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Ricardo Hubbs lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world, deep in the Kootenay Mountain region of Canada. His community centered home, the Hubb, is an artist’s and traveller’s dream retreat: surrounded by an amazing garden, filled with books, instruments, and wonderful food… and incredible people stopping in to say hello and sit around the fire. Ricardo lives and works as the cultural creative director of Shambhala, Canada’s premier electronic music and art festival. After leaving law school and travelling all over the world, Ricardo ended up in Winlaw, BC learning about community living and gardening. Today, you can find him barefoot planting and working in his garden, taking photos at the spring “Soulstice” festival that happens on his property, or travelling around to different festivals as a representative and “festival researcher” for Shambhala.
Ricardo is a wonderful man and source of inspiration to many of us here in Canada and we feel very fortunate to have spent an hour with him talking about his own life journey and his wisdom about living.
JR: Hello everyone! Welcome to another Why Fearing interview. My name is Jeremie Rodger and I’m here today with my colleague, Clint Griffiths. Today we have a special guest, a good friend of mine who I met in the Kootenays a couple years ago. Since then I’ve been fortunate to visit his beautiful house in Winlaw, BC. Welcome, Ricardo Hubbs. . How about a little background, an overview of who you are, what you’re doing and what’s been going on in your life lately?
RH: Hi Jeremie. . . , I work for Shambhala Music Festival. As Cultural Creative Director, my job involves many different creative endeavors— I’m just on the cusp of my garden here;I’m putting the pees and spinach in any day now, and I’m pretty excited about it.
JR: That’s great! For anyone who hasn’t been to Ricardo’s place, I this is the most beautiful home I’ve ever been to. If you have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. The garden is beautiful. As well, for those who don’t know, Shambhala is the premiere electronic music festival here in Canada. It happens every August and about 13,000 people attended. Shambhala is internationally recognized and it’s a significant part of the progressive arts scene in the world today…. so it’s a big deal. Ricardo, what is it like to be the Cultural Creative Director of Shambhala? It sounds like an audacious position.
RH: Well, Jeremie, the role of Cultural Creative Director is big and a lot of self-directed work; it’s creative development on ways to make the festival Whether it’s a green strategy to make us better environmentally, make us stronger with the local community. . . I run the Shambassador Program, (that’s all the host of the party), and I try to keep the vibe at the festival really good, really safe, reallyfun and fun-loving, and open. I run the media team, working with all the media, the press, media in, media out, I work on marketing, I work on a lot of stuff.
JR: How about we go back in the past a bit: Where did you come from
RH: (laughing) So where do you want me to start? Like university?
JR: (laughing) Yeah, let’s start from there.
CG: What was your life like before you got to where you are now? Was there a kind of shift? What brought you to today?
RH: That’s good question. When I graduated from university, my plan at that time was to attend law school and become an environmental lawyer. I did my Political Science degree and then hit the road for four months. I went to Australia, and four months turned into two years—I ended up backpacking around the world. It was a very transformative experience. That was the first seed of change really. This is pre-Internet, right? So the world was taught through textbooks and books, and what you saw on TV. When I went out on the road and saw what the world was really like, and how troubled the world was, how beautiful the world was, how magical the world was, it definitely made me not wanna go back to school and be a lawyer.
When I finally returned to Canada, I waitered for a number of years in different resorts around the country. I would always be traveling as well, so I would work for a little bit and then go to Guatemala or up to Dawson City and live in the Yukon. I moved around a lot until I was 28, and then I came through the town of Winlaw. I had stopped to visit a friend. . .I never left.
JR: Wow. I remember you telling me about a realization you had at that point, about the differences and similarities of traveling in space and traveling in place. I remember really liking that.
RH: Yeah, yeah, well, when I got to Winlaw, I purchased a little house,then I bought into a land share for not too much money. I was really upset because I realized I couldn’t travel anymore. Typically I’d travel in space, like traveling to Guatemala or to Russia or to China or wherever I’ve been. But then, that kind of traveling was also about traveling in place. To “travel in place” is to explore the deeper means of community, to understand how to grow a garden, grow food, what kind of tree grows outside your door, what the insects are and the name of that bird is that just flew by. Traveling then became something not that I had to give up— even if you’re in one place, you can still travel . We’re traveling through time, but we’re also traveling through our life experience. There’s so much to discover if you keep a sense of a beginner’s mind, like they say in yoga. Each day, whether you’re on the road in some foreign country, or you’re in your own home, you can still be a traveler. Does that make sense?
Each day, whether you’re on the road in some foreign country, or you’re in your own home, you can still be a traveler.
CG: Yeah. That makes so much sense. I had the same realization almost: I travelled for around ten years, and there was the same thing— I moved back home and I was like, “You know what, I can have new experiences right here. I just have to look at it that way, or make them happen.” The nice thing about traveling is that it’s always happening to you; it’s right in your face. If you look at it exactly as you said: “What’s that tree?” or “What are these people who I haven’t met doing?” You can travel right in your one little spot!
JR: So since then, you’ve been in Winlaw. What’s been happening since then?
So I learned exactly what I wanted to learn. I learned how to grow food.
RH: Well, when I first got here, I lived in some intentional communities. By that I mean people who made a commitment to live together not just as roommates, but to help each other become better people. Some people call it more conscious, more loving, or more open. Through those exercises in intentional community-building, I learned a lot about myself and what it’s really like to live “in community”: what it really means to share with people, listen to each other, and express yourself in a non-violent, communicative way. In my intentional community, the biggest thing for me was learning to garden. The Kootenays are very unique, beautiful mountains, with lots of fresh water, and they’re the world’s only interior temperate rainforest. So the Kootenays are great for growing food. People talk about their potato patch or their pea vines, as much as somebody in the city talks about television programs and their favorite character on Primetime. This will be my 16th garden this year. I love being barefoot in the garden and planting seeds and flowers. It’s watching a miracle.
CG: So that’s it? Gardening is your main passion?
RH: It’s a passion. Some people have likened gardening to a spiritual practice. “Spiritual practice” might be a kind of grandiose word for some people, yet gardening is definitely part of my passion. It’s almost deeper than that— it’s my calling maybe. Also a big part of this, is using things like Facebook to communicate good ideas and information so we can make a better future for ourselves.
JR: Nice, nice. Yeah, I know that you have a lot of friends on Facebook, and when you do post things, you reach a lot of people. You post amazing things, a lot of good quotes come out of your Facebook page.
RH: I keep busy and I’ve been what people call an activist for Kootenay watershed issues and protecting watersheds from industrial development.
CG: When you settled down at 28 and stopped traveling for a while, you were waitering, then what happened next?
RH: As I was starting to get older and realizing that I couldn’t have this lifestyle for the rest of my life, I went back to school at the Vancouver film school in (laughing) guess where? Vancouver. I took their interactive media program and then came back to the Kootenays and started up a company called Recordo. I did promo videos and a few documentaries for a local museum, and a little bout of yoga videos for different yogis in Calgary. That was fun, but it was sort of a feast or famine type of business (you know, if you’re working, it was really good and if you weren’t working, it was challenging). So, since I’ve always had a passion and a love for photography, and I realized that it was more affordable for people to fork out a little bit of money for photos than to wait for these big contracts for videos to come through, I started to focus a bit more on my camera ability than my video training. I started to self-train in photography and using the internet, which is partly what helped me realize my current position working for Shambhala.
JR: What about The Hubb, the farm you’re living at. What goes on in that the type of community and surrounds it? This is one of the things I love most about Canada actually.
I really see the value of community, and the community is one of the primary tools for us to create meaningful change in the world, because if we can learn to love rather than fear the stranger. If we can learn to really love our neighbor and to be acquainted with our neighbor, we’re starting to create profound change.
RH: Awesome. That’s good to hear. The Hubb evolved because when I moved to Winlaw there was a large coop of landowners, and through some marriage fiasco, the co-op broke up. We subdivided, and I was OK with the vision of having a community, and my last name is Hubbs, so “The Hubb” was a natural fit. So many people came in and out of here, and lots of art was being created so I built on to the house and made The Hubb a place where people could gather, or people could have meetings, show movies, or build a stage in the back yard property with an outdoor kitchen.
My passion is really about bringing people together and to create a good feeling in their heart because if we can make the long journey from our heads to our hearts, then we’re really creating change. I feel like I died tomorrow that my work is being done in a good way.
I host a summer solstice party every year. It’s not to make money. I do it as a tide thing, and bring people together because community is one of the primary tools for us to create meaningful change in the world. If we can learn to love rather than fear the stranger, and if we can learn to really love our neighbor and to be acquainted with our neighbor, we’re starting to create the magic of connections. Connections are a synchronicity in all the magic, in all the wonderful goodness that happens especially in a town like this, where we know each other and we can celebrate the turning of the seasons together in a way unlike a commercial enterprise―people don’t have to pay money to come. We can bring our kids, we can bring our parents, we can all get together; The Hubb has really become a vortex in Winlaw. Outdoor film events with WOOFERS who work in the organic gardens, as an example of the vortex. Going back to the question you asked about my passion: when I drilled down into it, my passion is really about bringing people together to create a good feeling in their hearts, because if we can make the long journey from our heads to our hearts, then we’re really creating change. I feel like if I died tomorrow, my work has been done in a good way.
CG: That’s awesome. It sounds like you’re living a very passionate life. I’m assuming every day is exciting for you getting up, loving what you’re doing. Do you have any advice for anyone else who wants to have that in their lives? Did you just get there by chance or were there certain steps that you took?
So yes, there were steps for me to get here, but when you’re starting out, you can’t see the steps. You can only find the steps by living your life with courage and taking risks. And taking risks often involves following your heart rather than following your head. Your head will tell you that it’s better to go to school and be an environmental lawyer because you’ll have a BMW by the time you’re 32.
RH: That’s an interesting question. Hindsights 20-20, so yes there were steps for me to get to living my passion, but when you’re starting out, you can ’t see the steps. You can only find the steps by living your life with courage, and taking risks. And taking risks often involves following your heart rather than following your head. Your head will tell you that it’s better to go to school and be an environmental lawyer because you’ll have a BMW by the time you’re 32. That path would’ve been very good for me, and would’ve done things, but I think the world is in such a profound need of people who act from their heart, and follow their intuition, following what feels good. One of my favorite quotes is by Dorris Lessing, to the effect of: “Individuals who change societies…”―something about by standing out against the tides of opinion, you change them. So my advice to people is to believe in yourself and to have courage to believe in yourself. I think people need to be strategic when they’re looking forward as well. We can’t just stumble along life and not have a plan, but I also encourage people to have flexibility to zig when they thought they were gonna zag, or when they’re going right actually go left, and see what happens. There’s no formula for good living in the world. There is not a formula of, when you reach a certain age, you get married and you have a career and you have a child and you have a family and you retire and then that’s it. That formula doesn’t work, it doesn’t serve the greater need of the community, it doesn’t serve the greater need of having a life well-lived. So in your last moments, are you still really present with your life? Did you have any regrets? Yes or no, there’s only one answer.
There’s no formula for good living in the world. There is not a formula of, when you reach a certain age, you get married and you have a career and you have a child and you have a family and you retire and then that’s it. That formula is, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t serve the greater need of the community, it doesn’t serve the greater need of having a life well-lived so in your last moments, are you still really present with your life? Did you have any regrets? Yes or no?
So, I think so long as you’re living in right alignment with yourself and right livelihood with the earth, and surrounding yourself with good people and wanting to do a good thing, there’s so much that can be done. My advice would be to not take life so seriously―to laugh more, to experiment more, to bust out off preconceived ideas as to what it is to be a human, and what it means to be, what some people would call “Canadian” or “American”…
We need to really look inside ourselves and act from a place that isn’t being told how to act but is really resonant with how you want to see the world and if you want to see a more loving world, you have to be more loving and by being more loving, the path in front of you will unfold in ways that you cannot perceive.
Those steps you’re talking about won’t be seen until you’re 44 years old looking backwards. I can see all the junctures in my life that have led to this point. Looking forward I don’t know what the next pivotal points are, but I’m learning that. In this role at Shambhala, I have the ability to help effect change on a bigger level. I think it’s really important that people work to change the world because the course we’re on now is not a good one. It’s very dangerous and we need to move forward with our eyes wide open, our hearts wide open, and our arms wide open. So my advice would be: walk with your heart open, your arms open and your eyes open. That’s my advice, it took a while but that’s he the advice (laughing).
So my advice would be: walk with your heart open, your arms open and your eyes open. That’s my advice, it took a while but that’s it.
CG: I certainly got from that a lot. So it wasn’t necessarily a shift you had, it was helping other people, creating community, making the world a better place. . . in other words, it was by focussing on others that has led you to a life you love. Were you always focussed on other, or is that just something you started to realize?
RH: I think the seeds of it started when I experienced eight weeks of summer camp, with a sense of being together. Living together, you’re producing words together. We don’t get a lot of that in most places nowadays. In terms of the world and working to make the world a better place, if it’s not you, who’s it gonna be? Who are we waiting for here? Nobody’s stepping up to the plate and we’re living our lives, and we’re concerned about our clothes, and we’re concerned about all these things, but they’re superficial—all the power to you to dress stylishly, but if you’re not buying food that’s good for your body, or if you’re pouring paint thinner down the drain, you’re really not very connected. I think it was traveling and seeing how polluted the world was, and seeing so many dead things that made me realize this. I read a book by Bill McKibben called End of Nature way back in 1989. McKibben was really the catalyst for opening my eyes.
In terms of the world and working to make the world a better place, if it’s not you, who’s it gonna be? Who are we waiting for here?
CG: People talk a lot about how if you’re living your life on purpose, your life is filled with bliss. Once you’ve experienced that bliss, it’s almost like you can’t not do it. Would you say you are at that point right now?
RH: I don’t know what living a life of bliss is like because I don’t know how― I live a life in gratitude, and it causes bliss at times, and causes beautiful, wonderful things to happen, but I don’t subscribe to any religion or any school of thought necessarily. I’m more Buddhist-thinking and in terms of enlightenment ―like one person can’t be enlightened unless all people are enlightened. I don’t feel like I can be blissful, unless the entire world is blissful, because I see tragedy in the world. I see that I have a great understanding of people who will never be given the opportunity to be blissful, because of where they were born, because of their social status, or because of their environmental status. I experience bliss as a product of my gratitude, but I don’t live a blissful life. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders as well, and it’s hard to remain blissful when I see that the oceans are dying, or the three thousand dolphins rolling up on the beach last week dead. These sorts of things don’t allow me to access a state of bliss all the time, but they allow me to access a state of awareness and a state of gratitude for being alive, and being empowered to help make the world a better place―that makes me feel bliss. I mean, people come to me and they’re like, “Oh this life is bliss,” and when I hear that part of my flake factor goes up. I say, “Uh-oh, I’m not too sure where it’s gonna continue from there,” and I’m not saying that someone’s wrong for feeling the way they feel. If they feel bliss all the time, that’s great; for me, I just feel like the world is too serious for me to be in a state of bliss all the time because we have some shit to work out and it’s tough. Living in community can be tough, living life can be tough. It’s not always blissful but you know there’s peaks and valleys and you can remain grateful in a peak or valley, but I don’t think you can remain blissful of these things as well. But bliss is good, I love it. Shared some bliss with Jeremie here at Shambhala, some blissful moments.
CG: Okay. Yes, so just to wrap up, where can we find more information about you, Shambhala, and the Hubb?
JR: And everything you’re doing?
RH: Well I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/recordo and I’m the big tall guy at Shambhala. You can’t miss me. I’ve got a top hat on.
JR: Yeah with the big top hat.
JR: Sometimes you see Ricardo at festivals around the world, you know, traveling for Shambhala, doing “festival research”, and he’s usually wearing his big hat. Anyway, thanks again Ricardo. It was great chatting with you.
CG: Thanks a lot for taking the time.