Common steps and sub-activities

Living [or staying] in the desert

Deserts are capable of being places of almost total sensory deprivation.  The sense of sight is deprived by the monotony of the desert landscape together with the light which is blinding and white, or the sky which is blue and clear.  There is a lack of any form of visual stimuli and also of sound.  The desert also tends to be a place without any smells.  The heat often acts to minimise touch sensations.  And you can be both mentally isolated and physically isolated.

In many religious traditions, the desert and places of quiet were often chosen in order to reduce the sensory impact.  Those who went to the desert could find heaven or hell. The hermits of St Catherine’s monastery, for example in the 4th century AD said that they found ‘heaven’. 

It does require a very special form of mentality to achieve results, it is clear that the hostile environment can provoke considerable fear in some people and if you want to do this deliberately you really need to keep the fear low – however effective fear may be at producing an experience, the sort of experience it produces is probably not at all what you want.

The World as Will and Idea – Arthur Schopenhauer

Let us imagine a plain… stripped bare of plants, and showing only naked rocks; then by the total absence of that organic life necessary for our survival, the will is immediately made anxious, the desert assumes a frightening character, our mood becomes more tragic; the elevation to the sphere of pure knowing takes place only after we have more resolutely detached ourselves from the will’s interests; and because we persevere in the state of pure knowing, the sense of the sublime appears.

Where to go? Well the planet is not short of truly sublime desert landscapes
Australia is blessed with some wonderful desert landscapes which produced quite intense experiences for Australian Aborigines during their walkabouts.  The map below shows just how much of Australia is an arid landscape.

   

If you can stand the cost quite a number of companies provide holidays that link spiritual experience with desert living and you don’t have to rough it.  They provide tents and great comfort.  Not much fasting though.  I have seen such holidays advertised in the Near east [Arabian countries] in Bolivia and the salt pans, in Botswana and the salt pans, in Morocco and the Sahara and so on.

Namibia has some of the most beautiful desert landscapes I have ever come across and in them you get almost total silence and peace.  The skeleton coast is sublime.

The cost is a little dependent on whether you live near a desert or not. Luckily I live near Manchester so I am well served [only joking].

Observations

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