Burning Man is an annual festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert since 1986. It attracts over 60,000 people from around the world to experience the spirit of “radical self-expression.” Black Rock City is the name of a city that appears once a year when crowds flock to the event. Leave No Trace is one of the main principles of Burning Man.
After Black Rock City was left behind – I took off driving my rented Jeep – I entered an Indian reservation with no people around and a castaneda-mystique landscape. I walked a few miles on dry, thorny ground to take a swim and wash off the Playa dust I was covered in in Pyramid Lake which was moving away from me along with the horizon. The desert was whispering to me gently, “Don’t go there.” From time to time, I was seized by the fear of being followed by cops. The sun was blazing over my uncovered head.
Suddenly, I saw my footprints in the sand… Here it is – my trace!
At that moment, I realized my trace was a treasure.
If a coyote, whose footprints I also noticed in the sand, eats me, my body will be found by my footprints in a month or two, and MAPS will have to deal with an international scandal.
MAPS is Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
No wonder, one of the official MAPS volunteers, that is me, consumed prohibited substances, plunged into the process, registered in their ZenDo, demanded a meeting with the person in charge, but was rejected and left, then came into the wilderness and was eaten by coyotes. That’s what “compassionate care” is…
Well, what can you do…
Do I want to leave behind that kind of trace?
Die here, so MAPS has to deal with a scandal?
I clearly realized that was not the kind of trace I wanted to leave behind. But which kind do I want?
One night, while at the festival, I realized that closing the door of my car I accidently broke my glasses, which I had bought specially for Burning Man. It was very dark, so picking up the pieces from under the car would be insane.
I picked up the largest ones the next day, but didn’t touch the small ones. While doing so, I was thinking that I wanted to leave a trace. Yes, I want to leave a trace on Earth, everywhere where I have been.
The glasses are my unconscious mind, resisting the idea to leave no trace.
On my way from Pyramid Lake to the car, I didn’t really see where I was going. Afraid of being lost, I started looking around to find my way. Suddenly, I saw my own footprints in the sand, and followed them. It dawned on me, “Wow, that’s what my trace is here for – it’s for me! For me to find my way back!”
The depth of this idea, which at that moment seemed true for the whole world, was astonishing. As if I left a trace in this world for myself, for me to find my way back to Clear Light.
Leaving the lake, I was thinking about what had happened to me and remembered about my father’s book titled “Trace on Earth.” He finished it not long before his death. Probably, he also realized he wanted to leave a trace and that’s why he started writing books.
But I’m not him!
I don’t want to just leave a trace!
I want more!!!
To create a possibility for people to be able to follow my trace.
I want to be useful.
And I want my trace to not only lead to me, but go beyond, into Infinity…
“How was it?” a lady who I offered some water asked me at the gas station I stopped on my way back. She was going to Burning Man, which I had just left.
She refused my water, while I thought what answer I could give her.
How was it?
At that moment, I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I didn’t know what to say, so I shrugged. A few minutes later, after I took off, I found the right word to describe it – outrageous. I felt disappointment about not being able to answer right away.
The question kept playing with me in San Francisco, on the plane, in Russia….
To be honest, every time people asked me, “How was it?” I was at a loss. What could I say? How could I fit all those feelings, images, situations into words?
What exactly did I have to include in my answer:
Young men in tutu skirts, walking around with a typical young-macho gait?
A ton of information on the benefits of psychedelic drugs that was being melt by the heat into separate sounds in my mind?
The stinging in my feet after my first walking barefoot?
The heat that could only be cooled by the wind, which also brought sand?
The deep loneliness which was getting stronger in the hyper-bright-loud-colorful-foreign-speaking-jazzy crowd of individuals on bicycles?
How was it? Or my tears when someone asked me, “Have you eaten?”
Or maybe that feeling after my first night there, when the never-ending dubstep rave, heat, jetlag and uncertainty didn’t let me sleep and I woke up with headache thinking, “Now I’m a Burner!!!” The day before I was not a Burner yet, when the dudes at the entrance made me roll in the sand and scream “I am a Burner!!!” and then get in my clean car and keep on driving.
No, I wasn’t a Burner then, and the Playa dust was alien to me.
Yesterday, I didn’t understand the true meaning of being a Burner… And now after spending a night here and waking up at eight in the morning to look at the rising sun that brings suffering, and go work in the kitchen of my camp, Fractal Planet, now – I am a Burner!!!
or the Burner???
This question is often asked by Russians: “a” or “the”?
Which one is correct?
So, am I just one of the 68,000 Burners or I am the only one, the unique Burner? The Human Being?
May be this story will help you understand:
“Do you know Misha?” a non-Russian girl asked me, as I was standing by my car, about to leave.
“Agranovsky or Arshavsky?” I started going over the Mishas that I had met throughout my life….
“…hmm…” the girl thought and asked again, “Are you Russian?”
“Do you know Misha?” she repeated the question, as if she was convinced that since I was Russian, there at the festival, I surely knew Misha and he was the only Misha in that crowd of 60,000 people and all Russians knew him, as if he was the Misha.
To explain to her that Misha was a popular Russian name, and I knew a lot of Mishas, I said,
“Ok, do you know Jane?”
“No,” she said, not realizing what I meant.
“Ok, do you know John, then?” I asked, trying to use another popular American name…
She thought for a second and understood that there were a lot of different men whose name was John… and Misha.
She grinned and raised her thumb up,
Later I learned that the key figure of that year’s Burning Man was John Frum, a white guy from Cargo Cult.
Cargo Cult is a kind of Melanesian millenarian movement that worships plane effigy. Adherents of the cult believe that the goods that fall off the planes are sent by the sprits to the people of Melanesia.
In most famous cargo cults, “copies” of airports, landing strips and radio towers are built from coco palms and thatch. It is believed by the followers of the cult that the effigies will attract cargo planes (that are believed to be sent by the spirits). Drills and military marshes are held regularly, with the followers using sticks instead of guns and drawing “USA” signs and orders on their body.
John Frum is the key figure of Cargo Cult on the island of Tanna (Vanuatu). He is depicted as an American military man of the WWII era, who is believed to bring wealth and prosperity to the followers.
It is believed that the name John Frum comes from “John from America.” Frum is a rare last name in English-speaking countries.
Amazingly, I scored a hit when I used the name John.
The key figure of that year’s Burning Man was John.
The John, aka a John, because he’s from the US, just like Misha is from Russia…
It turns out you can be unique, the only one…
Well, who am I?
I am a Burner, that’s for sure now!
But have I become the Burner?
The one that burns, Danko, the burning man?
After my sleepless night and shift at the ZenDo tent with bad-trippers, I took 2cb, and headed to the other side of the Playa.
ZenDo is a volunteer project by MAPS, held at different festivals, to aid people who have had a “bad trip.”
I was blown away by the wind. It was so strong that I couldn’t even see my own nose, but I kept walking. As it turned out, I was walking in the right direction.
While walking, I experienced the fear of death. It was inevitable, it was near, but I didn’t know how to avoid it, I didn’t want to die…
I didn’t know how to get rid of that fear. “Maybe, someone can help me?” I thought and began asking people…
“Are you afraid of death?”
A young girl in a bright dress said, “No.”
I didn’t believe her, but I didn’t want to bother her anymore.
Then I came up to a car. There were two people in it, an elderly man and his wife. I asked the same question. “No”, they replied… and then the woman said, “It’s his birthday today, he’s turned 80…”
I said, “Even more so.”
One of them continued, “Let’s make fun here! Anyway, nothing can be done about it, everyone dies eventually…”
I said, “Maybe, something can be done?”
I: “Let’s do something!”
The man honked.
“Oh! That’s something,” I thought… and left, free of the fear of death… at least for a while…
But shortly after that, I was overwhelmed with a new wave of thoughts, “What if Gena dies?”
And I couldn’t overcome it again. I drove back to the couple and asked, “And what about the death of your partner? Are you afraid of it or not?”
“Not today and not tomorrow…” said the woman… and the two left…
I kept walking to the Red Lightening Camp, to meet Ralph White, founder of the New York Open Center, to talk to him about Global Enlightenment.
The New York Open Center is a large holistic center in Manhattan.
Global Enlightenment is a new ambitious project by Tatyana Ginzburg and GenShi, designed to unite people, organizations, systems of human development around the idea of achieving Enlightenment.
That’s when a lecture by Daniel Pinthbeck was to be held at the Red Lightening Camp. According to Ralph, Pinthbeck is the new Timothy Leary of the new millennium.
Timothy Leary is a prophet of psychedelic culture.
Ralph told me sadly that the lector failed to come, so the lecture was delivered by some young man. Meanwhile, I was fighting the urge to go and grab the microphone and share with all those present what was really important to me at that moment, namely my fear of death and desire to overcome it.
But my fear took over me, and the only thing I forced myself to do was raising my hand and asking that guy with the microphone if he was afraid of death. Of course, the answer was no. After that I passed out and the only person who was able to move me was the owner of the mat I was lying on. She was asking me to move away, “This is my mat… I need it!”
“So what?” I replied. “It’s communism here, isn’t it?” I thought to myself. “Is the mat more important than a human?” She wouldn’t stop yelling. Perhaps, the mat was really important for her. So I suggested physically pushing me off and taking the mat… which she did shortly.
I got up, and saw Ralph waiving at me. The first thing he told me with regret was that the lector failed to come. “Don’t be sad, Ralph,” I told him. “I’m Timothy Leary! Really! I, with my rebellious manners, demand for domination over the world and new ideas, spiritually fit to be the Timothy Leary of the new millennium.
“Ask me what you would want to ask Timothy.”
Ralph stood silent, smiling at me politely, and I realized he didn’t believe me. That man, Daniel Pinthbeck, must have been more convincing than me. And, besides, he was a man.
However, if a man does not believe in something, he can assume that (as by Descartes), form a hypothesis, and prove it.
I am not John Frum, I don’t want people to believe me requiring no proof. Cargo Cult reflects nicely the ability of the human mind, in this particular case the mind of aborigine natives, to have faith that if you march along the road, that is built to look like a landing strip, than gods will arrive from a different world. But you can be waiting for their arrival forever. That is not something which may lure me.
Christianity, just like any traditional religion, is in essence a Cargo Cult, too. It is blind faith that a ritual can be followed by some kind of extraordinary results. Cargo Cult is just a lovely example of the absurdity of this faith.
I’m Timothy, I’m not Jesus, I’m not John. I’m for questioning stuff!
Including questioning the fact that I’m Timothy.
Doubting means assuming that this is possible, and then trying to figure out the Truth.
To assume that the Timothy Leary of the new millennium is someone new, unexpected, daring, someone who might be a woman, a woman from Russia, and not necessarily an English-speaking man. And then to find out whether it’s true.
Gradually, we switched to discussing Enlightenment, which was my plan. Ralph insisted it was impossible for him in this lifetime – maybe after a few lives. Inspired by my idea that Cartesian doubt could be used on anything, I suggested that he assumed that for him, Enlightenment was possible at that very moment! To accept this as a hypothesis and to either confirm or refute it. It seemed more reasonable to me than the blind faith that Enlightenment was impossible.
Pondering over it, I suddenly realized that it’s impossible to confirm the thesis “Enlightenment is impossible.” Since it seems impossible now, it doesn’t mean it will remain impossible tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. One can only argue – it didn’t work out again, and again… but it doesn’t mean it will never work out at all.
However, the thesis that it’s possible can be proven. It can be proven now and again, at any moment. If one plunges into this state of probability and search, then maybe it will be it? Enlightenment?
The completion of the endless cycle of proving the impossible.
Realization, understanding, after all, choice of a possibility!
Having shared it with Ralph, I found out that it was too hot to follow my train of thoughts. Maybe later, when it cools down, he’ll think about it.
So I walked further, further into my mind and further across the Playa.
As I was walking, a horrid urge ripened inside my head. It began to overwhelm me, and I didn’t know what to do.
I wanted to pee on the Man standing in the center, or better poop.
It seemed so beautiful!
It tied together my previous life, where I came to realize that urinating, besides being secret and bad, can also be a process of blessing something if that’s your intention while doing so. At the same time, taking into consideration the insolence of the things around, peeing on the Man seemed pretty normal, it corresponded to the place and masterpieces of contemporary art. Besides, it’s not about just some simple process of peeing. It’s about peeing as an artist, to create a work of art by displaying your freedom and, on the other hand, showing to the Man that he is nothing, and is no better than my individual trace.
However, I was often told that it was prohibited. I was threatened that police might arrest me and the guys from Fractal Planet told me, “You, Fractal Planet, behave yourself. Otherwise you’ll compromise the entire psychedelic movement.” I may get arrested, which would be another international scandal. I imagined being questioned by a police officer, and then escorted back to MAPS; I’d tell them I was a volunteer at the ZenDo project; I completed my shift, took some psychedelic drugs, and came to poop on the Man. ZenDo would be ruined.
“Sorry, Rick, but you see, what to be sorry for?”
Thinking it over, I come up to the Man.
As I’m approaching him, I get overwhelmed with the urge again and ask a naked man walking towards me, “Help me please, let’s do it together, lets pee on the Man…”
He says “Good idea,” but hesitates…
I persuade him to at least try. He agrees.
I manage to pee a little bit on the ground, he doesn’t.
I keep walking and reach the Man. Horrified, I go inside, look at the people around…. imagining sitting in the center and peeing, while the rest are staring at me with understanding.
Suddenly, I notice a water faucet and reach out to wash my face. That’s when I realize I’m peeing… that the water which is pouring out of the Man on me and me are the same process.
I remembered the New Year seminar at Shiram in Russia. We squatted to pee when water started dropping on us from the roof… That’s when we realized the world was responding, it was peeing on us…
That’s when I realized that I and the Man were the one whole. It was the same process.
After that I left… and I continued walking across the Playa, barefoot, back to Fractal Planet…
Rick. This is who I wanted to talk to. And tell him all the truth about his ZenDo project.
Rick Doblin is the creator and mastermind of MAPS.
Who else but me can tell him the Truth?
That it’s boolshit … if he wants a real psychedelic experience, why locate ZenDo in such a loud place?
Why am I left alone?
Why did none of the two volunteers join me?
What’s the fuck with the signing in?
Why do they make me register people instead of letting me help them?
Where is the team spirit?
Where is the alliance between the volunteers?
And so on…
I could unfold it. After all, I’m a therapist with a huge experience…
Of such therapy, like existential things…
If I’m asking for a transformational trip for myself, what’s to think about? Why not answer right away. Or not… or… yes, of course, great, perfect! Isn’t the transformational trip of most value to him? And the rest – like “legalize it” and so on – is secondary?
But… What if he’s not ready for that yet?
Not ready for my Truth?
Then I won’t say anything, I’ll just leave, and that will be a small sign on my part.
What else can I do here?
Then I should think of something to understand whether he’s ready or not. Whether I should bug him with my Truth or not?
Oh! I’m a Game Master!
It means playing with the world in a way a possibility which is the most harmonious will be realized.
How to play?
I could go look for Rick, all the more so given that I think I know where he lives. Find him and make myself heard.
But I want to find a more harmonious way.
It might be possible if I go through the system.
Through official ZenDo entrance. They’ve registered me there already, as a psyche, or a bad psych, or a trip-psych.
Ideally, if in our system someone, after diving into the process, demanded Gena, Gena’d respond. In my opinion, such a system needs receptivity.
For some people, volunteers are enough. Some need me if the volunteers can’t handle it. And for some, for certain processes, it’s important to have an opportunity to contact a superior, get help from a superior, up to God, who in this case is Rick… May be it’s here?
That’s why I decided that I’d come and see my sitter, Mommy, and ask her to help me find Rick.
Sitter is a ZenDo volunteer helping people with bad-trips who came to the ZenDo tent.
Even better! I’ll ask her to choose between option 1 and 2.
If she picks 1, I’ll leave.
If she picks 2, I’ll tell her that I want to talk to Rick, and ask her to find him for me.
However, as usual, the world turned to be more complicated than my thoughts.
Before I reached the tent, I realized Mommy’s shift had ended. “What if Mommy’s shift has ended and no one is waiting for me?” it dawned on me…
“But how so?” one more time I was thinking about the psych processes support at MAPS. How can you leave someone in the process?
I was right, there were some strangers in the tent. They didn’t know I was having a process. It seemed terrible to try to explain everything to them from the beginning… as well as the fact that my Mommy’s shift had ended.
I started asking a guy sitting at the entrance to go find Rick for me. He was hiding behind the registration papers I hated after my night shift…
“It is not my job,” he became more persistent. “It’s not my duty.”
I thought about it and said, “It’s your duty!”
I knew the point of him sitting there was helping people through their psychic processes and that’s what I came there for.
“Who are you to give me duty?” he asked.
“I’m Tatiana Ginzburg,” I calmly answered.
Strangely, I didn’t even think of becoming Timothy Leary or someone else at that moment. I clearly understood that I was Tatiana Ginzburg, and that I did have a right to demand from him for my wish to be fulfilled.
Suddenly, the world changed. After hearing my name, the young man jumped up and started looking for a solution.
I sat down in his chair, watching him.
After a while, he ran into Linnae, a blonde in charge of the whole ZenDo project. She said Rick was asleep and she was not going to wake him up.
“In this case, I’m leaving.”
“Leaving where?” she asked me, as if ZenDo was the center of the universe.
“To the people who are ready to wake up to talk to me,” I replied.
Later, I thought a lot about that phrase of mine and my departure. I worried it was a weak move on my part and I should’ve stayed. Maybe, I was driven by exhaustion, my ability to make distinctions was reduced by the psychedelics. I couldn’t find a place to rest, while the goals I set while with a clear mind, such as interviewing Annie and Ralph, seemed unimportant. To sign in to work at ZenDo again no longer seemed exciting either…
While preparing to leave, wandering in search of my camp and answering questions of those around, I became overwhelmed with an insight that I could approach any person with any request, no matter how ridiculous they looked or my request was, and they would most likely try to help me. I’d had this miraculous feeling until I reached the civilization.
Leaving Black Rock City wearing a wet, dirty pair of socks and dusty clothes, I got out of the car and came up to some random people asking, “Am I dirty enough for you to let me leave?”
“We are new here, but sure you may leave,” they said with a smile.
I was driving relaxed, not afraid of the heat, with my windows down. Then I stopped in the middle of the exit corridor, got out of the car, like a true Burner took my clothes off and poured a canister of water over my head and then put on somewhat clean clothes. The shoes I put on were different because I failed to find a matching pair, and continued my way.
Driving down (Black Rock City is located 2,000 km above sea level)… for miles… I was thinking about my life, who I was, what my mission and my current goal were and how I was going to achieve it, as well as what the Game and Game Master’s School were. And what scale was adequate for the realization of my goals.
It dawned on me that I was Tatiana Ginzburg. I’ve achieved fame, since some young man whom I didn’t know, sitting in the ZenDo tent, jumped up upon hearing my name and did his best to fulfill my request.
Also, it dawned on me that my name differed from Mashiah in just one letter.
My Playa name
Playa name is a nickname a Burner uses at Burning Man.
was written down by ear by a male-sitter – Mashial. I started asking him to change it into Mashel. But now I understand it was awesome – Mashial! It’s me!
It’s just one letter from Mashiah.
Mashiah… Messiah… A person with the Mission…
Maybe, I’m close to the Mission?
Perhaps, the Truth is somewhere close? It’s in just one letter? Just one letter needs to be changed?
A lot of situations from Burning Man resurfaced in my mid like clues, and some of them were very vivid:
At dawn, as I was stumbling towards my car, tired but overwhelmed with the beauty and calmness of the early morning, a young man appeared in my way, “Where’s my camp? And why am I supposed to walk that way and not this way?”
I took him by the hand, turned him in the right way, and walked a few blocks with him, until I realized that he didn’t have a clear picture about the city. Moreover, what he thought he knew was incorrect.
I made sure he understood “the world map,” which in that particular case was “the city map,” as well as where his camp on that map was… and let him go on his own.
At six in the morning, as a was stomping across the desert back to my camp wearing a pair of valenki (felt boots) (which I brought from Russia specially for the event), I realized the importance of the map, even in the physical world, not mentioning the metaphysical world, the map that could be applied in life, at every crossroad I happened to be.
The map that would show me clearly which way to follow in this world?
While at an Indian restaurant in San Francisco with Lakshmi, I was answering her questions:
How was it?
I told her about Annie Oak’s lecture, and Annie telling me that a friend of hers often had orgasms while under psychedelics, and she also wanted it and saw it as her next step. Listening to her, I remembered being under a similar delusion for many years. I’ve heard a bunch of stories from my friends about having an orgasm while breathing, after practicing “orgasm reflex” and reading Reich and Lowen. I thought that orgasm was something important and if I kept practicing it, eventually I’d have it.
However I kept failing… The best thing I achieved was a state of mad laughter during my orgasm reflex practice as I was straining my back. Laughing at myself for trying to have an orgasm in such a strange way, in such an unnatural position… I thought the orgasm was what I had – a burst of joy and happiness. That’s when I stopped waiting for an orgasm as some satisfactory energy experience, like the one during a sexual intercourse, when the tension from the genitals is released. What Annie was talking about was exactly that – pleasure.
That’s why after her lecture I asked her, “Why do you think orgasm is ahead of you? Why don’t you think that it’s behind you?” I was hoping Annie would show me a map and point where the orgasm was, where she was and why it was ahead of her… But instead she talked about how an orgasm was a pleasure and therefore it was good.
I told Lakshmi about it.
“Do you have a map?” she asked.
“Can you email it to me?”
“But… it’s in Russian…”
“Oh, come on!”
“Ok, I owe you for the article… I’ll send you the map…”
Here is the map, Lakshmi:
7 vertical chakras
1 – Muldahara – physical body (form, shape, matter)
2 – Swadhisthana – energy (passion, emotions)
3 – Manipura – mind (intellect, distinctions)
4 – Anahata – love (acceptance)
5 – Vishuddha – creativity
6 – Ajna – awareness (meaning)
7 – Sahasrara- freedom
Each person usually has one dominating chakra.
A path of ascending is shifting the dominant up. For the more detailed examination of the map every chakra can be unfolded in horizontal as well. That will enable it to trace the development of every chakra (each quality) more precise, and transition of the dominant from one chakra to another.
1×1- form = physical body
1×2 – energy form = alive body, biological object
1×3 – intellect form = homo sapiens, awakening of the mind, speech
(in other words, the form (body) is developing in our description horizontally )
2nd chakra – energy, pleasure, passion
2×1 – pleasure from the physical sensations, forms, possession of matter
2×2 – pure quality, pure energy, orgasm
2×3 – pleasure from intellectual activity, reading, conversation
2×4 – pleasure from acceptance
2×5 – pleasure from creativity
3×1 – distinction of form
3×2 – distinction of energy, emotion, sensations
3×3 – distinction of thoughts, ideas (like I am aware of my thoughts in this field (quality)
If my dominant hasn’t reached the second chakra and I’m largely in the first one, meaning mostly being concerned about the material aspect, my body, survival, fitting on the material level, then yes, orgasm (pure pleasure) is ahead of me, that is my goal.
If my dominant is mostly in the mind chakra, then ideas are more important for me than feelings, and my ultimate experience will be enlightenment, understanding my life, which is ahead (above level three)
If my dominant is in the fourth chakra, then my goal is not some temporary physical pleasure but experiencing the resonance with the world and its life.
And so on…
Here is the map.
But it’s one thing to see the map of Black Rock City while you are sitting in front of your computer at home, and another thing to be in Black Rock City and to be able to find your way. Understand where things are located…
To learn how to use the map on the spot, how to use it for yourself to find the right way every time you need, and find the solution to each particular situation to move the dominant higher and higher.
I’m learning that now. Burning Man has become my polygon. I want to keep learning, including with the help of such events as Burning Man. That’s why I invite everyone to join me and learn together.
To learn how to find your way in the labyrinths of your mind towards the exit.
Towards the peak of the Human Spirit.
Towards becoming THE BURNER.
Our trace will surely be left after us!