The thirty-third day of the crossing – the stranger of the desert

I woke up not feeling well. A sense of dissatisfaction was assailing me. I normally wake up in a good mood, and no effort is required for me to feel optimistic towards life. I’ve always been like that. However, it was a random feeling; nothing in particular had to have happened for me to feel that way. Oftentimes, I couldn’t even identify the source of my discomfort. I always moved away before breakfast to say my daily prayer and to meditate. These two actions took only a few minutes, but I could not forego them. Meditation allows me to meet and talk to myself – the other that dwells in me. To know me better and to better understand the changes I need to undergo. Saying my prayers connects me with my masters and guardians of the invisible plan; we all have ours. Often, on those days I woke up not feeling so well, bothersome memories insisted on invading my mind to hamper either my prayers, my meditation or both. And that made me feel even worse, with a sense of not having completed a task.

On that morning, the lack of concentration made me take longer than usual in my daily practices. The coffee was already cold when I arrived at the tent that served as mess hall. The caravan was about to break camp and leave. Dissatisfaction with myself or with my life, I didn’t know exactly which one, even though they were the same, increased. In the alignment for departure, who paired his camel to mine was Abdul, the physician with whom I had spoken a few days earlier. He smiled and nodded his head. I reciprocated. We set off and did not exchange words for a while. Abdul, with his eyes closed, seemed to be praying. I kept watching the Muslim physician. When he opened his eyes, I asked him if, at times, bothersome memories invaded his mind during prayer. Abdul said yes and explained: “These are situations we are already able to deal with, and ready to be pacified in the heart. One of the aspects of plenitude is the possibility of visiting your entire past without any suffering, sorrow or shame. When a memory becomes recurrent, embrace it like a son that comes back home after a fight; reconcile with him. This shows that your consciousness is expanding and is ready to overcome that painful event. Illuminate it forever in yourself.”

Those words touched me. I reflected about them for quite a while. Then, I decided to break the silence and asked him what aspect of medicine was more appealing to him. He did not think twice to answer: “The healing.” I said that all physicians thought that way. Abdul shook his head to disagree: “There are judges who love their job; there are those who love justice. These are at a different level. There are physicians who love medicine; there are the healers.” He made a brief pause and added: “I want to believe I belong to the latter, or else I would have wasted the best of my gift.” Then, he went back to my question: “Over the past few years I have been dedicated to the study of the unconscious.”

I said I did not understand the reason why someone devoted to healing may be so fascinated by the unconscious. The physician was instructive: “It is the unconscious that carries tough memories that cause so much suffering. Learning how to use the unconscious is essential to the wholesomeness of the self. However, out of ignorance, we have the habit of facing it as a dusty attic where we keep those things we do not know what to do with at home. But the unconscious is much more than that. As a living, active part of the self, it will manifest itself according to the treatment it receives. Ill, because it feels abandoned, it will yearn for healing. Healthy, it is a powerful ally for the expansion of consciousness.”

I confessed it was hard for me to understand it. Abdul tried hard to explain: “The mind is like an iceberg. The conscious mind is its visible portion, the one above the water line. However, it is its smaller portion.” Next, he summarized his reasoning: “Therefore, if we abandon the unconscious, we relinquish our absolute potential; we live less than what we are.”

“In the unconscious one finds the imponderable of our abilities”, he stated. I asked him to expand his explanation. Abdul was generous: “Below the water line hides much of who we are, but we don’t realize it. Notwithstanding, it is still part of who we are. The frustrations we deny; the deceptions that bleed but we pretend to ignore; the anger we repress without appeasing. Situations we try to imprison so they do not emerge, because they bother. However, we are a whole. It is an illusion to believe we have an attic to hide the discomforts of the soul forever. We can try hard to forget this precious part of the self, but it will always manifest itself, even if sneakily, as an involuntary reaction or uncontrollable sadness or aggressiveness.” He looked at the desert that spread ahead of them and said: “There is more of our unconscious in our attitudes than we imagine.”

“One cannot talk about expansion of consciousness without mentioning the unconscious, without integrating it to the consciousness in a balanced, harmonious way. It is essential that the unconscious be manifested in light, above the water line. After all, the unconscious does not store problems only; in it hides a powerful source of solutions. Creativity is a good example. Artists owe sincere thanks to their unconscious for their work”, he recalled.

“All expansion is a journey towards the unknown. The unconscious, as it becomes better and better understood, without haste or encroachment, without fear or prejudice, but with simplicity and balance, will protect and illuminate us, expanding our possibilities of being and living.”

“A visit to the unconscious implies a journey way beyond the limits of the current scientific knowledge.” He paused and then continued his explanation. “In it we store akasharecords of ancestral memories, making it easier to understand the karmas and experiences that led to individual development.” I interrupted him to say that that was not medicine. Abdul explained: “It is spirituality. Medicine has always been influenced by this source of fresh water that is located many steps above. As a river whose source is at the mountains, the waters of life use the slope to move towards the sea of existence.”

I asked him to go further in his explanation. Abdul willingly obliged: “Consciousness operates in a linear way, as if thinking is a straight line, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Very differently, the unconscious operates in a quantic way. Therefore, it allows one to navigate either within the memory of this existence, in ancestral seas, or beyond the apparent reality, in future oceans of unforeseeable curvatures we are yet to explain, such as premonitions one may have. Leaping backward and forward, at times, simultaneously. Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who created psychoanalysis, on one occasion admitted that ‘the unconscious is extratemporal’.” 

I told Abdul that his words amazed me and made me yearn to know more. I asked him how I could access the unconscious: “Meditation, prayer or therapy”, he answered. 

At this point, came the order for the caravan to stop. It was the time for our usual midday break. The physician excused himself, he had to attend to some people who were not feeling well. He promised to continue that conversation about the unconscious sometime in the future. I grabbed my canteen and some dried dates and moved away. I had to think about all he had said. How many of my sour days weren’t connected with my unconscious yearning for attention? How many of my aggressive reactions or a sense of sadness, both apparently untimely and uncontrollable, were but a part of me that I had disowned, and they wanted their due share of my life, yearning to show their value and usefulness? Creative and genius ideas, in addition to brilliant solutions that came out of the blue, would suddenly have a recognized co-authorship? 

I was enveloped in my thoughts when I saw a walker from afar, who was coming alone in my direction. He seemed to have come from nowhere. When he came close, I noticed he carried no luggage, not even a canteen, much to my surprise. Even though chastised by the wind and the sun, there was a touch of beauty in his rough countenance; a melancholic beauty. He asked me for water. I handed him my canteen. He took a long gulp, as if it had been desired for some time. I offered him a handful of dates. He took only one. He closed his eyes when he put it in his mouth. He tasted it with a degree of satisfaction I had never seen before. That date seemed to be more than just a date.

I asked him who he was. “No one”, he said. Seeing my look of surprise, he added: “But I can be whoever you want me to be”. I said he was strange. He cracked a timid smile, as if accepting that as an involuntary compliment, and agreed: “Yes, Stranger is a good name.”

I wanted to know where he was going. “Nowhere; everywhere”, he said. He shrugged and added: “It all depends.” I said I had not understood what he meant. The Stranger explained, however enigmatic: “It depends where the wind blows.” And added: “Today, the wind blew me to you.” I asked what he wanted from me. The Stranger just shrugged.

We remained some time without saying a word. I thought about going back to the caravan camp. However, something kept me there. Somehow, I was fascinated by The Stranger; even though I was deeply affected, I could not pinpoint what exactly made me feel that way. Some of my senses warned me about an impending danger, while others told me to stay. The Stranger pointed to a set of dunes not too far away. They seemed to form, among them, a sort of corridor or alley. He invited me to traverse what he called “the unknown scene of the desert”. I confessed my fear. The Stranger revealed: “This is the gut of the desert. The desert does not always allow us to know its core. To cross the desert and refuse this invitation is to despise the best part of it, the whole and the part.”

The Stranger stood up and gave me his hand. I let myself be guided. At first, there were only sand walls. We kept turning left and right in such a way I felt I was in a maze. “Yes, this is precisely a labyrinth”, The Stranger said, as if reading my mind. Once again, I admitted I was afraid; I told him I wanted to get out of there. He explained: “We have to keep on. Fear of what lies ahead prevents healing the fear that was left behind. It is an illusion to believe that the way out of the labyrinth is at the edges. In fact, the gate awaits for us at the core.”

The intuition that we should continue was stronger than the instinct of running away. Little by little, at each step we took, the sand walls started to form images, like gigantic screens. Like a fantasy film filled with special effects, grains of sand moved to form characters and scenes. I saw a boy being scolded for doing poorly in a Math test. He was overpowered by a sense of failure and shame. I stopped; that scene was familiar to me. I recognized myself in the boy, in his suffering because he felt his problem in dealing with numbers and formulas was misunderstood. At that moment, I made an obvious connection with my distaste for new technologies, as if for each new device I had to learn how to operate, a wound would sting that I had completely forgotten about. Or at least I thought I had.

I saw a teenager feeling lost having to deal with the divorce of his parents. How helpless he felt within a family who could not provide the necessary support that would guide him into his impending adulthood. And how that had left him insecure, and would influence without him noticing, all his future romantic relationships. An insecurity that would leave marks. It wasn’t the case of attributing blame but looking for treatment and healing. I realized those were familiar images. The room where the teenager was crying was my own room. Yes, I was the teen in the film. I told The Stranger I thought odd to see me there, because I did not recall having suffered with my parents’ divorce; I thought I had that well-resolved in my mind. In response, The Stranger gave me a smile filled with sympathy. 

I became scared when a violent scene was shown before my eyes, like a period film. A slave, after murdering the wife of his owner, set fire to the plantation of the farm where he worked. Pursued and captured, he was whipped to death by the disconsolate widower. Despite the different bodies, something in my mind led me to believe that was about my brother and me. Lives intertwined in a past existence? Would that explain the animosity we had one for the other, right from the cradle? Would that be one of the battles I had to pacify through love? I looked at The Stranger. He lowered his eyes in response.

I watched many other images. Each scene showed a need to treat sufferings I denied or oppressed or repressed. However, they made me react disproportionately in terms of aggressiveness or sadness, depending on the moment. Those were situations from my past and that still prevented me from undergoing important transformations, therefore delaying my evolutionary journey and the achievement of plenitudes. Traversing the maze was like a therapy to heal and pacify the self. I saw reflected in the eyes of The Stranger the most unusual part of the desert, the part related to light and life not perceived by me. In me. 

All of that had made me exhausted. I said I would not be able to continue to cross those sand-made corridors, with their odd, however therapeutic images. With his chin, The Stranger pointed to a door. Without realizing it, I had reached the core of the labyrinth. He said: “Behind the door is the exit. You just have to open and cross it”. With my last ounce of strength, I pushed the door. It was closed. I looked for the handle, to no avail. There was none. Astonished, I looked at The Stranger seeking a solution. Without a sound, he only moved his lips and articulated: “The password.” On my knees, I opened my arms in despair, I did not know what he was talking about. No one had given me any password. He only looked at me, as if in the light of his eyes lies the answer. The impasse took I don’t know how long; it seemed forever. I saw the world in the light of his eyes; I saw sadness and joy; I saw the infinitude of life. Until I realized there was love in his eyes; much love. Yes, love is a master-key to open all doors. This is when, out of the blue, an idea came to my mind. A simple and yet genius idea. I looked at the door and spoke, in a clear and heartfelt way, articulating all the letters, that I forgave myself as I forgave all those who had offended me

The door opened. I was so tired I collapsed.

When I opened my eyes, the sky was speckled with stars. Around me, in the camp illuminated by lamps and torches, the caravan was preparing itself to sleep. Abdul was next to me, on his knees. One of his hands was lifting my head while the other held a cup of tea that he was giving me. He said it was medicinal. He asked me how I was feeling. I said I was feeling an odd sense of lightness. I asked about The Stranger. The physician said he did not know whom I was talking about. I wanted to know who had taken me out of the corridors made of sand. Abdul shook his head and explained that there was no such thing as corridors made of sand: “During our midday stop, something happened that made you have a high fever and go into a trance. Throughout the remainder of today’s journey, you were delirious and spoke senseless, strange sentences.” I looked at the stars. I apologized for the trouble I caused and thanked him for his care. He told me not to worry. The physician was sincerely happy to see that I had improved and was well, now. I also thanked him for the conversation we had on that morning, it would be very important for me throughout my life. Abdul smiled and left.

Alone, I looked at the stars once again. I noticed someone approaching. No, it was not The Stranger, even though, strangely enough, he seemed to be a close friend and quite welcome. It was the woman with lapis-lazuli eyes. She smiled when she saw I was well. For the first time, she briefly stroked my hair. Then, with a small cithara, she played a sweet, soft song. I asked about The Stranger. She explained: “The Stranger has always been in you. However, due to distancing, he was just a stranger. Not anymore. Enjoy your company; it is an important ally.” I asked if she meant my unconscious. She smiled and nodded. Then, she added: “This was just one of many encounters one must have with oneself to complete the crossing. Now, you know the corridors of sand, you know where the gate is and how it opens. Other encounters will be necessary.” I smiled, thankful for her explanation and my understanding. She concluded: “Thank the desert for having allowed you. It shows you were worthy of such an immeasurably valuable and powerful experience.”

She went back to play her cithara. Without realizing it, I fell a sleep.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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