The Burning Man Experience: Art on Fire

This past week I was at Burning Man, and it was one of the most incredibly memorable and spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. The amount of love, happiness and generosity that filled the playa (aka the Black Rock Desert) was above and beyond. I’ve never been anywhere so loving. When I lost my group and was all alone on my first night there, I immediately felt fear and panic because I didn’t know where my friends were and I thought I wouldn’t be able to fully experience Burning Man the right way without them. After several minutes, I felt the buzz and hype of good music, crazy costumes, colorful glow lights, and smiling faces, and realized I didn’t need anyone from my group to enjoy my first night’s magical moment in the desert. Plus, I had friends all around me. Burning Man is such an open arms community filled with free-spirits and artists. They all accept everyone no matter who they are, what they do or where they come from. Even though there were 70,000 people there and acres of desert to wander, you really can’t feel friendless or alone at Burning Man. The whole point of the festival is to get lost, as one of their biggest hashtags streaming social media is #letsgetlost. Once I realized this, I enjoyed a very special night under the stars. I walked around curiously with my eyes wide open, vibing to the music, appreciating the shining stars and wandering free-spirits around me on the vast, dusty, magical land.

For the first burners out there, I am sure you know what I mean about the importance of solitude, self-love and self-exploration at Burning Man.. unless you really did go to Burning Man to remain strapped to your group you arrived with. That at least in my mind is not how you’ll get the full playa experience.

The Orphanage
Our camp was called The Orphanage and this is the view from our “kitchen table”

 

Burn Outfit
It was so hot on the playa! Scorching! Most days it went up to 99 degrees but then went down to 50 at night. You need glasses or goggles to avoid the dust storms and a bike for transport
Marriage of Convenience
Burning Man is so special and so full of love that there are a lot of people who get engaged and married there

 

Burners
Hannah and I
ladies
Burner Babies

crew

Burning Man
Sun, dust, music and dreams

One of my memorable moments on the playa happened to be after sunrise when I was around friends from Germany, Europe, and America, and a man came up to us as we were relaxing on the playa and asked if I wanted my “soul healed”. He put down a little chair and told me to sit in it after I had told him yes, I would love to get healed (why not?) and learn about your practice. He spoke about the harmony between the spirit, mind and body and rubbed my back with lavendar smelling oils on my shoulders that reminded me of my Yoga classes at y7 in NYC. It was strange but I’m glad I said yes. You have to go to Burning Man with an open mind, and leave all judgments behind because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be around so many happy go lucky burners. After a day or two there, you almost feel savage-like and quite barbaric, but also very free. It reminded me a little of Lord of the Flies. No one showers. A lot of people run around fully nude, dancing on art cars, and practicing meditation they didn’t think they would ever appreciate.

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Rolling Stone photographer Andrew Jorgensen captured this amazing moment. Burners wake up in time to see the sun rise over the playa, and everyone starts cheering

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Spirituality is the only word that comes to mind when I think of the after experience I took away from Burning Man. I am so grateful that I finally fulfilled my dream to go and met the most amazingly kind, generous souls I have ever met. People who gave me blankets when I was cold, stopped me on their bikes to give me a cold popsicle, or offer some water from their cooler. You are always cared for on the playa, and will always be looked after. My heart goes out to the first time burner who died at the end of the “man burning” on Sunday night. I wish you well and hope you had a wonderful experience at Burning Man and am so sorry to hear of your loss. My prayers are with his family.

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RIP. Photo taken from Rolling Stones

The temple is another place at Black Rock Desert that was a very sentimental spot for me. I cried as I walked in and looked around seeing people crying to each other as a violinist played a very melancholic sound. It was one of the most crazy parts of the trip. I went on a day bike ride when everyone was resting and set out for another adventure, of course making friends and hearing interesting stories about their journey along the way.

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Silver Saturday kind of day – bringing together everyone in silver
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The tire swing carousel
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Biking in the desert
Lounge
Relaxation station after a long day seeing the sunrise and then dancing on the art cars all morning. This was taken around 11am and we are wiped!

The temple was beautiful and filled with a lot of cherished memories that people left behind on the wood with wonderful, loving messages. Both the temple and burning man are wooden structures that required months to build and both get burned on Sunday and then Monday nights of the festival. It’s tradition. The sad truth that the one first time burner died in the fire on that Sunday night means there may be some serious repercussions for the festival, which makes me truly very sad. There are so many volunteers that go out there long after the festival has ended from Tuesday onwards, to make sure all remnants are picked up from the playa. No trace can be left behind.

Art Cars
Everyone dances on these art cars, and there are tons of them all over the playa. Such great memories on this one called Black Lounge that we were on for 7 hours one day
flamingo
The world’s largest lawn flamingo, a 40-foot climbable sculpture. This year’s theme was “Radical Ritual” allowing burners to populate the playa with their own icons, temples or structures

As we went from station to station, art car to art car, structure to structure, we would bring a little plastic baggie to keep our “moot” in (Matter out of Place). That was a word burners used for trash, as nothing can be left behind no matter where you go.

Man Burning
Up close shot of the man burning, taken by Andrew Jorgensen for Rolling Stone

At the end of the day, all I can say was wow the desert is HOT and SUFFOCATING at times, but all worth it. One day, when it was literally 99 degrees, I just couldn’t wait for the sun to go down. Drinking 10 bottles of gatorade and 20 bottles of water a day was not enough.  It was unbearable. I fell asleep on top of an art car and before I knew it, woke up to the car moving down the playa away form my camp. I jolted up from my sleep around 3pm on that particularly scorching hot day, and watched my camp getting smaller and smaller in front of me. No one knew I was up there though! I scrambled down the metal ladder and leaped off the moving bus onto the hot playa sand. That’s one memory I’ll never forget. I laughed at myself as I ran back to camp.

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Free your mind.
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Beautiful sun set right outside our camp
Marriage at Burning Man
The best trip with the best people

All these photos bring back so many memories. I can’t believe it’s been a week since I was there! We were going to hitchhike to the airport but then decided to do the Burner Bus, which I highly recommend taking! Book in advance if you do though, we waited over an hour in the desert heat on standby.

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Hannah on the Burner bus back to Reno Airport in our festival clothes, covered in dust

The one thing you become more aware of after Burning Man, at least for me, is acknowledging how powerful you are and how much independence and control you have of yourself, of your life. It gave me a new kind of perspective and an appreciation for solitude and self reflection. I’m always with friends and family and usually don’t spend much time alone except when I exercise. Burning Man taught me to appreciate solitude, and moments I have with myself.

After coming back to New York City, I feel good about putting new goals forth and making strides to be a better person. Not for anyone else, but me. I am so thankful for the Burning Man community for showing me that way of life, introducing me to a new home, and opening my eyes to a new kind of spirituality. I have always loved yoga, but now I am more open to practicing meditation that can cleanse my mind and body of negativity.

Please share your experiences if you have been and tell everyone about it because it’s a remarkable, surreal place that undoubtedly exceeded expectations and opened my eyes to a whole new part of me.

Thank you and have a great week!

x,G


3 thoughts on “The Burning Man Experience: Art on Fire

  1. Now I love you and your blog even more!! I love Burning Man and am always fascinated to hear from people who have been – I would love to go one day.

    Like

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