I will bring the noble soul into the desert and I will speak to her heart

Thank you to Mary Cook for sharing her article on the experience of meditation and silence in South Sinai:

“I practise Christian meditation and currently lead a meditation group in Christchurch Highbury. John Main describes meditation as ‘a way of coming to your own centre, coming to the foundation of your own being and remaining there – still, silent and attentive’.

It is in following this quest that led me to a silent retreat in the South Sinai desert led by Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence. En route a companion asked me why I was embarking on this challenging journey. I confessed that I wasn’t exactly sure. I then settled down to read a passage from Meister Eckert and the following passage leapt out of the page:

‘I, says our Lord in the book of the prophet Hosea, will bring the noble soul into the desert, and I will speak to her heart, one with One, one from One, and one in One eternally’.

Thus an extraordinary journey began into the beautiful sandstone desert of South Sinai in the company of a diverse, mainly spiritual group of adventurers. We were led in our enquiry by Sara Maitland, expertly and confidently guided by professional guides from a specialist travel company called Wind Sand & Stars. I was astounded at their knowledge, detail and consistent loving care. It was clear from my first tentative enquiry that there was a special quality at the foundation of Wind Sand & Stars. Curiously, in spite of the possible risky environment (political, spiritual, health-wise, etc), one was allowed to feel safe. The structure of support was utterly sound, there was a constant and completely necessary daily reminder of boundaries in all senses of the word, which gave one a freedom in which to truly experience exploration beyond one’s normal limits.

Having arrived into the remote valley that was to be our home for six days we settled into desert life. We slept on mats upon the sand under an exquisite canopy of stars. We woke at dawn to glimpse the sun rising above the pink sandstone rocks and dunes and to sounds of our Bedouin hosts crouched over fires preparing delicious breakfasts of fresh breads, eggs, goat’s cheese and hot sweet tea from a blackened kettle.

After listening to readings from the Desert Fathers we each retreated to our individual hermitages amongst the rocks. These were literally very shady clefts which we had each chosen on arrival where we might feel sheltered from the burning sun and able to pursue our own discovery into desert silence through prayer, meditation, poetry, or whatever we chose. The remainder of the day included lunch, rest, and optional guided walks on foot or camel to sacred sites. Evenings were spent sitting around a wonderful fire under the stars eating and sharing our experiences.

It was discovered that the desert is a very special place which does speak to the heart somehow through the stripping away of image, activity, and because there really is a most profound depth of silence.

The final day was spent at St Catherine’s Monastery where I was able to spend time gazing at the remarkable 6th century icons that have been miraculously preserved in that sacred place.”

‘I, says our Lord in the book of the prophet Hosea, will bring the noble soul into the desert, and I will speak to her heart.’


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