Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City

photo by Portaplaya

Since the year 2000, there has been a Temple at Burning Man, and when we talk about the Temple, most people think of what started that year with David Best and Jack Haye, and became a long line of temples that have graced the playa. The Temple has evolved from what became a memorial to their friend into an “emotional nexus” of our community, where thousands make pilgrimage each year to remember those they have lost, to celebrate and affirm life, to heal and to forgive.

In 2012 I was fortunate to meet many of the people who are involved with building the Temple each year and to research what I came to believe are some of the essentials of understanding what the Temple at Burning Man has become. It is a place where our community goes to unburden itself and it is a representation of our maturity as a community as well as a natural manifestation of something sacred in the City of Black Rock.

photo by Portaplaya

Proposing to be the one who builds the Temple at Burning Man is serious stuff involving quite a bit of work within an existing structure of volunteers and other Temple minded folks to create something for the community.  One question that was raised over and over again as I spoke with people who have done this before was that you should not ask yourself  “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?”

For many Burners, the Temple is a vital place where those who build it possess a solemnity and a respect for that process. It is also a place for those who attend the event to use for grieving or celebration of life in an environment that is in contrast to a lot of the rollicking and outrageous things happening elsewhere on the playa that week in late summer.

photo by d’andre

Walking around the Temple at the middle of the week, I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of emotion that is focused like a beam in there. It is as if, from its inception each year, to all the planning and all the hands that build it, then when the event begins and it becomes “the largest collaborative art project” on the playa; that the energy of so many caring people turns whatever sublime Temple structure is built that year into something far greater than any art project.

Stopping to read the remembrances of so many loved friends, family and pets who have passed on, seeing the pictures of so many of them, pausing at the altars and shrines where people have lovingly placed tokens of their lost one’s lives, well, that can really get you right in your plexus where you feel that big sorrowful empathy wave. The Temple is a profound space where some of us who have lost loved ones can let them know that they are still loved and missed, but that it is all ok, they can pass and we can move on.

I’m a large, somewhat dim and oafish fellow, and I can only stay in there for so long before I have to walk away from it out onto the blankness of the playa with the Temple behind me, and breathe deeply so as to not betray the tough guy façade I live behind.

It is a heavy place.  If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

photo by Steven Fritz

Regardless of who builds the Temple, it is always something spectacular and special. There are bona fides and expertise that are a prerequisite to building the Temple at Burning Man and I was privy to finding out what some of those were this year.

I’ve written an article about what I discovered after being on playa (and attending the Temple construction before leaving for Black Rock City) for the building of this year’s Temple of Juno. I was able to research and read some of the intellectuals who’ve written about the concept of the Temple, including Lee Gilmore, Sarah Pike and Larry Harvey; and I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the folks involved with building Temples through the years including David Best, Jessica Hobbs and Jack Haye. .

Burning Man would like to have a conversation that explores what you feel about the Temple and to get your insights on it since it is really your Temple. Please read the article as it is meant as a starting point to stimulate discussion. Our community loves discussions and the Temple is something many of us have very strong feelings about. Feel free to read the article and post your thoughts here.

About the author: Moze


John Mosbaugh aka Moze is a SF Bay Area heretic and writer who's been hauling himself out to Black Rock City since the Nebulous Entity first beckoned him to check out this phenomenon known as Burning Man. Moze is a "Life Collector" who scribbles down encounters with you to share on the blog. He enjoys the hyper reality of that week in the desert enough to keep coming back. He's been on the Burning Man web team since aught two and has written for Piss Clear and the YEP (Yahoo Education Project). He doesn't speak for the org and he finds you fascinating. He celebrates you and loves it when you take away ideas from Burning Man and share them with the rest of the world. He likes to make grilled cheese on Burn Night afternoon and gift it to you because you're probably hungry. Moze is a big fan of fire, art, freedom and community.

45 Comments on “Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City

  • Liz says:

    The Temple feels forced to me. As if everyone is expected to have a big emotional reaction and there’s something wrong with you if you don’t. Every other piece of art leaves the emotions up to you. Do you feel awe, or humor, or spiritual at the man? Any of those reactions are okay. But reverence is demanded at the Temple by both the general culture and the guardians. I spent all of 5 minutes there and left.

    I got more emotional at seeing Pier 2 last year. That momentary sense of awe and pride that mankind is capable of making something so momentous out of something so empty.

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  • Liz says:

    That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the effort of all those who dedicate their time and energy, hearts and souls to it. It’s just no my cup of tea.

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  • Electric Jed says:

    I always thought the temples were a part of Black Rock City, just like Center Camp and The Man. I have been to 10 burns since 2003 and I didn’t have occasion to contribute to one at first but was devastated by some of the writings. In 2008, I had a reason to participate directly and found the support from perfect strangers very comforting. I think the Temples are integral to the event and probably have deeper meaning for some people than any other aspect of the city. BTW, my favorite is 2007 “Temple of Forgiveness” I think it’s the most beautiful structure I ever saw and was an amazing burn.

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  • BD says:

    The temple is definitely an integral of my burn. It is not something forces for me, my emotions naturally come out when I’m there. I went in thrice over the course of the week and then watched it burn, with my messages and mementos inside.

    I like the fact that I can bring something to the playa for those that can’t be there to experience it with me. I can’t wait for the 2013 incarnation of the temple.

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  • Steve says:

    Thank you Liz. You represented my thoughts exactly.

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  • Brody says:

    I’m glad there’s a temple for those who need it, but I personally can’t and don’t want to spend any time inside it once the event is open. Too much heaviness that is not mine. I don’t want to pick up what other people are laying down in there.

    I watch the temple burn from the edge of the city blocks every year. I’m very very glad people get what they need from it, and it’s always a beautiful structure.

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  • David says:

    For me, one of the most important part of BRC is the Temple. I made my pilgrimage to BRC for the first time in 2011. The temple was where I felt most at home. I understand that it will effect everyone differently but that is part of the magick. The Temple at BRC is one of the most purely spiritual places on earth. Thank you to everyone who was, is, & and will be apart of this magick. I love all.

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  • Corvus says:

    No Burners are any more forced to interact with the Temple than they are with the Center Camp Cafe. A fellow Burner at work has no playa name, two-dozen costumes, and hangs around the dance camps. I have a playa name, one costume, and avoid the dance camps like poison. Is either of us any less a Burner than the other?

    Personally, the Temple is a huge part of the reason I burn every year. After my first burn, when I couldn’t shut up about it, when asked what was the most moving part of the experience my unhesitating answer was, “The Temple.” Your mileage may vary.

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  • Mutant vehicle owners of America says:

    In 2006 I went to Nevada to attend an event I didn’t know much about or what to expect. All I knew was that I needed to be there. My first day on the playa I was riding my bicycle toward a structure that turned out to be the temple. As I approached the temple I could feel the energy within and around me change. It was an experience I shall never forget. There was something there that could be found in very few places. A collection of energy and spirituality that resided in this place. It changed my life. I have been going back for that experience every year since. It is still there. Maybe not as overwhelming but it brings me comfort and is a portal to my spirituality.

    See you at the temple in 2013……Wonder Wagon

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  • Anna says:

    I drew a rough sketch of a Temple design for this year. I’m working on the submission form. <3 <3 ~Anna~

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  • Nelson wright says:

    This is a great history of the temple and what it takes to build it. Even if the temple isnt for you, it is there if you need it. Nice point.

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  • DhammaSeeker says:

    Moze, Thank you for publishing this post and accompanying article. Your care and effort is greatly appreciated!

    Liz (and anyone who feels the same way), I apologize if the guardians in any way demanded reverence while you visited the Temple. That is not our intent and not what we convey at our training sessions. The main duty of the Temple Guardians is to protect the Temple and all of those who visit it. We abide with love for the Temple and everything that it represents.

    I invite you to visit the Temple again and spend more than five minutes if you can. I believe that if you observe what happens there you will see that the full range of emotions (including none at all) are easily received by the Temple and its participants.

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  • Bill C. says:

    thank you mose, for a wonderful article. it’s one of the best summaries of the essence of the temple i’ve read.

    as a temple builder intimately involved in creating the temple, the crews, and the culture around them, i can say that we do not build the temple expecting any reaction from anyone. we build it as an empty vessel, and it is the community who comes and fills it with what they choose.

    i have never experienced anyone demanding anything from anyone at the temple, much less reverence. the spirit of reverence seems to me to be given by the people there as a gift to others, out of respect.

    (yes, when that respect is violated and when people are a danger to themselves or others, i have seen the gentle hand of guardians or ESD helping people away…but that is hardly in the spirit of ‘enforcement’.)

    the temple has become a place for life transitions, not just grief and loss…although if you don’t take the time to look the painful ones might be the first ones you see. there are many other transitions there, happy and sad, including weddings every day. it’s obvious from watching people at the temples (as well as from some of the comments here) that for some people those emotions might be so difficult that they choose not to stay, or to misinterpret the culture of the temple.

    i’ve heard people call the temple an ‘ersatz religious experience’ and the ‘defacto religion’ of burning man! remember – it isn’t a burning man project, and it isn’t created with that intent…or any intent. for some it is the closest they might get to a religious experience, for others it is simply a place to mark transitions, and from afar it can be just a beautiful building.

    i encourage everyone to stay a while sometime and look for the happiness, the transitions, the relief and the release, and all of the positive things you can find in what is created by the people visiting the temple.

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  • CDR Dot says:

    Three cheers for Corvus .. who so eloquently told it like it is. Other than purchasing a ticket, very little (nothing?) at BRC is required or mandatory. I’ve enjoyed 8 burns and like Larry, do not bring any “costumes”. I volunteer alot, same as I do in the default world.
    That said, The Temple is one of the few places I visit multiple times because it provides — to me — one of the most moving experiences at BRC. Some times I miss visiting the Man but try at least once.
    I would never think of leaving BRC before the Temple burn. Even if I have nothing “to submit/pray for”, it provides a closure for me.
    Last year was definitely the best and I do hope Best tries to best himself — again.

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  • Gerflash says:

    Thank you, Moze! Perhaps such a post has happened before, though I have never seen such. A needed discussion, and many thoughtful comments have followed your fine notes in the post and the “sub-post” as well.

    My ninth year, and Liz hit it so on the head for me. I do love the vision each presents, and visit them all more than once (day and night), but more for the architecture than for any heavy emotions. Except for one year. But for me, reverence can and should often include a rejoicing inside one’s soul – not just a weeping and sorrow. I don’t want to start singing, though, where other burners are crying; that wouldn’t be right. I don’t know – maybe connected “spectrums” of emotion – a rainbow from joy to sorrow, from despair to gratitude – from needing to giving – from tears to smiles – from tradition to revolution. Sort of a “department store Temple?” Ooo, that hurts! But hey, how can it all fit and belong in a single space? Some burners there will be rightfully wallowing, and ohters, transcendentally soaring. And the Temple’s architecture should reflect the many reasons we come to it.

    For DhammaSeeker and Bill C. – No issues with any Temple guardians; they’ve done their duties with love and understatement, and are appreciated. I will volunteer this year at the Temple, in whatever shape it arrives.

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  • Hi!
    Sooo thoughts on the temple. The temple was HUGE for me this last year as I lost my daughter between BM2011 & B2012, and I left her at the temple. Honestly, it was far harder to do that than her funeral & burial…..I mean, it’s where I LIVE you know? And to have that sacred a place, in my home…it meant so SO much. Every year I leave something painful, and every year I get the privilege of knowing it’s ok to move on. The temple design has nothing to do with what is special (appearance is the “cool” factor),it’s the intent. It’s that there is a place FOR sacred stuff. I love that. And to be able to write on it, post on it, meditate in it…it really is one of the most sacred spaces I know. Its wonderful.

    BTW, I’m a member of Nectar Village, and we do a lot of different healings. We ponder doing a mass healing at the temple. When you ponder future events, consider us. :-)

    Much love,

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  • Raven says:

    I have honored three people in the Temples over the last 10 years. Thank you for this insightful article. I feel lucky to be here now with something so amazing happening. Yes not religion but a reverence and love for those I lost is what the Temple means to me. Heavy, yes. But something amazing and wonderful. Much love to you who build it.

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  • I can only bear to enter the Temple on a “strong” day, because of the energy and emotion that permeate the structure. I leave in tears, in empathy, and in hope for all who contributed to it in one form or another. The Temple does something for me spiritually that regular churches do not and I am thankful for the loving designers and builders of it each year.

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  • Gypsy says:

    I have only been to BM2011 and 2012. I am not a religious person, but I feel I am very spiritual – mostly in the most beautiful places of nature – the Grand Canyon, the Jeita Caves in Lebanon, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, to name my favorite ones. The Temple at BM is the most spiritual man-made place I’ve ever been to. I love this break from the craziness of so much on the playa. And I definitely feel it is a very special place to celebrate life’s transitions as much as to provide closure to painful losses, and to express forgiveness and hope. My favorite was the 2011 temple – I loved the musical instruments all making random sounds. I loved to sit or lie down there at different hours of the day and night and let my thoughts and feelings wander or reach a peaceful nothingness. And I loved the world harp. It was also wonderful to be able to go up into the temple and look down at all the other burners who were sharing the experience with me. The 2012 Temple was wonderful too, but I missed the music. I have not had any deep losses to deal with at the Temple, but it is comforting to know that it will be there if and when I do.

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  • Yarnhead says:

    I don’t visit the Temple very often during the week, though I admire the architecture from afar. But it is the most important structure and ritual to me, consistently, since its birth in 2000, which happens to be the year of my first Burn.

    The Temple Burn provides a profound experience I don’t experience at the Man Burn. It’s not just about people we’ve lost. It’s about laying sorrows of many kinds to rest. Sitting with thousands of silent people (give or take a few high fools and some disrespectful buttheads who think it’s like, really rebellious to blast their music there–oh wow, what a statement, guys!)… that focus is phenomenal. The potential for transformation is astounding.

    Other than 2001, when the wait for the Temple Burn took too long for some, and they started shoving everybody in front like some kinda mosh pit, and a drunk BRC Ranger dropped a burning cig on my head, and one year when the people building and designing the temple were surprising & weird shitheads to me, i’ve found the Temple transcendent.

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  • Joost says:

    This year was my first burn and the temple was a very impressive place for me – in many ways.
    At first I thought of it as something somewhat exaggerated. To me some people seemed to be ‘playing’ being moved by it, it didn’t seem very real what was going on. That kind of put me down. ThenI realised that being there is not about those other people, but about me and my life. The temple turned out to be a quite important place for me. It gave me an opportunity to create my own ceremony and ritual to let go of a few things that I felt I had to let go. Finding this place in a beautiful desert -a realm of possibilities- turned out to be the thing I needed to help shape my own spirituality. I could think of my own way of saying goodbye, shaping my own ritual, not something determined by religion or anything else. I could do this anywhere else ofcourse, but finding this place helped me in actually doing it.
    Never mind the people who seem to fake reverence, who seem to demand reverence, who are there just for the beauty of it, or who don’t give a damn. The temple was a beautiful place to me. The thought that this place is now silent, void and just nature gives me a sense of relief and comfort. I have truly let go and found out more about myself.

    I value the fact that it is there. I value the fact that I could prey to any god or none at all, that I could be in tears or in utter joy, that I could be more me.

    Big thanks to all the people who made it what it turned out to be,
    including myself :-)

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  • Polaris says:

    I resonate so strongly with what’s been said above. Every year that I’ve made the pilgrimage to the playa (aside from year 1 cause I hadn’t experienced it yet), the main motivation for me has been and remains the temple, and the temple burn at the end of the week. I love and absorb every nuance of what happens on playa each year, but the temple is hands down the reason I keep coming. If I had to rank the 5 most powerful/spiritual/life transforming events I’ve experienced in my life, 4 of the 5 would involve the temple at Burning Man. Inevitably, each year on playa i experience a time when the partying and shenanigans hit a tipping point and I seek the grounding force of the temple to meditate and reflect. Each year’s experience at the temple has transformed me in ways i cant describe. It renews and energizes me for the year to come and gives me a new perspective through which to view events in my life. It saddens me to think people dislike it and feel its forced, but everyone has their own ‘cup of tea’ and that’s awesome. I think that’s a huge part of what makes our burner community so unique. My request for our community is to respect each others preferences and not to hate on things just cause they aren’t our personal preference. There are some things on playa that I choose not to participate in, but they are still integral to others experiences in our wonderful city. Can’t wait to rock 2013 in style with you all!

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  • Liz says:

    Oh DhammaSeeker,

    I never had any negative experience at the Temple or with the guardians and respect and appreciate the job you do.

    At first I felt some angst at not experiencing the Temple as so many others seem to do. What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel something spiritual or profound there? I had expected to have the same reaction that I had read about from other people.

    I respect that there is an established culture that predates me by many years, and don’t begrudge anyone their experience there. I guess I was just trying to express why I feel the Temple stands out for me from so many other structures and experience at Burning Man.

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  • DhammaSeeker says:

    Those darn expectations. They do get in the way. <3

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  • TeenFox says:

    I’ve experienced two temples now…Transitions and Juno. Having spent considerable time in them I must say I haven’t seen any ‘fake’ feeling. I’m imagining that in today’s hyper-objective world the open, unabashed expression of the full range of human emotion is startling – and can feel fake at first. But I have felt only a sincere manifestation of the human psyche in all of its joys and torments when visiting the temple. And it has felt like a profound gift.

    I personally found both temples exquisite in design. I liked the open center in Transitions, no altar, people themselves being the center. And the storytelling bells!!! But I also “get” what the central altar in Juno provided. For me there is something about “less is more”. Less religious form, more spiritual experience. For me just gazing up and out through the magnificent, breathtaking structural lines of Juno embodied what I was there for…that life is beautiful even as it is unbearable. Probably the largest paradox I have yet found. The temple carries that paradox.

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  • Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

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  • Papa Smurf says:

    First off I just want to say thank you so very much everyone for all your input and stories pertaining to the Temple. 2012 was my first burn. Going into this I had no idea what to expect. I was told by a really close friend about burning man and how I needed to go. Well turns out I was asked by this friend to join with him in the Temple Crew. I had no clue what that meant at the time. So we started on this journey of attending “work parties” where we would come together in Windsor CA. Even throughout the year of attending these work days I had no idea of how truly big this Temple was because I have never seen it in person. While the prep seemed tedious at times because of the certain jobs we were apart of, sorting little blocks of cut out wood, nailing those small blocks into weird shapes, and etc.. What I didn’t realize was that by doing all these small tasks at first would transition to something so very magical.

    Once on the worksite of the Temple Build in BRC I recognized a few faces from Windsor. I was excited to meet new faces as the days and weeks progressed. At first I still had no idea of what the Temple actually was to the community.

    As the Temple progressed in it’s structure I slowly but surely felt a transition of energy. I felt all the love and time that was put into this “empty vessel” I finally understood what the Temple was and still is to this very day.

    If I were to put it into words from my own experience, it would be like watching a child be born into this world, growing with time, and become one with this earth once more.

    This child is within all of you, it is you. That’s why it’s such an important aspect of this community. I know everyone has a different understanding of what exactly the Temple is because everyone lives a different experience.

    I myself grew into who I truly am because of the Temple of Juno. I met so many crazy awesome people through it. I laughed, cried, forgave, lifted up, healed, blessed, meditated, loved, interacted, became still, was silent, sang, wrote down thoughts and names of loved ones, paid my respects, shared my experiences, had spiritual awakenings, watched as all of it went up into flames, and walked away forever changed because of all of you who are reading this.

    You made it possible; whatever it is you added to the Temple. A thought of gratitude, a glance and recognition of its beauty, memorial or your loved one, a conversation you had with someone, a connection that was made.

    I never once demanded respect of anyone because of what I was apart of, the ego had nothing to do with this sacred space. The Temple is apart of me and you if you are apart of Burning Man. And because we are apart of BM we all are one and the same. I am you and you are me, forever and always.

    Thank you for sharing your article and thank you for allowing others to share their experiences also. With all the love we share together, thank you! Namaste

    Much love,
    Papa Smurf

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  • Peace says:

    2010 was my first year, it was also the year I lost my father. No tribute I made for my father helped with my grief as the message I wrote in the temple. I love everything about Burning Man, but the temple is what makes it home, makes it sacred to me. In yoga, between poses, you lie still and your teacher will tell you it is during this pause that you are getting the actual benefit. The temple is that place to pause. The rest of the event is the place where you deconstruct yourself, your ideas, the temple is a place to rebuild the better new you.

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  • the temple is my BRC beckon (five years and counting).

    it is the place where i started most honestly elaborating on my true spiritual center. the metaphysical energy exchange that occurs [during the week of collected emotional sharing, culminating in physical burning] is a beyond extraordinary convergence of individual, collective, and inter-dimensional transformation.

    fond thank yous to everyone who has ever invested time at the temple sites.

    with much love and heart, jess. :D

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  • Jimbo says:

    I didn’t really like being there when I went in 2012. I didn’t ‘get it.’ My then-girlfriend (now wife) and I sat and she silently cried; all I could think do was get frustrated because I didn’t know what she was crying about and why everyone was so deeply focused here while I was ready to move on within a minute or two.

    After reading this article I feel like an idiot. I’m one of those people who “may have no use for the Temple” because I haven’t had anyone ripped away from me or any serious, world-changing events happen to me. And all I could do was selfishly estrange this beautiful place that served all these people (my then-gf included) so well. Now I’m realizing how lucky I am to not have any need to be there and appreciating that it’s there if I ever do need it, and simply admire its beauty for the time being.

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  • Papillon says:

    In 2009 I went to Burning Man for the first time. “Evolution” was the theme that year. I went at the recommendation of a former business partner that I used to create events with. I had just separated from my wife of 12 years, the mother of my daughter.

    I suffer from a severely deflated ego and really low self esteem. Though pretty high functioning, I’m the product of an abusive, sociopathic father and when he left my mom, a man hating mother.  My first/oldest memory is of him trying to drown me when I was 4. It’s the base setting for how I feel about my place in the world. “Stay small and out of the way or risk being disposed of, violently”. I don’t know how to ask for what I want or need. “If I don’t want anything, I won’t be a burden and I’ll be allowed to stay”. It was also the beginning of the formation of an internal voice that I call “the Creature”. It’s the voice that keeps my head down and my eyes and heart averted from what I want. It’s loud and relentless and though it’s painful and hateful, I think it’s trying to protect me.   

    I didn’t know which way was up at the end of that summer. My instincts had lead me to Hell. I was reeling from the heart ache of the events above and went to Burning Man as a distraction. I had seen pictures but as anyone who has been there knows, they never fully show what it’s all about. I had never expected the feeling of inclusion that’s there. I hadn’t expected the energy of the Temple. When I started reading what others had written there, I knew I was supposed to write there too. I wrote to my ex, my dad, my mom, my daughter and the Creature. I went everyday and over the course of the week, wrote the equivalent of two 4’x8′ sheets of plywood worth of stuff. A total purge. When the Temple burned, I was stunned by the silence of the crowd. So different from the celebration din of the Man burning the night before. I could feel the energy emitting in the release of all that grief and longing and desire. When the dust tornadoes started emanating from the fallen structure, I got the sense that they were the physical manifestation of what people had written. I watched hundreds of them “walk” away from the Temple and then dissolve into the night sky. I started crying, realizing that my writings were among them. I wondered if I could identify by shape or feel which ones were mine. I didn’t recognize any until I decided to claim them before they emerged from the fire. I started with my dad. When the next dust devil emerged, it was violent and powerful. It matched my feelings and when it dissolved into the darkness, I felt a sense of relief. 

    It could have been a coincidence so I tried again with another one, my mom. This one was smaller and feminine and merely glided about half as far as my dad’s had before disappearing. It felt right, too. I just miss my mom, she lives on the other side of the planet and I wish I could help her with her own struggles. I watched a few more emerge as I thought about my ex. I didn’t claim one for her, I didn’t want a final sense there. I still hope for things to work out with her in some way or another. I then started to think about my daughter and how magical I think she is. I got out my camera to shoot some video of what I was looking at, so that I could show her later and two of the dust devils connected and formed a “V” right before my eyes.  Her name starts with V and I started crying again, realizing that this was really happening and that I hadn’t let go of the Creature yet.

    I was afraid. It is so powerful, so angry, so hungry and though I recoil at the screaming in my head, I had the sense that it had been trying to protect me all these years. I thought that to let it go would create an emptiness inside of me that would consume me completely. I watched several more of the tornadoes make their march out to desert before I summoned the courage to ask it to leave. When it emerged from the Temple’s remains, it was gigantic and full of fury. I overheard several people near me commenting on its size and power. I felt some comfort that I wasn’t the only one who saw it but scared at the same time that it had come from me.  I watched with fear and anticipation as it made its way across the Playa. Its top was moving around in a violent jagged circle and its base was moving slowly, gathering intensity in its vortex. About halfway from the Temple to the darkness, the base stopped moving but the top continued its violent dance. Oh no, I thought, its not going to leave. The base started inching back towards the fire and I went into a panic. Please, I implored it, let me go. Just…..let…….go……  I watched it swirl for what seemed like forever, holding my breath, willing it move, then its base suddenly popped from the ground and the whole thing leaped into the sky and dissolved before my eyes.  I felt the weight of it fall off of me immediately and I started crying again, this time with a sense of relief. 

    I felt free for the first time since my childhood and that feeling followed me home from the playa that year. I was completely clear in my thoughts and actions. When I looked into the spaces in my head where the Creature used to live, I didn’t find the hollow emptiness that I thought would destroy me but just empty room that I could fill anyway I wanted to. I was free. I was aware of lies I had been telling myself. I was aware of my habits and tendencies. I began a more honest relationship with myself and others. I came to terms with the fact that I am “open” in matters of love and sex and that I don’t fit the model of one love forever.  I saw that I am kind of in between, gender-wise. Hetero-flexible as I’ve come to call it and began to explore more feminine energy in myself.

    I made the decision to finally divorce my wife then. I could see the imbalance of that relationship clearly and knew that that marriage would no longer serve the person I was becoming. It was a very difficult and emotional decision. It carried a lot of turmoil in our circle of friends and family. I had become the betrayer and felt rejected by many whom I had loved. I had to start over socially and work-wise. It was so hard. The holidays were around the corner and the full impact of my decisions started fraying the edges of my new found clarity. I faltered and started to go back to old habits. I felt I should be punished, so I invited the Creature back. It slipped easily into the Creature shaped space inside of me and returned to it’s old habits. Sadly, I felt comfort there, like an old friend had returned. Abusive but familiar. 

    I went into a sort of retreat from my world. Back into darkness. I’m grateful to say that I had the help of a new friend, Ratna. She became my confidant, my therapist, my best friend. She is one of the most emotionally deep people I have ever met. We mirrored a lot of issues to each other and we found a common language of truth-hunting and emotional digging. She was in another relationship when we met but fell in love with me during the first year of our hanging out together. When she ended that relationship, it made room for me to love her in return. We became lovers shortly after and have been ever since. She and I have been trying to uncover some severely blocked places in ourselves since we’ve met. We found creativity and sexuality to be two sides of the same coin. I’m much more in touch with my sexual inner being though I’ve blocked myself from very much exploring and she’s more in touch with her creative inner being. We both long for a better relationship with both sides of the coin. 

    One of the things my brief clarity gave me was the knowledge of my requirement for an open dealing with love and sexuality, like I said.  I promised her honesty but couldn’t promise monogamy. That has been an issue for us in this relationship and for the first two years, we remained monogamous.  

    During St. Patrick’s day this past year, we had a trusted friend (a fellow Burner, whom we party with) approach us about some energy he was feeling when we were together. We talked about it and decided to test the waters of bringing someone else into our sexual circle. Without going into detail, I can say that it was fun for us all. It lead very quickly into another encounter with he and another woman and I’d like to say that it was fun for us all too but it completely derailed everything. Too much, too fast. I was too eager, too hungry and dove into the deep-end and sadly left Ratna on the surface, struggling for air. Her jealousy kicked in and the Creature had new fuel to pummel me with. We, both Ratna and I, went into retreat again and were sadly, sexually disconnected from each other. Trust had been broken and we had to start over. 

    Since then, leading up to this year’s burn, we had been circling this dialogue from lots of different points of view and found our way back to closeness. I still wanted more though. I had been denying myself any movement towards what I desire out of fear of hurting Ratna anymore and my constantly running dialogue with the Creature. (wanting=death)

    Ratna knows that I need touch and connection. She loves me and wants me to have my needs met. I love her too and don’t want to lose my best friend. 

    This brings me up to Burning Man 2012, “Fertility”. Since my first trek to the Playa in ’09 and the temporary release of the Creature, I had been longing to return to the Temple to release the Creature again and to try to regain the clarity and peace of mind that I had briefly acquired. I’ve had tickets for the past two years but was unable to go for financial reasons and have been heartbroken to miss it. I’ve been wanting to share this experience with Ratna but there has been a lot of fear for a lot of reasons. Most notably: the heat, she is VERY heat sensitive: the “open” sense of connection there and the notion from several sources that relationships have the tendency to die out there. It is such a powerful place of manifestation and I have been almost obsessive in my desire to return. 

    A couple of months before the burn, one of our friends suggested that we all try to camp together. We assembled a good group and began the process of planning and creating art and costumes. He had the idea of bringing “fear” to the Playa. He and his friends are horror buffs and wanted to mess with people a bit. I wasn’t interested in hurting anyone but I do like a bit of mischief and when they decided to create some “Demonic Shaman” costumes, I introduced the idea of building a Hell Beast, a sort of pet that they could walk on a chained leash.

    I had started building this thing when I got a job that, though I was happy for the paycheck, took up almost all of my spare time before the burn.
    I had also offered the group the gift of providing transportation for us all in the form of my minivan for transporting people and I would rent a big 24′ crew-cab production truck for our bikes, gear and costumes. The truck would also double as my and Ratna’s living space. My plan was to wall off the front half of the truck, insulate it and air condition it so that Ratna would have a safe place to retreat from the heat. 

    A week before the burn though, I realized, much to my sadness, that my costumes and art would not be completed in time and that I would have to leave them behind, especially if I was to get the truck ready and get all of the other prep done. I was a bit heart broken. I had images of people seeing my art and somehow work connections being formed.  There was also a bit of pissed off energy from my friends about the Hell Beast costume being left behind as it was gonna be the “icon” of our fear night. They had seen the work in progress and were trying to convince me to take it “as-is”. It wasn’t finished though and it was weeks away from being finished by my vision of it. They backed off and said they understood and were still grateful for the truck I was providing for everyone. Tension rose though between me and Ratna. We were both trying to prepare for the unknown as far as our relationship goes and she knew I was reaching out to people I was hoping to find profound connections with on the Playa.

    The Creature was louder than ever.  I had visions of dying out there in my Hell Beast costume, of giving in to the screaming in my head and running into the fire. I felt that something life changing was going to happen and though terrified, I went anyway.

    The night before our departure, I looked at the pieces of my Hell Beast and contemplated if I would regret not bringing it. I immediately sensed that I would and packed it into a crate and hid it in the truck at the foot of our bed with the idea that if I had time to finish it out there, I could surprise everyone and if I couldn’t, no one would miss it. 

    On to the Playa.

    Upon getting there, we unloaded the truck and began building our village. By the time we were done, I had been up for like 40 hours and promptly passed out in the truck.  When I awoke, Monday afternoon, I decided to do some further reorganizing of our gear and the unimaginable happened.
    I threw my back out lifting a box of liqueur I brought for gifting. White hot pain shot up through my back and I collapsed. I couldn’t stand up for a while and when I finally could, I was in extreme pain. Walking was excruciating. I made my way back to the bed in the truck and stayed there, doubled over for the next two days. During that time I felt like I was being tortured. Really bad, over bassed dubstep was pounding the truck from the camp next door. When that wasn’t happening, I could hear conversations and laughter from my camp mates. The burn was happening in earshot…without me. I had spent 3 years planning my return. I had spent $5,000.00 dollars on the truck and costumes and tickets and provisions so that me and my friends could have this amazing experience. I had made connections that were all in walking distance… and I couldn’t walk. 

    The Creature was triumphant and I realized then that it was there with me, in the truck, at the foot of the bed, locked in the crate… The unfinished Hell Beast costume. I began a dialogue with it. I realized that I had to appease it first, before I could have my burn. I had a vision of putting it on and letting it have it’s time on the Playa, of letting it play out in the open, of it being seen and revered and admired, of walking it out to the Temple, of stripping it off there…and of leaving it there to burn. This vision gave me strength. It eased some of my pain. 

    My friends had been doing regular check ups on me and all felt bad. Ratna found a chiropractor at Heebee Geebee healers that made a “house call”. He gave me an adjustment and in return, I gave him one of the bottles of booze that was in box that had done me in. It seemed fitting.  When I told my friends of my vision quest, they all got excited and approved. They would be my entourage, my procession out to the Temple, my support for what would be a very painful, physical and emotional journey. I told them I would wait a day or two until my back was a little better and that I wanted to explore a little on the Playa. I dosed up on a bunch of Ibuprofen and asked Ratna if she would go out with me to find the people I was hoping to connect with. She agreed and we made our very slow journey away from our camp and out into the dust. We ran into the guy we had the St. Patrick’s day encounter with by pure chance. He followed us out to Fractal nation because he was looking for someone who was camping there too. Playa magic. Though I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t really focus on the connections, we did manage to find most of the people I was hoping to connect with. My time with them was far too brief and I didn’t see them again the rest of the week but it felt good to make the effort.

    The next night, my friends wanted to do “Fear Night”. I wanted to play but I knew my back wouldn’t last if I did the full costume. It involves these crazy heavy stilts and crutches, so Ratna and I stripped it down to a more adolescent form and I dosed up on more Ibuprofen to help me relax. Ratna had no interest in the scary part and opted to stay behind. The rest of us went for out for a while as these scary creatures and had some fun in center camp before changing the energy to music.  I ended up dancing for hours at Opulent Temple. The music eased my pain and I think the Creature was having a blast. It got lots of really great attention. I got tired quickly though and made my way back to camp. 

    The next day was Friday. My back was still pretty loose from the night before and I decided that I’d attempt the journey to the Temple in the full Creature costume. It took a while to get into it.  It’s complex and heavy. It was late-late afternoon by the time we began our trek. I noticed an interesting shift right away. Where as the Creature is usually in my head and my skin is exposed, it was the other way around this time. I/we were still kinda high from the attention from the night before. It seemed poetic that an adolescent version had gotten the night on the town and that the heavy, complex version was going to it’s final resting place. There was excitement laced with fear. It knew what my intention was. I was recalling my visions of dying in the suit, of running into the fire. In a symbolic way, both were about to happen. My friends gathered around me. Ratna gathered all of the provisions for the journey and we began. Another of our camp mates had heard about our intention. She had also gone through a divorce the previous year and wanted to excise some of her own demons. She donned her wedding dress, that she also wanted to burn, and joined our group. We had to go slow and we had stop for me to rest several times on the way out. Ratna, the Bride, and another dear friend took turns holding the chain that hung from my neck and guided me out there. When we finally approached the Temple, the sun had just set. I realized that this was the first time I’d actually set foot in there this year and that I was entering as the Creature. I was truly an alien in this place but no one batted an eye. I got curious looks and lots of people were taking my picture but I was welcome.  Since it was so late in the week, the Temple was covered in other people’s writings and memorabilia.

    The dialogue in my head went something like this as I took my first steps in:

    Me: “It’s amazing, so lovely.”

    Creature: “Is this where you’re going to leave me?”

    Me: “Yes. Look around at who you get to play with.”

    Creature: “They are not you.”

    Me: “No, but they are so creative and beautiful.”

    Creature: “So are you.” (the first nice thing I can ever remember it saying to me)

    Me: “I need to learn to live without you. There is so much I want to do.”

    Creature: “I’ve only tried to protect you from pain.”

    Me: “By bathing me in it?”

    Creature: “If I keep the threshold high, the rest won’t hurt so bad.”

    Me: “I’m numb from it, blind to the world around me. I liked how it felt when I left you here last time. Free from that pain.”

    Creature: “Why did you invite me back then?” 

    Me: “I didn’t how to move forward. I got scared.”

    Creature: “And now?” 

    Me: “Now I think I’m gonna explode if I can’t make clearer choices. I’m gonna kill us both if I can’t be who I am.”

    Creature: “And who is that?”

    Me: “I don’t know but I can’t see with you in the way.”

    Creature: “Let’s look around then.” 

    I realized at that moment that I hadn’t planned what the ritual of letting go would be, I was totally improvising. The Playa provided an example to study immediately. When we entered there was a kind of re birthing ceremony that was going on in the courtyard. We watched as a woman, surrounded by friends and a Priest?, strip off her outer layer of clothes and help her don a set of wings. There were hugs and laughter and crying as she “flew” around their little circle. The Creature and I were curious but it didn’t feel as deeply emotional as we wanted our parting to be. We looked around and saw that there were 4 towers, one in each corner of the courtyard, surrounded by benches people could sit on. 4 is a symbolic number for me. I have an “IV” at the end of my name and the “IV” is what separates me from my dad and my grand and great-grand dad. I decided to tour the courtyard by going to each of the 4 towers and reading the first “message” that came into view on each one. The “messages” would guide us from point to point and help set the tone for what we were doing and saying to each other. I was thinking that I needed to read a note that would connect me to my core for this to work. There were people sitting around the first tower but there was a clear space with red sharpie words on it. This is what it said:

    “I love you dad. I forgive you.”

    I almost fell over. Anger swelled up in me, fury. I wasn’t ready for that. I started doubting the relevance of this whole charade.

    Creature: “Whoa, you wanted relevance.”

    Me: “Yeah, ok but I’m starting to have my doubts. Maybe you’ve been right all along. I’m not supposed to be here.”

    Creature: “Let’s look at the next one.”

    As we approached the next tower, this was the first message to emerge:

    “This is the perfect moment, you are supposed to be here.”

    I started crying in the suit. I just stood there and let those words sink in. 

    Creature: “Well, what do you know. What do you want to do?”

    I thought about it for a moment.

    Me: “Share my energy with others. Make art. Make movies. Make love.”

    I started thinking about the images and stories that have inspired me as we started toward the next tower. I thought about the artists that I admired for being courageous in doing their art. John Lennon eventually came to mind. The song “Imagine” in particular. Here’s what I read on the next tower:

    “Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us 
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people living for today”

    I let out a shout of disbelief and started sobbing uncontrollably.  In that moment, I reflected on my desire to be touched and that this burn had denied me that and as I was walking to the next tower, I could hear a woman approaching me/the Creature saying, “I want to kiss you, I want to kiss you…Stop!” I had asked Ratna to run interference if anyone came up to me during this ordeal. I didn’t want to break my dialogue with the Creature if we were in the thick of it and sure enough, there was Ratna, at my side, walking purposefully with me to the next tower and the other woman backed away though it was clear to me that she was a response to my inner dialogue.

    Me: “Is this real? Is this coincidence? Am I being guided by fate or could I make up my own mind? Do I have a choice or is it all already set in place?”

    The last tower was surrounded by people and the only place that I could possibly see any writing, was covered in dust. There were letters there but I couldn’t read any clear message. Turns out that I was being guided AND I had to make up my own mind, after all. I was still crying in the suit. The Creature and I both knew what was next and there was that realization/hope/sadness/excitement of our final moments together. I looked for the first time at the center structure of the Temple, the tallest tower and in a burst of excitement, galloped towards the entrance at full speed and let out a primal howl as I approached.  I was immediately stopped by a Temple Guardian. “This is a place of mourning” he said. “You can’t go in there like that.”

    Me/Creature: “I’ve come here to mourn, to let go of something very important to me.”

    Temple Gaurdian: “Then you need to bring your energy way down.”

    I settled right away. I stopped and breathed. The Guardian saw me calm. He nodded and stepped aside. I looked the structure over.

    Me/Creature: “So Beautiful.”

    Me: “So this is ok then?”

    Creature: “I think so.”

    Me: “This is the best place I can think of for you… I wish I could stay here and send you back to the default world.”

    Creature: “Let’s go in then.”

    As we approached the doorway, my antlers got caught on an overhang on which someone had written “Surrender to Love”.  We entered the inner chamber and there was that moment, like in a restaurant when a celebrity walks in and everyone looks but then immediately pretends they didn’t notice and goes back to what they were doing. It was so peaceful. The energy was palpable. There where people chanting, crying, sleeping, meditating, taking pictures, writing, hugging.  I just stood for a moment and took it all in. 

    Creature: “I like it here.”

    Me: “Me too.”

    Fatigue started to set in, the ibuprofen was wearing off. It had been a long walk from camp to the Temple. I needed to sit down and we found a spot at the edge of one of the entrances.  We sat and for a few minutes just breathed it all in. Then I started peeling the layers off. I hadn’t designed the costume for this so I had to break the arms off at the elbow. The legs were next and they were attached with about 8 strips of velcro each. The first strip made that loud and familiar tearing sound and it seemed like everyone was watching me. I then slowly and methodically pulled them all apart. I was finding the ritual in that moment, savoring the pace and energy and sound. The outer torso and head were attached as a unit and I carefully removed them next, laying the torso on the remains of the arms and legs and then I placed the head, face up, on top of the pile. I pulled off a necklace I had recently started wearing. A choker that reminded me not to want too much. I put it on one of the horns and said, “this belongs to you.” I held the head in my hands, looked into its eyes and tearfully said, 

    “Thank you for protecting me all these years in the way you thought best but it’s time I learned how to make my own way in this world. I leave you in the best place I could find, a place of reverence and love. I leave you with the intent of rising anew from the flames. I love you. Now let me go.” 

    I switched off it’s battery-powered glowing eyes and they went dark. I finally removed the chain leash from around my neck and placed it on top of the Creature’s face, noticing the symbolism of the gesture. I then stripped off the black hood and then my black body stocking and covered the Creature with it, like a shroud. A tag in the body stocking, which I hadn’t noticed before, said “Invisible Man”. I put my hands on the Creature one last time, lowered my head, closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I got up then and silently walked naked out of the Temple. My friends that where with me said that they had lowered their heads and closed their eyes when I had and had missed my exit. So when they did open their eyes, I had seemed to disappear. One of them was thoughtful enough to remove the battery pack from Creature’s head so that it wouldn’t be burned but had been frightened by the eyes suddenly coming back to life briefly before finally going dark once and for all. Ratna had exited with me and we hugged for awhile before walking hand in hand through a dusk lit white out back to our camp. I felt cleansed by the dust. Free from the skin of the Creature though I knew it’s energy still remained until the Temple Burn on Sunday. My friends who where there said they would never forget what they saw for the rest of their lives, that it was a powerful gesture. 

    I was so fatigued that I slept through the Burning of the Man the next night. I missed the party. On Sunday I helped my camp mates break down their tents and yurts and load the truck. They were leaving in the minivan before the Temple Burn to try to beat exodus traffic. I had to stay. I had to watch it burn. Ratna and I and a few others from our group walked out to the Temple for the last time that night and quietly sat as it went up in flames. A new friend was serving tea to us as we watched the Temple crumple onto itself. When the flames were low enough, Ratna and I jumped over them, hand in hand, signifying a bond we were making to each other.  Even through the flames, I will be by your side. 

    I left the Temple this year having planted seeds of intent for a more meaningful connection to myself and to others, for a better relationship with my desires and creativity, for greater confidence in my abilities and in my awareness that I am loved and loving. Time will tell if this year’s theme of “Fertility” will help these seeds to grow but the Playa is such a magnificent place of magic and manifestation that I have high hopes that there will be a forrest in my heart where there once was a desert. Thank you, Burning Man and all of the creative sparks that make it all possible.

    Much Love and Gratitude,
    Dust Hazard Camp (9:15 & C)

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  • DhammaSeeker says:


    Thank you for sharing your incredible story! I was at the Temple when you visited on Friday evening. Knowing your full story makes my memory of that time so much richer. I strongly encourage you to submit your story to the Temple Stories Blog (http://blog.templestories.com/submit) so it can be archived with the other related posts. Mahalo! Mahalo! Mahalo!

    Temple Guardian

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  • Dalton aka Shifty says:

    Wow. I had to step away for a minute to clear my eyes. Such an intense story I had to read it a second time. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for posting this.



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  • Freehand Drawing says:

    From the imagination to the sharpening of a pencil,
    From the paper to the model,
    From wood to art,
    From the ground screws to the spire,
    It is empty.

    Without the community, it is not a temple.

    We are the Temple. A temple is not built at Burning Man. It returns on an old bike, in an art car or on foot. Carrying the burdens and joys of a year of life, the community propels into the sky a great howl of its existence.

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  • Yay! says:

    Shhhh, listen to the Temple…

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  • Mitsurugie says:

    Papillion, that was truly one of the most powerful stories I have ever read, thank you so much for sharing.

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  • PandaMan says:

    I have to comment here. With the blog Post, the article, all the positive comments and Pappilion’s beautiful story this is shaping up to be one of my all time favorites. Nice to see people so moved by the Temple and to see so few haters on a blog post thread. I love my community. :-)

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  • The Sharpie Shaman says:

    A most excellent heart-song, Papillion…

    I have a story of my own…but it is not done yet. I can not yet write it. However, hearing you tell your own story as such inspires me so. There is much that the Temples inspires and lets us know. Self-knowledge is key. And sometimes, one must break bonds with so-called “sanity” to hear it’s song. Your words are true. Your words are a stepping stone for all who pass through the Temples. You inspire us all. I love and thank you for sharing such an experience. We need to LET GO in order to see. Belief holds on….Faith LETS GO.

    And once we do….WE SPIN…

    One day I will share my own. Not until my third Temple, though….

    The Sharpie Shaman

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  • A Newbie's Impression says:

    2012 was my first time at BM so everything was very new to me and I had very few expectations. One of my camp mates mentioned the temple to me and how emotional it is. Before that I didn’t even know it existed but based on his comment I decided to to check it out.
    And even though he “warned” me about how heavy it can be I certainly didn’t expect the surge of emotions I experienced as I sat inside.
    It was a very powerful experience and the tears flowed. I also cried like a little baby watching it go up in flames. I don’t know why I cried, it wasn’t for anything or anyone specifically but maybe just for all the general loss, I and pretty much everyone else experiences in life.

    What I loved about the temple is the fact that it provides a type of emotional counterbalance to all the fun going on around you. It pretty much tells me yes go ahead and have a blast but just remember that life does involve suffering and pain and loss, and as depressing as that may sound I like that reminder because it’s true and it’s grounding amidst all the chaos at BM.
    I respect Liz’s opinion above about feeling an air of forced sadness but to me it sounds like a projection on her part.
    I often attend the regional burn here in South Africa and we don’t have a temple of remembrance and Im very sorry for it. I know it would be very much appreciated.

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  • Linds says:

    In 2011, the temple was a very important part of my burn, probably because I had something to leave at the temple. In 2012, I had nothing I needed to leave there and I felt incredibly negative towards the temple — angry even. I think it’s because when I was in the space, I felt everyone’s sorrow and pain pressing in on me, and it felt bad and invasive.

    I guess it’s nice to know that it will be there if/when I need it again, but when I don’t need it I agree that it feels like forced sadness.

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  • Pokey says:

    As a first time burner in 2012 I was in awe at all of the structures, but my trek to the temple was with purpose. I went midweek, in the evening. It was very beautifully illuminated and very busy. The energy and emotions were strong. I had 2 total strangers come to my comfort. It was an amazing connection. I missed the burn but had to come back after the event. When I did I wanted to visit the remains of the temple. Workers were completing the cleanup and leave no trace. I sat in the parameters and reflected on the whole week and what I felt. Apparently the builder, “David Best” came up to me and started talking to me. He said something that has stuck with me…..”Every year the temple is built special for one person”, this last year it was for me…..I thank him and everyone else that is a part of that piece. I am not a religious individual, I like to think I am more spiritual, but I do believe that the temple is an important part of Burning Man, and whether or not I ever go to the temple or even the burning man event again, the temple has forever connected me to Black Rock City.

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  • Boxer The Horse says:

    I never had a place to release some of the sadness after the loss of my father….temple provided me with that. For that, I’m grateful. Sadly, this is the year I’ll do the same for my dog, Pete…I don’t have children, he was the closest thing…..thanks to those of you who build the magnificent structure and help provide a platform for a measure of my sorrow. 2012, all I wrote on the temple was, “Thanks”…I meant it

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  • Mt Man Dan says:

    The temple should be built for the burners, not the people building it. After all they (burners) are the ones that give it it’s energy. Each temple has its own and different energy. My favorite was Transition in 2011. I think BMORG should accept a design that every one can embrace! This thing started with some sheet mental head stones and last year we saw people “tempeling” the man. Do we need to limit ourselves to one idea?

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  • Mercedese Witty says:

    I came to Burning Man in 2008 a sad, grieving, burned out old person who was tired of whole life thing. In 2007 my daughter Amber Rose died at age 20, we had always planned on going to Burning Man when she turned 21 and I turned 50. I ended up going to Burning Man in 2008 when I was 50 and my daughter was in a bag of ashes. I went to the Temple and experienced some miracles on an emotional level that I have never encountered anywhere else. I was liberated from my pain and uplifted in a way that I cannot describe. I felt as if my daughter was right there shimmering in the light on the playa at the Temple. I felt a sacredness I had never experience in Church. When I left the Temple that day, I had learned that life is transitory but eternity is forever, nothing is ever lost, only changed. I was given back my faith in life and joy and I have never been the same since. The Temple to me, is some sort of connectedness to the other side, when it is created it is almost a conduit of energy to and through eternity. When I am Burning Man, I usually go there at least once a day and spend several hours there contemplating the Great What Is. I love the Man structure, but the Temple speaks to me far greater. I have had some amazing encounters there with the Spirit. The Temple is the main reason each year I go to Burning Man.

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  • Rob Smiley says:

    I remember very well the huge paranoia that I experienced the first time I came to the burn, from the UK, with people I had only just met in the US. Above all, it was the temple that kept me (kind of) grounded, and made my heart feel that ultimately I could trust that something positive was intended to take place on the playa, however much my mind was blown apart by the hyper-sensory melee and intensely demanding human interactivity around me. I felt like I could trust the motive behind the event. I like very much that both the temple and the man make no demands or dictate no terms to me, or to anyone else as a participant. Rather they both allow each of us, in a way probably unique on planet Earth, to relate to each other on a spiritual level without becoming contaminated by the tendency to focus on differences of opinion that has become inherent in spiritual discourse elsewhere. By validating each person’s right to their own perception of the meaning of the temple (and of the man), so people are liberated from the shackles of religious convention, or the need to be ‘right’, and are free to explore their own spirituality whilst encouraging each other in that same freedom. This is the absolute essence of Burning Man to me, and the temple is the focal point of this essence.

    Many people choose to exercise that freedom to allow themselves closure and celebration at important times of transition. As away from the playa, ritual is observed at important life moments. But unlike elsewhere, each participant at Burning Man decides on the nature of the ritual themselves, thus perhaps discovering their creative self in the process.

    If I were to put one idea forward for the future of the temple, it is that through it, people should be encouraged to experience this spiritual/creative/burning connection not just at points of major transition, as in the observance of ritual, but at every moment throughout life (burning year round), as in the awareness of consciousness. I suppose it’s a risky proposition, in that all must feel that they are still free to experience what they will. But if anywhere could do it, Burning Man could. Or perhaps it must, because it is the last place left that can.

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