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As each year passes, Burning Man seems to be pushed to the top of more and more poker player’s bucket lists. This was Matt Waxman’s second year. Midway through he at down and poured his emotions on to paper. After leaving Black Rock City he would share those experiences with the world.

It was raw, it was emotional, and it was a rare insight into the mind of one of the world’s top professional poker players.

This is your second burn, what was different this time?

There’s less shock. You know what to expect the second time. I was more familiar with the way the whole thing worked. I was also better at gifting, and thinking more of other people.

Did you have a daily routine, or did you go with the flow?

I was always going with the flow. I said I was going to plan things out, but it’s easier said than done. I would wake up, help with the BBQ from 2-4, then I would explore. I wanted to get out more during the day, but I was always going out in the night, and sleeping most of the morning.

I found it difficult to get the balance right between doing what I wanted to do, and spending time with the camp. How was that experience for you?

This was one of my breakthroughs actually. There was one day when we all had a fun time on the playa, during sundown, and everyone wanted to go back to camp. I didn’t want to go back, but they dragged me back because we were unprepared. After getting ready they were arguing about where to go? I went to get my bike. I was feeling anxiety and stress so I just rode off and left them. I went to the Playa and was out by myself for two hours.

It was a really rewarding experience. I remember as soon as I got on my bike, and was 100 feet away; thinking: ‘there’s no way anyone can find you unless they recognize the lights on your bike’. It was liberating. I felt amazing. I didn’t have to worry about anything or anyone. I could see and do whatever I wanted. That’s BM at its finest. Everyone is really positive and has good vibes and it’s really refreshing to be in a place where people are so pure.

There is true authenticity at BM, do you agree?

It’s a true phenomenon. You realize how suggestible humans are. When we’re in our own environment, we do what everyone else is doing because we don’t want to stand out. But at BM, you’re encouraged to be yourself and the guy that’s simply fitting in is the weirdo.

What goes through your mind at BM?

I do a lot of introspection at BM and I always learn something new. Whenever someone asks me what BM is like, and I say it’s a celebration of life, people give me this strange look. You’re going out in the desert and living in extreme conditions. There is no life out here under normal circumstances. People ask me why I would you want to come to such a place? Is it all about the drugs?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredible place to party, and there are a lot of drugs, but the reason why I love BM so much is because you leave all your luxuries behind, and this forms a deep sense of gratitude.

There’d be days where I was thinking: ‘I’d love to have a hot shower, and a massage and eat some crab.’ Even out here at BM, I’m probably living better than 90% of the world’s population. It just goes to show how we take everything for granted. So it’s really nice to reset yourself. And when you’re in BM, you get to be thankful for everything that you have.

What were your highlights?

The highlight was writing my article. I write a lot, but I’ve never been able to write with such clarity. I sometimes struggle to articulate my thoughts into my writing.

There were a lot of poker players in my camp and it was good to be able to bond with them on another level. There were so many poker players who had never been before. They kept asking me if it was like EDC? I kept telling them that EDC is a circus. BM is the real world.

It was great seeing them all out there. Dan Smith said it was the best thing he’s done in his whole life. It’s easy to find faults in people, and not like them for it, but at BM you see all the great stuff about people. I love it. It restores my faith in humanity. I know we can have times when life is tough; things get upsetting and nobody understands you. But when you go to a festival like this, there’s a lot of love. Then you realize that deep down everyone is pretty great.

Ideally, all of us want to be good at heart and you realize that. You can concentrate on why people are good instead of looking for faults. I learned a lot from a book called: Freedom from the Known by J Krishnamurti. I was on a plane going to McLean Carr’s wedding and I read it heading over there and on the way on back. It was incredible.

What did you learn from it?

He talks about meditation, and how everyone’s idea of it is ludicrous. He has deep concepts on love. I can’t even put it into words. It makes sense, and I absorb it, but don’t know how to explain it?

How do you express your art?

I write a lot, but I don’t share what I write. I do it more for stress relief and my own understanding. I also really enjoy painting, and I play a little piano, but nothing crazy. I’m currently writing a song.

You received some good feedback after what you wrote, doesn’t this want to make you share more?

Every time that I write, I do consider sharing, but I don’t think I’ve had anything that was worth considering sharing until that moment. I was also on the fence sharing that article.

Do you worry about other people’s opinions?

I do, and I wish I didn’t. I am learning to worry less. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year or two. If I think my writings can help or inspire people then it’s worth sharing. I’m not trying to brag, and say I’m enlightened. The reason why I share is because those are some valuable lessons I’ve learned for myself, and I thought it would be good to put them down on paper, so if someone was interested, they can look at the world that way and I think it could be helpful. But I’m definitely planning to write and share more if I have another moment of inspiration or clarity.

What are most challenging aspects for you at Burning Man?

The first year I went, I thought I would have trouble being dirty all the time; and have trouble sleeping in an uncomfortable bed. I was like a prima donna; I was very OCD, but now I’m much less like that. I realize when you’re at Burning Man and Antonio {Esfandiari} hands you a hot dog with dusty hands you just get over it.

I think the hardest thing is the environment, and dealing with the conditions. I thought being alone would be challenging, but I now realize that I actually enjoy my own company. Most people feel insecure and are scared being by themselves, and need to have people around them at all times in order to be comfortable. I came to a big realization last year, and this year it was reinforced, that I actually like being alone sometimes. It’s peaceful. I like to think deeply and introspectively, and think about life.

Did you have trouble decompressing when you came back?

I find it really easy to get back into life because I’m able to trade all the creativity, love and beauty for the comfort of the regular world: like having hot showers, driving my car, eating a great meal – so I feel it balances out and it makes me okay. At the same time, I feel like it lights a fire under ass and I’m ready to take on the world again. I have way too many things on my to do list.

What are some of the things on your to do list?

I’m searching for someone, so that’s important. I also would like to make an invention. I have the idea for it already, but I need to create a prototype, make a business plan and start talking with the right people to sell it to. I also have a league concept for poker and I’ll be doing something about that in the future.

What was your Temple Burn experience like?

I left the morning of the Temple Burn, but I did have two incredible visits.

The temple was an interesting design this year. It felt like a journey, as the space got smaller and smaller. I walked through and felt the solemn, gloomy; quiet feel. I really tried to observe and be open and feel it. The only thing I could think of was Chad {Batista} dying, and it’s so sad because he grew up in my town. He lived down the street from me. I actually had a big cry after I wrote my blog thinking about him.

I walked around the outside and I saw a woman sitting on the end of a bench. I wanted to meditate, so I sat down on the other end of the bench. There was all this space in between us. I didn’t say a word to her. She didn’t say a word to me. I just closed my eyes and absorbed the energy around me and thought about my life; my predicaments and anything else that was going on. I tried to clear my mind. I didn’t cry.

On the day of the burn, one of my friends – who I don’t know that well, but who had just moved to Miami, so I wanted to make it a point to spend more time with him – ended up doing some yoga by the big Dream sign. When we were riding back I mentioned visiting the temple. He hadn’t been before.

When we got there I gave him a Sharpie and told him to go ahead. When I saw him he was already writing. I walked around and found my spot. I thought I was just going to the temple for him, because I had already been and meditated like I said. But when I was there, I wrote the same question you see on my blog, and then my answer. Then I wrote something for my Grand Aunt. She was the closest person to me that’s passed and that was 10 years ago. She taught me how to play cards. She used to come over to my parents’ house when I was 8, 9 years old and play Gin Rummy and teach me Casino. I was always playing with her. She used to always hold a mirror up and say: ‘Who’s the monkey in the mirror?’ When I would look she would call me her monkey. She had a very tough life. She never found anyone. She never had kids. She ended up going blind the last couple of years and was in a wheel chair. So I’m very grateful. She was a lovely person. I just started crying and I couldn’t stop. When I collected myself, I saw Silverman. He was waiting for me, and told me he couldn’t go back in there. He told me his story and I just hugged him. Then I told him my story, and started bawling again.

I cried every day at BM

Crying is a great stress release. I used to cry a lot until I was 14. But then people would call me a cry baby, so you shut up, stop crying and become numb to the world. It’s part of the social norm. Your taught that a man shouldn’t be crying. But it’s beautiful; you’re vulnerable, your sensitive. And afterwards, you feel the weight on you released and it’s very therapeutic and I’ve become more comfortable with that. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s nice to go to a place where people encourage that kind of stuff like Burning Man.

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Lee Davy

Life can be viewed as the sum of the parts or the parts themselves. I believe in the holistic view of life, or the sum. When dealing with individual parts you develop whack-a-mole syndrome; each time you clobber one problem with your hammer another one just pops up.