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MindBodySpirit Festival 2012

November 18, 2012

To save everyone else the pain I went to the Sydney MindBodySpirit Festival on Friday, November 9. I've been going to these things for some years and they are always great fun as long as you stay away from the medical quackery. That seems to be reducing over time and most of the ones still there are the sort which are harmless (unless they discourage people with real illnesses from getting proper treatment) and are so transparently nonsense that surely most people must just see them as a form of entertainment, in the same way that many people get pleasure from a little gambling. (I won Lotto a couple of weeks ago. As you might gather from the fact that I'm here typing and not picking out fittings for a yacht, it was not a big win. First prize was in excess of $100 million and was split between four winners. My share of the pool was $20.10, which was enough for a t-bone steak and chips plus a small beer at my local pub.)

The homeopaths and iridologists seem to have disappeared and I only saw one chiropractor. I like there to be two chiropractors so I can go to both and be told that I put more weight on one foot than the other. In my youth I spent a lot of time ballroom dancing and riding a surfboard and I can still move my weight from one foot to the other without moving the top of my body. Whichever foot bears the most I am always told that I have something severely wrong and I need to book in for 1, 2, 42, 438 or eleventy-nine treatments to get it all fixed. None of them have ever noticed that I have Type 2 diabetes. There were Reiki practitioners, reflexologists and stands offering various forms of massage, but who hasn't felt better after a relaxing lie down with someone gently fiddling with parts of their body?

There were a few religious groups there. The Church of Scientology are now honest and not calling themselves Dianetics like they did in the past. The Salvation Army had a stand but I didn't get a chance to ask them about the Christocentric Healing people who were immediately behind them. At least the Christocentric people didn't have the man with long hair and a beard dressed in flowing robes like Jesus and the great big cross that they have had in prior years. Even my atheist friends were offended by that. I spent some time talking to some Christians who offer free prayer with passers-by. They asked if I wanted to pray with them and when I said that I am an atheist they lady quick as a flash said "Well, can we pray for you?" and smiled. These folk are relatively harmless and, like the Salvation Army, were just doing what they believe Jesus asked them to do. I didn't challenge them on their views on evolution, abortion or the child abuse scandal swirling around some churches because I didn't have all day and as they weren't there to address any of those issues it would have been impolite to bring them up. Picking fights for no good reason doesn't advantage anyone.

The usual range of stands selling food and beverages was there. Most of it had "organic" in big letters, but there were few claims of wondrous results from eating or drinking the stuff on display. I think I saw only one miracle weight-loss food, but the rest just make vague claims about wellness in the same way that, for example, yoghurt makers hint at the benefits of eating live bacteria. There were at least two organic winemakers there. I've tasted their products in the past and they are good wines and I don't care if they talk to the vines, do their pruning by the stars or tickle individual grapes with a paintbrush as long as the end product is acceptable. I've heard crazy stuff from conventional winemakers too, and Australia's most expensive wine is bought because of the label and nobody ever drinks it. I did miss the hot chilli sauce people who have been there in previous years, and I noticed that the Mayan coffee people were missing. Probably thought they wouldn't be able to fill all the orders before December 21. (Serious note – last time I was there the Mayan coffee people were next to a stand warning about the coming end of the world. The Mayans did not seem concerned.)

The number of stands selling clothing was down from previous years. I usually picked up something that was difficult to buy in mainstream shops, generally because of the type of fibre used, but perhaps the market isn't big enough now to justify bringing stock to Sydney and paying for and manning a stall for four days. It could be that the number of ancient hippies that go to the festival is falling off, maybe because the retirement homes get paid more to bus residents to the casino than they get for a trip to the festival.

As expected there was no shortage of stands offering psychic readings, aura photographs, sketches of personal angels as well as books, crystals and devices to allow one to connect to one's inner self. These are forms of voluntary taxation and without them there would be no point to the festival. A couple that I missed from previous years were the gong bath, where the credit card owner sits near a big brass gong and gets washed with sound waves when the man from J. Arthur Rank gets to work, and the American Indian teepee which offered the advantages to be gained from sitting inside a teepee. These advantages were never fully explained, but probably did not include being invaded and having your land stolen. I would have been more impressed if they had included a bison burger in the entry fee.

Will I go back? Of course I will. It's a fun day out, any harm you do you do to yourself (or your bank account), there are interesting things to do and see, and you can be amazed at the sort of things that people will believe. I was disappointed that the man who was going to give a talk on Quantum Physics and the Supernatural Realm didn't turn up, but the excellent raspberry cake I had with a coffee made up for it, specially as I got a discount because I was wearing a media pass. Just don't tell anyone that the cake was gluten-free. I'd never live it down

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