This week, I’m in the beautiful high desert of Lucerne Valley, co-teaching our 7-night fall InsightLA meditation retreat at Royal Way ranch with Celeste Young, Lienchi Tran, and Justine Dawson, with Vince Perata as retreat manager. The ranch is an oasis of waterfalls, walking paths, carefully tended orchards and gardens, poised at 3800 feet at the foot of high ridges overlooking the mesa and mountains. The immense valley below is dotted with dusty weather-worn places inhabited by folks living in the harsh conditions of the Mojave Desert’s western edge. The contrast between this lush retreat center and the surrounding area is as stark as the bleak lunar landscape.
Massive, windswept mountains soar into the towering blue sky. To see what is actually here takes time; the arid plains seem impossibly desolate, yet there are over 200 native plant species, found nowhere else. This community of organisms living in the rain shadow of the eastern Sierras can grow with just a few drops of water, a sprinkle of rain.
Like the desert plants, our hearts come alive with a few drops of love and compassion as we traverse forsaken regions of our minds, bodies, and hearts in meditation. It takes time to appreciate the bare splendor of this arid land, and it takes time – hours and days and years – to learn how to be present with the spectacular range of experience that arises for us humans; grief and joy, fear and anger, beauty and insight.
Just as a few drops of water enable the creatures in the desert to remain alive, we sprinkle our being with loving awareness to enable us to face countless challenges in our lives – and survive. In the beauty of the natural world, in the peace of mountain, sky, meditation and mindfulness, the goodness of our hearts is restored. May you, too, find time to discover the awe-inspiring grace of your own vast nature, already and always here.