Burning Man 2018
It’s been over a week since I returned from the experience called Burning Man and I still cannot wrap my head around that journey. Burning Man is an annual event that takes place on the bed of an ancient dried up lake located about 100 miles outside of Reno, Nevada. Each year, about 70,000 people build and take apart a city of about seven square miles.
For those of you who haven’t experienced Burning Man you may be wondering, what’s the big deal. You may be thinking, why one would want to camp with tens of thousands of people in a place that has no trees, water or wildlife. You may be squirming at the fact that for a week we don’t wash our hair and have no access to plumbing. And you may be balking at the whole sex, drugs and rock and roll thing that Burning Man pictures seems to evoke… not that there is anything wrong with sex drugs and rock and roll. But for us old fuddy-duddies who are on the wrong side of forty or worse – fifty, or God forbid – sixty, this may seem like an odd place to go. We should leave the hot, dusty, loud partying to the kids, stay home and I don’t know what, wash windows or something. Not that there’s anything wrong with washing windows.
Yet, here we are, people of all ages who pack up and make our way to the bottom of an ancient dried up lake, spending a week in uncomfortable heat, setting up camps, building art installations only to take everything down after a week, leaving the bottom of the lake empty, the same way as we found it.
I suppose we are like Buddhist monks who create an exquisite mandala out of sand only to send it into the wind upon its completion.
2018 marks my second year going to Burning Man. This past year I have spent quite a bit of time in meditation and deep internal journeying. Within my meditations I have visited many colorful and dark places: worlds, planets, dimensions, civilizations that are similar to our world and nothing like our world. When journeying for my clients I have seen the beauty of their souls and the deep abyss of their struggles. I have been deep inside the earth and on the edges of outer space. It’s beautiful, dangerous, healing and simply magnificent.
The worlds I have seen in my head were so much more magical, colorful, powerful, eternal than my physical day to day life. My request from Burning Man Spirit was to show me the splendor of human existence on earth. I asked Spirit to show me the beauty of being among human beings and nature. I asked Spirit why human beings create beauty. And I asked for a reason why I should be present in this 3-D reality instead escaping into my head journeys.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a human and have no intention of leaving. It’s just that life within my meditations had become so much more colorful than my “wake up, go to the bathroom, eat, clean, drive, pay bills” existence. I wanted to understand why humans create art and music in a way that does not entail monetary gain or any sort of a utilitarian purpose. I wanted to see why we create simply to create. And I wanted to feel at peace with nature.
Burning Man is based on the concepts of gifting, decommodification, inclusion, self expression, communal effort and several others. Not giving to receive something back, not bartering, but simply sharing your resources knowing that should you need something, another human will share with you. You can walk into any camp and ask for water, shade, food, company without fear of being treated as a stranger or as a threat. You can wear anything you want or nothing at all and no one will judge you for it. You can be sporting angel wings, horns, crowns, stiletto heels, panda pajamas with ears, jeans and a hoodie and share the same dance floor with a hundred other people at three in the morning without anyone batting an eye.
We as human beings tend to live out of the concept of fear and limited resources. We live in a world where we believe that if someone obtains something, it means that we now have fewer resources to choose from for ourselves. We shy away from people who do not look, think, act, talk, eat like us. We enter into a panic state when we meet a woman with fluorescent yellow hair. We ask why one would shine so brightly and then we question whether we could ever turn up the dial on our own light?
We believe that if someone is different, they may be a threat to us. We believe that if we are different then no one will accept us.
Our ego does not like things it cannot predict or understand. So we surround ourselves in a bubble of sameness and travel the same paths over and over again because we know what to expect, even if what’s to come is uncomfortable, painful and overall not good for us.
We become jealous of people who have more than us, be it physical objects like, money, cars, clothes, jewelry or intangibles, like happiness, partners, luck, love. When I teach Reiki, it is often hard for students to embrace the concept that energy is unlimited and by giving a Reiki healing to someone, we are not taking anything away from ourselves, our loved ones, nor from the universe.
People ask me if an angelic guide could get mad because we have too many requests to an energy without a form, shape or size. Do you hear how ridiculous this question sounds? We even have a hard time viewing our own love as unlimited, we believe that when a new object of love enters our life somehow the current objects will have less love to receive.
Imagine a place where there is no struggle for survival, no concept of limited resources, no fear of having to do without. Imagine a place where you will not be judged for what you look like, where you can wear clothes that belong to any gender or are genderless. Imagine a place where you will not be fined and jailed because god forbid someone saw your butt check, a nipple or OMG a penis. Imagine a place where you will never go hungry or thirsty and if you accidentally or purposefully overindulge, there will be someone to take care of you without judgement, blame, or lecture on morality.
Such a place exists in the minds of philosophers, theorists, academics, monks, nuns, sages. Such a place exists in my dreams and in perhaps your dreams. It also exists in Nevada, on a seven square mile patch of uninhabitable dust… for one week… and once that week is over, just like a thought, a vision an experience that place is gone, to return in 51 weeks and then to once again disappear.
That is the place that held the key to my questions – why do humans create beauty and how can I be a part of that beauty.
Let me back up a little and talk about art. Art has been around as long as man. We see it on cave walls, frescos, paintings, statues and buildings. For the most part, art is something outside of a human being. It is something to be admired from afar. Look but don’t touch. Enjoy but from a distance. Don’t lean upon Rodin’s Thinker, don’t touch Michelangelo’s David’s butt, don’t climb the Eifel Tower. We know what the Mona Lisa looks like, but do we know what the painting feels like? Can we run our fingers over the surface feeling the peaks and valleys produced by the creator’s brush? No, we can’t. We can’t even get within five feet of the Mona Lisa. Yes, understandable, there are many of us and just one Mona Lisa. If we were all to touch it, the paining would disintegrate.
Yet, art does not have to be fragile. Art does not have to be outside of us. We can be art and art can be us. Art can bring us enjoyment and we can give it life. Art can be a bouncy house in the middle of the desert where an adult can jump at sunrise. Art can be a giant jelly fish created out of colored lights and plastic wrap. Art can be a humongous jar of water that is spinning in a vortex. Art can be a car in the shape of a mythological creature spewing file. Art can be him, her, you, me, covered in LED lights riding a bike through the desert. Art can be a crepe with caviar early in the morning in a place where life does not normally exist. Art can be a DJ moving a crowd of strangers in a magnificent wave of rhythm and emotion.
And why do we create art? Because we must. Because that is what separates us from living like robots. Because everything in life does not have to have a purpose or meaning. Because beauty is the essence of this physical existence.
We have become too busy navigating “the system” to notice that our world wants to show us its splendor. We see trash but we do not see the magnificent green glow of the fly sitting on that trash. We see bills that must be paid but we do not see the air, sunlight, mountains, ocean, sand that are there to simply be.
“Here, feel the waves on your feet”, the ocean says. “No”, we say, “We are afraid of sharks and plus we got no time, we got bills to pay, kids to drive, house to clean”.
Yet, despite all our modern worries and to-do lists, within us we carry this encoding, this drive, this need to create and feel beauty.
Some of us find a way to create beauty while being a part of the system of “wake up – go to work – take care of family – watch tv – sleep”. Some, such as myself, leave the system. And some go to Burning Man.
I found these answers and more on the last night at Burning Man.
All week I have been following my friends around trying to not get lost. On that last night, slightly after midnight, suddenly I became completely connected with the world around me. I no longer felt like me, a human named Dina. I no longer had to carefully keep an eye on my friends to make sure I found my way back to camp. I knew exactly where I was. I knew exactly where my friends where and I knew how they felt! I realized that if they felt joy, I would feel joy. If they found that special song they were looking for, then I would find my special song.
I felt as an energy that belonged to an entity so much grander than my physical self. That entity had a name – Burning Man.
Being a part of something revealed to me that finally, I was experiencing a life without fears. I felt absolutely safe. I knew, without a doubt that no harm would come to me simply because I was not outside of something. I realized that fear comes from seeing myself as separate from the world. Once that separation dissipates, then there is nothing that can harm me.
When fear left my energy or rather once my energy dropped the illusion of fear, I entered the world of magic and I stayed there all night. I felt the earth breathe. I felt the rhythm of Burning Man. I saw more that I have ever seen in one night.
Every light on a person, on a bike, on an installation was brighter than ever. I felt as if everything I saw was created just to make my life beautiful. In a way it was. Of course, no one decorated their bike so Dina could enjoy it. No one created a fire breathing dragon so Dina could feel the heat of the fire. But in a way they did. They did it for Burning Man and once I became Burning Man, they did it for me… and I did it for them.
And then there was the sunrise.
Slowly the bicycle lights became dimmer, people’s faces appeared and the mountains surrounding the ancient lake bed took form. It was then that I was gifted the greatest experience of my life. Up until that time, I could see Spirit and all its glory in my mind, as a thought form. But that morning I saw it with my eyes. I saw the orange Sun produce blue tunnels that moved toward me and merged with the sand at my feet. I saw the pink geometric pattern that covered the sky. I physically felt the firmness of air as it entered my lungs. I understood the wisdom, knowledge, connection, love that Nature shares with us every day despite us doing our best to ignore it. Nature revealed itself to me in its entirety and it was simply beautiful…
I failed to mention one thing. No, not failed, I left it until the end. The one thing that is the true answer to why being a human on earth is so much more amazing than being a spirit in the stars. It is the thing that paves the way for us to accept beauty into our lives and creates the desire to be alive. That thing is: friends. For without my friends, my campmates, my Burning Man family, none of this would have happened. Without you, I would still be a spirit in a human body, wondering through space, searching for an intangible answer to a tangible question.
It was your love, acceptance, and care that lay the foundation to everything. Together we had built camp, shared meals, explored art, hosted events, rode our bikes and danced. Together we walked the dust storms, witnessed the sunsets and created the sunrise. Together, we revealed the meaning of what it’s like to give from the heart. Together we showed the world the full glory of what it’s like to be a human being. Together we burned in the brilliance of existence as physical beings full of light and love.