Burning Man…stepping into the Light

natural awakenings

Published as the featured article in the December 2010 issue of Natural Awakenings


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"At Burning Man, there is no “they”…”they” aren’t going to set the rules, “they” aren’t going to clean up after you, “they” don’t have to give you permission….you are it." 













"Cycles of birth and death, creation and destruction are critical to growth and transcendence." 
















"What unfolded was magic."


















"..the realization unfolded that I didn’t have to do it all myself…I could let someone in deeply and expect to be protected and safe, yet supported with such amazing freedom."

















"...there were times when the dust swirled in it’s dance around us and the whole world dropped away."

“The highest ecstasy is in transcendence to another world in which you find union with the Divine and/or with the perfected nature of loved ones.” - Robert Lester Peck, “The Golden Triangle”

Ecstasy.  Bliss.  Freedom.  Connection.  Love. 

xWe experience life, each through our own unique set of filters.  We create our own reality.  At Burning Man, over 50,000 people came together in the desert under some of the harshest conditions to create a sustainable community, a City, from the ground up.  Sharing art, love, life, energy, raw intensity, physicality, emotions, freedom, and stimulation for all the senses.  At the end of the week, it’s disassembled, burned, destroyed, reclaimed, packed up, packed out, and the open playa is left once again without a trace.  Why?  Why build it all up to tear it all down?

Cycles of birth and death, creation and destruction are critical to growth and transcendence.  The caterpillar dies and is reborn the butterfly, the baby chick inside the egg would not survive if it did not peck it’s way out of the shell at the right time.  As we grow, we shed old skins, drop away that which no longer suits us, to bring forth a new self.  As it happens, it can feel tremendously raw and vulnerable, as tender new skin is exposed.  It can also require seemingly traumatic events to kick-start the change, sometimes the fear for survival induces action, such as in the baby chick.

Expansion and contraction are a part of this necessary cycle.  Like some theorize about the Big Bang: upon explosion the expansion occurs, reaching further and further until it cools to a point that can no longer sustain the expansion.  At that point, contraction begins and density increases until the density and intense heat can no longer sustain the small space and a new explosion and expansion occur.  Again, these cycles are critical to transformation and growth.

These cycles occur at all scales from the macro to the micro and everywhere in between such as in our lives and interactions with others.

Participants at Burning Man, as a community entity, create and move energy that affects each individual.  And each individual contributes to the whole.  Afterwards, the energy lives on in each participant, carried away to be integrated back into life, back into “consensus reality”.  Vibrations carry on, bringing new awareness, inspiring others, shifting consciousness and making changes in the field of awareness that connects us all.  In effect, making shifts in what “consensus reality” really is.

So there is value in the tearing down, it allows the cooling, the congealing.  Integration back into consensus reality, it provides the space in between.  It’s the space that allows the growth, the strengthening in the community and the consciousness.  The contraction allows the next cycle to begin, the next expansion, explosion and growth, and perhaps the next year at Burning Man.


The Call

As a continuation of my own path of Self Realization and growth, I felt called to participate in Burning Man about a year and a half prior to the 2010 event.  I knew then that I would be a part of it at some point, I had no idea when or how.  I simply held open the space and intention of making it happen.

Following the energies of the Earth, my spiritual travels seem to parallel my energetic path which has been one of connecting with my feminine and masculine energies, allowing healing and rejuvenation, then merging and finding balance and wholeness.  In 2006, Peru was about opening my heart, connecting with my Divine Feminine, letting go into the flow of guidance.   As my life opened, I was guided into a path of finding deep healing and release through connecting with my Healthy Masculine and partnering with an amazing lover. Traveling to Egypt, sharing experiences and growth, and putting action into sharing my authentic gifts with the world unfolded.  Integrating these feminine and masculine energies into wholeness, remembering who I am and stepping into my power as a healer and guide has been part of my Vision Quest in 2008 and beyond.  A deep remembering…I am Light Bearer.

So as 2010 unfolded, I held space for the next phase of my life.  New connections and intentions grew.  A new love, deep emotional connection and the realization unfolded that I didn’t have to do it all myself…I could let someone in deeply and expect to be protected and safe, yet supported with such amazing freedom.  This deep connection felt scary, vulnerable, yet blissful and expansive.  I realized and felt in my body the sensations of expansion into the bliss, and those of contracting from fear.  Isn’t it funny how frightened we can be of opening up to feeling bliss?!



The Journey

Our westbound journey paralleled the Native American tradition of Vision Quest, which is about sinking into the energy of the West to shed old skins and open to spiritual guidance, transformation and growth.  Driving cross country added to the deepening…we had the advantage of the time to sink into the energy and space, rather than experience the somewhat harsh shift that can occur from flying abruptly across space and time zones.  “Windshield time” as a friend called it, yumminess and connection is what I came to know.

On arrival, the strange and unusual happened in the middle of a dust storm…RAIN, in the desert!  A lot of it.  And it pretty much ground everything to a halt.  In it’s own way…perfect!  What a beautiful way to be greeted…cleansing, cooling, releasing.  And as it passed hours later, a double rainbow of the most vibrant colors formed.  I had never experienced a rainbow of this intensity before, and visually I could follow its arc completely.  All the way to the Earth.  Whoever said you can’t find the end of a rainbow?!  It was clearly right there, on the playa.  Wow, Bliss.


The Unfolding

Radical self-reliance, one of the principles at Burning Man, was embedded in my psyche from a young age.  Important yes, but as with anything it can be over done, there’s the need for balance.  Illustrated here…the capability to do it yourself is important when headed into one of the harshest environments in which to exist.  Yet it must be balanced with the willingness to open…to receive gifts and help from others.  Creating a sustainable community, based on gifting and sharing, is at the heart of Burning Man.  It’s about participating, authentically sharing your gift with the world, with no expectation.  At Burning Man, there is no “they”…”they” aren’t going to set the rules, “they” aren’t going to clean up after you, “they” don’t have to give you permission….you are it.  You own it.  You own who you are and what you gift to others.  You own your ability to receive. You own your experience.  And that can be a scary realization for some people.


The Expansion

Freedom, boundless.  What’s it like to experience freedom of self in perhaps a larger timescale and geographic scale than ever before?  At Burning Man, that freedom was bigger and deeper and supported more ability to let go than I had ever before experienced.  I felt free to be whole, to express who I am, share love, feel the sensation of air and sunlight on my body, and stretch my body and my energy to fill endless space.  All this emerged without wondering who will see, or worrying whether I will be judged, or keeping an eye on the time.  Capacity for bliss, should one allow it in, was immense.

And I was willing to allow it in!  Experiencing deeply intimate connection time with my lover, and together with others, I felt my body expand in bliss and consciousness.  A joy hard to describe with words, a feeling of such happiness and flow that it’s like nothing can stop it.  Complete and utter love, smiling until my face hurt and beyond, moving without limit, nothing holding me back and yet held with such a foundation of safety and presence.  That safe space that made the freedom possible, the exquisite power of Healthy Masculine energy that I now know I can count on not only in myself but also in the man I love so deeply.

We hold space for each of us to have a deepening of Self.  At the same time we are growing, building, nourishing a 3rd entity, an “us”, a love for each other, a creative energy that is present and real.  This brings us joy and bliss, as well as inspiring and illuminating the path for others.  And as we explored sharing energy with others, magic happened…there was a channeling of group energy even bigger than he and I individually, and it moved through him and me and us.  I felt the newness of it, opening me deeply.


The Contraction

So then after this exquisite expansion, I notice a contraction.  Does my body get scared of the bliss and openness and create a contraction to protect itself?  A leftover vestige of old trauma perhaps?  Do I stuff it away like in the past and pretend it doesn’t matter?  No!  I feel it, it’s real, I acknowledge it in myself, bring awareness to it.  I communicate…we communicate and as we honor each other’s needs what unfolds is an even deeper re-opening with him.  The reconnection with that safe foundation, gives me the space to expand once again in love and support and bliss.  I notice now how the contractions are fewer and smaller than before.  How by honoring the feelings in my body and communicating, the sensation leaves, no need to stay stuck.  It doesn’t circle back with drama and the intensity of open wounds.  I find healing, an ease, a new opening.  A very real, authentic opening… ultimate love.



leslie wingsTogether we explored the playa.  We played like children, climbing, flying, swinging, teeter tottering, and pedaling music from plastic tubes.  We lounged in a living room in the middle of open desert, played a piano, and typed a message on an old mechanical typewriter while perched high on a stool.  As we explored in the sun, there were times when the dust swirled in it’s dance around us and the whole world dropped away.  At night, we lay bundled in furry coats under the stars on an artificial grass oasis with little bushes illuminated in tiny white lights.  We danced hard, played hard, sang hard, and hopped art cars with friends we just “happened to bump into” amongst 50,000 other people.

We found special connections with art installations, and shared energy inside a pyramid where time dropped away and nothing existed but our merged presence.

In a sliver of time, we explored the Temple.  Writings on the wall evoked all aspects of emotion.  Inspirational, funny, shallow, deep, bittersweet, angry, remorseful, joyful, it was definitely a potpourri of expression.  I glanced down to find a typed message secured to one of the walls, an excerpt of one of my most treasured quotes by Marianne Williamson…

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

One sentence stood out, resonated, and I cried…and he held me, just held me in his arms, safely, seeing me, being with me.  Supporting me.

And I supported him, his gifting of music.  What an honor and a pleasure to join him in the sunlight, strolling to small camps and sharing his gift of music.  Acoustic violin in his hand, we let the energy guide us through the maze of camps, stopping to gift music.  People were mesmerized, inspired, awed.  They felt the emotion he shared through his art, I had the beautiful opportunity to support him, energetically, emotionally, logistically.  I got to witness the unfolding, observe the impact that his willingness to open his heart and share himself had with those willing to receive it.  That combination of opening to give and opening to receive creates a flow of magic- perceptible, tangible, and beautiful.

During our exploration of art on the playa, we found ourselves called to a piece, “Healing Eye” by Pierre Riche.  A pyramid with the bija mantra symbols denoting each chakra, serpents coiling and ascending as the subtle channels (ida and pingala) in the body with a healing eye at the peak, a winged circle of light crested the top of the piece, and at night the artist illuminated it with flame effects.  The Kundalini awakening of the piece was palpable.  We held the intention of gifting a shared gift of music, fire and dance and felt that this may be just the place for it.  After several attempts at our rogue performance that were thwarted by dust storms and incompatible energy, we packed up the wagon for one last possibility.

awardWhat unfolded was magic.  We couldn’t have planned the details any better.  By synchronistic circumstances, we ended up gifting music and dance by the Healing Eye, on one of the main routes from the Temple, just during and after the Temple Burn.  The mood was sacred and special, and people were open to receive.  He wove magic music as I danced with fire, exchanging energy, moving my body and expressing the emotions that moved through me as we co-created this gift.  Sharing bliss from our core, people flooded past, some inspired to stop and share in the energy.  We were honored with individual blessings, people were touched by what we offered.  Additionally, two men stopped us to present us with an award, a medallion, patch and a signed and numbered print proclaiming “…You are on the Front Edge!  …obligated to lead humanity forward, make them smile with your works!”  We were both very touched, honored and grateful for the connections we made with each person who chose to share this energy with us.

So now back at home, in the space in between, I notice the integration.  While I do feel the tension, it’s easier than before, the compartments are dropping away.  I find it much easier to carry the energy into my reality since I create my reality with these values. My path being one of healing and integrating energies in my body, each step it feels easier to be whole.  It does not serve me to have to hide who I am, or be someone I’m not.  I don’t need to fit into someone else’s description of a box.

I am me.  Stepping into the Light, and sharing it.




Leslie Blackburn, MS, is an accomplished and gifted sacred sexual healer and transformational guide, yogini, engineer and artist. Leslie’s personal path and work has been the integration of the ever-unfolding feminine in body and psyche with masculine direction and purpose- Love in action!


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