I’d been out of sorts for the past couple of days, and so I went to bed early, allowing my guest, exhausted as she was from long travel, to dive under the covers too. The dream came on quickly, swallowing me up in its awesome maw…lost, panicked, empty, I ran from home to home, from country to country, situation to situation, looking for refuge and finding none. I dreamed of three beautiful black babies; each had a strange device inserted into the mouth which connected them to their mother, who monitored them closely although she was far away. Oh, how I wished I could change places with these happy and secure infants! I flitted through smoky nightclubs and saw stoned and drunk party animals frenziedly changing dance partners; I wove in and out of them like a ghost, longing to flee but unable to find the door that led outside. The nightmare went on, as my big epical dreams usually do, and I continued to fall into the hands of shallow, fickle humans with glittering false smiles and hidden agendas. Worst of all was the feeling of being a puppet with no smidgen of control over my thoughts, emotions or actions. Dread threw her thin cold arms around me and I wondered in a daze of sorrow why I should continue to live. Suddenly I was utterly exhausted; I knew I had to sleep, and yet I shied away from doing so, not wishing to wake up to another day of soul-chilling angst. The dread was so thick and fearsome that it actually woke me up—and thank god for that!!!
The first words that came to my waking consciousness were those of Ramana Maharshi, the great sage of south India: Whatever comes and goes is not real. My satguru was reminding me that the ephemeral is not worth focusing on—except as a warning about the inherent vacuity of a life lived chasing egoic pleasure. Those who give up the preciousness of their lives for “a mess of pottage” as the ancient saying goes, those who chase fragile bubbles, those who repeat behaviors that can never make us happy for longer than a day, a week, a year, a decade, are those who also never fuse with what is an inextricable part of their nature, what Ramana again calls the “real”—that which is permanent and lasting, existence-consciousness and bliss, the Self. I showered and sat down to meditate; wisps of the dream flashed through my mind and disappeared into the nothingness from where they had come, and I focused on what was “real” within me.
During my years in Manhattan I used to write down my dreams/nightmares in a journal, distinguishing between what the shamans called the Big and the Little Dreams. The little dreams I let go quickly, but the big dreams I accepted as messages from my higher power, warnings, reassurances, whatever. Now I wondered again, why had this particular dream come to me now?
I believe it was triggered by a message I received from a friend in the West who has never been able to come to terms with her relative situation. It doesn’t matter how many friends tell her that she must first accept her situation before it can resolve itself—she howls about how hard she has it, and honestly believes that some man is going to arrive on a white charger and whisk her away to a life of bright pleasure. It also does not matter how many times she goes through this same situation and comes out at the other end, broken and defeated; she has not been able to stop herself from pursuing this elusive dream of happiness with another. Einstein’s powerful words—that we are insane to repeat the same behavior endlessly and to expect different results—and which I have transmitted to her several times, have not percolated down to her bones and marrow. And so she repeated her old behavior with yet another shallow lover and broke down again; as she gave me the details, I prayed that one day she would realize that that which comes and goes can never give us the peace and happiness we seek.
Does this mean we cannot seek meaningful relationships? Not at all! Little beats the terrific company of good friends who share our values and goals as we walk the narrow path to liberation, comforting and helping us disentangle ourselves from the demons of desire and fear that keep us spinning in a crazy cycle. But to be attracted to those who are shallow and dishonest, to those who demean us by not honoring who we truly are, and then to follow these temptations blindly despite past experience, is to waste our precious lives. Long ago, Gautama Buddha said: if you do not find a mate who is your equal or better than you, it is best to tread the solitary path—one does not find comfort with fools.
I think my dream was reminding me of how far I have come from my own early madness, when I too sought solace in the ephemeral. But if we look around our world with a clear and dispassionate eye, it is not difficult to see that what the worldly crave—mainly wealth, material and political power, beauty and fame—are like soap bubbles that must sooner or later burst in our faces, making us cry. It is the simple and profound human who is now my hero, who lives the essential life but is absorbed in the grandeur of the Self, which is no less than immortal bliss.
Greetings from Arunachala this cloudy morning, the sacred hill that vows to destroy all that keeps us from knowing that in essence we are nothing less than the shining and magnificent Divine!