The Desert and the Pit

the pit, the pit of despair, the pit of sadness, the ego pit
You can catch up on the previous stories with Ruby on this link:

Spiritual Allegories

After the long night and her experiences with the three people lost in the desert, Ruby found her way back to the oasis. Once there, she continued to adjust to the demands of the desert. She practiced traveling at night. She learned how to better use the stars when there wasn't moonlight. She changed more of her ways of hunting, finding, preparing, and saving food. As the weather changed, she again changed the times of the day that she was active.

Everything changed.

Again.

One day, she looked into the waters of the oasis and saw her reflection. Piercing eyes gazed back. Long, wild hair framed a lean face and body--much leaner than she'd ever been. Someone unknown was emerging.

"Who are you?"

The image did not respond.

A cold wind ripped down through the oasis and dashed the reflection. Ruby shivered. 

Night was coming sooner. The nights were now bitterly cold. However, Ruby had scouted out water and wildlife at a lower elevation where it would be warmer. During the summer, the lower areas were too blisteringly hot to have even attempted exploring, not that she knew how to do so earlier on. Her survival skills had improved enough that she could attempt it now.

She thought she was ready.

On the day she intended to travel away from the oasis, she caught sight of a familiar golden smudge in the sky. Quickly, the kuldne kull arrived. The being seemed strangely hurried.

Oh good, Ruby thought, I have some questions.

"Do you know how to rock climb?" the kull asked.

"What?" Ruby frowned. "No, but...."

"Perhaps you should learn." Then the kull left.

"Hey!" She shouted. "I have questions!"

But the kull was already far away.

"Oh, for fuck's sake!"

Ruby paused in surprise. She realized she'd just swore. "Where did that come from?"

She pulled up her pack and shook her head. "Fine. I'll ask my questions some other time...rocking climbing...." Ruby laughed.

After many miles, Ruby felt a little more warmth. The terrain, however, was even more barren here. She knew it would be challenging. 

She had her sights set on a small spring in a rock outcrop that she'd found on one of her scouting excursions. She knew that animals and vegetation needed water as much as she did. It seemed like the right place to be until she had a chance to investigate even further out.

She came around a turn amidst the rocks and saw the spring. She set down her pack and went to get a drink. She climbed over a boulder and stepped on the ground when it gave way.

She fell.

Her body hit rock and rebounded, and her mind frantically tried to understand what was happening. She flailed her arms to catch something. Her hands found rock, and her body slammed into the rock wall. She lost her grip and continued to fall. It seemed endless. Then she hit bottom.

Ruby gasped for air and groaned. She opened her eyes, which gradually adjusted to the dim light. Up above, the dying daylight shown through the top of the pit a hundred maybe two hundred feet above her. She flexed her hands and feet as she examined herself to see how hurt she was. She touched her arms and chest. It felt like a rib was broken.

She breathed. Looked around. Tried to understand what happened.

She stared upwards. It appeared to be a sinkhole probably caused by water erosion when the spring ran this way. It must have changed course many years ago.

Slowly, Ruby got to her feet. She put her hands along the rock, looking for an opening where the water could have flowed out. She only felt rock encircling her. No openings.

Ruby looked up again. The kuldne kull came to mind.

"Rock climbing...." Ruby laughed. And laughed, and her voice echoed back. Until the pit resounded with the echoes of laughter. It filled her head like a dozen people laughing at her.

Ruby covered her ears. She also felt the ache of the broken rib complaining at the laughing.

She breathed.

"Okay. Okay. Rocking climbing," she said more seriously. She breathed more and tried to focus.

She reached up and quickly pulled her arms down. Pain flooded her. Definitely had a broken rib. Maybe two.

"Hey!" She called to the top of the pit. "Hey! Somebody!" She called as much as she could, but she was becoming increasingly aware of the pain of the broken ribs, which made it hard to project her voice.

No one replied.

"Okay. Rock climbing."

She carefully lifted her arms. She pulled on the rock to lift herself. The pain came back.

"Fuck!" She swore. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

Her voice echoed.

"Fuck this. Fuck you!"

Her voice echoed more and swore back at her, "Fuck you!"

Ruby felt rage boiling up--a rage she didn't know she possessed.

And she liked it. She liked the self-righteous anger. She felt blame rise up. She blamed the desert, the random people she'd met who'd hassled her, the cryptic kuldne kull, and any and everything she could think of. She couldn't let it go. It wasn't her fault that she was in this pit.

Ruby angrily looked at the darkness around her. Her eyes adjusted more. She noticed small animal bones and the skull of a coyote. Her anger cooled. Here emotions twisted into something else, freezing into a thousand pinpricks across her skin.

A small alcove in one area of the pit had a human skeleton. She bent down to look at it. She saw its boney hands covering its hollow eye sockets. 

Ruby shivered.

She reached for her pack to get a scarf, but it wasn't there. She remembered her pack was far above her along with her extra layers of clothing.

And her food.

And her water.

As reality sank in, fear flooded her senses.

"Hey anyone! Anyone! Please, HELP!" Her right ribs sent waves of pain with each scream, but the wash of fear overrode that sensation.

Desperately she called out. She called to the kull and to the people she'd met in the desert. Even crazy Gerald. If ever she needed a human who'd mastered the ability to fly, it was NOW. She just hoped he'd actually figured it out or had given it up so he could climb down and get her.

Her voice echoed wildly, filling her mind again with a dozen desperate voices.

No one replied.

She sank to her knees. Her ribs ached. Her breath was shallow. She gasped and wheezed.

The cold should be less severe down in the pit without the wind to make things worse, but water was the big issue. She felt around on the ground and along the rock, but all she found was sand and rock.

And more bones.

Ruby slipped into sadness. The tingly exhilaration of fear that she'd clung to in shouting for help because the sweet sadness of self-pity.

"Help," she said weakly. "Help."

Again her voice echoed. But this time it somehow turned into one voice. A sad little girl's voice. Ruby heard her longing again, but it was so different. It wasn't like the longing that had brought her to the desert, yet it was. She found herself fantasizing about Mt. Liebe again. Then the longing  and the imagery changed. Mt. Liebe merged with the strength and safety of her father's arms. It mingled with the memories of her mother braiding her long hair before her town's ritual haircutting--a ritual of adulthood for the women of her town. She'd had it short ever since then.

She reached back and touched her hair. She realized how long it had become during her time in the desert. Cutting it had not been a necessity much less on her mind.

"Who am I becoming," Ruby sobbed.

She looked up again.

Hoping.

Hoping to see a face staring back. Instead, the sun's fading light had left a lone star to shine down upon her.

"Please. Someone. Help."

No one replied.


Interpretation of The Desert and the Pit

Continuing Ruby's story, we see her learning and growing. Her experience being lost at night has shown her that her knowledge of the desert (ego dissolution, letting go of attachments, etc.) was insufficient. She wisely works to learn more, and the process continues to alter her. 

In a moment of staring into the waters of the oasis, she realizes that she is no longer the person that she once thought she was. Perhaps you've had this experience of no longer recognizing yourself on your path.

Unfortunately, Ruby is also developing a spiritual ego. She is heading off into a new space--the harsher part of the desert that she couldn't reach before. This happens in our work. We work at a certain level, and then we work at deeper levels. She's managed to figure things out on her own, and now, she believes that she knows what she needs to do.

She's wrong.

The kuldne kull is mentioned as hurrying to see her because this teacher knows what is coming. The kull is not Ruby's teacher, however. She hasn't taken him on as her teacher, and this time, she doesn't take the teacher's advice. She thinks she's figured out what she needs to do.

This sets up her fall.

Earlier on, Ruby is more humble as many of you likely observed if you read The Journey to the Desert. But it's always interesting where the ego shows up again. It will be humble in some ways and to some extent, but it doesn't fully surrender. It holds out with pockets of pride here and there in some of the most humble people.

Ruby's pride makes her unable to see the wisdom of the kull despite a growing history between them where the kull has pointed out very practical steps.

We also see her starting to lose control of her emotions when she swears for the first time. The loss of control of different aspects of our emotional ego (which for some of you is suppressed under an intellectual ego) is part of the breaking down process of the ego. It's also part of falling into the pit.

What is the pit?

I'm sure some of you want to relate the pit to the dark night of the soul. That's not what the pit is. The dark night of the soul, as I define it, is when a person is most identified with their ego and things are going very badly according to what the ego wants. In these experiences, people usually have no spiritual tools, and the tendency is to despair because the ego can see no way out.

The Dark Night of the Soul

The pit is the place where we've thrown all kinds of emotions, memories, and attachments that we don't want to deal with. It's a place of pain and suffering that people endlessly try to avoid, which only makes it bigger, deeper, and nastier. The pit is where we all must go to reconcile ourselves with all the lost, forgotten, and hated parts of ourselves. It was inevitable that Ruby would go into the pit. That's why it would have really helped if she'd learned to rock climb, aka learned the spiritual practices and understandings that help to move not just out of the pit, but safely INTO THE PIT.

You probably hadn't considered that second part. But that's how it is with so many spiritual seekers, including Ruby. Many of you think you can avoid it and actively use spiritual tools to avoid it. Then, you end up haphazardly falling into the pit when you aren't ready. Now you're at the bottom staring up, bruised, beaten, and battered.

Then what happens. The same thing that Ruby does. You react.

We see Ruby go through her most basic emotions--anger, fear, and sadness. Hope even shows up, but none of them help.

We see her try to use some of the spiritual practices she knows. She tries to breath and calm her reactions. That counts for a lot, but at the moment, it's not enough. She gives in to her emotions again and again. She's too attached to them.

The longer she is in the pit, the more she is forced to reckon with herself. The initial descent into a set of deeply embedded issues and attachments can be confusing and disorienting for people. Many people experience this at the outset of their spiritual paths because of a sudden awakening or another significant spiritual shift. But don't equate the two experiences: the level of confusion and pain in the pit is much higher than those initial shifts.

Being Spiritually Ready Versus Prepared

It's hard for most people to imagine the pit being worse than some of the initial upsets like the bad divorce/break-up, losing your job, death of a loved one, and other things that can set off upsets or even a dark night of a soul. But try imagining losing all grip on your sense of perception of who you are. When the break-up happens, you think you perceive things correctly. But what if you aren't? And you probably aren't.

Most of what people experience as the dark night of the soul is actually very shallow even if it is tragic. People are too reactive to go deep. The deeper stuff requires a lot more intentional calmness and relaxation in the mind, heart, and body to access and to actually PROCESS. Anyway, you can't know until you experience the depths of the pit what it is, and that's why Ruby really needed a teacher before arriving here.

Since Ruby has some training, she starts to see in the dark--the dark is a metaphor for the unconscious and ignorance. You may have noticed that a lot of stuff that challenges Ruby in past stories is happening at night and/or in the dark.

She sees her idea of her longing for spiritual freedom breaking down. The pit reveals more of what the actual longing is--a longing for the love of her parents. She wasn't looking for freedom.

Having her insincerity exposed is upsetting to Ruby, as it is for most spiritual seekers. Yet there is some success. She is letting go of some of her ego in the seeing of this truth about herself. The comment about her hair is a reference to the continued ego dissolution process, and she asks again about who she is/becoming.

Coming up against the reality of actually letting go of parts of the ego is something that often scares people to the point that they quit the spiritual path. Which is ironic. But it happens all the time.

What will Ruby do in the face of some of these realizations?

How will she get out of the pit?

Another story is on the way.

Comments

  1. thoroughly enjoyable , looking forward to the next story

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  2. Amazing... And riveting. I could relate to so much! Thanks for this Jim... Looking forward to more!

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    1. You're welcome, Ruchika. I'm glad Ruby's stories are speaking to you.

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  3. Thank you so much Jim. I just discovered your blog yesterday and Ruby's story means a lot to me. I had an experience a few months ago and I couldn't tell anyone. I live alone most of the time. I also realized Im not enough to tell anybody anything. I feel the pit you told in this chapter. Really looking forward.

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