When a word shows up on a billboard in a dream, it makes a pretty strong impression that you are supposed to pay attention. Last night this happened to me, and the word on the billboard was miasma.
In the dream, I said the word aloud as I read it from the billboard, and a dialogue began.
VOICE: Miasma. You are in one. The whole world is in one.
ME: Well, I know the word. Its like a negative hypnosis, right?
VOICE: Yes, and more. Look it up when you wake up.
The conversation was much longer than this, but by the time I woke, it had already evaporated, like dreams do. I did remember to look up miasma, however. Here are some of the definitions:
mi-as-ma: a highly unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapor; a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease; an unwholesome or oppressiveatmosphere; a contagious power that has an independent life of its own; a heavy cloud of something unpleasant or unhealthy; an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt.
Doesn’t it seem as though miasma is what we are experiencing every time we turn on the TV? I can feel it drop down like a dark, heavy cloud of negative energy, the minute the news comes on. Under that cloud, the view looks pretty bleak. The world at large is a mess. The world of politics is nauseating. And perfectly good people, people who don’t even realize they are doing it, are spewing venom and hopelessness!
We are caught in a web of negative energy that we must proactively dispel.
And that doesn’t mean putting a paper bag over our heads. It does mean refusing to be hypnotized by the rhetoric of fear and fury, though. And it does mean, snapping ourselves out of it when we catch ourselves pulled into the fog.
This morning, I drove out to the beach in an act of defiance against miasma. Making the stand to seek out beauty, to seek out joy – that, in and of itself, begins to break miasma’s hold. I was in a great mood before I even got to the ocean.
And I made a little video. I posted the raw footage on Facebook this morning from the beach, so you might have already seen it. But when I came home, I edited a couple of clips together and added some graphics and music to give it a little more zing. Here it is! I hope you enjoy!
Several years ago, I experienced a cluster of dreams, in which I was being schooled in the art of flying by illuminated beings. Angels? Aliens? Subconscious archetypes? Something I ate for dinner? I don’t know, but they were nice.
They showed me how to establish and have expectation around an intention, how to create a particular emotional state (lightness of being, of course), how to practice altering the downward thrust of gravity in my body (“as consciousness rises and becomes less dense, so does your body”), and then how to attune my hands’ sensitivity to the recognition of gravitational energy, so they could push against gravity the way magnets can repel each other. None of this was actually spoken by these beings. They simply conveyed the two-word thought: “Lift up,” which went through my brain-filter in all it’s dense and detailed language and image processing.
In these dreams I also witnessed flight happening all around me. There were hundreds of us in the outdoor school, lifting a few feet off the ground, then gliding back down, then a few feet more, then back down. The more I saw, the more I believed in the possibility.
As my sensitization to the feeling of gravity grew, my first awareness was that of my hands dragging through air, as if it had become the consistency of water. I could feel the weight and pulse of it, the texture of it. Of course, the air hadn’t changed. My consciousness had.
Over time (and through several dreams), I began to notice a shift from dragging through air to pushing it, the way magnets’ matching poles propel away from each other. And from there, I began to lift and direct myself into the sky, being filled with enthusiasm, then gripped by fear and doubt, which tumbled me back to earth. Eventually, I could sustain the joy long enough to hover around the tops of trees.
I would wake from these dreams and feel the experience so strongly in my body, that I would literally get out of bed in the middle of the night with the belief I could do this! I could “lift up!” Alas, I could not.
These nocturnal “lessons” all happened several years ago and then stopped, until the eve of my birthday this year. In this newest dream, I was no longer in school, and I’d forgotten I could fly. But due to an emergency in which I really needed to get some altitude (I’d lost my daughter at a theme park), I had the sudden recollection of my skill set and launched myself far above the treetops to scan the ground, like a hawk in search of dinner. I found my daughter and woke up, exhilarated.
We could have a field day with dream interpretation here, but the analysis, though compelling, was far less captivating to me than the actual physical sensation. I always woke up absolutely certain that physical flight as human beings is possible, because I had done it! I knew the sensation, like I knew the feeling of tossing a ball, climbing stairs, or swimming in a pool.
So, here is where my story shifts from dreamland to my backyard. And no, I did not fly in my backyard.
On my birthday morning, I was sitting on the patio with coffee and journal, writing about my flying dream, talking with Holy Spirit (my name for the Mystery) and asking (don’t laugh), “Is it indeed possible for humans to fly… for me to fly? We hear about yogis who can levitate. Am I, perhaps, being trained through dream work to do something my conscious mind wouldn’t necessarily be open to?”
I pondered and wrote, feeling sheepish, but nevertheless giving some effort to mentally lifting my butt from the seat cushions! After a very short amount of time, though, it became clear to me that no, I’m not yet schooled enough to lift these dense hips and thighs! But perhaps I could lift the leaf resting on a chair across from me? Ha! So I concentrated on the leaf, and within a couple of minutes the wind began to blow like crazy, and leaves began to fall from a nearby tree all over the patio. That one leaf on the chair, though, sat perfectly still.
It was pretty funny, as if Holy Spirit was teasing me, saying, “Seriously, honey. We have a LOT more work to do, but I hear you, and I love you for trying!” My heart became so light I couldn’t stop giggling and feeling a true sense of connection with the wind, the trees, the falling leaves. I was playing with Life, and Life was playing back! It was a perfect birthday present. This old girl still had some young girl in her!
I then heard inside my head, “Turn on your video recorder.” I immediately picked up my phone, zeroed in on that still-dead-still-leaf on the chair across from me, and waited. After fifteen seconds or so, the leaf bobbled. Just once…a little birthday bow.
Laugh, if you will, but I’m on to something. I just know it! 😉
If you have flying dreams, too, please share! What a fun conversation (and maybe a classroom experience) we could have!
Today I want to talk about the practice of JOY. For weeks I have been teetering on some kind of brink in my meditation practice. I have written about this – the hard rock I have come up against inside that is angry, resentful, even hateful – a primal , dark place that I don’t have a rational explanation for, but its power has been my unwillingness to simply look at it because, “Hey, I’m a good person! I don’t have hate!”
Now, I am being shown, not just theoretically but experientially, that we all have EVERYTHING in us. We have what Jung would call “shadow” selves, and those shadows have power because we don’t look at them, because they are hidden. In order to regain our wholeness, we must move the shadow into the light of our compassionate awareness. As I said, I’ve known this theoretically for thirty years or more, and have done this with other shadow selves (sorrow and fear are prime ones). But hate? Oh my goodness! Hate was well hidden.
So I’m looking, and naming. Another tendency is to try to jack-hammer the rocks in our path. The teetering I have been doing is going back and forth between refusing to see/feel this hard rock and alternatively taking a jackhammer to it, attempting to violently blast it out of existence…neither of which has been working.
But today I am remembering the practice of JOY (and capitalizing it to call out its holy elevation beyond a mere emotion). JOYis the river that will move the rock naturally. JOYis a practice and a challenge because we must shift gears to experience it, and there might be an initially uncomfortable, grinding quality in doing so, to allow JOYto touch us in those deep spaces. Why is that so? It may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is JOYis an even more vulnerable emotion than sorrow or fear, and certainly more vulnerable than anger or hate. If you haven’t heard vulnerability researcher Brené Brown talk about the subject of JOY, you can watch it here. She explains it so beautifully.
I have known this for years now, that JOYis medicine, that JOYis a practice… but I forget it all the time. Today, I sat and looked at the dark, cool clouds that might very well drop some rain on our parched ground, and I let JOY grow inside as I appreciated the clouds just as they were. Then I clipped the dead flowers from my geraniums and let JOY grow as I saw the plants seem to smile at me in gratitude for helping them look their best. I wrapped a peach-colored shawl around my shoulders and felt its softness against my skin, and let its color touch my eyes and heart. Simple things. Easy, available things, done intentionally, prayerfully, invitingly, receptively.
“A woman is running from tigers. She runs and she runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds on to it. Then she looks down and sees that there are tigers below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks at the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.” – Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty.
This is such a perfect example of a Zen teaching in its simplicity and its subtle potency. It is my meditation for today.
In all of our lives, there come pockets of time when we are experiencing tigers above and tigers below. I am in one right now. A series of revelations has brought me face to face with the hard, clinging nature of my ego, this fist of self-protection that has cramped into a knot and won’t seem to let go. I feel it in my mind, but I also feel it in my neck and chest and belly.
One of the many lessons I have learned in meditation is that emotions can have long life-spans if they are not allowed to be experienced. I don’t even know what the rational circumstances are behind this fist of fear that has arisen and made itself known. I only know how primal and shameful and terrifying it feels. The meditative path instructs us to simply feel the feeling; drop the storyline and feel the feeling. So that is what I am attempting to do. No commentary, no analysis, no finger-pointing inwardly or outwardly, just experience the emotion. Most of the time when I have done this, the process moves rather quickly, but this particular fist is quite tenacious. I have faith that it will open, though, and I’m practicing the lessons I’ve been taught. I’m breathing with it, and I’m offering myself as much patience in this place as possible.
The challenge today is to seek and enjoy the strawberry, to be with the joy that is also available in the midst of all these raging tigers. This itself is a huge teaching, for instantly we experience just how strong the pull of problem-focus can be! When we are able to turn our attention from the tiger to the strawberry, however, we reconnect with a force within us that is far more potent than any challenge! And we discover that right in front of us, in the very now of life, there is always something sweet to experience – a piece of fruit, a smile, our own continued pulse. When I think of this…as I write this to you…I find that I can breathe a little better.
If you, too, are experiencing tigers above and tigers below, take some comfort in knowing you are not alone! I am right there with you! One of the greatest gifts the tigers have to offer is an expanding compassion for others who are caught in a similar struggle. That compassion flows both ways. As I think about all those around the globe who might be suffering in this emotional way or in another form – as I offer my prayer that your pain be lifted, whatever it may be – my own challenges seem less isolating and more useful, more bearable. This is how we touch.