Usually I try to reserve my blog for insightful posts about life, epiphanies, art, the more cultured side of things…but I just got back from Burning Man and thought I should share some of my learnings. Because you know what? I did have lots of epiphanies at Burning Man and it was definitely an artful and cultured experience, in its own way. So what did I learn at Burning Man? Would I go back? I’ve narrowed it down to four big things that I took away from being in the Nevada desert for a week at one of the most intense “experiences” of my life.
1. The World is all About Balance.
I already really knew this one, but Burning Man really crystallized this for me – for every up, there is a down…for every beautiful moment, there is an equally ugly one. For every bright, loving and giving person, there is also someone who is dark and who will take what they want, when they want it. Burning Man was the land of dichotomies for me; a place of brilliant beautiful moments where I felt so light I could touch the sky, but this didn’t come without moments that were so low and heavy for me that I nearly lost hope. Everything at Burning Man is so extreme: the environment, the dust, the artwork, the people, the outfits, the activities…so it’s not really surprising that I experienced so many extreme moments that never ceased to balance each other out – like a pendulum on a neverending swing.
2. Embrace your Creative Side.
I’m a really, really, REALLY analytical, organized and put together person – so it was really hard for me in the beginning to go with the burning man flow and get in touch my creative side. When I first got there, I kept thinking “why are people spending all this time and money on trivial things like sculptures, art cars and music? wouldn’t humanity be better served putting all this energy towards giving to those in need? to helping the less fortunate?” But once I let go a little bit and put the logical side of myself aside, I started to GET it…to get the beauty of all the creativity of my surroundings. That Black Rock City was there to open my mind, to hear the music, see the art, and that I would come away from it invigorated to contribute to a greater good….to something truly bigger than myself. I was filled with ideas, thoughts and inspiration for projects upon my arrival back to “the default world.”
3. Lean into the Discomfort.
I was sooo uncomfortable when I first arrived at Black Rock City – the dust, the noise, folks in strange outfits and people in varying states of substance abuse. It didn’t help that I had ventured out on my own, without a close friend or partner for comfort, and I was really freaking uncomfortable with everything. The playa was vast and scary – I couldn’t believe people were riding around out there. I wandered around by myself but the camps were too intimidating to go into. But, slowly and surely, I started to become OK with the discomfort. To get on my bike and ride around in a dust storm. To visit the trash fence at sunrise. To do things I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do, try things I wasn’t sure I wanted to try. I leaned into the discomfort a la Brene Brown, and it really ended up being OK….I actually started to LIKE the discomfort. Because it meant I was alive and feeling and THERE.
4. Have an Open Mind.
Stop questioning your reality. Respect what is going on around you and let it flow. Let it feed you and fill you, because you’ll come back with a new appreciation for SOMETHING. When your cup is empty, you never know what kind of interesting drink someone will fill it with! I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so excited to burn a man…I felt regret and sadness – that guy in the middle of BRC – he had guided my way for the past 6 nights. But then, in one fell stroke, I got it….it wasn’t A man, it was THE man. For me, Burning Man signified living a life out of the ordinary, doing what inspires and moves you, and getting outside of the box – there’s so much more out there if you open your eyes and mind and take it in.
So, there you have it. My four big learnings from Burning Man. So, would I go back? You know, I would. I had a lot of really crappy moments: someone stealing the seat on my bike and replacing it with a scratchy one that made my legs bleed…being left all by myself…a strange old man motorboating my boobs….people saying hurtful things to me to assuage their insecurities…but I also had some truly amazing ones. Riding around with a superhero purple-haired unicorn and fuzzy bear, making new friends by firelight and witnessing surreal dance-offs, listening to amazing music and watching beautiful lights, exploring art for the sake of art, and deepening relationships with old friends – kind, gentle, loving spirits. I would go back again because nothing worth doing in life is easy, and I think it’s a good reminder and exercise for balance, creativity, discomfort and open mindedness. And that….. is pretty awesome.