Theta-healed by a plant-eating Swede: notes from Bali Vegan Festival
We are not going to lie, it was bit of a spending to get tickets for Bali Vegan Festival; an investment we had to deal with if we wanted to meet inspirational people, take part in well-curated workshops and attend remarkable lectures. So we went! With excited hearts and empty wallets, we landed in Ubud, ready for 4th edition of Bali Vegan Festival.
Bali Vegan Festival has been around since 2015, and with its 4th edition, expectations were higher, and the festival itself expanded with a second location. This year it covered two weekends, starting in Ubud (October 5 - 7th), and then popping up in surf village of Canggu (October 12 - 14th).
We only went for the first weekend and attended talks, workshops, cooking demos and sunrise dance classes. On Friday, the first day of the festival, we wanted to attend the highly-advertised “Balinese Opening Ceremony”. Best WOMB style, we slightly overslept and arrived late, yet still within the timeframe of the event. An extremely bored volunteer greeted us phlegmatically, and when asked about the opening ceremony, she could not really tell us what or where it was. Luckily, a colleague of hers stepped in and informed us that a burning piece of incense stick I could see lying on the ground was basically what the ceremony was about and as soon as they had lit the incense stick, the show was over.
Slightly disappointed, we decided to come back for workshops later and treated ourselves with a raw breakfast at The Seeds of Life. After the hearty morning bite, we went to explore the marketplace of Bali Vegan Festival. Located on a temple ground, it had a beautiful vibe, and hosted, not too many, but a fair selection of vendors, selling everything from food and drinks to zero-waste gadgets and a few non-profit stalls promoting various vegan initiatives or guides. The marketplace was free for everyone to enter, however we were probably there too early to be able to judge how big and how diversified the audience really was.
Moving on, we made our way back to Taksu to attend a workshop on Theta-healing. Led by Erika Johansson - an extremely charismatic Swedish lady, the workshop explained more about working with Theta brainwaves. The moment of truth came when the audience was asked if someone wanted to be the guinea pig for a public (!) healing session. Few moments later, Maria was sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage, sharing her fears and doubts with the Swedish practitioner and a room full of plant-eating strangers. In Theta healing one uses body-tests (muscle provokation tests) to determine whether we perceive some statements (about ourselves or about the world) as true or false. The practitioner worked on reversing some of Maria’s unhealthy thoughts, and in the end of the session - according to the very reaction of her own muscles - Maria was free of some negative assumptions.
Saturday’s workshops were more food-focused, however the day for us started with a session of “Sunrise Dancing” - a morning session of silent disco, crazy moves and beautiful people. It tuned us for the rest of the day, and prepared for a cooking demo with Max La Manna (who recorded a special greeting for all WOMB followers, did you spot that on our IG stories?) as well as a workshop on gut health with stunning, radiant with positive energy Petra EatJuicy, the author of “I Am Amazing”.
We really wanted to attend a healing singing bowl meditation in the evening, but spots were limited to … 14 participants (which isn’t really a hight number for a whole festival).
That led us to Sunday that started with a (long, because it went fairly over-time) cooking demo and workshop/lecture on ayurvedic vegan cooking. The event was led by nutrition coach & wellness chef Vinita Concractor, who spoke passionately about the Indian culture, the variety of foods and spices available and of course rounded it up with ayurvedic advice. We learned a lot, and it was also interesting to discuss the term veganism in contrast or rather in connection with ahimsa (non-violence) which is a widely known term in India, and one of the pilars of yogic philosophy.
Sunday evening came too fast, it almost caught us off-guard! After all, one is never fully ready to open up for a screening of the Dominion movie, because it’s a true horror story. In collaboration with Veggieworld Hong Kong, Yoga For Nature and Jakarta Vegan Guide, we organized a screening of the documentary that shows how we treat animals; not only the animals that end up on omnivores’ plates, but also the ones that are exploited for our “entertainment” or used in production of clothing or lifestyle items. A beautiful sharing session took place after the screening, the sorrow of the audience, as well as sincere empathy were almost palpable.
This marked the end of the Ubud edition of Bali Vegan Festival, and the end of the festival for us. We went back to Hong Kong few days later… filled with mixed feelings. We are extremely grateful for all the amazing people we had the chance to meet. It was a true blessing to be surrounded by so many passionate individuals. We could have invested more time into exploring the different events, but we were happy with the 4 workshops and the bodywork session that we attended. Paying full price for the 5 events was a bit much, but in the end it was only up to us how much we decided to stick to the program of the festival, so we only have ourselves to blame for not being there more.
The ultimate goal of the festival is for everyone to leave with the resources and community support to live out their cruelty-free lifestyle and spread the peace by example.
(…) it has a tremendous responsibility to inspire. Vegans, vegan-curious, flexitarians, and omnivores are all welcome.
The mission statement on BVF’s website proclaims proudly, encouraging everyone - regardless lifestyle and food preferences - to join both the festivities and activities. Reading further on, a discounted price is offered to Indonesian residents, however under “tickets” there was no sign of the reduced tickets for local Balinese (even friends from Jakarta Vegan Guide weren’t aware of any discounts, and they are pretty Indonesian!). Also the website is only available in English.
Whether the festival really managed to appeal to people with all sorts of lifestyle (and diets) is another subject to debate. At the workshops/talks/events that we went to, our co-attendees were basically all vegan, so instead of opening up for debates, the Q&As often turned into circolo-di-conversazione-sharings and shoulder-patting-sessions. This phenomenon, however predictable, provoked a stream of thoughts… Why were there so few non-vegans around? Why don’t they want to learn more? Aren’t they curious? Personally, we think they are! At least they might be! So maybe there is something about the vibe, the message or the rhetorics of the festival that non-vegans do not find appealing? Maybe they even find the festival intimidating?
After spending a weekend surrounded by very passionate vegan activists, we might know why. Because you see, the same questions arise when we “try to make people live more sustainably”. No one likes to be told what to do, also no one likes to be told what and how they are doing wrong. And for sure no omnivore will come to a vegan festival if they know they will be slaughtered (pun so intended!) if others around them found out that they were eating meat! We gather as vegans to express empathy towards other beings, but for some reason we cannot feel empathetic about the fact that changing a diet or radically shifting habits and everyday routines might be difficult for some, and they might need more time to understand and adapt certain life choices?
Bali Vegan Festival was a fun event, we learned, we were challenged, we got inspired, and … Theta-healed! But it also taught us that our medium is a part of our message. How we express things, how we try to approach people is almost as important as what we have to say to them! Let us all keep that in mind next time we talk to someone who does not share our worldview. Let us not judge, let us not assume. Let us simply connect and meet the other person where they are, and together try to build something beautiful, solid and long-lasting. Calling for empathy towards our planet and the fauna, let us not forget to be understanding and kind to … our own kind.