Burning Intentions 2019

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!


The Inside Joke

After a full day building camp, several friends formed a group to go out. Of course I wanted to join! I grabbed my necessities (headlamp, toilet paper, goggles, emergency champagne) and hopped on my bike. As we turned onto the esplanade, art installations rose from the dust as far as I could see. I lagged to catch glimpses of them as we passed. Art or friends? Art or friends? Curiosity pulled at me. 
And then — we approached a pier. 
Group mission be damned! This was the emptiest the playa would be for the rest of the week, and soon the pier would be crammed with tourists.
I stopped and put my feet onto the dust. I pulled the scarf off my mouth and called to my friends: “Guys! I’m stopping to look at art!” Either they didn’t hear me or didn’t care.
Except for Kitten, my faithful companion.
“I can’t keep passing art installations. It’s our first night out,” I looked towards our group; they had already blended in with the other blinking lights.
“We have all week to find music, but we only have a week to look at art,” Kitten dismounted his bike.
We stepped onto the pier. Nets and ropes hung between posts, hammocks swayed beneath the boardwalk. A long string of lights romanced me. I hooked my arm into Kitten’s.
The boards creaked under our footsteps — just like the old boardwalks I’ve wandered along in seaside towns. And for a moment, when I relaxed my eyes and looked up, it felt like we were at the sea. But looking down, seeing the dry lake bed below us, I thought of the sheer genius and manpower it must have taken to build this dock — from the concept to the design to bringing the materials and assembling them in the middle of nowhere without basic amenities like running water. 
We arrived at the midway tower. We leaned in to view its inner intricacies. Some people were gathered on the upper level; I’d be willing to bet they were drinking whiskey.
“Want to go up?” Kitten asked.
“Not particularly.” I felt content looking inside the tower at the details that made it seem more like a relic than a modern piece of art. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I knew only in turn-of-the-century novels. Antique photographs, compasses, hourglasses, bound books, and glass bottles — in all colors, sizes and shapes — the scene piqued my curiosity to touch and pick up the items. Every detail existed for exploration, a mystery to be revealed, a reverie in which to lose oneself. It was a living, breathing piece of art that transported us to a different time and place. The curiosity, the wonder of it all, put me back into the frame of mind of a child: everything was new and strange and deeply interesting.
On the other side of the tower, we found an antique desk — the kind in which the door to the main compartment folds down to become the writing surface. My literary heart skipped a beat. 
“And what could be inside?” My curiosity whispered with glee. 
When I opened it, I found the cubbies, that once may have organized papers and mail, were filled with antique glass bottles. How odd. I touched a few, pulling them out of the compartments and examining their details, trying to understand their riddle. And then — I found one that contained a piece of paper.
“A message in a bottle!” I gasped. I lifted it with awe. The bottle’s long, skinny neck was jagged at the top. “What kind of message do you think it is? Profound wisdom?” 
Kitten shrugged.
I slowly put my index finger into the bottle, careful not to touch the toothlike edge, but my fingertip barely reached the paper. I pushed in a little more until the base of my finger rested against the pointed teeth. I could only move the paper around in circles along the side of the bottle. The shape of the neck made it impossible to drag the paper out.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Kitten warned. “We are in the middle of nowhere and it’s dirty. You’ll want a working hand for the rest of the week.”
I sighed and pulled my finger out. “I’m just too curious.” I turned the bottle over and around, trying to see if I could read the message from the outside, but the paper was folded in half. Even more mysterious. I inverted the bottle and shook it, but the paper wouldn’t fall out.
“Oh well, let’s go,” Kitten said. “Slicing your finger is a bad way to start your Burn.”
“Let me try one more thing.”
I held the bottle so the paper was at the very base of the neck. I put my finger back in and pressed the paper firmly against the glass. It slid along the edge, I almost got it passed the base of the neck, but it slipped back. 
“Leave it, come on, there’s a lot more to look at,” Kitten said. “There’s bottles everywhere. Just look at all these bottles over here.” He motioned to a couple of antique suitcases behind us with bottles on top of them.
 “I have to know what it says!” I insisted. “I can’t just find a message in a bottle in a desk on the dock in the middle of the desert and just — walk away without knowing what it says! A message in a bottle at Burning Man. Who knows what it says? Maybe it’s written by the artist.”
I turned the bottle a little more, got my hand on the side with the shortest teeth and finally — I had the paper sliding up the neck and out of the bottle! I held it in my hand like it was a golden scroll of truth. “Yes!” I said to Kitten, my eyes wild with excitement.
I unfurled the paper and paused. I was hungry for the message I worked so hard to receive, but needed a deep breath. Delayed gratification.
“Come on, open it,” Kitten said.
I opened the paper. 
I read it aloud: “Go Fuck Yourself.”
Kitten and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oh that is good,” I said as I caught my breath.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Kitten smiled.
“A special message from the artist,” I joyfully mocked myself as I folded the message and rolled it back up. “A message just for me! How absurd.” I laughed as I placed the paper back in the bottle, making sure it was all the way in for the next person.“Well worth the effort, I say.”
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Kitten agreed.
I put the bottle back exactly where I found it and closed the desk.
Kitten and I continued our walk along the creaking pier to the very end. I looked out at the playa — illuminated art installations dotted the landscape — and I realized this pier was on an endless sea of wonder.

“The Pier” by Gurps Chawla

Burning Intentions 2017

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.

Photo by Juan P. Zapeda last year at Burning Man.

Rock Creek Wisdom

I recently purchased Hank Meal’s, The River, a local’s guide to hiking trails surrounding the Yuba River. On a rainy afternoon, my friend, Kitten, and I got cabin fever; we opened Hank’s book and chose the Rock Creek Nature Trail (located in the Tahoe National Forest) as our tonic. Once the site of a lumber mill, Hank described this one-mile loop as an easy and accessible trail that meanders beneath 11 varieties of trees and alongside Rock Creek.

“Looks like we have the place to ourselves,” I beamed when we pulled into the empty parking lot.

The ground was completely saturated — water pooled around our every footstep. Light rain floated to earth, accompanied by large, sporadic drops falling from tree branches, tapping an intricate percussion on land and water. The creek rushed past us, beckoning us onwards.

“Look at all this debris,” Kitten said. “These recent storms have been brutal!” 

“The other day, I saw a group prayer going around Facebook asking for the storms to be gentle on the forests, and I don’t know how I feel about that.”


“California needs water. I’m not eager to pray the rain stops.”

A stream carved its way down the hillside and onto the path, turning the path into a waterway and making us walk along its edge. Branches, leaves, and pine needles littered the area, and the Rock Creek Trail felt less like a nature walk and more like a rugged adventure, like we were the first explorers. At one point, we had to climb over a large, fallen tree.

“All this damage is from the drought,” Kitten said. “Tree roots retract closer to the trunk and become less dense. And the branches die. So when a big storm hits, it uproots trees and branches fall.”

“Makes sense.”

“Now I bet this will be a tinderbox in summer — this and every other forest in California.”

“Let’s hope not! If we get enough rain, the dead stuff will get mushy and become fertile. With fewer trees and branches blocking out the sun, new life will grow. Regeneration is one of the most incredible aspects of nature, in my opinion. Didn’t the guidebook say this land was harvested for timber not long ago? I wonder what that looked like!”

“I hope we get the rain, too, of course. Shame if it burns. I’d rather see the land heal.”

“Did you know illegal campfires start a lot, if not most, of California’s forest fires? The drought makes everything dry, but it’s singular humans messing up on top of that.”

“Hitting Nature from both sides: the macro and the micro.” 

We passed what Hank described as a relaxing welcome bench, knocked out of the ground and thrown on its back.

“I’m ready for all humans to live in harmony with Nature.”

“Now that’s a good prayer.”

We stopped to inspect a fallen tree. It made a sturdy bridge over the creek and it’s roots were exposed in an unchanged unit, still holding rocks they had grown around.

“This makes me think of my inner work,” I said, ducking beneath a branch.

“What do you mean?” Kitten asked.

“Self-reflection can sometimes hurt. After a long period of unconsciousness or trauma, like a drought, the medicine of awareness can feel destructive — it’s painful to look on all aspects of myself — lessons can be hard, truth can hurt. Guilt, disappointment, shame, and anger surface. And when that happens, it feels like I’m being destroyed. Like my guts are being ripped out or my heart torn apart.”

Water cascaded down the creek bed over rocks and debris, navigating curves, eddies and pools.

“I think the commitment,” I continued, “is to give myself sustained compassion, like rain, so that which has been knocked over can become the fertile grounds for new life — or a bridge to enlightenment. To continually give myself compassionate attention and embrace myself instead of pushing myself away — that is the way.”

“I see. If you have the painful, seemingly-destructive insight and you don’t follow it up with compassion, it’ll catch on fire and consume you when someone starts an illegal fire,” Kitten said.


We crossed a wooden bridge before we completed the loop. Birds sang from the moss-covered trees, while a soft and steady drizzle, almost a mist, enveloped the forest. 

108 Sun Salutations

I started practicing yoga in my teens, and over the years, I have done my fair share of sun salutations. In my personal practice, I sometimes use a few to warm my body, but I don’t really enjoy them.  

So when I heard we were doing 108 sun salutations at the end of my first full day of Yoga Teacher Training, I rolled my eyes. Not only did we have to do 108, but we had to count them ourselves. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘108 repetitions of repetitive movement.’ This was literally the opposite of the meditative, dynamic practice that I love.

Of course, I lost track within the first 15. And that irritated me to no end. What did it even matter to keep count at that point? I would never know how many I had done!

Then, somewhere around 30 (or maybe it was 35, who knows?), I couldn’t believe how many I still had to do. It seemed like this would take forever. And, oh man, it was so tedious!

By the time I got to 42, I wanted to go home. I wanted to stop the incessant ups and downs, roll up my mat, and leave. I felt far from my comfortable home where I could do whatever practice felt right.

Around 50, only half-way, I decided the whole training was a waste of time and I should just quit! Teacher training was a stupid mistake. 

Then — somewhere close to 70 — I realized I was nearly finished. It was hard and annoying, but it was almost over. A rush of gratitude and appreciation washed through me.

Hitting 80 brought a feeling of accomplishment, which grew with every round I completed thereafter.

At 90, I chose to savor the remaining salutations. I was so close, and I wanted to enjoy those last rounds.

Number 100 arrived and I knew the struggle was worth it. I had done so much.

I finally reached 108, and thought maybe I should do a couple more just in case I had undercounted. They weren’t so bad; it wasn’t so hard.

Resting in child’s pose after completion, I asked myself why I fought against the practice. My resistance made me suffer far more than the actual sun salutations. 

My life flashed before me and I saw all my daily annoyances, the times I was impatient, the times I wanted to quit or fast-forward. I thought of when I wished my life away — stuck in traffic, pining for summer, waiting at the DMV, sick in bed. I saw my struggles and I saw the end of my life. Would I still wish my time away at the end or would I wish I could have savored even the most frustrating moments? What would my life look like if I appreciated all the moments instead of resisting them?

We finished class and I got in my car, feeling a new space in my being, like my mind had opened and my heart softened. 

A text from my cousin Derek came through: “Can you drive me home tomorrow? I have to leave my car in town at the shop.”

“Of course,” I wrote back without hesitation. “If you can be in town at 6 when I finish training that would be perfect.”

“For sure,” he replied.

That night I could barely sleep even though I was exhausted. The 108 salutes energized me. I tossed and turned feeling the uncomfortable combination of wired and tired.

My alarm sounded early the next morning. I rolled out of bed and into the shower. My eyes were puffy, and I knew coffee wouldn’t be enough. At least we would start teacher training that morning with an asana class — that would wake me up.   

Nine hours of training later, it was dark out, and I was ready to go home and relax with a glass of wine. I drove to my cousin’s mechanic, and got a message from him on the way: “Running late there in 10.”

I parked out front. 10 minutes, not so bad, but 10 minutes passed quickly, and soon came 15. I was bored and annoyed. Where was he? I was helping him. He should be on time.

After 20 minutes, I was pissed! Obviously, he didn’t have any respect for my time or energy! How could he be so rude as to keep me waiting when I was doing him a favor?

I sat there fuming. I mentally prepared to let him have it as soon as he got there. I figured out all the things I would say to make him feel guilty and bad about himself for making me wait. He was selfish and I would make sure he knew it!

That is — until I remembered the 108 sun salutations from the night before. This was my lesson. Getting angry and resisting my present moment was ruining my present moment. Waiting wasn’t the problem, it was my mindset. 

I thought about the miracle that Derek and I both have these physical forms on earth, wouldn’t it be better to appreciate the time we get to spend together? A guilt-trip tirade would make us both miserable. He was late — no big deal. Nobody was hurting, except for me with my self-inflicted suffering. Being angry wouldn’t make him arrive sooner.

I decided to relax and clear my mind.

Not long thereafter, headlights shone around the corner and Derek pulled up. We rolled down our windows.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said, sheepishly.

“I appreciate your apology and I’m glad you’re here now,” I said, without a note of hostility. “You want to park in this spot?”

“Yeah, that would be great.”

We moved like Tetris pieces.

“Thanks, cuz,” he said, getting into my car.

“You’re welcome.”

“Can I take you to dinner?”

“Sure. I’d love that.”

During our meal, we laughed at stupid jokes and spoke of our futures. I even told him about my newfound love for sun salutations.



Decorated and adorned — the mundane made profound — neighborhood houses become gingerbread with thick, clean frosting on the roofs. No longer differentiable between old or new, run-down or well-kept, each dwelling takes on an air of elegance. Icicles hang from awnings like stalactites. An enchanted child appears behind my eyes. 

We make tall footprints on what we think is the path. Away from the homes, a reservoir sits still and frosted. Creeks shimmer, cutting through the meadow, frozen in place, lightly dusted; large rocks and boulders, capped white, create bright mounds in the dark river. Cottonwoods, having lost their leaves, look dead beside the Pines, which pop their green heads out of the snow.  

In town, we pass the ice rink. Cafe lights and ballroom waltz music from the early 1900s creates a sense of nostalgia for a time we never knew.

We drive off-road. Tree branches droop with heavy snow and drop the weight in puffs that cascade to the blanketed ground. We stop on a ridge and step out of my cousin’s Jeep. The landscape surrounds us in sacred silence created by the deep snow, sparkling as if rhinestones fell in the storm.

“Almost takes my breath,” I’m entranced by the mountains and valleys before us.

“I saw the best snowflake the other day,” Derek tells me in his ski bum drawl. “I was standing on my front porch and it was one of those big fluffy ones. I watched it float down and land on the railing. It was so perfectly geometrical and intricate and it just stayed there. I wanted to pick it up and show my roommates, but obviously that’s not gonna happen.”

“Such an incredible paradox, isn’t it? One snowflake is so fragile, yet put together –” I reach to the landscape.

“There’s been a bunch of avalanches this season. Kinda crazy. Just last year we were complaining about another snowless winter.”

“Did you know that people are using ‘snowflake’ as an insult these days?” I ask.

Derek laughs, “what? No. That’s lame.”

“I agree. I found out about it on Twitter. Apparently it’s to insult someone who is fragile and thinks they are unique — a bleeding-heart or triggered person who gets trophies for participating. That’s the context, I suppose. It started with conservatives using it against liberals, but now liberals have embraced the term against conservatives. Reminds me of the Sneetches from Dr. Seuss. Do you remember those creatures with stars on their bellies?”

“Yeah, totally. You just can’t insult someone by calling them a snowflake, though. It’s magical. Literally everything is more beautiful in the snow. And if it’s too outta hand, houses get crushed. Even if it does melt, it becomes water and enters the water cycle. It doesn’t go away. Being called a snowflake just isn’t and insult.”

“I don’t get it either. Part of nature as humans is to feel — it’s what gives us our humanity. And for people to mock that side of ourselves, it’ll turn people into unfeeling monsters.”

“Damn. That’s true.”

“Seriously. Having an open, compassionate, sensitive heart requires courage and strength in a world with so much pain and suffering.” 

“And evil.”

“It’s a strange time, Derek.”

“A strange time, indeed.”

We slip into silence, admiring the changing sky. Delicate pink, purple and indigo hues reflect in the white mountainside like a painting. Stillness and peace reside between our voices.