Reflections on Lucidity Festival 2016

Ryan Mandell Delves Into Dreams, Communal Creativity, and Jarring Late-Night DJ Sets

Since the dawn of civilization, the theory of dreams has enamored and eluded philosophers: Where do they come from? Why do they occur? And if our minds can create realities in our sleep, who is to say that our minds are not simply imagining a reality while we are awake? Here in Santa Barbara, these questions have led a group of counterculture visionaries to imagine the abstract and manifest it into being. Their offspring is an annual transformational music festival and consciousness-expanding playground called Lucidity Festival, held this year over the weekend of April 8-10.

This was my first Lucidity Festival (and first ever campout festival in general) and I had little to no idea what I was getting myself into. Just a few miles up Highway 154 is the Live Oak Camp Ground, a beautiful campsite burrowed in the valleys between the San Raphael and Santa Ynez Mountains. The wilderness alone was enough to place me into a daydream, but add a bounty of kaleidoscopic visuals ranging from colorful Moroccan tents and sanctuaries to mystifying villages, neon-lit stages and a massive fire truck that spews actual fire called the “Pyrobar,” and I really started to believe I was in a lucid dream.

I arrived to the festival a few days earlier than the general population to participate in the Lucidity Festival’s newest installment, The Lucid University Courseweek. The Lucid University consisted of four courses: Art & Creativity, Embodiment and Leadership, Reiki 1&2, and Lucid Dreaming. As you might have guessed by the introductory paragraphs, I chose to participate in the Lucid Dreaming course.

Laurel Lyons (Sohanna), Thomas Peisel, and Richard Hilton were to be my teachers for the course. Each of our teachers were highly accomplished in their own right. Lyons is the founder of her own sacred medicine company called The Origin Medicines, Peisel is the author of one of the most essential and practical books on lucid dreaming called A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming, and Hilton has created multiple online video courses and is the founder of

The course covered everything one needed to know about lucid dreaming, from how to become lucid in a dream, what to expect once one was ‘awake’ in his or her dream, and how a person can dramatically benefit in their personal development and waking life through the practice of dreaming. For me, I just loved being around people that were open to new and exciting ideas. We were a group of misfits, entrepreneurs, spiritualists, yogis, renunciates, and truth-seekers coming together to learn and converse about dreams -– and we were enraptured by them. Experiencing and interpreting our dreams, something that mainstream society often views as trivial and tangential, captivated the totality of our 3-days together.

The students talked about what we all wanted to experience. At first we wanted to fly, to have sexual intercourse with celebrities, and to shoot laser beams out of our eyes, but our teachers shed light on the true power of dreams. They talked about going inward, meditating within our dreams, visualizing our chakras in full Technicolor, calling on our spirit guides, and learning about our greater purpose in this life. Our conversations revolved our spirituality, mysticism, global consciousness, and empathy for each other and man kind. We shared our inner-most selves with each other and valued each other’s individuality, we laughed, hugged, and cried together. It was a very warm experience shared with complete strangers, and it was truly transformative.

But there was a definite shift once the actual festival got started. A bit more madness was added to the magic potion, and the campground turned into a really good party.

In my interview with co-founder and marketing director Jonah Haas before the event, he spoke to the use of alcohol at the festival. “We do not sell alcohol, that has been an intentional choice because Lucidity is all about awake and aware consciousness, and alcohol is a depressant that numbs you,” he said. “So, we don’t sell alcohol, but we don’t tell people that they can’t bring alcohol – people are welcome to bring their own alcohol, we value personal choice. People make their own decisions, but what I have noticed is that you see a much greater percentage of people walking around the festival grounds with awake and sober consciousness.”

First off, I need to preface that my experience was unique because I camped at Nomad’s Nook, which is probably the most intense stage. It is geared mostly towards party animals, it hosts heavy EDM music, and it holds the majority of the late night silent discos for those who want to stay up all night. I guess I’m just more of a Healing Sanctuary type, but fate would place my campsite in this raging K-hole. At first, I thought that this would be a great campsite because we were stationed right next to the Family Gardens, but I was surprised. The night before the actual festival started, the DJ at the Nook decided that midnight would be a good time to do a sound check and see just how loud the speakers could possibly go. My whole tent was shaking, and I ended migrating to the Lucid University to sleep in one the Moroccan tents.

Although my first night was a bit jarring, the next few days got better and the DJs shut the music off at midnight before transitioning into the silent discos. The rest of my festival was very pleasurable. In fact, Nomads Nook was not all party-hardy, and I loved the Pumpkin Tribute show. The music was groovy and more light-hearted than the heavy grime and bass music that was unvaryingly being played at other times. I also enjoyed watching acts like Keller Williams tear apart his keyboard, and local artists like DJ Slothy perform thumping sets. It was an absolute treat to watch fire dancers and ballerina hoopers like Tika Moini light up the main stage whilst DJ Mr. Bill dropped mental beats.

It was so cool to check out the different crystal vendors and to feel a comradery with these people that were open to talking about art, meditation, and anything else often dismissed by mainstream American society. I even attended some personal development workshops and learned how to “live in flow,” from Justin Faerman, founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine.

Overall, the people were kind and jovial, the installments and visuals like the huge light-up dandelion structures by the main stage were absolutely mesmerizing, the music was radical and the food was delicious. It was a completely new and eye-opening experience, and I definitely will attend next year.


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