Notes from the Desert Day One

For the next week, I will be posting a portion of my journal entries from my time in the desert. Perhaps you will find something of value in my journey. Perhaps my questions, struggles, and desires are not unlike your own.

Day One

Waiting for my flight this morning, having first secured a doppio espresso (yes, I’m a coffee addict), I cracked open a new book I’d brought along, Red Notice by Bill Browder. It bills itself as “a true story of high finance, murder, and one man’s fight for justice.” It’s all of that and more.

On one hand, it was a really page turner; on the other hand, it was a disturbing, forced read, mainly because it was a stark reminder of the unjust and cruel ways us humans treat each other.

As Anthony de Mello remarked, “You thought people were nice. They’re not!” I think he was referring to all of us. (The quote was taken from Anthony de Mello’s Awarenessa wonderful little book I brought with me to the desert.)

The events related in Browder’s book also was an in-my-face reminder that the gurus are right: humans — all humans — act in their perceived self-interest, either all or almost all of the time, whether or not we are aware of it. Even when we’re engaged in acts of charity. Or justice. Possibly (although I’m not sure), we are capable of acting without regard to self-interest when pure love takes over. Not the kind of love that expects something in return; rather, the kind of love that has no expectations or conditions of any kind and is satisfying no psychological need. (I’m assuming — perhaps even believing and hoping — such a love exists.)

Our cruel and selfish ways as humans often trouble me. You’d think by now I would have done a better job of coming to terms with all of this. You’d think I would have become more aware and accepting of reality given all the time I’ve spent awake, and would not cling to the illusion that such behavior (as well as less lethal action) is an exception to the norm. But I’m learning that consciousness should never be equated with awakeness.

An understand of reality — the way things truly are as opposed to the way we see and interpret them — is blocked by many human constructs, ideas, and false beliefs, some of which may, at heart, be defense mechanisms, while others, upon close examination, are nothing more than blatant, manipulative stories designed to subjugate and pacify. Hence, I find I need to unlearn much of what’s been crammed down my throat since birth.

It’s time to deprogram. Deconstruct. Expose the illusions. Identify the false beliefs as well as the obstructions. Become more aware. Of reality. I was motivated to come to the desert, in part, by an awareness that deprogramming takes some concentrated effort.

Why do any of this?

So that I won’t be perpetually disappointed. So my illusions will not keep clashing with reality. So I won’t be held hostage by my thoughts.

Most importantly, so I may be free. So I can be content to be nobody. So I can stop expecting to find a meaning that does not exist. So I can be more aware of and contented with reality.

In the desert.

Desert Time

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to take a solo silent retreat. I’m a bit late, but better late than never. This morning I left for the desert. For a week. Alone. Off the grid. No work, conference calls, client contacts, appointments, emails, internet, television, newspapers, blogs, Twitter, phone calls, or stock trades. No intentional or voluntary distractions. None.

I’ve never done this. It’s appealing theoretically; however, I really have no idea what it will be like in reality. It could turn out to be a really bad idea. I hope not.

I have no goals for the week. It was tempting (I seem to need goals, which is part of the problem), but I thought better of it. I decided it would be best to relinquish control and leave my goals and expectations behind. And to focus on mindfulness, meditation, and reflection. With no distractions or preconceptions.

I suppose this trip to the desert is part of my quest for greater awareness and acceptance of reality, freedom, unshakable contentment, and unconditional happiness.

Put differently, I want to be as well as possible. For that to happen, I believe I need to break the spell of being distracted by mindless, uncontrollable thoughts, senseless concerns and worries, and false perspectives. In short, I seek greater freedom and deeper contentment. In order to flourish.

What freedom do I desire? To be free from expectations. Demands. Biases. Prejudices. Judgments. Falsehoods. Illusions. Delusions. Disappointments. Worry. Frustration. Desires. Guilt. Despair. Projections. Labels. Attachments. Insecurities. Fear. Uncontrollable thoughts. Boredom. Rumination. Resentments. Insomnia. Compulsive eating. Stress. Dark thoughts. And suffering.

I’ve come to understand that, for that to happen, I have much to unlearn and many insights to gain into how and why I think and feel the way I do. I need to become more aware and see reality more clearly. And not be a slave to my mind.

“Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit,” according to Naval Ravikant.

Stillness is the word that comes to mind. Not doing. Just being.

Will a week alone in the desert help?

I guess I’ll find out.