Have you ever sat down in a vast desert of silence, gazing at the beautiful night sky, lost only inside your thoughts? You don’t need to, but I did. A couple of years ago, I made a trip into Wadi Rum in Jordan with a couple of friends to spend a night in the desert. It was a haunting experience. Not haunting in the Hollywood horror movie style, it was haunting in a way a life-transforming experience leaves you. You return to your normal life the day after, but you know your life will be, from this point onward, slightly different.
I have tried to recount the experience with words multiple times. Here I am trying again. My experience has to do with anxieties and fears. I wanted to experience the desert, so beautiful and self-sufficient in stark contrast to my being. I struggled to function day-to-day while a desert suffers the heat of the day and the cold of the night without a complaint. That night, a Bedouin guided us and took us to the middle of the valley. He lit a bonfire after collecting wood from the desert and we sat around it to listen to his songs. After a while, he told us we could go into the desert as long as we were far enough to see and return back to the fire. I followed a couple of my friends into the deserts and we dispersed. I found a spot, at a safe distance, and sat there with my head on my knees. It was dark in every direction I looked, except the one leading toward the light. My eyes finally adjusted and I began to see in the dark. It was not completely dark; I could make out the shrubs and the outline of thee desert in the distance.
Everything became very quiet around me, in harmony with the universe, except my mind. It was a mess inside. I was a mess. I am still a mess and continue to search for harmony. I wanted answers and my brain would not stop questioning. I wanted to feel at home, yet I couldn’t relax. I wanted to be loved, yet I wouldn’t love or let love. I wanted acceptance, protection, and praise. I wanted signs for help, as I knew I was in trouble. Most of all, I wanted to be safe in a world that we know is anything but that. I wanted a promise that everything will be okay. So, I sat there with these thoughts and prayers, staring into the desert, wanting to disappear. I did not disappear but eventually my thoughts did. It was as if the silence of the desert stole away my worries. I was alone but so was the desert. In such a beautiful company, I could not cry “Me, Me” when the desert was swaying with the winds, whispering nothing into my ears. At that point, I felt the power of divine love. It is a love that takes us outside of ourselves and places us in harmony with the universe.
I did not become a Buddha that night. No, but I tasted something sweet; a peace that is unlike one found in others’ company. Often, now, my mind suffers amnesia and I search for answers for the same questions and fears, for company when I’m feeling lowly, to fill sorrows with joys, for a shoulder to make life easy. Yet, a night in the desert taught me that I know no one person capable of doing all that for me all the time. So, whenever, my mind races in circles, I close my eyes wishing to remember a fleeting memory of a deserted night.