Waves of sound fill the crisp night air. A once-dark desert is alive with light of every color. The flow of humans moving around you is perceived differently because each is adorned with glowing L.E.D. lights, riding and dancing across the desert. Many of the world’s best DJs are here, each spinning their sonic webs to captivate you and take you on an auditory journey.
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This year, there were nearly 70,000 hearts at Burning Man, each with its own experiences and journeys. Amidst the thunderous noise of a sea of endless beats that echo across the playa, all becomes quiet. The only beat you can hear is the beat of your own heart. Then, for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, you can hear what your heart has been trying to tell you.
There is a cacophony of sound as you traverse the desert, signaling that this is where something magical happens. No one will tell you what to do or how your experience should unfold. When you are ready, amidst the thunderous noise of a sea of endless beats that echo across the playa, all becomes quiet. The only beat you can hear is the beat of your own heart. Then, for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, you can hear what your heart has been trying to tell you. You were unable to hear it until this moment because it was drowned out by work emergencies, family stress, social media overload, or whatever distractions kept you from being able to truly hear the deepest yearnings of your own heart. For many people I spoke with, their heart knew it was time to let go; to let go of past hurts, past wrongs, past traumas, and in the process, to forgive themselves for past mistakes. Many people go to Burning Man not to find something, but to leave behind some of the things that no longer serve them. They go to be burned away by the power of the ceremonial fire and to move forward lighter than when they arrived. They no longer repeat and live in the pains of the past. In the desert, they realize their chance to become a metaphorical phoenix as the collective energy of this magical place creates an opportunity to transform.
This year, there were nearly 70,000 hearts at Burning Man, each with its own experiences and journeys. There is a wide range of ways to experience Burning Man and it is not for me to say how any of their burns transpired. I can only share my journey with the added insights of a few close friends.
I have been on a lifelong journey to open my heart. When the heart feels something that deeply resonates, it opens us up. I still remember sitting in the theatre watching Dead Poets Society, holding my breath during the Carpe Diem scene: “Seize the day boys! Make your lives extraordinary!” I give thanks to Robin Williams for his gifts, laughter, and love. In that moment, his art forever changed my life. It ultimately inspired me to follow my heart and become a filmmaker, leading me on a journey that would take me to 59 countries and over 400 cities. I’ve journeyed from the arctic to the amazon, from shamans to astronauts, having the chance for my heart and voice to reach over 2 billion people through my film and television work.
Following your heart and truly seeing are integrally connected. Leonardo DaVinci said, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” This is one of the most beautiful things that filmmaking teaches you. When you see the connection of things, you have a greater opportunity to find the “visual magic.” However, there is a very important first connection to make and that is connecting the mind and the heart. When you do that, your eyes open in a new way. This is echoed by Peter Ruprecht, one of the great Burning Man photographers, who says, “Most of my compelling photographs have been created when I have been listening to my heart to capture the essence of a moment rather than relying solely on my eyes to see a pretty picture. I truly believe life reveals its wonders to our hearts and our eyes merely need to be open to witness them.”
So, how does the unseen heart of Burning Man inspire people to connect to their own hearts and to open their eyes to truly seeing? It starts with a feeling. If you are new, it starts out quiet at first. The more time you spend in the dust, the more it begins to permeate your being. Little moments will begin to accumulate. It’s a warm smile from someone who isn’t afraid to actually look you in the eye and hold the moment. It’s a hug that you can feel is truly heartfelt. It’s letting yourself dance to awesome music, feeling free to let yourself move without sensing judgement. It’s having moments of wonder at astonishing works of art. It’s the visual chaotic splendor of explosions of light and fire all around you.
DaVinci said, “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” This is one of the most beautiful things that filmmaking teaches you. When you see the connection of things, you have a greater opportunity to find the “visual magic.”
A friend who is a top-performing financial executive in the “default world” shared that it was special for her to see people all around her letting go of things that no longer served them. She realized that it wasn’t that difficult of an experience and if they could do it, she could too. She was also deeply moved by the “unspoken words and feelings of love” all around her. I wish I could show you how much brighter her smile became over the week and how much more her eyes sparkled. The people who really noticed that were her friends when she returned home. They were so amazed by the changes in her that now 20 of them have said they are coming to Burning Man with her next year. Witnessing those kinds of transformations in people is one of my favorite things in life!
There was a wonderful grandmother in our camp this year. I sat with her at the table and asked, “How did you find yourself here this year?” She said, “I came here because I wanted to bring my two granddaughters. I believe it is the greatest gift that I could give them!” Here was someone who had clearly felt the heart of Burning Man and had seen that it is more than a giant, crazy, chaotic event in the desert. She wanted to show her granddaughters that it is possible to live a life with your “eyes and heart open.” When my friend, famed Brazilian photographer Raul Aragão is asked how many times he has been to Burning Man, he always replies, “It is my first time because every time is different.” He always comes with his eyes and heart wide open, and always leaves with treasured memories and stunning photographs.
Created by Christopher Krywulak, the camp we were in was called PlayAlchemist. His vision realized was to create a scale replica of the Pyramid of Giza, preserving the geometric ratio and the resonance created by that geometry, and bring it “We want to to the Playa. Alchemy is about transforming to find your “inner gold.” I created a mini- film for the camp with the theme of, “transform yourself, transform the world.” We want to inspire people to rise to be their best and to do what they can to make a difference in the world. The mini-film also promoted a spectacular and breathtaking performance by Lucient Dossier. Created by Dream Rockwell, it was titled, IMAGINAL – The Rise of the Divine Feminine. The performance called for a deeper reconnection with feminine energy for people to be able to lift themselves up and to transform. Like the caterpillar with its imaginal cells that allow for the transformation to the butterfly, it was a mesmerizing performance.
Being in the pyramid at night was amazing. There were incredible DJs and a light show that filled the wall of the pyramid where the lights and music danced together in geometric unison. Lasers pierced the night sky and lights from the apex swept over the dancers below. The geometry really created a deep resonance and it felt incredible to be there.
We want to inspire people to rise to be their best and to do what they can to make a difference in the world.
During the day, there were wonderful speakers as well as interactive sessions with people such as Jamie Wheal, author of the New York Times best-selling book, Stealing Fire, Amanda Ravenhill, the Executive Director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, and renowned author Daniel Pinchbeck. Many others shared ideas and asked questions that contained the power to change your world and also change the world.
When you look at the different elements at play in Burning Man, you see the “connected heart” emerge. Fire is certainly a powerful element. Connecting with fire is primal and hard-wired into our DNA. Humanity may not have survived without fire to protect us from predators, to give us heat, and to cook and transform our food with its energy. This is only the physical side of fire, however. Fire has brought people together throughout all of human history as a focal point to share songs, stories, music, and to nurture a sense of community. Take a moment to imagine everything that humans have shared throughout history while sitting around a fire. The omnipresence of fire at Burning Man is truly a connective force.
The man-burn symbolically asks many questions: How did you live your week? Did you celebrate your time? Did you evolve? Did you dive deep or play on the surface? Did you “seize the day?” All of us are only here for a brief moment in the grand scheme of cosmic time and the burn is celebrated like a commemoration of life.
The event’s namesake culmination, the burning of the man, has a ceremonial power. It reminds us that the event is temporary and ending, and that life is temporary and also comes to an end. The man-burn symbolically asks many questions: How did you live your week? Did you celebrate your time? Did you evolve? Did you dive deep or play on the surface? Did you “seize the day?” All of us are only here for a brief moment in the grand scheme of cosmic time and the burn is celebrated like a commemoration of life.
This is Burning Man! You get to live through the eyes of a child again, but with the heart of an adult. You have the wisdom of having more time to spend getting to know your own soul.
In order to celebrate life, you actually need to LIVE IT! Part of that is PLAY; Burning Man is fun! Extraordinary music, dancing light, imaginative costumes, and the most incredibly creative art-cars that you have seen, all swirl around mind boggling art. You are dancing in a dream. Yet, once again, there is more than meets the eye. As my friend Aza O’Leary said, “Despite outward appearances, Burning Man is really about inner states of being.”
When was the last time that you felt free for an entire week? What impact does that have on you? When you sit on a beach at a resort for a week, are you really getting away from it all, or just from your routine? At Burning Man, you get away from money, status, judgement, limits other people put on you, and limits that you put on yourself. You can also escape from rules about what to wear, how to act, and even your own name. You can choose a fun playa name if you wish! Have you ever tried something like that? Can you imagine it? Honestly, it is quite difficult until you have been to Burning Man. Then you have an idea, because it is not just you working to create a space for this experience; it is you and 70,000 other humans who come willing to have a different life understanding.
Flow states engage your brain in a different way that reduces the activity of your prefrontal cortex. These techniques are used by Navy Seals, and top Silicon Valley executives. The entire canvas of Burning Man allows you to enter into ow states, painting a new picture of your best self.
All of this creates a space where you can choose to become your best. The aforementioned book, Stealing Fire, is about the science behind optimizing human performance and peak potential to create what are called flow states. Flow states engage your brain in a different way that reduces the activity of your prefrontal cortex. These techniques are used by Navy Seals, and top Silicon Valley executives. The entire canvas of Burning Man allows you to enter into flow states, painting a new picture of your best self.
When you were a child, you were often naturally in a state of flow, learning at an incredible rate. Why is that? You played, you dressed up, you used your imagination, you took risks, you explored, you asked questions, you fell down, you got up, you burned yourself, you pushed your limits, you tried new things, and you DREAMED! You dreamed big dreams without the limits of the world that often beat you down later in life. You are filled with possibilities! Any of this sound familiar yet? This is Burning Man! You get to live through the eyes of a child again, but with the heart of an adult. You have the wisdom of having more time to spend getting to know your own soul. The real magic is that the outward experiences in the desert make the inward journey possible. In this place, you can dream new dreams for yourself, for your future, and for the world. Your imagination is on fire!
I have spent 5 years making a film entitled The Connected Universe. It is about ideas that unify physics and the human experience, connecting us all. It is voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart who helps to poetically express how we are all connected and how we are all one. At Burning Man, you have a chance to feel it in your heart and in every fiber of your being. You can come to Burning Man to see it for yourself, but I would encourage you to come to Burning Man to feel the unseen heart and to know that there aren’t any words that can capture its magic. This is your official invitation to come and play in the dust.