With a full heart and exhausted body, I recently returned home from my ten-year anniversary trip to the Black Rock desert, where over 60,000 people from all over the world made their pilgrimage this year to be “welcomed home” to Black Rock City. Grateful was I because of the love, beauty and transformation I experienced there. Exhausted, because I didn’t want to close my eyes for one second, for fear I might have missed something completely amazing.
Burning Man… a dusty desert and magical land of radical self-expression, self-reliance and inclusiveness is where I sojourned for eight days of unbelievable adventure. Within this amazing city, the pouring out of love could be witnessed almost everywhere as fun-loving citizens contributed their time, talents, wisdom and creativity to the mix. The results? An experience of synchronistic magic, miracles and fun, where wide-eyed participants ventured off onto the playa with all the innocence of little children.
And what did I find there upon that five-mile plus stretch of ancient sea bed that becomes the fifth largest city in Nevada for one week? Well, besides some really cool people, awesome music, amazing art, countless workshops and this incredible “knock your socks off” shipwreck ploughed into the barren desert floor, there was the effigy of the man. I mean… “THE MAN” of course, that would be burned on Saturday night, when nearly all Burning Man citizens would be gathered tightly around it to watch in anticipation, one of the most ceremonial burns of the whole event; the event Burning Man is most known for.
Although talking about this part is really fun and exciting, this is not what my whole story is really about. Far out on the east horizon of deep playa, I found something else; something so profound, sacred and compelling that it completely shifted my reality.
Rising up from the dry parched earth stood a magnificent structure made of intricately carved wood, set inside an intricately carved wood fenced courtyard. “This must have taken a whole year to make!” I said to myself as I marveled at the complexity of it all.
I walked inside in reverence. People were meditating, praying, playing quiet and soothing instruments. Occasionally, someone would spontaneously rise up to sing us a song, or impart an inspirational message to those… whose thirsty senses so gratefully took in the wisdom and love these gifts provided.
As I quietly walked around the inside perimeter, I saw the thousands of pictures and memorials dedicated to people and pets who had already left this realm. I read heartfelt letters and messages displayed that bore testimony to love and loss; I left one or two of my own. Personal trinkets belonging to the dead were left on the temple altar by the living as a representation of them and evidence that their departed loved one had once lived.
On these reverent grounds, many tears were shed, as the sounds of weeping could audibly be heard, sometimes even throughout the courtyard. Yes, with all these visitors, and all this focused intention, this temple was dense with the emotional energy of concentrated grief, hope and sorrow.
Deeply experiencing my own heavy heart and the insatiable feelings of that most private loneliness that can only come from missing a loved one who has gone on, I experienced something remarkable and profound. In an extraordinary moment, I experienced the totality of this concentrated energy of pain, as all sorrow felt by those souls, came together with mine, and instantly, I became ONE with them. I literally felt the deepest sorrows of all others, and left standing amidst the pain, was deep compassion, understanding and love. Suddenly, in this seemingly unlikely holy place on an ancient sea bed floor, in that single breath-taking moment, I experienced a connection and kinship with the whole of humanity itself. And these precious souls in attendance, just happened to represent the whole of the human race, experiencing intense emotions felt within the confines of the human experience… and Burning Man too.
I will probably never see those particular people again, but I will surely see people again, and I will remember what I got so clearly in my heart; that I am never alone in my human experience, nor could I ever be. And, if the densely grief-filled walls of the temple and courtyard could have been pushed back that day, I could see that they would have expanded to cover the whole world. For we are all humans that share in the inevitable odds and possibility of experiencing the most painful and deepest emotions known to humankind.
Emotions that we sometimes hide from each other, and even hide them from ourselves. Sometimes we only feel them when we are within the private and protected walls of our homes, and sometimes we only feel them in the darkest and most private chambers of our souls. There are some who have deadened them, as not to feel emotion at all, and there are those who feel them on some level, but pretend not to feel them on other levels. However emotions are experienced, feeling them is a huge part of the human condition, which leads to compassion and unconditional love.
As I sat there in the transformation of that most holy moment, it was as though a heavenly portal had opened up, while loved ones from the other side held space for these grieving souls as they cradled us in the arms of their unconditional love and compassion. And this has left a deep impression in my heart and mind.
So now, I am at my “other” home, which many “Burners” refer to as the “home in the default world.” And… it is every year that everything I take to Burning Man gets completely covered in this fine layer of annoying playa dust that, for some reason, takes forever to get rid of, and I wonder, “Why would I want to go back there, to that home again?” And then I smile as I remember, it’s all about the amazing experiences that can be had.
Whether it’s being home at Burning Man or being home at my home in the default world, it’s just knowing in my heart of hearts, that no matter the many tests, trials and tribulations we all go through, we are all in this crazy human experience together and are subject to all the crazy emotions attached to them. And… knowing this… perhaps we can feel some comfort.
So what is the point of this story? How might this apply to you?
If you are someone who is experiencing dark and painful emotions right now, please remember that you are not going through this alone as we often like to imagine. In the isolation of our devastating pain, it is easy to forget about anyone but ourselves, our pain, and our own situation. There are millions of people worldwide who are experiencing something similar. I mean, there are only so many emotions one can feel. And, in a realm where we as humans, are subject to such emotion, just know, that what you are experiencing are feelings shared in common. Hang in there dear soul!
And what of our departed loved ones? They are with us too, for it is the power of love that is left when everything else falls away. It is love that forever binds us together.
Whether you are here, at this home, or whatever home it may be, feel these painful emotions when they come, for they serve us so greatly, but do not let the pain of them consume you. For wherever we are, let us not miss our life here in the present and let us not miss those who are here with us now. With all our love, our pain, our joy and our fear in this home we call our life, we might wonder to ourselves, “Why would we do this?” Why do we put up with some of this crap? Then… a deeper part of us smiles as we remember, it’s all about the amazing experiences that can be had.
Someday in the not so distant future, for life is very short, you shall leave this home to be welcomed to your truest home of all. And there, you will cry no more tears of sorrow, but tears of joy. The dream will be over, the tears will be wiped dry, the lessons will be learned, the experiences will be had and you and all your beloveds will reunite in love and be together once again. So smile.