Driving from Reno after a flight west and supplies run, the car filled with equipment and what had been strangers just hours before finally arrive at the gate. Dust kicked up by cars driving across the dry lake bed swirled through the open window as our tickets were scanned. Driving forward to the Greeters where the packed car of travelers would be given the official welcome to Burning Man.
It was my first year. I had read everything on the website, gotten sage advice from friends who had been before, but while the open playa before me was filled with expectation it was empty of actual knowing what would happen in the coming week.
We got out of the car facing the costumed Greeters at our station. We received the WhatWhereWhen Guide, a map, and a brief orientation of where to head. One S&M leather clad Greeter asked if we had any virgins and I raised my hand. I was invited to lay down on the playa to make a dust angel. My travel companions, both returning burners, looked on with eyes glittering as they encouraged me to lay down on the ground.
I worried that I was in my only default world safe outfit and that it would get dirty. It was the one thing I was going to try to keep clean for Exodus so that I would look normal after leaving the burn. But the mental override of desiring experience that brought me to Nevada in the first place kicked in. What would I gain from not making a dust angel? Was that worth it to not have just gone along? And so I lay down on the ground and let go of the niggling worries. Arms and legs sweeping back and forth at first awkwardly and then eventually without a care; knowing (hoping?) there was no real harm in what I was doing.
And when I stood up in a cloud of dust resembling PigPen in semi-stylish attire I was offered a mallet with which to strike a gong. Continuing with tradition I shouted at the top of my lungs – I am not a virgin anymore!!! Others around me joined in in the dust angels and gongs clamored along with the shouts of arrival and surrender to the experience of the burn.
That simple rite of passage into the desert allowed me to let go of norms before I had even found my camp. It shattered just one tiny expectation that I had of how one behaves in society, and I believe set me up to be open to the experience of saying yes to other things that would happen that week to allow me to live more freely in myself.
Could I say yes to that first odd experience that was outside of my comfort zone? It let me look more deeply at why I say no in the first place. I do not know if it was that experience that made me change everything, but it most certainly was a moment, and opportunity, for me to examine whether discomfort about something that was out of the ordinary would keep me from experiencing something new.
Clearly I had at some other point decided to challenge my usual, one does not typically go to Burning Man to see or experience what they could at home, after all. But in the time that my limbs dragged through the dust I was cleansed of just a little bit of patterning that would hold me back from living.
The week unfolded into a series of experiences that would allow me to explore and grow, all the while with the reminder that I could say yes to life.
But the point of the story? Does it matter beyond that I is time to share it? Take what you will and perhaps I will see you sometime on the playa.