What do your dreams say to you? Do these altered states of consciousness often seem like testing grounds where you might fail in making the “correct” decision? Do you feel as if you just spent the night walking around aimlessly? Are they so frightening that it seems like the only way out is to wake up?
Maybe you fall into the category that I have found myself in: “Shamanistic” is the word that surfaces. In other words, these dreams seem as if I am receiving guiding information from the unconscious mind. We’re “dipping in” here, but let’s not just take a leisurely swim, let’s voyage further and bring something back to the shore with us.
It wasn’t until I started practicing yoga every day that my life finally started to take a turn for the better. Read any book on esotericism and you may discover a simple solution to many of life’s problems: what you do “within” will play out, “without.”
I’m sure I’ve had these guiding dreams all throughout the years, but it wasn’t until I really started to work on myself that these dreams started becoming more intense. I finally started to pass all of these testing scenarios until I found I was no longer being “tested”. I remember the dream quite clearly: I was an old woman, dressed all in white, carrying a white cat; walking ever so slowly across the white crossing lines of a street. But there, within ten feet of me, was a wall full of giant white hawks glaring down, watching me step by step, ready for me to make one wrong move. Since then, I have made peace with myself, mainly with my connective tissue disorder, and my dreams now give me more information to help guide my life.
Last week I awoke from a dream with a clear memory of what just happened. In the dream, I had some sort of “leveler” in my head. Unsure how to most clearly explain it, it’s best described as looking something like a neon-green neuron. Standing in a lab, a team of highly intelligent doctors explained to me that the green liquid inside would kill me if it would happen to be released from the neuron. They continued to explain that the only way the liquid would release is if I would get angry. I understood that I would have to do everything in my power to refrain from growing angry. The dream continued with them leading me to a support group (probably a subconscious replication of an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome support group). At first, I would show up to the group late or laughing too much; but then I realized how important the collective effort was for my healing and I began to take things more seriously.
Awakening from such a dream felt like a clear message. For the past year or two, I had already been practicing a particular spiritual/social path. Ram Dass seemed to put it best when he spoke of meeting his “guru in drag” everywhere. It takes a lot of practice to see the mirror (or the divine light) in everyone, including people you may consider your enemies, but this has been something I’ve been secretly practicing for quite some time. Make no mistake that I am still “practicing.” You can choose to be kind easily in calm moments of reflection; but when you are confronted with adversity in the moment, do you continue to practice this openness? That morning, I was tested as soon as I got on the road. I thought to myself, “Your dream. You should keep that idea in your mind. Try not to get angry as if your life depends on it.”
That day, I had to spend some time in the car dealership’s waiting room. In my prepared bag, I had brought along a copy of Yoga Journal magazine. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and “The Eightfold Path” was not something new to me, but I had hours to kill, so I took the time to read the article. Beginning with the “yamas”, or the ethical rules for “right living,” I instantly took notice to the first (and possibly the most important) one: Ahimsa. This Sanskrit term is translated and summarized as “non-violence” or “non-harming.” A Sanskrit scholar deciphered the meaning as “not being like the lion.”
Obviously, we shouldn’t harm others physically, but this yama, or ethical restraint, deeply teaches that if I were to harm you, or act angrily towards you, I’d really be harming myself. This is true, not only on a spiritual level, but on a biological level. Do you notice how your own heart starts beating rapidly when you, yourself, are angry at someone? Perhaps it is because we are all entangled in the same universal source of life which started with the “Big Bang,” where all points were once unified together as one.
With all of this said, however, non-violence does not mean that we shouldn’t protect ourselves. From Yoga Journal:
“There is a famous story about ahimsa told in the Vedas, the vast collection of ancient philosophical teachings from India. A certain sadhu, or wandering monk, would make a yearly circuit of villages in order to teach. One day as he entered a village he saw a large and menacing snake who was terrorizing the people. The sadhu spoke to the snake and taught him about ahimsa. The following year when the sadhu made his visit to the village, he again saw the snake. How changed he was. This once magnificent creature was skinny and bruised. The sadhu asked the snake what had happened. He replied that he had taken the teaching of ahimsa to heart and had stopped terrorizing the village. But because he was no longer menacing, the children now threw rocks and taunted him, and he was afraid to leave his hiding place to hunt. The sadhu shook his head. “I did advise against violence,” he said to the snake, “but I never told you not to hiss.”
Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Being neutral is not the point. Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love.”
Even for a genuinely nice person, it becomes difficult to refrain from getting angry. For days, it was if I was being tested. Will the neuron break and I’d have green ooze short circuiting my brain?
Within a few days I had a new account set up at myyogaonline.com for their Free Month of Yoga to celebrate September as National Yoga Month. Being a big fan of Hatha yoga, subdued lighting, Persian rugs and music played by DJ’s, I decided that I would take the plunge into a 90 minute practice (much longer than my typical practice). Led by Cameron Gilley at the Wanderlust Festival in British Columbia, he guided us to set an intention for the practice. If you ever have done an intention-setting practice it truly is a phenomenal experience. “Ask and you shall receive” or “Your wish is my command” seem like appropriate and to-the-point quotations. Suffering from chronic pain, I typically set my intention to “release all of the tension from within my body,” or “find balance within myself on the mat and then for the rest of the day.” This is the beauty of yoga and self-work: what you do on the small scale plays out on the larger scale.
The instructor, Cameron, suggested an intention. To be found on the mat and then to be carried on with all of your interactions for the rest of the day, he recommended the intention of “kindness.” “Kindness towards yourself, and kindness towards others.” He also described kindness to be understood as “unconditional friendliness.” Instantly, I thought, “How selfish of me. I have never set my intentions to include others! Every time, it was for some need of my own.”
This practice was definitely more difficult than the beginner level it had been deemed. Keeping the idea of kindness in my mind, I was first kind to myself and took it easy when I needed to. Once I finished the practice, my pushy little pug was acting out of control, but I remembered the “kindness” and met him with balanced grace. As I continued on with my day, I found myself practicing kindness by not blowing the horn at another driver when I thought they deserved the nudge. While I was out in the world, my kind heart was also there, ready to meet others’. I remained in this state, but simultaneously realized just how easy it is to slip out of kindness when confronted with the rocks in the way. Remembering that tools are great when using mind training techniques, I grabbed a simple tan rubber band. Placing it on my left wrist brought back memories of when I used a bracelet on my left wrist to bring more awareness into my life (see part 3 and part 8 or my Spiritual Journey of Healing: http://yoga4eds.tumblr.com/post/49520768821/right-handed-not-no-mo and http://yoga4eds.tumblr.com/post/49521924561/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-fox-and)
It has only been one week, but this simple rubber band still has its home on my left wrist. Cultivating the mind state of unconditional friendless not only radiates more joy, but it truly aids in healing your own woes. When you meet adversity with anger, notice not only yourself hurting the other person, but also take note of the pain or physical discomfort created within yourself. If we are in fact interconnected facets of the same universal entity (which can be demonstrated by the existence of amazingly similar expressions of DNA in every living entity on this planet), we bring pain to ourselves when we cause it in others. Wouldn’t the opposite also then be true?
Bring kindness to all and even your deepest needs will be fed.
So, do you want to join my band? We’re practicing kindness.
I do recommend the simple rubber band. It’s easy-on and easy-off, so there’s no reason not to wear it. It’s also easy to replace. Having a “tool” in sight is a great reminder that it’s possible that you are, too, a tool, in sight.