The conditions at Burning Man make survival the number one priority for many people. Some just show up last minute with their best neon hot pants not really understanding what they are going to, and other folks spend weeks or even months building temporary homes and art cars, planning camp set ups and offerings to share, and bedazzling outfits. If you find yourself getting lost in the overwhelm of preparation, don’t forget to take a grounding 20 minutes to set up the foundation for your relationship to not only survive, but to thrive in this dusty hellish paradise.
In my practice as a Relationship & Sex Coach I teach couples how to avoid getting eaten alive by the harsh conditions, shiny things, and lack of rules, unique to the festival environment. These circumstances can cause tensions and fights that suck energy from your friend group and camp, create distance between you and your partner, and make the event arduous. It doesn’t have to be this way, in fact if a partnership can thrive at Burning Man, it will create a radicle shift into deeper intimacy, freedom, and growth. Here are 6 tips I use personally to support this.
1. Find your personal true north.
The first time I went to Burning Man I was a 21 year old who thought they were going to a big party in a desert. I ended up having a good time, but I was blown about in the LED light storm, going wherever the wind took me. I’m reminded of this when I hear people say, “I know there’s a lot to get out of Burning Man, but where do I start?” A great question to ponder. Yes, go with the flow. I’ve also found value for myself and my clients in balancing flow with consciously preparing for an intentional Burning Man experience. Having clear desire and being open and flexible with how it will show up makes room for aligned and profound experiences you would have never thought of.
Contemplate and consider:
What personal edge do you want to explore this year?
What part of yourself would you like to feel more of?
What aspect of your relationship do you want to play with?
Maybe you want to practice sharing your passion instead of your job, loving your naked body, awakening your inner-vixen, going with the flow, sticking to your desire when others don’t agree, enjoying in your partners joy, tapping into universal flow, etc.
2. Clarify boundaries in a firm sand. Unless you have none, then more of a soft stone.
Having boundaries gives us a limit so we can let go and play full out and in the safety of a solid container. I’ve seen people get out to Black Rock City and completely lose their shit with no regard for anyone including themselves because they have weak boundaries and no boundaries are being imposed on them. Setting clear boundaries that gently push and inspire allows us to let go and play freely inside the clear container you’ve created. We aren’t locked in, remember we’re working with sand. It can shift moment to moment, only requiring us to check in with our heart and our gut and communicate what we feel shifting when appropriate.
Look inside yourself objectively:
Are you good at holding boundaries that feel good to you?
What boundary is important for you to set for yourself this year?
Where do you normally give away your power?
Knowing when to expand your comfort zone and when it’s time to set a boundary can be a tricky line to walk. Give yourself and your partner room to fall off the line. Practice, not perfection. To open up a language around boundary talk, I give my clients the color system I learned while studying Orgasmic Meditation (OM):
-Green is all the way.
-Yellow is it’s uncomfortable or new but I’m growing.
-Orange is anymore and I’m a ‘no’.
-Red is I want to stop now.
3. My burn, your burn, and our burn.
Some couples energy levels and burn desires are compatible and in alignment. But not always 100%. “My partner and I want to do different things” is something I’ve heard a lot. If this is the case it’s a lot easier on your relationship when you can give your partner the space to have ‘their burn’. My partner is a musician and will be assisting our camp with music production a lot of the time. You can bet I will be doing my own thing while this is happening. I will find my own desired experience – anything we can dream up is out there, and it’s fun to come back together after having our own unique experiences and share about it.
One person may want to do naked bike rides across the playa and sing medicine songs on peyote in eucalyptus steam baths with strangers, while the other wants to attend conscious entrepreneur workshops to discover what the next phase of their life will be about. Another person is there to party their face off and stay up dancing at Mayan Warrior till sunrise, while someone else wants to make sure they wake up for 7:00 am power yoga and camp service. Some of us want to do a combo of all of these! No way of doing burning man is superior to another, all ways are valid.
When we are both aware of individual desires ahead of time AND stay in touch privately as it may change, no one is blindsided with their entire friend group watching. If we want our partner to do something with us, we request it of them, instead of assuming they should just go along with whatever we or the group wants.
The ‘our’ needs love too!
It’s as if you are going to Burning Man with three instead of two. Relationships thrive when there is a sacred space kept and honored for them as if they are another entity that has it’s own needs and desires. Maybe it’s taking a night where the two of you leave the group and go do your own thing, or being sure to leave and go home together when one of you is ready. Nurturing your relationship as a third being creates a team environment. You look at how both of you can get what you want instead of taking the position that what your partner wants takes away from you.
4. No desire or boundary is off limits to talk about.
Now I like to have a collaborative and intentional Burning Man conversation about what’s important to my partner and I individually and for our relationship holistically. It goes something like, “I’m a little nervous to bring this up, but I’d like to move through that and do it anyway. Are you open to hearing some desires, edges and boundaries I’m exploring?” Even if we have different views and desires, being able to discuss these deeper truths brings us into deeper connection.
Talking about your desires brings clarity and helps you see if you want to act upon or if it just needs to be named. Giving space for these taboo discussions is sexy and lets your partner know you accept all of them. Inside this conversation about pushing edges and exploring with each other, many times sexual desires that are hanging out in the shadows come up. If there’s not clarity about where you both stand now, it might get even more muddy out there.
A good rule of thumb if things do get heated:
If we are that committed to having a fight we are going to ride our asses 20 minutes out to deep playa and have our fight away from our friends and camp mates. Maybe the notion of doing this exposes the hilarity of fighting at Burning Man and only an adult discussion or long hug is left to be had.
5. Fo-mo (fear of missing out) is a maze of illusion. Don’t get lost in it.
We are the people we’ve been waiting for. We are here with the right person. We are at the right camp. We went to the right workshop and the right dance party. There is no such thing as missing out. Burning Man has many illusions that can bring us out of our sovereignty and truth, or it can reflect the vastness of dynamic potential that is available in this human experience. There is nothing out there that we can’t find right inside ourself energetically.
This goes for our relationship as well. Everyone looks sexy dressed for a dusty apocalypse. The trap is to get fo-mo when half naked dust covered opportunities walk by. Remember Burning Man happens for a week and our relationship continues long after this temporary city returns to a flat dusty wasteland. It feels really good to love the one we’re with and honor the agreements we make in the midst of all the opportunity. The capacity we have for this is the capacity we have to show up for ourselves. I practice bringing awareness to my desires and actions – are they coming from integrity and wholeness or addictive compulsion?
Spiritual Integrity – not only doing what I say, but also honoring what is in alignment with my spiritual truth, and seeing the energetic reality with as much value as the literal reality. Am I trying to get away with something that seems to go unseen? A physical action that is out of integrity is the result of being spiritually or energetically out of integrity.
6. The playa provides.
You will hear veteran burners say this a lot. It’s because people find they receive exactly what they want out of burning man. I sure have. From the courage and know how to make a new turn in career to an ice cream machine when you need it most, it’s a magical place where you can manifest anything you want… A couple years ago on the last day we were exhausted, parched, and on our last bike ride back to camp. I say out loud, “I could really go for some ice cream right now.” Not 30 seconds later in the middle of a dusty road an organic ice cream machine appeared with a beautiful man dressed as a ballerina handing out ice cream cones! We got a kick out of this simple moment because it summed up the magical Burning experience we had.
It’s much easier to maintain open hearted communication about needs and desires that you began practicing before arriving then it is to come out of nowhere with them once you get there. If you have a history of fighting or sensitivity around events like this and you want to shift that, it’s even more important for you to bring awareness to the patterns that arise and set yourselves up for success.