Life Lessons From Burning Man

Maya Zuckerman, “cultural hacker”, has shared 13 Life Lessons from 13 Years at Burning Man.

From Huffington Post:

The dust has finally settled after my thirteenth year at TTITD, “That Thing In the Desert”, the ephemeral psychedelic experience that is often referred to as Burning Man.

Burning Man celebrates the simple notion that “people have permission to be whoever they want to be. It is such a powerful ideal that people will go to the most inhospitable places in the world in order to get a little taste of it.” To explain what the event is or isn’t would take a few blog posts, so I will not attempt that here. More reading about the event can be done here!

Every year, participants drive hundreds of miles in the scorching heat in search of Black Rock City, Nevada; a barren desert in the middle of nowhere which we call the playa. They come for different reasons. One perhaps is to find nirvana in a sea of mesmerizing music and sense-blinding electronica. It is a place where people can learn through participation, revelry, and inquiry, how to truly connect and experience what it means to be human.

Here are 13 life lessons from my 13 year journey:


1. Do-ocracy – a thought construct that celebrates the empowering notion of taking individual responsibility. In a harsh desert environment, resources are limited. As a result, most everyone choose to work together to achieve community goals (there are those to choose to pay for a “vacation”, a controversy being debated in the community at present). This proactive mentality imbues a sense of personal responsibility where actions are motivated not only by self-preservation, but by a desire to make a difference and affect change through actions.

2. Cultivation of Awe – If you can imagine standing in a crowd of hundreds and peering up at art installations/sculptures up to 100 feet high as they burst into flames in symbolic offerings, you would come away with feelings of awe, veneration, wonder and even dread. That feeling of ‘awe’ challenges our sense of mortality and teaches us to cultivate tolerance, patience and humility. It gives us new perspectives.


The beautiful art installation Hybycozo

3, Respect and Accountability – Survival instincts kick in when you are in the desert surrounded by over 65,000 other attendees. One realizes that in order for the festival to work, one cannot coexist peacefully without mutual respect from each member of the ‘tribe’. Respect is an essential theme that forces one to look at the whole ecosystem of one’s life: respect for self, body, health, nature and others. Accountability enshrines one’s individual right to exist, to make decisions, to practice responsibility and to realize that one is held accountable to both self and others.

4. Service to Others – “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving that celebrates the philosophy of unconditional servitude. “Gifting” does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” Essentially, being of service teaches and encourages us to be of service to community, friends, city and ultimately planet.

5. Listen to Your Body – In an overstimulated environment with temperatures rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, blocking everything out and listening to one’s own instincts can be a challenge. Many times I would find myself especially in the earlier years ignoring my inner voice and over-exerting myself – pushing harder, partying harder. What I learned later on is that your body has its own intelligence and the ability to listen and honor its messages helps you to achieve mental and physical peace.

6. The Playa Gives You What You Need, Not What You Want – What we want is not always what we get and oftentimes we react by attempting to control everything and everyone. Burning Man is like a ‘wise mentor’ expressing the notion that all things happen according to a universal plan. It is that sort of understanding that has given me grace and tolerance in the face of difficulties.

Read the rest here.


Distrikt Camp day party


The temple of Grace – By David Best



4 comments on “Life Lessons From Burning Man

  1. My experience says #6 is incorrect. The playa doesn’t give you what you need, or want, it gives you what you brought. Meaning that the playa is a mirror. If you are an overbearing ass in the meat world. You’ll be an overbearing ass on the playa and your experience will be similar. If you’re a stress case in the default world, you’re going to be one here too. If you’re controlling, you’re going to desperately try (and fail) to control the playa. I’m a do-er. I find it difficult to relax and ‘just go with the flow’. I can always find a project to work on, whether it be camp infrastructure or the art car. I don’t sit still and I hardly ever just wander around to see what’s going on. I dislike that about myself and try to fight against it. Usually with little luck. I want relaxation and serendipity. I need randomness and happenstance. The playa gives me more of me. Just my experience.

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