The Things I Left In The Temple.

I loved the theme from the start. It turned up the volume on all that is deep and sacred about Burning Man.
It took me years before I had the courage to say that Burning Man was my “Religion.”
But this is it. I’ve followed it’s traditions. I’ve created my own.
I’ve found a calling and a congregation. And a temple.
This video is about my experience with the Temple this year.
I am so grateful to everyone who designed, built, protected, & contributed to that magical space. Thank God it exists. Well, *did* exist. Does exist.

Everyone’s Temple experience is unique. I know your’s was perfect, too.

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

32 Comments on “The Things I Left In The Temple.

  • James says:

    As a fist time burner I had no idea what I was walking into when I came to the temple, although it became apparent very quickly. I spent about a half hour there, crying both happy and sad tears, and was so drawn to the stories and experiences that were laid out for all to see but was unable to purge the things that I needed to. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, it was that I didn’t know how because I wasn’t prepared. The temple is a magical and spiritual place that I will definitely be visiting next year, but next time I will be prepared.

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    • Thanks for that reflection, James. I totally understand what you are saying. We have such a deficit of spaces like this in the default world (in my experience.) But knowing that it exists allows me to put context to grief. i.e. when My grandpa passed, I KNEW that i would bring some of his ashes. Just knowing that I would have this place was profound for me.

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      • Diana says:

        Beautiful expression. I too am divine, an Artemis holding up the World. Isn’t the entirety of BRC some sort of Cauldron? Human life itself is a vehicle of intense & rapid transmormation that only the highest dimensional badasses volunteer for, a cauldron of fire & tears. BRC just co- creates an inner sanctum where infinite souls can experience levels of initiation & gain mastery over what thhey’ve underwaken their whole existence but at BRC possibly for the first time without judgement or resistence (that is programmed into the human body so hard tp shed). This is the End Game, human experiment is complete and love One. Some are only more “woke” to it than others. You trailed off a sentence at one point, ” …it came from…I don’t know”. But your eyes know. It time to remember & be what we are.

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  • Peaches says:

    My grandmother passed this year and i too am finally accepting my religion, my community, and my pilgrimage. It was of utmost importance to place the things of my grandmother’s in the Temple this year and it was quite the experience-one i am still processing. I finished my burial process for her on Thursday of the burn and watched with a different heart and perspective than ever before as it burned on Sunday. Thank you to all the volunteers for the burn perimeter that made it possible to help so many of us in the community complete our pilgrimage and release to the universe our loved ones. Xoxo
    -Peaches ✌

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  • shazbat says:

    For a few years, I was enthralled with you and Hug Nation, participated in the Pink Ride, and closely followed your various broadcasts. That is, until the Pink Ride at BM 2016. Prior to the ride, you decided to give a talk. All of the participants, including myself, dutifully sat down, hanging on your every word as you delivered a version of your Grandma/ Grandpa story and specifically the very emotional part about events at their passing. You tripped up, though. Within your tearful oration, you at one point had Grandma on her deathbed, and spoke of Grandpa’s responses, and then a short while later indoor talk, had Grandpa on his deathbed, with vignettes about Grandma’s responses (finding a book). Same set of Grandparents, each on their deathbed, two contradictory versions. All in the same session. I sat there, stunned, feeling very manipulated, with a deep sense of betrayal. You lost all credibility with me. Kudos on building a great Brand off BM, though.

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    • So sorry you felt manipulated. 2 very different stories.

      The one where my Grandpa spoke about “a beautiful glass” was right AFTER my Grandma died.
      The one about the special book was while my grandpa was on his deathbed. (My Grandma had been dead a while by that time.)
      If I messed up some pronouns in the telling, I am sorry.

      (EDIT: I actually messed in typing that out just now. GRANDMA had been dead a while at the time of my Grandpa’s death in 2007)

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  • Rainbo says:

    This year was very different for me – each time I’ve usually come and its been a very intense emotional experience, and I’ve had to place something in the temple very dear to me. But this year i placed my fears in the temple, and just felt a constant peace about me while there. My partner, a first timer, had lost someone dear and leading up to the event wasnt even sure he was going to do anything with this person and the temple. Finally, he took a small picture – but when it came time to place it in the temple, he had a very intense private experience. We ended up staying there for two hours, as my partner came to me for support, left to be by himself and this person, back for a hug, etc. Really good introspective experiences for both of us. The temple and the sacred space we as a community manage to create each year amazes me, its one of my favorite parts of Burningman

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  • CJ Krewe says:

    I will never make it to Burning Man, due to my medical issues, but I am there in heart and love.
    This year, I was very thankful and blessed to have a friend of mine, take a couple items for me, to the Temple. It meant the world to me.
    In April, my beloved son committed suicide, while I was on the phone with him. It was such a tragic and heartbreaking moment. It’s also a moment, sound and mental image that will never be erased from my head…
    But my friend took two of his Memorial cards to the Temple. One was a Memorial card from his cremation and the other was a Memorial card from his Organ Donation Foundation. So far, I have found out that my son has helped two women gain their vision, due to his corneal donations. I won’t know about the rest of his organ donations for another year.
    When the Temple went up in its ritual flames…it had so much more meaning to me this year, than years past.
    I wish I could come to Burning Man on a day pass, but I know that is not possible….all I want to do is go into the Temple for myself and try and heal my soul, because it is so damaged right now. Between my son’s passing and now my father is dealing with stage 4 cancer, my heart needs healing.
    Halcyon…Thank you so much for your story, your truths and your journey of the Temple. You had me in tears and joy, right along with you.
    I know a lot of the original “Burners” are not thrilled with the technology that has arrived to Burning Man, but I have to say that I am thankful for it, for I get to watch/listen it every year. It’s as close as I will most likely ever get.

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  • Richard says:

    I am studying to be a Buddhist Monk, I send a message that was to be put in the Temple before the burn. But do to technical difficulties it never reach there. I understand the circumstances of why it failed to reach its destination and have been assured it will get to the Temple next year for sure! Through realizing my suffering I also feel compassion for those who have have deep interpersonal experiences at the temple in person, or viewing on YouTube or emailing a request. Thank you for letting me share Burners! Namu Amida Butsu

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  • Kristi says:

    I was very moved by a 6 page hand written poem called Elsehere. I would love to know more about it if anyone knows the author. And if not, the mysteries are part of the experience.

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  • Jim Chlopecki says:

    This was my fourth burn. I came back from a summer stint in Alaska early so I could join my sister, her husband and his sister’s first burn. I met my ex-wife at BM in 2008 and spent a total of three burns with her. This was the hardest burn for me because it was the first without my wife, who is an amazing person to travel with and share Burning Man with. Getting there was extremely stressful and I had to go to the medics for my first time due to dehydration and stress. I tried EFT on the esplanade two days in a row but still was not sure about this burn. At one point I thought, if I had a car, I would have driven out of here. Then I experienced the deep playa on my own while exploring psychedelics for the first time on the playa. I’ve done them before but never on the playa. I fought every instinct to run back to my camp. I then met an amazing couple at the fence. After this amazing night, I realized this was a healing burn for me. I attended a wedding and met such amazing people. The temple burn was significant for me because it was the first time I wrote something in my four years. The night of the temple burn a ranger abandoned his post (which is unprecedented), walked through the crowd and hugged me, then went back to his post. I was then hugged by a woman in a huge fur coat (very mother like) and allowed me to cry my cry which I needed since I was four years old. After this, I realized this was the best Burn I ever attended. This was a “let it go” Burn for me. I am now back in the default world and this “let it go” has already made significant changes in me and the people in my life. I thought Burning Man “jumped the shark” but after this burn, this could not be any further from the truth. I would love to thank every person running BM by keeping the burn true to it’s concept.

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  • Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing your heart. Your words resonate.

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  • John/Halcyon,
    Kudos for having the courage to post this video, with all of your tears, vulnerability and openness. The Temple has always been a place where I could leave so many of my experiences of abuse (mostly from my childhood, but others, too) and know that they would be burned/released— so I wouldn’t have to keep carrying them. I’ve been doing this since 2003, my first year; sometimes it helps me feel lighter, some times not. But this year, I was able to share my experiences of the Temple with some new camp mates. Some of them had been to the Burn but were afraid to go to the Temple. I was able to recommend my method of healing with them; two came to me later and thanked me for helping them get over their fear and release difficult past experiences.
    Thanks to all who bring the Temple out, every year, for all of us Burners— much gratitude. :-)

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    • It is such a powerful gift to the community… and addition to all of our experiences. So much gratitude. ((HUG))

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      • One of these Burns I wanna get over to Pink Heart and give you a hug! I almost made the Pink ride this year (and I was even actually wearing pink that day, which I normally don’t wear) but I was too hot and hungry @ 2:00pm that day. Had to get back to my camp and eat something before I bit somebody’s head off, LOL.
        Love you, Halcyon– don’t listen to the Haters! :-)

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  • Chowski says:

    It’s funny – I hated the theme from the start. But I hated it for reasons that differed from those for which I hate it now that it is over. When it was announced, my thought was “oh Jesus, here we go – an entire theme devoted to the self-involved Oom shakalaka hippie nonsense yoga crowd.” EDM and drugs and low-self-esteem-fed self-improvement garbage. The whole theme seemed custom made to speak to the small minority of Burners for whom crying and deep reflection and pretending that dancing on drugs wearing feather headdresses somehow changes the world. I thought “Oh, Larry must be going through some late-middle-age religious crisis to foist this on us”.

    But ultimately, what was so terrible about this theme was the art it inspired. Instead of amazing, huge, climbable, interactive art, every third piece was a “temple”. A boring place of pretty architecture designed to sit and contemplate one’s “Very Important Pain”. Instead of fostering Immediacy and Community and Interactivity and PLAY (!), we got tired, internal, sad, mopey, “spiritual”. Year after year, the census details that Burners do not self-report as “religious” or “spiritual” people, but here was an entire theme devoted to the VAST minority of people who cling to these ideologies.

    Ultimately, it was just a bad theme which inspired a lot of similar, “look but don’t touch”, “contemplate but don’t climb” art. It wasn’t a tragedy, it was simply “meh”. It lacked dimension and depth, fun and variety, unless you are someone who is in to mysticism bullshit, or whose identity is wrapped up in “healing” from personal tragedies. All those identical “temples” took away the power the power of The Temple. When EVERY place, including the Man is about quiet reflection and grief and contemplating the Divine, the one place that SHOULD be about that isn’t all that special.

    Let’s hope next year is a return to a theme with broader appeal to the people who actually come to Burning Man. A theme which can inspire more interesting visuals and interactions than “sad and #grateful”.

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  • Peach says:

    I left my baggage. All of it. I spent the month leading up to the burn reflecting on my life and the things that were unhelpful, hurtful, or that I simply no longer needed.
    And I packed them in a tiny suitcase. I wrote a note to my father who hurt me more than I can ever express forgiving him. I wrote how much I hate the man that stole my brother’s childhood from him. I wrote a letter to the love of my life about the ways his addiction has hurt me and the attention to his recovery has inspired me. I left well wishes to my ex husband that he may one day find the happiness and peace I have. I wrote a note to God thanking him for all I have and all I have experienced.
    I signed up to be a temple guardian. I realized after three trips to the temple I wasn’t strong enough yet. When I watched my baggage burn, I felt a release and strength and I hope more than anything next year I will have the calmness of spirit to help others as they visit this magical and spiritual home for the first time.

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  • Nerval says:

    My past 3 years in Burning Man, I was just passing through the Temple just as a architectural curiosity. I had nothing to leave there. And I had never witnessed any of the Temple burns, always leaving before them.

    This year, I was not even planning to go to Burning Man. I had other plans. But I lost everything this year, everything that make me whole. I have been shattered in a million pieces.

    I took a break from my life, start traveling around with no goals. And I came back to Burning Man. I went to the Temple, very briefly, just to write what I had to write. I didn’t want to stay more, I was not ready to fall down, not so early, the tears starting to burst.

    I went to the Temple burn by myself, leaving my friends behind. I couldn’t go with anyone. I sit all alone, trying to isolate myself as much as I can, putting a hoodie over my head. The burn was so beautiful. And I cry and cry the whole time…

    I don’t think I can be complete again, I have a big hole inside me. But I really hope next year that I don’t have to go back to the Temple again.

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  • Rio says:

    Thank you for all of your reflections and personal observations. Every year at the Temple for me is different. Last year I went and could only stand it for a few minutes. Too much Paris. Too much Orlando.

    This year it was more of feeling on the outside looking in. Thankful there was no loss, or grief to release. Celebrated a wedding on Thursday. Still, could not find that spiritual center I have found so many times at that transient place.

    Despite that, and despite the brutal temperatures, drama at camp etc., I stayed for the Temple Burn. Why? I looked upon it as I do the performances of Mitzvot (mistranslated as commandments. Really obligations) from my faith.

    When someone is sick and ailing, someone you are not close with, even if inconvenient, you do not ask yourself whether to visit and offer company and a meal. You get off your ass and do it. That for me was this year’s experience. Honor the loss and pain of those who left whatever there that might supply some healing to them. Fulfill my obligation. Leave that at the Temple.

    Next year might be different. I might be the one with the loss or the seeker of empathy. Every Burn is different and seeking to be a part of this community sometimes demands being part of the community no matter what.

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  • Gerflash says:

    I follow you, Halcyon, sometimes not on your wavelength, other times, exactly there, but never have felt you weren’t worth listening to closely. Your video on your 20th year and going to the temple helped me decode my own visit there, which until now I hadn’t even processed much. It was my 13th year at Burning Man. Someone told me that made it my “Burn Mitzvah.” Now I think I am beginning to understand it for me: I’m basically a happy guy, and I’m here to serve. I entered the temple seeing it and thinking it was smaller than in prior years. It was at dusk and I encountered a woman sitting down to write notes in her book, but it was getting to dark to see what she was writing. I approached her and offered her a flashlight. (I normally pass them out to darkwads walking around with no light at night; this was different.) She assumed it was a loan, but I assured her that the light was now hers. She noted her gratitude, and I felt the same gratitude for being able to help. I moved on, and was noting the interesting symmetries in the temple, when I saw a man above me trying to balance while he wrote a message for his departed brother. I asked this stranger if I could help hold him up so it’d be easier for him to write his message. He accepted, and I held up his jeans-covered butt above me while he wrote for some minutes. He thanked me, and I saw and heard that he was a German dude. I responded in German and thanked him back for that opportunity. Now it was dark, and I came across a dark person sitting on the ground in the middle of a space in the Temple. His posture spoke to me that he needed some help of some kind, but there was only one way for me to know. Taking a chance, I knelt down to him and asked him if he needed some help or something. He immediately responded, “yes!” and began to cry. I gave him a hug, which he returned, and this close, emotional, and so significant exchange continued on the Temple floor for perhaps a half hour. I joined in his crying as I began to understand the depths he was in, and we hugged each other over and over again, through long silences and significant speaking truth to each other. I felt I was being guided by an external force helping me to know what to say next; it was thrilling, and scary, too, since such “counseling” was totally unknown territory for me. But we continued this way until I suggested we stand up. And we did, continuing to hug and kiss. I couldn’t leave this man until I somehow knew it would be okay. Perhaps another half hour of tight conversation ensued; I don’t know. When we finally parted, I was drained, but also felt much lighter and so elated. I felt that it was mutual with my new and treasured friend. I felt I’d given him some hope, and I’m still processing what he had given me, but I know it was a magnificent gift, every bit as great as anything I’d hoped to have given him. I left the Temple, seeing all its beauty and complexity and biked to a dozen very pleasant sights and displays on the Playa, with the lightest heart I’d felt since I’d arrived a week before to help set up my camp. I bantered with various folks I met along the way; I was in a natural high, and stayed that way all the way back to my pad and bed. “Personal service to the members of this community” – is that it? I’m still working on defining my “mission” as it now seems, and though I am still not certain I’ve got it quite right, I think I am starting to approach it.
    Thank you, Halcyon. I love you.

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    • Gerflash – thank you for sharing. I did not have those experiences, but I could feel them as I read. On the one hand, so “strange” but actually so natural. “Personal service to the members of this community” YESSSS. ((HUG)) <3

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  • SamILL says:

    During a three hour visit at the beginning of BM to the temple my illusion of self was completely gone one thought being purged after another watching them fly up the middle of the Temple only necessary things in place. One of the most powerful experiences of my life that fuels everything. I’ve noticed that I have talked to many people after the event and the right wording of the experiences is profound. This part about what you felt like after the Temple visit is definitely one that resonated with me and part of an experience I could not word before. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

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  • Modjo says:

    I love PINK HEART!! My favorite place to be and recharge. A safe place. Question?
    DOes talk to god cellphone , is that a part of PINK heart? I wanna hear stories about those talks.
    Had some good one.

    love from amsterdam ” Modjo””

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