Music festivals get a bad rap. They’re exclusively for debaucherous, druggy, alcoholic, celebrity-wannabe, spray-tanned, trust-fund, scenesters, who most likely can’t even name one of the bands playing that day...or at least that’s what the Buzzfeed list and semi-sophisticated-Salon-snark-piece would have you believe.
But I love going to music festivals--I just got back from Coachella--and besides my fondness for beer (I didn't find the IPA until the last day, for shame), I can't be categorized by any of those Buzzfeed music festival memes. That's not because I’m an exception to the rule, it's because I am the rule. Even if there are elements of that scene at a music festival, there are also a million other much more powerful elements as well. These are the elements that keep me coming back, and the biggest element for me is mindfulness.
When you think of Coachella I’m sure the last thing you think of is mindfulness. It’s not as if everyone sits in the middle of the Empire Polo fields meditating silently over the three-day weekend. But as regular readers of the blog already know, I tend to find mindfulness in the darndest things.
~~What if mindfulness was found in a ear-pluggingly loud place, where the noise overruns your mind leaving you no other option but to be present.
~~What if mindfulness was a moment in a massive crowd, freeing you to simultaneously lose and find yourself.
~~What if mindfulness was conjured through connection, sharing a series of meaningful experiences with your closest friends.
~~What if mindfulness was discovered through random interaction, encountering something as simple as a smile from the unknown passerby.
~~What if mindfulness was an inspiration, grown over a series of passionate musical crescendos and poetically profound lyrics.
~~What if mindfulness was the surprise of feeling so minuscule at the grandiosity of it all, and by proxy, in the grand scheme of life.
There are a hundred opportunities for mindfulness at a modern music festival, and it's because the necessity for these real life communal experiences are ingrained in our DNA. Music, friendship, entertainment, and fellowship all take us away from the anxiety of life. It's an ancient method of relieving stress and it still moves us to this day, no matter how many burdensome digital distractions we chain to our modern psyche.
Beyond the scene or the beer garden, a music festival is a place where people choose to put down their phones (for the most part) and participate in a real life adventure with thousands of companions and comrades. So no matter what you've heard, the real drug of choice at Coachella is mindfulness, and every year when it’s done I can’t wait to go back for another dose.
I've been lucky enough in my life to learn a lot about Jewish culture and faith through my partner, Jon. His family believes in a contemporary form of Judaism, one that is entirely progressive and endlessly mindful.
Dayenu is one of those mindful traditions. On a literal level if means "it would have been enough," but on a progressive level it is a commentary on our modern culture where nothing--not our possessions, our bank accounts, or the food on the dinner plates--seems to be enough.
Dayenu asks us to be grateful for all the blessings that surround us, but also to be mindful of injustice in the world and then to do something about it.
Such a powerful and important message.
The following is from the Herman family Pesach, the book you read (and sing) as a group during the Passover Seder. This Pesach was lovingly prepared, and this passage mindfully selected, by one of my zen inspirations, Phyllis Herman:
It would have been enough for God to take us out of Egypt.
Here’s a funny thing I've noticed since starting this blog: sometimes I wait so long and spend so much time editing a post, that by the time I’m ready to publish it I decide that I'm actually... kind of... wrong.
This concept is kind of blowing my mind a little bit here. Bear with me.
I started this blog as a testament to the mindful life I’m attempting to lead. By sharing my thoughts it would keep me honest, and by putting these words out there maybe they just could help someone else along the way.
As a matter of fact, I know these words have helped people, because those people have actually told me so. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that my silly little ideas, my strange and personal way of seeing the world, has somehow moved other people out there.
Just yesterday the online magazine Elephant Journal published my post about overcoming pain with mindfulness and the editor told me it "inspired their hearts." All of this has been a fun ride and it's made me feel less alone in my relative insanity.
But then I go back and read some of the things I wrote when I first started this thing, and some of it has me shaking my head. Obviously back then I totally believed those things, enough to publish them on a public platform for you all to read. Obviously there’s still some part of me that does believe those things.
But in the meantime, I have changed.
In the last few months I've heard new ideas, met new people, and had new experiences. Each time I learned something a seed was sown, each seed sprouted a new plant of information, and each new shoot grew up next to all of the other shrubs, flowers, and trees of knowledge that populate my personal garden of life.
We all grow and learn and change. We might not always notice it, because it’s happening a little bit at a time every day. And then over the months and years and decades, if you really look back--especially if you have a record of it, like a journal or a blog to look back on--you’ll notice that everything you thought you knew about life was totally wrong.
It’s OK to change. It’s OK to be wrong. That’s just life, and it’s kind of awesome.
One of my favorite things is discovering a really great song from an artist I’ve listened to for decades and I thought I knew so well. I almost feel nostalgic, like I could have had so many special moments with that song if I had only heard it, and understood it, way back then.
But I wouldn't change a thing. This amazing little moment of discovery wouldn't be the same if I had heard it years ago. It's only special now, because now is when it suddenly mattered.
When I hear this song again years into the future it will bring me back to this moment, late September 2014, when I played it on repeat and it spoke to me. That’ll be a moment to reflect on how far I've come since then. That'll be a moment to remind me of how much further I will go, of all the songs in life I will have the privilege of knowing.
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine, now