BaliSpirit Festival 2015 in Soothed in the City
The article is derived from Soothed in the City website.
” I want to connect conscious people”
Interview with Charley Patton, sponsor and organizer of The BaliSpirit Festival in Ubud, Bali
Charley Patton, co-founder and director of the epicentre of Ubud’s yoga scene, The Yoga Barn, and sponsor and organiser of the BaliSpirit Festival took the plunge in 2004 and quitted his job of 16 years at Getty Images in California to come to Bali and build up a more congruent life than he lived as a corporate manager.
He believes that it’s a race between the 1% who exists to rape and pillage and line their pockets and the rest of us, and wants the world to realize that by discovering our own individual passions and by living and working congruently with our heart and mind as integrated beings we can be responsible for nature.
Éva Kincsei spoke to him…
You really seem to be riding the wave of the growing spiritually-inclined community in Bali. What was the initial idea behind The Yoga Barn, the BaliSpirit Festival and the most popular café in Ubud – KAFE, and how do all these tie together?
It all started with the website Balispirit.com, which was set up in 2002 by my business partner, Megan Pappenheim and her husband Kadek. Two main phenomena factored in the creation of the website. One of them was the Bali bombings (October 2002 and 2005 – the editor), which decimated tourism on Bali, an island 70-80 per cent driven by tourism. As a consequence, the local entrepreneurs trying to run their small businesses suffered too. The other factor was the quality of tourism. The tourist traffic in Bali in the 2000s consisted mainly of drunken yahoos, walking down the streets half-naked not respecting the local culture at all, while drinking Bintang beer and picking up Javanese prostitutes at night. The antithesis of what any country would want their tourist traffic to be. This is kind of what Thailand has become. So Megan and Kadek made a very conscious decision that through their website Balispirit.com, they were going to focus all their efforts on bringing back to the island the type of tourist that comes to Bali for the specific reason of wanting to connect with the Balinese cultural heritage. So Balispirit.com became the first dedicated website to act as a hub for anything holistic in Bali to attract the type of tourist who want to come to Bali to practice yoga, take retreats and do teacher trainings to explore deeper their spiritual world.
Then Megan’s next venture was to start up KAFE that opened in 2004, the year when I arrived. (KAFE is a café and restaurant at the heart of Ubud on Jalan Hanoman Street, always packed with tourists and expats, offering high quality vegetarian and raw food – the editor). Back then I had arrived to work as a volunteer for IDEP – Indonesian Development for Education and Permaculture – whose office was just above KAFE. That’s how I met Megan and her husband, and something really resonated between us. Then we came up with the idea of setting up a community centre in Ubud where people can practice yoga, we can host workshops and do film screenings. So the idea of The Yoga Barn was born in 2005, and the actual building started in early 2006. I was the investor and administrator, also responsible for the marketing strategy. The official opening was in December 2007. And from that point on it was as if the universe said ‘game on, time to step into your art and your heart and passion and this is what you need to do.” So while working on The Yoga Barn, we had already concurrently been working on the BaliSpirit Festival, and just three months after The Yoga Barn had opened, the first BaliSpirit Festival materialized too in March 2008. Meanwhile, KAFE was slowly becoming the hub of the growing health food scene in Ubud where the yoga-loving crowd gathered to eat out. So it was really in 2007-2008 when things started to take off.
The Yoga Barn Pavilion at the BaliSpirit Festival by Eva Kincsei
What made you give up your successful life in California and start a new one here in Bali?
I spent 16 years in the corporate world, and I didn’t feel that my life was congruent. There was the corporate Charley, and the Charley who went to Burning Man Festival. And those two were not the same. I worked for Getty Images, overseeing the film footage division. At my managerial apex, thirty people were reporting to me and had responsibility for two offices, one if Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco. I had a car in both cities, I had all the nice clothes, making good money, but there was something about it which made me put on a mask every Monday morning. It was a great company, youthful and vibrant and creative but it was catering to the advertising and marketing corporate world, and at one point it went public and once that happens in the life of a company, everything changes. Everything became driven by the price of the stock and to increase shareholder value. And once a company goes public, it doesn’t matter what you are selling, it just becomes a commodity and you just exist to grow. And hence the challenge and issue that we are running up against today that there are corporations out there that just exist to rape, pillage and deplete the world’s natural resources in order to line the pockets of the 1%. And I had realized that I’d much rather prefer those corporations which have on their board of directors a CCO, a chief consciousness officer, and which create products that give back to the community and aren’t about just complete destruction of the world’s natural resources.
But working for a corporation was also incredibly beneficial. And in 16 years I learnt a lot about how business are run, how to do marketing and advertising, and how to manage people in a very driven and structured environment. I was very blessed that I could learn a lot of concrete skills and I got well-paid for it, so I was able to save enough money to help me jump start and create the life that I wanted. So when I decided to leave Getty, I started a year-long solo bicycle trip in South-East Asia to see where the wind took me. I cycled 8000 miles and it was on that trip that while I was on my way from Perth, Australia to Cambodia, I decided to stop in Bali. And what was to have been just a 2 week stop-off ended up being 2 months. But then my visa was up and I had to leave the country so I found myself back in San Francisco and it was at that point when I had to decide that this year was just a gap year and now I go back to the corporate world, refreshed, or I do roll the dice and do something completely different. And there was something about Bali which made me think “I just want to go back there.”
What is it about Bali that attracts spiritually-inclined people so much?
‘Ubud’ – being the derivative of the word ‘Obat’, which means ‘medicine’ – has always been the epicentre of healing for generations in Bali before any westerner ever came here. So there’s something about Ubud that is already magical. Also, what Bali offers is an environment and culture where people can experience the uniqueness that this island is. Where, for thousands of years, the Balinese have been really dedicating their lives to this unseen world that exists everywhere, and that is so deep and unfathomable. And they dedicate such a huge portion of their lives towards their offering, and it creates an energy here that’s unlike anywhere I have ever been. Energy of compassion, gratitude, and happiness.
Why a yoga studio and why a yoga festival?
Yoga is a universal language. You don’t have to speak English or any other languages to follow a yoga class. It’s just like dance and music. You start practicing yoga and it allows you to create the space within your heart and mind to discover what it is you’d like to be doing. So the fascinating thing about Bali and the BaliSpirit Festival is that people come here not exactly knowing why – oftentimes at turning point in their lives – saying things like “I got canned from my job”, or “ someone close to me has just passed away,” or “ I got sick,”. So something happened in their lives, which has made them ask questions like “what am I doing with my life and with the rest of my time on this planet,” or “who would I want to be”, and these places might help them figure things out.
So how would you describe the demographic you want to attract with The Yoga Barn and the BaliSpirit Festival?
The yoga loving crowd is the type of crowd that likes to get up early, doesn’t stay up until late night partying, they are not alcohol drinkers, they tend to not stay in a super-luxurious hotels but in a local boutique home instead. They practice yoga and they work on their inner spiritual world, and they appreciate everything that Bali has to offer: the temple culture, the history and the deference of the Balinese to their religion. One could say that they are the perfect tourist for this island to attract.
Was Burning Man an inspiration for the BaliSpirit Festival?
Burning Man was an inspiration for me, personally, and I would say that a lot of people from Burning Man do come to this Festival. They also share similarities in the fact that it is our belief that every single person on this planet has a latent talent for something. And sad to say but many people go through their lives without never discovering whatever it is that they are passionate about.
This world would be a much better place if everyone discovered what their passion is. If you are passionate about something, your work then becomes your play. The name ‘work’ doesn’t really apply. It might be hard work but you are enjoying it so much that it doesn’t matter anymore. Because it is congruent with who you are within, and you are happy to put into it even the extra hours since you are investing your heart and mind in it.
How do you want to spread the word further? Do you want to grow bigger?
Absolutely. Our work is nowhere near done. It’s not until we start switching on all these people being the change that we wish to see. I see it as a race of the 1 per cent and the corporations that exist to rape and pillage and line their pockets vs. the rest of us.
So you want to bring down the 1%?
I want to connect conscious people. And I want the world to realize that by discovering our own individual passions and by living and working congruently with our heart and our mind as integrated beings we can be responsible for nature. But our success by no means guarantee it and humanity could very well be wiped off this Planet. Mother Earth will shake us off and life will regenerate here with or without us. So the question is: are we going to be around? My hope is that we will.
What would you say if asked why people should come to Ubud or Bali?
Come to Bali to get a taste of how your life might look if you start to dedicate yourself to a spiritual practice. And then you still might go back wherever you have come from but hopefully will be able to lead a more conscious and congruent life there. Anyone can have a more spiritual life and it doesn’t matter where they are. It doesn’t have to be in Bali. Some people have spiritual experience from taking hikes in the woods in Sierra Nevada in California, or swimming in the ocean every morning as the sun rises and dolphins swim by. Some people find their spirituality in other ways than practicing yoga. But Bali is the place that can give you the appetizer for leading a more spiritual life.
What is spirituality for you?
Being spiritual doesn’t mean that you are wearing mala beads, eating Tofu and chanting Sanskrit. For me it means respecting the Earth and trying to do the least amount of harm to her as possible. And the lesson I learned that wealth is not quantified by the size of a bank account. True wealth is having fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, eating healthy organic food that sustains that temple which is your body; having the luxury of time to exercise that body so that you can live vitally in a community with family and friends. And although you need the green notes – that’s what made it possible for me to start a new life in Ubud – your happiness cannot depend on external means.