friends? Art or friends? Curiosity pulled at me. 
And then — we approached a pier. 
Group mission be damned! This was the emptiest the playa would be for the rest of the week, and soon the pier would be crammed with tourists.
I stopped and put my feet onto the dust. I pulled the scarf off my mouth and called to my friends: “Guys! I’m stopping to look at art!” Either they didn’t hear me or didn’t care.
Except for Kitten, my faithful companion.
“I can’t keep passing art installations. It’s our first night out,” I looked towards our group; they had already blended in with the other blinking lights.
“We have all week to find music, but we only have a week to look at art,” Kitten dismounted his bike.
We stepped onto the pier. Nets and ropes hung between posts, hammocks swayed beneath the boardwalk. A long string of lights romanced me. I hooked my arm into Kitten’s.
The boards creaked under our footsteps — just like the old boardwalks I’ve wandered along in seaside towns. And for a moment, when I relaxed my eyes and looked up, it felt like we were at the sea. But looking down, seeing the dry lake bed below us, I thought of the sheer genius and manpower it must have taken to build this dock — from the concept to the design to bringing the materials and assembling them in the middle of nowhere without basic amenities like running water. 
We arrived at the midway tower. We leaned in to view its inner intricacies. Some people were gathered on the upper level; I’d be willing to bet they were drinking whiskey.
“Want to go up?” Kitten asked.
“Not particularly.” I felt content looking inside the tower at the details that made it seem more like a relic than a modern piece of art. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I knew only in turn-of-the-century novels. Antique photographs, compasses, hourglasses, bound books, and glass bottles — in all colors, sizes and shapes — the scene piqued my curiosity to touch and pick up the items. Every detail existed for exploration, a mystery to be revealed, a reverie in which to lose oneself. It was a living, breathing piece of art that transported us to a different time and place. The curiosity, the wonder of it all, put me back into the frame of mind of a child: everything was new and strange and deeply interesting.
On the other side of the tower, we found an antique desk — the kind in which the door to the main compartment folds down to become the writing surface. My literary heart skipped a beat. 
“And what could be inside?” My curiosity whispered with glee. 
When I opened it, I found the cubbies, that once may have organized papers and mail, were filled with antique glass bottles. How odd. I touched a few, pulling them out of the compartments and examining their details, trying to understand their riddle. And then — I found one that contained a piece of paper.
“A message in a bottle!” I gasped. I lifted it with awe. The bottle’s long, skinny neck was jagged at the top. “What kind of message do you think it is? Profound wisdom?” 
Kitten shrugged.
I slowly put my index finger into the bottle, careful not to touch the toothlike edge, but my fingertip barely reached the paper. I pushed in a little more until the base of my finger rested against the pointed teeth. I could only move the paper around in circles along the side of the bottle. The shape of the neck made it impossible to drag the paper out.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Kitten warned. “We are in the middle of nowhere and it’s dirty. You’ll want a working hand for the rest of the week.”
I sighed and pulled my finger out. “I’m just too curious.” I turned the bottle over and around, trying to see if I could read the message from the outside, but the paper was folded in half. Even more mysterious. I inverted the bottle and shook it, but the paper wouldn’t fall out.
“Oh well, let’s go,” Kitten said. “Slicing your finger is a bad way to start your Burn.”
“Let me try one more thing.”
I held the bottle so the paper was at the very base of the neck. I put my finger back in and pressed the paper firmly against the glass. It slid along the edge, I almost got it passed the base of the neck, but it slipped back. 
“Leave it, come on, there’s a lot more to look at,” Kitten said. “There’s bottles everywhere. Just look at all these bottles over here.” He motioned to a couple of antique suitcases behind us with bottles on top of them.
 “I have to know what it says!” I insisted. “I can’t just find a message in a bottle in a desk on the dock in the middle of the desert and just — walk away without knowing what it says! A message in a bottle at Burning Man. Who knows what it says? Maybe it’s written by the artist.”
I turned the bottle a little more, got my hand on the side with the shortest teeth and finally — I had the paper sliding up the neck and out of the bottle! I held it in my hand like it was a golden scroll of truth. “Yes!” I said to Kitten, my eyes wild with excitement.
I unfurled the paper and paused. I was hungry for the message I worked so hard to receive, but needed a deep breath. Delayed gratification.
“Come on, open it,” Kitten said.
I opened the paper. 
I read it aloud: “Go Fuck Yourself.”
Kitten and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oh that is good,” I said as I caught my breath.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Kitten smiled.
“A special message from the artist,” I joyfully mocked myself as I folded the message and rolled it back up. “A message just for me! How absurd.” I laughed as I placed the paper back in the bottle, making sure it was all the way in for the next person.“Well worth the effort, I say.”
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Kitten agreed.
I put the bottle back exactly where I found it and closed the desk.
Kitten and I continued our walk along the creaking pier to the very end. I looked out at the playa — illuminated art installations dotted the landscape — and I realized this pier was on an endless sea of wonder.

“The Pier” by Gurps Chawla

Burning Intentions 2017

It’s late and I’m watching the newly-waxing moon set in the west. I’m driving through the mountains, en route to Black Rock City for Burning Man. This will be my third time participating in the art and music festival. 
Last year, I set intentions that mainly focused on my interactions with other people. And although they were extremely elevated, I saw and felt my intentions manifest in some of my experiences.
I’ve been humbled and challenged this past year — especially recently — and my intentions reflect my need for deep nourishment and reflection.
To share our intentions is to empower them. Please read mine below:
I intend to reestablish my relationship with my creativity; to fully engage with the art installations at the festival and allow myself to be inspired and motivated by them. I need to reset my relationship with my creativity in order to create for creation’s sake without the desire to be seen, popular or make money. This will afford me the freedom I need in my artistic pursuits. I must reconnect with my truth that God’s gift to me is my creativity and my gift back to God is using it.
I intend to be open to receiving the keys I need to enhance my productivity and fulfillment.
I intend to continue the process of letting go of the pain and hurt I hold onto by releasing the people and events from my heart that continue to cause me suffering.
This year, I would like to feel and witness the expansive love that is my true essence, so that I will know who I am.


Photo by Juan P. Zapeda last year at Burning Man.

Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering

Courtney W, creator of Threaded Vibes, invited me to guest write for her blog; as a fan of her work, I eagerly agreed. Check out my guest post covering the Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering:

Symbiosis Gathering came in at the end of California’s festival season right on the heels of Burning Man. Though it cannot compare with the Burn, Symbiosis Gathering did not disappoint. Perhaps what set Symbiosis apart from most other curated festivals was the venue — located on the Woodward Reservoir, the festival grounds stretched along an amoeba-shaped patch of land surrounded by water. Each stage had its own plot utilizing the natural curvature of the water and land to create separate spaces; some stages required access by bridge. One stage, the Atoll, floated on a barge, and attendees either swam to it or arrived on a box-boat attached to a rope. Hosting world-class art, incredible day parties, and spectacular performers, Symbiosis reached the pinnacle of a curated festival experience.
My favorite aspect of the festival was engaging and interacting with new people. I loved listening to their stories and witnessing them open their hearts — despite the many festivals I attend each year, this never gets old. The outfits many festival-goers wore delighted me. Onesies, sparkles, bright colors and nuevo-tribal ran the show. Seeing people express themselves in weird and wonderful ways gave me an unparalleled joy; it harkened to the radical self-expression at Burning Man that I love so dearly.
I had the pleasure of meeting two young men who had just bought and put on their first pair of manties (men’s booty shorts), which have become wildly popular among festi-men. “Manties give me an incredible sense of freedom,” one of the men told me. The other added, “I don’t know why I didn’t try these earlier in the season.” And isn’t that the best part of festival fashion? It frees us from the confines of ordinary fashion and allows us to try new forms of expression.
Here are some of my favorite fashion statements from the weekend:

Source: Festival Street Styles of Symbiosis Gathering –

Of Feathers and Festivals: Lucidity 2016

When a friend encouraged me to explore the manifestation process, I quickly learned the basic premise is that we can attract our desires by entering into a meditative state and then picturing and feeling that our desire has manifested in our life. 

I heard a potent piece of advice: to build confidence in the process, manifest things that have very little consequence. In other words, you want it, but you don’t have any emotional attachments to getting it.

Following this advice, one of the first things I wanted was to find a large feather on one of my nature walks. I meditated everyday and often brought the feather to my mind; I pictured it as a large, striped feather resting on the side of the path, easy for me to see and reach — as if it were waiting for me. I would meditate and feel the happiness this feather would evoke when it appeared.

About a month later, while walking a familiar path, I found a large, striped owl feather! It was resting right side up, just off of the path, as if it was waiting for me. I literally jumped for joy. I never could have predicted the total and complete happiness I felt when I found this feather. At that moment, the feather represented a universe in dialogue with me; that my spirit and the Spirit of Creation were co-creating. In that moment, Creation told me we were in this life together!

I have found countless feathers since then, some large and some small, but all a communication from Spirit, reminding me of It’s Presence and willingness to co-create. 

Last weekend, I went to Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, California. I love transformational festivals and Lucidity is one of my favorites because it is a small, homegrown festival and many of my friends attend every year. One of the most beautiful aspects of a transformational festival is the change that happens within revelers mirrors the transformation of the festival grounds. 

Lucidity is located on the Live Oak Campground and I love the way organizers use the oaks to display art, honor the Divine, and accentuate the beauty of the human and nature connectivity. One of my favorite villages, Lover’s Nest, seems to be built around a particularly gorgeous oak — she looks regal and majestic with her large twisted branches spreading out like arms ready to enfold us all. The organizers of Lover’s Nest filled their space with abalone shells, draping fabrics, beads, flowers, artwork and sculptures that invited love. It was the perfect melding of Nature, Spirit and humans. It showed the way that humans can co-create with Nature to evoke beauty and Spirit.

On Sunday night, the last night of the festival, I walked along the grounds with my sweetheart from our camp to hear the late-night music at Lover’s Nest. To my surprise, on our walk, I spotted a large, white feather on the ground! I picked it up and saw gold glitter adorned the top of the feather. Someone had taken the time and made the effort to glue glitter onto this feather — for their own delight and for the delight of all who would see it. My sweetheart and I joked that it was a feather off the elusive festi-bird.

I held the feather to the sky and drank its beauty with my heart and mind — a perfect symbol of the festival — glittering, sparkling, reflecting the light; natural, yet enhanced; an expression of art and love co-created by a person and Creation. I loved it immensely. I knew this feather had found its way to me, letting me know I was seen and heard by the Creator. What’s more, it almost felt like it was just for me — I’m usually wearing white and gold at a festival. 

When my sweetheart and I landed at Lover’s Nest, we put our blanket down to sit and listen to the serenade and watch the night sky. I held the feather close to my heart. Eventually, we laid down, completely smitten with the music, our surrounding environment, and each other. I placed the feather on the ground between us.   

Sadly, when we arose from our reverie, I could not find the feather! It was as if it had vanished into thin air. For a few minutes, I became sad. I felt as though I had not treasured the feather enough, perhaps I had not valued the gift enough. Why didn’t I hold onto it for dear life, or put it in my bag for safe keeping? It was a communication from the beloved Spirit and I had been careless with it. When I thought about why I was sad to lose it, however, I realized I may have lost the note, but I got the message. And really, the  spirit of the festi-feather should be known by as many as possible — passed into as many hands as possible, not just mine. Losing the feather was a reminder to me to love without attachment, and to appreciate every moment.

What’s more, attending festivals (and finding feathers) are experiences — we can’t hold onto them. Each festival is exciting and exhibits unique artwork; new and special people appear at each festival to give us important insights, laughs and friendship; each festival holds beautiful and incredible experiences as beautiful and incredible as the outlandish outfits people wear; and even though I often want to hold onto the festival, I never want them to end, the festival-goers must disband and the installations must be taken down. 

Ultimately, like my feather, festivals disappear in the wind without a trace, leaving only their treasured memory.

Below you’ll see a photo and video (of my friend Nikki and I at Lucidity) taken by my new friend, Courtney, the creator and visionary of Threaded Vibes. Naturally, we met Courtney this year at Lucidity.
 

Love will find a way; photo by Courtney W; threadedvibes.com/blog
 

  

Linney

Linney, now the media director for her local NORML chapter and no longer homefree, introduced me to the glamsient lifestyle. We met at my friend James’ Lightning in a Bottle pre-party.

When I walked onto the property, she was sitting with James and a few others next to the salt-water pool. Everyone was in festi-attire. Each unique, yet typical: cat ears, gypsy pants, leggings, crop tops, tie dye, faux fur. 

Linney stood out. She wore a crown made with large pieces of smokey quartz crystal and a see-through little black dress. Gold jewelry sparkled on her ears, neck and wrists; a diamond ring on her right hand glittered in the sun. A long, pashmina scarf draped from her shoulders. She poured a glass of red wine.

James gave me a bear hug when I walked up, but he was mostly preoccupied with his mirror, so I sat down next to Linney.

“Hello!” she smiled. Her teeth glittered like her diamond ring. “Want some wine?”

“I’d love some.”

“Here,” she handed me the glass she had just filled. “I’m Linney.”

“Chelsea,” I said.

“How do you connect with us?” she poured herself a glass of wine.

“I know James. He gave me a ticket.”

“Me too! I think he’s bringing most of us here. He gave his favorite broke friends tickets. Cause he wants us to be there with him.”

“Seriously?” I couldn’t believe it. “How many of us?”

“Maybe, like, ten or fifteen.”

I did the math in my head — more than $3,000 on tickets for his friends. Damn. Wow. Here I was thinking I was special.

Linney laughed, “he’s the best kind of eccentric rich guy: generous.”

“Indeed… To James,” I said, raising my glass.

“To James!” she tapped my glass with hers. “The only reason we’re here.”

“So, you’re broke, too? Hard to believe.”

Linney laughed. “Yep. I’m a hobo!”  

“No way! Me, too!” I laughed along with her.

“You are?! Oh em gee. James finds all the bohemian strays and gives us homes.”

“That’s so funny. I thought I was the only one who lived on his land.”

“Almost everyone here lives on one of his properties. He has so many. You can tell the ones who don’t because they are his rich friends.”

“I would’ve thought you were one of his rich friends!”

“Really?” She looked earnestly into my eyes. 

“Yes! Absolutely!”

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed at the sky, “I’m rich in fun!” 

 

Cairns at Lightning in a Bottle