Monthly Archives: June 2014

Meditation in the Desert to Heal Affliction

healing desert meditationIt is a long held tradition of mankind to seek meditation in the desert in order to cleanse one’s self of afflictions. This has been done through out time in ancient societies, religious orders and by sages and mystics of all spiritualities. Even Christ spent time in the desert as a meditative trial. A common theme for meditation in the desert is battling one’s demons. Historically, meditation in the desert has been a test of sorts, either a test of survival, of inner strength or of character. Now, in modern times, this concept is applied on a new level. It is desirable to spend time in the desert meditating in order to heal addiction, mental unhealthiness and other similar afflictions. There are even substance abuse recovery centers and spas located in the deserts of the Southwest United States which operate under these philosophies.

First of all, the concept of meditation is a universal inner peace tactic used by virtually every spiritual sect and tradition. Meditating has been found to improve mental health, increase brain function, expand self-awareness and create peace within the person exercising it. The pace of the world we live in contradicts the spirit of meditation, making it difficult for most people to find the time, but those who do find it to be an exceedingly beneficial practice. Meditation is basically settling into silence and stillness in order to empty one’s mind of overcrowding thoughts. This allows the free flow of ideas and revelations to the person meditating, making them relaxed and open to possibilities.

Because we now know that thought patterns actually influence the chemistry of the brain, the idea of ritualistic mental relaxation is a valuable tool to a person’s physical and mental health. Stopping the rampant flow of thoughts in order to soothe the mind is useful in healing mental disorders, coping with negative emotions and ending addiction through meditation. The more inner reflection a person has, the more self-awareness they gain, which inspires them to make better decisions about their life choices.

Good Reasons to Meditate

reasons to meditateMeditation is beneficial on many levels, and is an underused resource for serenity in a world that badly needs help finding peace. Meditation is the process of silencing the mind and acknowledging the whole of life without the rampant flow of thoughts. The typical practice of meditation is accompanied by a quiet, serene environment, a seated position and sometimes light music or incense. For a certain amount of time, the person meditating will focus on silencing their thoughts and receiving the world around them in a purely intuitive way. Meditation is both a sensory and a mental process, and has been found to possess an incredible amount of healing.

Many people use meditation as a tool for soothing negative states of mind, such as stress, confusion and racing thoughts. There have been many psychological studies that would indicate that people have a tendency of taking on too much. The burdens we carry often result in stressful emotions and thoughts, and the heavier they become, the more difficult it is to turn them off. When we allow our negative thinking to run rampant, it can have detrimental effects on our lives. Because the primary goal of meditation is to silence the flow of thoughts, it has been found to be incredibly stress-reducing when practiced regularly. Knowing how to end negative thought patterns and replace them with stillness of the mind is more than meditation; it is a life skill.

For individuals who struggle with a mental disorder, mental illness or addiction, meditation can literally be life saving. Practicing it regularly can be difficult to start as people with these mental hardships are prone to more extreme negative thought patterns. However, with a certain degree of hard work and determination, meditation can become a regular part of life for a person with mental hardships. Those recovering from addiction and disorder will find that meditation and treatment for their condition will go hand-in-hand, often influencing one another.

Why the Desert Inspires Meditation

desert inspires meditationThere are certain environments that simply promote deep, meditative thinking, and the desert is definitely one of them. The desert is a place of stark natural beauty with an incredible amount of space and open sky. The isolation of the desert is what makes it ideal for meditation. Meditation requires extended silence, which can typically only be found in nature. Other natural areas can be popular destinations for hikers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts, but because the desert is a more harsh natural environment, fewer animals, people and even forms of vegetation are found there. The desert is a place of widespread silence; ideal conditions for moving the self far from the reality of the manmade world and back to the reality of the natural world.

The beauty of nature puts one into a meditative state, and it would seem that the landscape of the desert is especially strong for this quality. There is something about the other-worldly rock formations of sandstone, the horizon line of cactus and the unusual, drought resistant plant life that make us feel like we have walked into a different plane of existence. Psychologically, it seems there is something about the wide open space of the desert that gives us the feeling of broad scope. Compared to the looming high canopies of the Pacific Northwest that inhibit vision of the nearest hills and mountains, the open sky of the desert comes with a feeling of wide reaching vision, which enhances the meditative journey.

Because the desert is so stark, it also serves as an environment largely free from distractions. The colors, variations and shapes of the desert are largey subdued compared to a tropical or garden environment. This freedom from things that steal one’s attention help to aid deep meditation. The practice of stopping the flow of thoughts can be quite difficult, especially for beginners, so the more isolated the meditation environment, the more naturally one will go deep inside themselves to experience the world intuitively instead of attempting to break it down into disjointed thoughts.

The Tradition of Meditating in the Desert

desert meditation tradition

“To the desert go prophets and hermits; through the desert go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.”

This is a quote by writer Paul Shepard, borrowed by journalist Jon Krakauer in the book Into the Wild. Both authors were fascinated by the human spiritual tendency of retreating into the desert to seek solace and revelation. There have been many people throughout history who have been drawn to the isolation of the desert for clarity of mind, both ancient and modern. There are many biblical characters who spent time wandering in the desert, none more well known than Jesus Christ. Jesus went into the desert willingly in order to grapple with his demons, quite literally, as the biblical telling states that Satan himself confronted Jesus while he was in the desert and attempted to win him over.

A group called the Desert Fathers of the third century A.D. were a group of nomadic Christian prophets and monks who willingly took up residency in the deserts outside of Egypt and created a tradition of spirituality that thrives in hermit-like behavior. The Desert Fathers are still cited today and studied for their contributions to the monastic tradition. In more modern times, figures such as Jim Morrison of The Doors are known for pushing their understanding of reality by taking hallucinogenic drugs and going to places such as the Mojave Desert to see reality differently. This is obviously a different tradition from the prophets and monks of past centuries, but a connection is still drawn. Jon Krakauer’s novel subject Chris McCandless is also a somewhat well-known desert dwelling individual who left a life of priviledge to live rootlessly on the road of North America entirely for spiritual, soulful reasons.