Doorways to Freedom - Bernd Strohmeyer - ebook

This book tells you about issues that are crucial to life. The stories and poems collected here not only illustrate typical human problems and conflicts - they also provide a basis for getting advice and finding solutions. Along with the exceptional graphics, these narratives - which are couched in the symbolic language of the fantastical imagination, of fable and fairy tale - point you in the direction of truths and possibilities. They take a thoroughly realistic view of habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior, with the aim of illustrating different ways of looking at things, different ways of being, opening up doorways to self-determination and encouraging readers to bring about healing changes in their lives. So an ant, for example, suddenly experiences loneliness, and leaves its nest to look for a remedy, a young woman bound on an adventurous journey faces up to her fears, and decides to become a free person; a water droplet experiences how its existence is transformed and renewed - all this with lots of surprising twists and turns, told in exciting and poetic style. This book offers the gift of life wisdom, so that we can come to a better understanding of who we are and what we need.

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The Wall

Secret Mission

School for Dwarfs

The little god

The Zardos

The meeting

The narrow path

The Storm

The Hakomies

Water droplet

The author and the artist


In the beginning is longing.

It is longing that drives us, gives us strength, encourages us to go looking for things in life. Having no idea what we are looking for, we set off without any aim or direction to begin with, on our heroic emotional journey. Battles with anxiety, trust, challenges, successes, resistances, walls, love, hurt, happiness... all these have to be gone through, and with each new experience we get a little bit closer to ourselves. We understand better and better who we are, what we need and what makes us different. However, we don’t reach the goal, because as time passes not only external things change – we ourselves change as well. As our taste in food changes from childhood to old age, so too with our taste for life. We come across foods that are unusual, but fascinating in their strangeness; sense impressions which, once you have experienced them, you wouldn’t want ever to be without. What ingredients influence our feeling for life? What new things have been added? What has changed? What might we still develop a liking for?

This book is designed to give you a few suggestions. Life issues are presented in a dreamy and playful way, in a colorful mixture of short stories, fables, fairy tales and parables. The stories are doorways which open up different points of view, direct the reader’s attention in unknown directions and offer a new kind of taste for life. Multilayered works of art by my dear wife give further insights into what lies behind them.

During my training in humanistic and systemic therapy methods, the writing of stories was a quite personal way for me to adapt my insights and make them more tangible. The stories were companions along my path of personal development, and helped me to establish new patterns of thinking. I did not think of publication at the time. Later on I let myself to be persuaded to make these ideas accessible to others. Here my wife, with her wonderful gift for expressing in pictures what cannot be stated in words, has encouraged, supported and complemented me.

We invite you to wonder, to let yourself be driven by fantastical truths, to plunge into the depths of the pictures and walk through the doorways into freedom.

Bernd Strohmeyer


I stand on the beach

and look out to sea.

The sea is life.

It is so very beautiful.

I gaze at the horizon and run laughing into the water,

into the gentle pain of the cold.

The wetness washes round my legs, deepens,

till I dare to leap.

My breath stands still, my heart beats wildly,

soft touch embraces me

with the feeling of invigoration.

Life with its heaviness makes me lighter.

It carries me over dark abysses.

Out of the depths rise beasts, plants, other persons.

A world of sensations

which make me forget

where I come from.

But I must come up for air,

need new breath, new energy,

lift my head out of the water,

over life,

into the stillness.

Here I can draw new breath,

can see the sea,

can see my life,

can look into my dying,

then plunge in again,

until I return to the beach.

I stand on the beach

and look out to sea.

The sea is life.

It is so very beautiful.


Under a spruce in the Alps there stands a gigantic anthill. The anthill has been there for a long time. The ant people who have built the hill and maintain it now add up to many millions.

This is the story of a small, perfectly insignificant ant. To be precise, a worker ant named Bernd.

Bernd has had a pretty long life, and has always worked hard and conscientiously in fulfilling his tasks – looking after fungus cultures, extending galleries, carrying plants and dead creatures into the anthill and so on. Often, and indeed very often in recent times, Bernd talks to other ants about the world, the dangers outside the anthill and the meaning of life. He listens to the tales and experiences of the other ants respectfully and with curiosity. Sometimes he wonders whether he too would like to have such adventures. “Well, it’s fascinating somehow… but a bit scary.” So time passes. Bernd can’t let go of his curiosity or his questions about the world.

It’s night, the other ants have gone to sleep. Bernd resolves to do something he has never done before. He leaves the complex, goes to the spruce which stands next to the anthill and climbs to the very top of the tree. From here he sees, for the first time in his life, the surrounding mountains, the wide landscape and the bright starry sky in all its glory. It suddenly becomes clear to him how big the world is, how infinitely various the universe and how small he himself is. He’s just a little ant that may be trodden on at any time, may be eaten at any time, one that can even drown in a drop of rain. Nobody would know. He is much too small to be noticed. It would be just a simple, aimless, random occurrence.

Bernd senses a great loneliness. A loneliness that is just as big and cold as the universe – an infinite loneliness.

He goes back to his friends and tells them about his feelings of loneliness. They react incredulously. “You are part of a vast and perfectly organized society. You are our friend! We love you! How can you be lonely?” they say. Bernd can’t make sense of it himself. He does love his friends. He is happy to be part of the tribe. But all the same… this feeling won’t go away. On the contrary, the more of his fellows are around, the stronger the sense of loneliness.

Bernd decides to leave the anthill to look for a medicine for loneliness.

He packs a big backpack – ants can carry a hundred times their own body weight – and marches south, following the sun. After a few hours’ march, he climbs on a blade of grass to look around. “O dear, I can still see the anthill on the horizon. How can I find anything that will help me, when I’m still so near to home?”

Vroom! An ibex races over the grass blade. Bernd is just able to hang onto its fleece. Now they progress at rapid speed over hill and down dale. Breathlessly the ibex charges into a cliff face and climbs with agility to the top of a mountain peak. Here Bernd drops off, praying fervently that the beast won’t trample on him.

But he’s in luck. The ibex goes its way and nothing happens.

When the starry night comes on, the band of the Milky Way enshrouds the empty infinity of the universe. Bernd now feels worse than lonely, he feels quite abandoned. “That now is the entire truth,” he thinks, and cries himself to sleep.

Is it a dream or is it a miracle? He sees a star in the Milky Way coming towards him. The point of light comes closer and closer, becomes bigger and brighter. As his eyes habituate to the brightness, he can see a tiny, pretty fairy at the heart of the light. She circles around Bernd a few times, titters quietly and finally says: “Well, you are a funny little guy. You look SO ugly with your feelers and your big multifaceted eyes. Shouldn’t you be sitting in an anthill and working, along with the rest of your kind?” When Bernd hears her say this, he thinks, “She’s right” – and he starts to sob gently. “Whoa!” exclaims the little fairy. “You really are a sensitive soul. I only wanted to provoke you a bit, so you would try to catch me. Let’s have a game.” “I really don’t feel like playing games,” says Bernd. “I am on a long and very dangerous quest.” – “Yikes!” the fairy exclaims. Her little wings flutter with excitement. “That sounds incredibly exciting. So what are you looking for?” – “A medicine for loneliness,” Bernd answers. The fairy looks completely nonplussed, forgets to beat her wings and lands awkwardly on the ground. “Wow, you really got me there,” she says. “Do you really believe that there is such a thing? Sometimes I could do with a medicine like that. I’m so small that the other fairies hardly pay any attention to me. When they fly away, I can’t keep up with them. I’m always the last, and I don’t want to go on being treated like a fifth wheel. So I just took off. They won’t miss me anyway. But being so alone in the world makes you feel very lonely. I don’t care so much any more about your being ugly. I want this medicine too.”

“Can this really turn out well?” Bernd wonders. “We could hardly be any more different. Every day she’ll be telling me how ugly and twisted I am. Well, of course a beautiful fairy is going go see an ant as a monster. Is this really what I want? Beauty and the Beast? But then again, she’s not happy either, and together we might have a better chance of finding something.”

“Okay,” Bernd says. – “Yippee!” cries the fairy, and lands beaming on Bernd’s back. “That way,” she calls, pointing to the horizon as she hops excitedly. Bernd just shakes his head. For the first time, he’s got to come up with a plan.

The ill assorted couple have now been moving for two hours toward the rising sun. That is, Bernd walks and the fairy sits petulantly on his back. This wasn’t what she was expecting. A distance that she covers in flight in the space of five minutes takes Bernd a whole hour. He has to circumnavigate every grass blade, clamber over every stone, every pile of earth must be painfully surmounted or else avoided by going the long way round. From the fairy’s point of view, this is all perfectly crazy. “How could the creation ever have brought forth such a slow, laborious and vulnerable creature as an ant?” the fairy complains. She hasn’t used the word “ugly” this time, but Bernd again feels extremely lonely. Back home, he never felt that he was slow. Well, in races he was no better than average, but when it came to weight lifting he was always proud of his performance. But now…

“I’ll have to do something,” says the fairy. “We’re not getting anywhere. This way we will never find the medicine.” The fairy flies off, leaving Bernd waiting despondently.

“If only I were a fairy,” Bernd thinks. “Then I could fly, I wouldn’t have to be scared of getting squashed, I would be pretty and everything would be straight and simple. Yes… ants do maintain the ecosystem in the woods, keep the pests down, protect plants and all that. But to be a fairy – that would be fantastic! – What jobs do fairies do actually? I must ask her sometime.”

The fairy only gets back late in the evening. She’s accompanied by a very ancient, totally shriveled fairy who looks more like a moth or some kind of insect. “This is Void,” the fairy says. “Void is a medicine man and the spiritual leader of the fairies. You wouldn’t believe the trouble I had persuading them to let me come back. And it was a lengthy struggle getting Void to come with me. But I’ll tell you all about it another time.”

Void takes up a position in front of Bernd and the fairy. He stands quite still and looks at both of them searchingly. Then he asks, in quiet but firm tones, “What do you need?” Bernd tells him his story, that he is looking for a medicine for loneliness, that the fairy wanted to help him, that he was much too slow and didn’t know how to recognize the medicine even if he found it, and he hardly has any hope left of ever finding it. Void listens carefully without moving a muscle.

After a pause, he says, “Loneliness depends on the breadth of your perceptions, and on your definition of who and what you are. You have extended your perceptions. Now it’s time for you to extend yourself.”

He fumbles with a small bag he is holding, and throws the contents of the bag over Bernd’s back. The burning sensation and the itching makes Bernd convulse. He feels faint and passes out.

When he wakes up, the fairy is holding him in her arms and stroking his head. Something feels totally different. But what is it? He looks into the fairy’s eyes, which flash at him expectantly. His back isn’t hurting now, but there’s something attached to it. He turns round, to see and… “Wings! I’ve got wings!” cries Bernd. Bernd and the fairy jump up and do a dance to celebrate.

The rest of the evening passes merrily. Bernd’s first flying attempts, in the dark and with the fairy assisting, generally end in a thicket or collision with a tree trunk – at all events with some kind of discomfiture. However, never mind, Bernd is thrilled to be flying, so he doesn’t mind the scrapes and the bruises. And he’s getting better with every attempt.

Next morning, the odd couple stand on a hill and gaze happily over the wide landscape extending to the horizon. “That way!” Bernd calls. The two of them fly toward the rising sun. For the first time in ages, Bernd no longer feels lonely. He is capable of flying anywhere he wants. The mountains, woods and lakes are no longer hostile, alien and insuperable obstacles, but exciting and interesting places that he can visit at any time. They have become a part of his new world, and he has a companion in pursuit of the same goal. With her, he can survive any adventure that comes their way. He has an overwhelming sense of connection and security.

Suddenly the fairy shrieks hysterically, “Look out!” Bernd gets such a fright that he forgets to operate his wings, and plummets. It’s lucky that he does. A bird with open beak passes right over his head. Bernd sees the fairy is plunging downward, and decides just to let himself fall. But the bird is incredibly agile. With an elegant looping trajectory it turns around and makes straight for Bernd, emitting a battle cry that cuts the air and freezes the blood, and flying like a MiG-29. Free fall would be too slow for escaping the predator. With the strength of desperation, Bernd just manages to execute an evasion maneuver. The bird sweeps past him and seizes the fairy, who is flying a few meters below. “Help! Bernd, help me! Help!” The bird vanishes as it has come. Silently, and taking the fairy with it.

Bernd lands and has to vomit. He is frozen with shock.

“For God’s sake, that bird just ate the fairy. These things can’t happen, they simply shouldn’t be allowed! Fairies surely are privileged magical beings. They can’t just get eaten as if they were no better than – well, no better than an ant.” Bernd feels first despair, then anxiety, then sadness, and finally a deep emptiness in the heart. “I wish I could hear you telling me what a slow ugly klutz I am. I enjoyed being with you so much, I trusted you so much. And we had made so many plans together! I miss you so much! Where are you?”

Most of all he would like to go back to his anthill, cut off his wings and spend the rest of his days carrying on with his work and grieving quietly. There at least he would be with his own kind. As the proverb says, “Cobbler, stick to your last!” – “Such a silly idea, wanting to find that medicine. If I hadn’t done anything, the fairy would still be alive. But can I just go home now? Perhaps she is still alive after all, and desperate for help.” Something erupts in Bernd, something that screams and rages, as if a horde of wild Indians were galloping through his head. He breaks out of his lethargy. He will look for the fairy and never rest until he has found her – never mind what it costs. But where can he look? He can’t just go asking every bird he meets what it has had for breakfast.

There is no wind, and the midday sun blazes down mercilessly. It is more and more difficult to cope with the heat. Bernd looks up desperately, and thinks, “The light that is touching me right now is touching you at the same moment. If I could only be this light, then we would be together now. How can it be possible that we live on the same planet, under the same sun, in the same environment and breathe the same air and still can’t see each other? In the universe, nothing is ever lost. But we always concentrate just on what we haven’t got. Why do we always perceive only what keeps us separate?” Bernd decides that from now on he is only going to concentrate on the things that are perceptible both for him and for the fairy. He follows the breath of air, which perhaps has already stroked the fairy. He looks into the light, which perhaps has already bathed the fairy in color, and lets himself be gently led by the impulses that perhaps have already given the fairy comfort and hope.

After a few hours of searching, as he lets himself be led by his intuition, Bernd comes to a stop by a caterpillar. Caterpillars are one of his favorite foods. But this time he isn’t hungry. He observes the caterpillar, who is tearing a leaf into small pieces and greedily swallowing them. It doesn’t seem to have noticed him.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” Bernd asks. – “I couldn’t actually give a hang,” says the caterpillar between two mouthfuls. “This morning all my brothers and sisters were eaten by a bird. I’m all on my own. Go ahead and eat me. I’m the last of my kind. What’s the use of my becoming a butterfly if I’m going to be the only butterfly in the world?”

“A bird?” Bernd’s attention is caught. “Can you describe this bird?” – “Oh, I don’t know. It was as fast as lightning, or a MiG-29. Anyway, it was unbelievably fast.” – “So?” Bernd asks with excitement. “Where’s it gotten to?” – “It must have a nest quite close by,” the caterpillar tells him, “but as an ant, you’d better stay out of its way.” – “I don’t care about being eaten either,” says Bernd sadly. “Not because I’m the last of my kind, but because I’ve lost someone. Somebody who isn’t even one of my own kind. Oh and by the way, there are millions or even billions of caterpillars like you in the world. Once you turn into a butterfly with wings, you’ll get to meet them.” The caterpillar is beside itself with joy. – “For real? You mean I’m not alone?” – “Definitely not,” says Bernd, and takes to the air to explore the neighborhood.

Before long a bird shoots like an arrow through the leaves into the sky. Somewhere up there must be its nest, thinks Bernd, and wants to fly upward. But something holds him back and makes him pause. He hears the whispering rustle of the leaves. There’s water babbling somewhere. The buzz of a bee falls silent as it lands on a flower. Somewhere a squirrel is nibbling and gnawing at a nut…But wait! Was that a groan?

Bernd goes in the direction of the noise, and sees a twig – no, a small person lying on the ground. “It’s the fairy!” Bernd’s heart rises into the air like an eagle, as if a heavy weight had fallen off his shoulders. With a single jump he reaches her and takes her in his arms. But she seems practically lifeless, she has no strength at all. Thank God, she is just faintly breathing. “How can I help her, what can I do?” He quickly fetches water, moistens her face carefully and wets her lips.

After a while, the fairy comes to herself. “Please call the medicine man,” she whispers. “Find a hollow tree trunk, and drum on it as loud as you can. And say the following verse:

“Infinite universal spirit of life, ground of all being.

In the consciousness of unity with you

we open our hands of light, so that light, love and warmth may radiate

into the hearts of all creatures.

So may the blessing of the All-Highest

flow into the air, the fire, the water, the earth,

all creatures, visible and invisible,

even into the tiniest atom.

So may unity be manifest through the all-embracing

love, wisdom and strength

of the All-One,

and send us Void.”

Bernd does as she asks. Where he is standing the air seems to flow into a glass wall. The glass wall suddenly begins to swirl and vibrate. Out of this turbulence Void materializes like an energy that has been there the whole time, but only now becomes compact reality.

Without a word, Void at once goes to the fairy, picks her up, turns round and says to Bernd: “I’ll take her with me to save her. You won’t see her again. But she will always be there.”

Then Void and the fairy vanish.

Bernd is left behind. His heart overflows with happiness at the fairy’s being saved, and he feels a deep sense of connection with her. He resolves to go back to his anthill, and share what he has learned with the other ants. Share with them the knowledge that there is no medicine for loneliness, because there is no loneliness. There is only unity.