We will gather peacefully for silent meditation the morning of July 4th, 2018 from dawn until noon; and a peaceful assembly of free speech and expression from July 1st through the end of Vision Counsel; in the southern Appalachian Mountains. DIRECTIONS TO THE GATHERING ARE HERE (and contain road closure info, and other critical information. This post is updated frequently so check back for the latest.To learn how to get into the gathering without getting a mandatory court appearance ticket, click here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

On Individuality and Community

The gathering functions as a temporary community where we practice creating the world the way we want it to exist. Not only are we creating a temporary community, but we are also creating hundreds of communities within a community.

The gathering itself is a temporary community with not exactly rules, but guidelines on how to gather and create the peace we want to see on this planet. In gathering speak--these guidelines are called the “Raps.” I strongly recommend you read the raps, which you can find here  as well as the Mini Manual of Gathering Consciousness. Or read Paul's a rainbow guide.

At the gathering, we have hundreds of individual camps (some small, some large) that might have their own special community standards. For example, Serenity Ridge is a camp for people in recovery so they request no smoking of any kind and no-mind altering substances of any kind (including caffeine). Tea Time is up and noisy all night long, while Kid Village tries to maintain quiet during the night, but come sunrise the kids are up and rambunctious. Some camps create drum free zones while other camps celebrate drumming and drum culture (sometimes 24/7). If you like quiet at 2 AM, camping at Dundun Village will lead to unhappiness and potential conflicts. Depending on the gathering, our sites can encompass one to two square miles so there’s plenty of room to spread out.

When we come to the gathering, each of us comes as an individual with our own personality, life style, hopes, and dreams. The beauty of the gathering is that you are free to be who you truly are and express your beautiful unique being in costume, face paint, sleeping habitats, musical tastes, etc. . We have individuals that come home and promote teeth brushing, veganism, free hugs, and naked peace signs --to name just a few of my beloved characters. The variations on this theme are endless and the amazing diversity of opinions and unique expressions of these opinions is what makes the gathering amazing, wonderfully insane, and creatively vibrant.

We are an opinionated family with many strong willed personalities. We welcome every peaceful person with a belly button to come home (and offer exemptions to those who are missing belly buttons due to freak accidents). We welcome republicans, occupiers, democrats, libertarians, greens, hippies, punks, beats, tea partiers, christians, jews, muslims, hindus, burners, pagans, voodoo priestesses, rednecks, cowgirls/boys, peace workers, middle-of-the-roaders, poor/rich/middle class, doctors, lawyer and indian chiefs. We even welcome wanna be-ers.

As you can imagine, a delicate balance exists between all these diverse individuals and creating temporary community. As a long time gatherer (or one of the earlies) once told me, we work on the basis of “peaceful respect.” Peaceful respect means that we offer respect to every belly at our gathering including cops, lawyers and dirty kids. We don’t always have to agree with each other, but when we disagree, using respectful modes of communication helps us work towards peace.

~ ~ Peace is the path on which we are traveling ~ ~

Some people at the gathering focus almost exclusively on their individual rights to do whatever the FX^& they want. Other people focus strictly on community. In my mind, the beauty of the gathering is the heartfelt attempt to find a modern way to live in community while still celebrating our individuality. Hundreds of years ago (and in some place on this planet today), the community mores ruled with an iron fist and if you didn’t fit it, you were kicked out, persecuted or worse.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the pendulum swing to the side of individuality over community (at least in the USA). The gathering can be seen as an attempt to find a balance between the two all the while holding them both in tension with each other.

IMHO, the gathering works bests when we respect both the needs of the community and the needs of the individuals who make up this community (including every person and creature in the area in which we gather). Gathering works best when we talk softly, sit in a circle, and speak from our hearts. Gathering works best when we all realize that creating community means something different to each individual. Gathering works best when we let our individual trip support the community and the community supports our individual trip. Gathering works best when we approach it with an open heart and each of us try to be the most peaceful, loving, helpful individuals we are capable. Gathering is a journey of the soul and a practice of the heart. I invite the world to join this journey.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring Fever (or How to Prepare for the Gathering)

Now that spring is here and the gathering is still months away, what's a home sick gatherer to do?

Now is the perfect time to start getting ready for the gathering.  So here's a random list of steps you can take now to create a positive gathering for yourself and others this summer.

Make sure your car is 100% legal. All brake lights, turn signals, seat belts, registration, insurance and nothing hanging from your rear view mirror.  The cops seem to like to pull people over and write mandatory court appearance tickets for the littlest thing.  Who needs the hassle of a mandatory court appearance ticket just because you forgot to fix that broken tail light?

Make sure your camping equipment is in good shape. Check your tent for leaks. I'm hoping we'll see rain this summer and camping is much more fun in a dry sleeping bag.

Check out thrift stores, garage sales and swap meets for things you can share with others at the gathering: tents, 60 quart cooking pots, sleeping bags, cast iron grills, very large metal mixing bowls, hiking boots, digging shovels, pick axes, rain gear, etc.  Once you get to the gathering, ask around and someone will be sure to need what ever you brought to share.

Have a garage sale of your own and send the money you make to CALM, the Rainbow Guide, Team Hydration or the Magic Hat.

Get in shape.  Yup, at the gathering you'll be walking for hours every day so now is the perfect time to get in shape.  Try walking an hour a day for starters if you're not in the habit already and plan to be up to four hours a day by mid-June.  You will have more fun at the gathering if you can experience it.

Plan a workshop or camp focused on your special talent.  Some ideas are singing, drawing, ocarina making, drum making, meditation, yoga, belly dance, Tai Chi, sewing, caring for dogs or cats (probably not a great idea to mix dog and cat camps),  massage, or beading.  Start getting your supplies together and your friends lined up to get there early and find a great place for your camp.  Then arrive a week or so before July 1st and start creating the camp.  You are the rainbow magic and the gathering happens because individuals like you share your unique talents with other gatherers.  Don't forget to announce your workshop at breakfast/dinner circle, post a notice on the workshop board at INFO, and maybe make some signs on the main trail informing people of when and where the workshop takes place.

Plan a fundraiser for CALM or a mini-CALM that you support.  Every year the gathering treats hundreds of people from blisters to heart attacks at no charge to the patent. Remember just because everything at the gathering is free, doesn't mean we get everything free. Medical supplies aren't cheap and it costs thousands of dollars each year to keep everyone healthy.

Get involved with scouting.  If you like to read maps and walk the land, email me and I'll hook you up.

Build a rickshaw or other fat tire wheeled device powered by human or animal energy to help transport mobility impaired gatherers and food supplies to kitchens -- you will be one of the most popular people at the gathering.  

Start a list of all media outlets in the consensus states (see top of blog) and get together with other folks and start contacting people with positive information on the gathering.

Get your first aid certification so you can help keep our family healthy.

Rehearse your best rainbow story for Hipstories on the night of July 5, than share your hard won wisdom with your family.

Starting going to your local circle (or start one if there isn't one already) and plan a camp like Muskogee, Oklahoma camp or whatever city you live in.  Get together with folks in neighboring cities and plan a regional camp.

Get a job and earn money (or set aside some money from your existing earnings) to donate to the magic hat on the land to feed your family or to buy a boat load of fruits and veggies and bring with you to share with the hardworking kitchens that are feeding you.

Learn how to play guitar and share your music with your family. Learn some of the Rainbow songs now and teach them to people on the land. Or become a wandering minstrel (trail musician) and share music in tense situations.

The most important lesson I've learned through my gathering experiences, is that the more I give to the gathering, the more the gathering gives to me and the more I grow and evolve as one of the amazing creatures on this miraculous planet. I can't wait to see your amazingness on display when I hug you on the land.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

On Feeling and/or Being Safe

On social media there have been a lot of great discussions about being safe at a gathering and I wanted to take the time to summarize my thoughts on this critical topic.

On feeling safe

First off, I would like to point out that there can be a huge difference between being safe and feeling safe.  For example, I live near an urban creek in San Diego and am part of a collective caring for the creek. Some people sleep and/or live in portions of the creek. In the fourteen + years I have been involved with the creek, I have met men in their forties who are afraid of the energy along the creek and do not feel safe going there. While I have also met plenty of little old ladies who love walking their dogs along the creek and feel it is the best part of our neighborhood. None of  their feelings are right or wrong, they are just feelings.

But what do the statistics tell us?  Less crimes happen at the creek than at the beach. Yet many people feel safe at the beach.

What is going on? Each of us are unique individuals with our own temperament, life experiences, emotional modes of being, and perspectives. No person's feelings are wrong. The emotions we experience are the emotions we experience. No judgements. 

How then do we address individual feelings about safety or the lack there of?  One way is to listen seriously to people when they feel unsafe rather than dismiss their feelings because our own feelings are different.

One way is to make friends with those in our circles who feel unsafe and include them in our communities. Often times people do not feel safe at a gathering is because our cultural norms can be different than the culture in which they have been living.

Many people feel safer when their fears and concerns are truly heard without offering shouldas wouldas couldas. Many people feel safer when they are with friends and loved ones.

One way to help others feel safer is to adjust our behavior and our words to support others. Sure we all have ways of being with our close friends that express our love and caring, but those ways of being in one group of people may invoke fear or anger in another group of people. Be conscious of how your words and actions impact others.

When we gather, we are a gathering of different clans, individuals, and communities.  Using our body and verbal language in a way that helps others feel safe, increases the love and builds connections between more of us. And isn't connecting with all these beautiful bellies one of the reasons we gather?

The other side of this topic is being safe.

Keeping people safe requires all our eyes to be paying attention.

If any of us sees a toddler at the creek without supervision, that's the time to take action and prevent a tragedy. You already know what to do.

If any of us sees a tripping hippie alone in the woods, be a buddy and make friends with this person or at the very least wander after them. Depending on where the gathering is, tripping hippies can get lost in the woods on a cold night and potentially experience hypothermia or worse. Tripping hippies have in the past drowned, injured themselves, and been victims of other people.

If you see someone who is lost, help them get where they are going. If someone is hungry, help them get fed. If someone is thirsty, help them get hydrated. Take the time to welcome people you do not know. Introduce yourself, find common ground, and increase everyone's safety by making new friends, sharing your heart, and building a web of community. Many small acts of kindness create a culture of community and the community we create is what keeps us safe.

If you feel someone is invading your space and your efforts to stop it are not working, go into any  one of the many camps and kitchens and ask a person you feel comfortable with to help you with the situation.  Your words are stronger when your community has your back. We want to have your back, but we need you to let us know when you need our help.

Pay attention to people who are feeling uncomfortable with a situation and ask if there is any help you can provide. Or if you see a conversation happening that seems to be making someone uncomfortable, join the conversation and introduce yourself.  Then be silent and see what's going on. Sometimes, your presence will change the dynamics and make everyone feel safer or potentially even be safer.

As to the individuals, who victimize others intentionally or through a lack of consciousness, I believe you may be dealing with issues in your life that have gotten you to a point where you have lost compassion and empathy. Let us help you with your pain in a constructive manner. Let us help you learn how to be a kind, caring individual who treats every being as the love of your life and for whom you want all good things. We are willing to help, but you must be willing to learn and grow as a human becoming as we travel this journey we call the rainbow gathering.

To learn more about Shanti Sena, read this.

We are our siblings' keepers.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Explicit Consent: putting being an ally before attraction

Today's guest post was written by The Professor. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

Going to the gatherings I am always excited at the prospect of interacting and networking with other humans.

The level of attention that most people give you is one of the aspects that really distinguish it from most of the rest of my life, whenever I am where I am not already surrounded by friends or family. Strangers taking time to actually make eye contact and smile, generally prepared to do some conversing.

Generally I feel that there is a high level of respect, but there are camps and individuals who don't seem to hold all the tenets of consent as dearly as my peers do. Some people come to pray for peace and others really just want to party.

Last year we decided to have a consent circle. We had another that got relabeled "How to have great sex, and talk about it" in an effort by some to lure in "creepers", the big irony was the name change was not done by consensus.

At vision counsel the topic of consent and creating a better culture came up and these were some things we could agree on:

  • We practice peace. 
  • Education about consent allows us to better respect others' boundaries and to seek nonviolence in all actions.
  • We in this circle reaffirm our vigilant loving commitment in ourselves to a gentle and conscious approach to our personal interactions, our circles, and our choices.
  • In consideration for the health and well-being of all who gather, we, as peacekeepers, lovingly and kindly urge respect, discernment, and discretion, in ourselves and others, especially with regard to the use of sacramental and or mind-altering substances.
Spend much time at the gathering and you will notice the disparity of male to female bodied people. With so few females it can feel like if you don't jump on the first one that smiles at you, you might go without. This is a reason it serves to be extra sensitive in acting on any attraction without explicit consent. Some people love hugs and touching but others really value their personal space and the power to chose both when and how they are touched.

This is so important in conjunction with the freeze response: some people don't go into flight or fight more but instead just don't react. In such cases a person might not even be able to tell you to stop the behavior that is triggering them.

I find myself to be a hopeless romantic and fall in love with the admirable qualities of individuals on a regular basis, I also place high value on touch and find great joy in massage and cuddling. So I understand the urge to want to say the beautiful poetry that a muse has inspired, but it is important to consider what you want out of the reception.

The part of rejection that I fear is imposing on another person. To get a no is just a useful data point, that lets me know that person isn't interested in me or some certain subset of activities with me.

Even with all my emphasis on explicit enthusiastic consent, I as a 6 ft 160 lb male bodied person have been pressured into going further then I wanted.

Thanks to my privilege I have always been able to physically leave, slow down, compromise, or talk my way out of it. Sometimes though I let my affection and desire to not hurt someone's emotions convince me to go further then I would.

Mostly creating a better culture of consent is important for everyone everywhere, but at rainbow I think we have a chance to really make some rapid advancements.

On the basic level consent is important just so the sensitive and gentle people will be asked for hugs rather then hope they don't freeze and can't even ask you to stop.

More specific to courtship, the more open the conversation and the more observant to your partners' desires, the better the experience.

I like to think of touching and really all interacting with another is a game: a kind of logic puzzle where the goal is to make the other person feel as good as possible and the rule is to only do what they would want you to do, and the best method is asking and observing.