Discovering the Full Spectrum of What It Means to Be Human at Envision Festival 2023
After a three-year hiatus, like-minded individuals from around the world rejoiced in the utopian jungles of Costa Rica.
Envision Festival encourages those who feel the call to simply "Come as You Are," in the words of the late Kurt Cobain.
While inclusivity is a common theme for most events these days, no collective can encapsulate the full spectrum of what it truly means to be a human quite like Envision. A bold statement, yes. But after attending this year's edition of the award-winning destination festival, let us break it down.
Globally renowned as "much more potent than just a good party," each year Envision is intentionally curated to instill a sense of oneness via eye-opening experiences. It's easy to get disconnected by the mundane minutiae of day-to-day life, overlooking the reality that each and every one of us plays a vital role in the wellbeing of the collective.
Sometimes we just need to disengage in order to reconnect with that truth.
Taking a closer look, the festival's bedrock comprises seven pillars: Sustainability, Education, Art, Health, Movement, Spirituality and, of course, Music.
The experience is a natural draw for most due to founder Josh Wendel's impressive curation of both local and international talent. But the sonics only make up a fraction of what the weeklong adventure has to offer at Envision's stunning home in Uvita, Costa Rica.
2023's expansion from a four-day festival to a weeklong event gave attendees ample time to take it all in. In years prior, those who opted to stay up late and dance the night away were often too tired to indulge in Envision's transformative daytime activities. By spreading out the workshops, yoga classes and performances, you could enjoy the best of both worlds, should you choose.
Finding your divine feminine inner healer
At 10am on Tuesday morning, dozens of women gathered in the Red Tent. A safe space designated for women only, the structure was beautifully adorned with red and white silk tapestries draped across the bamboo framework for privacy.
Speaking from experience, I can't recall the last time that I sat with a group of all women—total strangers, might I add—and everyone shared so vulnerably about themselves. In this "Finding Your Divine Feminine Inner Healer" workshop, the Gaia Guardians prompted us with questions to ponder in small groups.
The conversations were designed for us to discuss what we believe our greatest power is—and in what ways we may be holding ourselves back.
Instead of feeling judged—as women so often are in society—we were all there to support one another and help elucidate some deep-seated beliefs. It's tough to describe just how profound it was to unravel our perceived truths alongside other females in a safe and supportive sanctuary. It was ineffable.
When we come together, it feels safe to unlock our divine feminine, inner wild woman.
Lotus flower ceremony
On Wednesday morning, we were treated to an educational lotus flower ceremony. The lotus is an iconic symbol in Eastern cultures, revered for its beauty and purity. This aquatic plant has been used for centuries in various religions and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, where it is considered a sacred flower.
Apart from its spiritual significance, the lotus flower is also admired for its medicinal properties. The plant is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making it a valuable ingredient in traditional medicine.
After learning about the plant and sharing extracts to taste and try on our skin, workshop host Ilup Gravengaard guided the group in an angel circle. The group formed two circles, one inside the other, while its members walked in the middle with their eyes close. Those who formed the outer circle shared compliments and affirmations, and physically guided their blinded group members through the circles back to their original spots.
On Wednesday night, Stephen Brooks, one of Envision Festival's co-founders, and his partner Andrea Belen hosted a sacred Cacao Ceremony at Templo de las Estrellas.
All-natural, ceremonial-grade cacao—cocoa in its raw, unprocessed form—is packed full of vitamins and minerals. And a Cacao Ceremony is a ritual that has been practiced for centuries as a means to keep us centered and connected.
By consuming it, we can enter into euphoric states, and negative emotions dissipate as we connect to ourselves and the loving energy around us.
In Costa Rican native culture, respect for nature is ingrained in everyday life. The act of planting trees is regarded as a sacred responsibility.
The government has set ambitious targets for reforestation and carbon neutrality, and they've implemented numerous initiatives to promote sustainable practices. Envision partnered with local environmentalist groups Tierra Mía and CostasVerdes to help do their part to contribute to this goal.
After we heard the story of how Envision started this program, the local indigenous community made a blessing and a group of over 50 volunteers followed them as they walked to the site before planting trees. A small contribution in theory, but one that will last forever.
Remember how to play
Another memorable experience was a movement class called "Remember How To Play," hosted by Emelie Rose and soundtracked by Costa Rican beatsmith Funka.
For this class, everyone in attendance was reminded of the importance of not taking life too seriously. We were encouraged to slow down and connect with our inner child by playing leap frog, freeze tag and skipping, among other activities. It was remarkable to see nostalgia elicit such an emotional and energized response.
This workshop was held in a beautiful, shaded area of the festival grounds, surrounded by trees and the sounds of nature. The group consisted of people from all walks of life, united by a desire to improve their communication skills and build stronger relationships.
The workshop started with a group meditation before its participants were asked to share their biggest mistakes when communicating with partners from their past.
The main exercise involved roleplaying different scenarios such as an argument over finances or a disagreement about plans for the evening. The guide provided thoughtful, tangible advice on how to express issues in a specific and objective way, which helps when trying to understand their needs and concerns.
Standout performances included Ruby Chase, a DJ, rapper and singer who had a spellbinding stage presence. She blended hip-hop, Latin, trap, downtempo and house music as a captivating crew of dancers gyrated in coordinated outfits.
The Lapa Stage came alive with the entrancing tribal and Afro-house grooves of EDM.com Class of 2023 star AMÉMÉ and the funky disco flavors of The Sponges. Meanwhile, the Luna Stage—with its humanoid stage design and mind-blowing projection-mapping—hosted outstanding performances from the likes of Bonobo, Opiuo, Maddy O'Neal and Daily Bread, among others.
Envision Festival returns March 4-11, 2024. You can find out more here.