LIKE A VIRGIN: HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST TIME AT BURNING MAN

Into the final prep for your first time at Burning Man? Look no further than our total guide to life on the Playa…Words and illustrations: Dani Katz. Photography: Soul on Fire series by Victor Habchy via Behance.net

You’ve been wanting to go for years. Your biggest regret is not having gone back in ‘97, when those two surfer dudes offered you a free ticket and a ride in their VW bus. You almost went in 2003, but ended up at an Iyengar retreat on Maui instead. Whatever. No one cares. You’re a newbie, a Playa virgin, and you’re (finally) heading to Black Rock City to party like a fifth dimensional rock star, and see what all the fuss is about. And you only kinda, sorta know what you’re doing.

Not to worry, dear Burner-to-Be. I am a seasoned Playa veteran, and I have some tips for you:

MAKE ACTUAL CAMP
While paying to crash at an established camp with showers and a meal plan and maybe even hot Tantric hookers seems to be all the rage these days, if this is your first Burn, please, please, please resist the urge to go the princess route. Burning Man isn’t just a ritual, it is an initiation, and there is something to be said for driving yourself to Gerlach with a carful of water, kale chips and camping gear, and finding yourself a spot. Hammering rebar into the hard desert earth, pitching your tent, and fashioning your shade structure. Spending the week getting dirty and staying dirty, and being responsible for keeping your nest clean and safe and welcoming.

It’s grounding, the act of making/maintaining your own camp, and it connects you to the Playa and to the festival in ways you’ll otherwise miss if you pay someone else to do it for you. Radical self-reliance (a foundational Burning Man tenet) doesn’t actually mean: Pay people to do shit you can’t be bothered to do yourself. Just sayin’…

DO THE GIFTING THING
For starters, Burning Man is a gifting economy, so be sure to bring offerings for your fellow Burners – the heartfelt kind that make people smile, and laugh, and feel delightful. Gifts are a great way to break the ice with strangers, as well as to seed the Playa with your energy. So, make sure your offerings are thoughtful, and high-vibing –handmade key chains, gluten-free hash brownies, extemporaneous odes to noteworthy brow arches – that sort of thing.

HYDRATE
The desert has an unquenchable lust for moisture, and thus spends her time sucking every possible drop out of your system. Dehydration can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention, and slurping steadily. Plus, you have to factor in the toll the drugs and the alcohol are taking on your system, as well as the exertion from so many cross-town bike rides. Commit yourself to following the cardinal rule of hydration: if you’re not peeing A LOT, you’re not drinking enough. Period.

BRING A BIKE
And lock it – even if you think you’re only darting into Center Camp for a quick chai. Time isn’t ever linear, but it’s especially un-so at Burning Man, where fourth dimensional synchronicities trump your iCal…and some people just suck. Oh, and be sure to put something glowy and instantly recognizable on it so that you can find it in the dark, while tripping your face off.

CLEAN UP YOUR S***
Literally. Take pride in helping to keep the Port-a-Potties clean, and don’t throw shit down the hole that didn’t come out of your body, or isn’t toilet paper. If you sprinkle and splatter, clean it up. Don’t squat on the seat with your Playa filthy shoes and not wipe it down after. Think of the person stepping in after you. Are you leaving the port-a-pottie cleaner than you found it? If not, what can you do to tidy up? This is your festival, Black Rock City is your town. Show some pride. Participate in its maintenance. Lead by example.

CARRY SUPPLIES
Carry a bag with you at all times. Put these things in it:

Water
Sunscreen
Lip balm (with sunscreen)
Electrolytes
Aromatherapy spray (You. Are. Welcome.)
Offerings for others
Snacks
A ziploc bag for trash
Enough drugs to share with those in your immediate vicinity
Goggles
Scarf or hankerchief

BE A DUSTBUSTER
Prepare for Playa dust. It is everywhere and unavoidable, and will turn anything and everything white, including your hair and your car. This is what the goggles and the scarf/hankie are for – to cover your face during those impromptu dust storms that blind you in an instant. It is also why you must tie down everything in your that could possibly blow away. It is your responsibility to keep the Playa pristine. It is your responsibility to keep your fellow Burners safe from flying water bottles and feather boas.

WARDROBE
Nights get cold. Wear layers. And shoes you can easily/comfortably dance/ride/leap/skip/run/dance/dance/dance in.

HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Don’t even try to brush your hair. It will dread, and be disgusting. Sunscreen is your friend, as are wide-brimmed hats and daytime sleeves. I know plenty of gals like to go the naked/lingerie-clad route, and that’s just dandy, but do be mindful of the intensity of the sunlight on your skin, and take the necessary precautions.

Slather your feet in Dr. Bronners every morning to stave off the dreaded Playa Foot, and don’t even think about walking barefoot on the earth. Playa Foot is essentially a chemical burn caused by the very alkaline dust that comprises the hard, crackly desert floor. It hurts, and is gross; and you, my friend, want nothing to do with it. Trust me.

Bring biodegradable baby wipes with which to bathe yourself. Use them daily. Share them freely. Bring more than you think you need. Abundance rocks.

THIRD BASE ONLY
Even if you’re sure he’s your soul mate (or at the very least your twin flame) and every cell in your body is screaming Put it in!!!, you are still wise to avoid penetration during the festival. Even if you’re sharing a tent with your husband, and you’re both totally in the mood, you’ll still probably want to avoid penetration, because Playa dust mixed with sex goo is just straight up gross. Stick with foreplay. Plus, it’ll make the sex you have once you’re back in civilization all the better.

 

SEE THE SIGHTS
Spend some quality time with The Man, The Temple, and the art. Traditionally, we give The Man those energies, patterns and thought forms we are ready to release. Keep this in mind while paying him a visit. Carve out some time to acknowledge the things, people and energies that are no longer serving you, and offer them up; that’s what he’s there for. The Temple is a deeply mystical, feminine structure in which we honor our friends, colleagues and loved ones who have passed on from this realm. Do participate in these rituals. They are real. They are meaningful. They are the energetic architecture of the entire Burning Man experience. And the art? Well, the art is just rad. I mean, where else can you engage (i.e. poke, lick, caress, climb) a giant, flaming animatronic snake skeleton underneath a starry, full moon-lit sky?

DON’T JUDGE
Watch your judgments. Look at your contractions. Commit to assuming the best and focusing on the wonderful. Your every thought, gesture and comment absolutely shape the collective experience. So be your best. Radiate that stuff far and wide.

BE AUTONOMOUS
As long as we’re on the topic, if you happen to be going to Burning Man with your lover, do not stay glued together at the hip the whole time. Make proper Playa dates instead. Also, create clear agreements as to what sort of extra-relational canoodling is fair game. Arm yourself with emotional/relational tools to deal with what comes up. Jealousy happens, but it certainly doesn’t have to ruin your Burn.

LOSE YOUR CREW
Be sure to have some solo adventures – this will open you to experiences you might not otherwise attract/brave in an insulated communal cluster. Wander into the deep Playa by yourself. As well, take some quiet time to yourself each day. Allow yourself to receive and to integrate the magic you are co-creating. Rest. Replenish. Nourish.

BE YOURSELF
Finally, remember that what makes Burning Man so amazing is that it is a safe and expansive playground in which you get to be you. Your favorite you. Your most open, authentic, real-deal you. Remember that this is who you really are – always – and that you don’t need to wait for a week-long freak fest in the desert to be it. So commit take this you home with you, and amplify it out into the world where it inspires others to be their own best, most authentic thems, as well. In the name of planetary service ‘n all.

I think that about covers it. Godspeed, my friend. Here’s to your best Burn ever!

What advice have you got for a first time Burner? Connect with us and share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

 

NOTES FROM THE NUMIVERSE: 26 LIFE LESSONS MY BURNING MAN EXPERIENCE TAUGHT ME

Confession: My Burning Man Experience was too full-on to be called fun, says Ruby Warrington. But when it comes to life lessons, a week on the Playa delivered pure gold.

So I wasn’t planning to write about my Burning Man Experience (BME). And not because ‘what-happens-on-the-Playa-stays-on-the-Playa,’ but because I have been embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have THE MOST AWESOME TIME OF MY LIFE. I feel like this is the response my friends all were all expecting when they asked, with the utmost and cutest enthusiasm, to hear my tales; ‘OMG how was it?!?!?!?!’ Because ‘I had the time of my life,’ is pretty much the standard response when you ask people about their BME.

But Burning Man is HARD. It forces to you face yourself in ways we have devised so very many modern distractions (television, the internet, flushing toilets, retail therapy) to avoid. It is also a hot, horny, fear-and-loathing-inducing humdinger of a festival, and considering the only way I could ever do Glastonbury was by staying in a local B & B where the owners gave us a glass of chilled Chablis before we headed into the fray each day, I should perhaps have guessed that my BME would kind of be a challenge.

But if I’ve learned ANYTHING this year (thanks to this lady in particular), it’s that challenges are what we human beings are here for! And that a fully textured life is always about the road less travelled. So friends, followers, here are the vital and sometimes evolutionary lessons my BME taught me:

We are hopelessly addicted to stuff: Witness hundreds of Burners buying up literally the entire contents of Walmart in Reno in preparation for a week of ‘radical self-reliance’ in the desert. Next year (oh yes, there will be a ‘next year’) I pledge to make ‘minimalism’ my motto.

Enforced fun can still be fun: We’d been on the road for pretty much 40 hours straight (give or take a whiskey-infused power nap) by the time my friend Sophie and I made it through the gates to hunt down our fellow campers – leaving my husband Simon in what was shaping up to be an 8-hour wait in ‘will call’ for his ticket. As a BM ‘virgin’ it was the greeters’ job to make me lie down on the Playa and make a ‘dust-angel’ to mark my entry. I was not in the mood, but getting to lie down for a minute did put a smile on my face.

Anticipation is the mother of the anti-climax: Even if you haven’t been to BM, you know what BM looks like, right? This is because we live in the information age, goddamnit, and sites (like this one) won’t stop publishing pictures of Black Rock City and its freaky-deeky population. I actually kind of hated myself for not being ‘in awe’ of what I saw out on the Playa my first day. Was I that jaded? But I basically saw exactly what I saw in the images and YouTube clips I’d GORGED on before the event. In fact, if you haven’t been to BM and you think you might go at some point in the future, maybe stop reading now. The joy of discovery is a beautiful thing.

Just follow the signs…

But nothing can prepare you for the TRIP that is your first night on the Playa: Thankfully you can’t photograph a feeling, and here’s a sensation you’ve never got to experience before and will never experience anywhere else. It’s just you, your bike and a sea of LEDs. No roads, no rules, no edge separating Earth from the rest of the Universe.

Being an Aries with Sag rising and Cancer Moon makes for a very conflicted camper (see above re. Glastonbury): The Aries and the Sag want PARTIES, PEOPLE, ADVENTURE! The Cancer needs ALL MY CREATURE COMFORTS, INCLUDING LOTS OF PRIVACY, ALL THE TIME. Yikes.

And…if you have a Water Moon, try to camp with at least one other Water Moon: My gift to my beautiful fellow campers was a personal astro reading, so I had all their chart information ahead of time. And wouldn’t you know, I was headed into a desert storm of pure Fire and Earth. Which of course made for the most incredible camp set-up (fully functioning kitchen, hand-washing station, outdoor shower – with curtain, evaporation pool for our grey water) and a consistent party vibe (mushrooms for breakfast, a carefully calculated six cans of beer per person, per day, plus a seemingly limitless supply of spirits). But my goodness, the outpouring of emotions when I finally managed to track down my friend Tali, and her blessed Scorpio Moon.

I am a total music snob: Tali says it’s because I’m an Aries, who she always admires for our “discernment” (erm, I believe “arrogance” is another adjective associated with my sign). But I also blame (again) my Cancer Moon. To make me move, music has to have soul. Worse, anything that can be loosely categorised as dubstep, breakbeat, trap, minimal techno, EDM or drum ‘n’ bass actually causes a physical reaction in my body that feels a lot like anger. WFT? Even if I’ve taken really amazing drugs (not that I necessarily think drugs are amazing, see below). Unfortunately, these seem to be the preferred genres of most DJs manning the art cars and sound systems at BM, providing a 24-7 soundtrack to life on the Playa straight out of my worst musical nightmare. But thank f*** for a camp called Basshenge!!! Pumping out a soulful, heartbeat bassline that kept me dancing in the dust ‘til dawn, I <3 Basshenge.

Sound clash is sleep deprivation for the soul: The only thing worse than waking up to a full on trap set happening right next to your RV at 9am, is a full on drum ‘n’ bass set happening 10 feet away at the same time. Note to organisers: my friend Gina had a lovely idea – “an hour of silence” every day. (Note to self: add a set of noise cancelling headphones to the minimal ‘must-haves’ list for next year)

“Love is Love”, especially in the desert

“No critters live in the desert”: How cool is this – apparently there’s a special camp in BRC for people to drop off random animals and bugs they find in their camp. This is because, seeing as the desert conditions are too harsh for any living thing to survive (erm, no shit), any “critters” have to have travelled in with you. Even better, there’s some kind of Dr Doolittle animal sanctuary outside the Playa where they all get deposited after the event. What a fun time we had imagining how that little man-made ecosystem is progressing year-on-year!

But BRC is actually a very safe place for humans to live: Discussing the medical room stats listed in the Black Rock Gazette one morning, our camp-mate Bryan (a professional anaesthetist – which, yes, makes for some very interesting conversations about recreational use of ketamine) was able to confirm that the incidence of accident and injury is way lower than the average American metropolis. Despite the lack of rules and policing, and the disproportionately high incidence of all-day intoxication in BRC.

A mini torch makes the best MOOP: Okay, I might have fallen off my bike riding over it out in the deep Playa, but having a mini torch to strap to my Vega Jewelry crystal necklace was a revelation – literally! Mainly down to no more hold-your-breath-and-guess moments in the porta-potties in the dead of night. Yay PERSONAL ILLUMINATION!

The Playa is not a beach: It is a beautiful, uncompromising, arid, dust-bowl. Not to be confused with somewhere to kick back, relax and sink a few cold ones before cooling off in the surf.

Hedonism is one of the deepest expressions of human spirituality: Since when did hedonism get such a bad name anyway?? In the dictionary, it’s defined as – the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life. The fact that people will go to so much effort in the pursuit of this ideal, suggests to me a serious pleasure/happiness-unbalance in our daily lives. And being happy means being better equipped to want to contribute to other people’s happiness. This is one of the best BM lessons of all.

Men, even gay men, think very long, wavy hair is sexy. Even if it’s green: I have never received more compliments from the opposite sex than the night I donned this wig. This must be why women get addicted to hair extensions. And doesn’t it say something interesting about gender representation? No matter how progressive the humans, the Disney Princess vision of female beauty still holds sway.

“Radical self-expression” = a lot of costume clichés: See top hats, striped meggings, faux-fur moon boots, leather bras…and green wigs. Turns out most of us humans actually prefer to conform, and a couple of days into the 80kg dressing up box of sequins, wigs and fake tattoos I’d lugged from Brooklyn, I too became acutely aware that I was actually putting together a series of ‘Burning Man outfits’ that were less about an expression of my own personal style than a desire to fit in. I worked in fashion for a long time, I know what that is. Next year I’m just gonna pack a bikini, some Teeki yoga pants, and my boiler suit (below), which is what I ended up feeling most ‘me’ in.

Basically, the best boiler suit ever

I might have had my Burning Man moment a decade (and a half) ago in Ibiza: Between the ages of 24 and 32, I made a twice-yearly pilgrimage to the ‘spiritual’ party island of Ibiza. And daytime dancing at Distrikt, downing shots of Whisky with old gay dudes in leather skirts, riding out at night into a sea of LEDs, allowing myself to merge with the Cosmos out on the edge of the Playa…was basically flashback central to then. What I got from ‘the Ibiza years’ was a sense of connection to a tribe of likeminded hedonists, a deep respect for the numinous beauty of nature and a lot of dancing in the sand beneath the stars. Sound familiar? So now I know I’ve ‘been there, done that’, time to set some new intentions for my BM experience next year.

The best Bloody Mary’s are frozen Bloody Mary’s: But what you don’t get in Ibiza, is some dude named Dave serving up the most incredible frozen Bloody Mary’s (just freeze the mix and stir in lashings of vodka as it melts) in exchange for a sweaty hug. In Ibiza the Bloody Marys will set you back $25.

In no way, shape or form do drug highs measure up to spiritual highs: I first took E when I was 14, and it helped me understand a whole other plane of human existence (not to mention get out of facing my feelings about my parent’s divorce). It took about 20 years for me to realize that seeing as that veil had already been lifted, I would never experience the same sense of ‘enlightenment’ from drugs again – and that in fact, taking drugs is kind of like opening the door to your soul to an unknown entity and handing over the controls (which is why a lot of drug highs feel so scary). There are lots of drugs at BM, and part of my brain (the drunk part) still believes in those kind of highs. But experience – mainly experiences of the numinous variety – has shown me that when your soul is allowed to navigate its own route to bliss, there is no fear, there is no comedown and there is UNLIMITED POTENTIAL FOR PERSONAL GROWTH.

But take enough and you might experience time travel: So my friend-who-shall-remain-nameless met a ‘medicine woman’ dancing at Robot Heart, and asked; ‘what can I learn from you?’ They spent the next 24 hours together out in the deep Playa, during which time the medicine woman gave my friend ‘more drugs than I’ve taken in my life – cocaine, LSD, mushrooms, molly’, and my friend claims she experienced time travel and understood that immortality is entirely possible. Those are the kind of drug experiences I guess I would like to have, but am basically scared s***less of.

Even in the deepest of Playa, where you literally feel like you are on the edge of the Cosmos, a tweaking raver from Liverpool will hunt you down and try to fill your head with her relationship problems: Know that you do not have to let this totally kill your mushroom buzz, and that it is always within your power to simply stand up, kiss her goodnight and ride away.

Sunset: navigating the duality of night and day

Life is an exercise in duality: Clean, dirty; give, receive; high, low; hot, cold. All of which it feels like BM is set up to make ABUNDANTLY CLEAR.

Whiskey Flats RV park (Hawthorn, NV) is the Park Hyatt of RV parks: Okay maybe our perspective was somewhat skewed…but man, I could have kissed the pristine, floral-scented toilet when we stopped off here on our way back to Vegas to clean our RV and empty the putrid ‘black water’ tank. Oh and they also have free coffee and a Laundromat!! I’ve always loved doing laundry. Doing it here was like doing laundry on ecstasy. This is the website in case you need it for next year.

Digital cold turkey isn’t difficult: I’m addicted as the best of us, but I can honestly say I didn’t miss social media or email ONCE during my BME. I even found it hard to let it back into my life, like I’d got a newfound respect for exactly how DICTATOR-LIKE it is. The sense of serenity that comes from being offline is blissful, and observing my online life from the other side I was able to witness the physical, emotional and intellectual hold technology has on us. But, you know, now I’m fully back on the juice and loving it.

I am actually obsessed with the Body’s Ability To Bounce Back (BABB): Okay it’s taken a week to muster the brain cells and the discipline to get this post together, but that’s a lot to do with the fact I’ve also spent a lot of time marvelling at how GOOD IT FEELS to inch my way back into the healthful, spiritually aligned, fully embodied state I usually seek to maintain (a.k.a. get over the comedown). Bryan (the anaesthetist) said he still marvels daily at the BABB, how our organism is consistently seeking to bring itself into balance. Seriously, gotta love the BABB.

Even in the most Mystical of Worlds, I am very much a Material Girl: But I’ve always been pretty upfront about that one, hey.

My life is really freaking awesome: Since my return to the ‘default’ world, I’ve been feeling THE IMMENSEST AMMOUNT OF GRATITUDE FOR – in no particular order of wonderfulness – being clean, fresh water and the sewage system, work that brings me so much satisfaction and helps me define my ‘edges’, electricity, the bond I share with my beautiful husband, groceries, my cat purring, blowdries, the Internet. And an event like Burning Man, for helping me TRULY appreciate the fact.

Burningman.com

SOUL CAMP: CONNECTING WITH MY REAL TRIBE

When Michelle Goldblum was asked to create a summer camp for grown-ups, it forced her to confront age-old feelings of sadness and un-belonging. But it was also the catalyst for the next stage in her personal growth. Images: Karolina Daria Flora

As an adult, I’ve always looked back on my summers spent at camp as some of the best times of my life. And when I met Ali, having found each other in the wellness world (I own a branding and marketing agency for thought leaders in this field and she’s a body confidence coach), and we realized we were both Camp Towanda kids, every time we got together it was like we were back, cheering on the way to the soccer field. The energy of those times lived on in our relationship, which was always very childlike and fun, and like nothing I’ve experienced with anybody else.

As it turns out, our camp director follows both of us on Facebook, and in October last year, he reached out to us to ask; “would you like to bring a mind, body, spirit retreat to Camp Towanda?” Of course, as soon as Ali and I got together, it was obvious that our soul mission (maybe it was even the reason we met?) was to accept, and in doing so bring back what we both remembered as “The Magic of Camp.”

But when we went back to Towanda, which is located in Wayne County, PA, for our first site visit, walking around the familiar grounds, the memories that now began flooding back for me were far from happy. How could it be? Instead of joy, I was overwhelmed with a long-forgotten sensation of feeling completely isolated, and I realized how alone I actually felt at camp as a kid and how I so longed to be accepted.

I remembered having to find things to do during free time, when everyone huddled together in their packs. I remembered going from group to group, trying to find where I belonged, with an intense feeling that something must be wrong with me. I felt a familiar sensation in my neck, my chest and my gut, the same overwhelming feeling of sadness I realized I experienced back then.

I even had a flashback to the camp counsellor giving me a bookmark, which said something like; “it’s not how many friends you have but the quality of friendship that’s important.” At the time, I was so offended. But she’d obviously seen the pain my ten-year-old self had thought I was hiding so well.

Camp is supposed to be where you learn how to have relationships. It’s where people get their first boyfriends, and have their first kisses. Going back to Towanda, I realized how much of that I missed out on. Was it because I was fat? As a child, I realized I felt like; “I am different because I’m bigger. That’s why I’m not going out on the raid, that is why I’m not part of the crew.”

Or maybe it was because didn’t have the Kate Spade bag that all the other girls had. But even when I got the bag and all the other “stuff” I thought I needed to fit in, I still experienced the same feelings of separateness. My way of coping? By my last year at Towanda, aged 15, I was Camper Captain. On the outside, I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. But inside, there was this feeling of; “oh wow – I slipped under the radar there.” And guess what? It turns out Ali, a couple of years younger than me, was experiencing the same thing.

This was all new to me. I was shocked that my memory could play such tricks on me, casting my experience of camp in such a rose-tinted glow. And it’s only more recently I’ve been able to join the dots – how hiding the feelings of inadequacy that camp instilled in me became part of my adult identity, manifesting in an eating disorder I kept secret for years, an addiction to Adderall when I found myself working in big pharma post-college, and a co-dependent relationship that left me needy, isolated and without too much of a social life.

The best part though, is that this realization has also been a catalyst and a turning point in the next stage in my personal growth.

Asking around, it seemed like Ali and I weren’t lone “camp loners,” either. People would tell us; “I had a horrible experience at camp, I never want to go back.” They shared painful memories of sitting alone at the dining hall and not being included in activities, and it was based on this feedback that we began to come up with the concept for Soul Camp.

Sitting in our dorm during that first site visit, we shared exactly what was going on for each other. That night we decided that our souls had signed an agreement, and that it was our job to process and heal all the pent up feelings that were rushing to the surface so that we’d be equipped to hold the space for other people to return to camp and confront their hurtful, shameful, hidden memories as well.

We set about putting together a roster of more than 30 of the most incredible speakers and healers from our pioneering wellness world – people like Nisha Moodley, Terri Cole, Meggan Watterson, Ed Harrold, Ashley Turner – to join us on our journey.

And I feel like we’ve created the ultimate alternative camp for all the people who felt weird, or different, and like they didn’t belong. And maybe that’s everybody, on some level. From the bonfire and “fear burning” ritual on the opening night, to yoga by the beautiful lake, empowering intenSati classes with one of my personal teachers, Patricia Moreno, and incredible, nourishing food prepared with love, we’ve designed Soul Camp to create new memories. Joyful memories. Memories of meeting like-minded, welcoming friends; of exploring new activities and learning new techniques; of coming together, connecting inward, and feeling a-part-of.

Of course it’s also fine to just find your spot at the waterfront and write in your journal all weekend, but the most important piece for me is that we’ll all be there together. Reliving our childhood experience, but in a way that feels completely supportive and safe. You feel “different”? So do I. And guess what – that makes us all the same.

Now that I remember camp properly, I know there were some beautiful moments too. I had one counsellor, Mindy Karp, who is my friend to this day, and when we were nine or 10 she’d put us to bed playing Joni Mitchell and leading us in a deep relaxation meditation. Not that we understood it as that then, she’d just tell us; “feel your toes, now relax your toes…” She was the inspiration for our own “bunk leaders,” who we’ve equipped with tools to facilitate community, openness and togetherness in each bunk. And thank God for people like her.

Soul Camp at Camp Towanda takes place September 4-7. For details of the full line-up and to purchase tickets visit Soulcamp2014.com. PLUS enter the code “NUMI” at checkout for a $100 discount!