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Friday, August 22, 2014

Here's Where To Go If You Trip Too Hard At Burning Man

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 3:11 PM

click to enlarge You're gonna be ok. - ZENDO PROJECT
  • Zendo Project
  • You're gonna be ok.
The playa can burn like the heat of a thousand suns. And it's just as easy to melt your brain at Burning Man in the heat of the night, with the power of a thousand unknown chemicals coursing through your veins.

So what's a playa-goer to do when it's all just a bit too much? Freak out if you must, but then seek out the Zendo Project and their excellent mellowing-out area.

As they do every year, a collection of volunteer experts, including mental health professionals, will talk Burners through their "difficult psychedelic experiences."

This will include some deeply personal or intense topics, should the conversation go that way — though you'll be on your own to ponder the meaning of Grover Norquist's presence or how to score an invite to the sherpa-served techie billionaire party.

The Zendo Project is organized by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the same crew of researchers, doctors, psychologists and activists that have been trying to re-legalize MDMA and LSD for therapeutic use for almost 30 years. Sound crazy? It's not: MDMA was used by therapists with great success before the DEA threw it into the banned bucket in 1986.

This expertise comes in handy at festivals. Zendo volunteers know better than most about how to talk those tripping through it, or at least guide them out of a dark patch.


Burning Man appears to be a particularly useful place for psychedelic harm-reduction. Plenty of first-time Burners will be on hand, many will be dehydrated or otherwise out of their physical comfort zones, and presumably many people will be taking powerful chemicals for the first time. 

Zendo volunteers follow four basic principles: they create a safe space, in their case a cool, comfortable tent. They sit their subjects down, they talk them through what's going on rather than "talking them down," and they'll remind trippers that "difficult is not the same as bad."

A "bad trip" is the catch-all for a psychedelic experience that's difficult to deal with — but as MAPS will tell you, that could be unresolved trauma bubbling to the service. So really, a bad trip could be quite good.

Find Zendo next week in the FauxMirage theme camp, at 2:30 & E in Black Rock City.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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