some mornings i wake writing. now and then i come into self-awareness to find that my mind is lining up words to tell a story. today was one of those days.
recently i had a thought which felt to me like a revelation. about dreaming. simple, yet astonishing to me. i do not remember everything i dream. i do not have conscious access to all of the experiences i have in the dream place. and yet, it's all in there, part of who i am and what i have lived, and it must inform who i am. so i cannot possibly know myself. and because the dream place has such a different scale of time from the waking world, the experiences i have had that i cannot know are possibly (certainly) even larger than the experiences i have been present for. this person who i think of as me, who i think i have been every day of my life -- i do not know a tremendous portion of the experiences which make her who she is. it set me to wondering who i am, and how i could ever know. and i decided, as i usually do, to simply do my best to enjoy it.
in the waking world, we have choices. in the dream place... we simply are who we are. nothing can be hidden or tucked away. it all comes out, our whole life experience and inner emotional world unfurls and elaborates, and i think i have begun to believe that it can interact with others in some ways... but there i am not yet certain. but i do believe i know that in the dream world, we are present in all our everything, and we build worlds from that, and then they build us, in becoming part of the tapestry of our experience.
i had a similar revelation the first time i sat vipassana. i went to the california vipassana center, which teaches in the tradition of mr. goenka; the first sit for a new practitioner must be a 10-day sit. 10 hours a day for 10 days, in silence, no touch no eye contact. i have never really written about my experience there. i can't imagine how to.
there is a story in the yogic tradition. a seeker goes to a holy man and asks what maya is. the holy man tells the seeker to jump into the pond they are standing beside. the seeker does. he climbs out a woman, and lives a long life. marries, bears children who live and die... one day, doing her washing, she falls into the pond. and comes out the seeker, moments after he dove in, the holy man standing before him, smiling. that, says the holy man, is maya.
sitting vipassana was a bit like diving into that pond: a life i lived within this life. and it was a bit like entering consciously into the dream world; i had trouble while i was there, as i have at other times when my meditation runs deep, telling the difference while waking between experiences i had had while dreaming and those had while waking. and it wasn't like either of those things at all.
i will not try to explain how, as if i do thi shall go on forever, and it appears to be getting quite long already, and i have not yet begun to approach the story i woke writing you. so i will leave out the process. but one of the things i discovered there was that all of the love i had ever felt for anyone existed in me, as deeply as it had at the time i held that person most dear. each moment of my experience in some way was still right there, being that moment, untouched by any other. while the relationships may have faded, or great hurts passed between (and those experiences, too, were inside) -- also, all of the love, it was all there. (i think perhaps that this is why some people are unable to be friends with people they have been romantically involved with. and why others are friends with nearly all of them.)
i also learned during that sit what all of my unfinished business was. the mind wants so very much not to be held still in the long silence and meditation; it pulls out everything it can to get you to think rather than focus. so anything unfinished, anywhere it could get me going, all of that was presented by the mind at some point. many of those things were laid to rest right there in the meditation hall; part of the process of the sit was passing through them and working them out, finishing things. tying the loose strings. other things i finished when i got home, or did my best to.
the second time that i sat was different. it was a 3-day sit. less like another life, more like a vacation -- in time/experience, not in ease. on the last night of the sit, i had a dream. someone who i once loved who has now been lost in time, i saw her. she was part of the unfinished business i found during my first sit. we were lovers years ago. and we never really set things aside; suddenly both of our lives just swirled and things shifted. we always intended to come back to one another, there was always talk of it... and then she was too far away, across an ocean, and i couldn't find her anymore. i still know two people from the world in which i knew her, and i tried after the first sit to find her through them. it seemed very important to tell her how much i loved her, how deeply she had affected my life, how grateful i was for her. but my efforts were unsucessful.
i was dating her and her boyfriend when james and i fell in love; my relationship with her was first and deepest, her boyfriend more of a playfriend. the fact that i was having this relationship led james and i from the start to talk about how we wanted to structure our own relationship, and in that way set seeds for much of the way my/our life is today.
james and i found another, and my entire existence was changed. during the time where he and i were acclimating to our new shared life, she got a new job and got enthralled in a new world, and then she moved to marin, and then she took a trip to hawaii that turned into living on maui... and i lost her. i can't find her now. she is a brilliantly changeable being; during the time i knew her she had four different names. i have been told by the people that i still know who knew her that she has been living since she went to maui in a spiritual community with quite strict rules; she's become a hare krishna. quite the shift from the gloriously debauched witch who seduced me. it sounded like her life had taken her places, perhaps, where the thank-you i wanted to give her would no longer mean to her what it did to me. and really, in the end, i think i had to admit to myself that i wanted to thank her because i wanted to see her. because i miss her. because i love her. we never decided to let go; there was just this swirl of life, and she was gone. she is the only person i have loved who feels lost to me. i long for her. and i know that she is almost certainly not know who she was then, and that the person i long for is not now, and is not quite who i knew then, either; that i what i long for is something i have created in my mind. (those is the gifts she gave me, i think; keys to some doors it took me a while to learn to use, and this dream/memory of her).
so, the last night of the second sit, i saw her. in my dreaming, she was there. it was the dream world, shifting and changing as i moved in it, and she was a wild caricature of the woman i had loved, and yet she was every bit herself. i woke understanding at last why people say that they are so comforted by visitation in dreams of loved ones who have left their bodies, who have died. i woke feeling i had been with her, and in the dream while i did not say it, i felt i had conveyed to her what i wanted to say, what she meant to me, the pivotal place she held in my life, and how i adored and admired her wild freedom. how sorry i was that i had been so afraid and pained by the newness, vastness, and complexity of her world when she pulled me into it.
last night, i saw her again. i have been sick for a couple of days, sleeping only a couple hours at a time, waking to steam my head so i can go back to sleep. late last night i finally fell into a deep sleep, and slept for hours.
james and i were living in the apartment i lived in when i first moved to san francisco. with some of the same people, and some different. i walked into our room -- and there she was. she looked very different, very simple, none of the crazy drama of the time i knew her. and i asked if it was her, and she said yes, and i stepped toward her and put my hands on her shoulders, and turned her around and saw the tattoo on her arm, and knew it was her, and kissed it. and continued kissing her.
the friend who was with her when i walked into the room simply melted away, and james, who had been entertaining them before i arrived, slipped off to hang out with the folks in the kitchen. (later he came back with a delicious meal he had cooked for us while we rolled in one another's arms. the meal consisted in part of chocolate-covered bumblebees and honey to dip them in. even in my dreams, he brings me magic.)
there was some aspect of integration taking place. people from my life during the first/"real" time i lived in that place (which was before i knew her) were there, and people from my life now, and of course james (who knew her but never as well as either of them wished; we were always running into one another and saying "we must ---"); it was an open-structured place and people would pass through the room or i would be out in another room for a while, and then again i would be in her arms.
there was a time where the dream had ended and i was not yet fully awake. where i knew i had had this dream, and felt as always the warmth of james naked beside me in the new day, and noticed that i could breathe now. i felt enormous joy, and sunk again into unknowingness. when i rose again into my conscious mind, it was writing this story, so i sat at my desk and let my hands finish. it's about love, and time, and who we are. or at least i think it is. i think at the core it's about how little we can know, or how little i begun to realize i can. and how utterly amazing it is to be alive, trying to figure out what that is, catching glimpses of things between the mountains and in the water and inside myself and others.