The top of the pit encircled a few pinpricks of light in the sky, but otherwise, it was blackness.
There was no point in climbing–to do something she’d never done–in the dark.
Ruby sat down and tried to sleep.
The night grew colder.
She groped her way to the little alcove and felt for the skeleton in it. She pulled it out and crawled in. She tugged at her loose clothes, drawing them tighter to herself to stay warm. She dozed.
She woke up shivering. She fell back to sleep, but again, she awoke shivering. This continued to happen as the night deepened.
Exasperated, Ruby cried, “My God! I need some sleep if I’m going to do this tomorrow.”
She hugged her arms around herself. Felt their warmth. Felt something move inside. A memory.
A memory rose up into her conscious mind of her large, barrel-chested father lifting her as a child and hugging her. His lips moved in the memory, saying a few forgotten words. Then more memories came, and she felt that embrace again and again into her adulthood. She felt the strength and security.
And the love.
An orange stained sky gradually slipped towards violet as the day and a hot summer waned. Thick droplets of condensation dribbled down the sides of two glasses. The sounds of two rocking chairs creaked through the memory. She felt her hand in his.
“Not this moment,” Ruby said to the pit. “Not this one.”
The memory continued.
The violet sky deepened towards purple. The glasses emptied. She felt her father squeeze her hand. In that last tiny embrace, she felt him say everything.
Everything he’d ever said.
Everything he ever didn’t say.
And everything he would ever want to say to his beloved daughter.
Then the grip loosened and the warmth faded and faded and departed. Only one rocking chair could now be heard.
Ruby wailed. She clenched her hands tighter around her body trying to get that familiar warmth back.
“I miss you!”
She cried as she never had before. She felt such pain, and she felt such longing. No longer was it a longing for the spiritual path. No. She longed to see her father’s face, hear his voice, and feel the reassurance of his embrace. She had felt so cold inside for so long, and she didn’t want to feel that anymore.
Ruby paused in her grief as she felt the inner coldness inside of her. A coldness that she’d masked from others and herself. She felt where parts of her had gone dead.
“Is this why I’ve come here? To escape?”
Ruby knew the answer. Then shame rose up. She now saw what her trip from the town to the wilderness and to the desert had all been about.
She brought the palms of her hands to her eyes, but she could not unsee it. Her longing and spiritual journey lost their purity.
She opened her eyes. Dimply, she saw the figure of the skeleton. It’s bony appendages still remained covering its empty eye sockets.
She reached for the skeleton as if to console it, but stopped. She drew her hands back to herself. Hugged herself to retain warmth again. They were just her hands again.
The night deepened.
Ruby continued to drift in and out sleep. Daybreak seemed years away.
Finally, the night became less dark. A glimmer of light smudged the sky above her.
Ruby drug herself from her spot. Her body hurt terribly. Along with her broken ribs, she could feel bruises all over her body. She was thirsty. She was hungry. Her brain was filled with an awful fog, making thinking difficult. She felt more exhausted than before she had tried to go to sleep, and at the same time, she experienced a strange adrenaline rush that felt out-of-place.
She called out to the top of the pit.
“Hey! Anybody! Help!”
No one came. No one was coming.
It was all on her.
She tightened her clothes, slowly stood up, and reached up to climb.
Pain flooded her.
More anger. More indignation. She still liked it. So Ruby tried to use the anger to overcome the pain. She climbed.
But she climbed too fast. She just wanted to leave the pit. Her hand and footholds were careless, and her long hair kept getting in the way and catching on things.
She reached for a handhold and extended herself too far. She started to lose her grip with her other hand. Jolted back to the present moment, she brought her hand back to the other hold. Heart pounding, she realized she narrowly avoided another major fall.
Ruby looked up and realized this area of the pit was too sheer to climb. She had to backtrack and downclimb. Her body screamed pain the entire way down to the bottom of the pit, where at she found shame and defeat waiting to grip her.
She sank to the ground by the unseeing skeleton. Ruby sobbed.
“How much do we have to see?”
But Ruby already knew the answer.
She again looked to the blue sky. Again hoped to see a face starting down.
But again, there was no one.
She bowed her head. Thirst gnawed at her. Her mind felt even foggier.
“I can’t wait.”
Ruby did her best to assess the contours of the pit to find a line she could climb. Fear mounted in her. So she picked quickly and began another agonizing climb as her body pleaded against the activity.
As she ascended, she felt her breath quicken with hope. The route was going more easily than the other, but then half way up, she came to an overhang that she could not work around. Again, she descended and felt despair mounting.
Desperation now assaulted her mind. She held her head, tried to breath, tried to calm herself amidst the pain.
“Stop,” Ruby pleaded with her mind, her emotions, and her body. “Stop, please. I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t do this with all these thoughts and feelings.”
Her hands slid through her long hair.
Another memory arose.
She ran her hands through her hair again. Somehow it felt like her mother’s hands.
Instinctively again, Ruby brought her hands to her eyes, but she caught herself. Lowered her hands.
Her mother’s voice flowed melodically into her mind. Talking, humming, and singing to Ruby. It was how her mother was when she was happy. Words turned to songs. Advice became lyrics. And her hands craftily and with certainty braided her daughter’s hair. A hundred memories like this blended together into one, and then one memory arose in particular.
It was the day before the ritual haircutting–a sign of stepping out of childhood and into adulthood for the women of Ruby’s town. This time, her mother unbraided her hair so it would be easier to cut. Unlike in the past, her hands weren’t so certain. A slight shakiness was in them.
“Was this when it started?” Ruby asked. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Her mother talked about being a woman in their town, the joys, the struggles, the hopes, the life of a good woman. The advice about to be and how to leave childhood behind flowed through in a melody of sounds.
Then Ruby’s memories sped up. The image of her mother lost its clarity. Her mother’s songs grew shaky and disjointed. The advice and wisdom slipped away from her mother, becoming fragments and pieces that no longer fit together. One day, Ruby’s name slipped out of her mother’s hands. Finally, Ruby with short hair led a procession through her town for a stranger.
Ruby’s tears fell much more silently this time. She reached for her long hair. Ran her fingers through it. She looked for something to cut it, but there was nothing. As she stroked her hair, she found her fingers remembering the way her mother braided her hair.
She remembered how it wove together again.
She hummed and sang softly. Her voice echoed, but as the sound reverberated, it shifted. She heard her mother singing to her once more, “I wish you well, little one. Don’t fear. You’re on your way, sweet one. I will always be here.”
Ruby mourned. Deeply. Profoundly. From the bottom of her heart, she felt sorrow purge from her until the echo of the songs of her mother ended.
Ruby lay on her back exhausted, but the day moved faster than the night. She wasn’t sure she could handle another night in the pit.
She looked for a better route.
This time anger and fear did not impel her. Her hair did not impede her. She took her time, calculated her moves. She progressed despite the immense pain.
Again hope rose, and she had to stop each time to let it go. The excitement only got in the way.
Then urgency came as dusk approached. Hunger and thirst returned to gnaw vigorously at her.
She reached too quickly. Her hand slipped.
Time slowed down. Ruby snapped into awareness. Immediately, she shifted a foot to a different spot, contracted her core muscles, and clenched hard with her other hand while pushing with her other foot.
She saved herself.
Her heart pounded.
But her mind was clear.
After a moment, she resumed her ascent. Her left hand reached the top as her strength and the light faded. Then her right hand reached out. With everything she had left, she pulled herself out of the pit.
Panting, she crawled to her backpack. She drank some water, wrapped herself in a cloak and blanket, and lay still.
Interpretation of the Spiritual Allegory
Picking up straight after The Desert and the Pit, we find Ruby in a really bad state. She was not prepared for her descent into the pit, and she’s taken a beating. Things only gets worse as this story progresses.
As a reminder, the pit is a metaphor for all the lost, forgotten, and repressed parts of us. Anyone serious on the spiritual path to freedom must enter their personal pit.
Again, this isn’t a dark night of the soul. Ruby is not in resistance to self-exploration, which is extremely common in the dark night of the soul situation. Most people don’t even know they have an ego when they are in a dark night.
And again, nighttime and darkness are metaphors for ignorance and the unconscious space in these spiritual allegories.
While most people will empathize with Ruby’s attempts to sleep, sleep is a form of going unconscious in this spiritual story. She needs to be wakeful in the sense of knowing herself and exploring her inner darkness. Her attempts to go to sleep make the situation worse. By the morning, she feels like any amount of sleep she had gotten had somehow made her more tired.
During the night, Ruby has to confront one of her forgotten issues–unresolved grief over the death of her father.
Unresolved grief is an extremely common issue. Western Culture seems to be totally at a loss in how to handle someone dying. As such, a lot of people end up storing deep pain that should never have been stored. We know everyone is going to die, yet the modern day rituals for helping the living to process the relationships that they had with the deceased tend to be very poor.
In the darkness of the pit, Ruby finds her grief over the loss of her father, and she processes it. It’s not comfortable. It’s painful. There would be no way to process something painful in an enjoyable way. It is what it is, and it is her first deep issue that she has to process to be able to leave the pit.
Additionally, Ruby now sees the truth of what she thought was a spiritual longing. She has been longing for love. She has longed for her father’s love. We saw an echo of this in Ruby’s very first story when she’s tempted by a romantic interest.
Now, Ruby (and you the reader) have seen the truth. She has not just longed for love, but she has been avoiding her grief of surrounding lost love. No amount of love can replace or mask unresolved grief.
With this realization comes a new level of humility for Ruby. She now sees more of who she really is.
No One Is Here for You
Additionally, there is this emphasis on “no one” in Ruby’s stories. I’m referencing a couple things.
Firstly, we all have to do this path ourselves. Other people cannot save us.
Secondly, “no one” is a reference to the space of awareness in Ruby and in all of us. In going to the space of no one, she is freed from the limitations of her ego and the pit.
This is referenced twice where she almost falls. What is she falling into? She almost falls back into ego identification. She saves herself from the fall by coming back to awareness–being no one.
After processing her grief with her father, she is still trying to escape the pit. Again, fear and anger are the tools she relies on, but they fail her. And there is more inside of herself that she still must face, which is why she cannot leave yet. The second and final major issue is her mother’s death.
Here we find a very different experience of death. Ruby had to deal with a long slow decline to her mother that took away her mother’s ability to even recognize Ruby. Through a process like that, Ruby probably even forgot that her mother once loved her. But the tactile memory of having her hair braided brings back that truth–it brings back how much her mother loved her. Ruby braiding her hair is a return to a part of herself that she’d forgotten as well as a remembrance of who her mother was and how much she had meant to Ruby.
With that grief and healing, Ruby is now able to leave the pit, although it is not easy.
Most people’s brief encounters with their pit are escape attempts. They do their best to get out of it as fast as humanly possible. To consciously leave the pit means the person dealt with what the pit wanted to show them. It means things have been seen, processed, healed, and reunited.
Ruby has been reunited with parts of herself, and that’s what gives her the strength to leave.
Ultimately, we dissolve the pit. There becomes nothing repressed or forgotten of emotional importance, but that takes time and effort.
And it should include preparation. With preparation, we handle the intensity of the emotions much better, and we’re not in as beat up a condition as Ruby is at the end of this story.
Seeing the Truth
Finally, this allegory uses a metaphor of “seeing.” This is mentioned in relationship to the skeleton–the image of someone who so completely did not want to see that they died clutching their hands to their eyes to not see their truth. The desire to deny what we see is powerful, and we see Ruby try a couple of times to deny what she was seeing with the same gesture of bringing the palms of her hands to her eyes.
But she learns, and she heals. And she leaves.
And I hope you have learned. All that you will see in your inner pit is what is already inside you, and it’s through seeing that you can process and release your pain and attachments.