Read how Laura Droße experienced the last JOURNEY TO YOURSELF retreat in Egypt and see what she captured through the lens of her camera.
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How often do you sit at home and realise: Another week has passed, just gone by. And how much do you actually remember of it? How many times were you truly connected – to someone, your surroundings, yourself? How many weeks of your life go by like this?
There may be one week to change it all. In the desert. By the sea.
It is March 2023 and I board the first plane in years to go on a journey... ...a journey to myself, that will provide the key to it all. Unlock my inner wisdom, unlock myself.
After an endless grey, cold and wet winter in Berlin I find myself in the dry, golden heat of Egypt. Voices of strangers around me which soon will sit around the fire with me sharing from the depth of their hearts. My own voice inside my head: What did I come here to find? Who did I hope to meet? Sounds from the land of memories. My inner wisdom roams free. Is it a flame? A stream? A whisper? A silence maybe. Listen!
It seems I came here for the desert above all else, to transform myself and split my timeline into a distinct „before and after“. In my journal I wrote: „Somehow I hope the retreat to become a filter... something that clears up the question mark in my mind and shines a light on the path ahead. With nowhere to hide I’m swimming and there is a lot of ocean around.“
And I can feel it from the moment, when we all meet for the first time. „What I am learning here is to let go of control - or the illusion of it.“ Written on the evening before the journey to the desert.
I find myself stripped bare of the known.
Mentally. Fundamentally. Elementally so to speak.
I’m already losing my feeling for time - hour and day - already feel like leaving things behind. Everything is already slower; between ancient rocks in all shapes, sizes and colors time has no meaning besides dawn and dusk. As the evening settles, the cloudless sky turns into a 360° canopy of soft pastels above us. Cradled between the stone cliffs, that have been here since time immemorial, I look at the stars and feel as if this is the safest place on Earth.
In the morning a glowing deep orange ball spills its light across the scene; slim remnants of the night in the east, a crescent moon on a pale blue sky.
The soil is dusty and leaves a thin layer of white on everything. No drip of water, the essence of dryness.The orange ball has long found its way from the horizon, first above the southern cliff, then with noon passing slowly sneaking to fill the complete valley with its glaring light. Tormented by the wind, the tarp with its rattling and shaking becomes part of the imprint of this place and time stretches or maybe even stands still – like a time vacuum, maybe even a space time vacuum.
I expected to meet the desert and was looking forward to it. I expected to reveal some layers of myself and was okay (enough) with it. I knew there would be group movement sessions and I was terrified.
In this world outside the world happens, what couldn’t anywhere else, nor any year before: I dance. On the outer perimeter of the scene, but visible and in the open. Not freed from anxiety at once, but moving freed from rules, listening to nothing but my innate wisdom. Deciding to ride the driest wave, to become fluid, follow rhythm and inner self once more. Surrendering.
In the afternoon a silent walk into the Wadi. Hiking quietly deeper and deeper into this gorge, that once was the ground of an ocean. We find shells and fossilised remnants of a long gone past. Every now and then I stop and let this place hold me with its strength and comfort, the ground hard but soft underneath my feet. I am linked to the ocean that once was.
Remains. Deep time. Inevitable change. Inner calm meets outer calm. It’s beautiful. Poetic. Painful. And promising.
Each one of us creates an original art piece here, with our hands, not our minds. What is felt in our souls in this moment, made for this moment, seen by no-one but this precious group of people that is sharing the path of this journey – will be left behind and vanish soon after.
In the night weird dreams filled with people from my past. What is it, that I’m going to leave here?
Last moments before a transformation so profound we can’t even fathom it yet. Through the window frame of our Jeep suddenly the desert scenery seems to stretch itself before my eyes and extends the time to fully say farewell. I see a sheik in the rearview mirror; the radio plays foreign melodies that go into synchronicity with the smooth waves on the sandy road.
I wake up at 05:39, throw some clothes on to visit the sunrise by the shore. Finally I am close to water again. Something in me connects and dissolves whenever water is present, so I become the stream or the open expanse of water, scattering emotions and hardships across a bigger area and feeling lighter by it. The ocean an eternal love, but also lakes and rivers, waterfalls, springs and the rain. And even a shower, as my last resort on bad days.
After the desert wind had filled my head with sounds of nothing but itself for days, arriving here added awareness for the rustling sound of wind in trees and bushes. The invisible air and her hidden beauty: Strength. Movement. Pathways. Suddenly appearing, changing the status quo, opening the mind and its possibilities, birthing curiosity and creativity, letting them all dance. Where will I go from here?
Our group practices might support the answers to this question. As we explore the spaces we share, but also hold, the boundaries we would like to establish or let go - and awaken our ability to wholly trust, feeling held by the warmth in unfamiliar eyes, caressed by heartfelt words spoken by souls just met.
Another morning, 05:37, lying down on the wooden planks until the sun comes up, meditating surrounded by water. Behind my closed eyes, the orange is moving and I can feel the sparkling of the sunlight on the smooth lagoon surface.
Visiting „my“ tree, leaning at his trunk, almost shedding a tear. He comforts me under his arms and countless little fingers, caressing my mind with its whispering leaves. Holding a thick branch with both hands above my head, grounding myself by building a connection between the tree, the human and the earth.
With every year I learn to appreciate the earth qualities in myself more. My groundedness, the nourishment and safety I can embody. The literal essence of life and feeling connected to this Earth and all her creatures. Planting seeds and being the ground upon which to build.
A day on a boat. My head leaning against the doorframe, I’m trying to inhale the moment. Colors of the ocean, a deep bright Turquoise, Ink Blue and Muddy Green beneath the surface at the riff, as always uncatchable on photos. Just like the mountains and valleys of the waves. The ocean is best kept in feelings.
On our way home, the sea calmed a bit, the waves still majestic, but rounder, softer, longer... With the sun setting, the atmosphere changes. No biting light or bright colors anymore, only muted and deep blues, a warm pastel sky and a soft peachy ball of sun slowly fading to the horizon, then hiding for the night. This has always been my time, when the untold, the unknown, the reality behind the veil of the loud daytime becomes graspable.
These deep blue waves and I connect as I’m standing starboard. I do not have to hold on to anything to feel save or to keep balance. The ocean and I are in tune. I close my eyes and feel the rise and fall, her strength, but also her soft embrace. All the stories of the world are here, the essence of this magnificent interconnected thing called Earth. Below the ocean there’s always earth, one day this is going to be a desert, an ocean that once was. All is one. One is plenty. There is no use for names and numbers (at times).
A final day between the before and after, the world delayed until at least tomorrow. Like one of those mindless summer days, filled with an almost pre-adult ease. Nothing to think or care about, no chores. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Could this be my connection to fire? Warmth? A caring heart...? This chapter hasn’t yet been written, this fire will be lit another time.
Third day at home. What stayed with me? Which memories anchored in my soul? Did I leave anything behind?
Who am I now – have I changed?
I feel closer to my core again. Filled with new trust, that a loving and caring world is indeed possible. That this is what I stand for. I built a tree in the desert, wrote a poem at sea and now I am home.
This is it. Here is where the I meets the Now.
(Where) the wind and the waves know my name.
N E X T R E T R E A T S
CHILDREN OF THE SEA
a retreat on wild beaches
JOURNEY TO YOURSELF
a retreat in the desert & by the sea
El Gouna, Egypt
Photographs and text by Laura Droße.
All images subject to copyright.