Yuèyá Quán or Crescent Lake is an oasis in the Gobi desert some 3-4 miles from Dunhuang in Western China. The Crescent Lake Oasis fulfills the water needs of a small population of farmers and residents. Home to one of the great Buddhist temples, the area has been in ecological crisis since the 1970s. Due to overuse and public engineering, the water level of Yuèyá Quán has been dropping steadily for the past 40 years. This retreat city is near the Mogao Caves and offers a place for meditation and silence while still offering shelter. The area was once the gateway on the Silk Road between the Eastern and Western world.
While other retreat areas have concentrated on the connection and harmony with nature, this one represents not only the starkness of nature but the transitory state of the world around us. Driven by wind and time, the sand dunes shift from day to day and year to year. Humanity, standing in in the middle of this process has either to fight a daily battle or move with the winds of change and create harmony with the desert.
Many different religions in and around the world find their starts either in the desert (e.g. Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity) or have elements of vision quests or retreats (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American Earth Religions, African Tribal Religions). For some the deserts represented a harsh mistress, a crucible to test the faithful. For others, it was a land of spirits and ghosts, devoid of life. In almost all cases, it held a special significance for the peoples who lived in or near them
Over the next few weeks, we will examine and look at several Retreat locations around the world centered in various deserts. These include the more obvious locations such as Oman and Israel as well as more unusual areas such as Peru. We will also examine some of the Retreat locations as well as actual Retreats in the American Southwest (my home).