“This looks like a dream,” I thought as I pedaled my bike into the pink clouds of Deep Playa. Sunrise and sunset are always my favorite times of day at Burning Man, as they are in “real life” too. There is a coolness in the breeze and a stillness in the air, calming for the mind and soothing for the soul.
Magically an art installation appeared before me with two open chairs. “How perfect.” I thought as I hopped off my bike and relaxed into one. The silence and solitude time was much needed and appreciated amidst the perfect chaos.
I couldn’t help but ponder…
Just as in life, Burning Man is carnival of mirrors.
Burning Man is a microcosm–a blip of time representing life at large. Everything that happens on The Playa is a representation of what’s happening in “the real world.”
This year’s theme, Carnival of Mirrors, nicely describes what reality truly is. Our perception of reality is but a reflection of our unique and personal internal worlds. What we see, what we hear, our relationships, and the life we experience is but a mirror of our internal milieu of thoughts, emotions, traumas, patterns, and conditionings.
Though people think Burning Man is “a big party,” “a hippy thing,” “an orgy,” and who knows what other stereotypical generalizations I’ve heard–none of this is true in my experience.
I’ve come to realize that people’s perception of Burning Man are representations of their fears and what they project out into the world. Perhaps they see what the subconscious wants more of in life or what is being repressed. What we are looking for will find us on The Playa, as is true in life. For after all, Burning Man and life are but carnivals of mirrors.
The Spiritual Journey of Burning Man
For me, Burning Man is a spiritual journey. It is a time for us to really get to know ourselves–in good times and in bad–stripped from rules and societal expectations. There is a saying, “Burning Man gives us exactly what we need, not necessarily what we want.”
The same is true for all spiritual journeys and ceremonies.
Burning Man takes place on sacred, Native American land. Black Rock City is a lake bed with an extremely stressful environment. In this desert terrain full of dust and extremely dry, alkaline conditions no life can grow. I imagine the moon to be similar. The weather is unpredictable and this year we experienced the most intense white out dust storms in Burning Man history.
As with many spiritual ceremonies, the person undergoing the journey is put under stress. In sweat lodges, the temperature rises. In vision quests a person is without food and water. In Vipassana we keep silence for 10 days. In yoga or any movement class the body is stretched and pushed to new limits.
Intentional stress can be a source for growth–a way to go deeper into the Self for better understanding, to uncover self-limiting belief, and release blockages that are no longer serving. These stressors put into perspective what matters most in life. In these environments we learn more about ourselves and the way in which the subconscious operates. We are put to the test to overcome and transcend, feeling renewed and enhanced when we make it out even more alive. I’m stronger, enhanced version of myself because of this extraordinary experience, as is true for every experience.
Burning Man is all Revealing and Heart Opening
Be real and authentic.
Burning Man can make or break relationships because all facades are stripped away. We truly come to know ourselves well as well as those around us for there is no room for trickery–all truth is revealed.
Allow the inner child to play!
Burning Man is an adult playground. Who said that growing up has to be so serious and boring? When we play we tap into inspiration and the pure love in our hearts. This fosters an environment for creativity and innovation. I know so many business partners and ideas that came out of Burning Man. And some of the most wonderful people I have ever met who are the epitome of a true work/life balance–embodying my idea of success–come to Burning Man.
Be you in every moment everyday.
Burning Man is a time to be unapologetically you. A time to dress exactly as you wish. Everyone is in the same mindset supporting you on your journey of freedom of expression, encouraging and celebrating the uniqueness of you!
Go with the flow.
Burning man also teaches us about being in the flow and releasing attachments to people, places and things. There is no time keeper. There are no plans. Moments full of beauty and surprises just happen. A city is built for a week and then burnt down, leaving no trace, reminding us that the only moment that exists is this precious present.
What we give we receive.
Burning Man fosters generosity, giving, and receiving. There is no money exchanged. We give because of our hearts’ desire to without agenda. We receive with gratitude and open arms.
Be Love. Choose Love. Spread Love.
Burning Man opens us up to love even more–to love ourselves and others even more. Two of my friends got married on The Playa this year in a full on white out dust storm. Nothing could stop their love. It was the most beautiful ceremony I ever witnessed. Men and women were brought to tears inspired to embrace even more love in our lives. Two other couple friends became engaged and over the years countless other soulmates have met, become engaged, and have wed on The Playa. In dust we trust.
I remained in the chair into the night observing the various people passing by, mesmerized by the ever-changing blinking lights as they jumped about like children on a playground.
“Can I sit next you?” said a young man who hopped off a caravan car. “Sure.” I replied.
As his friends frolicked over the lights, he put on a sweater and turned to me saying, “We are so lucky to be experiencing this. Burning Man is such a unique and magical experience.”
He was right. I took a moment to feel gratitude because I had thought about not attending this year. This mystery man was a Playa angel sent to remind me how lucky I am. Despite all the challenges that come with Burning Man, every moment is special, beautiful and serves a purpose.
Two years ago was my first time and it kicked my butt. The stress of the dry desert environment, lack of sleep, overstimulation, and not enough nutrition and hydration put me in a heat stroke. By the end of the week I ended up in the infirmary, receiving numerous IV infusions. Virgin mistakes. I crossed over to the other side, but it wasn’t my time to die. Oh the lessons I learned that year. A much different experience from this year–ultimately because I am different.
On the last day of the journey. I was sitting on top of the Fish Tank art car, hermitting and observing the beauty of the crowd when a new friend, Alex, began talking to me. I looked at him and said, “What did you learn this Burn?”
He laughed at me saying, “You’re a smiling assassin.”
“What’s that?” I replied.
He shared that in their life coaching company there are different types of coaches and I fall under the category of smiling assassin–someone who easily builds rapport with her fun, loving nature and then throws a jab with a deep, penetrating question. So indeed I am proud to be a smiling assassin, for this is my nature. I value deep connections with people and I can’t help but have deep conversations–hence the work that I do. I do what I am–a love intentioned assassin of closed hearts, fears and limitations.
Starting Friday, when I began processing my lessons, I also asked people, “What did you learn this Burn?” You’d be surprised at the range of responses I receive. Some people had trouble answering, reflecting the question back to me. Others were literally speechless and did some sort of hand gesture. Others let me know they’d get back to me. And others shared some beautiful responses.
My biggest lessons this year included:
What we do for ourselves we do for others.
I have a tendency to give more than receive. I often put others before myself. This has happened to me in real life too where I do and do and go and go putting my purpose and serving others before myself and this is not ok. Every airplane ride I’m reminded of the importance of putting myself first to best serve others when the video reminds us to secure the oxygen mask on ourselves before assisting others.
This year I headed up the programming for our camp. Between helping set up the camp, working the programming and leading classes I felt depleted by Wednesday. I cried. I was upset with myself for not taking time to rest and to care for myself, and for not creating the boundaries to say no to others and yes to myself. Once this came into my awareness I made the necessary changes. From then on I chose to be on my own schedule, honoring my body and following my inspiration.
On my retreats, I’ve noticed that the classes and workshops following a massage or dedicated “me time” are always the most enjoyable and powerful based on attendees feedback. The way I can best be of service to others is to care for myself and to take time for myself.
When we do for ourselves we overflow with love. This love emanates out into the world, allowing us to shine even brighter, elevating those around us.
The power and beauty of community.
Community is key to living a fulfilling life. As humans we are tribal beings.
Burning Man facilitates a sense of community. I continue to find my tribe through Burning Man. The unique, eclectic mix of people I have met here has been a blessing. This is my chosen family. The members of my camp are my people. They get me.
Before I found this group I used to feel that not many people understood me. I am an anomaly in so many ways, as are they. This year the sense of family, tribe, and community was so deep and strong. I literally cried at the beauty of it all. Tears of joy streamed from my eyes as we danced and hugged at sunrise, held hands across the dinner table, and laughed at the silliness and seriousness of life. Our bonds and connections became even stronger. Words can’t even describe it. Thank you to each one of you for touching my heart.
Another beautiful observation is that we are a matriarchal camp and community. The majority of the leaders in the camp are women. Our community truly honors the feminine, as this is where our world is heading. It is wonderful to be this example as a community.
Meditation, love, and hugs are all we need to tap into bliss.
As the song goes, “All you need is love,” and this is all we need to feel peace and bliss in our being. I did a sober burn–no alcohol, no drugs–just love, hugs, and meditation. Yes, let’s be real here, Burning Man is a place where some people "experiment," as some people do in real life too. To each their own–I'm not here to condone or disapprove, but rather to hold space for those on their journey.
Not many people know this but I stopped drinking alcohol socially about three years ago when I did my yoga teacher training. As I’ve deepened my spiritual path, I don’t desire mind altering substances. There is so much happening in life and so many natural tools exist for us to enter into states of bliss and ecstasy without substances including mediation, exercise, dance, hugs, love, time deep in nature, and so on.
It felt good to be leading a meditation or yoga class that really impacted lives and then later be dancing away at a party somewhere. So many mornings you could find me meditating at sunrise or sunset–on an art car or in the midst of a dance party–and let me tell you I was high on life!
There are still other lessons processing and brewing, but I’ll stop here as this post will soon turn into a book.
Burning Man is a beautiful thing.
There are a lot of Burning Man judgers and haters as with anything that makes an impact in the world. Ultimately I feel Burning Man is a beautiful thing and the world can know more peace, love and harmony if even a few of the 10 guiding principles were infused into our society.
Is commercialization happening on The Playa? Yes. Has it changed since it started or even two years ago? Yes–as all things evolve. Is it making a carbon footprint? Yes, but so does traveling, which also enhances our being. Regardless of these complaints many have shared, the magic and intentions of this experience are still alive and are still transforming lives.
Let’s make something clear here–Burning Man is hard work. The energy expenditure to build and breakdown a city in 10 days is massive. It’s not all fun and games given the stressful environments and unpredictability of just about everything. And at the same time, it is worth it, so worth it–the beauty, the people, the love, the serendipitous moments. The dreamy experiences are unreal.
If you ever have the opportunity to go do not hesitate. Allow it to open your heart and allow yourself to get swept away by the dust and the beauty of The Playa. And you can begin the experience by leaving no trace in your life right now–do not litter and pick up your trash–pick up any trash you see for that matter. Keep our earth beautiful and clean.
The best thing about Burning Man is that once the magic is experienced, it becomes a part of us and a part of our reality. We create our reality. The number of times I felt like I was in a dream are countless–a mirror that I am living the life of my dreams.
Remember, life is about living and experiencing–getting out of our comfort zone, trying new things and meeting new people.