This post should really be called Burning Man, Bali, and Catching Myself on My Own Bullshit but it was too long and I’m trying to be more mindful of my language these days…but let me not digress.
I decided not to go to Burning Man this year. If you’ve known me for the past couple of years, you’d know that this is a big deal. You see, the first time I went my whole life changed for the better and because of that, I promised myself that I would go every year and use the experience as a yearly reminder of who I am and of what really matters.
If you’ve been, you’ll understand.
If you haven’t I’ll just ask that you take me at my word and understand that for many who go, it’s not just a festival, it’s a life changing experience. For me for the past three years it served the function of a yearly reset button… A chance to think, to play, to party, to create, to connect with spirit without the fear of being judged and feeling totally free. I made sure to tell everyone who I ever spoke to about Burning Man this exact line.
Last year’s burn was actually my favorite so I surprised even myself when I heard the words ‘I don’t really feel like going anymore’ to a friend on the phone. But why? Why didn’t I feel like going if nothing about Burning Man has changed? Why wouldn't I want to go and experience something that has meant so much to me in the past? I already had plans and tickets to go with my regular camp and with my playa family and I knew that if I went that I would have an amazing time.
Turns out, while Burning Man didn’t change, I did…and because of that, the story I told myself and others about it doesn’t quite resonate with me anymore.
You see, I live in a sleepy town (temporarily packed with tourists) in Bali called Ubud that to me sometimes feels like Garcia Marquez’s Macondo more than the real world. In some ways I’m certain it’s what Macondo would be like if it really existed in Colombia and not just in his imagination… lush, magical, and beautifully dysfunctional.
My life here is simple. It’s quiet. It’s healthy. It’s fun. I spend the majority of my time alone but have met some incredible people and have developed some pretty wonderful friendships in the six months that I’ve been here. I get just the right amount of community to feel socially fulfilled and I’ve been exploring all aspects of myself and my relationship with spirituality.
While I mostly hang out with expats, it’s the locals who have taught me that the word faith is actually a verb and I’ve come to the realization that your belief in a higher power is as strong as your practice of that belief. They grow hand in hand and feed each other cyclically.
The Balinese are masterful at this as they incorporate their spiritual beliefs into just about every aspect of their lives. For that reason the island was baptized the island of the gods and if you’re here long enough and allow yourself the opportunity to experience it, it definitely feels that way. All you have to do is observe and listen… Bali and her people will teach you what you need to learn.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin, more loving, more creative, more healthy, more relaxed, more beautiful, more open, or more free. In a nutshell, I’ve never felt more, well, me… As far as I'm concerned, I'm on a permanent holiday!
Because that’s the case when I was on the phone with my friend discussing costumes for the playa I couldn’t help but wonder why I felt 'off' and asked myself and her… ‘What the hell do I need a reset button from?’ I feel like I live in a reset button.
In thinking of leaving Bali my body felt heavy and for lack of a better word, blah. I wasn’t energized in the same way I used to be when I thought about Burning Man in the past and the thought of traveling for 24hrs, spending upwards of $5k on flights, preparations, costumes, and lodging for a week seemed silly considering I'd just come back from an incredible trip on that side of the world and especially when that same $5k can pay for more than six months of rent for a beautiful two bedroom villa in Ubud, 2,222 meals at my favorite local warung (restaurant) or three flights back home to see my niece. This interesting exercise in value relativity and perspective made me remember that not all good opportunities are necessarily the right opportunities for us…
With that realization Burning Man’s role in my life changed and so did the story I tell myself and others about it. In the past, Burning Man as an experience became a symbol of certain emotions I wanted to source in my life. It felt like by heading to the playa I was going ‘home’ to myself. All the emotions and experiences I associated with it I am now able to source in my every day life here and because of that I no longer feel a desire to go.
Now I’m craving different emotions and am on the lookout for experiences to facilitate them… or better yet, looking for ways to source them inside of myself. Funny how something can change so quickly huh?
That said, I’m positive that the Burn this year is going to be amazing and I hope my friends who are going have a wonderful time. If you’re reading this and haven’t been, I strongly suggest that you go at least once. It really is a special experience.
So where’s the lesson in all of this you may ask?
I’m sharing this with you to hopefully inspire you to think about the stories that you’ve created about people, places, or events in your life. Ask yourself, do those stories still feel 'right' and serve you?
Every once in a while it’s a good idea to question if they still match where you are as a person today and to re-evaluate the importance that you give them. Remember, your life is a blank book and you’re the one with pen in hand writing out the chapters.
Just because something or someone has meant something to you in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that that will be the case forever or that you owe them/it anything. It’s a good idea to pay attention to the feelings that you get about things rather than just the thoughts you have formulated about them. It’s also good to remember that there’s a lot of wisdom in your body and emotions and learning to listen to them and honor their messages will always serve you.
Finally, also remember to stay flexible and be gentle with yourself when one of your ‘truths’ or ‘certainties’ changes. If you’re doing things right, you’re going to be constantly evolving for the rest of your life. By default, it won’t always look pretty... It can’t!
You are likely to contradict yourself, outgrow certain ways of thinking and fail spectacularly at least once. So learn, grow, crash into some walls, change stuff, change your mind, change your circumstances, change whatever without the need for justification. It is your right to do so. You came here to experiment and experience. Have some fun will ya?!
(I chose Mike Love's Permanent Holiday because it has been my scooter anthem for the last two weeks. I love that it's music with a message done incredible well. His creative genius really shines in this piece. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!)