Desert Mysticism teaches us not to avoid spiritual thirst by employing the millions of distractions our society continually foists upon us. Rather, the desert would have us make peace with our thirst and realize - when we see that we are GRASPED and GRIPPED by desire as though by an Other - that such longing is in reality a participation in the thirst of the Great Mystery for US.
Desert Mysticism enables us to understand that dryness is necessary for creativity to spring forth. The ruddy hues of the redrock deserts of the Southwest are, as we've probably already noticed, also the color of eros, of desire, of lust. They help us realize that desire itself has a beauty all its own.
Desert Mysticism inclines us to see ourselves - like arches, rock windows and natural bridges - as portals through to a reality much more vast and spacious than we ever imagined. Rather than looking only at the surface of events, other people and our own hastily-crafted self-image, these artistic holes in the desert help us look THROUGH these superficial surfaces to a deeper Reality.
Desert Mysticism engages our imagination, especially in the intense heat, when the logical mind feels dazed and our identity melts out into the expansiveness of the landscape, where imagination - like a mirage - loves perpetually to dance and play. As Middle Eastern scholar Henri Corbin reminds us, "The Imagination is a PRESENCE," echoing Native American poet Joy Harjo, who says that "the imagining needs praise as does any living thing. Stories and songs are evidence of this praise."
Desert Mysticism tells us to simplify our lives, letting go of all but the things which nourish and stimulate us on the deepest level. Desert Mysticism teaches us that we are ONE WITH the desert, and that we are human embodiments of the arid but devastatingly beautiful open spaces. It helps us imagine ourselves AS the desert, especially when we find ourselves engulfed in confusion and trouble during the course of our everyday lives in the "rat-race" of society.
May the desert and its mysticism guard and protect us through all of our days . . .
Photos: Various scenes in or near Arches National Park, UT, April 23-25, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.