7 “Spiritual” Lessons From My Week at Burning Man – Part I

7 “Spiritual” Lessons From My Week at Burning Man – Part I
November 1, 2013 Adam Gilad



(This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on “Burning Man as Spiritual Teacher” by Adam Gilad.  Adam is an Emmy-Nominated producer and author and leader whose teaches how to awaken through freedom into love.)

PART I:  Waking Up To Love

Every now and then, you’ve got to JOLT yourself from your patterns, habits and assumptions.

Or you end up running on inertia.

On habit.

A half-living, a half-sleep of half-consciousness.

Constricted. Self-justifying.

You’ll miss the ride.

And so, if we are serious (or playful!) about this thing we call being alive, we make the effort to shake things up.  We travel.  We take new classes.  We test our edges.  We reboot.  We find wise and provocative teachers.  We have sensual explorations.   We discover new corners of our mind and soul with psychedelics.  We embrace the silly.  We suspend ourselves in the bosom of the sublime.

Well, once a year I do something that encompasses all of these things.

It’s called Burning Man – and in its aggregate, it is a profoundly spiritual kick in the pants.

You can’t adequately describe Burning Man.

You can only experience it.

It is raucous.  It is reflective.  It is carnivalesque.  It is a grim, arid, physical desert challenge. It is an explosion of art and song.  It is an earnest annual re-assessment of cultural and economic assumptions.  It is a bare-breasted, bare-assed, hallucinogenic-amped dance fest.

And it is a riot of detail…

… a replica of an 18th Century frigate constructed around an inner bus, hosting a dance floor two stories above ground and speakers booming EDM with supersonic thumps…

… giant metallic octopuses spouting whomps of flame upward into the night…

… burly men wearing tutus and women wearing… nothing but desert dust.

It is earnest packed-out Tedx domes and a full daytime schedule of classes on eco-farming, tango, the looming National Security State and how to resist, meditation, authentic dating, tantric sex, juggling, reconciliation with your parents.

Name it.  You’ll find it.

It is a party.  A petri dish for revelations.  It is creativity unleashed.  Spontaneity.  Serendipity.  It is roving tsunamis of music and sudden dance parties.  All night miso soup and happy, unexpected trays of chilled champagne, prosciutto and canapés.

Whatever you think you know about Burning Man, it is more.  And different.

It is a mirror and a doorway.

And, for nearly everyone who goes – a kind of spiritual journey.

Allow me to explain…

By “spiritual,” I first mean something that reminds you that you are an exuberant, glorious, unexplored and unique voice, not a mere cog in a social, corporate, religio-dogmatic or consumerist machine.

Second, by “spiritual,” I mean something that reminds you that while you are unique and separate and precious in some ways, you are also inextricably the same stuff and matter as every other person, creature, plant and rock in this universe.  That we are all, even when it bores, scares or challenges us – one.

Third, to use my favorite definition of spiritual, care of my teacher Mordechai Finley – “spiritual is the thing you wish the person you lived with was more of.”

Pretty handy definition, huh?

My life, and my work, is devoted to living as free, bold and loving as I can, and sharing the “how” of that journey as a lantern for those who are not content to follow the rules.

My daily experience, reading and frequent, humbling conversations with profound teachers all feed my teaching, my writing and my journey in pieces.

But Burning Man has a way of catalyzing it all, waking me up, as it tends to wake up most of the revelers, though in wildly varying ways.

Here are some of the more trenchant “spiritual” lessons I learned at this year’s Burning Man.

May they inform, inspire, amuse and nourish you, as they have me…

1:  Loving People is Harder Than You Think – Until it Isn’t

So I went to Burning Man with an explicit intention.  As I posted on Facebook before making that long drive north out of Reno…

“As I prepare to enter Burning Man tonight, I know I am entering a transformative space. Some go for the music. Some for the escape. Some for the solidarity. Some for the reminder of just how delicious, warm, open, fun, loving and creative it can be to be a human being on this strange planet.

“I am going with a very clear and very focused intention: to practice opening my heart.

“What does that mean?

“It means just to feel, see, acknowledge and appreciate the inner beauty of every single person I encounter. The longing. The love. The buried pain. The yearning for being noticed (though secretly, “cherished”).

 “My intention is to walk and to dwell in the City of Love.

 “This week is practice.

 “Then comes the real game.”

So jauntily I set forth, ready to beatifically see right through people’s masks into their true heart-of-hearts.  That’s me, half-knight, half-saint.

And wholly deluded.

Because when I finally hit the playa and got ready to rock out my heart muscle, I got hit-up repeatedly by friends and people seeking relationship and dating advice…

His marriage was teetering because she didn’t seem interested in his needs.  What should he do? Her boyfriend was abrasively and pathologically negative. What should she do?   This guy was exceedingly jealous.  That woman was feeling pressured by her husband to sleep with other men (so, duh, he would have the freedom to sleep with other women.) This guy wanted to propose to his girl on the Playa, showed me the diamond and asked me what would be the most profound way to do it (see my answer below).

I didn’t hang a shingle.  I didn’t have “Adam at Work” stamped on my forehead.

But came they did, broken-hearted, confused, frustrated, seeking solace, inspiration, tools, ideas, miracles.

And all I could think was, “Would you all please leave me alone so I can get out there and f***cking love people, already!”

I know.

It hit me, too.

Half-knight.  Half-saint.  Half-witted, apparently.

I came here to open my heart to people, to escape my own needs, priorities, thoughts, fantasies, concerns, projections, plans and obligations.

And while I was looking for where to go to feel and express love, the opportunity to love was charging right at me from all angles.

Laughing at myself, I then undertook these unpaid coaching sessions with a new and great joy.

Lesson: pay attention to the people already in your life, for life slips opportunities into your left hand while you are reaching out for them with your right.

Coming Tomorrow: Part II:  Play and Pilgrimage


Photo Credit:  yoganonymous.com (No copyright infringement intended.)


About The Author:

To get Adam’s free and unique entertaining newsletter on how to create love, boldness and freedom in your life, please go to www.AdamGilad.com



An veteran of Indian ashrams, Nepali and American Buddhist monasteries, Peruvian jungle medicine journeys and advanced Jewish study in the heart of Old Jerusalem, #1 Best Selling Amazon author Adam Gilad invites his readers into conjuring a robust life of passion, authenticity, daring and, ultimately, deeply fulfilling relationships with themselves, their lovers and the wonder of life. A Stanford Graduate Humanities Center Research Fellow, Emmy-nominated Executive Producer and former co-owner and on-air host of National Lampoon Radio, Adam enjoys exploring the world as an entrepreneur, father, writer and spiritual adventurer.  Adam brings together a unique mix of global wisdom traditions, spiritual cheekiness, advanced education and expansive practices that has attracted a following of over 50,000 in the dating and relationship world.  He has authored countless audio trainings and created several programs, ranging from learning the “language” of the other gender, cultivating a dance of the sexes rather than a battle, playing the spectrum of sexual polarity and always, always, always, opening to fearlessness in self-awareness, self-evolution, compassion, forgiveness and really good wine.  He is the father of two grown sons, who have taught him more than all the above, combined.  Learn more and subscribe to his uniquely provocative online newsletter on how to create a life of bold love at www.AdamGilad.com and http://dreamloverbooks.com/



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