The 10 Principles of Burning Man

Are Preconceptions Keeping You From Secrets to Happiness?

Jordan is fresh back from Burning Man 2014 with all sorts of insights to share with those of us who couldn’t make it to the desert!

Burning Man: The Happiest Place on Earth?

Burning Man—a weeklong art, community, self-expression, and survival festival of 70,000 people, has been influencing culture for almost thirty years. Its impact is growing, and for many attendees it is the happiest week of their lives.

For this reason, seekers of happiness will be well served to consider the 10 Principles that make Burning Man so unique, regardless of what they think about the festival.

How could your life be better if you let these principles influence your behavior? Can you find ways to include the best of these ideas while still engaging in the “default world” of normal society?

1. Radical Inclusion

Stop for a moment and consider who you might be excluding from your life. Is there a way this is keeping you from greater happiness?

How might treating a stranger with kindness improve your mood?

2. Gifting

People at Burning Man give unconditionally—meaning they have no anticipation of getting anything in return. A simple yet beautiful practice that begets massive amounts of happiness for the givers and receivers.

You do not have to change the entire economic system to add more gifting to your life. Also, try receiving gifts (or compliments) without needing to give something in return. Compliments are not necessarily meant to be bartered or traded.

3. Decommodification

At Burning Man, this means no sponsorships or advertising. While this is not easily translatable into our lives, the underlying principle is to “resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.”

When it comes to happiness, experience brings more than purchasing. What commodities could you exchange for activities, shared with friends?

4. Radical Self-Reliance

When it comes to happiness, how much are you relying on others to make you happy? What can you do and discover for yourself instead?

This might seem at odds with the community-oriented principles, but Burning Man, like happiness and human beings, is a beautiful place of paradox.

5. Radical Self-Expression

Are there forms of self-expression that you hold back? Are you tapping into your creativity? Might it make the world a more beautiful place, and bring yourself and others more happiness, if you expressed yourself instead?

(It is very important to balance respect for the “rights and liberties” of other people within this principle).

6. Communal Effort

Whatever way you are reading this article, it was created by a hundred different hands. Most of your absolute favorite inventions, songs, laws, companies, etc., are the result of collaborations.

What projects are you hoping to accomplish that might benefit from some communal help? Would working on it with others increase your happiness?

7. Civic Responsibility

Are you shirking responsibility in your family, community, organization, or society? Paradoxically, taking responsibility to make things better can make us less stressed and more happy as we realize the places we can make a difference and work toward making the world around us a better place.

8. Leaving No Trace

We live in an interconnected world. Leaving no trace sets the right precedent for others to leave no trace, creating environments that are cleaner, happier, and better for enjoying.

9. Participation

If you find yourself complaining about something—whether it is in yourself, others, or society at large, ask yourself, “How can I participate in making this better?”

Participation is a simple yet extremely powerful principle. We all hold back from participating sometimes; for fear of doing it wrong, not being enough, or being seen a way we do not want to be seen. Would we be happier jumping in instead?

Of course, participation does not mean simply following the crowd. It might mean radically changing the norms, or requesting a new form of participation.

10. Immediacy

Immediacy means staying present, not instant gratification. Pay attention to what is happening around you, pay attention to the moment, and let it direct you instead of trying to fight it, plan some future happiness, or try to make things different from what they are.

This principle is easier to follow at Burning Man when most people do not have schedules to keep. Yet allowing a little more spontaneity and flow into your day can add an element of joy as you let yourself be surprised.

One way to think of immediacy—Happiness does not happen in the future, it happens right now.


Image: Some rights reserved by Jennifer Morrow

 

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