August 18, 2012

10 Lessons from the Playa: Achievement Brain vs. Orgasmic Brain. ~ Candice Holdorf












This moment…is forgotten when you start thinking in terms of achievement. When the achieving mind arises, you lose contact with the paradise you are in…guilt sits on your chest like a rock, it crushes you; it does not allow you to dance. How can you dance? How can guilt dance? How can guilt sing? How can guilt love? How can guilt live? So the one who thinks he is doing something wrong is guilty, burdened, dead before death, has already entered the grave. ~ Osho

It’s that time of year again: dust off your sparkle pants, grab your goggles and hop on your bikes, cuz we’re going to Burning Man!

Okay, okay I know. Many of you reading this may be thinking “Dear God, she’s one of those crazy, drugged-out hippie people.” Perhaps you’ve gotten jaded by the popularization of it all (yes, I too have noticed the recent surge of fanny pack-wearin’, picture-takin’, bucket list-completin’ tourists). Or it’s possible you see it as an irresponsible way to use time and resources (I get it; I also want to punch the faces of college-raver kids who leave their beer cans and glow necklaces in the port-o-potties).

Or it’s possible you think it’s a really cool experience you’d like to explore. Maybe you’ve been and it changed your life. Or perhaps you’ve never even heard of it.

There is a gift within these seemingly various perspectives and it’s reflected in the first principle of Burning Man:

1. Radical Inclusion: Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

That means that the jaded guy, the college-raver, the tourist, the explorer, the believer and the novice all have a place within the system and provide value with their voices.

This may seem at odds with how we normally interact with life. Typically, we choose a perspective and work tirelessly to gather evidence that supports our perspective while rejecting anything that is in conflict with it.

This is an example of how the “Achievement Brain” works. It’s a pattern of reasoning that’s a product of social breeding. It’s based on a system of reward and punishment. As children, our parents offered us ice cream if we sat quietly in the corner. In kindergarten, we got gold stars if we kept our hands to ourselves. In school, we were graded on a scale from A-F, which determined our intellectual merit. And now as adults, we use any mix of money, trophy spouses, cars, food, houses, jobs and spiritual development as “proof” of our worthiness.

When we are living in the Achievement Brain’s world, nothing is ever enough. We have to constantly seek new, bigger, better things to fill the holes in our lives. Each new achievement may provide temporary solace from the fear monster; but it’s only a matter of time before we have to scramble to keep our pedestals super-glued, cemented and duct-taped together.

The antidote to “Achievement Brain” is “Orgasmic Brain.”

In the realm of orgasm, everything that arises is fuel for transformation. Our sense of well-being comes from within. We move only when we are inwardly moved (as opposed to moving in blind reaction to something outside of ourselves). In the orgasmic world, the present moment is alive and the spirit of play, connection and improvisation guide the way.

Burning Man is the ultimate orgasmic world and Camp Contact, a camp at Burning Man, is one representation of that. Originally founded as a Contact Improvisation Dance camp, they are now taking their dance philosophy into workshops that focus on relating, intimacy and the never-ending tango between femininity and masculinity.

Their list of workshops includes: “Tune-Up From a Loving Bitch,” “Shame, Pride & Play” and “Embracing Awkwardness.” What separates Camp Contact’s workshops from many others is that the workshops are created based on the conversations, inspirations and in-the-moment surprises that arise during the festival week. There’s no set structure for any of these classes and nothing is pre-planned. All that exists is the course description, a question and a box of tools; anything that happens within that container is solely based on the connection generated between the facilitators and the participants.

This dance between each of us and the magic that is created is at the heart of orgasmic living. It’s not to say that any one way of thinking is better than the other. However, in my opinion, we have lived in a default muggle world for far too long. The principles of fun, spontaneity and the unknown have given way to certainty, safety and a “nose-to-the-grindstone” mentality that is out of balance and therefore draining us of our vitality.

I’m not saying that schedules and plans and hard work don’t have their place. Without them, we’d be floating around on dingys at the mercy of whatever storms life tosses our way. But without orgasm as our compass, we are unkindly over-taxing our systems trying to doggy-paddle “where the reward is,” when we could be effortlessly flowing where desire guides us.

And maybe your desire takes you to Burning Man. Or church. Or creating a business. Or travelling to Peru. It doesn’t matter how the exploration of your Orgasmic Brain expresses itself; what matters is that you took the journey in the first place.

So, in the spirit of the 10 Principles of Burning Man, I offer you 10 Lessons from the Playa: Achievement Brain vs. Orgasmic Brain.

1. Achievement Brain resorts to force. Orgasmic Brain thrives on surrender.

We are constantly doing and working harder and faster to feel like we are making progress in our lives. The Orgasmic Brain takes us out of the role of “doer” so that life can effortlessly flow through us.

2. Achievement Brain is transactional. Orgasmic Brain is self-generating.

The Achievement Brain is constantly asking “What do I lose or gain if I do this thing? What is my reward or punishment?” The Orgasmic Brain simply acts out of its own pleasure, without the fear of loss or gain, because it has a self-generating source of energy.

3. Achievement Brain divides the world into Good & Bad. Orgasmic Brain includes everything as an opportunity for play.

The Achievement Brain categorizes things as Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Winner/Loser, which can be fertile breeding ground for shame. Anything that is good is to be clung to and anything bad is to be avoided. The Orgasmic Brain has objective neutrality that allows space for everything that arises. Note that this neutrality is not a sort of dissociative passivity, but is a full-body engagement and allowance for what is.

4. Achievement Brain seeks to fill the void. Orgasmic Brain expresses from the void.

Rather than stuffing ourselves with more things to numb our hungers, the Orgasmic Brain wants us all to grow big enough (and brave enough) to unleash our desires onto the world.

5. Achievement Brain focuses on lack. Orgasmic Brain focuses on sufficiency.

Again, the Achievement Brain uses objects to temporary relieve the quiet the places where it feels like it is not “enough.” The Orgasmic Brain knows that it is enough, expresses its gratitude for all that it has and acts accordingly.

6. Achievement Brain obsesses on the past and future. Orgasmic Brain is rooted in the present.

The Achievement Brain is obsessed with processing “where we went wrong” and securing ourselves against impending doom. The Orgasmic Brain rests in the wisdom found in the present.

7. Achievement Brain craves an answer. Orgasmic Brain lives for the question.

The Achievement Brain goes insane without a problem to solve and an answer to seek. The Orgasmic Brain flourishes in continuous curiosity within the unknown.

8. Achievement Brain clings to the goal. Orgasmic Brain enjoys the journey.

The Achievement Brain has a very tiny lens with little space for spontaneity and mistake-making. The Orgasmic Brain knows that if there is fluidity in the journey, one can make a “wrong turn” and end up in a space far richer than previously imagined.

9. Achievement Brain lives by “shoulds.” Orgasmic Brain lives by desire.

The Achievement Brain wants a “How-To” Book on life—and unfortunately for many of us, that comes with social dogma on how we “should” be living. The Orgasmic Brain works within our own personal code of integrity.

10. Achievement Brain seeks absolution. Orgasmic Brain knows it is free.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. The Achievement Brain soooooo wants to be punished so that it can feel better about all the bad things it’s done in the past. The Orgasmic Brain rests in the knowledge that it deserves to feel good, wholesome and healthy, without having to pay the toll for a pleasure-filled existence. It’s this level of acceptance that allows the Orgasmic Brain to nourish itself and be of service to humanity.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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