Reminder From The Dust

Post written by Nick Adkins

The dust…..I forgot just how much dust there is. I’ll be coughing it up and blowing it out my nose for days, and I couldn’t be happier. I wasn’t planning on going to Burning Man this year. It wasn’t calling to me until a few weeks ago. I had been invited to speak at #GWIcancer in Lake Nona, Florida. When I first booked the trip I was excited about going to see the new innovation center at GuideWell, but as the date approached I began to feel resistance re wanting to go. That’s how the universe speaks to me. The thing I don’t want to do is the thing I must do. It’s the push. The leaning into it.

I didn’t know why I didn’t want to go, but I knew if I was present, willing, and open…..the universe would provide me with the experience I needed. It’s the same on the playa as it is in the default world. So, I went to Lake Nona and found my answer. Most conferences I attend are vendor fairs. An overload of commerce, things being sold, deals being made……but Lake Nona was different, it was a small intimate affair of people sharing their stories about cancer. There were stories of pain and loss. There were stories of joy and triumph. All the stories were authentic and full of heartspeak.

I saw my friend Patti Rogers again, and I met new friends like Kyle Matthews and Julie Wheelan and many others. As my flight landed at home in Portland at midnight on that Friday night, I sat in the knowing of why I had needed to attend #GWIcancer……to have my heart blown open, to feel the stories, to see each other through our tears, to connect, to hug, and to share space in the silence of just being there.

And, so it was that on Saturday at home when mailman Ben came to my door to deliver the mail with his usual hug (yeah, he’s a Burner) that Ben said “we’re leaving for the playa today and we have room in our RV for you and your gear if you want to ride in with us.” I told Ben again I already had plans for another conference in San Diego and I wasn’t going to make it to Burning Man this year. We hugged and I watched him bounce off the porch in his pinksocks headed for his adventure in the desert.

Then the universe poked me really hard. Ten minutes after Ben left I received a text from my good friend and camp mate Pete. He was standing on an RV in the middle of camp shooting a 360 video of the playa at sunrise saying “it sure is beautiful here, camp’s looking good, we wish you were here……there’s a ticket at will call for you.” Hey universe, I’m listening! I texted mailman Ben to make sure he had room for me. He did. When would he pick me up? I had 2 hours to get ready to survive extreme camping in the high desert of Nevada for a week before Ben would load my gear and bike onto his RV!

It’s the vastness of Burning Man that gets me every time. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice. You can’t really grasp the scope of it until your boots hit the dust. 70,000 people from all over the world coming to one of the harshest places on the planet to survive and thrive for a week. To participate in a social experiment. A microcosm that accelerates our ability as a species to adapt and overcome. For what? To have our hearts blown open, to feel the stories, to see each other through our tears, to connect, to hug, and to share space in the silence of just being there. To see old friends and meet new friends. Yeah…..exactly like that! The same experience I had in Lake Nona! Do pain, loss, joy, and triumph co-exist at the same time in this temporary city in the desert? Absolutely. Do bad things happen? Yes. Do good things happen? Yes. Does the community survive? Yes! Do we learn and grow? Yes!

In healthcare we routinely see each other at our most vulnerable. Swimming in fear. We talk a lot about the need for empathy, listening, and engagement. What if the thing that we are looking for is already happening right now, right here? Perhaps we put so much energy into convincing ourselves that we have to find empathy, listening, and engagement that we miss that they are already in our hearts if we just lean into them. Each year at Burning Man, and this year was no different, one of my favorite places to visit is the temple. It’s a sacred spot where pain and joy exist in the same now.

It’s a place of letting go of grief and loss, and moving into love and life. It’s a place where we see each other in our truest form, stripped of all that we have and left bare and broken and accepting that we are all vulnerable. That we are all swimming in fear and that the only way to survive is to realize that we are all in this together. To choose love over fear. To see ourselves in each other. It’s a choice. A conscious decision. An intention. A manifestation. Doable. We each long for connection. We attend conferences to connect. We connect on social media to be part of a community, to find our tribe, to share, to learn, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

And, so it is. 

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