This spiritual allegory is part of a series of stories following Ruby on her path to the full realization of spiritual freedom. You can find previous parts of her story on this link:
As Ruby stepped over the threshold into the desert–finally achieving what she wanted–a voice cried out from behind her. At first, she thought her mind was playing tricks on her, but she paused and listened. While faint at first, the voice gradually grew louder.
“Wait! Ruby wait!”
She turned to see a large, middle-aged woman hurrying towards her. She recognized Maya despite her normally flaccid face being bright red, twigs and leaves amidst matted brown hair, and mud stains across her dress.
“Ruby, please….” Maya huffed and wheezed. “Please….”
“Maya! My goodness. Why are you here?”
“I came….” She breathed heavily trying to catch up with her air. “I came….”
“Just breathe, Maya.”
After a few moments, “I came to ask you to come back.”
“Maya….” Ruby looked lovingly, yet firmly into the other woman’s eyes.
“I know we weren’t good enough students. We didn’t really listen. We didn’t really practice.”
“We talked. All of us. We’ll do better.”
“Maya, this is for me. It is a calling, a longing. I have to see it through.”
Maya’s eyes looked away from Ruby’s clear gaze. They darted back. Eyes wild.
“This is a test. You’re testing me! The others. Just wait. I’ll go get the others.”
Ruby shook her head.
“No! I am not a master,” Ruby said sharply.
Maya stepped backwards as if she’d been slapped.
“If you want someone like that, go to Équilibre. There’s been a rumor of someone there.” Then more softly, “And I am not longer your teacher.”
Maya looked up, eyes glistening.
At last, Ruby entered the desolation of the desert, although she really had no idea where to go from here. Her longing had brought her here, but some other desire impelled her into it. Some kind of hope. Perhaps an expectation that she couldn’t explain. Feeling this other agenda almost made her hesitate, but, nonetheless, she went into the desert.
Days passed by. Since her encounter with Maya, she did not see anyone else to offer a tip or any bit of advice about what to do here and where to go. It was just her and the sagebrush, sand, and rock.
And the sun.
So much sun.
Finding shade was a daily challenge. By mid-morning, it was too hot to explore. She’d search for whatever small bit of shade she could find by a small rock overhang, under a large sagebrush, or near some other plant or natural feature.
At night, the temperature swung in the other direction. She’d build small fires with some of the wood she harvested before coming to the desert and supplement it with dry kindling from the plants around her. But the flame was small…always small. The warmth of those fires felt frail. Some nights, it burned out quickly. Ruby spent hours shivering, alone in the dark.
One night, Ruby struggled to even start a fire when a voice commented, “Not so easy is it to be out here.”
Ruby looked over to see the shadowy silhouette of a scorpion. She gasped.
“Maybe you should take a different road.”
“There is no other,” Ruby said, barely a whisper.
“Of course there is.” The scorpion’s feet clattered over the rocky sand.
“Not for me,” Ruby replied. Her breath came in short bursts as the rest of her body felt paralyzed.
The scorpion came closer, squeezing its pincers.
“Of course there is,” the scorpion repeated. “There are many, many other roads. Some that would take you to the Woods of Bliss, perhaps.”
“But I do not want to go to the Woods of Bliss.”
The scorpion came closer. The image of the animal filled her eyes.
“What about the Valley of Paix? It is very nice there I hear.”
“I do not want to go to the Valley of Paix,” Ruby replied, feeling trapped by these questions.
Now the scorpion was so close to her face that its stinger could easily strike.
“And Mount Liebe? What about that? Wouldn’t you like to feel the expansive space there? Breathe that fresh air instead of all this?” The scorpion indicated the desert.
Then Ruby was caught. She could not lie. Could not deny, argue. Could not equivocate in the face of this relentless inquisitor.
“Yes…yes. I do want that. I do want to go there.” Ruby hung her head.
“So I see.” Then the scorpion left into the night.
The next few days seemed harsher. The sun felt more punishing. The miles seemed to lengthen despite her lack of a physical destination. Now realizing her hidden desire to see Mount Liebe, she almost thought she saw it looming in the distance. She could almost see it towering at the end of the desert.
Ruby shook her head. She looked up again. Mount Liebe was gone. Only miles upon miles of desert remained.
“My eyes are playing tricks on me. This will drive me mad.”
In the distance, she noticed a dead tree. She decided to make her way there. Drawing closer, she passed a body wrapped in a green robe with nothing else. She shivered at the sight of the body and wondered what had drawn the person out here with nothing to help them.
As she approached the dead tree, she saw a bird perched in the boughs. A golden hue surrounded it. She recognized the kuldne kull.
Their eyes met.
“Has the scorpion found you yet?”
“How did that go?” the penetrating gaze of the kull shimmered with compassion.
Ruby looked to the ground.
“There is always something we want,” the kull commented. Then he flew away.
“Is that it?” Ruby called after him. “Is that all I get?”
But the kuldne kull was gone.
Ruby decided to stay by the tree hoping the kuldne kull would return and illuminate what she needed. But days passed with no sign.
She tried to meditate and self-reflect. Instead, she found herself fantasizing about Mount Liebe and all the things she’d heard about it. She imagined what the cool fresh air would feel like as it filled her lungs. She listened to the whispers of wind through the trees in her mind. She felt the delightful icy bites on her feet dangling in snow-melt creeks.
Then she’d open her eyes.
The harsh reality of this forsaken land sank back in along with her decision to come here. The suffocating day-time air scorched and parched her. Her skin burned and flaked. And she was running out of water.
The last realization finally motivated her to give up her place by the dead tree.
During her journey to the desert, a river had guided her and helped sustain her. But she’d not seen a puddle much less a river or lake. She felt her mind growing foggier even as she rationed her water until she could find more.
As she grew more dehydrated, her thoughts fixated more on Mount Liebe. She could strangely taste the cold mountain spring water.
She laughed. And laughed. And began to laugh hysterically.
“This place is driving me crazy.”
Then she wanted to cry.
But no tears would come. Instead, her face squeezed and clenched. She wailed. Screamed. “Someone help me!”
There was no response.
The desert did not care.
Ruby realized she might actually die in the desert. Her mind returned again to Mount Liebe. But something inside knew she had to focus on finding water if she wanted to live. She needed to focus on any sense–smell, sound, sensation–of water or even dampness to help get a direction. She couldn’t be distracted.
She thought something smelled fresher towards the east. She headed in that direction.
Still, doubt returned. The desire to fantasize came with it. Ruby stopped. Refocused. Then she set out again.
This repeated itself many times. Her mind became desperate, doubting. The desire and fantasizing would follow. She’d pull her attention back.
And back again.
And back again.
And back again.
Then in the distance, Ruby saw something green.
She doubted her eyes even as hope leaped in her heart. She kept going.
Still, her delirious mind wanted to return to her idealized Mount Liebe–to all that it might offer if she abandoned this pursuit in the desert.
Again, she came back to herself and remembered the urgency of her need.
She covered the last miles to arrive at an oasis. She plunged her face into the water and gulped water and then choked and sputtered as water went up her nose. She regained herself and continued to drink until she felt like her stomach might burst.
After which, she sighed in relief. She looked up to see the kuldne kull watching her.
“I wondered when you’d go looking for water.”
Interpretation of The Desert of Desire
As Ruby’s story continues, this story picks up the thread of desire. Desires and fears are two of the most basic elements of human beings, and as such, they are where we find our most powerful attachments and impediments to realizing spiritual freedom in its fullness. For Ruby, she is defined by an attachment to desire.
This is seen in the first story I wrote about her called Tests After Finding the Treasure. She is momentarily ensnared by the attentions of a possible romantic partner. She passes this test, but on the road to realizing spiritual freedom, there are many more tests.
Even before she gets into the desert, another test finds her. The student, Maya, is a test representing several things, but Ruby easily passes them because she does not desire to be a teacher, to be special to a group, or to be adored. The comment from Maya referring to Ruby as a “master” is a metaphor for adoration. Ruby is quick to reprimand her because she both understands her level of spiritual realization and does not want this kind of adoration.
Maya is also a name that translates in Sanskrit (I believe) as illusion. So an aspect of illusion comes to Ruby right at turning point in Ruby’s journey to truly understand reality, which is intertwined with realizing spiritual freedom. This happens a lot for many people. At the doorway to the next shift, something tries to pull you back into the old patterns.
Have you had such an experience?
By the way, I encourage you to put other words into Google Translate that you may not know. As usual in my stories, there are extra meanings or other things that are being indicated like with Maya’s name.
After passing these tests, Ruby steps into a new level of self-discovery. One of those discoveries is that Ruby doesn’t really understand why she is here. She is also starting to sense that she has some other desire that she hadn’t recognized.
The longing for spiritual freedom is a powerful one. But it rarely is alone. Usually, there are other ego agendas and attachments at play.
Additionally, without clear guidance, Ruby wanders. Her longing motivated her to go to the desert, but it can’t guide her in it. Previous guides–like the river–also cannot go into the desert. Many guides and supports before a spiritual turning point cannot cross over the next threshold, so they are often released on our spiritual journeys.
So, Ruby struggles. That’s part of what the imaginary of the challenges of being in a desert are part of indicating. The unprepared student can feel overwhelmed and beaten down because they were not prepared to understand the rigors of that space. Ruby isn’t a stupid person, and she has some level of self understandings and realization mixed with humility.
But the desert doesn’t care. The rules of going through the process of ego death are very different than what a lot of spiritual practices give to people. She knows how to take herself just enough to be surviving in the desert, but not enough. So we find her often beaten down by heat and then shivering in the cold night.
The way that spiritual practices are taught around spiritual freedom versus how they actually work in the process is a point that will be picked up again in future stories of Ruby’s journey.
Now comes the inquisitor.
The scorpion is any person, situation, place, or other challenging experience that confronts a person with themselves. There’s no way to run from this inquisitor when it comes into our lives. The scorpion tests her resolve, but also illuminates her hidden desire. The combination of the scorpion and desert then draw out the fact that what Ruby is really longing for–at least in part–is some form of love (Liebe in German is love).
Once revealed to her, she can’t help her ego mind from fantasizing. It probably already fantasized in her mind, but now she’s aware of it. I’m sure some of you know how that is. Once you see an issue, you can’t unsee it, and it somehow feels worse even though it’s been there a long, long time.
Furthermore, it’s difficult situations that can pressurize parts of ourselves and show us who we really are. When Ruby lived in her comfortable town, some of those desires were probably satisfied in different ways. But with all her lovely comforts stripped away, she is forced to stare at the mountain of her desire again and again.
And again and again.
So what does she have to do? She has to come back to awareness again and again.
And again and again and again.
(I talk a lot about this in my Staying as Awareness Class.)
Then, she re-meets the kuldne kull who is essentially a spiritual teacher. As usual, everything that comes out of the kull’s mouth is practical. In the previous story about her journey, he advises and encourages around gathering wood and food. In this story, we already see that the suggestion about wood was really helpful. A small fire is better than no fire. Also, the fire is a metaphor for the smallness of Ruby’s understanding. In some ways, the image of the fire being out necessitates the inquisitor–the scorpion–to come. His encouragement to go some place else is kindness because he can see how little she understands the environment she’s stepped into.
You can view the scorpion in yet another way–the animal is another spiritual traveler who knows enough to know something, but not enough to teach anything. Their warnings about the path should be heeded.
Fortunately, there is usually a small enough flame of understanding in Ruby for her to remember to come back to awareness and to look at the reality before her.
Her driving need for water forces her into focusing on the present moment. Driving need does this for a lot of people on the spiritual path. It’s only because of extreme need that people can finally block out their ego noise and take care of important matters. It’s like a heart attack that finally forces a person to make the lifestyle changes that they need to make.
And just like Ruby, many people still can’t help but fantasize, ignore their situations, or even deny their situations.
“The heart attack was just a fluke. I don’t have to change anything at all. I’m fine!”
We know how that goes for people. Usually, it means another heart attack.
But again, Ruby does her spiritual practice. She lets go of her fixation on Mount Liebe again and again until she finds what she needs.
And there again she runs into the teacher who comments again about doing what she actually needed to do. Once more, practicality and the true spiritual teacher are deeply aligned, although people often are so deluded that they resist or deny the practical pointers of such a teacher.
At the end of the story, it is clear that there is much more for Ruby to discover. She is starting the process of letting go of attachments. She’s not done with her attachment to love. It’s newly discovered. She’s also not asking the teacher to teach her yet. And as you’ll also notice, the kull is not trying to make her a student. That’s not how it works with true teachers. People have to arrive at a point of deeper surrender to truly take on a teacher. And unfortunately, Ruby’s desperate need for water wasn’t enough to help her realize this.
Perhaps she will in the next story. 😉