WHY the name of this site.
The story I’m about to share took place more than ten years ago, and so much has happened since then! Still, it’s a feel-good and quite whimsical tale, illustrating a pivot point in spiritual evolution, and holds a sweet spot in my heart.
Let’s begin in the therapist’s office, where books line the wall across from a comfy sofa I relaxed into at least twice a month for a little over a year. When I imagine myself there, I see myself small and anxious, eyes darting back and forth, tissue box near to hand. I feel the way I wanted to share only what I want to share. I feel myself holding back, finding it hard to talk about the people in my past especially.
I was afraid to see too clearly, in too much dimension.
My therapist, tall curly hair (yes, his hair was tall!) and yellow tablet in hand, is patient with me, but can’t give the validation I think I need… can’t go back and be a parent to me in childhood, make different choices for my younger self, or affect others in my life ‘at present’.
Back then, I felt deeply out of place in the life that I’d wished for and made. My health was suffering, daily family life was turbulent, and by keeping steady notes, I could see that things were just not getting better, although everyone around me seemed to want me to just act like it was all just fine. It wasn’t that they said so, they just praised me for never being (never showing) upset or dramatic.
In retrospect, I understand that I wasn’t actually in therapy to change myself, so much as I wanted permission to change my situation. I wanted to be heard ‘first’, to have my needs put ‘first’. I wanted to receive real validation of my worthiness on the whole. Others can’t be blamed for not seeing this yearning. I too was going through this for the first time and couldn’t articulate it clearly.
What I did receive in therapy, were techniques to contact greater spaciousness in my thinking. I learned to expect be listened to more patiently and accurately, and how to slow myself down with lots of simple rituals, like daily tea.
Originally, I had sought out a therapist with a background in hypnosis, because ‘while I was there’ I might address shyness and anxiety that had plagued (no hyperbole to that word here) my public speaking efforts over the years. I envisioned that he would put me under, talk to me positively in a way that would stick, and then voila! I’d emerge with the kind of confidence I had as a teenager after a few drinks, without the accompanying recklessness.
😉 But no.
Instead, along with asking very good questions, he led me in a personal guided meditation he then burned to a CD so I could play it at home a few times a day. Which I did (I’m a good student ;-). The meditation was a visualization of support, where he walked me through imagining layers of firm ground beneath me, a stance from which I could visualize spacious proportions, gaining more generous perspective.
I thought, for many months, that this wasn’t working at all, but I did start to notice a few things:
1 – I 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. My sense of distance was clearer, just as a result of being slightly more relaxed. I could see so much farther and in more colorful detail!
2 – Standing in lines wasn’t a burden. Rather than feeling restless pressure waiting in the many lines my modern life entails, I could locate ease, even pleasure, by taking in my surroundings, testing the new limits, and people watching without so much anxiety. For once, I didn’t feel like I was taking anything by being in the room.
Since the visualization was actually helping, I sought out others, more and more esoteric and elaborate meditations. Guides would take me through meadows and along streams, to encounters with peaceful animals and wise others, or up and down staircases into libraries housing every answer I could wish for. These were relaxing, sometimes quite emotionally moving too, but not personal in the same way. So I kept looking, and reading reading reading.
Eventually, I encountered Eckhart Tolle‘s teachings.
What is somewhat odd, is that for many many years, I had blazed through books about mind-body connections, especially whenever on vacation. Nearly all of these books led me through short visualizations which I happily went along with, but it was Tolle’s simple guidance to notice breath at natural openings which proved revolutionary.
The timing may have been right too, because I was receptive due to therapy, and because the guidance was something I could easily incorporate into my life, such as by counting my breaths at stoplights.
A defining characteristic of life in South Florida is driving: everywhere, all the time, through heavy traffic, in hot cars. Stoplights are abundant. So, I started with five breaths at each stop, steadily increasing the number. Sometimes I would go out driving, just to do so. I stopped counting once the response became automatic.
In fact, I began easily shifting into a more spacious gear at every opportunity. Every stoplight but also irritation, every odd or irritating situation, would become a moment to retreat. It felt like a secret affair I was carrying on at times. Like, I must have been unintentionally smiling at the salon one day when my stylist asked, “You’re doing it, aren’t you?” We’d talked about the practice just a little on my previous visit, and I guess she remembered well. 😉
Perhaps the timing was also right because of the collective awakening beginning to find lift off at the time. Others were becoming more receptive to meditation and active, daily, experiential spirituality, too. This conversation was in the air.
It is still hard to pinpoint how long this phase went on before I began noticing other changes, like laughing louder (and more, according to my daughter) and sleeping less, but I knew deeply that I was on the cusp of something durable.
Like most “serious adults with responsibilities”, I can find it hard to relax, to allow myself to open up and really play with life. Perhaps that’s why I remember the moments in which I have done so, so clearly.
I felt content with the progress I made that year, especially having learned to make or find a zone to retreat into when necessary. It seemed like a new world of new learning and curiosities had opened right before my eyes.
So, I quit therapy. True, I hadn’t conquered my anxiety nor faced the issues of the family directly, but I reasoned that those changes would come in time. I had a more dualistic ‘redemption-based’ sort of mindset then. Every step forward felt earth shaking and like something I was supposed to” testify” about. I harbored a lingering fear that if I didn’t give the shifts proper due and gratitude by leaving well enough alone, I would, after having climbed so far, find myself sliding down the chute again. I decided to draw back and be (as I thought of it then) humble.
Naturally, having taken everything back onto my shoulders before quite ready, I wobbled… got caught up in distressing arguments again… struggled with my health again… began to lose faith in the tools and tricks I’d amassed. Until one day, shoe shopping.
I wandered the the aisles of DSW for a long time one afternoon. Actually, It was the most ordinary in the world. I was with my daughter, who generally takes forever to find what she likes, and after a while, I left her to it.
Standing off to the side, people watching to pass the time, this happened: I noticed I was not thinking.
It isn’t that I’d been unconscious, but that a quality of mind so vividly different from anything encountered before, came forward. Unique from spiritual experiences I’d had – quite dramatic visions and insights that characterized my later teen years – this was non-intrusive. Ever since then I’ve described it as like happening upon the sky.
When I noticed ‘no thinking’, it did bring the thinking back – but not right away, and somehow the thinking that re-entered didn’t lessen the ‘new’ awareness.
I stood in that spot grinning like a Cheshire cat until my daughter was ready to go, basking. I knew this was something that wouldn’t ‘undo’, because it all felt so normal. I just didn’t know that I hadn’t experienced normal before. Since then of course, I’ve learned so much, and talked with so many others who have had such experiences. Some I’ve talked to even tried to work their way out of the new openness just to see if they could. But what I’ve found is that although you can, that state then becomes the exception.
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? Now we’ve arrived. 🙂
Many changes flowed from the happening just described, 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 took up a lot of attention. It isn’t that it wasn’t enjoyable, but it felt endless. There was always something to work on, rather than facing the issues that had brought me into therapy and sparked my deeper questing.
The yard of the house had been quite neglected, so the trees in back had grown without trimming or care. An old black olive tree just outside the bedroom doors had grown too large for its space, so branches left streaks and scars as they scraped against the roof, roots endangered the home’s foundation. But the tree also provided shade from the intense Florida sunshine, a home for many orchids, and a resting spot for birds. Along with, 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 just 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 into the air, “Please, please stop…” To no avail. And during the day, I leaned on friends’ sympathy so hard that 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 may have been, that I fell asleep early and very deeply, but at some point, began to be stirred by music in the air. As I woke, the most Astoundingly Beautiful Music seemed to be playing both within and without my perception— a layered, heavenly sound I wished would go on and on forever. I remember trying to linger just so, so that I was not too awake nor too asleep, to extend the experience.
Yet, I couldn’t help but continue to wake as the song began to change, warping into a sound I thought I recognized. It was…
Sigh. Yes, there it was. It was the >rwaaak< of the gecko.
I then came completely to myself and my room, except that I then couldn’t hear *just* the >rwaaak< alone. I could also hear, as if 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 the creature again.
There is a lot here to consider inspirationally, and I’ve done so since then quite often. It is my favorite story to share, because I think most people can relate to boundary experiences like this, or at least the vague memory of having had them in sleep, where perhaps the gardeners are mowing outside and inside the dream it becomes something else.
There is just so much to see about our minds in stories like this… the wonders of consciousness.
Here is a fascinating link that showed up in my life later, helping to convey: Someone Recorded Crickets then Slowed Down the Track, And It Sounds Like Humans Singing
“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 our roles and agendas. It seems to be a natural ‘thin place’ opening for many people.
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.
One could say the singing gecko gave me ‘ears to hear’.