We just got back from MidBurn, the Burning Man of the Middle East, the 3rd largest Regional Event in the world based on the 10 Principles such as radical self-expression, decommodification, and leave no trace.
It is one of many of a relatively new class of gatherings termed “Transformational Festivals” coined by Jeet Kei Leung in his TEDx Vancouver talk, who also directed a web documentary, The Bloom Series, on the emergence of this new self-aware festival culture.
Apart from Burning Man spearheading transformational events, and the multitude of gatherings of the sort centered around the West Coast of the US (Lucidity, Symbiosis, Beloved, Shambala), and the rest of North America, the category is exploding worldwide with festivals including Boom (Portugal), Envision (Costa Rica), Earth Frequency and Burning Seed (Australia), as well as other burning man regional events, to name a few. Even the massive Glastonbury Festival (UK) began as a transformational event.
Not all abide by Burning Man’s 10 Principles (which specifically define Burning Man Regionals), but transformational type gatherings do follow general guidelines (see the Bloom Series List of Qualifications) for the benefit of community and individuals – as opposed to the capitalist motivations of generic huge music festivals.
Mainstream, contemporary concerts and gatherings instead have drink sponsors like a sporting event, blatantly sell and promote for-profit rather than for-educational reasons, leave a big mess and hire a cleanup crew, encourage attendees as spectators rather than participators/collaborators/individual-artists, focus on main stage music acts rather than small personal workshops, and support drinking rather than exploring self, spirituality, and inwards through other means. In contrast, many transformational festivals are alcohol-free!
The Rolling Stone Magazine even put out a list of their favorite transformational events!
Reasons to go to Transformational Festivals (inspired by the 10 principles of Burning Man)
- Radical Inclusion:
- Learning to share space with other people whose lives, decisions, and values may radically differ from your own
- Working together despite differences to have a good time
- Gifting of oneself, and accepting gifts freely, without shame, guilt, fear, reason or ulterior motive, be it physical objects, hand-crafted creations, personal experiences, or compliments
- Living, albeit for a short time, in a culture embodying Decommodification, a non-commercial community, and the peace it comes with.
- Becoming Radically Self-Reliant:
- Planning ahead to cover all your bases, going first through the learning experience and then repeating the ritual of preparation
- Enduring hardships and making it through it a better person
- Adapting to unforeseen circumstances with what’s at hand (for example, dealing with cold, heat, and dust storms, and creatures such as scorpions, snakes and giant spiders)
- Practicing Radical Self-Expression,
- Deciding how to express oneself
- Finding out what self-expression really means to you
- And how much is healthy, necessary, and realistic for yourself
- Feeling a part-of, participating in community (Communal Effort)
- Being responsible for other members of the community (Civic Responsibility)
- Leaving No Trace, cleaning up after oneself and seeing how much waste one generated
- Participating, openly, being invited to join in on any reasonably open activity, workshop, party, etc.
- Practicing Immediacy, joining in on nearby activities and addressing one’s inner desires immediately.
Apart, transformational festivals allow opportunity to:
- Feel more independent, autonomous, unique, and self-confident
- Great opportunities for self-exploration
- Make new and unexpected friends
- Learn from mistakes
- Live unique experiences for each person, each time
- Have truly transformational experiences
- Gain a great perspective on one’s inner self