The Universal Life Expo: Find New Enlightenment . . . And Shopping!

The Universal Life Expo: Find New Enlightenment . . . And Shopping!

Are you ready for a weekend full of uplifting contemplation and exploration?

Every spring and fall, in central Columbus, Ohio, people gather to be enlightened, to find holistic solutions for their lives, and to touch something of the metaphysical. The Universal Life Expo has been an annual tradition, in one incarnation or another, since 1989. It’s one of the larger events of its kind in the U.S. In recent years, the event has expanded to run twice a year, generally in September and April.

There’s a little bit of everything. Free lectures run all day, both days. A number of guided ceremonies and meditations are offered. Almost countless vendors sell a variety of alternative healing products, ritual items, crystals and stones, psychic readings, jewelry, apparel, and all things related to the New Age Movement.

Always something new

A crystal vendor’s gazebo greets guests by the entrance.

Vendors, psychics, and lecturers come from all over the region to participate in the Universal Life Expo. If you return again and again, you will always find opportunities to learn and experience new things. While many participants attend every year, new faces keep the event fresh.

There are countless opportunities to access your higher self. Some are planned, and some just happen through serendipity. This traveler stepped into a cast-iron gazebo hung with hundreds of crystal pendants to better see the merchandise, and found herself vibrating a little differently inside the crystal web.

Tibetan monks are a real show stopper

The Drepung Loseling Monks, opening the expo and preparing the mandala altar.

Arguably, the highlight of the weekend revolves around the Drepung Loseling Monks, who participate every year. These Buddhist monks travel the country, educating the public about ancient Tibetan traditions and culture. At the expo, they offer lectures and guided meditation. And they construct a mandala, or sand painting - a sacred tradition, used for blessing the Earth and its inhabitants. The monks begin as the expo doors open, singing, and blessing the space for the mandala. Watching the monks as they perform, it’s clear that every stage in the ritual, every movement, is full of symbolic meaning.

Guests gather to watch the monks chant in their orange robes. Their impossibly deep voices resonate, but it’s the call of the trumpets that pulls visitors from every corner of the place. It’s a privilege to stand in the vibration of that sound and watch their reverent chanting.

The mandala takes all of Saturday to complete. You can stop by throughout the day and monitor the progress. At their nearby table, they sell traditional Buddhist ritual objects and other items, made by refugee Tibetan artisans.

Take a break and walk in the labyrinth

The winding, flickering labyrinth is a fun way to get centered.

One of the regular features of the expo is a candle-lit labyrinth. (Of course, for safety reasons, the “candles” are battery-operated.) Labyrinths are making a comeback for meditation and new age communities, and also gaining respect from the medical field. Some hospitals have installed them permanently as a complementary therapeutic option. They are effective for reducing stress, at the least, but they also provide spiritual benefits for those who take the time to use them as a meditative stroll.

At the Universal Life Expo, the labyrinth is set up for guests to come and use it as they like. The space has been energetically charged, and just stepping into the maze-like meandering path induces a mysterious feeling of peace and focus.

Get a reading from one of many psychics and mediums

John Saxon, Piano Psychic, channels a musical aura reading for a client.

For many, no visit to the Universal Life Expo is complete without getting a psychic reading. There are so many to choose from: Tarot readers, numerologists, traditional psychics, mediums, Akashic Record readers, and more. Prices for these readings vary by vendor.

One of the more unusual options at the September 2015 expo was the musical aura reading. Psychic and classically-trained musician, John Saxon, has a unique talent for reading people’s energy, and expressing it through piano music. If you’ve never heard your life and soul expressed musically, it’s a moving experience!

Plan your weekend

Hundreds of vendors offering stones, crystals, psychic readings, magical items, and more.

You’ll want to check the lecture schedule for topics you’d like to catch, like twin flames, past lives, ancient pyramids, or animal communication. You’ll also want to stroll by all the vendor booths, because there are too many delightful shopping and healing options: have a reflexology treatment, an iridology reading, or even get a photograph of your aura! Pick up a new crystal or statue of Ganesh (the Hindu elephant-headed deity who removes obstacles). It’s all here.

Tickets to the event are 11 USD for each day, but coupons are often available. Visitors can come for a couple of hours and just check out the booths, or plan on being around for the whole event, both Saturday and Sunday, and taking the time to catch various lectures, shop, and visit with professionals in the holistic arts. It’s perfectly okay to tote in your own food and water, but a food vendor is always cooking. Drinking fountains and restrooms are available. Parking is cheap and right outside.

The weekend closes with a blessing

The Drepung Loseling Monks offering the final blessing.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Tibetan monks again don ceremonial robes and chant over the mandala. This marks the closing of the Universal Life Expo. Almost everyone in the building crowds around the altar for the dismantling; half the blessed sand will be released into rivers to help heal the Earth, while the other half is distributed to guests. It’s a real treat to leave an enlightening weekend with a little bit of colored sand blessed by Tibetan monks.

Walk away renewed

If you’d like to reach for something more, or get in touch with you inner self, make plans to visit the Universal Life Expo; you’ll leave feeling a little lighter than you came - and a little more enlightened.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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I love exploration. I was on my first camping trip mere weeks after my birth, and I’ve sought out new experiences ever since. I wrote my first travel narrative at twelve years old, about a family...Read more

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