My experiences for the last 17 years at Burning Man have been so amazing and transformative that I have a hard time seeing any shifts in the event as a real threat. “Bring on P.Diddy and the Turnkey Camps!” I said. I still believe that. But I also am able to understand the current fear more clearly now than I once did.
Like everyone, I am eagerly awaiting the official response to the recent controversies. I do *not* think Burning Man is doomed. Quite the contrary. I have faith we will figure this out and thrive.
Once we get a handle on the current challenges and correct the course, the magic will shine as bright as ever.
The fable below is fictional. Take it with a grain of dust.
Once upon a time there was food enthusiast who hosted a fantastic baked goods potluck.
He invited 10 adventurous cooks he knew and they started gathering each month to share delights.
Their culinary skills were varied…but they all sure loved food.
The spreads were AMAZING!
People went WAY over-the-top.
Exotic ingredients, rare fruits, fine wines.
For some participants it became almost a game: who could produce the most fantastic dessert? (more…)
This continues to be a tough year of post-Playa bumps and bruises. (And I don’t mean the black and blue Xmas toenails.) Amidst all the controversy I was asked, “Is Burning Man dead?”
NOTE: I am a 17 year Burning Man Participant and Theme Camp organizer. I do not speak as an official rep of the Burning Man Organization.
P.S. Yes, that is my 71 year old mom on the right of the screen, enjoying her first-ever Playa visit. Her experience was amazing and has made our relationship even closer. But that, too, is a topic for another post. Long Live Burning Man.
There was a lie that spread through our community this year like a virus.
This mistruth was far more insidious than any fake trash fence concert, under-Playa tunnel system or elusive “dark rave.”
It continues to affect the way we interact with one another. (You may even still believe the information to be true.)
But I am here to set the record straight: There is nothing wrong with a traditional hug.
By “traditional” I mean that you lean to the left as you embrace.
This year I was ”corrected” close to 100 times by people who explained that the right way to hug was “heart-to-heart.”
This was usually followed by some version of a story about how the traditional hug aligns our livers and therefore creates a toxic exchange of energy. Whereas the heart-to-heart aligns our hearts and therefore results in a more loving exchange.
Now, let me be clear: I think a heart-to-heart hug is great. And if you want to suggest we do a right-leaning hug after we do our traditional hug, that sounds super to me. The more hugs the better.
But what often happens is that people stop me mid hug and “correct” me during the approach. “No…let’s do it heart to heart!”
You may have even done this yourself. I get it, you meant well. Who wants to spread toxic liver vibes?! But what ends up happening is that the loving process of a hug abruptly becomes “wrong.”
1) I see someone I care about.
2) Our eyes light up.
3) We approach one another, arms outstretched.
4) Then as I am beginning to surrender into their warm embrace I hear, “Wait, no…” I am chastised and corrected. NO! BAD! BAD BOY!
This is the exact opposite intention of a hug.
PRO TIP: If you would like a heart-to-heart hug, first complete the traditional hug, then ask for a second, heart-to-heart hug. Don’t bring any judgment, correction, or mistakes into the process.
Now, to address the root of this virus: There is nothing toxic about a traditional hug. A traditional hug is AWESOME.
A hug is the most basic expression of connection that exists between two humans. If you prefer them right-leaning, fine. But a full body embrace is a beautiful thing that has nothing to do with the alignment of organs. (A sexual embrace is much more organ-dependant…but that is an entirely different topic.)
I’m not sure who started this idea virus about toxic hugs. I’m sure it was someone well-meaning, heart-centered, chakra-balanced, and micro-biotic. Or maybe it was a whiskey-swilling trickster.
But I am here to set the record straight.: All hugs are good.
Seriously. Let’s think about this.
How many of your (left-leaning) mom hugs while growing up filled you with profound comfort and safety?
How many of your past lovers’ (left-leaning) sunset embraces left you buzzing?
How many (left-leaning) hugs have you given your children that washed away their tears?
I don’t mean to pull rank here, but I have hosted the weekly podcast, “Hug Nation” for 13 years. Online friends send me every article on hugging that gets published. People are eager to share every new hug technique they learn with me. (Cinnamon Swirl, anyone?)
I have literally hugged 10’s of thousands of strangers – nearly all by learning left. And the connection has always been pure, beautiful, and love-filled.
Heck, we may have even hugged at a festival in the past. If not, hopefully it is just a matter of time. If you are unconvinced by my ranting here, we can plan on doing both a traditional and a heart-to-heart when we meet.
In some circles of friends, the heart-to-heart has become the norm. I have no issue with that (although I have had my share of “head bonk” near misses). Some people have even perfected a hugging approach that severely exaggerates the right lean to ensure they get a heart-to-heart. That is a fine solution if you can do it without making the recipient feel awkward. What I feel called to address is the demonizing of the traditional hug and the act of correcting people as they enter an embrace. There are so many things that need fixing in this world – the hug is not one of them.
So, while I am thrilled to see people excited about any type of hugging, I ask that a heart-to-heart is done *in addition* to the perfect traditional hug that we have all grown up with.
And while I do consider myself a hugging expert, I admit that there are those who know far more about hugging than I. So I humbly bow to the wisdom of Amma, the greatest hugger on the planet – perhaps ever to inhabit a human body. She has hugged over 33 million people. I once waited in line for a full day to receive one of here profoundly love-filled hugs. Guess how this living saint hugged me? Yup. Liver-to-liver.
But this isn’t just about hugs.
It is about how easily we believe what we’re told – and how quick we are to pass it on.
Remember: Experience is truth. Everything else is stories.
We must be in a constant state of evaluating the stories we are told. Believe whatever you want, but do so by choice. Do so with awareness. Do so with a degree of inquiry.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.” And in this area, I agree with him.
Caution is becoming exponentially important as faux-news sites are being blindly shared in social media among our community.
Skrillex and Diplo did not get booed.
Plug-And-Play camps did not ruin Burning Man.
There is nothing wrong with a hug.
I imagine that refrain must be annoying to people who have no interest in going. And it might be frightening to someone who is going for the first time. Maybe that change is exactly why you are going (or continue to go) to that wacky gathering in the desert.
I admit that I am one of the ones guilty of making that grand claim. After 16 years attending, I can barely remember who I was before I went to Burning Man.
I’ve had pink hair (year-round) for over 10 years. I help run a charity based on Gifting. I do a weekly podcast to recalibrate to my Highest Playa Self. Even my corporate job is linked to Burning Man: My CEO recruited me after watching some of my Playa Tips & Tricks Videos.
I’m not saying it will affect you the same way. But it might. Be open to it.
In fact, be open to the possibility that ANY experience in your life could dramatically change the way you see the world. A setback on the road. An interaction at a truck stop. A massive dust storm. A conflict with a campmate. These “obstacles” can be the very treasures that give your life meaning.
These “obstacles” can be the very treasures that give your life meaning.
Here is a short video answering the question of how Burning Man has changed me.
Side note: To everyone working their butts off to finish and pack up their creations: THANK YOU! I hope to be able to hug you, look you in the eyes and say it to you face…but please know I am GRATEFUL for your artistic spirit and your heroic efforts. I love you.
I hope you can join me on my Pink Ride on Thursday or enjoy some of the refreshing treats at my camp.
This post isn’t going to help you pack.
It isn’t going to tell you how to prepare for dust or stay lit at night. You’ve already read (or watched) all about that.
But I do want to suggest some tips for the preparation of your state of mind.
I’ve talked to too many first timers who have stumbled upon snarky online conversations and become concerned that they won’t be welcomed at Burning Man. Or they’ve seen videos of gorgeous performers, acro-yogis, and go-go dancers and are not sure if they’ll fit in.
But, motivated by their bucket list, they’ve summoned enough courage to go “check out that thing in the desert.”
I’d like to assure you that you ARE welcome. And I’d like to reframe that goal a little:
Burning Man isn’t something that you “check out.”
It is something that you participate in.
There will be hundreds of people inviting you to play with their contraption, climb their structure, write on their wall, sing along with their song, eat their treat.
Say “Yes” to those opportunities.
Burning Man is a gift economy – not barter. People want to give you things simply because they want to make your moment better. They want to do this because it makes them feel good to share.
Have you ever made a meal for a table full of friends? And then had them glow about how much they loved the meal? Remember how good that feels? That. A gifting economy is like that.
Practice being a good receiver. Say thank you. Mean it.
Don’t take the gift for granted, but also don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. If you feel filled with appreciation and abundance – give a gift of your own. But resist the urge to return a gift tit-for-tat as a sort if transaction. (Although tits and tats are both interesting gift ideas.)
Maybe you are struggling to figure out what you should bring to gift.
It is important to expand your concept of a “gift.”
A gift is anything that lifts another person up. Sure, it can be an object like a bracelet or a beer. But it can also be a gesture. It can be volunteering, helping set up a tent, assisting an artist with an installation, doing dishes, picking up moop, or being of service in countless ways.
Maybe you are a dancer, sculptor or musician and you know exactly what personal gifts you have to share. Or you may have no idea. Don’t fret, Burning Man has a way of opening up your perspective to the many gifts you have inside you.
The reality is that WHO YOU ARE is a gift. If you act from integrity…if you act from your heart…if you radically express your true self…THAT is a powerful gift. Don’t get hung up on how that gift ends up being expressed.
Burning Man is a fertile petri dish. All you need to do is just let the spores of your spirit out – and then get out of the way. Always had a hankering to try puppetry? Pull off your sock, put it on your hand and start introducing yourself as “Susan and Sockita.” Or maybe you’ll stumble upon a camp of puppeteers who invite you to participate in their daily performance. Say “Yes!” It will be a gift to them, to the audience, and to yourself. And by following your heart, you are giving a gift to the world. The magic happens when we all let ourselves express from that deep, honest place.
Art is not defined by the result of the paintstroke. It is determined by the inspiration that drives the expression. Let yourself be inspired. Let yourself express in big and small ways. Say “Yes.”
You’re not going to check out Burning Man. You are a part of Burning Man. We’re looking forward to meeting you. Welcome Home.
Come visit me at 8:45 & Esplanade at Pink Heart Camp for iced cucumber water or vegan ice cream. Or join the Pink Ride Thursday at noon. Or do whatever it is that your gorgeous heart desires. I love you.