The desert is a place that is almost designed to dismantle your limited ego. The strangeness and emptiness of the landscapes baffles the human mind that is used to a filled up busy life and smooth lines on structures that have a purpose, structures that make logical sense. The logical mind is insular and averse to differences because it is designed to keep us safe, but it also greatly limits our experience of life. The irregularities of the desert landscape dismantles the logical mind and turns it into a poetic puddle.
The silence in the desert is a special kind of silence. It is a loud, intense kind of silence. It's presence cannot be ignored, unlike how silence can often be ignored in most places. It seeps into the crevices of your mind and puts you in touch with the uncomfortable emptiness within, and then a peaceful quiet that is truly restful. It is easy to meditate in the desert because it shows you your essential nature; empty and quiet. You don't even have to try because deserts will meditate you.
All the variant colors, all the twists and turns of the canyons, all the odd, irregular rocks are a psychedelic trip to another world that seems so far away from normal life. You're in for a ride that the landscape is in charge of. Look up at the sky at night and you are reminded of the even deeper mystery of the stars, galaxies, and the entire universe. Mystery upon mystery surrounds you in the desert.
Some features that you find in a desert are ancient, prehistoric. It's hard to comprehend how old the dinosaur footprints I saw are. My mind simply cannot comprehend the meaning of millions of years. Whose mind can?
I can understand why deserts are often the settings for mystical and spiritual journeys and experiences. Christianity, for example, has a history of honoring the desert for these purposes since Jesus' 40 days and 40 nights. I believe a lot of shamanic traditions also honor the spirituality of the desert, and many other traditions I may not be aware of.
I ended up doing an online spiritual retreat with one of my teachers while I was in Kanab, Utah, a small town in the desert. The combination of the retreat and the desert was really intense, and I ended up feeling like I was losing it a little by the end of the retreat. I actually had to drive to the ocean in California to recover, but I will be back to face the lessons of the desert again someday soon.