Burning Man: A Rebirth

BM dancer pose

Photo by Josh Winslow

I dreamt about Burning Man last night. I was relaxing at a camp, surrounded by people I had just met, but whom I felt I had known for lifetimes. My favorite thing about Burning Man is the deep connections it fosters. People have been asking me to describe my experience, and all I can say is that it was like living an entire lifetime in one week.

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One of the many dust storms that rolled through Black Rock City.

Especially since this was my first time at Burning Man, I feel like I entered as a child—innocent, ignorant, curious, open—and left as a new person—experienced, a little wiser, still curious, and wanting more. Burning Man certainly does not make you more adult-like. If anything, you become more childlike. The Playa encourages playfulness, curiosity, open-mindedness, spontaneity and joy.

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Of course I found the only horse at Burning Man.

The artwork was moving, thought-provoking, and sometimes interactive. You can’t go to Burning Man and just observe. To get the most out of it, you must participate and engage. The art cars were creative, funny, beautiful, and musical. The dust was not as bad as I thought it would be, even though it seems this was one of the dustiest years in quite some time. The theme camps were diverse. There’s something for everyone. I especially enjoyed an aerial camp that happened to be right across from Distrikt, so after taking flight on the rings, I shook my booty over to the music and got lost in the many sick beats.

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There was a dust storm during the Black Rock City Hash House Harriers Red Dress Run. We still managed to find trail. On-on!

I tried acroyoga (loved it, of course), drank a margarita at the end of the world, stopped by a bad advice booth, stargazed, watched the sunrise, went to the movie theater, rested on mushroom benches, hopped and danced on colorful LED lily pads, felt awe during the Man burn, released grief at the Temple, became entranced in the primal energy at the Thunderdome, then found myself utterly spellbound by the Serpent Mother.

Center Camp always had something fun going on, from live music, to acroyoga, to spoken word poetry, and more.

Center Camp always had something fun going on, from live music, to acroyoga, to spoken word poetry, and more.

What I didn’t do was take many photos or videos. I wanted to be wholly present in every moment, so I found myself taking out my camera a lot less than I thought I would, and I’m okay with that. Immediacy is palpable on the Playa. It’s now or never. You can’t do it all at Burning Man—there’s artwork, events, camps and more that I missed—but all you can do is allow yourself to be drawn to whatever speaks to your soul while you’re on the Playa. Going with the flow is so important. I’m grateful for everything I experienced at Burning Man and I absolutely plan to return.

Not my photo, but I am in it. I went to the Reddit meetup and had a blast.

Not my photo, but I am in it. I went to the Reddit meetup and had a blast.

As you enter, the greeters say, “Welcome home!” I think one reason Burning Man feels like home to so many people is because radical self-expression is encouraged, so you can be the most authentic, weird, quirky version of yourself and, as long as you’re not harming anyone, you’ll be accepted, because radical inclusion is definitely a thing in Black Rock City. If you’re interested in reading more about what makes Burning Man such a loving, open place, I recommend starting here.

Sounds like fun.

Sounds like fun.

Burning Man isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Extreme weather happened. Drama happened. Misunderstandings and miscommunications happened. Sadness, disappointment, and anger happened.

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But so did love, healing, joy, and acceptance. Burning Man tested my limits on many levels, and I left a stronger person because of it. I left more open, accepting, curious, and loving. The difficult task is holding onto all the goodness created and shared at Burning Man. How can you cultivate that same love in the default world? I’ve learned it comes from within. Love and accept yourself, and that love and acceptance will naturally extend to others. Burning Man is so much more than a music, art, or yoga festival. It truly is another world where outward exploration leads to inward discoveries. Oh, and one last thing—burners definitely give the best hugs. 

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When I got home, I just wanted to curl up in my pink furry jacket and sleep until Burning Man 2016. Unfortunately, that's not an option.

When I got home, I just wanted to curl up in my pink furry jacket and sleep until Burning Man 2016. Unfortunately, that’s not an option.

Transition

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As I sit at home and listen to the gentle release of rain from the grey clouds today, my heart fills with gratitude to be back with those I love—my family and my animals. I’m still transitioning from my travels to North Dakota, Burning Man, and Bolivia back to this “real world,” thinking about what that means and working on incorporating all I’ve learned into my everyday life.

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Every time we step out of our homes into the world, we have the opportunity to learn, to grow, to love more. The recent traveling I’ve done and experiences I’ve had have allowed me to open my heart in ways I didn’t know were possible.

"The wound is the place where the light enters you." ~Rumi

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” ~Rumi

The fun/challenging part now is to hold onto that openness and to spread that light to others. It’s so easy to lose track of what’s important, to get caught up in petty drama, to worry about things that don’t actually matter, and to close back up.

"Now dammit, look here, all of you, we all must admit that everything is fine and there's no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to understand that we're not really worried about anything." ~Jack Kerouac, On The Road

“Now dammit, look here, all of you, we all must admit that everything is fine and there’s no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to understand that we’re not really worried about anything.” ~Jack Kerouac, On The Road

But I refuse to close back up. I’ll live and love from this moment on with my heart open and vulnerable. You see, whether we live raw, open and honest, or whether we build walls and fortresses around our hearts, pain, hurt, disappointment, and betrayal will still happen and we will still feel them. Walls don’t stop the pain from getting through. They may stop your brain from consciously acknowledging and processing the pain, but it is still there. So I’d rather feel it, understand it, love it, learn from it, and let it go. And then love some more.

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I ask all of you to do the same. Smile at every stranger you see today and the next day and the day after that. Yes, every single one. Maybe they’ll think you’re weird. But maybe you’ll brighten their day and help them open their heart a little more. Give more hugs, long ones, because those are the best kind. Feel your heart pressed against the heart of the person you’re hugging and feel the love. Give the love. Give and give and give. The more you give, the more you’ll receive. But, of course, that’s not why we give. We give for the simple pleasure of giving and without any expectation of receiving anything in return, and that is one of the greatest lessons I learned at Burning Man. So give a smile. Give a hug. Give all the love you have.

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Firsts

There’s something special about firsts.

I remember the first time I saw snow.

I remember my first horse show.

I remember the first book I read.

I remember the first time I rode a bike without training wheels.

I remember my first best friend.

I remember the first time my pony soulmate (may he rest in peace) touched my palm with his muzzle.

I remember my first crush.

I remember my first period.

I remember the first time I went to New York City.

I remember my first kiss.

I certainly remember the first time I drove a stick shift.

I remember the first time I made love.

I remember my first heartbreak.

I remember the first time I tried scotch.

I remember my first day of college.

I remember the first time I jumped off a cliff into water 30 feet below.

I remember the first time I realized that sometimes love isn’t enough.

I remember the first time I truly felt that we are all one.

Firsts usually aren’t easy.
Firsts involve trying something new.
Stepping out of the comfort zone.
But from every first, there’s something to be learned.
In every first, there’s an opportunity for growth.
And firsts are special, because you remember leaping and spreading wings you didn’t even know you had.
And what if you leapt and fell?
Well then you get to remember that you got back up, stronger and wiser than before.
This year will be my first Burning Man.
There will be plenty of firsts next week, I’m sure.
Some will be exhilarating, others will be intimidating, some will be uplifting, and others may beat me down into the dust.
What I know is that I’ll return changed—stronger, yet softer, wiser, yet more open.
So to this first I say, Burning Man, bring it on.
Burning Man