Wow, what a ten days we had visiting NYC! I really realize how small a town I live in compared to the Big Apple! We visit and enjoy San Francisco several times a year, spend time in the San Diego area in the summer working a major training event with and for Steve Gilligan. I spent some time 25 years ago in the surrounding area with a few days in NYC, but never this many days. I say we visited NYC, really a sliver of Manhattan. We stayed in Chelsea and explored north and south of there on foot for the most part. From Central Park on the north end to Battery Park and the financial district in the south. One day we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, spent time in the Dumbo neighborhood of Williamsburg.
My wife and I were joined by friends, a couple we socialize with in our home area. Our plans were based around seeing three Broadway plays, “The curious incident of the dog in the night,” “The Book of Mormon,” and “Shuffle Along,” and a boat tour around the Hudson and the East Rivers to see the sky lines, and the Statue of Liberty. We thought we’d do more museum strolls, but ended up only going through the Whitney, which is all about American art across the years.
Given the Memorial Day weekend here in the US, allow me to share a couple of experiences in the financial district which includes the Number One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial gardens. I left our home near 800 Avenue of the Americas and ran south toward the financial district, realizing after about 20 minutes that the distance to the Memorial was in my range. The new Number One World Trade Center is a huge building, 1776 feet tall, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It is the one you’ve seen in pictures.
I ran toward the skyscraper, had to angle around a bit to get to the front, and the area where the Memorial pools, museum, and areas of trees and grass. Check out their website, well worth a few minutes of your time at https://www.911memorial.org/memorial.
As I walked around Number One, and saw the memorial area coming in to view, an intense number of emotions began to swirl through my body, chiefly sadness, with the many memories returning of that day almost 15 years ago now. I had not really read much about the memorial, so to walk through it was a discovery experience for me. It was mid morning on Sunday so the area was lightly populated with people, lightly being maybe a thousand or so people on the 8 acre park. There was a somber reverence present in the many people there. I walked to the first pool, and was near overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place, the event it was memorializing and my feelings of this.
The reflecting pool itself is a square one acre in size. Each side has the inscribed names of those who died in that tower. There is flowing water going down each side into the pool many yards below, then it flows to another smaller square where the water falls into the depths of the pool and disappears. There are flowers laid at some of the names. The diversity of NYC is clearly present as one reads these names. People whose roots came from all over the world. It was a tearful experience discovering the meaning of three thousand lives lost as the size of the memorial hints at the deeper meaning of that loss . . . walking, listening to the water falling, seeing, reading the thousands of names, arranged by floor and side of the tower.
I walked over to the second reflecting pool, representing the second tower, and walked around it. This one also included all the many first responders who died that day. The number of different agencies whose members were present that day was initially surprising to me. Of course it made sense upon considering NYC status and the number of local, state, federal, and private groups required to manage security and safety in this city of cities. Agencies known and more I’d never heard of, nor would have imagined who have a responsibility there.
I had noticed there were a number of police cars and a group of people there at the south west corner of the park, so began to wander toward the corner As I got nearer I hear a gun shot . . . and witnessed the beginning of a foot race! Hundreds of runners. This was exciting for me, having run down to the area . . . and wanting some solace to balance the experience I just had. It turned out the race was an annual affair honoring the NYC Police who died that day. I understood this as I joined the maybe three hundred runners, and read the back of a fellow’s tee shirt which said, “I’m running today to honor James O’Connor, my son” . . . big tears for this father, and the deeper understanding of who was running and why.
What a great experience for me to share! I ran the first quarter mile or so, with sadness shaking my body, of being in the presence of the police, their family, and friends honoring the departments’ loss of so many individuals that day. This written on that back of runner’s tee shirts, and on smaller posters placed along the route. Soon I began noticing that the runners were not feeling the sadness I felt, but full of positive energy, laughing, smiling, offering hellos and high fives to each other. Once again the diversity of the city was clear, young and old active duty and retired officers, men and women, brown, white, and black officers. The gang squad rallied around their stylized American Flag of black, white, and one green strip. Tattooed, and young they ran. Officers in English bobby type hats ran as did their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children.
I realized they have lived here since before 9/11/01 and through all that has transpired since nine eleven. They have come to terms with 9/11 and were here in a celebratory mood. It was a poignant understanding of the healing and integration from 9/11 for the first responders and all New Yorkers of their many stripes who have had living here these 15 years. The ability of the human spirit to adapt, heal and move forward . . . even with the loss of so many people that day and of and so much more.
Having entered the group at the end, a sense of running fast as I moved forward through the crowd of runners. The route was out and back on a 1.5 mile circuit for a 3.1 mile race. The fastest runners were soon on the return loop and being cheered by all the rest of the runners as they passed. The gang unit, looking young, strong, tattooed with so many ethnicities were right at the front of the race leaders. Soon the first women ran by to a swell of cheers and fist pumps.
It was great! What a present I had been given that day: The run down to the district, the experience of the memorial, and then the healing of running with so many of New York’s finest, their colleagues, friends, family, and me, this 64 year old from Carson City reveling in their energy. This was the high point of my visit.
Please enjoy a few of my photos, The four of us returned and spent more time at the Memorial Gardens on Monday. Please enjoy a few of my photos.
Stephen Nicholas, copyright 2016
After literally months and months of planning, and preparation my girlfriend and I did our first "burn" last week. We were there from Monday evening, until Sunday morning. My daughter and her boyfriend joined us on Wednesday. That made the trip even more special!
It is 48 hours since we got back and I'm still trying to put words around the experience. Not an easy task. BM is similar in some ways to a number of activities I have been involved with, but each similarity to those other activities shares but a limited dimension to the Burning Man experience, so none really add up to what you will experience when you are there.
For example, on our first night there Monday (day 1), as I lay in bed I considered the similarities to a very busy truck stop with a 24 hour a day festival next door. The newbie gong, what each first timer rings when they are admitted through the gate was a near constant gonging for 24 hours when it slowed down some. Big vehicles arriving in long lines for easily 24 hours. Music pounding from all directions. But 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM on Tuesday morning was a great time to arrive . . . actually no wait.
The whole Black Rock City area is something in the range of 5 square miles. The city is built on a circular basis with residential, theme camps, and most of the structures on 11 streets in rings from A to K, then bisecting streets noted by where they would be on a clock face at each half hour. So, we were at 6:15 J(akarta) street. The residential area went from about 2:30 forward through 10:30. Central camp was the inner most circle at 6:00 where a gigantic tent of maybe 8000 sq ft was placed. It had a main stage, a coffee shop and lots of space to sit and talk and interact. The Esplanade / Ring Road are the main area for a lot of the bigger tents of activity Out from the Espanade begins the Playa area. The Man was in the center of this smaller circle with a radius of about 1/2 mile to the Esplande areas. In this vastness were maybe 50 art installations, and the Temple at the 12 o'clock position. This area was full of Mutant Vehicles, Art Cars, folks on bikes, other contrivances and a few folks walking. Most vehicles had major sound systems playing loudly at all hours of the day and night.
There is tremendous exuberant life happening the closer to the center you go. It is a gifting economy, not barter, not cash. "Hey, stop on by, we're got some home brew!" as we rode down Istanbul or Detroit. In the morning, "Come on by, we're got coffee." or Ccme of to 2:30 F, we've got pancakes!" But remember to bring your own plate and fork! There was one camp, I got to figure funded by a really rich person who for 24/7 gave soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt to all comers. Seven days!!! We came by twice. Imagine, a group sitting around, "hmmm, what would Burners REALLY like to have? . . . Ice Cream!!!!! And so it was at D and 4:30.
Booze is most everywhere. As are drug free theme camps of the 12 step variety and others were also there. Many events were about connection, spiritual or educational themes. Many other camps were for fun, dancing and raving. Martial arts, yoga, chanting, drumming, local geology, face and body painting, bike fix it shop, general fix it folks who made house calls. The camp making crepes each morning always had a line. Bacon without Borders offered a variety of bacon treats throughout the week.
Getting on our bikes each time and riding around was amazing. People, colors, costumes, fancy dressed up bikes, mutant vehicles, art cars, and music. The heat, the dust, the community, the vastness of the desert, the night sky after moon set . . . the playa with the art and the festival atmosphere. Vehicles going every which way, brightly lit, music loud, small to gigantic, people overflowing off of them. The DMV was there for the cars and such. The health department was there to make sure all the food, water, booze, etc was provided in a safe manner. All manner of law enforcement were there. But mostly there were the 50,000 Burners!
Naked bodies, yes, they were there too. I suppose if I was European, where prudishness is not a major factor, the semi naked bodies would have seemed more normal. But, I am here in the US of A, and its not like that. A fair number of women were topless as were many men. A smaller number of people were totally or virtually naked . . . mostly fellows, no surprise there I suppose. I'd say maybe 5% of the women were topless, I saw only four women totally naked. But the guys were more prone to strutting their stuff as it were. The nudity is really a very small percentage of the types of "costumes" seen there . . . but I've never been at a place with this number of semi naked bodies around before.
A few guys sporting a pegged and packed penis were interesting. They had a class ( hands on, as it were) on pegging and packing. There was a class on female ejaculation (only those born anatomically female allowed). There were two groups putting on events related to cunnilingus and fellatio (only with your partner). One was also looking for judges to assess technique. Single guys not welcome.
Sorry to say we didn't make any of those.
Not a lot of little kids there, but there was a theme camp called "kids land" or something. The mean age, maybe 35-ish. Mostly a younger crowd then I am, but there were lots of aging hippies, cowboys, rednecks, and yuppies there. Digs went from a backpack only to full sized motor homes with trailers attached and large numbers of shade structures and large tents. Tents does not convey the scope and variation of these structures.
My better half and visited the Temple of Flux on five occasions. It is a complement to the Man. It is a spiritual structure made of wood and looking something like a set of waves in the vast ocean of life. The place filled up with written prayers and blessings. Most of the writings were prayers for relief, release, loss, hurt, anger, and confusion . . . one young man in all black with a mohawk cut, and a sadness was writing a note to his Mom, something like: "I miss you so much mom I'm sorry I didn't hear all your words of advice and love . . . but I do now." So many people bringing their sorrows and losses to the Temple. People crying, hugging, chanting, drawing, sleeping, watching each other and touching on the many delicate parts of their psyche searching for healing. Many receiving this, I saw from their changed faces after they completed their private rituals.
This space was deeply touching for us. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. The Temple offered a space and time for spirituality, connection on even deeper levels, and a public expression of the depths of the human soul on this journey we share.
One day at the Temple, we witnessed a joyous wedding ceremony. How beautiful that was to behold and participate vicariously in. There were two what could be called enclosed spaces, open to the sky, at the Temple. In the larger of these two, the wedding took place. Literally right at the limit of the wedding circle was a couple, young, dusty, in a deep slumber, not even responding to the events around them. Quite a contrast.
Burning Man will challenge your relationship to: dust, your idea of sexuality, community, diversity, futile attempts to keep entropy at bay (what I called sweeping our front yard of tarps) and many others limits to your comfort zone.
At heart BM is a grand intention community, organized to be self organized with a large business end. Consider that tickets range in price from 250 to 360, call it 300 dollars times 45 or 50 thousand tickets sold. This is no small venture. And yet, the thousands of individuals all share in certain values and show up, coming "home" as it is called, to do and be in ways that are not as available in the regular world.
It is a party! It is a spiritual experience. It is an educational opportunity. It is a land of gift giving for seven days. It is a city that lives and dies in that week each year for 20 years now.
In the olden days of not too long ago and further back into the last 100 years, the idea of having a relationship with a therapist or analyst was based only on "problems" one was experiencing. And usually only if these problems were causing significant suffering in the subjective experience of that someone. Slowly the word has been getting out that problems or symptoms were not required to contract with a therapist of one sort or another to find an effective consultant for the purpose of getting more out of life.
We all have problems, usually we solve these through any number of creative activities: ignore them, blame them on some one else, get married, have a baby, have a temper tantrum, pray, eat, love (hmmm, that one sounds familiar), shop, get divorced, feel angry all the time, getting high or intoxicated (there are so many different ways to do this: work, sleep, experiences of anxiety or depression, drinking some wine, beer, or liquor, use some illicit drugs, have lots of sex, jump around in relationships, gamble, become a fundamentalist by joining a cult, political party, church or any group who offers "the truth". ). Some times these strategies work, although many times they do not.
How many of us yearn for more in our life? Not just the desire to get rid of, or solve a problem, but a deep desire to create a future you WANT to be part of? And, well, perhaps, a little happiness, satisfaction, and fun right about now?
That is the essence of Change Work: Creating the life of your dreams (as opposed to a future based on your fears and past history) with a deep appreciation that while there are obstacles to overcome in the process of creating this compelling future there is great joy, spiritual connections and companionship on the journey.
A worldly maxim from various traditions goes something like this: the changes you want OUT THERE begin INSIDE with you. Hey, inside is where you have the most leverage! You ever tried to get somebody else to change so you can feel better? Real difficult proposition. Not that this stops many of us. Sometimes we try all our lives to change others or our environment so we can feel better. Don't get me wrong. We are in this life with others, they can help. We want to learn how to do this effectively also. I do sleep better at night when the lights are off, so making changes in the environment can also make a difference. The idea here is the appreciation that working with my reactions and responses will make a huge difference in my experience in relationships that are a problem for. This internal focus and then taking helpful actions, creates a feeling of empowerment: I CAN feel differently. I CAN affect my world. When my focus is outside of myself as a primary strategy for feeling better, I lose this leverage and those empowering experiences. So, expecting someone else to change so you can feel better pretty much puts how you are feeling in their hands. That my friend is a recipe for experiencing helplessness and then anger.
A second idea about creating health outcomes for yourself is to use language in your favor: state the outcome you want directly. Do this by saying what you WANT, rather than saying what you DON'T WANT. For example, I want more friends, instead of I don't want to be lonely anymore. I want more patience with others, rather than, I don't want to get angry so much with others. I want to run 3 miles a day and eat well, rather than I don't want to smoke and eat potato chips all day.
When we state a desire or outcome in its positive form, our mind will begin to create those changes. And that is good to know. Yes, it is also true when you state an outcome in its symptomatic form like, I don't want to be anxious anymore!, guess what you get? Right, more anxiety. Give your mind the goal, not the anti goal. Say what you want to experience.
Along this same line, another cool thing about the human nervous system is: Any particular change we are seeking doesn't require our conscious mind's attention all the time to make it happen . . . we are meant to work correctly. So much of our human make up helps us create the life of our dreams, especially when we know when and how to get out of our way forward.
These are two important ideas when doing your personal Change Work. It is an exciting pathway as we move from the morass of our problems toward the life we want on the deepest level. So, contracting for support and help form a professional in this area is one of the reasons you may discover the importance of an effective therapist, counselor, or coach. They can help you in creating the life, not of your fears or past history but rather the life of your dreams.
Check back. I'll be writing some more on these subjects. Please do share your thoughts.