How the Burn Ruined My Life: Five Reflections on Ten Years of Participation with Kiwiburn

Oct 18, 2021 | Kiwiburn

As the countdown to the 2022 Effigy Burn slips on, second by second, I am feeling excited and ever-more buoyant, but also quite humbled and emotive. Time Travel will be my tenth Burn with Kiwiburn. 

Not surprisingly, I have experienced much magic, met many amazing humans, and poured my soul out on many a dance floor over these years. However, as some of you already know, being a committed Burner isn’t candy and rainbows all the time. The very nature of the Burn, guided by the Ten Principles, is meant to challenge us on every level, year after year after year, both on the Paddock and off. 

The Burn ruined my life. My first Kiwiburn, and, indeed, my first Burn ever, was KB2011 Twisted Reality (pop. 500) and I almost didn’t go. Oh, how things would have been different! At the last minute though, I packed a quick bag, grabbed a flight to the North Island, and hitchhiked the rest of the way to the Paddock. As I crawled on my hands and knees through the long, winding, Greeters’ tunnel to the alternate reality that awaited in the Paddock on the other side, I had absolutely no concept of how radically my whole life was about to change. 

Though we all experience the Burn in different ways, through our own lens, and with respect to our own journeys; without further ado, I’d like to share with you some of the ideas and revelations that have challenged me personally over the past years – I am sure many of you will be able to relate!

The Burn always challenges us as individuals and always will.

There is no escaping here! At every Burn we will be challenged – whether mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, or all the above (and it’s usually all the above!). The Burn is like a giant mirror which reflects ourselves back to us. Sometimes, we find we do not like what we see; then, we get the great pleasure (happy groan) of having to deal with whatever that is. Sure, we can ignore the information, but that only leads to lack of personal growth and general life-stagnation. So, however deep the rivers may run, we are best to stand unashamedly, vulnerably, proudly, and do the mahi – the best part is, we don’t have to do it alone!

Participation and Immediacy are the keys to self-awareness and growth.

Though others may not often witness me in this way, I am quite introverted, which doesn’t bode very well for practicing the Principles of Participation and Immediacy! Rough. Through onsite and year-round participation, however, I have pushed myself to volunteer in many different areas of the Burn, with each new experience helping me to build the confidence I need to do and be even better versions of myself. Through the practice of Immediacy, I have learned to work past many of my fears and get into the flow, though this is a huge work-in-progress (as it should be), always!

Not every ‘thing’ is the right ‘thing’ (or way) for you.

It’s easy to look around and see hundreds of people doing amazing things and think, “Yesss, that is so radical, I wanna do that too!” What is more difficult, however, is knowing or finding out through doing that, maybe, whatever that thing was, it just simply wasn’t for you. The key here is not to stop doing or trying new things, but to allow yourself the courage and space to fail and still love yourself. 

Being part of a community means other people care about you too.

I feel constantly challenged by this concept. Having not grown up in any solid community structures, Kiwiburn was my first real experience of being a part of a group of humans with similar goals and mindsets in an extensive, supportive construct. While my dedication and contributions to the Kiwiburn community through volunteering, participation, gifting, and support of others has been enduring, I am consistently shocked when anyone offers the same to me. New mantra: I am a valuable member of this community and am deserving of the same love, dedication, and support that I show others. I will accept these beautiful gifts.

It is possible to bring one’s Burner world and Default world closer together.

I can’t remember at what point in my journey I first heard someone discussing the desire to reduce the gap between their “Burner life” and their “Default life,” but it was an especially profound concept for me. Kiwiburn isn’t just a cool party we all show up at for a week: it is a vehicle for massive, radical, individual, and societal changes. The more we can incorporate and lead-by-example the values of the Ten Principles in our everyday lives, the more rapidly those changes will occur. I like to think of it as a bit of a life surgery – I carefully, contemplatively remove the things in my Default world, one-by-one, that do not fit with or act as blockers to these values and replace them with thoughts, actions, and support systems that do fit. With each passing year, the gap does seem to get a bit smaller, and my life feels a bit freer, a bit more radical, and a bit more (happily) ruined.

Arohanui Kiwiburn, see you in the year of Time Travel!


Photo: Mike Nelson/Getty Images

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