Defining Moments, 2009
This Burn was my third (nonconsecutive) pilgrimage to the playa and the most powerful by far. Seeking a way to ground my energy and emotions upon returning to my homeground in the Pacific Northwest, I headed out to the San Juan Islands last weekend to visit two dear friends at their home on a cliff above the wild shore. I told stories about my experiences at the Burn for hours; a few days later, one of the friends commented "you seem humbled by your Burn this time around." That is a perfect description of my current state: humbled. Also: in awe. thankful. blessed. in love. connected. pregnant with possibilties. floating in a state of grace, not fully existing in this world or that.
"Tell us about one of your defining moments on the playa this year …" is the question John Curley posted on the Burning Blog last week, and over 75 Burners fresh from their Black Rock City tenure answer with stories that are moving, hilarious, sacred, bittersweet, transformative and heartfelt. I connect to the thread of humility that is braided through the many impressions shared. I feel waves of playa-love pulsing through my newly-reinvigorated heart as I read these personal reflections. I hope you can feel them too, and I invite you to share your own defining moment in the comments at the end of the post.
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One evening early in the week, as the sun was setting, I walked out into the desert alone, behind BRC, where there was no one. I was utterly alone, no other humans near by. I asked my creator what I should do. My creator informed me that I must lose the costume first…and so away it went, layer by layer, and then the jewelry, and necklaces…all of it off, I stood completely naked, bathed in the blazing colors of the setting sun. I walked away from my belongings, and my footprints appeared in the cracks before me, before I stepped into them, the footprints appeared. They were already there, waiting for me to fill them. My body found a rhythm and I intuitively moved in a kind of slow ti-chi-yoga dance, that let my joints crack and free themselves of their restrictions. I have been in several accidents, have broken many bones and have limited range of motion, but I felt freed of all of it. Free of pain, regret, fear…..FREE. With my creator that evening, I found myself once again. A child, an embryo, a man, a woman, all together, all encompassing, a creative being of light….free to BE… as I was gifted this life to be.
Later that evening, a fellow burner gave me a bumper sticker that says ‘Fear is Funny’.
And I have not stopped smiling since.
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I decided to trek to the temple alone on Saturday afternoon after much debauchery. I was delivered into a dust storm on the way, and couldn’t see a single structure or living person at first. Rather than feeling worried it was the most peaceful experience of my life. Later, I would come apon pockets of people and art that would recede into the dust again like apparitions. I finally made it to the temple and cried like a little girl- for me, for loved ones, for everyone there. It was like my soul was wiped clean for the very first time. It was so stunning and surreal.
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Watching the temple burn with friends, we were awestruck when a phenomenal cellist humbly played next to us. We listened for a half hour while he drew all the sorrow, love, yearning and spirit of the temple through his strings, and then moved on. I am so grateful for that beautiful experience.
Also, I got to surrender to the moment many times this year – going with the flow, against my programming and typical behavior or responses, I got to experience immediacy more than I ever have before in 10 years of participating in Burningman. Here’s to playadipity!
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2 years ago I was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Last November, after a year of radiation and chemo I was told I only had ‘weeks or months’ to live. Being at Burning Man again this year was a triumph for me and an affirmation of life. When I put a message on the temple I started to cry because I suddenly realized I had changed from thinking about dieing to thinking about living. That was a moment I will never forget.
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Sunday, before the gates opened, I was exausted and broken. We had been working since Wednesday to finish our art project and it was nowhere near done. Sitting in camp I noticed a lost stranger, someone who just arrived. Im normally shy, and not very touchy but something in my head told me to give her a hug and help her with anything she needed. I needed to escape from my imaginary walls. I walked to her, explained my story, and she gave me the best hug I have ever recieved. We wandered around, left each other then found each other later that night. I walked with her all over the playa, pointed to our unfinished art and watched the sunrise on top of another artists art, with the artist in center camp. We bid each other farewell for another night.
By Friday I had made it a habit to say hello and hug as many people on our street as possible. I had to pass on the gift of that first hug. We had a shy 3 year old in our camp who I had finally convinced to give me a hug. After the hug, I asked her “Would you like to hug some people with me?” She nodded and we walked to the street.
I have never seen people with bigger smiles. She gave each person she saw the biggest hug she could, and I followed up with the biggest hug I could. We were both smiling, and sharing that with complete strangers.
On Tuesday after the Burn, I was alone, in the deep playa de-mooping our art site. I felt alone, lost and confused. I was unsure what would help, but I was optimistic the playa would provide. It had worked for the past week, why not now,…
As I turned to view the city, I noticed a lone bike rider coming closer to me. It was my wonderful friend from Sunday. We embraced in the silence while I returned her gift to her. It felt like we had known each other for a lifetime. And I know we will.
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This year marked my 7th burning man experience. Eyes closed while dancing at the Opulent Temple I allowed my other senses to absorb the sounds, the scents and feelings as fire blasts warmed my body and the night air slowly cooled me. During one such blast of flame I slowly opened my eyes and found myself surrounded by dozens of like blinded dancing isolationists. A lunatic bunny engulfed me. The moon shone full above me with Saturn at it’s side alone together. The bunny smiled and kissed me then disapeared. I closed my eyes and found the groove again and the distance between me and the moon, the rocket , the temple , The art , The Man and the multitude disapeared like the bunny. The days and nights following were serene and comforting like the feeling one gets being alone with family at HOME.
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Before my first burningman my boyfriend told me that I should make something for my dad, who commited suicide when I was little, to go in the temple. There has always been such a stinging pain over the loss and absence of my dad that I have never been able to overcome the pain and resentment that I felt. After thinking a bit, I decided to paint a picture for him…which I thought was fitting because he was an artist himself. I painted a picture that I thought conveyed a fitting message but was largely unattached to it because I hadn’t allowed myself to feel very much in the way of sentimentality towards my dad.
On the day that we went to put my painting in the temple I had the attitude that I would simply put it somewhere, maybe write something around it and leave..very brief. I found a place on the walkway up to the second floor and put it there..by this time I was already crying, so I put it down and started writing a letter on the baseboards. What came out of me was a message of love and understanding instead of what I was expecting..a letter of anger and accusation. At the end of the letter I wrote something that was so true I could feel it down to the very bottom of my heart: “I Forgive you daddy, and I love you with all my heart.” That was unbelieveable because I literally felt the weight of 13 years of anger lift off my shoulders.
The second moment was when I saw my painting go up in flames and fall. It was my dad being freed of the resentment and at that moment I knew something that I never could have believed before. My dad loved me. He didn’t do what he did because of me. I have a different outlook on life now because of those moments.
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The Temple burn will always stick out in my mind as one of the most moving experiences of my life but the most defining Burning Man experience came on Tuesday night when...This was my first year and so I had no idea what to expect when it came to the city itself. I mean, my roommate and a large number of my friends have all gone for the last 3-5 years so I had heard plenty about the atmosphere and the energy and the people and the camps, but very little about the city itself.
So yes, on Tuesday night a bunch of us ate some mushrooms and went out to deep playa to explore and adventure. Our first stop was the slide. We basically b-lined it straight out there without looking back. It wasn’t until I scaled the slide and looked back out at the city did the scale and beauty of it all really hit home.
I was awestruck by the lights and the fires. By the massive art cars. By the people and the bikes roaming freely. By the massive domes and the little blinkies. It was incredible. I had gotten through the lineup and to my campsite around 330am on Monday morning and just after dawn I wandered out past the esplanade to look at the city. Very few camps were up and built so the city didn’t have any real definition to it yet.
By the time we scaled that slide though, the city was really a city. A beautiful, colourful, vibrant, utterly mad city.
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My personal favorite moment was on Thursday night when a group of four of us trekked out to deep playa. The moon was enormous, there was a gentle wind that spared us the dust, and there was a hightened mood of celebration. Way, way past the Temple, we sat down for a smoke and to take in the sights. Looking back at the city, it seemed like a huge, loud, beautiful, sparkling, surreal mirage. We talked for a while about how amazing it was that all of us who had planned and struggled to make it to Black Rock in 2009, had made it happen and created this crazy/beautiful fleeting thing which was impossible to describe and breathtaking to witness, and that we could try to explain the exhileration of that view, but one would truly have to be there to understand. It was a perfect night at Burning Man and I’ll never forget it.
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My 6th year in a row, SO many perfect, magical moments.
This year, I think it was when I woke up early Thursday morning after a long night of partying and took a stroll. I was in my pj’s (Leopard print shorts) and I really just meant to step outside of the rv to get fresh air but before I knew it I was on a very spiritual journey. I had no sun glasses, no bandana no spf…just a bottle of water and off I went. What a rookie mistake to leave camp w/o the necessities! However there was a force within me that was stronger than reason. I walked and walked and walked and before I knew it I was out at the trash fence. There was no one one within a 1/4 mile of me. I was at the 10 o’clock side and it was incredibly serene. I sat down, and had the most amazing conversation with myself. I kept getting a “Message” over and over…”Does it matter?”, I kept hearing this. I’ve been so frustrated with some things in my life, and when I heard this it was so fitting. A tear came, as I answered…NO! I started to think about what really does matter in my life and it filled my heart with Joy. The Love in my life is the only thing that does matter.
Thank you Burning Man for always being a place of spiritual growth…and evolution.
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It was my first burn. On Tuesday night everything still felt new and crazy. After insane dancing at Opulent temple and Hokkahdome (which had best dj and music), and still feeling pretty high, we wandered into the middle of chaos of moving lights and sounds that reached the furthest corners of the desert (damn, they have bad ass speakers). 360 degrees around us was everlasting party celebrating humanity. And I said to myself: WHAT A CONCEPT, man, what a concept! people make all this effort to come here and get loose. And if world were to end tomorrow, that’s what I want my last day to be like. If I am to die tomorrow, I am happy that I witnessed that!
And then when the sun started rising, we found a big tent near the Man, where they served us tea. How nice of them to welcome morning strangers. And a ridiculous yellow duck doing his morning dance to the sun along with a runaway clown standing among nomadic looking people – what a surreal picture.
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My first ever burn after a decade of being a naysayer, and it was magic for me.
There was a terrific piece of fire art made by a group called the flaming lotus girls called “Soma”. It was two beautiful, ornate tree like structures the larger of which was perhaps 30 feet high with a flaming rotating core that had many small flowerlike projections that had either lights or fire coming out of them (meant to represent axons). One large and one small structure (each meant to be neurons) were connected by a large spine (meant to be a dendrite). The whole piece could be operated to emit bursts of flame that are loud and hot enough to be felt both as heat and pressure waves to the surrounding crowd from various parts of the neurons and the dendrite, at the artists desire. Lovely.
So Tuesday evening we are strolling across the playa and stop to see it in more detail. An enormous robot themed art car, Robot Heart, pulls up (constructed of a double sized commuter bus) with a giant dance floor and DJ booth on top. It has a perhaps 30 foot long video screen that is synced to very loud and very compelling techno/electronica. A large group gathers and starts dancing ecstatically and with increasing energy beneath and around the sculpture, and for over half an hour the DJ on the car and the artist operating the sculpture talk to each other – the robot sings to the sculpture and the sculpture talks back with bursts of fire, while the crowd dances and cheers. Utterly magical and amazing and moving.
While I expected fire art, and amazing art cars, and creative music and spontaneous dancing, it had not occurred to me that all of these things would inform each other spontaneously and improvisationally. It reminded me of an incredibly moving and energetic jazz performance but with visual and even heat and pressure pulses adding to the effect. Now imagine that this type of thing happens maybe a hundred times a day for a week, and 10,000 times a day on a smaller scale, not necessarily loud and energetic, sometimes quiet and contemplative; and that no one is getting paid; rather people are spending their own time and money to make it happen for the art of it and the enjoyment and pleasure of others. Understanding that was a significant part of my entry into the city and informed my whole week.
I’ll be there next year, for sure.
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Thursday morning I felt a strong desire to be on my own, and took off for the Temple. I had something I needed to do. Armed with a notebook, sharpie and handkerchief, I set off to heal and let go.
I felt strong waves of compassion and loss as I approached the Temple. I settled in a peaceful spot, overwhelmed by emotion, and spent the next 30 minutes weeping — for loves lost, for wounds that still hurt, for regret. For one lost love, the Playa is his sacred ground, something that makes his eyes sparkle every time he talks about it. It was all the regret and sadness around our relationship ending that I needed to release.
I wrote a long and heart-felt note, full of rage, sadness and forgiveness. Words I’ve said before but needed to say again. The only thing I may never get to tell him was how wonderful Burning Man turned out to be for me. I finally understand.
I tucked that note into a spot in the Temple and felt relief for the first time in a while. On his sacred ground, I let him go.
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A camp in my village hosted a David Deida Meet Up – he is a well-known writer and tantric teacher. About 35 men and women gathered to discuss his philosophies. After the discussion, a dark-haired, smiling man approached me and told me he was drawn in by my radiance. He asked if he could share a poem that had spontaneously dropped into his head, a gift from “source.” Of course I was flattered and excited that a stranger had written a poem just for me so I happily agreed, expecting something short and corny. Instead he opened his mouth (and heart) and recited for about 7 minutes an incredibly spiritual poem about divinity, radiance, love. At first I smiled politely. Then I started to cry, so moved that he had seen my soul, my worth. Then I smiled and cried and sparkled and let my emotions flow out of my heart and toward him. I felt seen, received, touched, honored, and wildly impressed that he was able to compose a brilliant, very long poem on the spot. A moment of beautiful Playa magic!
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This was my eighth and my favorite burn. Yes, it WAS a particularly ease-filled and redonkulously fun year, but really, it was the best because of my intentions. Intentions usually come true out there. To find a new magic friend, the best music ever, figuring out my next professional move… something like that. This year, mine was different. I arrived to the playa with only the intention to continue to truly embody the present moment and to rest deeply into the seed of who I am, of who we all are. Having already found myself over the last couple of months finding that my real home exists in the “now”, I was very excited to bring my new home, ahem, home with me and try it out there!
So there I was, having all these cool shifts in my awareness and having so much fun and then it all get taken to the next level, whoo-hoo! Thursday night we were dancing at Nexus, he and I. Freak Nasty was approaching the decks. The sound system was killin! The place was perfectly packed…we sat down to rest. Eye contact for a long minute. I asked, “What do you see?” He said, “A kind of stillness and peace in you. What do you see in me?” I told him that I saw that same stillness but that somehow he was not letting himself experience it. That he was holding on too tight. “Yes,” he said, “It’s true.”
And that’s when I let it happen. I let myself come completely into the present, in a way that I have never before. And from that place words came through me. And as I spoke the words to him I was also speaking them to myself and we sat outside for over an hour on a weird little pull cart on the back of someone’s bike and had a good old fashioned satori experience… enlightenment on the playa? HELLS YES BABY. Does it get much better than that? Nuh-uh, it doesn’t! Oh and then I got to sleep in a perfect naked puddle of awesomeness with him for days…that was rockin too ;)