(Originally written in mid-September)
Two weeks ago, I went to Burning Man.
I went for a wedding and to be part of a performance art piece, to honor my mother with a memorial, and to see it all.
I’m still going through my photos and digesting the entire experience.
What did it mean?
I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Burning Man as transformative. And I agree, the first year I was there, I felt awakened and changed by the feeling of freedom people enjoy there – and what they do with it. And I was delighted and challenged in my second and third year by various events. But I already felt that I had learned all I could and that going back was more for fun than anything else.
I wanted to be part of something greater than myself if I went back: a builder of art or infrastructure, doing something that would benefit others.
This year I had my chance by joining a friend’s performance troupe. We went out, almost daily, at dusk, to set up a stage and put on a “medicine show” (think snake oil salesmen). We had a variety of acts and sold “bonafide elixirs” for the price of a dream. We asked audience members to participate in a couple of the acts and to share their dreams with the crowd…an open and delightful question that conjured up all sorts of answers. Fascinating! And intimate.
We put on a good show, had a great time, and I felt a connection with the dream-sharers even though I was in character.
Another source of connection: watching two of my friends get married in a spectacularly sweet and unique wedding! They met at Burning Man while building art, got engaged the next year, and now married under their own art piece, designed specifically for the wedding.
But the deepest sense of connection I felt was in creating a memorial for my mother at the temple and then watching it burn with hundreds or even thousands of other people (many of which had installed their own memorials).
This was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had.
The crowd was silent except for the odd sob or coyote-like howl (which we made as a group and was completely unplanned). My friends were around me, crying their own tears and crying for us all. I have never felt more human and more connected to my fellow man than I did sitting there around the fire. Mountains and a starry sky surrounded us and held us.
That night was my last night out in the desert. That was the culmination of my experiences there. Being at the fire and then after, sitting around camp with my friends.
We were silly and happy and ridiculous…just they way one should be after diving into the deepness of the soul.
We were giddy. Something new was coming. A change.
My life was already in the midst of change – I started a new job. I did it! I finally worked my way up to my dream position at Whole Foods. I am now working as a graphic designer for the store. It is what I’ve wanted and worked so hard for and I am very happy. And I got to return home to my new position. I’m still only half-way into my first full week but I am loving it.
Other things are changing too – I’m feeling a release from my bereavement and am looking towards my own future. I’m dreaming new dreams and making space for myself to grow. I’m re-learning what it is to be myself. I am reconnecting to my values and beginning again to put into practice the behaviors that will help me achieve my goals.
I feel cleansed, new, reborn. It sounds cliche, and I’m still struggling like everyone else, but I’m happy to be where I am – in the process of rediscovering myself…or as I once heard it put: “falling in love with myself all over again.”