A story shared over three posts: why the name of this site.
What I’m about to share took place more than ten years ago. So much has happened since then! But, it is a special little story, about a pivot point in spiritual exploration, therefore still holds an important spot in my heart, keeping the place soft and open to magic.
Setting: Curtain opens to a typical therapist’s office. Lots of books, comfy sofa with a throw nearby, big professional desk, lots of wood. Me, on the sofa, tissue box in hand. Therapist, his chair from behind the desk, yellow tablet in hand. Patient. Bored? No way to tell.
I’d been showing up once a week for over a year by this time, feeling deeply out of place in the life that I’d made. My health was bad, our family turbulent, and things were just not getting better. In retrospect I can see that I didn’t go because I wanted to work on myself, because I had been working on myself my whole life. I went because I wanted permission to assert myself, to change the situation. I wanted someone to say that my happiness counted, especially because it wasn’t just my unhappiness at hand.
What I got, regardless of either of our boredom, were tools to make greater space in my thinking. I learned to enjoy being listened to, including by myself, and to slow down more often, for simple rituals and gestures like Tea.
Making a specific place to discuss certain things can be quite powerful; you don’t need to push them under completely anymore, and there is way less reckless spilling over unexpectedly.
Originally, I’d sought a therapist who had background in hypnosis, because ‘while I was there’ I thought to overcome the shyness and anxiety that had plagued various public speaking efforts over the years. I thought that he might put me under and I’d emerge with the kind of confidence I had as a young adult after a few drinks. 😉
What he did, along with simply listening and asking a very few good questions, was lead me in a guided meditation he then burned to a CD, so I could play it at home a few times a day. The meditation was a visualization of support, where I imagined layers of firm ground beneath me, from which stance I could imagine finding spacious proportion in the moment, perspective. I thought, for many months, that it wasn’t working at all, but I did start to notice a few things.
I first noticed that I could see farther. While I was driving especially, or out and about, what was familiar to me no longer felt as familiar. Distance was clearer, just as a result of being slightly more relaxed.
Then, standing in lines wasn’t a burden. Rather than feeling restless pressure waiting in the (SO!) many lines a modern life entails, I could locate ease, even pleasure, taking in surroundings, testing the new limits.
Once I began to see that the visualization was actually helping, I sought out others. These were more esoteric and elaborate. The guide would walk the listener through meadows and along streams, maybe to encounter peaceful others, or through corridors into libraries housing any answer I could wish for. These visualizations were relaxing, sometimes emotionally moving, but didn’t feel quite personal. I kept looking and eventually encountered Eckhart Tolle.
Looking back, what is odd is that for many years I’d been blazing through books about mind-body connections, and nearly all of these books had led me through meditations. I don’t understand why encountering Tolle when I did, and taking his simple guidance to notice breaths at natural openings, changed so much.
That may be why, actually.
The timing may have been right because I was receptive, really seeking, and because his guidance was something I could incorporate through the day without bothering anyone, protecting the fragile blooming. I settled on the idea that things might indeed change ‘on their own’ by find happiness in lots of small ways, like counting breaths at stoplights.
I live in South Florida, where a defining characteristic of life is driving, everywhere, all the time, through heavy traffic, in hot cars. Stoplights are abundant. So I started with five breaths at each stop, then shot for ten, then stopped counting at all when the response became automatic, shifting into a more spacious gear at every opportunity.
The timing may also have been right because of the collective awakening finding traction around the time. People were becoming more receptive to meditation and spirituality-sans-religion. It is still hard to pinpoint how long this phase went on before I began noticing more changes, like laughing louder and sleeping less. I knew that I was on the cusp of something durable.
Most of us “serious adults with responsibilities” find it hard to to relax, to allow ourselves, much less each other, to open up and play with life in ways that reveal humor and wonder. That’s why we remember the moments in which we do so clearly – they are exceedingly rare.
Having shared the early stages of my romance with awareness in Part 1, the tale becomes more wild and challenging, also more fun.
I was fairly content with the progress I’d made finding a comfort zone to retreat to, even hide in, a world of new learning and curiosities. So I quit therapy of course. True, I hadn’t conquered the anxiety nor faced the issues of the family, but I reasoned that those developments would come in time now that I had the right tools.
To be honest, I had a more dualistically religious ‘redemption’ kind of mindset then too. Every step forward felt like something enormous and earth shaking that I needed to testify about. I feared that if I didn’t give the miracles proper due, I would, after having climbed so far, find myself sliding down the chute again. Rather than push further, I decided to draw back and be, what I thought of then as, humble. Naturally, having taken the weight back onto my own shoulders, I wobbled, getting caught up into distressing arguments again (feeling each as a full blown catastrophe!), struggling with health again, losing faith in all the tools and tricks I’d amassed.
Until one fine day, shoe shopping.
My daughter and I were wandering the the aisles of the DSW shoe store quite a long time; the most ordinary day in the world. She has particular tastes, so after a while I left her to it, standing off to the side, people watching to pass the time.
When this happened:
I noticed I was not thinking.
It isn’t that I’d been unconscious, with time disappearing into an auto-pilot state, but that a quality of mind so vivid, open, and different from anything I’d encountered before, had subtly revealed itself as having been there, holding me, as though in a hammock. Far from ‘spiritual experiences’ I’d had before – dramatic visions and insights that characterized my later teen years – this was sweet, non-intrusive and natural, without strings – like happening upon the sky. I’d been coasting in it for a while.
Noticing that ‘I’ wasn’t thinking did then gave way to thinking again, as I began to articulate for myself what *this* was, but that thinking didn’t lessen awareness. I stood in the same spot like a Cheshire cat until my daughter was ready to go, basking, knowing nothing could ever be quite the same.
Not that which the eye can see, but that whereby the eye can see: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore;
Not that which the ear can hear, but that whereby the ear can hear: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore;
Not that which speech can illuminate, but that by which speech can be illuminated: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore;
Not that which the mind can think, but that whereby the mind can think: know that to be Brahman the eternal, and not what people here adore.
(from the Kena Upanishad)
Wondering where the singing gecko part of the story is? You’ve arrived. 🙂
Many changes flowed from that dawning, almost all of them quite subtle and light. I felt a breezy new energy toward spiritual things and wanted to read more, meditate more, bask more. But we’d bought an older house which needed constant repairs and improvements, and that took a lot of the time.
Just outside our new bedroom window was an old black olive tree that had grown too large for the space it was in. Its branches scraped against the roof of the house, leaving scars, and its roots endangered the foundation, but the tree also provided shade from the intense Florida sunshine and a resting spot for lots of birds.
And a gecko.
A loud gecko.
A loud gecko who, every night when I would crawl into bed to sleep, would make a horrible horrible noise, something like >rwaaaaak< >rwaaaak< >rwaaaak<.
I saw it once, and found it difficult to believe the sound came from such a tiny creature!
This went on for weeks. Some nights I was in tears pleading, “Please, please stop…” to no avail. During the day I would lean on friends’ sympathy so hard until the the gecko became our daily news. I even wrote one night in my journal, “I’m sure he’s here to teach me something if I let him.”
Not realizing it was a prayer.
I don’t think it was that very night, but it might have been. I fell asleep early, deeply, and at some point began to stir, woken by the most Astoundingly Beautiful Music playing within and without — a layered, heavenly chorus I wished would go on and on forever.
Yet as I continued to wake, the song seemed more and more different. It was… sigh, yes, there it was, the >rwaaak< of the gecko. I came to myself, realized I was in my room. How could this all be? Except that now, I couldn’t hear just the >rwaaak< alone. I could also hear, alongside, the deep and ethereal ‘music of the spheres’.
And like that, the gecko was gone!
Or at least he was gone from the tree. I never heard from him (her?) again.
To this day, when someone is lacking manners, a situation is grating, or when enduring a song in a public place that is not my cup of tea, I’ll sometimes think, “This is someone’s gecko.” I’ll try to open my heart, ever so slightly, to hear the music too. I’ll ask why it, and I, might be there. I go lucid, as in a dream.
There’s a lot here to consider inspirationally, also to see about our minds and the wonders of consciousness. Here is a fascinating link that showed up in my life later, helping to convey:
“Composer Jim Wilson has recorded the sound of crickets and then slowed down the recording, revealing something so amazing. The crickets sound like they are singing the most angelic chorus in perfect harmony. Though it sounds like human voices, everything you hear in the recording is the crickets themselves.”
Just, I mean, Wow.
One of the richest places for dream or meditative practices, is in what some traditions call the amrit vela (nectar veil). Sikhs call it the ‘hour of God’. It is around 3 or 4 am, when barriers are softer. before we’ve put on roles and agendas. This doesn’t seem to be a rule implemented, but rather to be based on discovery of natural ‘thin place’ openings.
Which touches on hynogogia, and a new word to me: hynopopia. Hypnopopia is specifically the boundary state on the edge of waking, whereas hypnogogia is the opposite, where one is falling into deep sleep, according to Andrew Holoceck.
In my hynopopic state, the gecko transformed from a nuisance that didn’t fit in to my plans and didn’t seem to benefit my life, into a pure blessing, a guide who taught me how to further lower my guard with the world.
The singing gecko gave me ‘ears to hear’.