If you asked me a year ago if there’d ever be a day where I would be sporting LED light clothing braving dust storms in the middle of a desert – all while not having washed my hair for a week, I would have laughed. But in 2015, I set an intention – to embrace uncertainty, be less judgmental, and have an open mind to adventures and experiences that take me out of my comfort zone. If there is an event that embodies this life approach perfectly, without a doubt, it would be Burning Man.
Burning Man is a week-long event where over 70,000 people gather and create a temporary city in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. There is no monetary transactions at Burning Man, and contrary to rumors, there is no bartering system. Rather, “radical self-reliance” is one of the main guiding principles, and you participate in the community by bestowing gifts with no expectation of receiving anything back in return. There are breathtaking art installations everywhere, and hundreds of workshops and programming are offered daily – from aerial silk yoga, to sound therapy, to foot massage 101, to the basics of S&M (and yes, there also is an orgy tent). There really is something for everyone.
But the one thing that really makes Burning Man a unique, spiritual experience is the sense of community and energy exchanged – where for seven days, acting with compassion, generosity, kindness, non-judgment, creativity, and love become the norm. The event enhanced my life and there were some key learnings I took away from it:
1. That stripped of all the labels, status and identities that we often hide behind- we are all fundamentally the same. We all have wounds from the past, we are all mourning someone or something, and we all want love, connection and acceptance.
2. People are inherently good. Place someone into an environment where the norm is love and kindness, and that person will rise up to that standard.
3. In a group dynamic, you are either a leader or a follower. Leaders take initiative, they think a few steps ahead, they plan and organize, and initiate action. Followers take a passive approach, often exerting minimal effort and sit back relying on the fact that eventually the leaders will play their role. Being a leader or a follower is not a fixed identity, it’s a choice you make on a constant basis.
4. It is through time and consistency where you see one’s true character and the values they operate on. Observe wisely.
5. Sometimes, what you are looking for is right in front of you. It may not appear exactly the way you had envisioned, and it may come completely unexpected, but if you don’t have a curious mind, keep an open heart and make room for spontaneity and surprise, you may miss out on the best parts of life.
6. You are exactly where you need to be.