Today is the first full day of our Spring Insight retreat in beautiful Lucerne Valley at the western edge of the Mojave Desert ecosystem. There are Joshua trees in bloom, sparsely sprinkled among the creosote bushes dotting the plain. Largest of the yuccas, their cream-colored (papery) flowers appear incongruously luscious in this parched landscape. They jut out at the end of dry spike-leafed evergreen branches, reminding me of the way insight can suddenly blossom out of arid times in our practice.
I first glimpsed the Mojave valleys driving to LA from the high desert of Northern New Mexico. While the massive, windswept mountains soared into the towering blue sky, the plains seemed impossibly desolate – lunar, stark, bleak. It took time to begin to see what is actually here: over 200 native plant species, found no where else.
In retreat, we traverse forsaken, abandoned regions of our minds, bodies, hearts. Just as it takes time to appreciate the bare splendor of this desert land, it takes lots of patient, mindful practice — through hours and days and years of willingness to be with whatever suffering, boredom, or joy arises for us, whether we feel like we can do our practice well or not — to discover the awe-inspiring nature of our own vast being, to see what’s already here, always ready to unfurl in the light of our steady, loving awareness.