Hearing Voices in the Desert

The other day I heard a voice. I hear voices all the time. You probably do, too.

The mind does that, talks at us. Occasionally it says something helpful but mostly it’s just running its many, many mouths.

The incessant voices in our heads are why mindfulness as a mainstream practice is the best invention since the clay pots. They’re why Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, is so right when he says that thinking has become an addiction.

But this voice got my attention.

“You came to the desert to die.”

Naturally, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc, it occurred to me that at some point, I could be staring down the barrel of a literal death.

But that didn’t seem right, somehow.

Mary Reynolds Thompson, author of Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness says that in the desert landscape, we shed everything we are not, and get right down to our essence.


In 2019, my nineteen-year-old daughter moved out. I got divorced, the house we’d lived in for 20 years was sold, and I quit a full-time job that my body told me (always listen to that voice), would kill me.

In January, I was drawn to Tucson for reasons I could not explain.

Signs of death and its possibility are everywhere on morning walks: A full snakeskin. The whine of an ambulance. Masked neighbors practicing social distancing. A bicycle shrine to a fallen rider.

There’s an inner desert, too, as Reynolds Thompson teaches.  This archetypal desert empties us out so that we can tell the truth to ourselves. It strips us bare of old habits, expectations, and illusions of who we are, and are not.

Yesterday, sitting in the shade in Himmel Park four blocks from my new home, a 500-square foot bungalow, I experienced what I guess the mystics call “a lifting of the veil.”

The voices had stopped.  The persistent anxiety over “what next” was also gone.

A fuller picture of the world came into view, that I felt so much a part of, I was hardly aware of “me.” A mini death.

A monarch butterfly floated in and out of my awareness. I noticed the rust-colored hair of a young girl, her long bare legs crossed at the ankles. A bird’s fire-red crown. Tree shadows danced in the dirt at my feet.

It wasn’t a dramatic experience, or particularly life-changing.  Just a moment when something true, emerged.



12 thoughts on “Hearing Voices in the Desert

  1. This is so compelling, Lee. I want to be stripped bare, as well. I’m so glad the desert is stirring your soul…. ❤️


  2. Lovely words Lee. Sounds like you have found your soul, your inner being, and that is something we all wish and search for.


  3. I like this, too. I hope everyone experiences radical reductions in the unnecessary during these times, so that we give Life the opportunity for restoration. Mother earth, all of nature needs for us (we humans) to reduce our footprints & our consumption so that everything can survive, recover and hopefully flourish. (Did I read too much in your essay? 😉 )


  4. Beautifully expressed, Lee. It sounds like you’ve found peace at last! Always from the inside out.😘
    What a way to celebrate your life!


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