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 whimsical little story, about a pivot point in spiritual evolution that holds a sweet spot in my heart.
Curtain opens to a typical therapist’s office. Lots of books, comfy sofa with a throw nearby, big professional desk, lots of wood. Me, sitting on the sofa, eyes darting back and forth, tissue box in hand. Therapist, his chair pulled in front of his desk, yellow tablet in hand. Patient. Bored? No way to tell.
I’d been showing up once a week for over a year, deeply out of place in the life that I’d quite intentionally wished for and made. My health was bad, family turbulent, and things were just not getting better. In retrospect I can see that I wasn’t there to work on myself, but because I wanted permission to assert myself to change the situation.
What I received, were techniques toward contacting greater space in my thinking. I also learned to be listened to, and to slow down more often, beginning with simple rituals, like tea.
Originally I’d sought a therapist who had background in hypnosis, because ‘while I was there’ I thought to address the shyness and anxiety that had plagued various public speaking efforts over the years. I envisioned that he might put me under, then I’d emerge with the kind of confidence I had as a young adult after a few drinks. 😉 But no.
What he did do, along with 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. 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, more esoteric and elaborate. The guide would move through meadows and along streams, to encounters with peaceful/wise others, or down staircases into libraries housing any answer I could wish for. These were relaxing, sometimes emotionally moving, but didn’t feel personal in the same way.
I kept looking and eventually encountered Eckhart Tolle.
What is odd, is that for many years I’d been blazing through books about mind-body connections, especially whenever on vacations. Nearly all of these books had led me through short visualizations which I happily went along with, but Tolle’s simple guidance to notice breaths at natural openings, was revolutionary.
The timing may have been right because I was receptive due to therapy, and because the guidance was something I could easily incorporate throughout the day, for instance counting breaths at stoplights.
I live in a place 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 increased the number, then stopped counting when the response became automatic, when I began easily shifting into a more spacious gear at every opportunity.
Perhaps the timing was also right because of the collective awakening beginning to find lift off around the time. People were becoming more receptive to meditation and active, daily, experiential spirituality. They were talking about it more; conversation was in the air.
It is still hard to pinpoint how long this phase went on before I began noticing more changes, like laughing louder and sleeping less, but I knew I was on the cusp of something durable.
Most “serious adults with responsibilities” find it hard to relax, to allow ourselves to open up and play with life. Perhaps that’s why we remember the moments we do, so clearly. Having shared the early stages of my romance with awareness in Part 1, this tale becomes more fun.
I was fairly content with the progress I’d made finding a comfort zone to retreat to, a world of new learning and curiosities. I quit therapy. True, I hadn’t conquered the anxiety nor faced the issues of the family, but I reasoned that those changes would come in time.
I had a more dualistically religious ‘redemption’ kind of mindset then. Every step forward felt like something enormous and earth shaking I was supposed to testify about. There was a lingering fear that if I didn’t give the shifts and ‘miracles’ proper due, I would after having climbed so far, find myself sliding down the chute again. I decided to draw back and be, what I thought of then as, humble.
Naturally, having taken the weight back onto my own shoulders before quite ready, I wobbled. I got caught up in distressing arguments again, struggled with my health again, and began to lose faith in the tools and tricks I’d amassed.
Until one day, shoe shopping.
My daughter and I were wandering the the aisles of DSW store for quite a long time; the most ordinary kind of day in the world. It generally takes her a long time to find what she likes, 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, or in an auto-pilot state, but that a quality of mind so vividly different from anything I’d encountered before, came forward. Far from the spiritual experiences I’d had before – quite dramatic visions and insights that characterized my later teen years and indeed changed the course of my life before – this assertion was non-intrusive – like happening upon the sky.
Noticing that there was no thinking did then bring the thinking back – but that thinking didn’t lessen the ‘new’ awareness.
I stood in same spot grinning like a Cheshire cat until my daughter was ready to go, basking. I knew this was something that wouldn’t ‘undo’.
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 ‘happening’, almost all of them subtle and light. I felt a breezy new energy and wanted to read more, meditate more, ‘just be’ more. But we’d bought an older house which needed constant repairs and improvements, and that seemed to be taking up a lot of the time.
Just outside our new bedroom window stood an old black olive tree that had grown too large for the space it was in. Its branches scraped against the roof, leaving streaks and 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, would make a loud and horrible noise, something like >rwaaaaak< >rwaaaak< >rwaaaak<.
I saw it once, and couldn’t believe the giant sound came from such a tiny creature!
This went on for weeks. Some nights I was almost 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 that seemed to be playing both within and without my perception— a layered, heavenly sound I wished would go on and on forever.
Yet as I continued to wake, the song began to change, warping into a sound I thought I recognized. It was… sigh, yes, there it was: the >rwaaak< of the gecko. I came to myself, realizing I was in my room, except that now, I couldn’t hear *just* the >rwaaak< alone. I could also hear, alongside, this deep and ethereal music.
And like that, the gecko was gone!
Or at least he was gone from the tree. I never heard from him (her?) again,
There’s a lot here to consider inspirationally, also to see about our minds… 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.
Hypnopopia is specifically the boundary state on the edge of waking, whereas hypnogogia is the opposite. 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 and trust (the groundlessness, openness, emptiness, vastness) what Life is doing.
The singing gecko gave me ‘ears to hear’.