Resting in the Desert

restingThe frenetic activity of the past four months has come to a halt and I am coming to terms with the stress and loss that my wandering path has brought about. Freedom, simplicity, and joy remain as the guiding current in the river of my life, but the stream has gone underground for the time being. The starkness of the high Sonoran Desert has brought me an unexpected gift – an unavoidable period of fatigue and depression.

Our home on wheels is parked, “docked,” to use motor home language, at my son’s house in southern Arizona. The weather is lovely. The family is supportive. And I am absolutely exhausted. Plans to roam about the area have been shelved and replaced by plans to read lots of books and take frequent naps. Quixotic notions of slaying windmills have faded for the moment and I find my mind slipping into a spacious place of healing and recovery.

I had underestimated the psychological and physical effect of leaving everything behind. I don’t regret it at all, for I can sense the spaciousness that is now slowly taking shape. It remains, however, a profound loss of all familiar things, places, and routines that are associated with “home.” These things cannot be immediately and off-handedly replaced by an entirely different way of living without a grieving process.

Continued stress greatly reduces the body’s production of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter among whose complex functions, is enabling the ability to feel optimistic and enjoy a sense of well-being. Aging, wouldn’t you know it, also slows down the production of Serotonin. So this aging, tired, and depressed man has been clearly told by all of his advisors, seen and unseen, material and spiritual, to Rest! The adventure is an authentic and important one, but for the next two or three months… Rest your body and mind!

It is very helpful for me to be able to frame the coming months as a “resting in the desert” experience. Many spiritual traditions see the desert as a place of cleansing and renewal. One returns from the desert having experienced the burning away of the extraneous and inauthentic. The desert is not a place of bustling activity, it is a place where roots must burrow deep for water; where rest occupies the greatest part of the day; where stillness brings insight; and where beauty is found in hidden places.

So, this is me… resting. I might not write as often for a bit, but will do so when it seems congruent with the healing process. My invitation to you is to pay attention to your own stress and fatigue. It builds up silent and hidden, repressed by the need to produce and be active. These are stress-filled times. Make rest and healing a non-negotiable part of your life.

14 thoughts on “Resting in the Desert”

  1. Billy, I recall a quote from Merton: The desert is God’s greatest gift. There you either go mad, or become holy. Today, our desert is despair. There you either go mad, or become holy. And, BTW, I’ve now read Singer’s THE UNTETHERED SOUL: the journey beyond yourself. Read it twice and have outlined it. Very helpful. We all must leave “home” to find home. I think of you daily, my friend. Much love. andy

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  2. Hello Will. I too had to leave everything behind when my lifestyle changed, seemingly overnight. Although painful, it was as you well say, the next step on becoming. I too had to sit for a while, grieve and accept an entirely different future than I had imagined when I undertook my adventure. Only now do I realize how important that step was. My life changed and became far richer as a result. I went to the mountains. I left everything meaningful in my world behind. I felt dreadful in the beginning. As I found others who supported or experienced the same events, I became grateful that I found a place that allowed me to be who I am. That is how freedom first showed up in my world. I found the first footsteps of Tao. The rest you know. Take a breath, smell the desert, rest in the wonder……..Blessings, Judith

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  3. Rest is good! I hope you get plenty of it as well as healing. This is so beautifully written. I live far from Arizona in the frozen north of Alberta, Canada. I can still identify with so much of what you’ve said here. I mention my locale because it has been a very cold and trying winter (for me anyway) and the lack of serotonin is making me want to hibernate!

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    1. Yes, Carol, winter can be very desert-like in its effect on our psyches. I hope you can hibernate, rest, and not push yourself to do anything but just be.

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  4. I once had a period of rest and retreat in the Sonoran desert. It remains one of my favorite places of solitude and beauty – the cactus glowing in the early morning and late evening sun, California quail dashing about, cactus wrens calling. For a while you were pushing hard. That is no longer necessary. Rest well.

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  5. You describe the loss of leaving all behind for new adventure very well. When I was very young, I lived an unfettered life, largely due to working for a “movement.” My first 3 moves were with a duffle bag. Eventually, I reclaimed books and music from my parent’s home and then moved with a carload. Then possessions became larger and at least 4 moves required shipping the ever increasing load of books, partly to make room for the cats that now moved with me. I seldom moved furniture, or most other possessions, except enough to start over. I faced each move with anticipation and excitement. Yet each time I moved, with increasing severity, depression descended. Leaving behind new friends and familiar surroundings was such a loss, one I did not understand or take time to process. You wrote so well of this. At the age of 40, I “settled down,” completely “burnt out” and, while depression lifted quickly, over the next 20 years the weight of possessions, papers, and financial hocus pocus pinned me in like a prison. So it is with great enjoyment that I read your blogs, hoping again for the day when I can break free. At the same time, I think I now get that the freedoms come with the price of loss, and a safety net must be in place.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. It sounds as if you are familiar with the “price” of both going and staying. I wish you blessings in your next transition.

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  6. Saw this today and thought of you: “So many feel lethargic, unmotivated or worn out in this hemisphere. We are really not made to rocket straight through winter, ablaze with energy. Look at nature. The ground and plants and animals are deep at rest. This is the natural way of things. Spend some time with the long nights, the moon, solitude, the bare earth, stillness. Be easier on yourself.” By Victoria Erickson

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  7. As a retired man going through the changes of age, I often ask ‘What might Taoism advise?’ Sometimes it’s best not to ‘push the river’ but to become aware of the flow of things. It’s good to read that you’re taking a break to get a better feel for that flow.

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    1. Yes, John. It is all too easy to presume the direction, force, and energy of the flow – then get distressed when it turns out to be quite a different thing. The wind has been blowing down from the mountains here and rocking our little “boat.” I’m relating to it in a new way, letting it blow where it will.

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