It has been a couple of years since I have blogged on The Puja Eyes Medicine Show site. The last entries were from an excellent guest blogger, my son Ian, during the summer of 2013, when we explored “An Apothecary of Ideas” (his phrase) on our cross-country trip to the Wakarusa Music Festival, in Arkansas. On the way we explored Honky-tonk and Country Music, in Nashville, TN, and The King of Rock and Rolls palace in Graceland. We listened to electronica, gypsy punk, and various music fusions that would be featured at the festival and we asked: “What does music and festival have to do with health?” What do travel and making special costumes, and practicing our unicycle skills in preparation for an event have to do with our well-being? We asked ourselves that question as we huddled in 40+ mile an hour winds, hail, and torrential rain on Mulberry Mountain at the festival the first day. We asked that question of many of the festival-goers in the coming days as we trudged through cake-batter thick mud up to our shins, took pictures, and did our best to inquire about festival, music and health. What we discovered was community health, community dance, art and celebration. We discovered the bond that exists between strangers who adore the same band for their own private reasons, but for the similar story that that music spoke to their authentic self.
Later that summer, my son and I visited the Moog factory in Asheville, NC and Ian added Bob Moog’s sentiments about the importance of music to the PEMS Apothecary of ideas. Reading back over the posts I am (of course) finding grammatical choices I wish I had not made … and missing my boy-now-turning-man as he approaches his 15th birthday this week.
Much has changed in our lives since Wakarusa 2013. Ian and I live in separate states now as I am pursuing a long-desired goal of becoming a licensed 5 Element Acupuncturist and Herbalist at The Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in Gainesville, FL, and he is in a great high school in Asheville, NC, and living in a house of bachelor-artists, including his dad. We have not been documenting our times together, as we just focus on each other during visits. Ian is the best “Technical Inter-Post” blogger (a job title coined by him) that The Puja Eyes Medicine Show has ever had the pleasure of working with. I hope he will write a few lines again for us soon. Happy birthday, son.
After hearing about the Burning Man Festival for many years, and knowing the developers of the regional burn movement in Asheville, I finally got the opportunity to attend Transformus this weekend. “ A wild world of self-expression, music, art, games, amazing performances, gatherings, meals, shows and magic…where strangers are best friends.” Is how it is described by its founders. I found the 10 Principals to be inspired by the Rainbow Family Gathering and expanded to be very creative and community-art centered. Inclusion, gifting, decommodification, self-reliance, self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, immediacy and participation are the ideas that are taken very seriously at “The Burn”.
The experience has achieved its title. I am transformed. At present the impact is still sinking in. I thought it important to document here, as personal transformation is a theme in the “Apothecary of Ideas” that leads to better health.
I went as just me. Although I did pass out a few tins of Slippery Gypsy Aphrodisiac Mustache Wax as gifts, The Puja Eyes Medicine Show was not the focus of my visit. Preparation for the next chapter of my life was. In a few weeks, I will be entering my clinical year of training. The culmination of a 3 year Masters Degree program in an ancient form of Acupuncture, preserved from texts that date back thousands of years in Chinese Medical History; Five Elements Medicine. I will be seeing patients under the experienced direction of teacher-practitioners who have preserved this shamanic art, along with its rescuer/founder J.R. Worsley for much of their lives. It felt right to go home to the Asheville area to burn off what is no longer needed and become inspired for the work ahead.
This is the documentation of three events that hang together for me in my experience … along with all the other wonderful, creative, hilarious and sublime moments that only this kind of a gathering can elicit. There are moments that cannot be spoken of, or recorded.. In fact photography without consent …. Anything without clear consent, is not allowed at the burn. There are images of some of these events at the official website: http://www.transformus.com this is the record of the images that I carry now, in my minds eye.
Three descriptions follow of what I witnessed as visceral demonstration of the most important principal of the Burning Man Culture, Immediacy. “To overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers.” Immediacy is the definition of the work of Five Elements Medicine as well. It is what I came seeking.
Fire Number One: The First Burn
The effigy was already in place in the middle of the burn field as we entered the grounds. It was a high tower with a scarecrow-like effigy of a larger-than-life woman at the top. We were encouraged to paint, write climb and affix our prayers to her and the structure before it was to become a structure fire on Saturday night. I labeled her as an aspect of myself that no longer serves. Watching her burn ignited a deep wisdom and confidence in me.
Will Across Water: The Second Event
To describe the upper pond at Transformus is to borrow from the great filmmaker Frederico Fellini. With “Life and dreams as raw material” the scene on the lake would defy ordinary description of a party. The pirate ship “Molly Roger” draped with lounging bodies in various costumes, including those we were blessed with at birth, party floats bearing equally jolly guests, a fake VIP beach, roped off in gold chains and a giant, invisible blow up ball that 2 to 3 people could roll inside and into the lake, where they would self-propel by walking inside. These were some of the dreamlike aspects of that Sunday afternoon.
Laughter and music filled the warm scene. Pure paradise.
From across the pond with a perfect view of the VIP beach, I noticed a stark shift in the energy. A ranger was running and shouting around the lake. A canoe was being guided in to shore. The body of Jay Houston Marx was dragged out of the watery playground, and silence fell on the football field size lake. The trained crew was quick and decisive. From across the water I saw them working resuscitation techniques that I have yet to be trained in. I searched my memory for the acupuncture points indicated for drowning, but knew my place was out of the way. They worked for several minutes to silent prayer and an occasional shout of “Breathe!” from the watery mirror of transformation that was the lake. We all joined as one to will life into our friend Jay. The first responder crew did not give up for the eternity that may have been only 20 to 30 minutes before the EMT ambulance arrived. He threw up a few times … we cheered. We had hope.
Jay Houston Marx transformed later that day. He burned off the part of him that we may have danced with or kissed or caressed the evening before at the music and dance parties all over the grounds. He went home.
“Welcome Home” (like the custom from the Rainbow Family Gatherings) is the phrase repeated again and again by rangers and volunteers at the gates of Transformus. No one knows what accident or incident caused Jay’s transformation. We can only welcome him home now. That night, in the second fire of Transformus his spirit was welcomed in and his name was spoken.
Fire Number Two: The Last Burn
This was a somber event. We watched in subdued mood as a beautiful sculpture that depicted the head of a human, and had been a “booth” that we could enter to write to things and people we wished to remember and release during the festival was set in a funeral pyre of wood, tiny blue dolls, art and notes. It burned in relative silence. I went to bed while the glowing embers were being tended.
Om Shanti Shanti OM