A seemingly endless array of distractions is evident at FloydFest.
Music, art, nature, light shows, food tastes and smells, and people-watching by the thousands are among the sensory constants during the five-day festival off the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Patrick County.
On Saturday morning at the event’s Pink Floyd Beer Garden, a couple of meditation and mindfulness guides worked with some festival-goers to bring focus to the experience. About 15 meditators — a couple of them came and went over the hour — sat on chairs or mats on the ground. Meanwhile, generators hummed power to keg coolers, trucks hauling ice beeped as they moved backward and a breeze pushed through the tall shade trees.
It was all OK.
“Part of this practice is being with what is,” said instructor Joe Klein. “We’re cultivating a type of mind that will be open, curious and, I think, playful.”
Before he guided them through body motions and brain connectivity that preceded a silent meditation, Klein told his pupils to look to one person sitting next to them and express their intent for the session.
Anna Ashby, of Frederick, Maryland, turned to the woman sitting cross-legged to her left.
“May I be more present,” Ashby said. “May I be less anxious.”
Afterward, she changed her thinking about that second “may I.” As she meditated, she replaced “less anxious” with “more peaceful,” she said.
“I didn’t want to bring a negative” into the session, she said.
Ashby, attending her fourth FloydFest, has been meditating for a decade, but this was her first time doing it at the site.
“I’m not usually surrounded by so many sounds and sensations,” Ashby said.
Klein told the group that they would be distracted, both by things outside themselves and by their own minds.
“All of these phenomena come to your awareness and through your awareness. Let them go,” he said. “If your mind wanders off and you notice it, then bring it back. You are meditating. You’re doing it right.”
Ashby said she was able to bridge the outer sensations and expand past her inner trip.
“I felt all of our energy express throughout the entire festival ground,” she said. “I felt a tunnel of energy.”
In the space of an hour, she wasn’t able to make it to the tunnel’s end, but the short quest was worthwhile.
As the meditators wrapped up, Klein’s colleague Jamie Reygle was beginning a mindful walk. The technique in play was to notice things along the way, but to neither categorize nor judge them. A tree wasn’t a big tree. It was simply a tree. A view wasn’t good. It was simply a view.
Nothing is wrong with judging or categorizing, but to do the opposite helps bring mindfulness when one does add an adjective, Reygle told the group of about a dozen.
“That’s a sweet smell,” Adrian Green, of Floyd, said as the group walked past a food vendor. “Is sweet a judgment?”
Yes, it was, Reygle said, and the idea was to break something down to its very essence.
It seemed impossible not to notice that a couple of the climbs on the festival’s Moonstomper Trail were steep. Mike Morgan of Norfolk, who was on the walk with his wife, Katie Humphrey, pointed out that those portions made him keenly aware of his breathing and his achy knees.
Two categories cause troubles for people, Reygle said. Either we want things and spend a lot of time moving toward them, or we push away things we judge as negative, including pain.
“If it sucks, let it suck,” he said. “Really be there for when it sucks. Embrace it.”
Morgan and Humphrey, attending their fifth FloydFest, said they enjoyed the walking experience. Morgan said he is a licensed clinician who teaches mindfulness.
“A lot of these kinds of walks are very deliberate,” incorporating such meditative ideas as connecting with the parts of your feet that are active on the walk, Morgan said. “This was a little bit more strenuous but enjoyable.”
Humphrey said that she often feels guilty about her impatience or crabbiness in certain situations but took to heart Reygle’s advice to embrace it.
“It’s OK to be in that moment, and let it go,” she said.
Both sessions will be held on the festival’s ultimate day, at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday.