What Is A Festival?

I’m sure we’ve all cringed when a friend or co-worker says, “Burning Man? …that’s like Coachella, right?”

But it is hardly their fault. There are now TONS of events that are called “Festivals” and it is hard to understand how they differ.

In this video I talk about the different kinds of Music Festivals, Conferences, Transformational Festivals, and Participatory Gatherings.

NOTE: While I make the case that the participatory nature of Burning Man and sanctioned regionals have a special kind of magic, I did not mean to imply that the others do not have participation.  There is just something incredibly mind-blowing about looking out at the Playa and trying to grok, “So, none of these artists were paid? They created all of this as a gift for US?!”   It shifts something inside us and shatters our models of “audience,” “performer” and “participant.”

Did I miss any categories or important events? Share your thoughts below.

(For a great discussion by some organizers of other Transformational Festivals and how Burning Man influenced them, click here.)

Major Laser Bummer

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Laser Show, 2003 from Erick Leskinen

 

You can do almost anything you want at Burning Man. But there are some important don’ts.

Like, “Don’t shine lasers at people’s eyes.”

Seriously.


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Ranger Halston was permanently blinded in her left eye at last year’s burn.

11082770_10153163472751575_503569414_nThat is WAY too much to give up.

And now she has mounting doctors fees and lost wages.

“It’s all fun and games until…”

I like to think that If I accidentally drop my scarf on the playa, a fellow burner will pick it up.

That if I am thirsty in deep playa, a fellow burner will give me water.

That if I hurt my leg on rebar, a fellow burner will help me back to camp.

And if I damage my sight while serving as a Ranger, fellow burners will help me out.

If you can, please gift to her fundraiser.

UPDATE:  Will Chase has posted a more in depth look at Ranger Halston’s situation.

 

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The Man Glows, 2002 from Lewis Jacobs

 

 

Gifting vs. Gift Exchange

As a Burner, you would think that I would love the Xmas season.

It’s the time of year when normally modest streets turn into suburban Esplanades – with glowing plastic reindeer and gaudy strings of lights everywhere.

We even have a obsessive cultural focus on Gifting during the holidays.

Far surpassing eggnog, mistletoe or jingle bells, the importance of gift giving dominates the Xmas season.

This makes sense because the entire economy depends on end-of-the-year spending. The Dow Jones could care less about the rise and fall of snowmen or the number of carols sang per capita.

But a cultural frenzy of spending? That is important. And the barrage of lights, music, and advertising are all going to make sure you don’t forget.

This seems like it should be a good thing. Gifting is one of the 10 Principles – so wouldn’t a cultural focus on gift giving be a good thing?

Unfortunately, there is something about Gifting that has been lost in our modern practice of holiday cheer.

Let’s review what a gift is. (more…)

Mom’s First Burn

“No time to explain, Mom. Take my hand and follow me!”

My family has always been a big part of my Burn.

My brother went with me my first year in 1998, and for the next five.

My Grandpa was the first to call Burning Man my “congregation” and sent heirlooms with me (like his childhood bible) to burn each year.  I placed his ashes in the Temple in 2007.

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Hanging a tribute to Grandpa Caleb in ’08
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Photo by Julian Cash (supersnail.com) Pants by Grandma Shikles

My grandma sewed my first fur pants. (Including a matching fur bag, “because I had left over fabric,” she said.)

And when my grandma passed on, my mom became my go-to seamstress for my Playa creations.

I treasure the bonding experiences that my mom and I share each summer as we craft together in preparation for the Burn.

She helped me sew cushion covers for the Hugmobile, fur covers for my platform boots, and helped create the epic Octobike. (aka “Snuffleoctobike”).

(more…)

Burning Cake (A Cautionary Tale)

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…)

Burning Man Lives

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.

Burning Man's Death has been greatly exaggerated

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.

 

Hug Virus Epidemic

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.
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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!”

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.17.35 AMYou 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.
Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 8.59.30 AMA 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?)
Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 9.16.58 AMI 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.

Love,
-Halcyon

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“It Changed My Life!”

“Burning Man changed my life!”

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.

Halcyon's Schedule