wish-fulfilling dreams

A strange thing has happened now that tossing and turning has fallen away from nighttime explorations; I find myself reliving alternate scenarios such as “What if married life with G had taken this turn?” Last night, I was the one working more, coming home to be shown our baby’s head lifting up with strength for the first time, other things. The dream was bright, not magical, but there was contentment.

When I have these dreams, there is often then residue of other dreams remembered, fragments of scenarios wherein I see my true wishes and have a chance to play them out, even if just a bit. They become experiences I have had, therefore are in a different category from pie-in-the-sky wishes. These desires genuinely feel sort of checked-off, although not fitting into what the circumstances of my life say is true.

Exploring virtual worlds was like this, too. Had I kept a journal then, I could have written that I began the day with a morning balloon ride before landing in a field of flowers where a deep international discussion ensued. I could have described dancing in outer space with someone who felt familiar, but I didn’t know, just as I might recount a dream. These accounts would have been true, suspending so-called knowledge that neither balloon nor flowers were real balloon and flowers. But what is real?

In some ways, those experiences felt more real, exactly because of the layer of true-knowing that they weren’t. That’s hard to describe, but neuroscience so far concurs that vivid imaginations and memories can weigh as much, matter as much–if not more–as so-called real life happenings, when it comes to our day to day responses and choices.

I believe we are less alive and awake in our lives when we forget what we’re experiencing at any given time, is not the whole truth. What we know about one another’s intentions, wrapped up in past experience and read-outs of such, is a story we’re actively telling that would disappear if we stopped actively telling it. So really, we have a great deal of freedom.

The starkest of my recent nighttime dreams remains that of mourning my grandfather’s death alongside my mother and sister, generating care and okay-ness, moving into a next, more loving phase of life together. That’s not the scenario that played out, but it has brought me comfort to go back to that dream, and that dreaming self, and say “I see you.”

When accused of ill intentions, or when I imagine that I’m accused of such, there is a deeply rooted knowing there, reminding me of what I really aspire toward when my guard is all the way down, which is love. Forgiveness too, yes, within that, but not a keep-the-fragile-peace forgiveness: an honest forgiveness, wherein people who love each other love each other in full view of failures and misunderstandings and doubts, as well as victories and reliefs and good works/intentions. Who wish each other well, even-or-especially in ways that don’t benefit our (material) selves.

One reason so much spaciousness occurred when my mother exited is precisely that the shaky ground which kept me on-guard all the time, finally just gave way as I feared. Which doesn’t mean I wanted it that way.

For a long time I couldn’t look objectively at my background, because to do so would make it very hard to continue that relationship without some kind of acknowledgement–not for the acknowledgement itself, but what the acknowledgement would mean for our future. Since then, I’ve been able to see that choices had already been made, to build a new life and backstory my existence contradicts; love for me might indeed require risking that construction. Judging by the way I’ve so far kept specifics mostly to myself however, only willingness to risk would be required.

None of this means love itself isn’t possible. Indeed suffering occurs when I try to deny love its place. I want to let love have expression, even when I don’t understand, even when I want to cry “Unfair! Unfair!” Leaving aside individual responses to particular situations in moments which arise, in general, I have to be on love’s side to be happy.

I’m reminded that during my first real therapy sessions, when (the first) Dr. W tried to take me through visualizations of support, building layers of ground beneath me, I still couldn’t find stability. Something insisted on holding out for The Real Deal. Those visualizations indeed turned out to be a kind of priming before the insight of groundlessness took precedence.

“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.” ”

― Chögyam Trungpa

Is there a chance the current wish-fulfilling dreams point to something yet deeper as well? What is the territory I’m actually meant to explore? Buddhism loves the concept of the wish-fulfilling gem, which I’ve taken to be (the mind of) Naturally Occurring Timeless Awareness, a la Longchenpa. These dreams may themselves act as objects of meditation, or taken together, as a singular koan.

“Naturally occurring timeless awareness—utterly lucid awakened mind—
is something marvelous and superb, primordially and spontaneously present.

It is the treasury from which comes the universe of appearances and possibilities,
whether of samsara or nirvana.

Homage to the unwavering state, free of elaborations.”

― Longchen Rabjam

Image: Google

New Tricks

The loop messages have been playing at high quality, as though a layer has been sloughed off, leaving programming clearly exposed. This time, it isn’t a critical voice, but an even more constant beat, surely affecting the rhythm patterns of movements and breath overall. I hadn’t realized this further layer before, perhaps because when I compare what it was like “before”, mind is deeply open and quiet much of the time. Sill, it feels great to notice the minuscule skips. When the loop is exposed so well I can, as though undoing a mistake in a knitting pattern, easily reach my needle in to release it.

The most common loop I’m picking up on? “I’m tired.” I’m not even tired half the time I notice this! And there’s the feel of a shield of some sort, likely deflecting the previously-expected critical voice that dropped away. So far, I’m able to stop to ask “Am I, actually, tired?” Or sometimes, more accurately, “Are you?” “Who are you, saying you are tired all the time, anyway?” “Let’s teach you some new tricks. What’s more fun to say?” More fun than “I’m tired” is “I’m happy”, for instance.

If I am tired, I might still ask “Who are you talking to?” Is there someone (in memories) I’m trying to get not to exhaust me further, someone I wish would allow more space, rest? What if I offer that? Even just being willing to let go is relief.

Speaking of new tricks and phrases, I had a few ‘proud of myself’ Spanish moments in the store today. An older couple beamed at my attempts to help in their more comfortable language. My heart was so moved by their appreciation. Overhearing the exchange, a co-worker praised our attempts to understand each other as well, adding that she likes to hear the way I use English… “so many different words.” When this coworker was growing up in Nicaragua, no one took much time to help her along, so she too feels limited and is learning from our diverse Miami community, where so many Spanishes are spoken.

Her compliments, and the story behind them, sparked a pause as I reflected on neglectful periods of my own upbringing. There’s certainly a case to be made for my being left to my devices too much as a child, while at the same time, I managed to enjoy many enriched experiences and friendships along the way. I’m so thankful for an attentive early education, for instance. It wasn’t either/or.

A common thread through my journals is the difficulty of weaving contrasting narratives when one cares about being and becoming genuine. There aren’t many heroes or villains in my stories, but there are a few, and I’ve become capable of honest apology alongside becoming capable of giving difficult feedback when needed. Like learning knitting and Spanish and qigong all at once, capacities grow together.

I guess that’s why they call it the blues

Asian TV.

I’m addicted.

The dramas evoke emotion and meaning, so I haven’t been able to convince myself they lack value to my life and mind. Many are romantic, but not just; the dominant themes are ethics and chosen family, amidst backstories spanning multiple lifetimes. Distinct cultural paradigms. I love exploring different ways of thinking about time, seeing how calculations play out if someone buys into various conceptual measurements of what constitutes virtue and goodness.

It isn’t that there isn’t anything comparable, but very little in Western television resonates with me beyond ‘entertainment value’, whatever that is. When I talk to my therapist about the shows, as part of a ‘bundle of behaviors’ I get lodged into from time to time, she asks “What is it that you are getting from them, that you are not finding elsewhere?”

I reply with the answers I just gave, but there’s something else. She knows this and is waiting for my real answer. Me too.

My strongest childhood memories of television find me sitting on the floor of the great room of my elementary school, the space filling and emptying around me. Captain Kangaroo. Feelings are around being the first one dropped off to school or the last one picked up, watching the teachers watching the door. The impressions are strong, even though this might not have happened often.

During weekends at home, Shirley Temple would be on TV, Tarzan, and sometimes Fred Astaire at night. Astaire became my first crush, so much so that I teased my ex-husband about choosing him for the Fred shape of his head. I still love songs from those musicals, still feel happiest wearing long flowing dresses (day gowns) that swish and move in time, while viewing the productions through a more critical eye as an adult. A child doesn’t ask themself what or who is missing from a story, or why.

Shall we dance
Or keep on moping?
Shall we dance
Or walk on air?
Shall we give in
To despair
Or shall we dance with never a care…

Later, my mother would have me videotape soap operas when I got home from school, so she could watch them after work in the evenings. Neither of us could program the VCR program to record correctly, and if I watched, I could edit commercials. I’m not sure if she asked me to do that, or if I liked them; it was more like second-hand smoke.

Saturday morning cartoons were also a big thing, for other kids. Staying with a friend, I paced restlessly while she watched her favorite show, tortured because she lived in an apartment building with a big pool I’d woken excited to get into right away. Speed Racer broke through that cartoon barrier eventually, though I can’t place what it was about it that caught my interest enough to wake a full hour early before Jr High. The Japanese creator of the manga Mach GoGoGo, self-taught artist Tatsuo Yoshida, was inspired by Elvis and James Bond movies, which makes perfect sense. It was definitely a vibe. I wouldn’t want to watch it now, nor tamper with my memories.

As soon as I moved out on my own (for certain values of my own), I traded soap operas for CSpan and BookTV, making efficient use of time. There was such an urgency I felt, to become someone of substance! And for the most part, I kept to that going forward, gravitating toward what I could justify as enrichment, with the kids once they arrived, as well. We watched animal and science shows, and there were long periods in which we didn’t have a TV at all, or where I closed it behind cabinet doors, restricting hours it could be on.

As I write this, I realize I may have strongly factored the influence of TV when sleuthing out reasons my mother was depressed, and later, suicidal. Alongside soap operas came Phil Donahue then Oprah, and she, like many mothers then, began to talk about childhood wounds and injustices more, and more dramatically. There was more crying, more shopping and debt. Arguments with my step-father intensified. My sister was born.

Always interested in biographies of suffering, I believe my mother couldn’t always tell the difference between her own stories and the stories she read, then the interviews she watched on TV. She began to re-frame her own narratives with those others in mind; I was captive audience for tales I couldn’t process. Terrible decisions to come would be justified by past-life regressions she learned about through Shirley McClain. Thanks, Oprah. Then, pendulum swinging the other direction, televangelists entered the scene.

No wonder my relationship with TV is so charged! These days my mother watches Fox News for hours, and ways in which I think and live differently are taken as attacks. There’s nothing we can say to one another, although with distance, compassion for her overall suffering is more present. The sleuthing energy is not needed to protect myself anymore, but for inquiry and exploration. Hopefully that exploration becomes increasingly generous, ever more transformative.

Hm. I’ve unexpectedly written into another layer of answer to my therapist’s question “What is it that you are getting from them, that you are not finding elsewhere?”

There is integration and healing going on.

I mean, take the show I watched a few episodes of last night, Our Blues. It’s melancholy, and I’m affected by how direct-facing and sad, yet beautifully too, the relationships are portrayed. Older actors express the disillusionment of aging… accepting one is not getting back some things they’ve lost, not going to become most things they dreamed of becoming. This, alongside of bright youthful memories.

There’s a phrase a wise friend introduced me to: nostalgia for the present. Even the brightest memories are not complete; if they were, they wouldn’t be quite so bright. There are angles we edit out to isolate the strongest dose of what’s needed in a given moment as we flip through those channels. Nostalgia for the present sees that it isn’t really the past, or redoing of the past one is craving. It is about genuine peace with the present, taking in ‘the whole catastrophe’. It’s okay to feel more than one thing at once. In fact we must.

There’s a story to continue to tell here, about the other side of the coin re permeable boundaries, mandalas of connection, and how to love, even so.

gestures and thin moments

In line at the market, buying writing icing for the Congratulations cake we bought to mark successful getting of the big job by a family friend (intensive process they went through beforehand, getting a hotel to prep, for weeks, basically falling off-grid). An older gentleman looks back to ask if I’m in a hurry, gesturing that seeing I have so little, he would let me go ahead. I explain I just have “I’m in a hurry” energy, whether in a hurry or not, which gains a chuckle all around. I’m not sure it’s true, but it might be.

Everyone continues through the line. All is pleasant, normal. By the time I reach my car however, I’m highly sensitive. I look around and see many older people walking slowly, carefully. Some help one another. I felt sore most of the morning, a little worried about how work might go later, but now I’m standing still, deeply wondering how anyone manages anything at all. Everyone seems so very frail.

I watch the well-mannered gentleman get into his vehicle–a small van, although signage isn’t clear–and realize he must spend long portions of his day waiting.

I’m not waiting, but I’m not going anywhere, either.

Trying to put my finger on this sampling of experience, I’ll call what occurred ‘all-in-the-same-boat-ness’. It was profoundly strange, a little Lynchian. I’ll resist the urge to attach meaning or value, just remark that everything was certainly thin.

A few times this week I noticed, more exactly than usual, rippling effects of small gestures into undulating patterns, noticed how I can’t precisely tie them together, but as in this case, find myself in a wide mind then step back to trace. This gentleman’s gesture seemed to slow everything down, which was a reminder to appreciate the whole scene and all appearing in it–including me–as a shimmering mirage. Everything, including fragility and pain became ‘wonderful’, in a way.

While I know I’m still to some extent drawing the lines myself, in TSK terms, I’m also asking to see that the level as changed by asking when that so-called change occurred. Of course it never did.


Body is getting ready to work at the store, second day back after a month’s leave. Mind hasn’t quite caught up; it floats like a balloon a little behind, working through the thousand half-teachings ingested while on break. To soothe mind, I suggest we lean into appreciation instead, let understanding tend to itself.

Which jostles loose the preoccupation.

I arrive to work on time, overriding compulsively early tendencies. No car meditation; instead I listen to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way to get into some mood. It’s one of a handful of songs that take the edge off, let me ease into a more public persona, along with Shania’s Up!, or ABBA’s I Still Have Faith in You. Tier B is a slightly different vibe, with Barbra singing On a Clear Day You Can See Forever or Judy’s The Trolley Song. Once in a while, NCT’s Baby Don’t Stop hits the right spot. Or, despite my efforts to resist, BTS.

You get the idea.

People think I’m joking when I set goals not to arrive to places early, assuming this to be a humble-brag, but shifting gears has always been a challenge for me, no matter how fond I am of bardo teachings. In fact, this is probably why I’m so fond of them. The buffers I install around modes and roles become modes and roles themselves, which isn’t really a problem until a small meeting requires large buffers, squeezing out other worthy things. I would be well on the way with my knitting project if instead of arriving too early to a tiny check-in-and-fix with my teacher, I simply risked being a few minutes late.

Although several diagnoses might be suggested by such tendencies, my therapist never goes there. Instead she often praises the toolbox I’ve built for myself. The car can be a great place for meditation, after all. Having worked with, and having friends on the non-neurotypical spectrum, has also imparted perspective.

Unrelated, I’m reminded of this song’s title:

One Such Day

I grew up within biking distance of Fairchild Tropical Gardens, a place ordinary to my childhood which I now consider sacred and a miracle—a refuge in a green-starved city.

There are days I, without intention I recall, find myself sitting on a bench under these trees, snapping photos of shadows plays made by their branches, reading the openings and winds.

Yesterday was one such day

Wishing Grove tree

Turiya, Turiyatita

Andrew Holocek on Buddha at the Gas Pump. So many wonderful quotes, but his passionate interest in dream yoga is why I’ve read some of his books several times. I may not lucid dream much these days, but the interview was a spark ignited to remember this way of being.

“Awareness of Being, is bliss.” Nisargadatta

I’ve felt a little shamed out of sharing dreams over time, concerned doing so was full of self, rather language to study with others inclined. I do actually believe, as many teachers do, that dreaming can be a rich practice ground, coupled with view, yet know that becoming fixated on what dreams mean to “me, my fortune, etc.” solidify rather than liberating experience. Over-editing what one shares may be as much of an issue.

Whether small amounts of practice in sleep are equivalent to large amounts of time in other kinds of meditation as some say, I’m less sure of. “Dreaming is code language for manifestation of mind” Andrew says, and an awakened one (Buddha) wouldn’t experience dreaming and daily life differently. They might live life itself as a malleable dream-like reality.

Gyuma Chenmo

This wonderful image and description is from Okar Research Blog, which I highly recommend glancing at:

Gyuma Chenmo (Dream-Dakini)….is the Dakini of dream., invoked and visualized in dream yoga-practice in the Ma Gyu (Mothertantra).

Maha Vishnu (tangentially related and also I just loved this image)

A few new-to-me terms came up in the interview. as well I’ve studied very little Hinduism or even Advaita Vedanta, but it comes up along the way.

In Hindu philosophy, turiya (Sanskrit: तुरीय, meaning “the fourth”) or chaturiya, chaturtha, is pure consciousness. Turiya is the background that underlies and pervades the three common states of consciousness. The three common states of consciousness are: waking state, dreaming state, and dreamless deep sleep.

Turiyatita – state of integration where awareness is never lost [“beyond fourth”] /
pure consciousness/non-dual awareness

Turīyātīta (तुरीयातीत):—Pratyabhijñā claims that the state of perfection achieved by its sādhana is beyond and above the turīya, the “fourth state” of the Upaniṣads: it is Turīyātīta, Śiva-consciousness, in which the individual experiences the self as identical with the entire universe and with Śiva.

Turiya, also called Chaturtha is the stage of transcendental consciousness where the individual experiences ultimate reality and truth. This state is inexperienced by the five senses and indescribable, incomprehensible by the mind which is tied to continuous cycle of births. The transcendental mind is within itself a possibility of creating anything and everything that mind conceives and the possibilities are infinite. In this state the individual experiences the sleepless sleep or bliss, witnessing similarities of macrocosm and microcosm and is well aware of the union of Self and Absolute. Here the individual is aware of his own consciousness but remains in object-subject relationship with the world around. This is intermediate Savikalpa Samadhi.
Turiyatita or Chidakasa is the stage where the Self ceases to function since the ‘mind-space’ transforms itself into mindless-space in absolute spirituality, which never manifests itself. At this point, there is no question of return to oneself, since it becomes one with the Supreme by the grace of unmanifested spirituality and obliterates dualism. Here there is selflessness, no-mind, no-duality the object-subject relationship disapear. This is ultimate, highest state of non-dual union with ones own consciousness this is Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

I couldn’t help but hear Krishnamurti in this. There’s also a section in I AM THAT where Nisargadatta describes knowing himself as timelessness. “Timelessness” he said, “knows time, but time can’t know timelessness.” (You can’t get there from here.)

There’s an ‘ocean is also in the drop’ argument that might be made, but maybe another day. 🙂

Pokemon Bardo

If the meditator is able to use whatever occurs in his life as the path,
his body becomes a retreat hut.
~ Jigme Lingpa

So, for all my listening to Buddhist audios and contemplating bardos, when I came out from under anesthesia I was playing Pokemon rather than chanting mantras or meditating on bliss! My fingers were pushing buttons of a (nonexistent) video game controller as I emerged, solving who knows what. Funny.

So funny.

I had tried to let the process be a micro run-through of what many say it is like to die [entering alone], attempting a sample of mind. I did see that although loneliness doesn’t have to be the case–my great grandmother talked to angels in her hospital room before passing–there did seem to arise stark aloneness for me beforehand, and with that, anxiety.

Pronouncing the aloneness was indifference of medical staff talking over my head about how long or short their shifts were, which ones were unlucky in getting which patients. An anesthesiologist asked for music preference; I began to chime in, but it wasn’t me she wasn’t asking. I wasn’t there as a person to interact with.

There was also the pre-registration question of religious affiliation, to which I answered “None”, then questioned what I might have said. As much as we live in a time when everyone easily professes to be meditating or doing yoga, Buddhism still gives pause.

Still, I should probably have some answer. I’ve accepted that the death process described in Buddhist texts is not possible for most lay practitioners in the US (especially those outside of near Buddhist community), and part of me thinks, that being so, what does it matter if a priest or rabbi comes to my bedside? Perhaps any stranger with a kind heart will do, or a “none”, like me.

(I wanted to be a nun when a child, until told that was just for Catholics.). 😉
Buddhism didn’t arrive on my radar until I was at least 17.

Another take-away is that I’m actually less guarded than I thought. I love the wise humor of a Pokemon game mingling with bardo teachings; it feels like a mischievous lesson about lightening up! The bardo course isn’t so different from a modern video game if you think about it… meeting monsters, discerning false leads, not going this way but that, keeping a clear mind sans panic, etc.

“Don’t worry, there is nothing real about your confusion.” ~ Lojong

Small Circles

Grappling with a fasting headache ahead of a small procedure tomorrow, going to bed early. Well, trying to. The dog is at my feet, already in position. He supports this idea of going to bed early, but can’t say “Don’t worry, it will all be okay.” Can’t kiss my forehead. Sometimes I do project onto him all kinds of comforting or silly sayings, but on a night like tonight, that I do so drives home how small my circle has become.

George the dachshund laying across my legs

I’m missed at the store; there have been check-ins and well-wishes, which means a lot. But while I’m gone everything is changing– people are coming and going–and I remember my grandfather repeating what he saw as an important lesson, that when he sold his shop, he sold his friends.

The first manager I worked with there advised me not to become attached, so I immediately did. 🙂 I’m glad I did, even though letting people go so often is bittersweet. I’m glad they came into my life at all.

Buddhist non-attachment teachings have been challenging from the beginning for me not because I find it difficult to detach, but because I was running from so much, and took the teachings as permission to make escape into a virtue. My kids felt my initial withdrawals while coping with illness and awakening at once intensely, and I regret not making it clear it was never from them.

Yes, I was contending with the kind of insight eruption that can’t help but upend one’s life, and I was indeed choosing (for various values of choosing) new ways of being, but I actually wanted to integrate my current world into that new one, and just didn’t know how. I thought I had to just keep digging deeper and deeper for the answers to appear. Some answers did appear, others not yet, but once I realized their feelings, I tried harder to articulate myself more, imperfectly and sincerely. As it turned out, non-attachment did not let me off the hook the way I thought. It meant looking at my attachment to running also, loosening the default need to do so.

Or something like that. Lesson ongoing. 🙂

Somehow my lesson reminds me of an article I read years ago and think about from time to time, especially when I’m dating. I’m guilty of imagining that someone with a deep spiritual commitment would be the type I’d be most compatible with, and that everything would work out that way. THEN I remember The Problem with Zen Boyfriends!


The Rest

I’m surprised! It’s been over a week since I wrote the previous entry, during which time I’ve listened to several Vajrayana related audio books–a few multiple times. Not all the lessons (mostly talks given during retreats) hit me the way Bliss of Inner Fire did, but understanding feels to have taken a leap, integrating the disparate knowledge too easily left in piles all over my mind.

(free stock image, not me)

Integrated knowledge comes with such feeling of relief! So much that seemed wasted or lost reveals itself as quite there, within a larger vision. All is re-contextualized as the mandala mosaic finds its flow again.

Energy is freed!

I’m so glad that although it seems indulgent to hunker down into binge mode with these books, I’ve continued. The freed energy contains its own will to follow through, and understands how best to concentrate those efforts. Now, to let it.

Gorgeous: Dublin Library

A few years ago, I changed strategies about spiritual practice, frustrated with what I labeled my obsessive and indulgent tendencies: staying in learning mode and not ‘doing anything with’ what I’d been learning. But I wonder now, whether that shift was unwise, untrusting of intuition. “Not doing anything with” is a judgement made by someone on the outside, not actually what I believe to be true.

The critical voice has lessened with meditative spacious and therapy, yet I do survey the landscape from time to time, grieve what has been forfeited in pursuit of its pacification. I ask, What would someone who loves me, say? She would say that although my process may not look like that of others, it is worthy nonetheless.

When things come together and open, I’m reminded how fortunate I am, to be on the path I’m on… that even dropped in the middle of a family that could be hellish and frightening, abandoning and cruel, my aspiration stubbornly leans toward compassion, practices of love and bliss and goodness.

The Rest

From the corner of a room

where my mother’s body
lay beaten,

I wrote
this poem.

French doors frame

a trapped child

In an instant.

Soul split,

I walked away,
leaving in tact

the rest

I now return for,
with a pen.

The above was written over 30 years ago, dropped whole onto the page. I then read it, realized it was true. Writing has always been integrating, healing. Fortunate are those given (nod to Pullman) a subtle knife.