Maybe some of you here on this forum have been to these gatherings before. I had never even heard of them before this year - even though they have been going on since 1972 (this was the 39th gathering)! Since this year it was in Washington - not far from me - I decided to go and check it out.
For those who haven't heard of these - they are a somewhat spontaneous gathering of people who choose a spot on national forest land to gather together in community for the purpose of injecting a prayer for world peace into the energy of the earth at that spot. Kind of like acupuncture. So each year they choose a different state in a different part of the country (there are now gatherings in other countries as well).
What I found most interesting and intriguing about it though - was the idea that there is no money associated with the event. No vendors, no tickets, nothing to buy (not even food - everything is free) and no "rules" other than common sense and being environmentally conscious. They specifically do not "ask" permission for any of it - and no permits are applied for (like the forest service would ever issue one in the first place...) With no permits, and no sponsorship - they are not beholding to anyone for anything, and thus are 100% responsible for the outcome - what ever that may be.
I spoke to a friend who had been to many of these - and was asking him some basic questions - like how are they going to park 10,000 cars? Feed 20,000 people? "It just happens - you'll see..."
And having just come back - it was actually pretty amazing. The cars got parked, the people got fed, the garbage was managed and recyclables gathered. At noon on the 4th they gathered 10,000 people into a giant circle in the main meadow and prayed for peace. Amazingly - the forest service was very cooperative at this particular event (which has not been the case everywhere) and the head of "incident control" in DC - who flew in for the event - actually put in the order for the forest cops to stay out of the event unless called upon. I never saw anyone in authority the whole time I was there - and no one policing anything. Nor was it necessary in this case. I felt very safe and everyone was very helpful in all respects.
Also interesting was meeting some of the people who had come from all over the country to be there. One gal from Texas took the greyhound bus with nothing but the clothes on her back and some faith - she had no sleeping bag or tent - and slept by the fire at our camp. Another guy came from Pennsylvania by hitching a ride in an RV (it took him a week to get there....).
I also enjoyed the rustic reality that was created - no electricity, no cel phones etc. I never looked to see what time it was (I didn't bring a watch) - as it was unnecessary. Stuff happened when it happened. You never knew when food would be served, what you might get, or when it would run out, but no one went hungry as there were many kitchens set up all over and there was always someone serving something! All of the music was acoustic - which was also very cool, and many drum circles of course going on non stop.
There are always those who hate these kinds of gatherings for one reason or another, and the guys I went with complained all the way home about the environmental impact - and the Portland paper of course blasted the event for not getting permits etc etc. - but what I think these people miss is the overall value of the event itself. The idea of putting on such a big event with virtually no money spent by the participants, and no government oversight is huge.
The one big lesson everyone learns from such an event - and one that my friends were sorely lacking - is allowance. It is incredibly hard for people to embrace allowance today - and that so many people can come together and just "be" really shows what allowance can create. All of those who are not ready to embrace allowance cry and scream about such events - and try to justify more structure, more control or no event at all. Allowance is just way out of most people's comfort zone. So even though the paper criticized the people attending as just wanting to party and get stoned under the stars - they of course miss the bigger picture of what is really happening at such a gathering. It was great to see so many younger people embracing allowance! I think it scares the hell out of the PTB.