Journeys in the Desert

Journeys in the Desert: The Intersection of the Hero’s Journey and the Creative Process

As I stand in the heart of the desert, surrounded by its endless expanses of sand and heat, I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s words on the hero’s journey. The scorching sun beats down on my skin, the sand crunches under my feet, and the wind whispers secrets to me. I am but a small figure in this immense landscape, yet I feel a sense of connection to something greater.

The hero’s journey, as described by Campbell, is not just a one-time event but rather a way of life. It is a universal narrative of transformation and growth, where the hero ventures into the unknown, faces challenges and trials, and ultimately returns transformed and enlightened to share their experience with others. The vast and dangerous desert, with its stark beauty and harsh conditions, provides a fitting metaphor for this journey. It is a place where one must face their fears and endure the trials of the journey to arrive at a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.

This same spirit of adventure and transformation is also at the heart of the creative process. Whether it’s a visual artist venturing into uncharted territories with their work or a musician exploring new sounds and rhythms, the creative process requires fearlessness, perseverance, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Like the hero, the artist must venture into the unknown, facing their fears and uncertainties, and through the process, they transform their raw materials into something beautiful and meaningful. The beauty of the hero’s journey, and the creative process, lies in the fact that every time one venture into the “desert,” a new opportunity for growth is presented to them.

The Desert’s Horizon: A Symbol of Life’s Enduring Challenges

The Hebrew word for desert, ‘midbar’ [מדבר], shares the same root word as ‘speak’ and ‘pestilence.’ The latter is a cattle disease, and in the Book of Exodus, God’s fifth plague on Egypt was the plague of pestilence. This common root word invites an analogy between the notion of a disaster and the desert. After all, the desert is deadly in its harsh conditions: extreme heat to extreme cold, water scarcity, rattlesnakes, and coyotes.

The desert’s silence, emptiness, and monotony can be even more dangerous than the physical threats as it tests both inhabitants’ and travelers’ resilience. It symbolizes the severe difficulties that await anyone following their life’s aspirations: your story, your life, and what you do with it.

When facing a challenging situation, be it short or endless in duration, the desert’s horizon looks like it is moving further away. All is lost, or at least it can seem that way. In my life, there were physical deserts and spiritual deserts. Yet, beautiful things can grow in both. If I don’t experience loss and failure, how can I grow?

I was born in a small town in the Negev Desert. Thus, in addition to being vast and lonely, the desert symbolizes roots, belongings, and a sense of grounding for me. It always offered a bounty of serenity and creative inspiration.

From Ginzberg to Gev: A Story of Identity and Legacy

A young man wearing beige shorts, a white t-shirt, and a small backpack has just stopped to marvel at the acrobatic walk of the ibex heading to the rim of the steep canyon wall. The ibex, a majestic wild mountain goat with twisted, elongated antlers, gracefully navigates the scorching, arid landscape of the Judean Desert. Their agility is impressive; watching them prance about, living life on the edge, is like seeing a circus act. That young man was me, doing one of many solo hikes in the desert.

I set out on the hike at first light, knowing I had to reach the road by the Dead Sea shore late in the afternoon before catching a ride back to Jerusalem. As I hiked down the gorge, I hoped to find water from the recent rain in one of the little pools. It’s a perfect moment when I take off my shoes and clothes and jump into the cold cistern water after a long hike in the desert. It makes the hours of hiking worth it.

Many wadis (the Arabic word for a gorge) exist in the Negev and Judean Deserts, characterized by steep rocky walls and sometimes pools of water, especially after rain and floods. In Hebrew, these pools of water are called gev. In my mind, the gap between the desert’s barren, dry landscape and the dive into a cold gev is equivalent to a climb up a mountain peak. Water and desert are not synonymous, yet moving water and winds are the forces that created and shaped the wadies. The process is continuous and never-ending; in the same way, experiences continue to shape our lives.

The Israeli practice of changing one’s name to a Hebrew word is ideological. Changing one’s name is a way of shedding a diaspora identity and becoming part of the new Israeli republic. It’s a tradition that predates the State of Israel and was even directed and encouraged by the Israeli military. So, when I turned eighteen and entered military service, my brother and I decided to Hebraicize our family name. We choose to change it from Ginzberg to Gev.

Years later, and after living the last 35 years in the USA, I have second thoughts about the change. For one, with the name Ginzberg, I would have avoided the endless times I had to spell my short yet unrecognized family name, not to mention the difficulties in pronunciation. Second, it would have been an honor to be named the same as the famous supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In retrospect, it was a psychologically charged decision with many unconscious layers I continue, to this date, covering and uncovering.

The Art of Desert Navigation

The desert is a tough place to navigate. Bedouins, who have lived in the Middle East and North African deserts for centuries, seem to know their way in a manner that goes beyond direction and mapping as if they possess a sixth sense. Before the days of GPS, they relied on long-lasting landmarks of considerable size, such as mountains, giant rocks, permanent oases, and ruins, to guide them. They had to know how to navigate the everchanging dunes with basic techniques involving the sun during the day and stars at night. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Shadows point in the opposite direction of the sun; they are longer at sunrise and sunset and get shorter as mid-day approaches – enough to indicate approximate time. They also understood that the wind shapes the dunes, which provides helpful direction; they form at 90 degrees to the wind. Thus, the dunes will run north to south if the usual wind is from the east.

For thousands of years, the North Star (Polaris) has been used to establish the north direction, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Contrary to popular belief, the North Star is not the brightest in the night sky. Bedouins and night navigators have used methods other than the brightness to locate the North Star. One popular technique is the use of the Big Dipper constellation. By visually tracing a straight line through the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper’s cup (called Merak and Dubhe) and continuing for five equal units, one’s eye will land on Polaris, accurately indicating true north. Thankfully, the desert sky is usually clear enough to make this possible.

Navigating at night is essential for military special operations forces, such as the Israeli paratroopers, where I served in the late 1970s. The night darkness offers camouflage, invisibility, and surprise; however, it also creates a special kind of friction that can complicate even the simplest of tasks and amplify small sounds into gunfire. To succeed in night missions, troops must invest time in training under these conditions. The desert was often our playground.

Lost in the Silence: Navigating Alone at Night in the Negev Desert

When you navigate alone at night, especially in the desert, the silence is so immense that you can hear your own thoughts. The challenge is to remain present and keep asking yourself, am I on the right path, and where is the next sign I memorized from the ariel photography maps? Lone navigation at night is also an opportunity to work on self-confidence because once you start doubting what you have memorized and learned, it’s a shortcut to getting lost. Lone night navigation is one way the military prepares its future commanders for critical and instantaneous decision-making. The idea is that those who know how to navigate at night will also be able to navigate during the daytime. Furthermore, those who are successful in managing lone night navigation will be capable of leading an entire platoon to the target.

As I recall my time serving as a soldier, one particular navigation experience stands out in my memory. It was in 1979, and my platoon was tasked with completing a lone navigation route in the Negev Desert near the Big Crater. We each left the starting point ten minutes apart at around 9 PM, with the goal of reaching the endpoint no later than 7 AM the following morning. The route was approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles), and I was determined to be fully prepared for the challenge.

I remember studying and memorizing the map, practicing counting the number of steps it took to cover 100 meters, and preparing my gear so that everything was tight and quiet. I felt confident in my abilities and was eager to prove myself. Little did I know, the journey ahead would prove to be far more difficult than I could have imagined.

Typically, when the full moon is close to the earth and begins its nightly journey, its light is so bright that it creates shadows as if it were the sun, making it ideal for night navigation. The beauty and power of this light can be mesmerizing and humbling. However, that particular night was pitch-dark, scary, and disorienting. This was the kind of night condition that we had hoped and planned for when tasked with a real mission to cross the border and pick up the “good guy,” and we didn’t want anyone to know, see, or hear our presence until much later. Yet, truth to be told, despite our best efforts to remain undetected, the dogs always seemed to know and barked to no end.

The memory of that night is still vivid in my mind. I started the journey with a focused mindset, determined to complete the mission despite the anxiety that I was hiding behind my usual silence and calm demeanor. I found the first couple of spots I had to locate and mark, and everything was going perfectly. My concentration was high, and my step counting was on point.

However, my mind soon drifted, and I lost my focus. I may have been thinking about my girlfriend and her topography, but I can’t quite remember. As a result, I lost track of my step count, and before I knew it, I was surrounded by complete darkness. I couldn’t see anything in any direction, and I had neither a map nor a flashlight with me. I realized that I needed to make a quick decision because there was no point in aimlessly wandering around.

Fortunately, I knew the direction of the north, as Polaris was easily visible, and I knew that if I walked west for about an hour or two, I would reach a road. So, I started walking west and eventually arrived at the road. I walked along it until a bus came by, I waved my hands, and it stopped. I climbed aboard to find a few of my team members sitting comfortably inside. Needless to say, we were all reprimanded for our shortcomings.

It took me a few weeks to finally sit down and write about this experience, as the shame I still feel about not completing the mission has lingered with me. Even though when I meet my platoon brothers nowadays, this is one of those tales that make us laugh hysterically. However, upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that many positives can be taken from the outcome. Most importantly, we found our way to safety, which has not always been the case for others in similar situations. Each of us quickly determined what needed to be done and which direction to take, and we were able to navigate our way out of a challenging situation. Instead of dwelling on the negative, I choose to focus on gratitude for the outcome.

The Secrets of the Sands: My Encounters with the Bedouin Culture

One of my first desert associations is with the Bedouins, a nomadic, tribal society of Middle Eastern deserts. I’ve only ever encountered Bedouin men, never Bedouin women, as this is a patriarchal and conservative tribal society. Traditionally, Bedouins have raised camels, goats, and cattle, traveling from one spot to the next in search of water and grass. Camel nomads occupy large territories in the Sahara, Syrian, and Arabian deserts; sheep and goat nomads have stayed mainly near the cultivated regions of Jordan, Israel, Syria, and Iraq; and cattle nomads are found chiefly in South Arabia and Sudan. Bedouins have also provided protection for trade caravans and, at other times, been the raiders. Nowadays, the Bedouin lifestyle is changing due to less rain and grass, and as modernization creeps closer to the desert, young people are increasingly looking to urban areas for jobs and schools for their children.

I had my first close encounter with the Bedouin during my military service. Armed with a lightweight, protective vest and an M-16 rifle, our patrol unit would make its way along the border fence each day at dawn to check for anything suspicious. The leader of our unit was always the Bedouin tracker (in Hebrew, the gashash). The Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) tracker unit is mainly composed of fighters from the Bedouin community. The tracker is an expert at identifying footprints and unnatural changes in the terrain. With just one look at the ground, the tracker can determine if and when someone crossed the fence, whether they were limping, carrying any weight, and in which direction they had gone. They can even detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by an out-of-place rock. It’s remarkable how a whole world is revealed in a single footprint and how it can save lives.

The Hebrew word gashash originates from the verb “to grope,” which means to cautiously search for a path by feeling with one’s hands in the absence of sight, typically in darkness or when blind. Currently, the term grope has strong sexual and political implications, which I wish to steer clear of. However, I find it intriguing how the words we use can influence our thinking and perception of the world, but that is a topic for another discussion.

Terrorists and criminals use various tactics to conceal their tracks and evade detection. These methods can include using a sponge or sheepskin on their shoes, but the most common method is using branches. One notable incident occurred on the southern desert border with Egypt, where many infiltrators pass through. A Bedouin tracker immediately identified the infiltrator as a terrorist, not a fellow Bedouin smuggler. The tracker knew this because the infiltrator’s shoe size was larger than that of a typical Bedouin man, and their walking route showed they were unfamiliar with the area. The infiltrator was walking on top of hills, searching for lights in populated areas instead of navigating through the low areas like someone familiar with the terrain would. This led to a large-scale operation involving multiple military units along the border, and within an hour, the terrorist was in custody.

Once, I asked the Bedouin tracker, “What’s your secret? What do you see that I don’t?” His reply was, “There is no secret, just experience. When I was six years old, my mother would send me to deliver food for my older brother, who left early in the morning to herd the goats. To find him, I had to look for fresh footprints. Life in the desert taught me to pay close attention to my surroundings.” Even nowadays, when Israel launches high-tech satellites and sophisticated surveillance devices, there is no substitute for a Bedouin’s eyes and sixth sense.

My other close encounter with a Bedouin was in the Sinai Desert when I worked as a medic, escorting travel groups on hiking and camel ride expeditions. The trip’s highlight was a visit to the Greek Orthodox Saint Catherine Monastery, nestled deep in the mountains at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The Bedouins had stood guard over the monastery for centuries, and in return, the monks provided them with food and other necessities that were hard to come by.

On one of those trips, I found myself alone with a Bedouin man and two camels. We were sitting by a crackling fire, the warmth spreading through our bones. I couldn’t help but be struck by the man sitting across from me – his skin was a deep, leathery brown, and his mannerisms were nothing short of dignified and reserved. Despite his quiet demeanor, there was a hint of mystery about him, a sort of enigma that was both intriguing and challenging to decipher. Yet, despite his guarded exterior, he was nothing but hospitable, making us feel right at home. His Hebrew was better than my Arabic, but not by much. We did not talk much, yet I felt a sense of ease in his company. He pulled a couple of hands full of flour, mixed it with water, added some salt, and made dough. He then laid the dough on a grain sack fabric, flattened it to a large disc shape with an even one-inch thickness, and left it to rest. After some time, he raked away the hot coals and placed the dough on the hot sand where the coals had been sitting. He scraped the coals back on top of the dough and waited some more. Then, deciding it was ready, he carefully raked away the hot coals and removed the bread from the fire, careful not to burn himself, scraped off the excess sand, and shared it with me. We dipped each bite into a canned tomato sauce, creating a meal that was both delicious and memorable; even forty years later.

Discovering the Dreamlike Surrealism of Salvador Dalí Desert

More than any other geographical area, the desert is where the horizon line is uninterrupted from side to side by any obstruction, being a structure or anything else. The desert’s variety of colors seems monochromatic, but it is rich and expansive if only one’s eyes along with the soul, open up to it.

Salvador Dalí Desert (in Spanish: Desierto Salvador Dalí) is a lonely, dreamlike, and surreal valley nestled in the high Andes mountains of Bolivia. Dalí never painted this particular desert, but the stark desert horizon and strange rock formations evoke the famous Surrealist’s work. As I stepped out of the car to explore, I found myself peeking over my shoulder for melting clocks and flying cats; was it the surrealism or the altitude – I don’t know. Nonetheless, the Spanish painter’s works were on my mind as his paintings often portray nonsensical images against a minimalistic backdrop. Salvador Dalí Desert is a rare example of a desert named after an artist; usually, it’s the artist who is drawn to the desert for inspiration. After all, the desert’s bleakness is full of possibilities, and what is emptiness, if not the most profound invitation for anything?

In Search of Identity: A Journey Through the Desert of “The English Patient”

The desert is a place to think beyond the confines of mainstream society and explore new ideas. Take the case of “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje, a terrific book adapted into one of my all-time favorite movies, starring the handsome Ralph Fiennes and the exquisitely sensual Kristin Scott Thomas. Much of the story takes place in the Gilf Kebir, a desert plateau in North Africa; this landscape symbolizes the English patient, László Almásy’s, lack of national identity. Almásy, a Hungarian explorer, hates ownership and claims that no nation owns him and that he is an “international bastard.” In the vast desert, he said, “Who was the enemy? Who were the allies?” The story deals with boundary issues between nations and lovers, both intertwining and correlating. Almásy participates in international expeditions, mapping the desert and searching for the mythical city, Zerzura. Along the way, he falls in love with the isolated impermanence of the desert and with Katharine, his fellow team member’s wife. “I came to hate nations,” Almásy said. He believes that nation-states “deform us” and that the desert cannot be claimed or owned. National identities, like the desert, are “a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names.”

The overarching idea of “The English Patient” is that, despite our tendency to label each other based on gender, race, and nationality, inwardly, we are all the same at our core. That, beneath the surface, we are all connected by our common humanity. Almásy is hunted as a war criminal for helping the German forces navigate the desert, a decision he made in an attempt to rescue his wounded lover, Katharine. Even though Almasy is burned beyond recognition, he is unable to conceal his identity, suggesting that the connection between identity and nationality cannot be severed, even against the grand backdrop of Gilf Kebir.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch: A Journey into the Colors of the Desert

I’ve often wondered why so many artists leave the big city for the desert. Every artist has unique reasons, whether it’s for their health, to escape relationship issues, or simply a dislike for the city’s fast-paced, commercial art scene. In exchange for leaving the city, artists are gifted with a different kind of space and time in the desert. The scenery is horizontal, not vertical, which gives a sense of openness, vastness, and freedom. Everything is slower in the desert. There is more time to think, a critical element of the artist process.

Georgia O’Keeffe was a private and introspective person, and the open and quiet desert environment was the perfect place for her to explore her artistic vision. For many years her work was displayed in posters on our living room wall. She was a true trailblazer, interpreting natural forms in a way that was ahead of her time, and a strong individual who made the desert of New Mexico her home. Her courage to live amidst the harsh and inhospitable surroundings of the desert was truly inspiring. She would drive wherever her spirit took her, confessing, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” O’Keeffe left a lasting impact on American art history and paved the way for other female artists to follow in her footsteps.

As someone who has always been fascinated by art and its interpretation, I was surprised to discover what came up when I searched for “Georgia O’Keeffe flowers.” To my surprise, many of the results linked the words “vagina” or “vulva” with her flower paintings. But is this connection justifiable?

Upon further investigation, I learned that this interpretation was introduced by male art critics, as there were no female art critics at the time. Despite these attempts to suggest a Freudian explanation, O’Keeffe rejected such interpretations. She was an astute woman who understood the power of public relations.

I have come across a few male artists who similarly paint flowers. Who knows, maybe female sexual organs inspire them. Art is subjective and open to interpretation, but it’s always interesting to consider the motivations behind an artist’s work.

A few years back, I had the privilege of visiting Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, just an hour north of Santa Fe. The vivid colors of the surrounding landscape left a strong impression on me. It was not the desert’s typical pale beige or light brown tones. Instead, the landscape was rich, reddish sandstone and thick, green bushes. This landscape was a central element in O’Keeffe’s paintings, and her use of intense, flat colors emphasized the shapes of her subjects rather than their dimensionality. Her works are introspective, devoid of human presence, and reflect her individualistic personality. O’Keeffe once said, “I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way, things that I had no words for.” This quote perfectly captures her artistic vision and her ability to communicate through her paintings.

Minimalism Meets the Desert: The Legacy of Donald Judd in Marfa

The desert and minimalist art share a special bond, best exemplified by the work of the renowned artist Donald Judd. Tired of the New York City art scene, and disenchanted with the traditional gallery and museum settings for his work, Judd yearned for a place where he could have space, both physically and creatively. On a train trip as an army engineer in 1946, he first laid eyes on Marfa, a small, quiet town home to empty German POW barracks. He saw the potential and purchased them, turning Marfa into the art mecca it is today.

I visited Marfa in 2015 at the end of two week-long road trip across Texas. I was trying to figure out if Texas is a state of mind or just another state. Marfa is a quiet, dust-filled town in West Texas. Dirt roads and sparse buildings are punctuated by colorful murals and vibrant street art, creating a unique and eclectic atmosphere. With the support of the DIA Foundation, Judd transformed an old Army base into his art sanctuary, filling it with light installations by Dan Flavin and his own signature metal boxes.

Judd’s close relationship with the desert is reflected in his works, many of which were installed outside in the landscape, becoming part of the desert itself. He believed that art should be integrated into the environment and sought to create works that would respond to and interact with the surrounding landscape.

One hundred gleaming silver aluminum boxes, sized 41 by 51 by 72 inches, housed in two brick artillery sheds, stand in peaceful, neat rows, reflecting and playing with the light in a truly mesmerizing way. Each box is a work of art in its own right, with a simple yet powerful form pulsing with energy. The box’s edges are exquisite, crisp, and sharp as a knife. These boxes are more than just physical objects; they are symbols of the power of simplicity and minimalism. They represent a departure from the complexity of the world, a celebration of the beauty that can be found in the most basic of forms.

Donald Judd’s innovative use of industrial fabrication for his metal boxes profoundly impacted my artistic journey. As I worked with glass, plexiglass, and aluminum sheets, I was inspired by Judd’s bravery in entrusting his creative vision to the precise machinery of industrial fabricators. I, too, saw the value in this collaboration and sought out factories to flawlessly execute my designs and specifications for plexiglass cuts and printed aluminum sheets. Judd’s trailblazing approach gave me the confidence to explore new avenues in my own artistic process and opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities of marrying the hand and the machine.

The Beauty of Emptiness: A Look into Agnes Martin’s Paintings

Agnes Martin’s paintings, from a distance, might appear to be nothing more than blank square canvases, with only the faintest hints of light-toned, diluted colors visible. Yet as one approaches the paintings, the geometrical precision of the vertical and horizontal lines becomes apparent, etched upon the thinly painted monochromatic surfaces. Some say that her paintings evoke the sweeping landscapes of the American Southwest, but according to Agnes’ own words, her work is meant to represent “what is known forever in the mind.” Over the years, I have seen her paintings many times, as they can be found in many public collections in the United States; they always made me standstill.

Her paintings convey struck emptiness – an emptiness that can be overwhelming, like a loud and painful scream. And yet, there is also something mystical and Zen-like about them, a quality that invites contemplation and meditation. The 13th-century poet Rumi once said that the wound is the place where the light enters you. Agnes Martin was an abstract painter who called the remote town of Cuba, New Mexico, her home. Nestled in the midst of a rugged and vast desert that feels like the end of the world, a place where one could escape the chaos and find peace.

Little is being told about Agnes’ suffering from schizophrenia, the voices only she could hear. These voices, sights, and feelings made her push away friends and lovers. It is not surprising that she chose to live in that remote town in New Mexico, away from the hustle and bustle of society, secluded from humans. She said: “I believe in living above the line. Above the line is happiness and love, you know. Below the line is all sadness and destruction, and unhappiness. And I don’t go down below the line for anything.”

One tale about her creative process recounts how she would wait in her studio, waiting for inspiration to strike, often taking the form of a single word such as “Agony,” “Happiness,” or “Love.” The moment it came to her, she would leap from her chair and rush to her canvas, eager to bring her inspiration to life.  She once said, “Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”

Another story that I hold dear is about when she held a rose in her hand, showed it to a young girl, and asked, “Is the flower beautiful?” The girl said, “Yes, it is!” Agnes then hid the rose behind her back and asked, “Is the flower still beautiful?” And the girl responded, “Yes, it is!” to which Agnes said, “You see, beauty is all in your mind.”

Agnes Martin’s paintings are a testament to the power of art to evoke deep and complex emotions, even in their simplest forms. As I sit here, lost in my thoughts, I reflect on the many ways I have sought solace from the tumultuous storms of fear and anxiety that often threaten to overwhelm me. I have often found solace in creating art, using my hands to mold and shape my emotions into something tangible and beautiful.

On some days, the act of creation feels like a dance, a beautiful flow that consumes my mind and body. But on other days, it’s more like holding on for dear life, gripping tightly to the fragile threads of my sanity, determined not to let the fears within me spill out.

The lockdown days of COVID brought with them an endless wave of emotions, and it was during that time I began a new series of artworks, painting colorful stripes. The hours I spent absorbed in this creative process brought me a sense of peace, a state of flow that allowed me to escape the chaos of the world around me.

Discovering the Silver Desert: The Power of 5Rhythms Dance

Gabrielle Roth, the creator of 5Rhythms dance, the master teacher of all my dance teachers, said: “I want to take you to a place of pure magic… It’s the place athletes call the “zone.” Buddhists call “satori” and ravers call “trance.” I call it the Silver Desert. It’s a place of pure light that holds the dark within it. It’s a place of pure rhythm.” I am a 5Rhythms dancer, and often I wondered why Gabrielle named that place Silver Desert. The combination of “Silver” and “Desert” seemed like an unlikely pairing, but I realized there is a deep connection between the two.

The desert, with its vast expanses of sand and its eerie silence, serves as a metaphor for the inner landscape of our soul and spirit. The emptiness and stillness of the desert allow us to reflect on our inner selves and access the divine within. Similarly, the 5Rhythms dance offers a space to connect with our inner selves and tap into the divine.

In 5Rhythms, there is no predetermined choreography and no audience to perform for. Instead, we dance to the rhythm and voice that comes from within. This creates an opportunity for self-expression and self-discovery. As we move and groove to the rhythm, we allow ourselves to be fully present at the moment, to let go of our thoughts and just to be in our bodies. This allows us to access the oneness within, to connect with our true selves, and to feel a sense of transcendence.

The name “Silver Desert” encapsulates the essence of 5Rhythms dance. The silver symbolizes the inner light, the higher power within us, while the desert represents the emptiness, and stillness that allows us to access it. I dance to find myself.

The Quest for God in the Wilderness: Visiting Buddhist and Christian Monasteries

As I wander the world, I have been privileged to visit monasteries tucked away in some of the earth’s most remote and inhospitable corners – nestled into the folds of the Himalayas or perched on the cliffs of Juda and Sinai deserts. These Buddhist and Christian communities have left a lasting impression on me, stirring a mixture of thoughts.

Why do so many monasteries choose to reside in the wilderness of the desert? When I think of the desert, the first image that comes to mind is one of raw, untamed beauty. Yet there, amidst the emptiness and solitude, these monasteries thrive, cut off from the world yet existing as a universe of their own. They stand at the center of a stunningly beautiful, desolate, and sometimes hazardous landscape. And isn’t that what glory is all about?

As I stand in awe of the monasteries, I am filled with a deep reverence for the monks who call them home. Their austere lifestyles, guided by codes of chastity, obedience, and silence, are a testament to their unwavering devotion to the divine in all its unfathomable mystery.

Yet, at the same time, I am also humbled by the strength and single-mindedness of their commitment. It is a level of devotion that inspires admiration and fear in equal measure, a reminder of the power of the human spirit to strive for the sublime, but also a cautionary tale of the dangers of losing oneself in the pursuit of transcendence.

The monasteries are more than just stone and mortar; they are a sensory experience, a reminder of the power of the human spirit, and a call to seek out my own quiet corner, where I can connect with something greater than myself.

Embracing the Fullness of Life: The Significance of Passover

Reflecting with a touch of wonder, the journey of the Israelites through the desert is a spiritual symbol of our own paths. After their miraculous release from slavery in Egypt, God led them on a transformative journey through the desert, not straight to the Promised Land. This desert voyage allowed the Israelites to deepen their faith, reflecting on their relationship with God and strengthening their bond with the divine.

It’s a mystery why God chose the desert as the route and why it lasted 40 years. But, the challenges faced by the Israelites, such as hunger, thirst, and danger, taught them to rely on God and trust in His protection and provision. This period of spiritual growth prepared them for the Promised Land.

Passover holds a special significance in my heart, reminding me of the journey from enslavement to liberation. It speaks to the human spirit, urging us to remember and celebrate our own bondage of self and freedom. Not just the freedom from physical bonds but from the shackles of the self – our own limitations and fears. This holiday serves as a daily reminder to break free from these binds and embrace the fullness of life and all its possibilities.

Wandering into the Desert: A Place of Divine Encounters

The desert holds a special place in the stories of the Bible, as it was where many great biblical figures found themselves wandering. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, and Jesus all had encounters with God in the desert, and it’s no coincidence. The Hebrew word for “speak” shares the same root as “desert.” This suggests that God chose the desert to communicate with his people, free from distractions. The desert allowed these figures to fully focus on their conversations with God, to listen deeply, and understand his will.

One of the most significant moments in biblical history took place in the desert – the presentation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. These stone tablets represented God’s covenant with his people and served as a reminder of his love and guidance. The desert symbolizes solitude, reflection, and spiritual renewal. It reminds us that sometimes it’s in the quiet and stillness that we can truly hear the voice of a Higher Power.

The Whisper of Grace: Navigating the Sandstorms of Faith and Emotions

I once heard a sermon where the speaker said God’s voice is not as eloquent as his silence.

Walking with faith is sometimes like being amidst a desert sandstorm. Visibility is gone; your sense of direction is upside down. You think you are walking to the right, but actually, you walk in circles. The best way to handle the situation is to lay low and wait for the storm to pass and the view to clear up.

The same is true with emotions. Even the most uncomfortable feelings will not stay the same forever; they will pass and clear up. But being patient is not easy. It’s a muscle that requires constant training and strengthening. It can be challenging to hold onto, but I have found that when I pause and simply breathe, I can hear the gentle whispers of grace. In this stillness, I am reminded to have faith and trust that everything will clear up in its own time.

When I lay low and wait, I can tell that the sandstorm is not blowing from some far-away place, but it’s all in me. It is me. It is an invitation to delve deeper and explore the story behind the story. It’s an opportunity to expand, grow, and become a better man.