O.K. I finally admit it; I am a princess. Sure, I'll go on a good day of "down and dirty" hiking as long as I know the end of the day will be met with a nice hot bubble bath and a glass of good wine, and if I'm really lucky, my bed will be turned down with a carefully placed chocolate truffle awaiting my palette. So, to all those who have been trying to get me to go to Burning Man, for all these years, now you know why I've resisted. Having said that, one of my dear friends knew my sweet spot and enticed me into going by offering me the opportunity to teach what I love to teach; every Burning Man day! Without this carefully planned out entrapment, I definitely would have canceled at the last minute when a "bug" of some unknown kind brought me to my knees and I spent the four days prior to Burning Man flat on my back. But those damn classes made me go; I had a commitment - I had to teach.
It is no exaggeration to say that I dragged myself out of bed, threw some things in some bags and hoped to be picked up at 4 a.m in the morning, the Saturday before Burning Man was to officially open. I had not even arrived at Burning Man yet and I was already asked to surrender and let go. I have to tell you something that few people know about me and that is I have always had a need to go back to a "safe space" at the end of the day; especially challenging days. As a child this meant the comfort of my pink blanky that I called "Skinny Way"; not sure why, so don't ask. As I got older, it meant my comfy bed, bedroom or home depending on my current living conditions at that particular time. The need for this "safe space" at the end of the day only intensified after I spent several months homeless in the winter of 1979/80 in the unforgiving New York climate. Somehow my boyfriend's Gran Torino or the basement of the pizza parlor I lived in didn't qualify as that "safe space." In all honesty, it is not the chocolate truffles, hot bath or comfy comforter that appeals to me so much; they are all just symbols of that "safe space" where I can just let go and completely surrender. But, you probably already figured that out; how clever you are!
As I arrived at Burning Man on Saturday, just as the sun was setting, a wind storm marked my arrival. Feeling helpless to even take my new tent out of the Walmart box, I was relieved to have a group of kind loving friends, both old and new, jump to the occasion and effortlessly create my new home out of plastic sticks and thin nylon. With the inflation of my new mattress and a clean sheet, I actually did remember to pack from home, I settled in. This would have to be my "safe space" for the next nine days. I took a deep breath and tried to convince myself that it really would act as the "sacred space" I needed to "unwind," let go and prepare myself for the following day; especially since I needed to be prepared to teach every day.
I was told that the wind storms sometimes take down tents, and even though I was aware of that danger, I was extremely surprised when, on the first day, my tent went down like a tornado hit it! I think one did! Now, this probably doesn't seem too exceptional to experienced burners except my tent was the ONLY ONE to really bite the dust (excuse the pun) in our entire camp; and the surrounding camps for that matter; I checked! In fact, I'm willing to stake a bet, that my tent was the worst hit of all tents in the entire Burning Man community!!!! Lucky for me, my beautiful and generous friend, Janus, got out the duck tape and metal supports and put my tent back together. After 2 hours of diligent repair, I'm sure he was just a little discouraged when the tent was hit by another wind storm just hours later; again breaking more supports and demolishing it to its knees; I realize that tents don't really have knees, but if they did.. My tent was so broken that when the wind blew, the only way to get inside was to crawl on hands and knees and use my butt to push it up enough so that I could get into my suitcase or crawl onto my now half filled air mattress. By this point, no one volunteered to help fix my tent; although no one openly spoke about this dark truth, my newly purchased Walmart tent was a goner. Just to add insult to injury, the tent that was directly behind mine was the same exact tent; do I have to tell you that it was in perfect tip-top shape! It appears that once a tent breaks, due to the stress and strain, it becomes impossible to zip up the door or windows and even the ones that were closed pop open. This wouldn't be a terrible problem except each wind storm generously deposited more and more sand and dust inside my tent.
By the third day, I understood what "out door living" really meant. You know that it is bad when you have to leave your tent to get out of the dust. I spent the first couple of days fighting for my "safe space" but as it soon became apparent that I would not win this fight, I began to surrender. Somehow I went from someone who has to change their clothes three times a day in order to feel clean and good, to someone who slept in their clothes (under 3 inches of dust and sand; I measured) and brushed their teeth with some tooth paste smeared on their dirty index finger, without water; yes I swallowed. When I did change my clothes, I either had to do it publicly outside the tent, or sit on the floor of my tent and scoot my bare dusty bottom into some dirty dusty pants. I soon discovered that peppermint moisturizer can take the place of a shower, but make sure it soaks in before the next wind storm hits.
I knew that I had somehow let go of the four-decade-old need for my "safe space", when I woke up one morning 15 minutes before the start of a class I was teaching. In the past, my personal and hygienic preparation before teaching was of the utmost importance, so when I rolled out of my tent and went to teach a dome full of people about manifesting abundance, without much care for my personal presentation, I knew I was cured. It was a bit difficult to hold a full bladder for two hours, however. You might be wondering what my personal presentation has to do with that "safe space". The truth that I discovered was that the "safe space" was really so much more than a "safe space" in the outside world, it was a "safe space" in my inside world, as well; one that required conditions and those conditions included how I looked, how I felt, how I presented myself and simply feeling comfortable in my own skin; literally.Somehow Burning Man stripped away both the internal and external "safe spaces" and I was left bare and vulnerable with no place to hide, recoup or even get my bearings.
A funny thing happened in the rawness of who I am; I discovered that the "safe space" did not really keep me safe at all. The "safe space" simply kept me separate. It's been over a week since returning from Burning Man and it's really good to brush my teeth with water and a tooth brush, actually shower and shave my legs in a humane way and sleep in a bed that doesn't require a shovel to get in and out of, but the best part of all, is that I am no longer in search or need of that "safe space." I am that space; and I am safe.
With Grace and Gratitude