I woke up early on that day. The pinkish hue that colored the sky was an indication of dawn even before the sun appeared above the line of horizon. Ingrid, the pretty Nordic astronomer who had almost died poisoned by a snake bite the day before, seated next to me, smiled at me. I felt relieved. Even though she was still weak, she looked fine. I went to grab two cups of coffee, one for me and one for her. She thanked me with her eyes, without saying a word. I told her I was concerned about how she would stand the crossing on that day. The conditions of the desert are harsh, and I was afraid she could get worse. With her chin, Ingrid pointed to one of the caravan’s crew members. It was Rafi. I had already taken notice of him because, despite having one arm missing, he was one of the most helpful, kind and hardworking persons of the group. I understood what she meant. However, I reasoned that despite having only one arm, Rafi’s body was strong, and used to those harsh conditions. She, on the other hand, was visibly weakened. I suggested she ride lying on a stretcher pulled by two camels, like on the day before, for at least one more day. Ingrid refused. She said she would ride her camel. I insisted that hers was not a good decision and she would regret it. She shrugged and said that consciousness shapes reality: if she believed she was weak, she would be weak. The opposite was also true. To be strong is always a choice, and a simple one. Rafi was a good example, she stressed.
Furthermore, no one likes to err, she added. However, to make a mistake by acting according to what other people think, however sincere they may be, but contrary to what we believe, is much worse. Only by respecting your own choices do you grant yourself power over your life. This means having your consciousness as a master, learning from mistakes and successes in your search for truth. Truth is illuminated as consciousness expands. To that end, study and practice are required.
I said I wanted only what was best for her. The astronomer gave me a beautiful smile and said there was no question about that. She also said that she welcomed opinions of all sorts, because they allowed different perspectives over an issue. It was like receiving flowers of wisdom, a beautiful way to display love. They were all taken into consideration, and they could modify her gaze or not. Respecting the truth of one’s consciousness makes individual freedom flourish. This teaches the person to be accountable for themselves and for their choices, hence to improve them. To follow one’s consciousness is the only way to progress from the self’s childhood to maturity.
I did not insist, not to be a bore. I was entitled to give my opinion; the decision whether to accept it or not was hers alone. Respecting the choice of others establishes a healthy relationship, sows peace and speaks a lot about freedom. When I impose my opinion on someone, we are both in the same jail. After all, prisoner and keeper cannot leave from where they are; one hampers the other. To be truly free, I cannot keep anyone away from their freedom. On the other hand, I cannot grant anyone the power over my choices. I say what I think, in a composed, clear way; the other will decide according to his ideas and values. Conversely, I listen to what everyone has to tell me, and then I decide according to my consciousness, and I accept, with no regrets, the pains and the pleasures of the outcome.
Out of caution, I paired my camel to Ingrid’s. She realized my intention and gave me a thankful smile. With the passing of the hours, I noticed that the astronomer was speaking less and less. Her eyes, closed almost all the time, clearly revealed she was not comfortable, she seemed much more tired than she would be, were she doing fine.
When we stopped around midday for a brief rest and a light meal, Ingrid seemed about to faint. She lay on the sand to rest. She took a long sip of water from the canteen. I asked her if she wanted to eat something. I handed her a handful of nuts and dehydrated dates I always carried in my saddlebag. The astronomer smiled and accepted them. After eating, she seemed a little better. Then, with a roguish grin, said that I should be thinking it would have been better if she had followed my advice and used a stretcher placed between two camels for that stretch of the crossing. I said that was exactly what I thought. Ingrid sat and asked me to sit next to her. She said she would not die from the serpent’s bite, but there were still some venom running in her veins. She added she had to understand the meaning of that entire situation.
I said she seemed to complicate what was apparently a simple matter. The fact is that she was poisoned by a snake bite and was now cured. She only had to recover her strength, little by little. Period. There was nothing else to be understood. Ingrid shook her head, as if saying I was wrong.
She recalled she had been poisoned. I interrupted to say it could have happened to any member of the caravan. Ingrid agreed, but said it had been with her. Nothing is by chance, all that happens in life is for our best. I immediately disagreed. I said that a disaster, a disease or, in her case a poisoning that had almost killed her, carried nothing of good. The astronomer looked at me with sweet eyes. Then, she explained that all problems have a lesson hidden in them. Learn the lesson or let it go is a task for everyone who goes through the situation. It is either a lesson one learns or just a nuisance.
She smiled when she said she could not waste that wonderful chance. I asked her what she had learned with that situation. She said she did not know, but she had a hint of where the lesson lay. A hint? I thought it odd. She said her body had been poisoned. For her to keep on living, she had to let the antidote made from the harmful substance ooze into her blood. Otherwise, the light of her existence would be turned off. The process wasn’t over, but she would understand that her journey was not limited to her physical body. It could also have some metaphysical meanings. It was up to her to choose the reach of the experience she had been through.
The poison of the serpent had poisoned her body. She had to understand what poisoned her soul. Physical problems mirror unsolved inner issues. When faced with a problem, the wise enjoys the opportunity; the fool regrets it.
I said it was ludicrous because, according to her logic, people with sight problems had some crucial issues in their life they refused to see. People with back injury, the body’s central shaft, would have some structural issues to be solved, just to mention a few possibilities. The astronomer nodded, indicating that was exactly so. Then, she explained that the soul purges emotions and ill-digested realities. I thought the point she was making absurd. Ingrid just smiled and shrugged.
I must confess I was astonished by that reasoning. I thought she was looking for meaning in something that had no meaning at all. I shut myself up in view of the astronomer’s reverie. I considered she was delusional still as an effect of the poison. The order came for the caravan to resume its journey. Our camels were still paired. Ingrid avoided talking. Her eyes alternated from open to shut for long periods of time. When they were shut, I had the feeling she was looking to herself; open, it seemed she was wandering around the endless sand of the desert. At times, she smiled at her own thoughts; at other times, tears would escape from the corner of her eyes, as if, by washing her heart, recurrent emotions overflowed from her core.
Early evening, we stopped to set up camp for the night. I offered to get her supper from the mess hall tent. Ingrid accepted. When I returned with two steaming bowls of a lamb and vegetable stew, the astronomer was lying on the sand. Seated next to her was the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes. I stopped at a distance, but the woman signaled with her chin for me to go over and sit with them. They were talking.
The blue-eyed woman asked Ingrid to keep her eyes shut: “It is time to look into yourself. Without this movement, there is no healing. I do not talk about the body, but the soul. Relax for a few moments. Then, go deep into yourself and bring to the surface all the memories and emotions that still poison your heart.”
After a little while, as if in a trance, the astronomer started to talk about situations she had experienced since childhood and that had made her sick. Her father showed preference for her brother over her; in a love relationship, her boyfriend had dumped her for a friend; she was passed over for a promotion by a less qualified coworker. In addition to these, she had other sad memories and hurtful emotions. Some of them Ingrid didn’t even consciously recall, but at that time she realized they were alive in her subconscious mind. The blue-eyed woman explained: “Sorrows are poison that intoxicate us while they last. Resentments steal the colors of life; they kill us by keeping us prisoners. They are subtypes of anger or hatred. Aggressive poisons that weaken the soul; prevent the achievement of all five plenitudes, particularly happiness and freedom.”
Ingrid said she understood that such emotions stopped her from achieving happiness. But she did not understand about freedom. The woman was educational: “No one is happy if their heart is drowned in sad memories.” The astronomer agreed and asked if she should forget these facts that caused so much sorrow. The woman went further in her explanation: “In fact, no one forgets. Nor should they. Any attempt to repress past memories unbalances the self. The soul is not able to evolve if, rather than overcome, it favors denial. To overcome is to evolve and go beyond; beyond oneself, beyond external facts that can never be powerful enough to prevent the achievement of the plenitudes. Freedom is one of them. No one is free if they are chained to a resentment. Freedom is more than a motion of the body to go back and forth, it is a loose journey for your entire past, for all moments of life with no suffering that imprisons it. Only then you can enjoy all the beauty of the present and plan your future with wisdom. To that end, one must look at each one of these events that caused any type of suffering and embrace them with love. One must understand that each person has acted or acts to the limit of their ability, in the narrow scope of their level of awareness and to the extreme of their possibilities of love. Be sure that the other has behaved as they knew how. If they did not do better, it is because they weren’t able at that moment of their existence. Maybe they still are not, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to wait for the other to regret, apologize or change their behavior for you to have freedom. To be free is always an individual attitude, regardless of any external factor to the self.”
“However, do not forget that you could have acted differently with other people in different situations of your life. However, at that time, you weren’t able. Have no doubt that many people were hurt because of choices you made. You have to see it without guilt that paralyzes; rather, face it with the responsibility that transforms.”
“The problem is that we believe we have the right to be hurt by choices made by others and to act according to the awareness we have at the time, still far from the light, and we expect everyone to understand our decisions. We are strict with others and ask them to be tolerant to us. Hence, we keep ourselves in an eternal conflict. Don’t forget that, as a matter of justice, reciprocity will always apply. Can you realize how sorrow is absurdly connected to freedom? Deep down, sorrow still shows how tied we are with ancestral conditionings of domination. We wish others to like our choices, and that everyone complies with our wishes. We are constantly deluded that ours is the true or single awareness. This is not possible, fair or worthy. Whether to ourselves or to the world.”
“Respecting one’s choices and, as a philosophical consequence, accepting the choices made by others, paves the path for one of the most sublime virtues, because of the love, wisdom and courage embedded in in it: forgiveness.”
“Forgiveness is an antidote for all poisons from sorrow, resentment, anger or hatred. As all antidotes are prepared from the poison itself, forgiveness stems from the understanding of my mistakes towards other people at different moments of existence.”
“How to demand perfection from someone who does not understand it? The sentence ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do’ is part of the most important legacy of love, wisdom and courage of history. Going deep into this issue, how to demand perfection from others if I myself am not perfect. Can you feel the dignity that exists in this reasoning?”
“On the same tone, forgiveness teaches us that pain only makes sense if enveloped by love. Otherwise, there will be no evolution, only suffering. If it is love, there can be no taxes or levies; it must be unconditional. As a consequence, true freedom acquires a new dimension; the freedom is forged in the core of being, with no dependence on mundane things.”
“Forgiveness is never spontaneous or comes like magic. It is an internal construct. Forgiveness is supported by the pillars of consciousness; with the mortar of heart. Forgiveness that stems from the curse is the elixir that will transmute the soul-suffocating sadness.”
“Bear in mind that it isn’t enough to forgive the actions one has suffered, but also those one had practiced. No one has the prerogative of making mistakes, these are part of the choices one has made. No exception.” She looked at Ingrid and taught: “Forgive yourself to be able to forgive anyone. Only when you understand how hard it is to make choices you will be able to understand and accept mistakes by others. You must also understand, and this is quite important, that oftentimes we suffer because we grant someone an undue power over our life. Then, forgive yourself for not having been able to draw the limits you should have had, and take over, before your own heart, the responsibility of being able to do differently and better next time. And there will always be a next time. This grants you the power of life. This will make you feel at peace with yourself and with the world.”
“The peace you feel is the proof of healing.”
We remained in absolute silence for I don’t know how long. The sky changed, so that the stars could cover the astronomer as a shroud. Her beloved stars. Little by little, Ingrid started to stammer sad events of her childhood; while she narrated them, she made an effort to understand the consciousness of all those involved in the episodes, including herself. Forgiveness is contrary to victimization. Then, she wandered through her adolescence until she reached adulthood. As the events came to her mind, she cried; then, she embraced them with love to illuminate the possibilities of understanding and overcoming. Then, she would smile. To herself; to the stars. That happened many times that evening.
Time passed with no haste. Until the moment the astronomer looked at the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes and said that there was nothing left, that she was empty. Empty of sorrows. She said she felt light. An odd, pleasant lightness. Now, Ingrid could revisit her memories as one who watches a love-story film; love for the beauty of life, for the infinite possibilities to outdo oneself; not a painful drama any longer. The blue-eyed woman smiled with satisfaction and explained: “All the poison was purged from your soul. You are now ready to pursue and achieve the five plenitudes: dignity, peace, freedom, unconditional love and happiness.”
Ingrid smiled and gave a sincerely thankful kiss on the woman’s cheek. She said she felt like dancing. She grabbed a lamp, went a few steps away, placed it on the sand and started to twirl around it. She danced for herself, for us, for the stars, for life; she celebrated her finding of the hidden master that had taught her something about all the healings of the soul. The master had not eluded this time. Seated next to me, the woman with lapis-lazuli eyes was enjoying herself and clapping her hands in time with Ingrid’s dance. I asked her if the pain brings the response we need. She turned to me and said: “No. The pain brings the master; in it lies the answer. For the right answer, two things are necessary: first, to envelop the problem with love. Then, to ask the right question. Otherwise, the master will elude, and only suffering will remain.” She paused and then added: “Oftentimes we avoid the essential questions for fear, convenience or ignorance. The precise question illuminates the consciousness in its search for truth.” She looked at the astronomer and concluded: “The healing of the soul reflects the victory of light over its own shadows.”
New ideas twirled in my mind, looking for a place to settle. Before the day ended, I asked the woman what the definition of consciousness was. She looked at me for a moment with her blue eyes and said: “Consciousness is one’s perception of oneself plus their gaze on the world”. She paused once again and then added: “The deeper your knowledge about yourself, the wider your window to life.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.