Meditation practice is typically taught as a stable routine — something to do every single day in more or less the same way. This makes sense. We are creatures of habit, as the cliché puts it; we tend to do what we are used to doing. That’s why we spend so much time in states of distraction and anxiety — because we get used to it — and breaking up that time with a repeated, deliberate mindfulness habit is a way of getting used to something else.
For me, this rationale breaks down in certain times of year, during stretches of special time in which nothing can be routine day in and day out. September is always like that in my world; it’s festival time.
My understanding of the word “festival” comes from the Jewish tradition, where it refers to designated times of year for ritual celebration — part of a stable annual routine, if you will, but specifically intended to break up the daily routine. There’s basically three solid weeks of this every September.
That comes immediately after Burning Man — which lasts two weeks if you’re me. We say Burning Man is not a festival but rather a kind of temporary zone of alternative civics, but this is just to contrast it with the consumeristic, passive events to which the word “festival” has become attached by the entertainment industry. By the Jewish definition, Burning Man most certainly is a festival.
So that’s over a month straight of disrupted routine for me each year. How can I maintain my meditation practice through that? I could try my damndest to preserve 30 minutes of “normal” time in every 24 hours of festival time, but that feels too much like resistance. What I’m trying this year is to treat all festival time as practice time. I’m letting the awareness of special time become a kind of posture, so that every moment becomes enlivened with the deeper intentionality of festival consciousness. Meanwhile, I’m working my sitting practice in wherever I can, so it’ll be primed and ready when routine time returns.