SPIRITUAL SHROOMING: MY UNLIKELY AWAKENING

Strung out on repressed feelings, a health crisis and mental break became an unexpected awakening for Meg Hartley, care of some spiritual shrooming…

“During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself”—Meg Hartley 

When I was 19, I wasn’t in a good place. I had lost my mother to suicide four years prior, and my once-successful “smashing down” of feelings had relentlessly resurfaced into every part of my consciousness.

I usually avoided the pain by staying busy all day, then intoxicated into the evening via copious amounts of marijuana or whatever else was floating around the dorms: ‘shrooms, ecstasy, and lots and lots of cheap alcohol.

But late at night, when I’d try my hardest to sleep and fail miserably, I couldn’t hide from the pain. I had taken to scratching at my skin until it bled because it hurt less than the storm that wailed inside. It was like there was so much unprocessed pain my mind didn’t know where to start. Agonizing thoughts just whipped around in my head, out of control and going nowhere.

I’d soon learn about meditation and mindfulness, which gave me a life raft to embrace during these times. But before then, I’d go home to Alaska for summer break and have a four-day experience a psychologist called a “mental break” and a philosophy teacher called “a preview to awakening.”

But to me, it simply felt like a very long dream that showed me true happiness was a real possibility … even for me, which seemed impossible at the time. This set the scene for my subsequent spiritual exploration and gave me a reason to commit to my emotional healing.

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The year was 2002. My first year of philosophy classes in college had finally given form and texture to vague spiritual ideas I’d always had intuitive knowings about. The ideas that this life is an illusion, that humanity is currently experiencing a shift in consciousness, and that we’re each here to learn specific things, were presented by different religions and philosophers from all over the world.

This deja vu sense of remembering (that my teacher said was normal, but which sure felt like magic to me!) combined with all the partying left me ungrounded, spacey, and generally disinterested in “mundane” everyday life. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I also had a B12 deficiency that was hitting mental health symptom levels. In addition to this, there was a cyst growing on my pineal gland, which is known to augment spiritual experiences.

And so, not yet privy to the drawbacks of being ungrounded, and unaware of this explosive combination brewing in my brain, I celebrated my return home by eating yet more ‘shrooms with a dear friend.

The experience of taking psilocybin is different for everyone, but in my experimental days it was something that I regarded with reverence––like a really fun church. During every trip, the idea of “God” or a benevolent bigger something, seemed obvious and present to me. There was silliness and hilarity, but also times where I would leave my friends to go sit with my favorite tree for hours, my head filled with streaming thoughts that were ontological in nature- the answers to all of life’s big questions, more ideas I’d later study in ancient texts.

And this time, for four days after the mushroom trip ought to have ended, my thoughts remained consistently in the ontological realm––a far cry from my daily headscape at the time, which was mostly centered around losing my v-card and being “too fat.” 

In stark contrast, everything I encountered had meaning on top of meaning, and life felt so beautiful that I cried happy tears. From the inside, the experience felt like a blissful and meditative state where therapeutic dreams met real life. Colors became more vibrant as I released dark twisted pains from deep within like a long and satisfying belch.

Meg with a handmade lithograph about her experience

Of course, it’s not “normal” to weep from joy at the sight of a mountain that’s there every damn day, or to stare at everyday items babbling about “the language of the Universe” and “signs.”

Everyone in my world thought I had lost my marbles. When I finally noticed this reaction in others, I very suddenly snapped out of it, shocked at their concern and upset about making an ass of myself. That clouded my vision of the experience, as social acceptance was the form of surrender I was most familiar with at the time. But I now look back on it as being as helpful as it was hugely bizarre: the juice was totally worth the squeeze (it can be freeing sometimes to have people think you’re a little nuts, anyhoo!) 

I was immediately changed, and the depression didn’t return for many years (not until my B12 levels hit a fantastic new low and a whole new set of challenges revealed themselves). It was like I had been dusted from the inside out, I felt clear and centered in a way that I had never experienced. I carried on with the drug experimentation for a couple more years and nothing like that happened again- something that brought both great relief and a fleeting sense of disappointment.

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During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself.

And that connection––and many times just the memory of that connection—brought a cherished light into the darkest nights of my soul. It also provided the motivation for my subsequent spiritual and emotional journeys: remembering that mental landscape, and knowing that if I stayed on the spiritual path then that sense of peace and connectedness would eventually feel like home.

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Meg Hartley is an Alaskan artist and writer happily replanted in wonderfully weird Portland, Oregon. She loves really great trees, cashew ice “cream”, mysticism, and is totally obsessed with mindfulness. Her new book is called How I Lost All My Fucksa one-month experience that will have you losing all yours! Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: CHAGA MUSHROOMS ARE SUPER HEALING & SUPER DELICIOUS

Feeling the Spring fever? Ysanne Spevack whips up an immune boosting pudding with chaga mushrooms that’s equal parts powerful and subtly healing. Main Image: Mariano Peccinetti 

April is an invigorating time of year, with spring’s changing moods inviting us back out of our homes and into the streets. The month also brings indecisive weather, from thunderstorms to sunshine. To face this fluctuating weather and to address the rising allergen percentage in the air, our immunity needs a natural boost right now.

Enter chaga mushrooms, a humble type of mycelium that grows on trees. More like a tree fungus than a regular mushroom, chaga is probably best known and most widely used for its scientifically confirmed anti-oxidant qualities that protect against cancer, and also for its use for people with HIV. Chaga doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to antioxidant qualities.

That said, chaga is equally powerful when eaten to reduce seasonal allergies, and it has a soothing effect on the respiratory system. What’s more, chaga mushrooms have a subtle flavor that lends itself well to sweet recipes. It has a woody taste with an undertone of vanilla, so blends well with anything containing vanilla.

Chaga grows right here in the US and is always wild, never cultivated. You can find it on birch trees anywhere along the East Coast that experiences a cold winter. And if you’re not ready for a trip into the woods, you can find it ready-powdered online at High Vibe or your local independent purveyor of high-quality medicinal superfoods.

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Chaga Chia Pudding Recipe 
by Ysanne Spevack 

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 medjool dates
1½ cup water
2 tbs hemp hearts
2tsp powdered chaga
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup black chia seeds

Method:

Remove the pits from the dates using your fingers, and drop them into a blender. Add the water, hemp hearts, chaga, and vanilla, then cover and process at the highest speed for 45 seconds.

If you have a Mason jar, pour the chia seeds into it, and pour the liquid into the jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, any kind of 2 cup lidded container will work.

Secure the lid, and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, to ensure the seeds are all thoroughly wet and aren’t clumping together. If you see obvious clumps, open the lid and break them up with a fork.

Set aside on the counter to gel for at least three hours. After that duration, it’s either ready to eat, or to refrigerate. Consume within 3 days.

Discover more about Ysanne Spevack HERE.

HOLY F*CK: HOW TO FIND YOUR EDGE

Only in the places of discomfort can we experience true healing, says Alexandra Roxo. PLUS 5 ways to find your edge…

Goddess power earrings by Marcia Vidal. Non toxic lipstick by Ilia Beauty.

“There must be something deeply disturbed about a person who wants to be flogged or spit on.” As my friend said this I nearly spit out my kombucha. It was a sunny day and we were sitting on a blanket in the Bay area, having some girl talk, munching on goji berries, having just completed two nights of plant medicine ceremony together.

I started to feel sweaty and hot which means my deep soul was having a freakout. I put my cup down, took a deep breath summoning massive courage and said: “I disagree. It can also be about a person wanting to push their edges. It can be a game, power play, fun, and a vehicle for catharsis. Something beyond the human polarities of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Just as enlightening as any other medicine that pushes you to your edge and into a place of expansion.”

Let’s be real, in a lot of spiritual circles we tend towards the light and white, the higher chakras, high vibes…And well, usually as far away as possible from the dark, scary underbelly of things. Be it talking about BDSM or deep wounds, many of us shy away. After all, IG posts that are dark/revealing and heavy, usually get a lot less likes than the ones that are bright and all “I’m floating up here with my Spirit team!”

Well I say…Fuck. That. In the past few years I’ve found the scary bits—the “nevers,” the edges, the parts that make my heart beat fast—to be possibly my biggest teachers. Lately I’ve been wanting to talk about them more and more among circles of women whose faces might go white as an angel’s wing if I said something about squirting being transcendental. But ladies, the time has come! (And yes squirting, and even fisting, can be transcendental. But more on that another time. Or just DM me, lol.)

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You know those friends who push you to your edge? Usher you out of your cozy wozy comfort zone full of sheepskin rugs and Palo Santo, into a scary dark place you cannot control and force you to pull down your “Everything’s okay!” mask? I LOVE those friends. In the moment, I hate them for “making” me hitchhike with a creepy Mexican man on a beach in Oaxaca into the jungle.

Or for saying: “I saved you a spot on the three-day plant medicine retreat where we’ll be fasting and sleeping under the stars. Bring a poop bucket!” Or for calling me out on my shit. HATE THAT. But I really LOVE it. Thank Goddess for the friends that help you to your edge.

I recently signed up for an online course called a “Relationship Detox” with Perri Gorman. On Perri’s intake form you get to say to what level you want to be pushed. I checked off “HOT ORANGE” or something. Basically as hot as possible. (#overachiever!) So in class the other day, when I had to say what conclusions I had come to after making a relationship chronology, and I started rambling, “Well, we were dating and he said some really mean things but you see I’ve been meditating and doing a lot of WORK on this for months. Many healers. I really feel great about it now!” She stopped me mid-sentence.

“No you don’t. Pull off your mask, get in your pussy and tell me the story again!” I was taken aback but I knew immediately what she meant. I breathed through my mask, told the story again, deeply rooted into my truth, shared all the embarrassing parts, tears running down my cheeks, feeling such a huge catharsis: the feeling of being grounded deeply into my body. And then Perri told me: “Ultimate kindness is to risk saying something the ego may detest but that the soul is craving.” Which a wonderful teacher like that can make happen.

So forget smiling pleasantly with a namaste! Let’s get messy together. Hold space for each other to WAIL. Ask real questions to women who have birthed many babies. Talk about fucking. Sob until snot is running into our mouths. Have multiple orgasms that make us scream uncontrollably and then weep in a puddle of our own fluid. Not be afraid to pull down our masks.

“Thank Goddess for friends who call you out on your shit!”

Be it a paddling to the ass, or a projectile purge into a bucket in a room full of people or simply allowing yourself to feel anger, it’s only at the edge that we’ll find the collective catharsis we are looking for—a massive reconnection into the present of our bodies. And especially into our pussies. Into the force which creates life. Pushing us past our edges into a new land, the land of growth.

I try to push an edge every day. Last week I drove for an hour while still on mushrooms. A few days ago I admitted to a room full of people choking through sobs my deepest darkest shadows in love and relationships. I kissed a snake on the lips a few weeks ago. Just finished 40 days of chanting to Kali. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

:: 5 WAYS TO FIND YOUR EDGE ::

1. Make a list of all the things that make you uncomfortable, or that you said you would never do or say or be or admit. This could be getting naked in front of someone. Crying in front of someone. Admitting to yourself your heart is closed off and you need help. Going on a vision quest. Camping alone. Now get to know that list. Put it on your altar. Start to allow it into your consciousness.

2. Break it into steps. Maybe it’s opening a Tinder account and asking someone out. Or spending time alone. Maybe it’s working out in a sports bra instead of a t-shirt. Signing up for a primal screaming course. A tantric sexual healer. Not exercising for a few days. Everyone’s edge is different! Start small and BREATHE through it. If it’s not making your heart beat fast, then it’s not an edge.

3. Ask for help. I could not have done this alone. Find a friend who helps you find your edge. Or a coach. A teacher. A witness. Someone to keep you accountable and help you and hold you when you cry.

4. When it starts getting tough do not abandon ship! There is a point in the work where we wanna say “Okay cool! I think I’ve got this and I’m gonna take a break.” Don’t do it! Push yourself just a little more. When you make it over that hump it is going to be glorious I tell you!!!

5. When in doubt go back to your pussy and breathe into your roots. Dance alone naked. Shake it off. Keep going. Cry through it. Do not give up. Umm, yeah, Earth hasn’t given up on us though we’ve pillaged her. Our bodies keep going after disease and childbirth and self-hatred and eating disorders. We owe it to ourselves and to the grandma’s that came before us to not give up and get too comfortable.

And P.S. Remember your edge is your own. Do not compare to the friend who did ayahuasca 366 times in Peru. Do not worry about your friend who saw Jesus when she was cumming. Your journey is about YOU. And in your dark personal corners, you could find something so magnificent…you really have NO idea!

If you wanna go deep and investigate your patterns with love, sex and relationships, join us for The Numinous: Re-write your Love Story Retreat July 15-17th in upstate New York! We’re offering an early bird special while Venus is in Gemini of $50 off EACH if you bring a friend (#healinghangdate time!)

GODDESS TRIP: DIARY OF A PSYCHEDELICS ADDICT

And almost ten years sober, her experiences inform her work as a healer to this day, says former psychedelics addict Jesse Heid.

Jesse Heid celebrating her 39th birthday earlier this year

My six siblings and I grew up in what I can only describe as a mellow and small Christian cult, created by my parents. Their worship centered around a Buddha-Christ figure and I took it very literally when they taught me, ‘Jesus lives in your heart.’ To me, Jesus was the most gorgeous, the most beautiful hunky guy. I had that classic ’70’s portrait of him on my bedroom wall, the one where he’s sexy Jesus with the beard.

I had always felt that I was Christ’s favorite kid. I really thrived on the sense I developed early on that I was sacred and Beloved to the Divine. He did everything with me, ballet classes and tea parties. He also was also the compassionate witness to all my childhood traumas. As a result, I had a very intimate, loving, and positively romantic relationship to the Divine.

But when I first altered my consciousness with marijuana around age 21, I started to hear a new voice guiding that Divine dialog, and it was the voice of a woman. This Great Feminine presence was the raddest experience of my life. Beyond words, beyond what I could describe as Love and Wisdom. When I started using various psychedelics and entheogens this Divine female voice took on a great authority – such authority, it made Jesus look like your super casual, chill best friend.

Goddess I call her, and her voice commands deep loving RESPECT. And, while in hallucinogenic and other altered states, I was in constant dialog with her. Mostly her talking to me while I tripped on this miraculous communion with her.

Although I certainly partied, I was intentionally using psychedelics and plant medicine as sacraments. I didn’t necessarily differentiate the “party” from what others call “temple” or “ritual.” Basically, I was in it for the transcendent, mystical experiences. And while I experienced deep healing on my adventures, of course this way of exploring consciousness can have tremendous consequences. Especially in a culture where as a trippy young healer, I had no mentors or sacred container for this unusual path.

For seven years, from 1999 to 2006, I tripped often, and was rarely truly sober – the time I was “landing” from one trip I was getting ready to take off on another. It’s important to note that I believe I was able to carry on like this for so many years because I was generally micro dosing – imbibing very small doses – of the highest quality substances. This enabled me to function well in my daily life, but still get Divinely freaky. I also think my severe allergy to alcohol has been a blessing really. I’ve never been able to drink, so I was never taxed physically that way.

But I was a psychedelics addict. I ate mushrooms almost every day for over a year. I would pop them in my mouth like people pop breath mints. I did psilocybin until they stopped having any effect, a tragedy when it happened. Other years, the pattern went something like: Molly on a Monday, Tuesday, some pot cookies and coffee, Wednesday, maybe a day off, LSD for Thursday, and bit of Foxy on Friday. The weekends would be a surprise mixed bag.

During this period, I was also running a Pilates studio in the East Village of New York City. I had a very robust clientele with a waiting list. I was a very popular teacher, and was frequently teaching while on psychedelics. Beyond surviving as a young women in the City, I was thriving.

And all the time, I felt the Goddess was teaching me the nature of the Universe. What I saw was a matrix of loving energy weaving through everything, and how the negative space between objects is perfect. That everything is whole, and also interconnected. Whenever I laid hands on my client I was able to see the matrix inside of us, the fascia system, and the way this extends outside of us to connect us to everything. That these filaments remain unbroken, and cannot be broken.

Jesse Heid today

If this sort of Divine Matrix can be an abstract concept to even the most dedicated “believer,” I could visually see this in a psychedelic state. And this is really what I was working on with my clients all day.

People would come to the studio to get a Pilates lesson, and then they would tell me their neck hurt. So I would put them on the Pilates Cadillac and work on their fascia, in a psychedelic state, and then tell them it was “Pilates.” And even while they were talking to me about their stressful lives, the Goddess was whispering instructions in my ear the whole time about what they needed for healing. It was all very mysterious and magical, and it really worked for me for a long time.

Goddess also revealed to me everyone’s true voice. That was consistent on every trip, no matter what I was on.  No matter what medicine I was dosing with, everyone I encountered spoke to me as an extremely vulnerable, innocent five-year-old. It even seemed like the more serious someone was, the more of a heartbreakingly precocious child they were inside.

I was working with CEO’s, neurosurgeons, film producers and their stars, and all I could hear was the innocent child, just trying to navigate and negotiate the suffering of this world.

Now remember, I am completely, 100 percent, not a rebel. I am a good girl, a product of my environment. I was doing what I was taught; “you talk to God. You do loving kindness and make art. You take responsibility for your Divine nature, as Jesus lives in your heart.” And I was never criticized by my family for doing drugs of any sort.

But I don’t think they knew how much I was doing. I don’t think anyone could conceive of how much I was doing because I was so highly functional. But in the end, I started mixing in cocaine. Not because I ever liked cocaine, it was never my drug of choice. But I rarely slept from doing psychedelics, and I had to go to work in the day, so it became like coffee to me. Plus, people were giving me coke for free. The East Village of NYC was different beast back then, and it’s how my clients would tip me sometimes.

With this harder substance in the mix, my lifestyle was finally taking its toll physically, and very quickly. I went down to 95 lbs. I also started to lose any and all respect for society’s rules. Everywhere I went, I was smoking a huge, fat joint.

I started to see a Jungian psychoanalyst, and it was clear to him, I think, that here was a talented young healer, going too far on her mystical trip. He was like, “Are you smart? I think it might just be the drugs that make you feel smart.” Soon I wanted to know if I WAS talented, if I WAS creative, if I had any value, if my friends even liked me (which it turns out they didn’t really), without drugs.

At the same time, the Goddess was telling me; “I’m bringing the hurt if you ever do cocaine again. And by the way, you have to take THIS much acid because it won’t work anymore…” I couldn’t do Molly anymore. Everything was just giving me a headache. When it finally ended, I had taken drugs for 92 days straight, just a few days over 3 months.

That last trip, I mixed a lot of cocaine with acid. Do not EVER do cocaine and acid. I felt as if every single fiber of connective tissue in my body was having a migraine. For days, I could feel my nail beds. I lay on my back for about seven hours to protect my spine. I was in full head to toe spasms. Every single part of me was throbbing with the message; “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” And I needed that brutality. Pain is my greatest teacher.

When I quit drugs, I went through the terrible loneliness of feeling disconnected from the Divine. I went from a Universe that was beyond Technicolor and blissful joy, to a world that was grainy, fuzzy black and white. Food didn’t taste good. Music sounded like shit. People lost the innocence in their voice. And my friends were very, very angry at me. Very angry at me for quitting drugs, because, I realized, they had lost their best curator for trips. I had curated fantastic trips.

Jesse in her psychedelics heyday

I felt like I had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and kicked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore, and had abused the sacraments. But I also had faith that things were unfolding as they should. I quickly figured out that not only did I have a drug addiction, but almost an addiction to spiritual epiphanies. Now I needed time to digest, to integrate the massive insights I acquired. The Jungian analysis was really fundamental to this. I saw my therapist three times a week for six years.

Physically, I went from one hundred to zero by myself. I swore off absolutely everything that could alter my consciousness, including several years without caffeine. I was being penitent. And there was no 12-step group for psychedelics. I would piggyback on Cocaine Anonymous and AA, but that didn’t work out for me very well. I was dropped by every sponsor, predominantly because they weren’t a psychedelics addict. They were alcoholics, and it’s just a very different vibe to recover from.

I feel very blessed that my body had an easier time dealing with withdrawal than most, and that I was able to fully quit on my own without medical assistance. But my mind and spirit was in hell. I also had to get over the shame of being a psychedelics addict. It was hard work to do that, and it was hard work to participate in life and to show up for people.

On another level, I also had to participate more spiritually. I couldn’t just take the medicine and have Goddess come to me. I actually had to do the work to get into a mystic state. I found myself studying meditation, ritual, and ceremony to try to integrate the wisdom I sourced on my trips into my daily life, but also simply because I missed my communion with Goddess. This period of recovery was a cocooning stage really, where I withdrew from the world to work on myself.

I consider it a miracle that my ability to understand spatial relationships on a very deep somatic level, my understanding of inner space, remained with me through sobriety. Psychedelics taught me everything that I use in my career as a healer now, and these days I just tell my clients the truth when they ask about my methods. That this is something I developed when I did psychedelics regularly, and explored inner space. I often say that once you peak behind the curtain, you can’t “un-see” what you found there. However, integrating that wisdom into daily life is a whole other trip!

I also know that for my spiritual evolution, I needed to know the real darkness of addiction. I relate so deeply to the path of the Wounded Healer, and so many of us are battling addictions of every sort. I’m much more of service as a healer having had to heal myself from my addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I look back, and rather than deny that part of myself, I feel blessed I got experience it. But I’m far more grateful I got to recover from it.

I do not recommend MY path to anyone else however, and I consider myself very lucky to be here. But witnessing the renaissance for psychedelics unfolding around me now, and the healing aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general being celebrated, actually makes my heart sing. I’m also thrilled to see real support for the appropriate research into the healing properties of these substances, as well as social support for people exploring consciousness through hallucinogens.

For anybody who is choosing to experiment, I’m also beyond stoked to see all the resources out there for people to educate themselves and stay safe and healthy. Check out the awesome organizations below that are helping us evolve towards cognitive liberty and safer inner explorations.

As a healer, teacher, and artist, some of Jesse Heid’s most passionate work is introducing people to their fascia connective tissue and exploring the tensegrity of the fascia matrix throughout our entire form. Jesse holds a BFA in modern dance and composition from CalArts and has been a popular NYC Pilates teacher since 2000. Find out more about her and her work at Alignedspiritpilates.com, and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

For more information about the safe use of psychedelics for healing:

MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Women’s Visionary Congress

The Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Congress

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