Yes… Yes that is me on top of this blogpost. And yes, you may laugh, like everybody does (including myself) when I proudly show them this picture! That is me. Some 15 years ago. It was one of the best times of my life. I was crowned Prince Carnival and I was the ruler of the ‘Youth Sjansemaekers Empire’. I held speeches, I was the frontrunner in tons of polonaises, I had a few personal assistants who all had their specialized tasks, and once in a while I chanted a slogan that everyone chanted with me. It was truly marvelous and it is as silly as it looks.
Carnival in the Netherlands is mainly celebrated in the southern part of the country. When I was still an active celebrator (I have unfortunately been clean about carnival for a few years now), I really lived up to this time of the year, all year. We built carnival wagons with our group of friends and participated in processions with our piece of art. Well… actually two of the fifteen guys we’re the artists, the other ones (including me) just painted, because we weren’t even able to distinguish between a screw and a bolt.
The actual festivity takes 3 days. For the die hards, it is 5. And even 5 seemed too short when the last day came. The party started preferably around 10 in the morning, and ended somewhere between 5-8… in the morning. The end time depended on who you started the day with, what stuff you digested (or not), who you met in between, what kind of subparty was going on, and where you ended and who you ended with. And the beauty of it… No bloody F’s are given, because it’s carnival!! (This implies that I was the ruler of an empire with only one rule: party until your the last man standing, or die trying).
I was actually planning to write about something totally different for two weeks already. But at this very moment, a completely different world from the real one is going on all around me. A world I have been part of for some 25 years. And I say all around me, because that is what I have always thought when I was still in the middle of it. And exactly that, is what pinpoints the beauty of this festivity to me.
If you’re a die hard, carnival consumes you. You forget everything around you. You forget that there still is a normal world around, with people who are working (even though you go to restaurants, chip shops and kebabjoints in the meanwhile where working people are serving you), you forget that there is something called time (there are no hours, or days. There’s just parties, hunger, thirst and laughter), and you forget that there is something called health (given your sleep pattern, sleep places and the stuff you enrich yourself with).
The more I reminisce about how it was, how it felt, and about how I see it now as an outsider… the more I realize what an impact this happening has on people. It causes you to forget. And not only because of the alcohol (yes, alcohol flows, we have to somehow have an excuse for dressing up like that), but also because of the dressing up, the build-up towards the event, the utter oppositeness of our daily lives, and the being happy together for no bloody reason.
And of course this isn’t solely the case for carnival. I had the same experiences with Outdoor Summer Festivals. I like to think that those gatherings are, what world peace would look like. I always catch myself walking half as fast as I normally do on festivals. With a big smile on my face. (No, not like on that picture above).
Ok dude… What on earth has this to do with mindfulness?!
Well. Like I said, you are being consumed by the whole ambiance. And as a consequence of that, you forget time, you forget health, you forget work. In other words, you forget to worry. While you are being consumed by this marvelous phenomenon of collective happiness, you cannot be consumed with tomorrow, or yesterday. You aren’t thinking: “F&@#, why have I said this or that to my colleague last week”, or “I hope I will be able to make that deadline in a month”. In fact, you might not be thinking that much at all! You’re just present! Enjoying every moment of your experience!!
And exactly that, I believe, is a big part of what mindfulness is trying to teach us. Being present. Taking in your experience from moment to moment. And of course not every moment in life is as enjoyable as carnivalistic moments are. But learning how to be in the moment will definitely have a positive impact on the neutral moments we experience, to say the least. And carnival (and festivals) shows that good moments will turn into great.
I’ll be back next year, for sure! Before I forget what it’s about…
Any experience with mindfulness (or carnival) you’d like to share? Let us know and motivate others to fetch these experiences as well. And oh yeah… it’d be awesome if you’d like that Facebookpage of ours.