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.
I was not always accepting of Christianity. In fact, I had a bitter life chapter where I woke up to the Lies of Institutional Religion(TM) with deep anger and judgment towards Christians and Christianity.
Then two things happened:
1) I went to Burning Man and learned how Radical Inclusion gives a framework to support others, even as you disagree with them.
2) I started co-hosting a podcast with my Grandfather, Rev. Caleb Shikles. And He showed me that Burning Man was my church.
Don’t get me wrong: I agree that countless atrocities have been done in the name of religion. And that blind acceptance of any teachings paves the way for horrible things.
But I would argue that the main difference between a student of the teachings of Jesus and a follower of the 10 Principles is the amount of dusty faux fur in their closet.
(NOTE: Near the end of his life, my grandpa actually called himself a “Jesus Man” or “Baptist Buddhist” because he felt that the word “Christian” had come to mean so many things in contrast with the teachings of Jesus.)
While I appreciate the teachings of Jesus, I am not a Christian, by any means. I don’t mean to defend or promote Christianity – only to point out that Radical Inclusion gives us a model for loving our neighbors – be they Jiffy Lubers, Death Guilders, Pink Hearters, or Human Caracas Carwashers.
This applies to “neighbors” on the default world, as well.
The beautiful thing about a religion or tribe is that it gives us a congregation. It gives us a non-biological family to reflect and affirm us. When we are “Welcomed Home” we come to understand that “who we really are” is okay. Not just okay, but amazing. This community acceptance allows us to recognize and cultivate our true selves.
It was Burning Man that showed me the power of this type of community – and the powerful impact on personal growth. But as I grow in the world, I see people blossom in all types of loving congregations. I have seen magical communities grow around Comic-con, Knitting, flow arts, and even the Insane Clown Posse. Yes, god bless the Juggalos.
As we congratulate ourselves for casting off the chains of our socialization, it can be tempting to judge others who have attached themselves to belief systems or communities that differ from our own. But the whole point of Radical Inclusion means accepting those who have taken different paths and express themselves differently. We must remember that in today’s world “being different” can mean clown face paint, but it can also mean being devoted to an ancient tradition or long dead prophet.
It is easy to throw out baby Jesus with the bongwater – but the path of Radical Inclusion means we need to practice accepting everyone.
During today’s HugNation broadcast, I went deeper into these ideas:
[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]
I spent some time today reflecting on Radical Inclusion in a Post-P.Diddy-Playa. If you’d rather read these ideas than watch a video, just skip below. (Video begins with 2:16 of mindfulness that you can skip if you are “sparkle-averse.”)
“How many veteran Burners found this year to be like Disneyland? Waiting in line to see the man then once in seeing it filled with tourists, ravers and MOOP.
I think this may be the last year I’m going…”
“I’m so sick of those elitist jerks with their Plug-and-play camps…”
Let’s all take a breath together.
As we breath out, let’s say, “Radical Inclusion.”
This is one of the 10 Principles, and it is important.
It is tempting to feel like we know what is the right way to do things.
But all we can ever know is what is best for us. Actually, it is a lifelong journey to figure out what is best for us.
Socialization covers us with layers and layers of shoulds. Eventually we live a life of patterns that may have no relationship to the true desires of our heart.
One of the transformative gifts of Burning Man is that it pushes us to question our patterns. The challenges and discomfort make us act in ways outside our patterns. In that space of questioning & floating, we sometimes hear our heartsongs. We sometimes feel desires, inspiration, and direction coming from INSIDE us. For many of us, this is a direction we have never experienced. After a lifetime of aiming towards goals given to us by well meaning parents & teachers (and less-benign marketers and politicians) – we may have lost the connection with the inner voice that that says, “This is my bliss. Follow this.” We had it in the crib. We had it on the playground. When did we lose it?
The gift of rediscovering that connection can be so profound. It can also turn us into zealots and make us overly-defensive of the circumstances that broke us free. It can be tempting to feel like the way WE got to that rediscovery is the right way.
There is nothing in the Principles about the size of your tent, the absence of air conditioning, or what tasks you must do yourself in order to qualify as “self reliant.” Must you mine the metal used in your bike? Must you weld it yourself? How about attach it to your bike rack or decorate it?
Or is it self-reliant enough to make the arrangements so that your needs are met?
I much prefer the attitude of a wealthy participant who makes arrangements than a “The Playa Will Provide” drifter who confuses “trusting the Universe” with “Being a burden on others.”
There is a tone of anger sometimes against “plug-and-play” camps. And I understand the fear. The real danger is a separation from participation. But who are any of us to define what the right way to participate is?
Do DPW participate better than Temple Builders? Who participate better than small sculpture artists? Who participate better than art car creators? Who participate better than theme camp organizers? Who participate better than costume artists?
The beauty of Burning Man is that we all find the best ways for us to gift. We all figure out the best way to play our role. The system works because we all answer the question differently. We are all unique cells within a massive organism. Our job is not to define how others should act – our role is to get clear & healthy and help the whole organism thrive.
It may be massage, sculpture, cooking, mechanical advice, attentive listening, carpentry, or philosophy. Whatever it is, it is important to find a way to participate and share your gifts.
In my camp, we demand a high level of participation from every member. This is not because we need lots of labor for the camp to function. While this *is* true, the reason we demand participation is because we know better. After 16 years I can say with a rare confidence, “The more you participate, the more you will get out of the experience.”
Showing up to the party of the year may give you a head full of great memories. But feeling like you are co-hosting this event changes something inside you. Being of service tunes you in to a level of purpose that changes you – or recharges you – in truly profound ways.
Do I worry about the Plug-And-Play camps? Only to the degree that some people may not be pushed hard enough outside their bubble to recieve the gifts available to them in this magical place. They may not get far enough outside of what is normally expected of them to recognize the dormant gifts aching to be shared.
But even then, I do not worry. Because even having a slight brush with this place can change you.
I know because it happened to me.
My first burn was in 1998. I showed up Thursday afternoon, late in the week. I avoided most responsibilities and did very little to help with the camp breakdown. I took much more than I gave. I bet a veteran would have considered me a tourist.
But it changed me. I started to learn more about the event. I started to learn more about myself.
I learned what my gifts were.
I learned to start listening for, and listening to that voice that steered me towards my Joy.
It changed my life. It changed my world. It changed my burn.
Burning Man changes people. When it changes people who have control over significant resources, that bodes well for the planet. I want every CEO and Prince to experience the Playa. I want them to dance on an art car, be gifted pancakes and say what P. Diddy said upon returning from the dust: “#BurningMan Words cannot explain! I’ll never be the same”
This is not a silly idea. More and more I have been asked to speak to business people about the value of Burning Man ideals. They may not even know that they are BM ideals, but they know that being in alignment with integrity and purpose is important. After long careers where the bottom line was everything, they know, deep down, that it isn’t enough.
When I was recruited for my current job, it was based on videos I did about Burning man. The CEO told me, “We are are group of people who have had successful careers. We have built our empires…but now we want to build our legacy.”
So bring on the ravers, frat-boys, tourists & elitists. As each one of us gets in tune with who we truly are, it benefits us all. As each cell gets healthy, it advances the health of the entire body.
We’ve built an empire of dust…now we build our legacy.
I’ve received a number of concerned emails from virgins over the last month. They heard about this magical place of acceptance in the desert and set out to make a pilgrimage. As instructed, they tried to learn whatever they could online so they could be “Radically Self-Reliant.” But along their path of digital research, they stepped into some online Burner dialogues thick with snark. Without knowing anyone and without the benefit of eye contact/body language/etc., the newbie gets the impression that this tone of joking disdain means that they are not welcome.
I try to let people know that Burning Man is not a love fest. It is a fertile ground for expression of every sort. It is a place for harmony and chaos. For cuddle piles and Thunderdome. For heartfelt expression and snarky insults.
And you are welcome there.
Admittedly, I am on the “sparkle” side of the spectrum (and I receive my share of disapproving snark.) So, yesterday I discussed the issue of Snark, Sparkle, & Radical Inclusion from my fuzzy pink perspective.
And here’s a fantastic (unofficial) Message from The Man reiterating that you are welcome in Black Rock City:
The concept of a Theme Camp can be bewildering to someone who has never been to Burning Man. Deciding if you want to join a camp, start a camp, or go solo can be a tough decision. Some camps are open to anyone, others are close-knit families. Some are based on sacred service, others pour drinks, others blow minds. All give gifts to Black Rock City… and the requirements to be a part of each camp are unique.
My camp is not an open camp. Everyone has connected either online or on previous adventures. We have strict participation requirements that include: sharing a “who I really am” essay, attending meetings in person or via webcam, Leave No Trace shifts, Water Bar shifts, set-up & break down commitments, & financial contribution in the form of dues.
Occasionally I have people ask, “If I pay dues, what do I get?”
I spent a few minutes discussing the topic of “Theme Camp Dues.”
This is a re-post of my most frequently shared Playa video. Plus a new “10 Commandments of Gifting” at the bottom.
As people begin to check-off their pre-burn packing lists, many are puzzled by the same question: “What should I bring as gifts?”
But Gifting is about much more than brown paper packages tied up with strings. In fact, Gifting is one of my favorite things…
The (non-official) 10 Commandments of Gifting:
1) Gifting is a physical demonstration of Love.
“I want you to have this because it makes me happy to see you happy.”
2) Gifting dissolves separation.
When you Gift, you are breaking down the wall between me and you/ us and them. If you EXHCHANGE, then you are re-enforcing the separation. But to GIFT is to say, You and I are one.
When I understand the interconnectedness of all things, then Gifting helps to show that I cannot ever lose anything. If I gift you something, I am only transferring it from one part of the One to another. There is no loss and no gain. We are just shifting possession to an aspect of the whole that will appreciate it more. Think “Osmosis of Material Goods.”
3) A Gift can be ANYTHING.
It can be a song, an idea, a massage, a sculpture, a compliment, a sticker, a shoulder to lean on, a wet-nap, a walk home, or a hug.
4) Gifting eliminates hoarding and creates abundance.
When we allow ”stuff” to flow more fluidly between one another, ALL stuff becomes an available resource to ALL people. Gifting breaks down attachment.
5) Gifting helps dissolve the Ego.
When we become less connected with owning and having stuff (even our skills and talents) then we identify less with our physical selves. We take less credit for things and less blame. Who we are becomes more about our divine seed than our story or physical form.
6) Gifting breaks the commerce paradigm.
Traditional commerce = an even exchange. You get one, I lose one. You pay one, I earn one. Sum total = Zero (0). But in a gift, You receive the gift (+1) AND I feel good for giving the gift (+1). Sum total = Two (2).
7) Gifting releases the flow of energy between people.
We are hardly even aware of the energetic walls that we maintain to hold on to our stuff and keep out yours. The more we gift, the less those barriers hold.
8) Gifting opens up the world.
Making a habit of gifting allows you to see every interaction as an opportunity for increased Joy – even if there is no benefit to you specifically. If I have something (a bite of food, a word of support, a warm hat) that can make your life better, then I can make MY life better by helping YOU. That means there are billions of opportunities in every moment to make the planet more joyful. On the other hand, if the only way to increase joy is by helping out my specific individual self, then the opportunities are few.
9) Gifting is never required.
A feeling of obligation cancels out the Gift. (This type of “Barter” exchange is often confused as gifting.) But if you expect anything in return – even the elimination of guilt – then the magic of Gifting has been compromised.
10) EVERY interaction can be seen as an act of Gifting.
These views are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the opinions of The Burning Man Organization.
In the middle of all the physical and metaphorical dust storms, The 10 Principles keep the beautiful chaos on track. Some are pretty clear, like “Leave No Trace.” Others are more tricky to get your head around. As a long-time Burner, I am sometimes asked to clarify or explain the Principles as I understand them. Read the official explanations here, and then check out my thoughts in the video above.
These views are solely the views of Halcyon and do not represent the opinions of The Burning Man Organization.