Now that the dust has settled, I’m excited to share the experience of installing Varanasi Sage at Burning Man. From concept to installation, the entire project took one year, and what a year!
I went through my own metamorphoses during this experience. Doing everything for the first time, the processes of building, funding, and installing taught me like no other teacher. I found great rewards in the process: I felt supported in my art, I felt my art was received, I connected with people in new ways, and continually encountered the best of humanity.
A hidden gift in the process was creating the Varanasi Sage companion booklet, which I didn’t know was going to manifest until a few months before the installation was complete. This booklet is a culmination of my writing over the past several years, and something I desired for a long time, but needed the framework of the Varanasi Sage installation to create. I will offer the companion booklet as an e-book and audio book soon! Stay tuned!
A few days ago, I wanted to hike somewhere I had never been before. I chose the Loch Leven Trail in the Tahoe National Forest because of the picturesque lakes, waterfalls, and railroad crossing I saw online. On the drive up I eagerly anticipated the new adventure.
As soon as I arrived, however, the unfamiliar terrain made me uneasy. Eventually, I found the trail marker — an old, weather-worn, small, wooden sign nailed to a tree. It was so inconspicuous, I was surprised I saw it.
Stepping onto the trail, it took me several minutes to orient myself. I walked along boulders, often intuitively choosing the direction; many times the trail split into deer paths. I felt a growing nervousness. It would be better to do this hike with a friend. I thought of going back. But no! My glamsient life is not about limitations! It’s about freedom and adventure! Instead of turning around, I built cairns to mark my route.
As I hiked, loneliness settled deeply into my heart. With a friend, building cairns would be fun, we would laugh when they fell and see who could build a better tower; we wouldn’t be scared because we would have each other. By myself, it was a response to real fear — getting lost in the wilderness, alone.
The loneliness grew: it wasn’t just this hike, it was a continuation of loneliness I experienced since I began my glamsient journey a year ago, as if it picked up where the previous lonely day had left off, compounded by the ones before that.
Keeping to my mindfulness practice, I stopped and encountered the loneliness. The pain diminished under the light of awareness, and once it did, I meditated on feelings of love — the eternal wellspring of love.
Despite my efforts, however, the loneliness kept returning. I knew following sadness into despair was not the way; it is a pattern in my past, and I am leaving that behind. But when would the loneliness stop, so I could just enjoy myself?
I may have been climbing a mountain, but I was climbing on the inside as well. I was fighting between who I have been and who I want to be. And every internal step began to feel more and more tired.
I kept going; trying to remain present; building cairns; listening to trickling streams caress the trail, sliding down rock faces that once housed glaciers; watching tiny waterfalls cascade over tree branches; hearing the small sound of a grey frog bellyflopping into a puddle when I startled him.
Turning a corner, I came upon a snow patch! I was elated to see snow this close to summer, but then I was overcome with loneliness because I didn’t have a friend with me to share my joy. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be happy just to see it by myself?
In all this pain and conflict, I had to sit on a rock to center myself. When I did, tears came to my eyes, and I let myself cry. I stayed present with my sadness; it was joined by doubt. In my glamsient life, wasn’t I walking a new and unfamiliar path? I had chosen to become a glamsient to fulfill a deep need to self-actualize artistically, and it had since grown into a journey of deeper consciousness and spirituality. But if I was so lonely on this new life path that I couldn’t enjoy the trail under my feet and the unfolding adventure, what was the point?
Suddenly, the path I had chosen a year ago didn’t make sense. Suddenly, even though it had seemed right at the time, I felt like I should have never left my easy, comfortable, former life. I had a nice home and a large group of good friends. I hadn’t been deeply satisfied, it lacked substance and felt restrictive, but at least I never felt like this! Why would I ever leave that easy life behind?
Certainly, the past year of glamsient living gave me moments of unparalleled joy and, although I have a lot of work to do, I have grown as an artist — producing more and better work than before. Taking the time to dive into my spirituality has created greater meaning and presence in my life. Moving towards greater consciousness has helped me become aware of and break habitual attachments and patterns. But couldn’t I have done all this, couldn’t I have made the same artistic and spiritual gains, and still kept my familiar home and nearby friends? Wasn’t this new path counterproductive if I felt so miserable and conflicted in this present moment?
I looked out past the trees to see billowing clouds above the snow-capped mountains articulated by jagged points and crags.
“Help me,” I said through my tears, a voice crying out in the wilderness. “Let me see the Truth.”
For no reason in particular, I turned to look behind me. There I saw a small pine tree with a curved trunk growing out of a rock! I laughed through my tears. I have long identified with trees growing out of rocks; my spirit seems to me like it springs from a hard and lifeless place and it is only through the sheer power and persistence of the Creator that my soul survives and thrives. I even have a tattoo on my leg of a tree with a bend in its trunk — just like the tree I saw before me.
As if I were given an immediate answer to my cry, the Creator spoke to me through the small, bent tree: “You are never alone. I am here, watching, listening. Feel me. Feel my Love. You belong on this path — this unfamiliar, new path. The struggle you feel is your spirit breaking the chains of illusion. Your suffering is an illusion created by your mind from false ideas and parameters of happiness. Have faith in this path; I illuminated it in Truth a year ago. I led you here. Trust your creativity; it is my gift to you; it will heal you. Trust your dreams; I gave them to you and I want them to manifest. Trust that as you follow your dreams, you step closer to Me and your own divinity.”
Hearing this message with the ears of my heart, I felt a sense of comfort and strength wash over me. Without leaving my former life, I would not have gotten to this very moment on this rock to encounter the Spirit that tore through my sadness with Truth. Without leaving my former life, I could not embark upon this new journey that is filled with inspiration, expansion, meaning, and authenticity. With renewed support, I closed my eyes and allowed the air to dry my tears. I saw myself scoop the dark and painful emotions from my heart and surrender them to the Divine. In the open space a love, whole and gentle, spread outward with a vibration so complete that it softened the edges of my being.
I stood up, and with faith in myself and my journey, continued hiking the unfamiliar path.
On my way down the mountain, I passed several cairns I had made. One even helped me when I couldn’t find the trail. When I saw the parking lot, it seemed I completed an incredible journey, not just a couple miles.
Getting into my car, a half-grown pup ran over to me, smiling and wagging it’s tail.
“Hey, buddy,” I said.
His owner, wearing all khaki including a floppy hat with the chin strap pulled tight, approached us. “Finishing up?” He asked.
“How was the trail?”
“Beautiful. I love hiking. I would have preferred to hike with another person, but the time alone was –.”
“Eventually. I was pretty uneasy at first.”
“Understandable. You know, there’s a lot of hiking groups in this area. They go around and hike all the peaks together. You should check it out.”
“Thanks! That’s a great idea.”
“Have a good day,” he said.
“I will,” I replied, sure of my words, “you, too.”
When a friend encouraged me to explore the manifestation process, I quickly learned the basic premise is that we can attract our desires by entering into a meditative state and then picturing and feeling that our desire has manifested in our life.
I heard a potent piece of advice: to build confidence in the process, manifest things that have very little consequence. In other words, you want it, but you don’t have any emotional attachments to getting it.
Following this advice, one of the first things I wanted was to find a large feather on one of my nature walks. I meditated everyday and often brought the feather to my mind; I pictured it as a large, striped feather resting on the side of the path, easy for me to see and reach — as if it were waiting for me. I would meditate and feel the happiness this feather would evoke when it appeared.
About a month later, while walking a familiar path, I found a large, striped owl feather! It was resting right side up, just off of the path, as if it was waiting for me. I literally jumped for joy. I never could have predicted the total and complete happiness I felt when I found this feather. At that moment, the feather represented a universe in dialogue with me; that my spirit and the Spirit of Creation were co-creating. In that moment, Creation told me we were in this life together!
I have found countless feathers since then, some large and some small, but all a communication from Spirit, reminding me of It’s Presence and willingness to co-create.
Last weekend, I went to Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, California. I love transformational festivals and Lucidity is one of my favorites because it is a small, homegrown festival and many of my friends attend every year. One of the most beautiful aspects of a transformational festival is the change that happens within revelers mirrors the transformation of the festival grounds.
Lucidity is located on the Live Oak Campground and I love the way organizers use the oaks to display art, honor the Divine, and accentuate the beauty of the human and nature connectivity. One of my favorite villages, Lover’s Nest, seems to be built around a particularly gorgeous oak — she looks regal and majestic with her large twisted branches spreading out like arms ready to enfold us all. The organizers of Lover’s Nest filled their space with abalone shells, draping fabrics, beads, flowers, artwork and sculptures that invited love. It was the perfect melding of Nature, Spirit and humans. It showed the way that humans can co-create with Nature to evoke beauty and Spirit.
On Sunday night, the last night of the festival, I walked along the grounds with my sweetheart from our camp to hear the late-night music at Lover’s Nest. To my surprise, on our walk, I spotted a large, white feather on the ground! I picked it up and saw gold glitter adorned the top of the feather. Someone had taken the time and made the effort to glue glitter onto this feather — for their own delight and for the delight of all who would see it. My sweetheart and I joked that it was a feather off the elusive festi-bird.
I held the feather to the sky and drank its beauty with my heart and mind — a perfect symbol of the festival — glittering, sparkling, reflecting the light; natural, yet enhanced; an expression of art and love co-created by a person and Creation. I loved it immensely. I knew this feather had found its way to me, letting me know I was seen and heard by the Creator. What’s more, it almost felt like it was just for me — I’m usually wearing white and gold at a festival.
When my sweetheart and I landed at Lover’s Nest, we put our blanket down to sit and listen to the serenade and watch the night sky. I held the feather close to my heart. Eventually, we laid down, completely smitten with the music, our surrounding environment, and each other. I placed the feather on the ground between us.
Sadly, when we arose from our reverie, I could not find the feather! It was as if it had vanished into thin air. For a few minutes, I became sad. I felt as though I had not treasured the feather enough, perhaps I had not valued the gift enough. Why didn’t I hold onto it for dear life, or put it in my bag for safe keeping? It was a communication from the beloved Spirit and I had been careless with it. When I thought about why I was sad to lose it, however, I realized I may have lost the note, but I got the message. And really, the spirit of the festi-feather should be known by as many as possible — passed into as many hands as possible, not just mine. Losing the feather was a reminder to me to love without attachment, and to appreciate every moment.
What’s more, attending festivals (and finding feathers) are experiences — we can’t hold onto them. Each festival is exciting and exhibits unique artwork; new and special people appear at each festival to give us important insights, laughs and friendship; each festival holds beautiful and incredible experiences as beautiful and incredible as the outlandish outfits people wear; and even though I often want to hold onto the festival, I never want them to end, the festival-goers must disband and the installations must be taken down.
Ultimately, like my feather, festivals disappear in the wind without a trace, leaving only their treasured memory.
Below you’ll see a photo and video (of my friend Nikki and I at Lucidity) taken by my new friend, Courtney, the creator and visionary of Threaded Vibes. Naturally, we met Courtney this year at Lucidity.