I have not always had the greatest of relationships with education.
In grade two I was removed from the classroom, sat before a stranger and run through a series of tests. I thought it was fun. Later, it was explained to me that this was because they thought there was something wrong with me.
This feeling of being broken has persisted for decades. It lingers in the background like a light blinking intermittent. Just at the edge of my feeling self, that I was worthy of being left behind.
I have always been a seeker. Over the years I have sought support that this broken feeling was an illusion and that my truth was whole and healed. Be it people, places or things, I have found that support in the most elements of spaces.
In 2009, I was in a relationship. Clara was powerful, full of truth and we shared a wonderful community that had brought us together. I was inspired often by our connection. I would come back to my bike in random parts of town and find a note on it from her. It was small things like that that evolved our connection. Simple yet profound messages that allowed our trust to deepen. I will forever be grateful for her. I am a richer human being for knowing her.
We decided to attend Burning Man that year. She had gone before and I was a first timer. We had a solid crew of people going, many of us were Yogis, and we came from all over the world: New York, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Sydney.
There are so many moments that blew my mind. It took me three years to get back there. I had so much information to integrate into how I lived my life on the daily. It was not a mission I felt could be rushed.
Isn’t that the hallmark of great education: that it alter the quality of ones life.
We worked together upon arrival to build shade structures. The site for Burning Man is an ancient lake bed at high elevation in Nevada. Very little life can exist there as no water survives the harsh conditions. Winds push through lifting the light dust into the air, blotting out vision. The least I have been able to see there is the handlebars of my bike. The ethos of Burning Man is simple yet profound: radical self-reliance is one of the primary tenants and an example of it requires that all water be packed in and packed out. Said another way, any shower I wanted to take required me bringing water in and removing my used water back to a city. Cue the baby wipes.
I was a yoga instructor at that time in my life but was earning my living as a bartender in a high end restaurant. The night we got in a convoy to drive 14 hours to the playa, I finished my shift early and showed up pretty happy and lit. I was funny and charming. Engaging and endearing. We waited in line for the gayte to open for 8 hours. I drank a great bottle of Oregon pinot noir. Met weird and wonderful humans waiting to do the same. People who had traveled as I had, paying homage to the road, earning their entry.
Burning Man is built on a gifting principle, so it is easy to show up and be taken care of. I heard a story recently about someone parachuting onto the playa naked as an experiment. They left a week later, totally cared for. I trust that they gave back to be so supported. It isn’t hard to do. That week a stranger had grilled dinner and walked around offering big hunks of meat. I actually looked to Clara for permission. It remains one of those pivotal shifts in consciousness, that another human could give without need of compensation.
With my city mindset, I partied throughout the week. One night I shared of two bottles of wine, a bottle of port that accompanied a moroccan tent extraordinarily well and attended a margarita sunset hour. It was great. That night I took a pill as well. Waking the next morning I recalled very little. My thigh was swollen from consistently falling upon the camera I had in my pocket and I wasn’t able to bend my leg. The screen of my camera was no longer functioning. Without the support of dear sweet friends, I could have been in much worse condition.
My friend Patrick helped me out with some therapeutic body work. It was my first experience of being able to practically use hands to help another heal. That day I was grateful for many things: the shade structure we had built, a caped elf who herded me to the group, avoiding the rebar that could have fucked up my falls. Without…
I look back often upon that experience as my reboot when it comes to education. It took me a while to understand that experiences as such do not require designated learning centers and that travel is the best education. It does’t require a new place so much as it does a desire to see with new eyes.
Curiosity is the greatest of teachers. It will bring untold wealth and substance. It may take a moment to understand what has been seen, but that may be all for the benefit.
Seven years later and I barely recognize that guy who couldn’t stay on his bike.
Educational reform brought this bloke some Light.
And I’m grateful all the nights.
PS. This is one of my favorite photos. It came post broken screen and I was shooting blind. I think of it often when I am conjuring my fire light. It reminds me that I don’t needs eyes to see, but Vision.
A little of the old primordial never hurt either.