3HO's Summer Solstice Sadhana Celebration is a little over a month away. Wahe guru! For me, this last month before Solstice is always a challenging one. Mostly, it feels difficult to stay present in my day-to-day life, while all the time wishing for the first day when I'll once again set foot on the sacred ground of Guru Ram Das Puri. Given that I've spent the last 18-years living in Maine and the ocean and I are inseparable, I never thought that I would begin to think of New Mexico as home. But, I do. My spiritual family gathers there. My tribe. And I can't wait to see you all.
Within all of this excitement and expectation, there is also the gentle nudge from my heart to travel to each Solstice with a beginner's mind. To welcome each Solstice journey as a completely new one - with new joys, new challenges and new connections.
When I meet people on the mountain, who have never been to Summer Solstice before, I have to admit to a slight twinge of longing. The longing for the FIRST time I drove up the mountain on that sketchy, sketchy school bus, not really knowing what to expect. A longing for the FIRST time I stood in awe of the Tantric Shelter. A longing for the experience of that FIRST morning sadhana, chanting alongside 1,500 fellow yogis, with the sun just breaking the horizon. These are moments that no description of the event on a website or Facebook post could have prepared me for.
There were some firsts, however, that I wish I had known about from some more experienced Solstice goers, before setting foot on the mountain. Now, don't get me wrong. . .I'm a firm believer in learning by doing and I can't imagine my first Summer Solstice being any more transformative and authentic than it was, but here is a compilation of "10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Summer Solstice." It is my sincere hope that this list helps prepare and uplift some of you first-time Solstice attendees out there!
1. Consider Where You Want to Camp Before Hand: When you arrive to the Solstice site, you'll be asked to drop off your luggage near the parking area and indicate where you want the luggage shuttles to drop off your belongings. It's helpful to have an idea of where you would like to be before hand. There are currently three different options - Tantric Hill, Shakti Valley and Water Tower Hill. There are pros and cons to each.
- Tantric Hill: PRO - It's super close to the Tantric Shelter, which is helpful if you are a dedicated morning sadhana person. CON - It can be very windy on Tantric Hill. Make sure you have a good system for securing your tent.
- Shakti Valley: PRO - It's much cooler in the valley during the heat of the day. The largest shower areas for men and women are both in Shakti Valley. CON - During a rainy season, areas of Shakti Valley can flood. Again, be prepared with a good ground cloth for your tent. Also, it's a trek up and down a fairly steep hill to get to the main part of camp and the Tantric Shelter from Shakti Valley.
- Water Tower - PRO - It's a great place for families, as it is close to the Kids' Pool area. CON - It's a great place for families, which means there can sometimes be crying kiddos during the night.
2. Pay Attention to/Prepare for the Elevation and Possible Dehydration: My husband and I start taking Vitamin E and Vitamin C a few weeks before Solstice, to help with adjusting to the elevation (we are coming from sea level). Once on site, be sure to stay hydrated and move slowly, at first. I have to admit to really disliking the electrolyte drink offered at Solstice. But it's SO important. You might think that just drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated. However, too much water without enough electrolyte replacement can actually flush your system. If you're unsure about the electrolyte drink offered at Solstice (think salty lemonade), bring your own Emergen-C electrolyte packets with you. And don't forget to eat watermelon, with salt and pepper!
3. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!: The Solstice site is hot. And dry. Taking care of your physical body in this environment is incredibly important. Having access to some type of natural lotion and lip balm during the day is great. But, through the years, I've found a couple of products that I can't live without at Solstice, which have become an essential part of my evening routine:
- Nasya Oil and some sort of non-medicated, natural saline nasal spray. Both of these will help keep your nasal passages lubricated and healthy for the duration of Solstice.
- Similasan Homeopathic Eye Drops for Dry Eyes. These can be found at just about any natural/health foods store/co-op.
- Moisturizer for your feet. Any kind will do. But, if you add this step to your evening routine, you'll keep your feet happy and free from being dry and cracked. (And for the ultimate Solstice foot care, don't forget to visit the Divine Soles tent, for a foot bath with aromatherapy!) Speaking of feet. . .
4. Bring Appropriate Footwear: I personally can't stand being in close-toed shoes for the duration of Solstice and usually wear some sort of sandal (although a close-toed shoe is essential for the blind-walk on the third day of White Tantric). Whatever you choose to bring, make sure your footwear has a very solid bottom. Not so much for foot support, but to protect you from this pesky little plant called Gokshura. The dried "fruits" of these plants absolutely litter the Solstice site and are incredibly painful to step on. Another name for this plant is "goat's head," "devil's thorn" or "puncture vine." Enough said. Bring sturdy shoes. (As an aside. . .despite the pain of stepping on a "goat's head," I find it incredibly fitting that Gokshura is so plentiful at the Solstice site, as I believe that medicinal plants grow where they are most needed. Gokshura is often prescribed by Ayurvedic practitioners. It is tri-doshic and can be used to strengthen the body, calm the nerves and promote kidney function).
5. Connect with Your Karma Yoga Team: Service is such an integral part of the Summer Solstice experience. Make sure to attend the daily Karma Yoga Meetings , as well as your daily shifts. Not only does Karma Yoga allow camp to run smoothly and gracefully, the experience of Karma Yoga will allow you to connect deeply with other yogis around camp. Some of the most beautiful connections I have made at Solstice over the years has been through participation in Karma Yoga.
6. Your Whites Aren't Going to Stay White: Depending on how much rain the Solstice site has had through the Spring and early Summer, it can be very dusty on the mountain. So, be prepared for clothing to get dirty and just try to roll with it. Consider not bringing your all-time favorite pair of white pants, because they absolutely are not going to be the same at the end of 10-days. However, I would recommend planning to keep some white clothing sealed in a Ziploc bag, in your luggage, especially for White Tantric Days. That way you can be assured to have something fresh and clean to wear. (But, don't forget that you can restock on white clothing in the Bazaar. Long Time Sun Apparel will be there!)
7. Approach White Tantric Gracefully: If you've never participated in White Tantric Yoga before (and even if you have), there can be a great deal of excitement and worry surrounding the experience. What are the days going to be like? How am I going to keep up? Where am I going to sit? If I'm at Solstice alone, how will I find a partner? Try to approach the entire process of White Tantric as gracefully as possible, understanding that you are being deeply held by the subtle body of the Mahan Tantric - Yogi Bhajan.
8. Don't Underestimate the Support of Morning Sadhana: Yes, it's early. And yes, you may find yourself quite tired later in the day, especially if you are not used to rising in the Amrit Vela. But, don't underestimate the support that attending morning sadhana each day at Solstice can give you. The yoga offered and the vibrational sound current of the Aquarian Mantras will literally become the base that gently holds your entire Solstice experience. If you're tired, plan to take a nap later in the day. But, get yourself to sadhana!
9. Keep Your Head Covered: There are a lot of people at Solstice, moving a lot of energy. Especially during classes and morning sadhana, try to keep your head covered. You'll find yourself feeling much more grounded and with fewer headaches or lightheadedness. Of course, a head-covering is essential for the three-days of White Tantric Yoga. If you don't know how to tie a turban or other form of head-covering, just ask! Find someone with a style that you like and ask them to show you their technique. Everyone approaches head-coverings a little bit different, and people are usually quite willing and happy to help. On the mornings of White Tantric, bring your own (pre-washed is best!) turban material to the Hospitality area to have a turban tied for you by one of their Karma yogis.
10. Pace Yourself: Solstice can be an intense experience on all levels - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Between morning sadhana, Karma Yoga, an amazing assortment of daily classes and evening programs, you can easily find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed by trying to fit too much into any particular day. Think of the Solstice experience as a marathon, rather than a sprint. And, if you find a lot of emotions starting to surface, take care of yourself. Be aware that the Tantric energy starts to build, leading up to the three-days of White Tantric. If you are looking for a good form of support, consider visiting the Hospitality Area, where they offer one-on-one processing sessions called "Heart-To-Heart." Acknowledge and honor all that your personal experience will offer you.
Over the years, my husband and I have developed a pretty standard packing list that we utilize for both Summer and Winter Solstice. If you need suggestions on what to bring, it is included here:
I look forward to seeing you all on the mountain!
With love and light,