World Culture Festival Through the Eyes of a Spiritual Seeker

What does a world culture festival have in common with spirituality? Read the inspiring story of one former participant’s experience.

Denise Everheart
 Eyes of a Spiritual Seeker

If you haven’t heard of a World Culture Festival yet, you are about to know about the biggest spiritual gathering on the planet! I’m thrilled to share with you my experiences at not one or even two of these unique gatherings, but three global celebrations. I’m even more excited to share that the U.S. will host multiple state-level celebrations across the U.S. in 2022 and two global celebrations in 2023! 

Read on to be inspired!

First-ever World Culture Festival – Bangalore, India

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to miss big events hosted by the Art of Living Foundation. So when I learned of the first-ever global celebration of 2.5 million people, I knew I had to be there ; ) Held in 2007, the theme of this World Culture Festival (WCF) was the 25th anniversary of the Art of Living (AoL). 

I had already taken my first AoL SKY Breath Meditation course in the spring of 1995. I naturally wanted to celebrate all of AoL’s accomplishments and get the chance to participate in the world’s largest group meditation ever! Somehow I got the time off from work and my bags were packed in no time, ready for the big adventure that lay ahead.

The plan was for each country attending this WCF to wear a hat or scarf or other clothing that would identify which country they were from. Below is a pic of friends, new and old, with me donning a cowgirl hat. 

WCF Silver Jubilee

How do you gather 2.5 million people in one location? And what kind of location can hold 2.5 million people?!? Quite the undertaking! Even having lived it, it is hard to comprehend all that led to the culmination of this celebration. As thousands and thousands from nearly every country in the world arrived in Bangalore, approximately two million Indians were making the trek to literally set up camp at an abandoned airfield, the site for the celebration.

I could share many wonderful experiences if we were simply having a cup of tea, but I will just share my favorite experiences and leave the rest to your imagination.

I felt a bit like I was experiencing this generation’s version of Woodstock, but there were no hallucinogens, just AMAZING deep meditation. I remember that meditation like it was yesterday. Sitting on a plastic folding chair, only about 50 rows from the massive stage, the anticipation was palpable. 

AoL founder, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, began the meditation session with the instruction to chant Om three times. Like a wave of grace, the first Om emitted from the stage and swept across the gathering, eventually reaching those sitting in the back. The second Om started just before the first one finished creating a rolling Om circle. By the time the third Om finished, you could hear a pin drop had there been one available. 

Being part of a deep and profound experience like this is invaluable to both the participant and the world.

World Culture Festival – Berlin, Germany

WCF Berlin

Here I am pictured with a dear friend on the very first day of the Berlin WCF.

Honestly, I never had aspirations to visit Germany, but since this was going to be another major AoL event, I wasn’t going to miss it. This WCF took place in the Olympic stadium built by Hitler. What better place to celebrate peace and meditation, right!?! 

Despite the rainy weather, it was a spectacular open-air celebration! Tents and various booths with entertainment and food from around the world circled the stadium. This gathering was attended by 50,000 world visitors. 

I remember watching a group of Argentine dancers perform a tango inside the stadium in the pouring rain. Who knew that the rain could further enhance such a dramatic and powerful performance? But it did! In fact, all of the headlining performers inside the stadium made the best of the rainy situation. Interestingly, when it came time for the stadium field to be occupied by hundreds of yoga mats for one of the world’s largest groups to perform sun salutations, the sun came out!

The biggest WCF… so far!

Looking back on all three of the WCFs, I don’t know how everything aligned in order for me to attend. Getting time off from work to travel great distances shouldn’t have been possible, but it was. With this most recent WCF (2016), I was also recovering from major surgery. Thankfully, with the all-clear from my doctor, I booked my ticket to once again visit India. This time the destination was New Delhi! 

With 3.75 million attendees from 110 countries, we celebrated 35 years of Art of Living’s service to the world. Held on a large vacant piece of land, a 7-acre stage was built. Can you imagine?!? Over 36,000 artists from across the globe performed traditional and modern musical and dance performances that best represented each country celebrating. Mind-boggling! 

This WCF also had its fair share of rain. Below is one of my favorite pics, of me and my new best friend’s shoes as we rode a bus to the celebration. Who wore the right shoes? Not me!

WCF New Delhi

I really haven’t spoken much about my favorite memory from my third WCF. In part, because it is quite mystical and possibly even unbelievable. 

My new friend and I were sitting about 150 rows from the stage, still quite close given the magnitude and size of everything. I remember the rain had cleared and the sun was starting to set. It was a striking sunset surrounded by colorful clouds. And then…less than an hour later, the sun appeared to be rising in the opposite direction. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this phenomenon. Many around us were hypothesizing how this could be possible!?! Could the setting or rising sun be a reflection of the other? That didn’t seem likely. In the end, it could only be a mystery to be lived. 

Who is Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?

Ask anyone who has met Gurudev and they will likely share that the experience was awe-inspiring. Besides founding both the Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values, he is a master of meditation and a world-renowned spiritual leader. To learn more about Gurudev, please click here. You can also get a glimpse of who Gurudev is in this video.

One can only imagine that many countries in the world are hoping to be chosen for the next WCFs. Amazingly, the U.S. will host one in Washington D.C.!  Though many of the details are still coming together as of this publishing, the plan is for the D.C. event to take place on the National Mall. How cool is that?!? You know I will be there!

If I have piqued your interest, and you want to know more about all of the upcoming celebrations, please visit https://worldculturefest.org.

I wonder how many people will attend these celebrations?!? Hope you’ll join us!

Want to know more about SKY Breath Meditation?

I am celebrating my own milestone with the Art of Living and SKY Breath Meditation (Sudarshan Kriya). It’s been 27 years since I learned SKY! I love my breathing meditation practice and what it has done for me. But that’s another story ; )

Check out this FREE breath and meditation session, where you will learn a breathing technique, experience a guided meditation, and learn more about SKY.

Breathe Strong bannerEditor’s note: The dates for the World Culture Festival in Washington D.C. have been confirmed as September 29th through October 1st 2023. 

Art of Living Part 1 course: Discover Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ancient secret to modern well-being.

Subscribe to Art of Living Blog Digest