How Rainbow Gatherings Trained Me to Run Retreats

For the last 6 years or so I’ve been going to Rainbow Gatherings – autonomous, free-spirited gatherings in nature for a month at a time without electric, alcohol, commerce or anyone in charge. The ‘Rainbow Family’ welcomed me whole-heartedly and whether there were 50 people gathered or 2000, it was always worthwhile tracking down the gatherings on top of a mountain, deep in a forest or on some faraway beach.

rainbow gathering retreats

Rainbow Gathering in Bosnia

But then the end of the gathering would come and I would realise that now the yoga workshops were over, the music around the fire had died away, and all the sharing and celebration was but a memory, I was heading back down to the real world (Babylon as everyone in the Rainbow called it) and I was back to square one. No job, no qualifications, no work experience.

When I first hit upon the idea of running a meditaiton retreat in the Moroccan Sahara, however, I discovered to my surprise that I was already qualified to guide it – I’d beentraine din the rainbow gatherings without realising it!

Rainbow gatherings are really not for everyone. It can be rainy and cold, dinner might be served at 2 in the morning and be mostly burnt rice, and you might get head lice or diarrhea which sends you running ten times a day to the shit pits – trenches in the ground that are every bit as unappealing as they sound.  But there’s also such magic that can happen and when we had our first couple of retreats in the desert I saw that same magic coming to life.

The sharing circles for one thing. A staple tradition of the Rainbow and originating in indigenous societies in America and also Australia, we sit in circles in the Rainbow and pass the talking stick around – the person holding the stick is the only one who can speak. It’s an amazing ritual that brings out the voices of even the quietest people in the circle and brings the group together. So when one night on the full moon of the second retreat the energy for singing and dancing died out, we spontaneously started a talking circle and thereafter it became an essential part of the Sahara retreats; usually held on the second night in the dunes, the sharing creates an intimacy and trust that raises the energy of the group to another level entirely.

Or sometimes the mood is more dynamic and I’ll take the guitar and sing some Rainbow songs and before we know it everyone is on their feet, dancing and singing the easy-to-learn words and the atmosphere becomes ecstatic as we look up at the stars and remember in what an amazing world we live.