This Is Burning Man
Last year I went to Burning Man for the first time.
It was easily one of the most pivotal events of my life. So much expansion, pushing of edges, and diving deeper into my relationships.
After Burning Man last year, I flew straight to Costa Rica for the Trailblazer’s Retreat that my friend Lynan created to lead a couple of workshops on Authentic Relating and Sexuality. So I went straight from one magical wonderland to the next.
This year I journaled the day after it all ended and put down as many juicy memories onto paper that I could.
Here are a few of them.
My intention for sharing these stories are to help one person live their life with just a little more openness and love.
I hope that one person is you.
1. I’m less than a week out and I still have no one to drive with me from San Diego. So I put this post up on Facebook asking if anyone wants to drive there with me. I get an email from Daniel Band, who I randomly accepted a Facebook friend request from in December. I usually don’t accept random friend requests unless something about the person interests me. Something about Daniel must have interested me nine months ago. Probably the fact that he’s from South Africa and he has the eyes of an angel. In his email he says, “I am on a spiritual journey of self discovery, with the intention of an organic experience at Burning Man. I have no expectations, just to travel with and open heart and open mind.” That’s my kind of dude. Three days later Daniel meets me in San Diego with two bicycles, a shit ton of coconut water, and a duffle bag full of clothes. We drive through the night and I give him a full download of everything that I’ve learned from the past several years around presence, sexuality, integrity, purpose, emotional intimacy, growth, and freedom. It feels good to set him up for success before walking into the greatest human playground in the world. He also schools me on crystals, taking chances, South Africa, serendipity, and fashion.
2. Somewhere along the way at around 3 or 4 in the morning we pull off to the side of the highway to take a piss outside in the middle of rural Nevada. The stars and galaxies put their best show on for us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars before. I look straight up into the sky as I pee, shivers racing through my body from the beauty of the stars, the chill of the air, and the fluid leaving my body. I’m being completely fucked by the moment, waves of energy pulsing through my body similar to that of an orgasm. We haven’t even gotten there yet and I’m feeling the magic already.
3. We pull up to the main gate at 9:45am on Sunday. The gates open at 10:00am. We move through the Will Call line in about 10 minutes. We drive straight through the main gate without a line. It’s so easy getting in it almost feels like we are sneaking in. Most people wait hours in line. Last year we waited in our RV for several hours and then the Will Call line for another hour. So far so good.
4. We arrive to Daniel’s camp and it’s not built yet. I spend most of the day going back and forth between my camp and Daniel’s camp. I’m a little anxious that it’s not done yet and I can’t get my things out of the car since they are all packed under Daniel’s stuff. I spend most of the day riding around the playa on one of the bicycles that Daniel brought, visiting all of the camps that my friends are at. Everyone keeps asking me why I didn’t camp at their camp. I have dozens of friends at both Camp Mystic and Camp Awesomeness. The truth is that I love to explore uncharted territory. And the camp that I chose, Camp Last Year, has a whole lot of uncharted humans that I haven’t met yet. So I pick the most unfamiliar camp, where only a couple of people know me. It turns out to be a great decision. I love exploring new souls who have no idea who I am.
5. It’s late Sunday night and there is an extra hotel room next to Daniel’s. One of the leaders of the camp, The Lost Hotel, says I can stay there for a night. I sleep in a king sized bed within an enclosed room made of cloth with a lamp and an electrical outlet. I forgot to mention that I didn’t bring a tent to Burning Man this year. This is the year that I test God. This is the year that I come in totally unprepared and leave everything up to the Universe. As I lay all my limbs out like a starfish, I chuckle to myself. How does this always happen to me?
6. Monday morning I wake up with some discomfort in my chest. Last year I was drinking all of the women and fucking all of the alcohol. This year I’m sober and in a committed partnership. The thought that I wake up with on Monday morning is, “What am I even doing here?” I’m stuck out here in the desert for another week and I’m not here to party or get laid. I talk to my friend Dave Booda and his wife Paula about it. Dave and Paula are my everything. I’ve learned so much about love, partnership, self-expression, creativity, and letting go from them. Had I never met them at last year’s Burning Man I know I wouldn’t be half the man that I am today. Dave tells me a story of a previous burn where he was feeling a little down. After hearing that from him, the fog lifts a little bit. It’s always so nice to know that you’re not the only one.
7. I facilitate an Authentic Relating Games workshop to a group of 20 people. Halfway in I realize, “Holy shit! I’m facilitating a workshop at Burning Man!” I leave them with a handful of tools, questions, and ways of being to help them be open to all of the goodness of the upcoming week. One of the participants comes up to me afterwards and hands me a gift. It’s a necklace with a vial that contains pieces of a deconstructed watch. He tells me it’s to always remind me of the impermanence of everything. It’s one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever received before.
8. I go to the Naked Carcass Wash. I could explain it in detail, but this is exactly how it works. Essentially it’s a bunch of naked people washing a bunch of naked people. I went last year and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Washing and rinsing the naked bodies of strangers makes me feel so honored to serve. I wash the ass of an old man with the same love and care as the hands of a beautiful young woman. This year I’m one of the first ones there and start my way through the assembly line, washing, rinsing, and scrubbing on dozens of naked bodies. I look out of the corner of my eye and see a stunning young woman. As I breathe in her beauty and let it fill me up with inspiration, she turns her head and I shockingly realize that it’s one of my close friends who was also one of the interns at EXECUTE. She’s there with another one of the interns from EXECUTE, who I had a super short and super deep relationship with in January. As I walk up to the first wash station where one of them is, I smile, look at her in the eye and say, “Yay for team building activities!”
9. Later than night someone hands me some psilocybin mushrooms in chocolate form. I look at my two friends who I’m with and we nod our heads Yes. I pop the chocolates into my mouth and chew them up. I look at them and say, “Wow, I’ve never just popped drugs like that before.” I’ve taken mushrooms in the past but always with a great deal of intention, in a safe space, and with people who I love. Five hours later I’m having one of the best nights of my life, riding around the playa on a giant double decker bus, feeling so much love radiating through every cell of my body.
10. On Monday night, I end up sleeping in a tent between two beautiful young women. The same ones who saw me naked earlier in the day. The same ones who I’ve been friends with for the past two years. Taran and Taye. It’s like a sleepover in elementary school again. No kissing, no groping, no sexual touch. Just three friends who love each other a lot. Knowing that this lands within the agreements of my relationship with Liz, I sleep a deep, restful sleep without a tinge of guilt.
11. We have a camp meeting on Tuesday morning where we all share our intentions for the burn. I go inwards to pull out my deepest truth. When it comes my turn to speak I say, “My intention is to get really uncomfortable and push my limits while keeping my agreements with my partner and my agreements with myself.” I find myself with numerous opportunities to explore the edges of those agreements in the next five days. Hell, I already have.
12. I attend another Authentic Relating Games workshop. I love watching new teachers teach. I always pick out a little gem to add to my practice. I used to do it when I taught yoga. Now I do it when I attend workshops and conferences. I always show up with complete Beginner Mind and every time I walk away with so much, regardless of who is teaching.
13. I’m on our art car and someone pulls out a little container with MDMA in it. I lick my pinky and take a little dab. Three days in and I’ve already partaken in three different drugs. I forgot to mention I smoked a little weed on Monday. The MDMA has very little effect on my mood. I’ve only taken it two or three times in the past, but besides the first time I took it, every subsequent time I’ve felt very little. I have a hunch it’s because my heartspace is already blown open and I already walk around loving on all of the beautiful human beings in front of me.
14. I’m with one of the girls I slept next to last night. We break away from the group and I suggest a game plan for the night. “Let’s go hit everything really hard for five minutes and then walk to the next thing.” We move all over the playa, going hard as possible for five minutes before moving along to the next thing. We dance on dance floors, swing on swings, watch people fight in the Thunderdome, talk to strangers in art cars, and watch people fuck in the Orgydome.
15. Oh yeah, Burning Man has a place called the Orgydome. It’s a safe space to have sex with a partner. I went in there last year. This year I walk in with my friend who wants to just see what it’s like. We pretend to be a couple and walk in holding hands looking at all of the people around us having sex. There are probably around a dozen couples in there on different beds and couches. We find an open room with nobody in there and we sit cross-legged facing each other. She asks me how it was having sex in there last year. I told her it was pretty normal actually. It was only weird for around five seconds, then it become super normal. Just like anything in life once the initial shock wears off. We chat for a little bit about love and sex. Feeling full of sexual energy we walk back out to the playa to continue our adventures.
16. We walk up to a random art car where a DJ is playing music and group of around 50 people are dancing. I look up and say, “Is that Skrillex?!” A couple seconds later they introduce Skrillex and Diplo to the crowd and we dance to a couple of songs before walking off.
17. On Wednesday a group of five of us meet up to do LSD before going to an all night party at Camp Mystic. Wow, this story is really starting to turn into “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Four days and four different drugs. I’ve been wanting to do acid for a while, but I’ve been scared of it since it’s man-made and I’ve had friends who have had bad experiences on it. For some reason though it feels right tonight. I’m with a group of men who I really trust and love. I pop the tab and let it dissolve on my tongue. Wow, I don’t believe I’m doing this.
18. The next twelve hours are some of the greatest twelve hours of my life. Once the drugs kick in I feel a direct connection to the collective intelligence of the Universe. I’ve heard the term “getting downloads” before, but now I finally get what they are talking about. My brain is working at what feels like 100 times the usual speed. Whole packets of information are whizzing into my brain at light speed. I KNOW EVERYTHING. I see why tech founders and entrepreneurs use it as a tool for creating. Steve Jobs knew what the fuck he was doing with this stuff. I feel directly plugged into to God. Even sitting here now typing these words I still feel plugged in. A friend later tells me that night, “Once God picks up the line, you never really hang up the phone.” I highly doubt I’ll be doing this drug again any time soon, but in this moment I feel like I opened up pieces of my consciousness that I didn’t have access to before.
19. Later that night I’m hanging out with one of my friends Paul Cooper. There are pieces of me that sometimes get triggered my Paul. There are pieces of me that sometimes don’t like him all that much. As we go deeper and deeper into each other’s story I learn more and more why. At one point we are sitting there with everything out in the open, hearts wide open to each other, gazing into each other’s eyes. I feel nothing but absolute love and compassion for him. I ask him to stand up and hug me. I break down into tears and have the deepest cry in months in Paul’s arms. The tears wash away any judgment that I had of Paul and any judgment that I had for myself for feeling that way. It feels so fucking good. God I love that guy. He’s shown me so much of myself. What a good man he is.
20. Did I mention I’m a cyclops? I spend all 12 hours of my acid trip with one contact lens. Luckily my prescription is only -1.75, so I play going back and forth from one eye to the next all night. Oh life, you make me laugh.
21. After dancing all night, I find myself coming close to sunrise. I walk to Embrace with my friend Jackie and we watch the sun rise together. It’s so fucking beautiful that I can’t hold back tears. Today my mother would have been 61 years old.
22. We walk into Embrace and there are a couple of people standing around inside of it. I can tell by their energy that something is up. A minute later a wedding begins inside the sculpture. Jackie and I are standing right behind the two women getting married. If someone took a picture they would guess that we were in the wedding party. More tears. So much love in the air that I need to cry a little to let it all into my heart.
23. I walk back barefoot from Embrace to 8:15 and G. It takes around an hour. I talk to myself for a little bit of it. Walking and being, walking and being. Just me, my feet and my thoughts. It’s like a one hour Walkabout. I see how powerful of a tool this could be if I did it for a couple of days. I see a vision quest ahead in my future.
24. I sleep for most of the day. In the past I would have pushed through, but I’ve learned to listen to my body and what he wants. And when I don’t sleep, I don’t function well. So today I sleep.
25. I wake up just in time for a workshop called Naked Counseling. I don’t know why but I decide to walk in. As the facilitator welcomes us he says, “This workshop is clothing optional. You don’t have to get naked if you don’t want to. But if you don’t want to get naked you can’t stay here.” Shortly thereafter all 60 of us take our clothes off and begin a process of letting go of our shame around our bodies. We are encouraged to gaze at each other’s naked bodies. We break into four groups, all led by skilled facilitators, where we each take turns standing in front of a group of 15-16 naked people and sharing a little bit about our bodies. I stand up and share something to the likes of, “I actually love my body a lot nowadays. I think all of this self-love has actually changed the way it looks. I haven’t always been this in shape. It’s almost like I willed it into place. One thing I am self conscious about is my cock. I kind of wish it was hard right now instead of soft. I wish it was at least a little hard.” The facilitator then led me through a process of being fully seen with a flaccid penis. The men shared their own insecurities and the women shared their appreciations of a soft cock. And in that moment I got to love my body a little bit more.
26. I attend a memorial ceremony at the temple for my friend Max Mendoza, who passed away unexpectedly in July. I feel so at peace with his death. I see all of the friends that Max brought together tonight. I almost wish I could feel a little sad, but I know Max did what he came here on this planet to do. He lived a full life and left behind a legacy. So in this moment I just feel joy for getting to experience him in all of his greatness so many times over the past two years.
27. I go out on our art car and talk to Dave most of the night. Everyone is upstairs dancing and drinking and we’re sitting downstairs on the couch like a couple of old men. We are a couple of old men. And we’re also a couple of little boys. And we have the choice every night on how we want to show up. Tonight I’m craving that old man energy and it feels good to be in bed by midnight. I sleep in a dome by myself with a bunch of pillows where people go to cuddle and relax. Being an old man is awesome sometimes. Especially tonight.
28. On Friday morning I wake up and go to a workshop called “Breath, Empathy, and Contact Massage.” We take turns giving each other massages and rolling around on each other like human foam rollers. I’m paired up with a beautiful woman from Australia for the contact massage portion. We roll around on each other, intuitively doing whatever feels good. For the first time all week, I feel a wave of sexual turn on rush through my body. Meaning I have an erection. A piece of me wants to share that with her, but I see no reason to. One of my words for the year is “discernment” and in that moment I see no reason to share that information with her. It would just create an unnecessary energetic cord that doesn’t need to be there. It feels good to walk away untethered.
29. I’m talking to Taran about setting healthy boundaries, being a little more fiery, and not letting people walk all over us. In my head I think of some exercises that I want to run her through after we get out of the Authentic Relating Games workshop that we are walking to. As we walk in, it’s almost exactly what I had envisioned. It’s a workshop taught by the amazing Tosh Stone (with his 20+ years of martial arts training) on Warrior Energy. We growl at each other, practice martial arts moves on each other and tap into our power. At one point in the workshop I’m paired up with Taran in a grappling exercise where we throw each other over our knees onto the ground. She’s a natural, grabbing me by my neck and throwing me onto the ground with ease. Before Burning Man I had been telling Liz that I’m craving a martial arts practice. This workshop is the first step towards that and it already feels like I’ve been practicing all my life.
30. Evidently there is a steam bath at Camp Contact, which is part of the village that we are in. I walk into a room that is full of steam with 15-20 other naked people. I see more of my friends naked. This is starting to get normal.
31. It’s Friday night and time for some more drugs. I do more MDMA and again I feel nothing. Good to know for the future. I think I’ve already learned everything I need to learn from this flavor of medicine.
32. I’m out with the girls and Taye needs a nap. Taran and I find a safe space for Taye to nap and we climb to the top of the third floor scaffolding at Camp Mystic. I totally open my heart up to Taran and share how much I love her. Which is the truth. We talk about boundaries, agreements, relationships, heartbreak, love, loss, and life. In this moment I find myself totally loving this woman in front of me while still remaining in the agreements of my relationship with Liz. In fact I feel my heart growing even bigger to love Liz even bigger when I see her again. I’ve heard of love like this before in the poly (open relationship) community. But now I’m experiencing it firsthand. Loving this woman in front of me is opening me up even more for my partner, for my clients, for my art, and for the world. Wow, Love really is infinite.
33. I look at this beautiful woman in the eyes under the moonlight and say, “My body wants to kiss you. I feel a great deal of desire in me. But I know the second that I did that, I would instantly feel my soul suck out of me. Everything that I stand for would be a lie. I couldn’t go on stage anymore. I couldn’t write anymore. I couldn’t function. I would know that everything is a lie. Everything would fall apart. And being fully aligned feels so damn good. I never want to lose this feeling.” Wow, talk about getting uncomfortable. As we climb back down the scaffolding to check on Taye we feel nothing but complete love, respect, and admiration for each other. It’s a great feeling to have.
34. We explore the playa and stumble onto a soundstage with some dirty ass, feel it in your balls, twerkalicious beats. We destroy the dance floor for an hour. My pelvis has a mind of it’s own. At times I feel like I’m an extra in Stomp The Yard or Step Up 3. We could have competed in the Krumping World Championships. It’s easily one of the most fun times I’ve had dancing before.
35. On Friday I spend five hours in the cuddle dome getting massaged, cuddled, and loved on. Friends come and go. We seamlessly go from napping, to massaging, to talking, to cuddling, and back again. It feels a little like back when we lived in tribes and we all just took care of each other. Walking out my body feels totally refreshed and rejuvenated. Again, this falls within the agreements of my relationship with Liz. So my body feels great and so does my heart.
36. I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week. Liz that is. But I’m also glad that she isn’t here. We love going to events by ourselves. She went to Kate and Mike’s wedding. I went to WDS. She’s at Soul Camp this weekend. I’m here in New York City working with Laura Hames Franklin this weekend. Every time we go somewhere by ourselves we always say, “I’m glad you’re not here. And I Love you so much!” I’ve never had a relationship like this before. Sometimes it’s feels to good to be true. But we’ve both done our work. So I deserve this. And so does she.
37. It’s the night of the burn and I’m standing on top of a double decker bus with two women who I’ve dated in the past year. One to my right and one to my left. And all I feel is love. I feel love and appreciation for the women who I’m with on that bus. We showed up in each other’s lives to give each other the medicine that we needed in that moment. And now I’m partnered with a woman who gives me everything that I ever wanted in massive amounts. Love love love love. It’s infinite. How did I ever make it here?
38. The Man burns before us. I can’t help but feel a deep sadness. This moment is so beautiful. My heart is so open. I don’t want this moment to end. But it will end. Everything will end. Everybody who I’m with on this bus will die. Everything that I love will be lost as some point. So I can either clutch onto things tightly or I can be like water. I can let go and surrender to the beauty of life. I can look down at this necklace on my neck and be reminded of the impermanence of life. In every moment there are two sides of the same coin: Love and Sadness. Love for the beauty of the moment and sadness that it’s dying. In this moment I choose Love.
39. I spend the night exploring the playa with my ex-girlfriend. We spend time together for the first time truly as friends. I ask her if she feels complete with our relationship. I share the truths that I have been holding on to. She does too. We laugh about where we were in our lives when we met. We feel gratitude for where we are now. I love her still. But in the way that I would love a friend. It feels good to say that. We walk back to my camp and we share an orange and some plantain chips. She walks off into the night at 3:30am. My heart stays with me. I feel complete, whole, aligned, and ready for bed.
40. The 2C-B is wearing off. Drug number five. I didn’t feel too much with this one. Only a little silliness. I think I’ve learned all I need to learn from drugs for a while.
41. The girls wake me up by jumping on me at around 4am. We laugh about the night and go to sleep like a group of teenage girls at a slumber party.
42. Some friends come by the camp from Camp Awesomeness. I ask them, “You guys want to take a steam bath together?” More naked friend times. Before this week I would have been mortified to be naked in front of my friends. Now it’s as comfortable as tying my shoes. It’s just a cock.
43. I help take down our camp shower. In this moment I realize how much work that it takes to build a city and take it down after a week. So much work. So much art. So many hours of manpower building, sanding, sculpting, and assembling. This place is a miracle.
44. I talk to Daniel and we decide to leave home early before the temple burn. Thank goodness. Our exodus takes only an hour and a half. If we would wait for the temple burn, that same line would be five to nine hours long. Again, we sneak in and sneak out with the greatest of ease. Take the road less traveled.
45. I haven’t talked to Daniel all week. We share stories and take turns taking naps as we drive through the night through San Diego. He tells me, “Burning Man totally changed my life. I’ll never be the same.” Ditto my friend, ditto.
46. I get home and give Liz a giant hug. Every cell in my body primes for the first hug, the first kiss, the first time our eyes meet. I love all of those firsts every time I spend any time away from her. I tell her everything that happened. Every juicy detail. It takes a couple of hours. She says, “Wow, nothing in my heart feels hurt.” We then get naked together… but not like friends do.
Trying to describe Burning Man is like trying to describe the entirety of someone’s being by looking at a single human hair. My experience was 0.00001% of the Burning Man experience.
Just like my experiences of life are 0.00001% of the human experience.
Don’t take my word for it.
Live it yourself.
And I’m not just talking about Burning Man. I’m talking about your life.
I’ll see you next year on the playa my friend.
PS – I’ve always been pretty anti-drug, which is funny to hear coming from the guy who did five different kinds of drugs at Burning Man. I think they are dangerous when used to escape your reality. I think they are dangerous when your only happiness in life comes from that drug. But when you’ve already done your work and when you’re coming from a baseline of happiness and bliss, I think they are powerful tools for unlocking parts of your consciousness. So just like I always say, just follow your heart and your gut and only say Yes when it’s a Hell Yes. And last week I was a Hell Yes to drugs. This week I’m a Hell Yes to sleep and vegetables. You can’t fail. Just keep following the clues.
PPS – I typed all 5000+ words in less than three hours with my new favorite Songza station as background music. Real artists ship. Just get your work out there. It’s good enough to make a difference. The world is waiting for you to shine.
PPPS – I Love You. I really mean it too. It feels good to type that. I go through phases of openness with my heart. Now it feels like it’s big enough to envelop the world. And I live by the rule of “when you feel it, say it.” So I Love You my friend.