Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship

4 Ways to Embrace Desert Spirituality - Journey to Wholeness

Guest Author: 
Carol Kortsch


Editor's note:  A remarkable SDI spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in November, 2019. Carol Kortch will be co-leading the retreat, which we call "Journey to Wholeness." Here, Carol discusses some of the ways the desert can help us go deeper. Valerie Brown will co-lead the retreat with Carol.



  Pay Attention to Prickly Spines and Shadowy Edges




The desert often feels hostile to us humans. I adore wandering these lands like the whirling dervish soul I feel inside. A couple of hours walking in the desert around Ghost Ranch in New Mexico becomes a revealing conversation with darkness and light if I let my imagination float into the vast open spaces around me.

Spiny cactus flaunt their prickly edges almost daring me to get close and touch them. The heat of the sun bakes the land with an intensity that is hard to fathom. Turning suddenly, I jump at the dark shadow following me, then laugh out loud when I realize it is only me.

I stare at this stranger that walks in my shoes and wonder what nuggets of buried truth glint like precious gold awaiting discovery. What wisdom waits to be mined in my shadow?

In my journey towards wholeness I’ve discovered a wealth of soul energy waiting to be noticed and named, not run away from.

Old fears like cactus spines and dark shadows kept us safe as youngsters but repeatedly stepping boldly into a circle of trusting companions helped me dig into these depths and trust their prickly wisdom.

Come and join our circle of soulful adventurers, it is a landmark invitation you’ll never regret saying yes to.


Cryptobiotic Soil




The desert journey is not for the faint hearted. Especially if you are a water person like me, one who loves depths; a garden-loving Earth mother who revels in all ‘greening’ things honored by Hildegard, Francis and Pachemama.

A surprising discovery on my journey towards wholeness came through the marvel of cryptobiotic soil. This crusty biological community of micro-organisms is the foundation for all desert plant life. Small colonies raise their tough, blackened, pock-marked faces everywhere in the deserts of the South West, yet these colonies can be destroyed in one human footstep. Decades of growth can be reversed by careless, thoughtless intrusion from our species and eco-cidal farming practices.

As I sat paying attention to this fragile and fierce creation, it became a living soul image for that crusty yet precious uniqueness that our humanity holds when we bare our vulnerable selves into a world that often feels more like a desert than a garden.

How often has your wild self been trampled on, yet fiercely regrows with a yearning for some vast, unexplained freedom to be seen?

Our tough and tender souls are sustainable in any situation and can become visible especially when we show up in all our broken wholeness in community.

As desert beings we need each other, and we need safe circles to learn how to thrive in the aridity of our Western culture.


Tracking the Soul’s Footprints