My Road to Burning Man: The Temple

Hello friends, fans, and followers. I’m so excited to share some big news with you all! In just a few short weeks I’ll be heading to the playa for my first ever Burning Man. This has been something I’ve been wanting to do for several years now, but have never felt physically, emotionally, or financially ready for it. Until this year. Now, I could probably write 100+ blog posts just about Burning Man, all the things it stands for, all the reasons I love it (already), all the great statues and installations that are being brought to life, and all the wonderful stories that have been shared on the Internet from past burns. But that seems a bit overkill… so instead, I’ve decided to share with you guys a select few things that I am bursting with excitement over. Seriously. I’m so jazzed that I might just take off like a rocket…. and I’ve decided to take you all with me.YOU’RE WELCOME.

So buckle up for safety, kids, and welcome to My Road to Burning Man.

The Temple

Every year there’s a lot of hoopla 'round the globe about this grandiose experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance called Burning Man. The week-long event draws its name from the giant wooden effigy of a man that is set ablaze on Saturday evening, and the burning of the man is undoubtedly THE most anticipated party of the year for playa virgins and veterans alike.

Today, however, I want to talk about the burn that happens on Sunday night on the playa: the temple burn.

This is the installation and burn that I am most looking forward to because of all the things the temple stands for. The temple was first built in 2000 to mourn the loss of a loved one, and has since then grown more elaborate and more meaningful to the masses with each passing year. It is a place to meditate, to speculate, and to appreciate. Whether you are grieving over the loss of a dear family member or friend, figuring out the next step towards your destiny, or releasing some kind of pain/sorrow that has been weighing you down: the temple is your place to do so.

Photo credit: Axisworks (Flickr)
Photo credit: Axisworks (Flickr)

Out of the desert grew a ritual, a celebration, a participatory moment.

Out of the moment grew a need. A need fulfilled by the temple. A place to let go, to remember, to celebrate.

The temple became a tradition. It grew from the playa, from the temporary city, from the culture. It's methods were ours, it's tradition was ours, it became part of our city.

And a part of us.

- Jess Hobbs

Photo credit: David Kong (Flickr)
Photo credit: David Kong (Flickr)

It is truly a sacred space created by the community, for the community. Burners are invited to leave photos and letters inside the temple, to scribble all over it's wooden beams and walls, to simply sit in solitude and think about all the things that trouble us, or to hold a friend/stranger while they cry. It is a judgement free space for healing and loving... and it's not just about loving one another, but also about loving ourselves.

It's an important reminder that shit happens, often for no rhyme or reason, but we must move on. Loved ones die. Relationships end. Mistakes are made. Regrets are had. And as humans, we tend to carry these burdens and memories around with us for days, months, even years. We let them consume us, both consciously and subconsciously. They fill us with fear, sorrow, regret, shame, and so many other exhausting emotions that seep through to other aspects of our lives where they don't belong.

The temple provides a safe space to deposit these feelings, share them with our kindred spirits, and all together purge ourselves as we watch the whole thing go up in big, beautiful flames.

Photo credit: Paul D Carey (Flickr)
Photo credit: Paul D Carey (Flickr)

Every year the temple design and theme is different (the photos I've included in this post are all from the 2013 Temple of Whollyness), and this year's theme will be The Temple of Grace. Naturally, I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about what the word grace means to me, and I think I've finally come up with a few suitable answers.

There is one application of grace that particularly interests: the grace period. A grace period is an allotted extension of time for someone to repay a loan, make it to a meeting, etc without facing a late penalty. You might be wondering what any of that has to do with spiritual development or Burning Man. Let me explain....

When we experience loss in our lives, whether we admit it or not, we give ourselves a grace period to mourn that loss. We may not set an outright date as a deadline (as emotions are messy and difficult to control in that sense) but we give ourselves as much time as we need to be sad/angry/mad/whatever.

But at some point that grace period must end, and we must let go, we must forgive, we must move on, and we must always love. And that's what I'll be doing at the temple. Sending light and love to all the people who have come and gone from my life and finally closing the door on some truly tumultuous memories that I have been holding onto for far too long as a form of punishment or acceptance of blame.

Photo credit: Wayne Stadler (Flickr)
Photo credit: Wayne Stadler (Flickr)

When the temple is lit on the last night of Burning Man, I've heard that it's quite the solemn event. People watch in silent awe as all of their fears, regrets, and sorrows are engulfed by flames. And then they rise anew from the ashes, ready to head home and move forward with their lives a little lighter and a little brighter. And isn't that all that we really want in life? The peace and mind that comes with knowing that we are all human, we are never alone, and we can always forgive ourselves.

Photo credit: Paul D Carey (Flickr)
Photo credit: Paul D Carey (Flickr)

Here's a little video all about the Temple and it's Guardians. I wept mightily the first time I watched it - I'm still not sure if they were tears of sorrow, joy, relief, release, belonging, or all of the above. But I can't wait to make my pilgrimage to this year's temple and take that next big step towards loving myself a little more. If you're going to be on the playa this year, drop a comment below and let me know what you're most excited for!