This is a story that I shared over three posts, describing why the name of this site.
I can’t believe the story I’m about to share took place over ten years ago – so much has happened since then! But this is still a special story for me, because it happened at a pivot point in my spiritual exploration, just as I was becoming a more focused practitioner.
The curtains open to a fairly typical therapist’s office, with lots of books, a comfy sofa with a throw nearby. I’d been going for about a year by this time, because I felt so deeply out of place in my life… unseen, unheard, doing what was expected, but wrestling my way out. My health was bad, our family turbulent, things were just not getting better.
In retrospect I can see that I didn’t go there because I wanted to work on myself necessarily, but because I wanted permission to assert myself, to change the situation. I wanted someone to say that my happiness counted as much as anyone else’s, especially because it wasn’t just my unhappiness at hand.
What I got, were tools to make space in my thinking, to learn to enjoy the wealth inherent in my breath, in listening and being listened to, in simple gestures like being handed a tissue or cup of tea.
Over time I learned that making a specific place to discuss certain things, can be quite powerful: you don’t need to carry them around the rest of the time.
I’d sought a therapist who had some background in hypnosis, because ‘while I was there’ I also thought to overcome the shyness and anxiety that had plagued various public speaking efforts over the years. I imagined 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 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. In the meditation, he walked me through a visualization of support, where I imagined there to be 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, I found that what was familiar to me no longer felt as familiar. The distance was clearer somehow.
Then, standing in lines wasn’t as much of a burden. Rather than feeling boredom or pressure while waiting in the many lines a modern life entails, I now could locate ease, even pleasure, testing the new boundaries.
Once I began to see the visualization was actually helping, at least with my daily sanity, I sought out others. These were more esoteric and elaborate. In them, the guide would walk me, the listener, through meadows and along streams, maybe to encounter others or into libraries which housed all the answers I could possibly wish for.
The guided visualizations were relaxing, sometimes emotionally moving, but didn’t feel quite personal enough. And that is when I encountered Eckhart Tolle.
Looking back now, what is odd is that for many years I’d been reading books about mind-body connection, mostly by Deepak Chopra, and these books led through meditations. I remember going along especially as I listened to books on audio. The same is true for a few others, like Andrew Weil. What I don’t understand, is why it was so different, so potent, to encounter Tolle when I did, and to take his simple guidance to notice breaths at natural openings. Why so much changed then.
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 secretly all through the day, not bothering anyone (back then the process wasn’t something I talked about with others).
Rather than seeking permission to change everything, I had settled on the idea that things might indeed change on their own if I continued to find happiness in small, independent ways, like counting breaths at stoplights.
I live in South Florida, where a defining characteristic is driving, everywhere, through heavy traffic, in hot cars – so stoplights are incredibly abundant. I started with five breaths, then ten, then I stopped having a number at all, because the response became automatic, shifting into a more spacious gear at every opportunity.
The timing may have also been right because of the collective awakening that began to find traction around that time. People were becoming more receptive to meditation and spirituality, beyond just positive thinking and fitness. It is still hard to pinpoint how long this phase went on before I began noticing more changes, like laughing louder and sleeping less.
The pathway was coming clearer and clearer. 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 to open up and play with life in ways that reveal humor and wonder on a regular basis. That’s why we remember the moments in which we do, so clearly – they are exceedingly rare.
But, I’ve learned it possible to truly live this way, even if I haven’t actualized the possibilities. Having shared the early stages of my story with meditation in Part 1, this tale begins to be a little more wild and challenging, also more fun.
I was fairly content with the progress I’d made. I’d found a comfort zone I could retreat to and even hide in, a world of new learning and curiosities. So I quit therapy. 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 tools.
To be honest, I had a somewhat strange when I think of it now, and more dualistically ‘religious’, redemption mindset then too, so every step toward empowerment felt like something huge that I needed to testify about. I feared that if I didn’t give miracles their proper due, I was pushing my luck and would, after having climbed so far, find myself sliding down the chute again. Rather than push further, I decided to draw back and be content – what I thought of then as humble, appreciative.
I wobbled. I got caught up in daily work and health issues again, fell into distressing arguments again (feeling each as a full blown catastrophe!), and began to lose faith in all the tools and tricks I’d amassed.
Until one day, I took my daughter to buy shoes.
Wandering the the aisles of a DSW store that afternoon, looking for just the right shoes for some event, was the most ordinary thing in the world. She has particular tastes, and after a while I left her to it, standing off to the side, just 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 and open, and so different from anything I’d encountered before, had subtly revealed itself as having been there all along.
Far from the spiritual experiences I’d had before then – dramatic visions and insights that characterized my later teen years – this was sweet, non-intrusive and natural, generous, without strings – like happening upon the sky.
I’d been coasting in it for a while before I noticed.
Seeing that I wasn’t thinking did then gave way to some thinking again, as I began to articulate for myself what *this* was, but that thinking didn’t lessen the presence of awareness. I stood in that spot like a Cheshire cat until my daughter was ready to go, basking, not worrying about this or that. I knew that 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 the dawning of this new day, almost all of them quite subtle and light. I felt a breezy new energy toward spiritual things and wanted to read even more, meditate even more, bask in nature 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. The branches scraped against the roof of the house, leaving scars, and the 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<.
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 almost in tears, “Please, please stop…” To no avail. During the day I would go online and lean on friends’ sympathy about the gecko, who soon became my daily news and source of humor. I even wrote one night in my journal, “I’m sure he’s here to teach me something if I let him.”
Not realizing that 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 that felt to be playing within and without (not that song, but the sensibility!) — a layered and heavenly chorus that 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 be? Except that now, I couldn’t hear just the >rwaaak< alone. I could also hear the ethereal chorus, 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, that I know of.
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 in the scene. I’ll ask why if might be there. One might call the process, going lucid, as in a dream.
There’s a lot here to consider inspirationally, but also to see about our minds, and the wonders of consciousness. Here is a fascinating link that showed up in my life later, helping me to convey what I had been trying unsuccessfully, to describe:
“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’.