Learning Lessons of Burning Man

This year’s Burning Man was such an amazing experience, and, even though I’m back home, I am still reliving those special learning moments.

These are 7 lessons that I brought home from the playa.

Temple 2014 Burning Man


1. Live in the moment.
You never know what experience is going to be in your path. You have to be willing to put yourself out there, let go and jump into things . Don’t over think! Just go for it! Practice living in the moment, just be there. The past is gone, the future is uncertain—all we have is right now, and it is truly enough.

2. We all have something to give.
One morning, while gazing up at the sun rise, I glanced around at people dancing to Robot Heart’s tunes. I felt my heart open up. I looked at all the beautiful art around me. I looked at all the art cars surrounding the dance venue. I thought about all the love and creativity people put into them. Everyone contributes their artwork to make Burning Man special. Focusing on what we have to give, without expecting anything in return, really has a major impact on people’s behavior. They stop competing and start sharing. That’s Radical Generosity, a hallmark principal of Burning Man. And you know what? It feels really good to give and to be of service to others.

Burning Man made me contemplate an important question: What do I want to contribute to this world? How can I give back? It made me realize I want to build a company that helps others and contributes in a positive way. I switched the focus of my education because of the lessons I learned at Burning Man last year.

3. Turn your phone off, and stop being so attached to technology.
Yes, I am thankful we have our technology, but sometimes we need to put it away and just enjoy life. I find myself wasting time searching the web, checking Facebook and Instagram. Every where I go I see people just staring at their cellphones. In elevators people don’t even make eye contact, they just look down at their phones. It’s nice to be more aware of our surroundings, putting away our phone and, instead, interacting with the people around us. We miss so much when our eyes are glued to a phone screen. It’s a big, beautiful world out there and I want to remember to appreciate it.

4. Think about the impact you make.
Many people, every day, are taking the impact they have on their space seriously. Burning Man is a microcosm for this lesson. Our camp had everyone sign up for MOOP (Material Out Of Place) duty. I took 20-30 minutes daily cleaning up trash that I saw on the ground around camp. There were times when I was out on the playa and saw trash. Immediately it was picked up, put in my backpack, and thrown away as soon as I saw a trash can. Become aware of what’s going on around you.

There is an army of volunteers who clean up trash, not only during the event, but even after the party is over. These are the people who make Burning Man a truly leave-no-trace event. They comb the desert, walking side by side, searching for every scrap that doesn’t belong there. Because of them, Burning Man is allowed to continue year after year.

5. Be less judgmental.
Many different nationalities and life styles are represented at Burning Man. There are successful businessmen, other professionals, families with children, artists, hippies, etc! Everyone comes from a different background but when you think about it, in some ways we all are connected. We all share the same emotions and the same expressions. Make friends with people based on the content of their character. We are all here sharing this world together. By having a little more patience for each other, we can all be a lot happier.

6. Roll with the punches!
There is much going on and there are many elements of Burning Man that will test you. Dust storms that are so strong that you can’t see anything around you. There is extreme heat during the day and freezing cold at night. But, instead of complaining, explore! Look at the art as you walk back to your camp. There are so many things going on that are out of our control it’s good to learn to just roll with them. I’m trying to keep this attitude all the time. I remind myself when traffic backs up for miles on the freeway, or any other time when life throws me a curveball. Getting mad or frustrated won’t change the situation. Maybe I can use those few extra minutes to just appreciate whatever is around me. You don’t have to be at Burning Man to enjoy a blue sky, but it’s only when you allow yourself to be flexible that you remember to look up.

7. Take time to breathe.
It may be a bit corny, but there were so many moments at Burning Man that took my breath away. Sometimes I would just sit down on the playa and look up at the sun and just breathe, paying attention to my breathing and not anything else around. I now try and do this every day and I’ve noticed a difference in my everyday life. It sounds simple, we don’t even think to breathe. It is so automatic that we forget we’re even doing it. But take away air for a few seconds, and suddenly we remember just how important it is! When I practice just being aware of my breath, I remember that there are a lot of other things in life that I need to appreciate, not just breathing, and that sense of gratitude leaves me feeling much more at peace.

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