Lessons from the Desert - Creating Space
"The Desert wears...a veil of mystery. Motionless and silent, it evokes in us an elusive hint of something unknown. Unknowable, about to be revealed. Since the desert does not act, it seems to be waiting - but waiting for what?“ - Edward Abbey
I used to be impulsive - prone to flashing anger as my first line of response within nano seconds while facing discomfort. There would be consequences to my volatile impulsiveness. Yet - I would always move on from these phases - just through sheer willpower. I never truly took time to heal myself because i did not see the point to doing healing work - simply put. So i was very used to creating repeated cycles of unexpected situations with unintentional consequences... Through all these rollercoaster emotions - I have always appreciated looking up to Nature as my teacher. Little did i know my teacher would teach me the most important lesson of my life - in the moment when it really mattered.
When the bottom fell out of my life couple of years back with a failed business venture and a myriad of failed relationships resulting in a total loss of trust and a complete emotional breakdown - I experienced an energy drain within myself that I had never experienced in all my life. Right at that rock bottom was when my teacher - nature - chose to teach me a lesson.
On a Friday evening when I felt like i had nothing left in the tank, i felt a calling to visit Joshua Tree for the weekend. I followed the calling and headed off to JT very early in the morning. Though the Joshua trees and bright sun were welcoming, as I started hiking, i felt something morbid about the desert energy.
Halfway through the hike on a clearly-marked trail, there was a random point where i experienced a big pause, utter isolation and a strong sense of panic all blended in. I felt like there was nowhere to go. I knew that feeling was coming from somewhere deep and authentic. I felt very scared to stand still, so I decided to take a few steps and just started to observe the desert around me, while taking a couple of deep breaths.
The rocks, the cacti, the tiny lizards, the yucca, the dry shrubs - it is a thriving eco-system that co-exists... with a lot of space between. The vastness of the landscape coupled with the silence in the air brings out that morbid feeling loud and clear, but the beauty hidden beneath is the space that the desert creates. The sacred space that represents the unknown, the space that represents waiting, the space that represents mystery, the space that represents peace. I finished the hike acknowledging every emotion I felt during it - including fear - but experienced everything about the desert slightly differently for the remainder of my trip.
Ever since I got back from Joshua Tree - I have learned to be comfortable -scratch that - I have started to enjoy the silence in my ambiances, started to enjoy the process of de-cluttering my own emotions, started to enjoy giving myself the space to respond to any stimuli that life throws at me, started to choose ambiances-people-activities that align with my need for space.
I have also taken time to better understand my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) trait and how with that self-acceptance, i can have better boundaries in my relationships. I continue to do the daily work to integrate all the parts of myself being mindful of Jung’s, "I would rather be whole than good." This experiential journey is by no means perfect. I fall down regularly into my patterned behavioral trap of responding impulsively to stimuli or falling into cluttered spaces relatively unaware or trying to hide my sensitivity or self-judging harshly certain shades of me. But i seem to be organically get out of the patterned behaviors much quicker than before. I’m not saying all my problems have magically disappeared, nor am I saying that my life has been transformed. But gaining awareness that I have the capability to create this space to do the healing work for myself gives me peace, strength, and most importantly, the feeling of being listened to. I’m looking forward to my next trip to visit my teacher - the desert - and hopefully continue my lessons. But until then, I will continue to enjoy this daily process of pacing myself, creating little spaces organically, exploring little adventures within, trusting the ecosystem, and starting new journeys with self-acceptance.
Wishing you peace, joy and progress in your healing journeys!
- Bala Natarajan