The Traveler

By Dylan Stewart, MDI Contributor

I wish I could say I was a well-traveled man…

I wish I could say I’ve been everywhere in the world, explored the pyramids of Giza, trekked all the way through the Grand Canyon, climbed Mount Everest… but I can’t.

There are a million places I haven’t gone.  A million destinations I have yet to cross off my “to do” list. My bucket list is long, and my passport remains relatively unscathed…

But that doesn’t mean I am not a traveler. That doesn’t mean I don’t know all about the journey…

For me journeys are different. They don’t cost thousands of dollars. They don’t require large backpacks, or collapsible tents. For me the real journeys take place inside. Deep in our hearts and minds.

And those journeys take me every bit as far, alter me every bit as much, and are just as valuable!

The spiritual journeys come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But my greatest experience occurred in the middle of the Nevada desert, surrounded by 80,000 fellow travelers.

The year was 2015, and it was my first experience of Burning Man. But this is not a story about Burning Man, or those 80,000 fellow travelers. This is not a story of LED lights and thumping electronica music or crazy costumes and parties… this is the story of a journey 20 years in the making that took place in the blink of an eye, deep inside my soul.

Here is the backstory… in 1995 my daughter’s mother committed suicide. I found her body. I was 22.

As a young man, and suddenly a single father, I never had the chance or the opportunity to process the death. Sure, there was a funeral. Sure, I cried my eyes out. Sure, I had years of therapy following that… But I didn’t really process it.

In fact, not only did I not process it, I absorbed it… I absorbed her… all of her challenges, all of her struggles, all of the pain and suffering, you might even say she stepped into me when she stepped out of this life…

But I never knew.

Year after year, in and out of two decades, I never knew that I was carrying this other soul inside of me. Sure, she had left her body, but she never left this plane of existence. She was with me as I raised our daughter. She was with me as I tried to find a career, struggled in relationships, learned lessons, and lived a life…

I carried her, year after year, lifting her with me and absorbing the weight of this extra person. Imagine lifting weights in the gym, but the labels on the weights were wrong and you were actually lifting twice as much is you thought you were. That was my life. So I grew strong, powerful, capable of holding it all, managing it all, and not just surviving but thriving.

In 2015 I was given an opportunity to go to Burning Man. In the back of my head I was afraid it was just a party… something I had no time or energy to pursue. I was a father, I was running a business, I had a life to live… but my friends pushed and pursued and convinced me that this was part of the journey. This was what I needed to do next.

And so, in spite of the obstacles, in spite of the challenges, in spite of all the struggles I committed to and found myself in the middle of the Nevada desert.

On this particular day, a blazingly hot day, with heavy windstorms that turned into sandstorms, that could literally blind you and make it impossible to see two feet in front of you… I found myself in what is known as the temple. This is a man-made structure where the people come to mourn their loved ones, and grieve. But in my mind, I had no loved ones to grieve. It had been a good year. No one I knew was dead…

In fact I was just there to support one of my friends who was leaving his brothers ashes there… but as we stepped inside the temple, and a heavy throng of people pushed up against me, I lost my friends and found myself surrounded by strangers. And then I found myself surrounded with a deep throbbing emotion. Sadness. Loss. Grief. It was heavy, and thick. I could see it, feel it, and breathe it.

Wow, I thought to myself… with all of these people here, all of their sadness… these emotions are stuck here. Here I am, surrounded by everybody else’s sadness and pain. This hurts…

And as I felt it, and breathed through it… I made a life-altering realization.

That wasn’t everybody else’s sadness I was feeling… it was mine. Or at least it was coming from me…

So I got still. I got quiet. I let the noisy busy people around me drop away. And I dropped inside. Deep inside. And I got in touch with that feeling. It was like a vibration, a steady pulsing, and as I stayed focused on it… I could feel it expand.

It started in my heart. A warmth. An energy that was strong and vivid, and somehow familiar… but definitely not mine.

I breathed into it. I got a little light on my feet, and somebody guided me to a nearby bench. I could feel him put his hand on me… Grounded me in the present, as the energy continued to beat from my heart.

Then the energy doubled… quadrupled… intensified beyond measure…

It spread throughout my body, pushing out along my arms, down my legs, and up through my crown chakra…

It filled me, and then burst out of me from every possible direction.

I’m sure from the outside it was invisible, just this weird guy hyperventilating on a bench… but from inside it was like nothing I have ever felt before or since.  

The energy burst out of me, into the very air around me. It became a part of that temple… and for the first time in years I felt lighter.  I could feel my bones and muscles flexing. I could hear a voice deep inside of me sigh a heavy breath of relief.  Finally.  I was free.

As I slowly came back to reality, I opened my eyes and recognized I was not alone, there was probably 100 or more people in this room with me.  They were all going about their business as if nothing had happened. As if I had not had some life-altering cathartic event right in front of them. And as I caught my breath it occurred to me that it had been 20 years almost to the day that my daughter’s mother had taken her life.

And I knew that that energy, was her. Finally letting go. Finally releasing me. Finally secure in the knowledge that I could take it from here… and that her work was done.

My life has been different from that moment.

An upward sprint. With unbelievable gifts and opportunities dropped right in front of me. And with the constant reminder that this was my gift to pass on… This life, this Energy that we all hold inside of our hearts was mine to share in any way I saw fit.

So maybe I haven’t been to Florida, maybe I’ve never seen the Great Wall of China, maybe I’ve never ridden on a camel’s back across the desert of Africa…

But I’ve seen the cosmos… I’ve explored the universe… I’ve traveled from the beginning of time on this planet to the end of days…

And I’ve lived to tell the tale.

Not all journeys are physical. Not all forms of travel require reservations. Not all experiences take place with our eyes open. But the inner spiritual journey is every bit as critical to explore.  

1 thought on “The Traveler”

  1. Dylan,
    Great message! Sometimes the greatest distant is from the head to the heart and when it open and lets go, we have the capacity to travel anywhere.
    Thank you Sir.

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