The Convergence Festival is an annual New Year’s celebration held at Journey’s End Campground in New Zealand. In this post, Courage My Love’s Persephone Singfield shares her experience at Convergence 2017.
“Bring yourself, bring your experience, and share it with everyone. Experience the beauty and wonderment of participating in creating a heart based living community. And always remember by changing ourselves we can change the world.” – Convergence Website
I arrived at Convergence Festival only hours after having all my ‘trust’ buttons pushed in a meeting with a close friend who had broken an agreement we made. Feelings of anger, betrayal and deep sorrow weighed heavily on my heart.
My inner process was one of questioning – ‘Do I really want to go to Convergence in this state?’ ‘How can I remain authentic in what I’m carrying at a festival?’
Yet, plans were made, tickets were bought and seemingly I was driving the car to Convergence even though I felt I could have hidden for a while to ride out my personal storm.
In short, Convergence is a unique and special New Year’s celebration. Here’s the description from the Festival’s website:
“The Convergence Festival is held every year from December 28th to January 3rd at Journey’s End Campground, in the countryside just north of Christchurch, New Zealand. Convergence has evolved into a co created event, meaning that all attendees are encouraged to participate in the smooth running of the event. An inclusive gathering open to people of all ages, beliefs, and backgrounds. The event is GE free, alcohol and drug free, dog free and eco-friendly. Participants offer free workshops in a variety of subjects such as massage, healing relationships, self healing, yoga, arts, crafts, meditation, natural healing, sexuality, song, dance, and more. In addition to this, attendees can learn about cooking vegetarian and vegan meals from the talented cooks during meal preparation each day. Where possible all waste is recycled or composted. In addition to the workshops Convergence offers swimming holes in the river, moonlit baths, sauna, music, jamming, drumming, cabaret, New Year celebration, arts and crafts, nurture space, creative kids’ space, spirituality, candle light sharing, support and community.”
I have been to Convergence Festival before.
Once in 1998/99 and the following year for the 2000 celebration.
I was a young woman then. I travelled the world exploring, throwing myself into every learning opportunity I could and met many new people during my first two years in NZ. I felt fresh, full of life and had a body and heart to match.
The world was my oyster and Convergence embraced me as I embraced it.
This time, in my 40’s with my gorgeous 10-year-old in tow, I drove down the dusty shingle road nearing the site and saw a sign on the fence post: “Leave your expectations behind”.
This year’s theme for Convergence was to share your heart. Subsequent signs along the road read things like “are you ready?” and “share your heart”.
My breath grew shallow as I braced myself for the unknown and parked the car outside the registration tent. I was given my ‘ticket’ (a handmade ceramic heart which I tied around my neck) and offered a hug from a stranger – which I declined.
How was I going to endure this heart sharing, tree-hugging mentality AND be with the hard emotions I had going on inside?
My son and I settled into our pop-up tent trailer for the night and I prepared myself for next morning’s opening ceremony by quietly crying in the dark. We awoke to cold rain the next day, which seemed to fit my emotional state.
I dragged a pouting boy and my heavy heart to the opening circle and Convergence began. So many strangers, in fact almost 300 of them.
After the opening I saw a familiar face, a friend who I willingly hugged.
She sensed my distress and I think from that moment on I became involved with what Convergence called for – sharing your heart. With that first hug I learned that my emotions were not only welcome here, but that there was plenty of support on site for my heavy heart.
During the first day and part of opening the festival, I watched attendees form groups around all sorts of tasks and skills from presenting workshops and meal preparation, to entertainment and soul soothing.
Basically, if one has a skill and wishes to share it there is a place for that. Or, if you want to tune out and be carried for a change, you could put your hand up for a practical task, such as keeping the fire in the boiler stoked or making sure the kitchen had a supply of clean tea towels.
The Festival was a buzz of activity as the groups prepared their rosters and spaces. Later that night, there was an entertainment evening in the main marquis which was made up of all the groups creating small skits to educate the community on what was happening where, along with all the ‘how-to’ instructions of being at Convergence Festival.
One of my favourites was the skit about how to decline an unwanted hug! Seriously, everything got covered!
I started that first day having a session with a therapist who practices The Work of Byron Katie. It was an amazing start that allowed me to begin unpacking my pain and disappointment from the day before.
I went from that session to the kitchen, which shares a large hall with ‘The Cuddle Cafe’, so I could help prepare the evening meal.
The place was packed with people chatting and chopping, fires were going and the atmosphere was warm and accepting. I enjoyed making vegan halava dessert and meeting new friends.
Because it had worked so well to integrate the day before, I spent the next morning in the kitchen. I helped with lunch preparation, met more people and felt more at ease. Though after lunch, I found myself lonely and floundering.
Many workshops were offered, but something inside me felt stuck and alone. I took a little time out, a few deep breaths to get some clarity around what I needed.
My son was well entrenched in his new-found friends and made it clear he did not want to hang out with me, a trend that continued for the rest of the Festival! I couldn’t even keep myself busy with mother duties.
Then I realized something: “Persephone, Convergence isn’t going to happen to you, it’s going to happen through you”, I heard myself say out loud.
I reflected on how when I teach yoga, I often ask my students to participate with their breath and body, rather than manipulate it. How BEING in the experience is different than DOING it.
I picked myself up and headed toward the women’s tent for the daily heart sharing circle. If you’ve never been to a heart sharing circle before you may not be aware of the guidelines.
There is a talking stick (or stone) and only the woman who holds it gets to speak, uninterrupted. When she is complete she puts the stick down and there’s a pause before another woman picks it up and shares.
We are encouraged to use ‘I statements’ when we share. This is a very powerful way of owning what is being said and surprisingly seldom used when sharing feelings with others in everyday conversation. I found this to be very grounding in circle sharing.
Another guideline is that there is no consoling, hugging or feedback unless a woman asks for it. Very powerful to sit with anger, grief or whatever else is going on without the interruption of another entering the process. Women are free to come and go at any time during the circle.
The smallest heart sharing circle I joined during the week was with 20 women and I was at one with as many as 45 women. I was so deeply comforted by these circle sessions, where I heard honest and authentic stories from the women and also by shared my own heart on that platform. Just beautiful.
By day 3 I was ready to get out of my head and into my body!
In and around those two workshops I had a private lesson with 10-year-old, Vishanti, who demonstrated aerial yoga using her silks. It wasn’t until days later that I learned that Bex, who taught Nia, Chaitanya, who taught Yin Yoga and Vishanti were all part of a happy family who run Evolve Yoga Studio in Nelson.
Later, I received an amazing osteopath treatment before making my way to the sauna for the first time, followed by a refreshing river plunge – I was embodying the experience of Convergence Festival and loving it!
New Year’s Eve was the most enjoyable ever.
The weather was summery and hot, the people were well into the swing of things and warm, friendly faces smiled at each other. The NYE group busied themselves with creating our space.
The main marquis was transformed with decoration and intention. A huge green heart shaped wreath was created and mounted to the side of the tent with streamers and fairy lights creating a walk way up to it.
It went like this: write down whatever you want to let go of on a paper and burn it in the fire, choose a stone to carry with you and infuse it with intentions for 2017 until you are ready to walk down to the river and cast it in.
Between the letting go and the intention setting, I entered the tent through the heart wreath and cried at the beauty of the stage and our space for the evening. Rose petals carpeted the stage, fairy lights shone and live music filled the marquis.
Once a large enough group had formed inside the marquis, a NYE ritual began. I wanted to freeze this moment in time, bottle it, continue living it forever as it was filled with such deep meaning and beauty.
We were hundreds gathered to celebrate NYE without the density of drugs and alcohol. After days of sharing our hearts, it was inexplicably intimate and whole. It gave me such faith in humanity. And faith in myself for knowing where I belonged in the moment and feeling incredibly connected to my heart amongst it all.
When I was ready later in the evening, I made my way out of the marquis with a new friend. We followed the candlelit path into the dark warm night to walk the spiral to the river.
I cast my stone filled with my 2017 intentions into the river… deep breath… just remembering the reverie of that moment now as I write reminds me of the power of intention, the power of the heart, the power of Convergence.
I realize it takes courage to be vulnerable and vulnerability can express itself in many ways.
Going to Convergence Festival made me vulnerable because the very nature of the gathering suggests being open and sharing with new people, which puts me out of my comfort zone. For me, it is easier to share my heart with people I have existing relationships with.
What of the heavy heart I had at the beginning of the Convergence Festival?
Well, I was in the best place to process that shock, cultivate compassion for my friend’s decision to let me down and even begin sowing the seeds of forgiveness. I learned that there are different quality friendships.
I don’t need to take a black and white stance on this friendship. Instead, I can find a place for it fit into my life where perhaps I don’t involve deeper levels of trust and connection. This approach will enable me to enjoy the friendship’s positive aspects rather than shut it down entirely and potentially miss out on the cool things the friendship already offers.
Not everyone is capable of meeting everyone, yet I can choose who to meet where. At the end of the closing ceremony I felt open hearted and happy, hugging all my new friends and radiating with love as I had become part of this very special community.