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Reflections from Burning Man 2023

I spent the later half of my twenties attending regional burning man events without the resources or desire to attend the source event; Black Rock City, until this year when the universe directly responded to my ask: “I’ll attend if everything is provided.” Immediately after this statement I was gifted a ticket, a tent, two camps, and transportation. Now the final piece, I had committed to attending a dear brother’s wedding. This brother had included me in his tight circle of brothers AND covered the costs of my attendance to his bachelor party. We climbed mountains, sat with rapeh, and shared a deep medicine ceremony in Boulder Colorado this July. The circle of men all are deeply invested in their own betterment and in their communities. It was an honor to be amongst them and to experience the deeply rooted central and south american cultures each man brought into the container of that weekend.

So I decided to organize an elaborate chain of transportation, dust proof luggage, and gear storage to leave Black Rock City on Thursday and attend the wedding in Baltimore.

Now we arrive at Thursday, the city is alive with creative energy–prana oozing from each smile, burning brighter than the desert sun. I am zooming across playa from 10:00 and G to 5:15 and G twice or thrice per day. Visiting friends, families, elders and children at each camp. And most importantly, I am revealing myself at depths uncommon within the default world’s set of acceptable conversations. From Kabbalah mystery ontologies to tantric consent practices, I am finally able to manifest myself in my current adult male form with all the years of exotic training and practices that have fueled my journey from man, to transexual, to conscious masculine man. And I am met with respect. I see others and they see me–deeply.

So I stick to my word and pack my gear and cart it across the sunny playa on Thursday morning. Depositing gear at my friends’ camp and sitting in their hookah and tea lounge for final goodbye’s before the hitchhike back to Reno.

Here I receive the message that this ceremony is not complete and I am a part of it. In my view, this is the opportunity to take ownership of the burn, and to remain a contribution through the completion. My work in the Sundance has prepared me for these moments; to set aside my chattering monkey mind and do the work that is to be done. I knew deeply that my brother would understand this decision, my family would understand that I would not visit them after the wedding, and my next few days on the playa of Black Rock City would continue to provide lessons and keys to my own journey. The city is a mirror. We have exactly the burn we need to have.

The moment I made the decision, sent off a few calls, messages, and canceled plane tickets; the rain began…

‘It should blow over in a few hours’ said the campers at Apathogenesis. As their leader had already flown to a meeting in Puerto Rico, intending to return that evening. He never made it back.

Hours later, I was still stranded in the bar at 10G and wondering at what point I must brave the elements and walk/swim back to 5:15G with only a vest and light pants, as the weather grew colder and the rain harsher.

So I took off my shoes and began mud skating across the glass lake of playa. Countless participants falling and sliding in the mud. The art piercing the tops of the glass playa as monoliths of resilience. I knew this is home. This field of emergence is where I birth anew and carry the light I have been cultivating to all those in need, struggling, freezing, and yet ready to be here through all that comes.

Burners are a rare breed. We do not rise to the occasion, rather, we fall to the level of our training. And burners in hardship can be heard muttering positive psychology, deep incantations, cosmic jokes about the magic and potential of all experiences. We all continued to deeply bless one another and care for one another through all of the chaos. When I heard a dome alive with bass and sound, I diverted my course and entered.

Inside were hundreds of smiling dancing burners, making more than the most out of the situation. Laughing, smiling, trash-bag raincoats, bare, mud-covered feet, hugs and joy. Where in all the world do you encounter such fortitude but on this playa.

I danced and spun until we all noticed a rainbow outside. You may have seen this photo, but it was two rainbows, from end to end, right across the playa. I have never seen such clarity.

The next night was me passed out on the soggy pillows of the hookah lounge. And the following nights were shared shift pods and RVs. I was taken care of, and I contributed to the needs of the camp. I was adopted and added to the camp photo board by three separate people. Only noticing on the final day that I had so many welcome photos on the board!

But what did it all mean?

I view this year as a diagnostic test of what we are made of. Did we stick to me, mine, and get the hell out of dodge? Did we look to we, ours, and help only our fellow camp mates? Or did we expand to everyone, all people, and work to distribute resources to our neighbors and those in need? Were these levels of community evenly represented across the spectrums of wealth? Were they evenly represented across the plug-n-play vs DIY camps? I experienced a resounding YES. Good people emerged in each class demographic of the playa in similar percentages. And all the critical theories making other demographics ‘wrong’ proved nothing more than subconscious distancing from the universal community values of Black Rock City. Wealthy RV participants shared wifi and food with their neighbors, as did DIY tent campers and pedal bike riders. While the DIY burners did submit more to the radio broadcast recommendations of the burner radio to ‘shelter in place.’ The materially abundant burners stoked the fire and invited, delivered, and shared resources beyond the norm.

In reflection, I am left with renewed certainty that the doubt, fear, and survival energies are deeply weak, and hurt far more than they help. Especially in the objective of caring for community. It is not in falling to fear and survival that we live; rather it is in rising to collective thriving that we necessarily cultivate the requirements of survival and further the abundance of emotional stability. Those who kept the party alive, honored and cared for their bodies, and continued the dance were the ones who carried the critical energy that delivered this burn through to the end. The well prepared and deeply trained back country trekkers, mountain bikers, and heli-skier crowd, those who choose hardship and habituated resilience were the ones who overflowed with the capacity to support and stoke the flames of this year’s burn.

I am deeply grateful for my community at Flow Genome Project, and the mindset and training to be amongst those who not only had our shit together, but also danced our hearts out amidst the elements. This is what we live for: moments where our aliveness is critical and we are the light in the chaos.

Next year I will arrive with a strong tent, likely a shiftpod and swamp cooler, and a strong bike, ideally a sondors ebike, and a good fur–grey and white, real fur. I have met myself and now intend to honor this truth. To fail to honor the divine within is to dishonor both the divine within self and the divine in others. So from now onwards, I choose to honor self and in so doing, align with others who are honoring themselves in compatible fashion.

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