The parellels that can be drawn between full self discovery and the desert are endless. Self discovery comes through depriving the self of the body’s usual nourishments. Not to a dangerous extent, but to a useful extent. What has been found is that those who deny their body’s usual sustenance bring forward the life of their metaphysical being, their soul. Depriving the body and nourishing the soul through meditation, spirit walks and the likes is an old tradition of sajes, prophets and wise men. When we ingest food for the soul instead of food for the body, we become more in touch with our truest self.
How does this relate to the desert, one might ask? The desert is where these said sajes, prophets and wise men are known to go in order to deprive themselves because it is a physically deprived place. The desert does not have water to spare. Most days of the year, it is as dry as a bone. This basic element essential to natural life is hardly present. Similarly, the provision of food, shade and shelter is also extremely limited. One goes into the desert expecting to navigate the harshest of conditions. Therefore, the philosophy of depriving the body in order to engage the spirit naturally goes hand in hand with the environment of the desert.
This blogger is by no means recommending that people should wander in the desert without water or provisions. This has been known to take the lives of many people. This article merely points out the value of entering the desert in order to seek growth for that part of our identities that is not of this earth. One should be very physically and mentally prepared for an excursion of this nature. Do not attempt anything like this without mental and physical training. However, if one can properly equip themselves to deal with the hardships of the desert, immersing one’s self within it for the purpose of self discovery can be highly rewarding.
There are many types of deserts around the world that are different types of ecosystems. Here in North America, the term “desert” usually draws to mind images of the Southwestern states in America, such as Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California and New Mexico. Here, deserts such as the Sonoran and Mojave stretch for many hundreds of miles in some of the most widely recognized desert landscapes in the world. The desert is a natural environment unlike any other. There is an incredible draw and appeal to the desert that brings in travelers from around the world, but just what features make the desert so distinct?
The arid weather of the desert is responsible for the familiar plant life of the desert. Plants such as cactus, palo verde trees and creosote are adapted to grow in climates that have very little water. The Saguaro Cactus and the Prickly Pear Cactus are known for retaining water so efficiently that someone lost in the desert can survive by cutting them open and drinking their fluids. Vegetation in the desert is very sparse and the plants that do grow there are very recognizably associated with the desert of the Southwest.
Monsoon season is the time of year that replenishes the desert’s water table. The desert of the Southwest is frequently without rain, but when it does get rain, it comes in deluges. Desert monsoons have a huge impact on the environment and the landscape. The Southwestern desert is known for its red rock sandstone formations, which are created entirely by the movement of water through the desert. Monsoon season is one of the most photographed seasons of the desert due to the dramatic lighting and color that black clouds and bright sunlight create over the desert landscape.
The wildlife of the Southwestern desert is also very iconic. Its well known inhabitants range greatly, all the way from small insects to large game. When exploring the desert, it is important to keep an eye on the ground for dangerous creatures such as scorpions and rattlesnakes. A number of bird species, such as quail, roadrunner and cactus wren call the desert home. Medium sized desert mammals include the ringtail cat, jackrabbit and desert tortoise, while large sized desert mammals include the coyote, antelope, bobcat and mountain lion.
It 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.