A little bit over four months ago I was searching the internet for a slack line community in the Midwest after recently moving home for the first time in six years. Breathe: A Slackline and Discovery Festival was the headline. Hmmm… Interesting. I started to snoop the Breathe website and within minutes of playing around I realized this was something I wanted to be apart of. It was a festival tailored around wellness, transformation, and healing through expression – something I have unknowingly needed for quiet sometime. I e-mailed Mike, ‘The God Father’ and one of the geniuses behind the festival, asking if there were any volunteer positions still open. His response started out with
“Welcome to the BREATHE family, I think you have just found a new second home and community to be apart of.”
Wow… How warm and inviting. I took the number from the signature and gave him a call. As if we were old friends, the conversation took off. He told me all about the gathering. It was only three years old and bred from a very simple idea – to grow a community where balance, mindfulness, and creativity flows. We talked about traveling, slacklining, leaving unfulfilling jobs and the importance of manifesting your reality. Throughout the conversation I shared a bit about myself and Mike confidently told me ‘that means you’re on the right path’. It was simple and unexpected, like only the best things are. I grabbed my calendar – [Breathe Festival Paw Paw, Illinois. July 14-17].
This was all during a very chaotic time in my life, per usual. Family health scares, bouncing around the country, traveling and living out of my car, multiple surgeries and a whole lot of exploring. A slow down was needed.
Thursday, July 14th. Early bird camping started and I wanted to get to the grounds to set up and unwind before the busy weekend. After a slow start to my morning I picked up groceries and headed to the corn fields. I had never been to Illinois before and had no idea what to expect. As I wove my way through the never ending farmlands and four way stops I started to fill up with anticipation and a certain level of intimidation. I don’t know anyone, yet again, why do I continue to put myself in these uncomfortable situations? As soon as the thought came I saw the turning sign for Stonehouse Farms – Breathe Festival 2016 was here.
I turned right onto the dirt road and was immediately pulled in by the beautiful view. There were over 100 slacklines strung from tree-to-tree; low-lines, short-lines, high-lines, lines over the water and stretching the entire length of the field. Ginormous old growth of hickory, pine, oak, and the most welcoming willow reflecting in the water. An authentic red barn sat to the left and the fire pit to my right. After settling in I headed across the field towards the pond to mingle. Within minutes, over a dozen people introduced themselves. Conversations were short and simple but much more real than the basic ‘where are you from’, ‘how’s the weather’. All those anxious thoughts and feelings floated away with the light breeze.
People came from all over the country; Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Washington, Georgia, California…. From the solo-traveler to the family of five. It felt like a huge extended reunion, old friends caught up while new friends were made. Slacklining was the main draw but it wasn’t all there was. Breathe isn’t an ‘exclusive’ festival where only the best highliners walk, there were lines ranging from first time slackers all the way to legendary highliners, trickliners, and EVERYTHING in between. If slacklining isn’t your thing there are at least 90 classes for you to choose from in the three day time span. You can learn about Tantric Techniques, Poi Meditation, Juggling, Frisbee, AcroYoga, Qigong, Indeigenous Plant Medicine, Hooping, or toxins and why they matter in our fast paced lifestyles.
The diversity was inspiring; yogis, doctors, cancer researchers, thai massage therapists, skydivers, drummers, meditators – all with a common goal – to discover. This is an event for anyone looking to grow and raise their individual vibrations. Hell, you could go just for the beauty – lie flat on one of the pallet swings and stare at the bottom of the willow as it hangs and brushes your skin.
Whatever you need,
you can find it at Breathe.
“The free soul is rare,
but you know it when you see it.”
What did I need?
How’d I get here?
Why did I Come?
A lot of my life I have felt alone. It’s hard to connect when the average Joe who wants to drink beers and talk about sports. I have absolutely no interest in mindless conversations about the newest T.V. series and surface level conversations leave me feeling empty. That’s where Breathe is different. Every one had something authentic and real to share. Whether it was their art, their music, their expression, or simply being present. It was natural and uplifting. I’d be walking a random line and a stranger would tell me how awesome I was doing. Over the weekend I had at least a dozen people open up to me about their deepest secrets and hardest struggles and through that vulnerability we found common ground. As I grow up I see more and more people closing out the world, myself included. Scared to let others in, to be apart of whatever is going on. Breathe taught me that in order to survive this life (or at least stay sane), you have to have a certain level of trust, you have to welcome people into your life. Everyone has something to teach us and it is through this connection that we, as a community, can grow and flourish. The individual is only as strong as the support that inspires them.
I was home, this was family.
Sunday came faster than any of us had hoped. Everyone walked around with a smile on their face but you could feel the melodramatic tones as the end was near. Within three days my perception changed and an evolution began. I went from lost, broken, overwhelmed, and an anxious mess to a little less lost, slightly healed, calm and content. I showed up knowing no one and left with a sense of community – another family to hug and love. Tears filled my eyes as I left the secret healing hideaway known as Stonehouse Farms, as I drove the backroads I thought about all the changes that occurred.
What did I learn?
A common theme throughout the weekend was to let go in order to make room for something new. I’ve held on to the past, to old emotions and memories, self-doubt and the idea of ‘am I good enough’ for far too long. Breathe taught me to BE whatever I am, to accept where I’m at and to move forward confidently. Your dreams can become your reality, all you have to do is set an intention and go for it. Find your tribe and put yourself around energy that matches your own, energy that picks you up and pushes you forward. Love who you are. Slow down and enjoy the little moments.
I left the festival with a sense of optimism. Finally, I found others who felt the way I did, who cared about the next generation and creating a new reality. My heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude to be alive, to live this life, to breathe this breath. It all started with a random search on the internet and a leap of faith. Life has a crazy way of giving you what you need – that’s if you let it. Let go of whatever is holding you back; fears, insecurities, expectations, plans. Let them blow in the wind. Off to another space, off to another time. Be YOURSELF, Free YOURSELF. Take a breathe, take a step.
It’s these seemingly ‘random’ encounters that continue to shape me, the experiences I least expect to hold the key. I left Breathe with a different view on life – on living – on BEING. A community of beautifully intelligent, warm hearted souls grow. Feeding off each other, working together, to change the future – to BE the change. I am beyond blessed to have stumbled on the magic and encourage you to join the movement July 2017.
Until next year I will miss the white weeds that stuck between my toes and dodging the high lines that stretched across the long ‘field of dreams’. Thank you to every single connection, you wonderful individuals have each taught me something. Keep loving and spreading your light. For those of you who haven’t been, I can’t wait to meet you next year.
Until then – Stay Balanced & Be Well!
For additional information check out the Breathe website or Facebook Page.
For videos and coverage of the event go to JV Studios Facebook, the official video production crew!
[ALL PHOTOS are used with permission from Jesse Ruhland. You can find the original, high resolution photos here. Thank you Jesse for your labor of love!]
“THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS TO LIVE YOUR LIFE.
ONE IS AS THOUGH NOTHING IS A MIRACLE.
THE OTHER IS AS THOUGH EVERYTHING IS A MIRACLE.”