Roles and Responsibilities

Being a Guardian means holding the space of the Temple

By holding space, we leave the space open for others to create for themselves what they are ready to have their moment with the Temple.  We work at the fringes of the Temple experience, staying invisible except when we are needed.  We keep the space of the Temple grounded in a neutrality that allows those entering the Temple to sense an invitation to fill that space with their own thoughts and feelings.

Who we are as Guardians

A Guardian has a commitment to holding the sacred space of the Temple. We provide the Temple with grounding and love by following a philosophy that calls for small pushes from a great distance to keep our community’s venerated space open and available for all. Nothing is added but what participants create for themselves. 

What we do as Guardians (our Mission) 

Temple Guardians hold the space of the Temple, maintaining an environment that allows equal access for everyone to have the experience and expression that they need and keep the sacred space as well as the participants who visit it safe.

Where we come from

Termeh Yeghiazarian formed our heart in 2001, seeing a need and working with artist and Temple builder David Best to create something that added to the majesty and serenity of the Temples.

The first Temple was far away from a largely dark city. By the time the second Temple arose, Termeh saw that there was a real need for a group to watch out for the Temple and the people drawn to it during the lonely hours of night.
With the assistance of David Best, Termeh formed the Temple Guardians to be a quiet presence that brought with them calm and grounding energy. We watched over each Temple at night from 2001 until 2011.

In 2011, as the city grew, the Temple Guardians evolved to serve the new needs of the Temple and those who visited it, working 24 hours a day throughout the event.

Though we have many more responsibilities and duties than we did in our earliest days, we still follow in the tradition of the Guardians, staying in the background, bringing our quiet presence and holding the space so that each and every person who comes to the Temple has the opportunity to have the experience that they need.

Being

Our task is to hold within ourselves the embodiment of the Temple in our community. Guardians act skillfully and knowledgeably, knowing that what they do serves the
needs of the Temple.  This means that our job is more about our way of  being than the things that we are doing.
From our beginning, the Temple Guardians have invisibly shaped and guided activities and culture around the Temple. We capture a spark from each Temple burn and nurture it through the year, holding that seed until the next Temple grows forth from it.
In order to carry this seed, we must always hold that space for ourselves, continually refreshing and renewing the presence of the Temple so that we are as immersed in
it when we return as we were when we departed. We never stop protecting the flame that our hearts contain.

Overview

Temple Guardians serve two fundamental functions:

  1. Hold the sacred space of the Temple available for everyone ; and
  2. Preserve the safety of the Temple and the participants who visit it.

The Temple is sacred in that it is venerated by our community.  We do not hold this space exclusively for someone like you might hold space for an individual, but hold space for all, giving everyone the opportunity for the Temple to be what they need at the moment that they are ready for it.

Meeting the Need

Every Temple has different needs for how participants get around, the physical safety of the structural elements, and the needs of the crew. As we gain institutional knowledge, we begin to be able to anticipate those needs ahead of time and are able to serve as a central point around which the culture and art of the Temples flow.
While we continue to primarily be a quiet, unseen force that is focused on holding the space of the Temple, we need to look to the environment that we are maintaining so that we can meet our mission. Growing excellence in this area requires that we push ourselves in both training and operations.

As always , our flexibility around growing with the event are key to providing what the community, the crew, and the Temple needs.

What is at stake

The Temple is what people need it to be at the moment that they are there for their moment of healing, joy, or transformation.  Having the Temple space be open, neutral, and available to all gives people the ability to see something there, an opening, an invitation for them to fill the space with themselves.

Training

All Temple Guardians must attend a training session each year in order to serve. We update the training every year, adding things that we feel will help you sharpen your Guardian skills. Please add yourself to a training session on Shiftboard so we know how many will be expected for each and can be prepared.

All training sessions will take place at the Temple Guardians home. Temple Voices and other special teams will receive additional training and information after the first session is complete.

2016 Temple Guardians On Playa Training Schedule:

Training will be held daily Sunday August 28th at 7pm, Monday August 29th, Tuesday August 30th, and Wednesday August 31st at 3pm.  Training runs approximately two hours and you will receive your bandanna, bracelet, and ID laminate when your training is complete.  Please let us know if you cannot make a scheduled training session by emailing templeguardians@burningman.org. Training schedule can be found in Shiftboard.  All Guardians are required to attend training to serve in 2016.

If you come to check in for your shift and you have not been to training, you will not be able to serve at your scheduled time.

Burn Perimeter Training

All Temple Guardians who will be working on the Temple burn perimeter shift Sunday afternoon must attend the training held on Friday September 2nd at 3pm.  Regular shift training will not be conducted at this time.  This training is just for Guardians who will be working during the Temple burn.  If you cannot make the Friday training but still wish to be on the Temple burn perimeter, please contact us at templeguardians@burningman.org.  Burn perimeter training is available to sign up for on Shiftboard.

Temple Guardian Responsibilities

You may be asked to perform a number of duties during your shift.  We always are there primarily to hold the space of the Temple, but you may find that there are participants who have become ill or injured, that there may be unsafe conditions, that you may have to protect the Temple structure from fire, participants climbing, vehicles coming too close or disturbing the Temple with sounds, and other problems that we may not have fully prepared you for.  As a Guardian, your duty is to watch quietly and act skillfully when necessary to protect the safety and sacred space of the Temple.  We are not guards, we are Guardians, and like the wind, we move mountain and sea without anyone truly seeing the touch of our hand.

Most of all we provide the Temple with grounding and love. We follow a philosophy that says small pushes from a great distance help keep the Temple a serene space. When we do interact with participants, we do so with love — carrying the sacred space of the Temple with us into every interaction.

Being with the Temple space and the participants who visit is our honor and privilege. During your shift, be present to the Temple and all that it has brought and caused for you and our community as a whole.  Keep in mind that being unseen and holding the sacred space is the largest part of our work.  When you experience a shift where things seem uneventful, quiet, and meditative, that is the clearing that you have caused. Your focused presence makes the difference while you are there and touches every person that visits the Temple.

Be prepared to spend at least five hours in harsh desert conditions away from camp. Day time volunteers should bring provisions that include snacks, sunscreen, and extra water. Night time volunteers should additionally bring extra layers to stay warm and enough light to be visible on your way to and from your shift.

Sobriety is required on shift.  You are a trusted member of the community, and participants see you as a representative of the Temple.  You are our eyes and ears on the ground and we count on you to be awake and alert while you are working.  We also count on the shift commitments that you have promised.  Someone didn’t take the slot you signed up for because they knew you would be there, so please make every attempt to arrive on time or notify us in advance at the Guardians check-in station near the Temple if you will be unable to make your shift.

Take time to understand what is going on before you take action. If you need to speak with a participant, examine the situation and then quietly ask to speak with the participant. If necessary, remind them that the Temple is a sacred space for everyone at Burning Man. Call on your fellow Guardians for assistance if you need additional experienced hands. If the matter is serious, immediately find one of the Voice or shift lead Guardians to assist you. If you are not sure who the other Guardians are, simply call out for Guardians to assist you. Guardians should all be identifiable by our bandannas, Voices and shift leads will also have and radios and some may be carrying staves to help them be seen.

In case of emergency, locate a Temple Voice.  These Guardians have been given specific training on dealing with emergency situations and will call upon the appropriate resources to deal with any problem.  Do not leave the Temple grounds to seek assistance, there will be many resources on site to help you.  If you are alone and you are with a participant who is in serious distress or is injured, stay with the participant and get the first person you can find to communicate that you require immediate assistance to a Temple Voice.  You may render assistance up to the level of training that you have, but please make sure to first protect yourself and your well being.  Guardians do not to put themselves in harm’s way and do not physically handle participants.

Voice of the Temple

Temple Voices are Guardians who have shown that they can take on the additional responsibility involved in being the leader of their shift.  They hold space for the Guardians on shift, managing the resources on the shift, and for all emergency communications from the Temple. You are entrusted with a radio that you’ll carry until your relief arrives at the end of your shift.

Please review this document for much more detailed information about the responsibilities of a Temple Voice.

Temple Closure

The Temple closes to the public early on Sunday morning to allow the crew to make preparations for the burn that evening. Temple Guardians establish a closure perimeter and compassionately escort the last remaining participants out of the Temple. After the Temple is closed to the general public, you will assist the Temple crew by protecting participants from the dangers of the burn prep.  Guardians on shift will be allowed to carry in last minute offerings safety permitting.

Offering Carriers

After the final burn perimeter is established, Temple Guardians assigned the role of offering carrier are allowed to bring offerings brought to the perimeter by participants.  You are entrusted by the Guardians, the Temple crew, and most importantly the participants to carry these sacred objects to their final resting place in the Temple. Many of those objects have stories behind them, and participants may need to share these stories with you in order to let their burden go. We give each participant the attentive presence they need and carry their offerings with honor.

Burn Perimeter*

On Sunday afternoon, the Temple Guardians join forces with the Black Rock Rangers to help maintain the safety perimeter around the Temple for the burn that evening.  We highly recommend wearing clothing made of natural fibers for this duty, as you may encounter intense heat and flying embers that can melt synthetic fabrics.

The experience of the Temple burn for a Guardian working on the perimeter is like nothing else.  You experience something transformative, not through your own eyes, but through the eyes of hundreds or thousands of others.  If you wish to feel your heart grow more than you could have ever imagined, add time in your schedule for this shift.  You won’t regret it, and you will never be the same after.

*Volunteers must attend the burn perimeter training session.  This session is scheduled on Friday September 2nd at the Temple Guardians Home in the Do More Now village at 7:30 and B.  You will find this training session available for RSVP in Shiftboard.

Temple Support

Temple support is our behind the scenes operations support team.  These shifts are twelve hours long, you will carry a radio and are ‘on-call’ for the Voices at the Temple to answer any questions that might arise, manage escalations, and to provide other support as needed.

Thank You!

You, Guardian, are a steward of the spiritual heart of our community. Your participation is highly regarded and appreciated, so please be aware of how important a role you play. It is the nature of our work that we often go unnoticed, but the Temple and those who visit it deeply appreciate and greatly value what you do.

All off duty Temple Guardians, regardless if you have worked one shift or ten, are invited to join the Temple builders in the inner circle on the night the Temple burns. Please be aware that you will be closer to the fire than the safety perimeter, so those sensitive to heat may not wish to sit so close.  So you know ahead of time, intoxicants are not allowed inside of the perimeter for safety reasons.

With love and gratitude, your entire Temple Guardians support staff thanks you for your love and contribution!

Dear Guardians – A Burning Man Short Film from Ian MacKenzie on Vimeo.