Lessons from Burning Man

I just returned from my second consecutive Burning Man. I had a blast, met friends new and old, and, perhaps most importantly, wrestled with some life lessons. Here are some things I learned:

“Silence and patience.”
These were the two virtues repeated to me by an older Australian man I randomly(?) and briefly shared a joint with one night on the open playa near Mayan Warrior. I don’t remember how we got into it, but he related how he came to honor these characteristics as he grew in age, and I thought about how I’ve severely lacked in especially the silence part, always telling anyone who will listen exactly what’s on my mind. Patience I’ve generally been better at, but I will continue to stamp these two words on the post-it note of my mind as I continue on in life.

Let go of your agenda.
This one is hard to admit and is something I’ve long struggled with, but I had the opportunity to put it into practice throughout the week. When I would find myself roaming around — whether by foot or bike — and wondering where I might most likely meet a girl, I would stop myself and think instead ‘Where am I least likely to meet a girl?’ and go there instead. I took it as an opportunity to be led by discovery rather than searching, to be present and happy with whatever moment I find myself in, to uncover new experiences that following my desires might have robbed me of. Besides, humans are everywhere, and you never know in what obscure corner of the earth you might meet your soulmate when you least expect to find her.

Like vibrational frequencies naturally find each other.
I met and immediately connected with a new friend named Vitali. Then, in a population of 80,000 with no way to connect by modern technology, I amazingly kept on bumping into him throughout the week. At one point he saw me standing next to my friend Yulia and introduced us. When she explained that we’ve already known each other for a few years, he commented on how wonderful it is that we’re longtime friends, suggesting the synchronicity in him knowing and liking two separate people who turned out to already know and like each other. I asked him how long he’s known Yulia, and he said they just met, which surprised me because I got the sense that they had already known each other perhaps even longer. Then I met Vitali’s friend, Kiril, and, despite a decade difference in age, he and I were fast friends. One day after the official final day of Burning Man, when I assumed most people had already left, I was at a nearby party and got a tap on my shoulder: Vitali again. Kindred spirits naturally find each other.

Just. Let. Go.
After the man burned I was partying in the pyramid. When I was ready to move on, I realized I couldn’t remember where I placed my backpack. People kept flooding in to fill every crevice of the space as I circled the room and had a harder and harder time finding it among the accumulating bodies and growing piles of backpacks. My backpack contained all my most “important” possessions, including my expensive camera with all my pictures from the week, not to mention my barely consumed bottle of water in this arid desert location all the way on the other side of the playa from my camp. Tripping on more LSD than I’d ever taken before, my search grew frantic as I began to panic. Then I stopped and gave myself a pep talk. “Phil, don’t make this your entire night. Your backpack is either here or it isn’t. Looking for it won’t change that fact. Go out and enjoy the night, and come back tomorrow when the party is over and all the bodies and backpacks have left and it will be easier to find.” And that’s exactly what I did. The next morning I returned and immediately spotted my backpack by the DJ stage with all my possessions in it exactly as I left them.

These are some lessons that come to mind at the moment. I’m sure more will present themselves as I continue to integrate into the “default world”. In which case, to be continued….