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Visionary Summit a festival of consciousness

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"You can stand back and look at this planet and see that we have the money, the power, the medical understanding, the scientific know-how, the love and the community to produce a kind of human paradise."

That is one of the many quotes from visionary Terence McKenna. The Paonia native is being honored in his hometown this weekend as part of the Visionary Summit. The three-day event is sponsored by The Learning Council and offers lectures, presentations, yoga, meditation, music and more.

This is the first summit of its kind in Paonia and was created as a way to bring the community together to focus on common themes, said Alicia Michelson, director at The Learning Council. Michelson is part of a team of individuals behind the event, the first of its kind in Paonia, offering a convergence seekers, thinkers and dreamers honoring McKenna. "We really wanted to kick it off by focusing on McKenna," said Michelson. "He was a great thinker and we wanted to celebrate that."

The Blue Sage Center for the Arts and Paradise Theatre will provide venues for many of the presenters throughout the weekend. The program includes Iyengar yoga, meditation and talks on a variety of subjects. From Friday evening's opening ceremony with healer Alaya Love, Shamanic journey with Lazaros Bountour and a potluck dinner to Sunday's final meditation and PPPC Bike CoOp group ride, Michelson said the three-day event was created to provide something from which everyone can benefit.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, a public festival with speakers, presentations, workshops and music will happen at Poulos Park. Among the presenters, Mary George will speak on "Using plants and prayer for spiritual healing," and Michelson will speak on "Delving into the soul through the green nation, and life."

Also at Poulos Park Dustin Elaih, from Carbondale, will speak on the Four Noble Truths, which are the foundation of Buddhism, and "Healing Mother Gaia: Bocashi and Biochar," a workshop on healing ourselves and the land will be given.

In addition, two live art installments will happen over the weekend, including the painting of a mural on one of the newly-acquired buildings at Elsewhere Studios, where McKenna lived during his time in Paonia, and a ceramic sculpture piece inspired by the life and work of McKenna, at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts.

McKenna, who died in 2000, left Paonia at age 16 and went on to earn degrees in ecology, conservation and Shamanism from the University of California, Berkeley, in the mid-1970s, according to an on-line biography. McKenna was known largely for his experimentation with, and writings on, the underground world of psychedelic drugs and was dubbed "the psychedelic bard."

He was also known for his scholarly work including "Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge," which examines the role of psychedelic plants in human evolution.

He was an ethnobotanist and lecturer, and also a writer and environmentalist and studied Shamanism extensively. "He was always on the cutting edge of those fields," said Michelson. "He used art and writing as a great vehicle to expand consciousness."

McKenna's brother, Dennis McKenna, is the guest of honor and is among the 30 presenters featured over the three-day event. Saturday evening, McKenna, an author, ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacologist and lecturer, will share insights into his brother's life and give a talk on his new book, "Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna."

Five musical acts will be spread throughout the weekend, headlined Saturday night at The Paradise Theatre by the Desert Dwellers.

The summit was created not only to allow participants to expand their consciousness, but to bring people together to learn and think, said Michelson. That goes with The Learning Council's vision to connect learners and educators, empower personal growth, encourage learners to give back to the community through service, provide complimentary education to today's conventional education, and to celebrate educational options, including arts, agriculture and local culture.

More summits are planned for the future, and will focus on different subjects, said Michelson. The next date being considered is January 2018.

For details, including a full schedule and ticket information, visit www.visionarysummitpaonia.com.

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