This previously unreleased vignette is based on an experience I had that made me feel reborn. Like all of the stories in Varanasi Sage, this one is true to my experience. At that time of my life, I was on the precipice of a new way of being. I would be forever changed, and this morning set the tone for my new beginning. The encounters with wildlife felt especially symbolic.
I hope you enjoy this audio track! Soon, I will release the entire audiobook version of Varanasi Sage. Stay tuned!
You’ll find the writing below, if you would like to read along.
A Call to Vision
Dark shadows obscured open farmland, hills and valleys. An occasional owl hoot accentuated the silence between.
The crescent moon observed from a star-filled sky as a deer path took me uphill. I enjoyed the cold air, knowing the afternoon would drive me into the shade with a fan turned high. At the top, between dry shrubs, I brushed aside small rocks and sat.
I drank my tea with sips of intention, breathing the peace of a million minds sleeping, while night faded from black to blue, taking the stars, waking the birds. A line of color cut eastern hills in rolling silhouette.
Birds convened in the heavens, voices joined with each breath, proclaiming the ordinary miracle that sets our clocks. Old and familiar, yet always new.
A showcase, a pastel wash on oaks and hills, hues casting themselves as bright streaks on feather clouds, colors spread by a gilded brush, each layer more brilliant than the last. Breathing deeply, my seat on the ground, I took in the oaks, chaparral, and dried grasses. All of us together in the presence of its Majesty rising. I pinned my heart to the changing sky, illuminating my being.
A rustling uphill—a small rabbit! My smile and his sprint, light and fast, until, face to face, we looked into each other’s eyes. His nose and whiskers twitched a brief moment before he dashed. A soft, tender happiness carried water to my eyes, washing my heart, cleansing my cheeks. An awareness of golden rays behind hills, opening me to light as a soul opens her eyes, birthed into new life, connected with the One. A pleasure to exist on a hilltop in shifting light, a glory to cure afflictions.
I meandered back to the path, recognizing each step. In the lowest branch of a wide-reaching oak — a barn owl. I slowed to admire her round face, her speckled auburn overcoat, her white underdress. She leisurely stretched her wings and flew to a rancher’s post nearby, piercing my humanity before turning to the landscape, as if in her higher wisdom, she, too, admired the valley at dawn.
Towards her mystery I crept, present to our encounter. She turned her face to mine, and after a moment, sailed on silent wings to the next post. Magnetized. I followed. She peered into my soul, drew me along the ridge, and stopped at short distances. She signaled our walk’s end by flying high into a tree.
I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.
Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:
Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
Deepen into a gratitude practice
If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!
It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.
This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.
I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.
My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.
May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!
It’s late and I’m watching the newly-waxing moon set in the west. I’m driving through the mountains, en route to Black Rock City for Burning Man. This will be my third time participating in the art and music festival. Last year, I set intentions that mainly focused on my interactions with other people. And although they were extremely elevated, I saw and felt my intentions manifest in some of my experiences.
I’ve been humbled and challenged this past year — especially recently — and my intentions reflect my need for deep nourishment and reflection.
To share our intentions is to empower them. Please read mine below:
I intend to reestablish my relationship with my creativity; to fully engage with the art installations at the festival and allow myself to be inspired and motivated by them. I need to reset my relationship with my creativity in order to create for creation’s sake without the desire to be seen, popular or make money. This will afford me the freedom I need in my artistic pursuits. I must reconnect with my truth that God’s gift to me is my creativity and my gift back to God is using it.
I intend to be open to receiving the keys I need to enhance my productivity and fulfillment.
I intend to continue the process of letting go of the pain and hurt I hold onto by releasing the people and events from my heart that continue to cause me suffering.
This year, I would like to feel and witness the expansive love that is my true essence, so that I will know who I am.
“We made it!” I gasped when the first hints of light created deep blue swaths of color on the dark sky.
Music pumped from the Mayan Warrior’s sound system while its lasers sparkled and shot into the sky as if they sought to reach the stars. The DJ danced to his music in the center of the bus with his entourage around him. The crowd, enthralled by the music and the light show, moved rhythmically to the driving beat with their backs to the rising sun.
“Shall we?” my sweetheart asked.
“Oh yes, it’s time,” I said. I turned to our new friend Gregg and touched his arm with my gloved hand, “we’re going to celebrate the dawn with a bottle of champagne. Would you care to join us?”
His face brightened with surprise: “sounds great.”
We stepped from the crowd towards sunrise. Lasers continued piercing the darkness with criss-crossing patterns, but each beam of light lost its length as the darkness faded. Yellow and orange streaks appeared at the horizon. Some may say the heavy cloud cover blocked out a beautiful sunrise, but I think it created an intricate canvas for the growing light to paint upon.
“This is the real light show,” I said as a pink tints made their debut. “Even the most next level lasers can’t compare with Creation.”
The playa became white again and the mountains surrounding the flat lake bed appeared out of the darkness. We stopped far enough away that we could still hear the music, but not be distracted from the dawn. My sweetheart gave me the bottle of Champagne. I popped the cork and offered the first drink to Gregg. I took a deep breath as if to inhale the scenery and watched as the strip of sky between the earth and clouds became vibrantly yellow, orange and pink.
We drank our Champagne and soon the men began talking shop — both in the field of sound and music, they spoke in a language that I couldn’t understand. That’s when I unsheathed a pair of rainbow silk fans my friend and somatic healer, Muse, gave me in Spring.
As I touched the silk, her voice echoed in my mind: “These fans are medicine,” she said upon presenting me with the gift. “They will open your heart and give you more confidence; they will allow you to integrate more of your body into your dance; they will help you take up more space.” I didn’t understand what she meant. Why should I take up more space? For months they sat on a shelf.
Until that dawn.
I unwound the silk from the bamboo ribs. Wind immediately danced with the silk flagrantly showing off her natural talent. I hesitated for a moment, positioning my body so the silk could move and bend unobstructed through the air. Every color of the rainbow glowed in the morning light. Spreading the bamboo wide, the silk followed and softly, gently caressed the space around me. I lifted my arms and watched as the silk mirrored my movements, large rainbows flowing from my hands.
I moved my arms in large arcs and my hands in flicks to create waves of color — the wind danced with me. Together, we celebrated the morning star; together, we paid homage to the Creator of All. As I danced, I felt beautiful, free, and connected with Nature in a new way.
Vibrantly opulent colors at the horizon continued to announce the morning star, but to the west, clouds softened every hue.
Suddenly, it hit me: I understood what Muse meant. The fans helped me move in new ways extend my body in all directions, I was dancing without the constriction and confines that I wanted to break, and in opening my arms I was opening and stretching my chest and shoulders — I felt confident and effervescent — a far cry from the way I normally danced. Like a flower, my soul bloomed with the rising sun. Joy coursed through me as the sun first peeked over the horizon; I had to share my newfound expression of Love.
I saw a couple embracing not too far from where I swirled and played with the wind. They, too, appeared to me as a perfect reflection of Love. Approaching the strangers, I did not feel one iota of doubt or self-consciousness. I let the fans lead the way, guided by the wind’s breath and the slow movements of my arms.
As I came close to the couple, they turned and looked at me with smiles on their faces.
“Do you mind if I celebrate you for just a moment?” I said raising the rainbows into the air.
I danced around them, extending the expression of my love and devotion to meet theirs and converge in reverence to the day.
“What’s your name?”
“Whisper,” I said, introducing myself with my playa name. “What is yours?”
“Out here, I’m Radical, and this is Kam.”
“It’s lovely to see you here,” I said. “Can I give you a hug?”
“Yes,” Radical extended his arms.
Kam opened his arms next, “thank you for the celebration.”
“I couldn’t help myself, you two are so beautiful — I was drawn to you.”
They both smiled at me and then at each other.
“Recently,” Radical said to me, “I’ve become interested in signs and symbols — as a way to communicate with — you know — Creator, Universe, One, Source, whatever you want to call it.”
“I understand you, whichever term you want to use,” I said.
“Ok, so, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but in the story of Noah, the rainbow appears at the end of the flood, communicating divine mercy — it’s an act of compassion, kindness, and love. It shows divine favor. And recently I’ve been thinking, the most compassionate and loving thing we can do for ourselves and others is to forgive,” despite his smile, tears sparkled in his eyes reflecting the sunlight. “I’m overwhelmed with the beauty of this moment. I feel so loved — seen — by the Divine. I’ve been feeling this gentle nudging in my heart and spirit to forgive, but my ego gets in the way. Now I’m seeing my true path — it’s one of forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy — for myself and everyone around me. The deepest desires of my heart and spirit — this force of Love that’s greater than us — it sees me, it knows my desires and it’s telling me I’m supported.”
I put my hand to my heart acknowledging the power of his statement. “I have been feeling the same way. I never considered that rainbows are a symbol of love, but that’s what I’ve been feeling, too. I brought them out to celebrate and appreciate the dawn. And your movement towards forgiveness, I can relate so well to your experience. I have also been wanting — needing to practice what I consider ‘radical forgiveness’ for myself, for the people I love, for strangers. And like you, my ego is the one that holds me back. But you’re right, that’s what Spirit wants from us. Even deeper, this moment, you — you’re also showing me that Spirit sees and hears my deepest desires. I wrote a list of intentions before I came to Burning Man. And our interactions right now are fulfilling, well, pretty much all of them!”
Kam raised his eyebrows and looked at Radical with a knowing smile: “I told you that you’d meet your mirrors on the playa.”
Radical beamed, “we are reflections for each other!”
When Gregg and my sweetheart joined us I introduced my new friends. Together, we rode past the lighthouses, through the speed-of-sound hoops and to the BAAAHS (an art car resembling a sheep). We danced, we took a slide through the sheep, we climbed to the second story and we talked about our lives, our experiences and our dreams. We even ate freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! Someone had the foresight to bring a portable oven and we were lucky enough to find them.
The sun lifted higher into the sky, the BAAAHS pulled away and we knew it was time to get back to our respective camps. On our way, we rode to the temple, which had yet to open.
“It’s incredible the amount of manpower and care this construction requires,” Radical said. “And then for it to burn.”
I marveled at the stacked boards that created an airy, ornate pagoda. “Last year, watching all the art burn helped me learn to let go. We work hard, we want to create something with our time on earth, and ultimately we die. But it’s glorious. Our lives can be a work of art, created just for creation’s sake. And to make an impact on all those who witness it, however brief we exist and however many people we encounter.” I thought of the fans and Muse’s message to me. How could I have known the medicine she spoke of would connect me to others, spread Divine insight, and help me manifest my soul’s desires.
“Maybe that’s part of the lesson of forgiveness. Maybe it’s an art. I know it’s a process of letting go, but it can also be the way we have an impact on others. Forgiveness is Love. Shouldn’t we give that to ourselves and others freely? We will burn away at the end of our lives, I think the question we have to ask ourselves, is how can we make our lives something beautiful? Even if it houses pain, like the temple. It can still be beautiful and an expression of Love.” Radical took off his backpack and began rummaging through it. “I want you to have this,” he held out a glass figurine.
An angel, with large wings and folded hands, looked up at me.
“I put this in my backpack last night,” Radical continued with a soft voice. “I believed I would meet an angel — I needed, wanted an angel. It’s you. You saved me spiritually this morning. You restored my faith. The Divine spoke to me through you.”
“What an incredible gift. I humbly accept it, but I wonder much I deserve it since the fans did most of it.” I held the gift in the palms of my hands and thought of Muse and the ripple she started. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Our entire experience has been an incredible alignment. I feel like it was destiny. Like I was in the right place at the right time, and that I followed the soft voice that told me to celebrate you. And as we are mirrors, you are my angel, too. Meeting you and having this connection is exactly what I wanted coming to the Burn.”
“Please come to our camp,” I told him. “This evening we’re having a party and I would love to give you a gift so that you have something to remember me by.”
Radical agreed, but we knew the challenge of meeting again on the playa — forgetting an address, losing track of time, or getting swept away in some other moment. We all said our goodbyes, thanking our lucky fortune for meeting each other.
As our bike paths diverted, I held the angel in my hand with gratitude and asked her to bring them to our camp that night.
All photos and videos courtesy of Radical and Kam.
On Sunday afternoon, the first day of Burning Man, I stood at the corner of 6 & E in front of my camp wearing a minidress and holding a megaphone. As my campmates assembled our bar and stage behind me, I heckled passerbys to pass the time. Instead of making fun or being mean, as usual heckling goes, I gave compliments and encouraged radical self-expression. One thing I loved the most were men wearing skirts (“kilts!” some would say). Many passerbys waved, returned compliment, and even said, “I love you!” It was a happy, warm, feel-good way to start the week — one that would likely induce eye rolls from snarky, fuck-yer-burn participants.
My true reward came when two men, one younger and one older, in matching outfits approached.
“Heckle me, please! I long to be heckled!” The younger man said in a British accent.
“What kind of a masochist wants to be heckled?” I said into the megaphone. As they neared, I saw they wore socks, shorts and shirts with small pizza slices printed on them. “One who wears a pizza outfit, apparently.”
“We’ve been giving away pizza!” the younger man told me.
“Where’s my pizza?”
“Somebody else has it,” the younger man said.
My sweetheart walked over to us, perhaps because he heard pizza mentioned. He began speaking to the younger man, which gave me the opportunity to engage the elder.
“How many times have you been here?” I asked, expecting a large number.
“This is my first year,” he replied in the Queen’s English. “I’m 68!”
“Congratulations, that’s inspiring,” I said, taken aback. “Welcome!”
“And what brings you here — aside from the opportunity to wear a pizza outfit?”
“I’ve come for the temple,” he said. “My father passed away and — I never had a good relationship with him. There was a lot of pain for both of us. I’ve come to make peace with him and our troubled relationship.”
“That’s beautiful,” I said. “The temple is the place to do that. I saw my intentions from the temple last year stick with me and bloom over the course of the year.” I remembered the note I had written to the divine, asking for help embracing the present moment and letting go of my compulsive obsession with the past and future.
“That’s what my friend here told me,” he gestured to the younger man. “He said I would find closure and peace.”
“Yes, you can create whatever experience you set your mind to out here. Especially something personal and internal such as yours.”
“My mother, I am so much like my mother and I pushed away my father, she thinks this is important, that holding onto the resentment and anger — it’s not healthy. At first, maybe I was doing this for her, but now I can see that it’s for me.”
“Do you have any children?”
“What do they think about you coming here?”
“They laughed and asked me if I’m coming for the nudity and free love, but you know, after 45 years of marriage I think I’m past that.”
I laughed with him. “Maybe they will come next year after the hear what a great time you’ve had.”
“That would be fun.”
“And once they hear you’ve gotten what you came here to do.”
“I can only hope.”
I looked into his tender face and noticed his open heart. “Thank you for sharing your intention with me.”
“You’re welcome!” His eyes lit up. “I feel a bit silly, maybe even weak, for sharing something so personal, but my friend said out here people will love to hear it.”
“I think I have a gift for you — if you are interested.”
He beamed, “a gift? For me?”
“Yes, I think I have the perfect thing for you. Follow me.”
We walked to the van I would call home during the festival. I opened the front door and pulled out a bag of feathers.
“I gathered these feathers from the land I live on in California,” I told him. “I learned their symbolic meaning and prepared a message for each feather. I prayed over each of them to speak into the heart of whoever chose them with affirmation or direction.”
I held the bag out to him.
“I just choose one?”
“Yes, whichever one.”
He reached in and pulled out a large feather with a string that tied a small note to it.
“Which did you choose?” I asked.
“‘Goose,'” he read, “‘signals an opening to new possibilities, new creative portals, new directions, and new ideas. Affix yourself to your path and fulfill your vision.'” He looked at the feather and caressed it a few times. When his eyes met mine I saw they were filled with tears. “This is about my father.”
“Incredible,” I whispered. I could barely fathom the perfection of this message for him. Although I had prayed and set intentions for weeks before the burn, I was moved by the alignment.
He put the feather to his heart, “this one is just for me. Thank you.”
“Can I give you a hug?” I asked.
At the end of our hug, he looked into my eyes, “I’ll treasure this,” he said, lifting the feather.
We walked back to the street where his friend and my sweetheart waited.
“Happy burn,” I told him.
“Thank you,” he said, lifting the feather again. “Happy burn!”
Two days later, in the middle of the afternoon, I rested in the van. A small knock sounded and I opened the door. To my surprise, the elder man stood in front of me — wearing his pizza outfit.
“Oh, you’re resting,” he said. “I can come back later.”
“No, no, I’m just lying down, I’m not sleeping.”
“I came back because the gift you gave me, it touched me deeply. And I wanted to make sure I told you that.”
“Thank you,” I said. “That means a lot to me.”
“I have a gift for you as well. So that you can remember. I have watches, if you want one. I put them together.”
“Oh yes! I have been wanting a watch!”
He pulled out three watches. “Let me show you. On the front it has the directions because you can choose your direction out here without ego interference. And it says ‘now’ because the time is always now at burning man.”
“I love it. That is so perfect for me,” I laughed, acknowledging the serendipity of his gift like a wink from the divine that I had been heard last year.
“And inside,” he opened the watch, “I designed the vitruvian man for this year’s theme and there’s three compartments with mini candies: gummy bears, mints, and jawbreakers.”
“This is wonderful! It’s so thoughtful! And I can share these little candies with people as well. It’s the gift that will keep giving!”
The wrinkles around his eyes, now pronounced by the dust, crinkled as he smiled, “I knew I had to give you one. You can choose whichever color combination you like, the faces are all interchangeable with the bands.”
I held the three watches in my hands. “I wear a lot of white out here, and tomorrow is white Wednesday, so I think I’ll choose the white and silver.”
“That’s a great choice,” he said, putting them together.
“Thank you,” I said as I gave him a hug. “This, everything about this, means so much to me — more than I can express.”
“You’re welcome. Your gift means a lot to me. It couldn’t have been more perfect to set the tone for my experience. And to show that what I’m here for — it’s destiny — my heart’s desire is important and heard. I’m just glad I have something to give in return.”
I struggle with writer’s block. It makes me uptight, irritable, cranky; I joke to my friends that on bad days I feel “artistically constipated.” Today I woke up feeling a strong block. Instead of wallowing in front of my computer, however, I unplugged and took a walk.
Tall trees marked the entrance of the forest. Pines and Redwoods reached for the sky. I thought of their roots simultaneously pushing down and wondered what they looked like underground. For a moment, I stood still, breathing in and out, acknowledging the exchange between myself and the trees — I breathe their air; they breathe mine — we are one.
Walking into the forest, the sounds of birds filled the air around me as the rush of traffic faded into the distance — peace grew with every step I took.
Or did it?
As I walked, I quickly caught myself tromping unconsciously; I was literally stomping on the living, breathing being we call Earth, seeing Nature without noticing any of it. Immediately, I stopped and connected to my breath.
“Breathing in, I know that I am walking the in forest.
Breathing out, I stop to watch Nature reveal Her mystery to me.”
For no reason in particular, I looked to my right. Above the bushes I saw a bee — a longtime talisman of mine signaling the Divine presence. In this moment, I felt Nature telling me to notice the flowers.
I continued along the path, slowing down and listening with greater awareness to the singing birds while soaking in the warmth of the sun that cascaded to the ground between the trees. Only a few steps later, I happened upon a bush with small, bell-shaped, yellow flowers. Had I not caught my unconsciousness moments before, I would have missed them. As I walked on, I noticed more flowers; I saw yellow, blue, white and purple flowers; large clumps of flowers, teeny flowers all on their own. In each flower I could see the sun, the earth, the rain, the bees, generations of flowers, and all the cosmos; a miracle to behold, a miracle that I could see! A tiny white flower with six, triangular petals gave me pause; it looked like the sacred geometry symbolizing consciousness. This flower spoke to me. It said, “you are here, now; we are here together in this now.” I smiled to the tiny flower.
The forest proclaimed an abundance of miracles and I was present to witness them!
My walk today epitomizes glamsient living: enjoying more with less. The glamsient life is driven by lived experiences, not acquiring possessions. And to live our experiences deeply, we must be present — with practice it is readily available. Noticing the beauty of wildflowers is free; cultivating mindfulness is free; seeing, understanding, and being one with the forest is exquisite.