Desert Wisdom

Insights from the Desert

The Spirit of the Sahara
Desert Wisdom: the book and the nomads
Revealing the spiritual landscape of the desert
Southern Morocco and the roots of happiness

Desert Wisdom

Desert Wisdom: a doorway to the eternal now

Even if you’ve never been in the desert, it probably lives in your imagination. Actually being there is truly mind-blowing – especially if you go in the old ways: on foot, with camels and Bedouin guides. One of the biggest experiences of my life was organising ten retreats like this in the Tunisian Sahara.

Within thirty-six hours of leaving Europe, my groups looked like an Old Testament scene: wearing traditional local clothes like djellabas, because it’s the most functional gear for the desert. Walking on the sand, as part of a camel caravan, you are in the eternal now.

The Sahara is bigger than Australia. Being there gives you a sense of vastness that I’ve found nowhere else. The sky goes on forever, and at night it seems there are millions of stars. The landscape is humbling: largely untouched by man, empty almost to infinity.

For thousands of years, the desert has been a source of revelation and inspiration to poets, prophets, and pilgrims. These vast spaces impel me to feel that there is some transcendent power beyond our individual personalities: a quality that I’d call divine unity.

If I was ever on Desert Island Discs, the book I’d take would undoubtedly be Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas-Klotz. He observes that several major spiritual traditions have their origins in the deserts of the Middle East. His book has inspiring, expanded translations of key texts from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other sources. My copy still has sand in the pages from repeated trips to the Sahara!

The Bedouin in the Sahara are another great source of desert wisdom. All of us are now having to live with less control, and if you take that to the extreme, you have the nomadic way of life. Colonisation had little impact on the Bedouin, so this is like being with an aboriginal tribe whose culture is largely intact – and since some of them speak French, you can have a real dialogue.

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For a 4-minute video and pictures of one of my Sahara retreats click here.