Let me start out by saying that after my first two experiences at Burning Man, I had very little desire to return. However, something kept drawing me back to Black Rock City, Nevada. Having just returned from my third burn, I am finally starting to realize why this city of 68,000 people is so magical. Burning Man is a journey, in all forms of the definition.
For me, 2014 Burning Man was all about my personal progress. As a yoga student, yoga instructor and mindful-eating coach, I am constantly seeking knowledge on how mindfulness can be integrated into everyday activities. Burning Man is anything but an “everyday activity” and mindfulness had an easy way of slipping through the cracks; at least it did for me in previous years. There are infinite possibilities on what to see, where to go, who to talk to, how to dress, when to eat and why each person has journeyed to this wondrous land. This year, instilling mindfulness created a very present, light-hearted, expressive and participatory week for me.
The following five practices ensured that mindfulness played a key role in my experience while on the playa and it just might help you at next year’s Burning Man too:
#1: Meditate. Breathe. Be still.
Each day I had a choice. Actually, every day I have that choice. Do I want to wake up running from one thing to the next? Or do I want to spend a few minutes centering myself in stillness. I didn’t always choose to meditate first thing in the morning, but when I did, it drastically changed my ability to be present with people, in conversations, on the dance floor, in workshops, in dusty yoga classes and in my body.
Mindfulness Tip: Find a place in the Temple to sit quietly at least once during your week-long experience. Bring a dust mask, goggles, your journal and an open heart.
#2 Do at least one thing each day that you want to
I took three workshop/classes by myself throughout the week just because I wanted to. Plus, I could pretty much guarantee no one else would wake up at 7 a.m. to take a Yin Yoga class with me. Give yourself permission to partake in, or not partake in, events because you want to: whether that’s going to sleep early, listening to a workshop on some obscure topic that you’re curious about or dancing on the dance floor alone. As Burning Man participants, we have the responsibility to make own our experience on the playa, and if we do, it will provide exactly what we need.
Mindfulness Tip: Take a gander through the booklet of art, workshops, classes and events and highlight the ones that tickle your curiosity. Keep the principle of immediacy in mind; however, make dates with yourself to experience the things that peak your interest.
#3 Forget FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Guess what? The fear of feeling like you’re missing out on something stems from not being present. The instant you realize how great your particular experience is, is the moment FOMO drifts away. This year, I decided to go to bed early, sit in a hammock for an extra hour, watch the man burn from far away and get lost in a dust storm because I was 100 percent in my moment, enjoying my experience. These memories are what made the burn mine and I wouldn’t change that for anything! If you start to get caught up in the idea that others are having a more exciting, better, positive, superior experience than you are, they probably are.
Mindfulness Tip: When you notice thoughts of missing out and they turn your smile upside down, open your arms wide, look around and smile! You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
4. Eat well
I’ve heard a lot of stories about how people forget to eat while on the playa. Food is fuel, medicine and nourishment and it’s greatly needed in the desert. My recommendation is to have at least one meal each day that is mindfully prepared, shared and eaten. This year, I used food to gather our camp mates together, share stories of what we had seen and to provide fuel to keep going for the rest of the morning, day or night. Being self-reliant with your food situation is also highly suggested. Having your own food gives you freedom to eat when you need to, ingest what you want to and will ensure a stable digestive system, in an unreliable environment.
Mindfulness Tip: Before you leave for the burn, plan your meals. Choose foods that are as similar to what you eat in the default world as possible. This way you can rest assured that you won’t have to deal with a wonky GI tract … too much. I also started integrating milk thistle into my daily supplement routine about two months before I left. Milk thistle is commonly to protect the liver from the potential damage.
5. Participate by sharing something that you love
When I left my second burn in 2012, I was determined that if I ever returned I would teach yoga on the playa. This year, that resolve was achieved. I love sharing my passion of yoga and to be able to gift two classes was such an honor. So many wonderful people showed up and these two hours were an absolute highlight. I even had a husband and wife duo practice together for the first time, ever! They felt such a magical connection with each other. Whether you provide fresh-pressed juices, DJ skills, building mastery, self-care knowledge, meditation guidance, art work, henna painting, song, dance or hair-washing abilities, it is all accepted and LOVED!
Mindfulness Tip: If you are a part of a camp, contact the camp organizer and become a part of the programming that is offered. If you aren’t part of a larger camp, connect with a friend’s camp (like I did to teach the yoga classes) or walk around your neighborhood to offer help and/or your special services.
“Welcome Home” is a phrase commonly used at Burning Man between greeters, new friends and old. We welcome each other back to our center: a place where love, inclusion, growth and spontaneity exist. My commitment to personal evolution doesn’t only apply to my life on the playa, it reverberates throughout my being wherever I am. I feel that the foundation for my home was made more secure this year, but I get to take this “home” with me wherever I go. The mindfulness that I practiced through these recommendations gave me a sense of being home on the playa more than ever. So, with my most sincere smile and dustiest of hugs, I welcome you home, wherever you are, whether you’ve been to Black Rock City, NV or not, to your breath in this present moment.
[Photos by Sean Sweeney]
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