Sunday, 15 July 2012

Mindful Rainbow "hippy" vs awful folkie

Two interestingly contrasting experiences recently.

There's a small encampment nearby of Rainbow people, in a lovely spot by the sea. Common land, and despite some local huffing and puffing, no worries so far. They stay for a maximum of one month, and don't come back, they say, within seven years, and they are only here to celebrate the new moon.

(Actually they weren't in tipis, as above, they were mostly in ordinary tents, plus a couple of bell tents and a sort of bender for the kitchen.)

I wandered down to see how they were getting on in the God-awful weather we've been having, and chatted to a woman on the beach with her child, who seemed to be enjoying life by the sea. I was intensely curious but tried to not be too intrusive, and she was quite reserved but friendly. I quickly realised that she would neither make nor accept generalisations.

I asked her if, because they were celebrating a natural event (one that most of us don't even notice) that meant they were pagans. She looked thoughtful and said "some us might say they were." She'd told me that they came from all sorts of backgrounds, and met up from time time to live together for a while and bring what each of them could - food, skills musical or otherwise, or "just - love," she said.

"Do any of you travel permanently?" I asked. She thought again, and said, "Yes, I think some of us might." We talked about local reactions, and a poor-quality, silly piece of journalism in the local paper (that was me, not her - she said nothing critical at all.) But she said how just that morning a villager had been friendly and open-minded with her in a launderette.

She said a particularly interesting thing. She drew an analogy with the Brazilian rain forest, the way that many people who are never going to go there are simply pleased to know it's there, and hope that it will be OK. Maybe, she thought, some people feel like that about this sort of gathering; they wouldn't necessarily want to join it, but it's something they're pleased to know is going on.

Well, that's me. I'm too addicted to showers and toilets to camp like that. And maybe I'd have felt differently if there'd been hundreds of  them, but I was pleased they were there. Some sort of flame being carried forward, in our often harsh and competitive culture, with its corrupt power structures and self-deceiving wastefulness.

She said people are welcome to come and visit them, and when we parted, she gave me a hug - "we always do," she said. She was, I think, a very calm, peaceful, accepting sort of person. She was not as naive as I'm making her sound; when it was raining heavily all day, they sheltered in a large bell tent, and she said that after a couple of days the inter-personals got a bit tricky. I bet. Camping sauvage takes a lot of effort, and who likes washing up in the rain?

As I wandered off, it dawned on me. I reckon that least for the duration of her stay with the Rainbow camp, she was living very much in the present moment, mindfully (whether she knows the name and the concept or not.) She was disinclined to judge, to generalise, to counter arguments, more inclined to think through a point, accept, add something to what was being said. She wasn't critical, as I was, of the  views expressed in the local paper. In fact, she wasn't inclined to be judgemental about anything.

Another thing I liked - they weren't in the least "look at us, we're being alternative." None of that self-conscious exhibitionism that sometimes can be cringeworthy at, say, a festival (I mean a commercially-run mass audience festival.) They were just doing their thing. I didn't feel she was being a "hippy," she was just being herself.

Maybe joining the Rainbow gathering, especially a small-scale one, works like a retreat, only instead of a mediative, largely silent experience, to encourage mindfulness, it is a communal one. You have to concentrate on doing the essentials; it won't work if you are critical or judgemental of the other people there. Too much negativity flying around would break things up, and they managed to endure days of heavy intermittent rain.

 "Before enlightenment, it's chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, it's chopping wood and carrying water."

And the contrasting experience? Coming here soon.

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