In Judaism, there's an overarching theme of what’s called “teshuva” meaning “repentance” or more literally “return”. After 10 years, I would return to the Coachella Festival aka Beychella for those who attended in 2018, to experience my personal Teshuva.
2017 was one of the best and worst years of my life. Although I was traveling and thriving in my professional career, I also found myself in a valley of sorts facing challenges with my youngest child, and what felt like “wandering in the desert” in my love life. I won’t get into the details of the challenges, but let's just say that I was in a season of “where are you God”?!
I was going through the motions—wake up, meditate, pray, be of service, go to work, gym, and repeat. I didn’t feel like I was connecting with people, especially not God. I was acting as if. I knew something was off. I know what it feels like to be in the flow, but instead, felt restless and discontent. I knew I had to do something, but nothing I was doing was working. I remembered a pastor once saying that the devil could care less if we have faith, but what he likes to mess with is our hope. Then it hit me! I had lost hope. Although I was praying, I was losing hope for what I was praying. The scriptures give us the very definition of Faith “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Hope can be risky because what if what I’m hoping for doesn’t happen.
I had no idea how to restore my hope. I felt like my prayers were falling on deaf ears. I had hit a spiritual bottom. I was actually experiencing a spiritual stroke, but I knew that to stop praying would be spiritual suicide.
It was during one of those prayers in my office that I remember asking God to give me an answer to what I needed to do to reconnect because I felt like nothing was working. Later that week I got a knock on my door to find one of my colleagues offering me tickets to go to Coachella. Yup, Coachella! That festival in the desert where all those kids go for three days to check out from reality and immerse themselves in music, drugs and long lines for ice cream.
Next thing I know I’m getting my hair braided and nail art! It wasn’t until I crossed through the Coachella “TSA” that it hit me—oh snap, I’m sober! I’m not new to this since I like to go out to bars and concerts to see performances, but a 3 day festival in 105 degrees with over half the population high, not so much.
The last time I went to Coachella was in 2006 to take my daughter and her friends. She didn't have to twist my arm since Depeche Mode and Madonna were performing. I wish I could say that I had a blast, but the truth is that I was in the worst mental space since my teenage years. I was on a downward spiral to a personal bottom that I didn’t see coming. Sadly, I don’t remember much from that weekend.
Music has always played an important role in my life’s journey...it’s how I connect with God. Some people use meditation. Some chant. I dance and sing; and that I did for the next three days. But what I would have never imagined was that God would use a music festival to restore my connection and hope. There I was, standing in the middle of a desert surrounded by thousands of people, but for a couple of minutes it got really quiet and I heard a soft voice whisper “you think you’re in a desert, but look at all the beauty that surrounds you”. It was then that I looked
up and experienced the most profound feeling of gratitude that brought me to tears to the point I couldn’t stop crying. Something shifted for me that very moment. I was blown away by the desert skies as if all of a sudden the movie I was watching went from black and white to technicolor. Then my auditory senses were awakened to hear Justice (one of my favorite dance bands) playing at a distance, which then became louder and louder as I was transported from whatever state I was in. I don’t know what happened out there, but something shifted for me.
It’s hard to describe what happened that day to people that asked me about my experience as a sober person at Coachella. It was during one of those conversations that my friend, Aaron, said, oh you experienced “Teshuva”, and I was like “what”. And he proceeded to explain that there are four steps(elements) to Teshuva; the steps are mental, verbal and action-based commitments to undo the poor-decision making that occurred and change, that is, amend the behavior. These steps can take days, months, years. The final aspect of the fourth and last step to completing the Teshuva is when one experiences an identical negative situation, but now one makes a good decision, which in the 12-Step world is called "contrary action”.
I realized then, that’s what happened! I took contrary action by choosing to change my perception. Although I didn’t feel like my prayers were being heard, I continued praying. I wasn’t in a relationship, but I continued opening my heart. My son was still navigating his challenges, but I was believing for his moment of clarity, and I chose to stay sober.
The Teshuva was completed in Coachella, and so Te-Chella.
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