Burning Man, part 2: the courage to trust… the courage to act

"Immersed in what some call 'consensus reality,' one's very sanity comes into question for believing the principles of interbeing. We are permitted to entertain them as a kind of spiritual philosophy, but when we start making choices from them, when we start living them even ten percent, people begin to question our sanity. We may even question our own. Alongside the self-doubt comes a profound feeling of alienation…. Isn't it insane to think that I am right and everyone else is wrong? In a way, it is insane - insofar as sanity is a socially constructed category that serves the maintenance of dominant narratives and power structures. If so, it is time to be insane together! It is time to violate consensus reality."

- Charles Eisenstein

Burning Man transitalthough i wasn't expecting it at all, the "Man Burn" was deeply powerful for me. that night, my friends Ethan and Veronica and i were running late, so we walked rather briskly toward the Man down 8:00 - headlamps, goggles, masks and headscarves all strategically in place or near at hand in preparation for the night ahead.

before i go any further - for those of you who have never been, the entire space known as the "Playa" is a huge circle about 3 miles across. the streets of the "city" at Burning Man take up about two-thirds of the space and operate on a circular grid like a clock with the numbered radial streets arranged by time - the Man being the center of the clock, and the city running from 2 to 10; the lettered streets which create concentric circles from the innermost avenue called the "Esplanade" and go all the way from "A" to "N." the remaining third of the Playa is empty of human habitation other than incredibly beautiful art installations placed in a strategic array from the center (the Man) all the way out to "Deep Playa" as the far reaches of the uninhabited area is known). it is truly a most ingenious, organic and workable way to arrange a community, no doubt created with considerable deliberation on the part of many visionary and practical hearts and minds.

so, we were walking down 8:00 from our camp (which was at 7:45 and G) about an hour after sunset (a wonderful daily citywide ritual experience in itself) through an almost entirely empty city. think about that- nearly 70,000 people and the whole city was practically empty of life except for the few stragglers who were walking, running or bicycling toward the center of the known universe. it was dark and relatively quiet when we started out, except for the explosions of the largest fireworks display i have ever seen and our "ah's" and "ooh's" in response. and as we got closer, the thump-thump of hundreds of massive sound systems began to pound in my chest.

as my eyes adjusted to the fiery neon light ahead, i expanded my visual focus to take in the wider, peripheral scene before me, trusting my feet to carry me forward as i let the entire experience wash into me through my eyes. more and more people came into view in all manner of dress and undress, in a wide array of consciousness or lack thereof, dancing, running, singing, shouting, silent, walking… it was as if i were on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. walking hand-in-hand with Ethan and Veronica, tears began streaming down my face as i felt an upwelling of emotion which, to be honest, i can't quite pinpoint as anything other than awe.

we began weaving through the growing crowd gathered to witness this monumental structure - a 100-foot-high Man standing atop a huge UFO - designed and built to burn spectacularly on this very night every year… how spectacularly, i had no idea - until moments later, in a huge flash, the Man burst into a spectacle of flames before our eyes. it was overwhelming and i cried out, "Oh my God!" as more tears burst forth and my breath quickened. i kept saying, "I had no idea" to myself as we continued to make our way through the sweaty, costumed, naked, glittery, masked, energized mass of humanity. as we broke through the outer ring and made our way closer to the Burning Man, the entire UFO went up in an explosion i can only equate with what i've seen in the movies. i have never seen anything like it in real life, except when we watched houses explode during the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. it literally took my breath away and i nearly dropped to my knees. i was not expecting this… not at all.

as the UFO went up in flames well over 150 feet high, beautiful tornadoes were spiralling off to the left from the huge wind generated by the inferno. embers were flying up into the night sky and everyone was cheering or simply standing in awe. the heat was so intense i had to turn away several times to protect my tear-stained face. yet the ever-present darkness, wind and dust circled around us as a reminder that this was a human creation, a yearly anomaly in this normally silent white expanse of desert. as i stood taking it all in, the rhythms from all of the various mutant vehicles and camps along the Esplanade blended into one polyrhythmic heart-pounding wave, almost as if it were an echo of the heartbeat of the earth, coming from deep inside each of us gathered there… in synch with each other, the intention of the moment and the power of our planet. more tears fell onto my skirt and the soft, white playa dust at my feet.

the gathered crowd in all its beautiful compiling of gas masks, leather, sequins, flowing fabric, angel wings, headlamps and goggles is a reflection of the innate creativity and courage of the human species to deal with the mess we've gifted ourselves over the last 150 years or more. this is what it may well look like when we no longer have access to convenience and throw-away anything… this is the creativity of working with what we have. the mutant vehicles, with all their neon lights, sculpted metal, wood and paper in shapes of animals, buildings, ships, iceboxes, small or massive, loud or quiet… made me think, "This is what it may well look like in cities and towns in the future." we will build whatever we need to build to not only get where we need to go, but we will do so in creative, expressive ways because we must.

 The burning of this effigy is not a raised fist

the overwhelming experience of that night was the pinnacle of my Burning Man experience as the apocalyptic vision of a future that was both frightening and hopeful all at once washed through me. i really felt as if i was given a gift - something about seeing the deeper purpose of this event. i used to think that this event was created to burn "the man" in an angry reaction to the system, a kind of "Fuck you!" to the corporatocracy we've allowed to take over. but i realized on a much deeper level that it is an homage to all that we've created, all that we have allowed - wittingly or not - to supplant our deeper connection to the earth, to each other and to life itself. the burning of this effigy is not a raised fist, but rather a brilliantly courageous celebration of all that has been and all that needs to die in order for our civilization to evolve to our next stage of awakening.

i felt hopeless, yes… but much more profoundly, on a much deeper level, i felt more hopeful than i ever have before. Burning Man was real. it was not a pretty, fake denial of what is going on- it was a brutally honest look at what we have done and what we are capable of. it was a gathering of warriors - courageous, out-of-the-box thinkers and livers who know that there is something other than what we've created and come to accept as "normal" in our lives in the "default world," as some call it. as Charles Eisenstein wrote recently, "Our culture has it kind of backwards when it comes to the Warrior. In a more beautiful world, we understand the warrior as 'someone who is willing to die for what he/she loves.' But we've gotten it backwards and turned it into someone who is willing to kill. To me, the essence of being a warrior is a sense of mission one is willing to totally commit everything to." it was courage incarnate.

A commitment to Something Greater

razor wirewhatever is is you think you are committed to - think again. i invite you to take a long, easy (not hard… and maybe not even long!) look at what you think you're committed to. is it aligned with who you really are? or is it born out of fear of any number of things… fear of being seen or heard? fear of not being seen or heard? fear of being alone or not belonging? fear of being smothered or over-stimulated? what are you afraid of or for?

the answers to these questions are very important for they inform you, they let you know where your true commitments lie in relationship to where you are right now.  if you're afraid of not having enough (money, love, support…), how rooted in what is real and true is that commitment? if you're afraid of losing something (a relationship, a home…), how does that feed your commitment in that situation? if you're afraid of taking responsibility (by saying "yes" or "no"), what kind of fruit will that bear for you? in other words, how solid and lasting is it?

consider that anything - any commitment - born out of anything other than Love is actually not sustaining or sustainable. and consider that anything else is simply fear-based and will not last. Love is the only sustaining thing there is, the only constant, in this world - and anything born out of anything other than Love will perish.

i've spoken with many people who are having life-changing experiences this year - break-ups, marriages, deaths, births, loss of their homes. these are the events that shake up our old habits and patterns of belief and behavior. this year feels potent and powerful because it is. this is the year of choices, of choosing what we are committed to on the deepest level, and who we are committed to Being. i don't mean to sound apocalyptic or woo-woo or like anything other than an invitation (and if i do, well- there it is!). but this is a rare opportunity to look - really look - at your life and seize the moments that are right in front of you.

you get to choose. even if the choices seem scary or insurmountable, or if you have to let go of what you thought was true for you. this now moment is the point of power.

what will you choose?

and consider that if you've been fighting for or against anything - or you've been marching or protesting or lobbying or working in any way that is for the greater good from a place of anger, frustration or blame, you may want to revisit why you are doing it that way. anything we do that is born out of this place or motivation is only continuing the struggle. consider that the only way to solve any of these issues is to move toward, to remember that we are all reflections of the Oneness, and that anything else is simply an illusion. the separation, hatred, fear-based media messages, war, surveillance... the anger, bigotry, racism, or violence against women, animals or anyone else, is all just a forgetting of who we really are. the ego wants to have anything to hold onto to maintain this illusion because, if there isn't any separation, there's nothing to fear or protect ourselves from other than our own thoughts. in other words, it would be out of a job! what would it do then? i imagine you may be laughing like me, but this is actually a very compassionate question… what then must it do?

i think i may have an answer… or at least a possibility.

bumble bee

what if the ego's job now is to help build the new world? what if, in other words, we get to be the good parents to our egos (like i write about in my upcoming book Getting That You Matter) and guide and re-train them into helping us build this bridge, grow the connections, create the new communities and technologies that are ushering in this new time, this new age?

the trick is to meet people right where they are and simply BE Love. we know where fighting and protesting get us - that is old paradigm thinking and behaving. this is not to say that pointing out the fallacies of the many ways the ego is showing up at this time isn't important. but we must always start with ourselves. always. as Jesus Christ is quoted as saying, "first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

this isn't even about survival. it's so much bigger than that. it's about being who we really are and living from that place. seeing that there is nothing that separates us from bees and bombs, bullies and butterflies, machetes and mothers, from acts of violence and acts of compassion. it is all us.

when we can truly see that, we can make clear, conscious choices to commit to waking up… together. it's not out there. it all starts right here, with each of us.

what are you committed to?

Lighting up the world with points of light

Recently I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada leading a Sacred Commerce workshop with my wonderful GTYM teammate and Vice President, Yebuny Johnson. We had just completed our two-day workshop and were out at a wonderful restaurant called Noorish to celebrate with some of the folks who had attended as well as other community members. This very special restaurant, founded by our wonderful friends Sheniz and Ayaaz Kasaam only a little over a year ago, has become a community hub filled with a joy and vibrancy I've rarely seen, except for Cafe Gratitude and a few other "conscious eateries." Not only does Noorish provide organic, locally-produced healthy vegan food in a gorgeous, joyful atmosphere, but there is also a beautiful yoga studio downstairs where they offer daily classes as well as regular events such as lectures and music.

The snowy night we were there happened to be the same night that our friend, Sparrow Grace, was performing kirtan downstairs. Everyone in our group decided to go down to enjoy the music while we waited for our food to arrive. We walked quietly downstairs, took off our shoes, and stepped into one of the sweetest spaces I've ever been in. There must have been about forty people, mostly sitting, some standing in the back of the room, swaying or dancing, all in a joyful state of prayer. I found myself standing next to a young man I hadn't seen since our last visit to Edmonton and we just stood arm-in-arm letting the music wash over us, smiling and swaying.

Then, as Sparrow Grace sang one of her own songs, I  began to experience something I can only explain as "Divine Reassurance."

I saw and felt that this little spot on the map - this restaurant/yoga studio - was a sanctuary, a "point of light," if you will, which was a hub for the seeding and growth of our global conscious awakening. I "zoomed out" and it felt as if I had seen light emanating from the building as if it were a beacon bursting with an invitation to come join in the festivities. Besides that, every person in the place was "beaming" light and the earth upon which the building sat was glowing. I saw the glow from the earth as a strong "thread" of light originating in the very core of the planet that was supporting and co-creating the light with the intentions of the place and people who were there.

I was completely overwhelmed with tears of joy as I had an experience of deep understanding that this was just one moment, one place among many - among millions - that is bearing witness to the shift taking place in us and on the earth. It is one part of a global movement towards a social, environmental and spiritual awakening for all of us, whether we are aware of it or not... and this is just the beginning.


As I stood there opening myself to this understanding, I zoomed out again and saw the earth as if from space with all of these millions of points of light shining all around the globe. There were hundreds lighting up every minute. Then they began to intersect and connect in what I saw was a weaving of the most beautiful web of light I had ever seen, a web of consciousness all around and connected to the earth as each light connected with those nearby on the surface of the earth as well as on the most microscopic level at the very core of the earth.

In that moment I knew - without a shred of doubt - that all is well. I knew that Hope is alive and thriving, and that everything I have worked for and given up to support has been a part of this awakening. I knew, too, that there would not be some apocalyptic end to life as we know it, but rather that there would be a transition, an almost imperceptible shift that is born from the movement of millions of us who are waking up and building something. That something is a bridge of light - from the old, unworkable world to a new, mysterious world that works for all - and we are building it as we walk, run and dance across it.

This movement has been growing for decades with increasing velocity and urgency, and it is rippling throughout the world, inviting all of us to join in and co-create it. As Paul Hawken writes in his sobering yet inspiring book, Blessed Unrest, the movement "is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent…. One of its distinctive features is that it is tentatively emerging as a global humanitarian movement arising from the bottom up…. This is the largest social movement in all of human history… coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change."1

I used to feel disappointed and frustrated that we haven't made enough progress or that we haven't come together in a unified global movement, but what I realize is that we've just been priming the pump for this more powerful time of a deep, true, organic and lasting shift. We are up against the wall of our own miscreations, and now is the time for us to prove we are much more than the consequences of our actions as we act locally and intend globally.

The beautiful thing is, everything we have done has led us to exactly where we are today - on a personal and global level.

It is no wonder we are, at this time of transformation, waking up in every way. When we remember that we are part of "Life's longing for itself"2 - the creative force that governs everything, it is simply too great to deny. When we wake up to the fact that we are part of life, not separate from it or claiming dominion over it, we realize that we are here for much more than ourselves. We are stepping into something vastly greater than anything we could wish for personally and the rewards are far greater than anything we can imagine.

I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Hawken when he said in his talk at Bioneers October, 2012 event, "These are not goals we can achieve in an lifetime. These are goals that create a lifetime. This is who you are…. We do this for those who will pay the price if we fail, and we do it for those who will carry this incalculable hardship if we waiver, and for those who are watching and wondering if we will choose more stuff or more life…."3

We have no guarantees. We are building the bridge as we go. But we have no other choice. Again, in Paul Hawken's words, "We do what cannot be done because it's the only way to learn how to do what cannot be done."4

So, I ask you… are you waking up? Are you ready? Are you up for this?

If so, who are you waking up for? Whose future rests in your decisions - from the grand (starting a movement with no evidence for success) to the mundane (switching from packaged foods to whole foods)?

Who is counting on you? And what will your part be in building this bridge?



1. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

2. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

3. Paul Hawken, Bioneers October, 2012