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.