Thursday, August 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—241: The Wake Up Festival: A Story of Healing

“Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.”—Anonymous  

This is a post by Mae Esteban Hasse, a special person who is going through a healing time in here life and found much inspiration in Estes Park, Colorado at the Wake Up Festival. I'm sure Mae would appreciate your comments here. Here's her post:

 That's a quote that I recently saw on one of the many images that is shared on Facebook.  It called to me.  Why? I'm not sure.  But I guess it has to do with Katherine's recent question to all of us.  “What inspires you?” When I saw that, I quickly answered, “The Wake Up Festival.”  And so I reflected on this some more and what I came up with is what is written here.
First off, what is the Wake Up Festival?  To quote from their website: “When we touch a limitless sense of being – vast, open, undivided – we paradoxically become more uniquely ourselves, more empowered, and on fire to bring forward our unique gifts.  We wake up to our courage, to our authenticity, and to claiming our own value in the world.  The Wake Up Festival explores this awakening from a wide range of different perspectives, and is an event like no other.”  Sounds pretty amazing, right? When I first heard about it last spring, I knew I had to go.  Different teachings all in one place.  I LOVE learning about spirituality in different traditions and this was a smorgasbord of traditions.  So I registered and booked my plane ticket to the beautiful location of Estes Park, CO where the festival was held from Aug 14th thru Aug 18th.  There was no way I was going to miss this.
Well, it turned out the Universe was taking care of me.  Why? Because up until about three weeks ago, I thought I had the closest to perfect life one could have.  (I'm a realist; I know there's no such thing as perfection.)  I have a wonderful life with two beautiful children, a nice home, a fulfilling career as a hospice nurse, and I get to travel now and then, with my most recent trip just this past spring visiting Belize.  I also had an amazing husband.  Yes, I used the past tense of have.  My husband of almost 9 years recently told me (in the middle of a date!) that he wanted a divorce. Suddenly everything went dark and there was limitless silence and stillness.
Approximately two and a half weeks after getting this devastating news, I boarded a plane and headed out to the festival with a lot of heartache. Of course, I still wanted to go but to say I was lacking enthusiasm would be an understatement.  Up until that point, I was literally taking life one moment at a time, one breath at a time.  There was no other way to survive.  But this is when the miracle happened.  This is when things turned around.  During the five days I spent approximately 8000 feet above sea level with some of the greatest teachers, I was given the profound gift of starting to heal.  I cried a lot and I laughed a lot.  I began to understand that this was a path that had to be taken.  I came back to my home with an open heart and an open mind.  I received many messages from the Universe, the Divine, the Spirit-That-Moves-in-All-Things, God, or whatever you want to call it.  I was beginning to transform.  So what exactly did happen there? I will try my best to capture the magic. 
First, there's the teachers and the teachings.  So many intelligent, honest, and beautiful souls.  So many wise words.  Many of the presenters were so down-to-earth and approachable. They each gave me a gift in their own  way.  There was Rumi.  He wasn't at the festival but for several days beforehand, I felt like I was being wooed by him and was getting messages from him through the space and time continuum.  Heck, I completely freaked out when I was in the Denver airport about to walk out to catch my shuttle bus and there on the airport wall was a quote from him.  Was anyone else seeing this?!? So I shared this with the sufi teacher Salima Adelstein.  She has a radiance about her and while talking and reflecting with her, I realized that I needed to open my heart more to the my Beloved. 
There was poet, writer, and spiritual teacher Mark Nepo.  He held a workshop about finding our authentic voice and understanding stories.  During it, I realized that maybe I got too comfortable with life.  Maybe I just let the fire within die down because, well, I had it good.  Silly me.  But Mark Nepo made me rethink what was/is my authentic voice.  What IS that fire in me? Sometimes, as Mark says, there's a huge difference between the story we're in and the story we tell ourselves.  Is that what was going on with me? I don't know.  There's a lot of things to consider. I shared with Mark my own current story and thoughts and he was such a compassionate listener.  Many times throughout the rest of the festival, whenever I saw him, I would receive such a comforting hug or hand squeeze.
An especially powerful workshop that I did was a yoga class entitled “Yoga for the Broken Hearted” with the passionate Seane Corn.  Now let me remind you that I registered back in the spring when I thought life was close to perfect.  I didn't have a broken heart.  But I've always enjoyed Seane's classes and so I signed up for this one.  Little did I know that I would actually be needing it.  Part of the class was spent talking, with Seane leading the way and telling us about her own grief from the loss of her father.  We all shared our stories, me included.  I shared the deep pain I was feeling of not only losing my husband but of also losing the dream of staying with the one man after marriage, after children, and gracefully growing old together.  It was one of many powerful moments during the festival where I learned that I didn't own pain or grief.  No one does.  By hearing others' stories, I could feel my pain mixing in with theirs and suddenly we were all in pain.  It became a community pain and we all held it for each other and honored it for what it was.  I am so grateful to Seane for her work in trying to normalize grief and to make the world understand that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
There were many other presenters and teachings that touched me.  David Whyte read some of his poems to us one evening and I felt like he had written it just for me.  Tears rolled down my face as he read about the journey, the pilgrimage we all take.  He read about being left with nothing but a narrow piece of ground to start anew and how we need to start close in.  Snatam Kaur's angelic voice sang about being carried across an ocean to find peace.  Wyoma taught us African dance moves that mirror life – one small step back followed by one large leap forward.  Sandra Ingerman led us through two shamanic journeys where I received incredible messages from my spirit guide and power animal.  Donna Eden, with her radiant joy, blew my mind with her introduction to energy medicine.  All these presenters and teachings were so unique and yet they all carried the same messages.  And what I loved about this festival was that not one presenter said their path was the only true path.  They were all so encouraging and respectful of each other.  I even saw one of the presenters attending another's workshop.  I loved seeing the beginner's mind in a master.
The message of love that Rumi started went even further during the festival.  There was one day where it hit me again...and again...and again.  I am God.  God is Me.  You are God.  God is You.  I attended a couple sessions with Rabbi Rami Shapiro and during one of those sessions, I learned that one of the ways that God's name is written in Hebrew looks like the stick figure of a man.  He had us work in partners and draw the lettering on each other's bodies.  Then he shared one of the most beautiful stories I heard from the festival.  According to mystic Judaism, we are each assigned an angel.  Not a guardian angel to tell us what to buy or not buy.  But an angel who's sole purpose is to walk before us and yell, “Behold! Here comes Divinity.”  And our homework in life is to listen for those angels and to see the Divine beings before us.  For you see, the more you are able to do this, the more it will reflect back to you and you will see your own divinity.  
After hearing this, the rest of my day went on to reinforce that I am God and God is Me.  I listened to author Sera Beak's story of finding her own divinity as she spoke about her autobiographical novel entitled Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic's Love Story.  She has quite the love story with her Red Lady.  Immediately after her talk, Seane Corn was on stage sharing her story about how she found God at the age of 17 in a gay sex club called “Heaven” located in Manhattan.  I would not do her justice by repeating her story but suffice to say that she learned that we individuals are all God.  My heart began to swell in ways never imagined.  Through the broken cracks, love began to pour in.
But I have not yet spoken about the community, the other attendees who were also searching.  Despite the fact that many of us were strangers to each other, we all shared an openness that I had never felt elsewhere.   After Seane's workshop, a woman I never met came running up to me to share that she found out that her husband was cheating on her after years of couple's therapy and she was afraid to go back to the “real” world after the festival because she said no one knew.  I held and honored her pain and I think that was all she truly needed and wanted.  We hugged, wished each other well, and parted.  In the middle of a different talk, someone called my name.  I didn't recognize her but she recognized me again from Seane's workshop and as she squeezed my hand, she wished my a peaceful path.  One day during lunch I sat with a stranger named Ed who so happened to also be going through a divorce.  Even one of the presenters (whom I wish to keep anonymous out of respect to that individual) shared during one of the presentations that his own marriage of 30 years was dissolving.  I cried as I watched and felt the pain on his face.  I am so grateful to this community of strangers, who became my sisters and brothers, for allowing me to be vulnerable with them and for sharing their vulnerability with me.  I truly believe that it is only through vulnerability that we are able to deeply connect.
Some of these strangers I became friends with and we exchanged email addresses and reconnected on Facebook.  Monica from Victoria, B.C. and Tommy from Hawaii both shared with me their fears during a Tara Brach workshop.  Don from Maine became a kindred spirit whom I shared heartfelt stories and deep conversations with.  And David, dear David, danced in ecstatic joy with me during the Cosmic Mass (an event that deserves a different blog entry all on its own) and he held my hand and cried with me during a meditation exercise led by Jack Kornfield.  The Wake Up Festival community, but these individuals specifically, helped me both grieve and heal in such a deep, profound way that I did not expect.  I am thankful to them beyond anything words can convey.
There are many other stories from the five days that I could write about but I think it's time to go back to Katherine's question.  “What inspires me?”   The Wake Up Festival inspires me
….because it was a diverse community that respected and honored the many traditions towards Truth.
….because it was a community of strangers that became One and held each other's hopes and fears.
….because it showed me that we all have stories and that those stories can change at anytime, and that our stories are connected to the One Story.
….because it showed me that I was a person of faith, believing in the inherent goodness of the Universe and therefore able to see the light with my heart despite the outward appearance of darkness.
….because it showed me that I am God and God is Me.  I am my Beloved.  
….because it showed me that I still love my husband and that I will grieve for this loss at different times and different places until eternity.
….because it showed me that I also love myself and that there's a Phoenix Process going on.  I may not know what it is exactly, but I feel it and it's exciting.  There is hope.  There is trust.

Have you ever been to an event or festival that changed your life?


  1. What a beautiful, open, honest, and loving description of the Wake Up Festival and the waking up and healing in your own heart, Mae. We all grieve, and by sharing our grief and bringing it to the light, we move through it to healing, honoring the ones we love who are gone, whether through death or divorce or abandonment.
    And I love your observation that our vulnerability is how we truly and deeply connect with others. The open-heartedness that was encouraged, and indeed became the norm, at the festival was an unexpected gift beyond the rich teachings.
    I too was warmed by these wise spiritual teachers going to each other's workshops, listening and learning with the rest of us, sharing in the experience fully.
    But mostly I was warmed by the connections with other participants, encouraged by the festival leaders and embraced naturally by those who were there. Present. In the moment.
    I am grateful that it is staying with you upon your return home and celebrate the Phoenix that is rising within you. Blessings in abundance, dear one. Julie

  2. Ms.Jenkins, a lovely read a serious travelogue, an on the road dialogue, tis zen in the Arts of Then and Now, dissolution and disintegration, Sunrise in the Storm of Monday...well said, expressed from your tell tale within...o that the words of your mouth and meditations may find a pleasing place to rest upon the ears of a Creator