Monday, 15 January 2018

A Happy Waking Dream About Teaching A Class

 photo courtesy of

So often we feel pummeled by life. Even when we are trying to live by spiritual tenets, it’s usually a course correction that causes us to refocus if our attention has begun to drift and we’ve reverted to old, unhelpful habits. When we receive course-correction messages, as often as not, they’re unpleasant. As I’ve posted repeatedly on this blog, they come in the form of waking dreams—nudges that remind us that we’ve veered off of our desired path, or prompts that urge us into a new direction. And so often, there is an element of abruptness associated with these communications. They are trying hard to get our attention, and they do so by jolting us in some way—usually by surprising us.

But not all waking dreams are like that, and it is a supreme pleasure when I can pass along a different kind of waking dream experience, one that is delightful. Waking dreams not only warn us if we’ve strayed, they also congratulate us when we are doing things right. This is the classic scenario that Joseph Campbell referred to so often when he said, “Follow your bliss, and doors will open where there were only walls.” What he meant was that, if you are truly, firmly and solidly on your spiritual path, opportunities will come your way in unexpected and almost magical fashion.

The waking dream this week is an example of that phenomenon. It was shared by an individual of retirement age who has devoted his lifetime to teaching metaphysical and spiritual principles.

A dream about a surprising opportunity
I’ve been teaching courses in spirituality my entire adult life. I’ve always had wonderful turnout. But lately, I’ve watched as attendance has dwindled. Finally, the last time I advertised that I was offering a class, no one signed up.

I can’t say that I was overly concerned. All of us on the spiritual journey have periods when we are in the role of sharing outwardly. Then there are equally important times of quiet and meditation. I thought, perhaps, it was time for me to go within for a while. But I was perplexed because, up until then, I had the sense that I was being prepared for an even larger role as a teacher.

Then, my wife and I went on a house-hunting expedition. She has always wanted to live by the water, and since we are both retired, this seemed like a good time to pursue the possibility. We booked a B & B in one of these quaint, tiny, unlikely coastal towns and prepared to go snooping around.

When we arrived, our hostess told us about a talk being given that evening. We were tired and wanted to beg off, but I agreed to go. There were three of us carpooling: me, my hostess and a woman who is a chef. During our conversation, I told them what I did, and was amazed to witness the wheels start turning. Before the evening was over, my hostess had organized a gathering during which I was to lecture, and the chef was going to prepare a meal of dim sum for everyone. 20 people came to my talk!

More on Wednesday

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A Bee Sting On The Face: Concluding Post

 photo courtesy of

Last week I introduced the concept of the totem--the idea that an animal will appear and deliver a timely message. In that series of posts the animals were ants. This week, I have followed up with a series of posts about a bee behaving in an uncharacteristic fashion. When one thinks of totems, these are not the first creatures that come to mind. Hawks or eagles landing breathtakingly close. A wolf appearing out of nowhere and offering herself as the subject in a private showing. Or, as once happened to me during a camping trip in Colorado, three deer romping and playing with each other in the snow like puppies. Those are the kinds of sightings we most often associate with totems.

The fact is, anything and everything is a totem. This blog is about dreaming. We dream when we are asleep and are experiencing periods of REM (rapid eye movement). But as has been stated and exemplified so many times in this column, we do not stop dreaming when we awaken from sleep. The same metaphoric communication goes on without interruption our whole lives. At night, the casts of characters are images that we seemingly invent from our own imaginations. During the day, the casts change to images that are brought to us from "real" life. These latter images are made up of the things we see and experience as we go about the business of our daily routines.

But the process is identical. Even though it seems as if "real" life is more ordered and predictable, beneath the surface, it is an experience that is as surreal as the dreams we have during sleep. Whenever we need a message delivered to us, life presents us with an image. The image may seem reasonably normal and understandable--like stepping off a curb and being nearly sideswiped by a car. This kind of occurrence is common enough that, although it is upsetting, nevertheless, we know that it can happen.

At other times the images are truly bizarre and unexpected--like a bee stinging someone when the insect should be hibernating. All these experiences--with cars or bees or ants, or with anything--are the dreams we have when we're wide awake; they are our waking dreams which come to us as totems. And just as we can grab pen and paper and interpret the symbols of our sleeping dreams--the ones that we most often have at night--so we can do the same with our waking dreams. The messages will be equally powerful and equally poignant.

Friday, 12 January 2018

A Bee Sting On The Face: Post #3

 photo courtesy of

This week I’ve been writing about how I was stung while walking in the woods in Vermont in late October. The weather was cold—easily in the 40s—and the likelihood of this incident taking place was small. Bees don’t function well in cold weather, and this one ought to have been hibernating. Instead, using powers and abilities that I could not even begin to understand, it “attacked” me when I had done nothing to provoke it.

As I explained in Wednesday’s post, the “attack” was not intended as a belligerent act, rather, its purpose was to teach me. A question I asked myself for months afterwards was, “Why was it necessary to be so extreme? Wasn’t there a gentler way for it to inform me of my error? After all, I was approaching my task of examining the perimeter of my 50-acre farm in total sincerity, from the depths of my heart.

The truth is, the warnings and communications were coming more gently; I just wasn’t able to hear them yet; I needed more experience and training. So the elementals finally delivered a message that I couldn’t help but be aware of.

The whole incident—comical in retrospect—reminds me of my favorite parable: A seeker found a guru with whom he felt great affinity and bonding. He became a renunciate, giving up his whole lifestyle and all of his worldly possessions, with the exception of a scant few necessary articles of clothing and his donkey. However, when he was finally ensconced in the guru’s ashram, he noticed that his donkey was becoming more and more intransigent every day. He tried everything he could think of to get it to do what he wanted. He coaxed it with sweet words. When that didn’t work, he tried threats. Then he went to bribes with treats. And finally, he resorted to kicking the animal. At last, he simply gave up and went to his guru, pleading for help. The guru chided him for his foolish methods, explaining that the only way to gain the donkey’s cooperation was to treat him with love. “Come,” said the guru, “I will show you.”

So the two went to the donkey, and immediately, the guru started looking around until he found a huge piece of timber lying on the ground. It was so massive he could barely lift it, but he finally succeeded, and when he did, he brought it crashing down squarely onto the donkey’s head.

The seeker was aghast! “Master! Master!” he wailed. “What are you doing? You told me you’d gain the donkey’s cooperation through love!” “And so I will, my son,” replied the guru. “But first, I had to get his attention.”

We are all like that donkey! We go about life absorbed in our little, narrow worlds, usually unaware of the blessings and communications that are constantly coming our way. They are always benevolent, even if they appear to be destructive; even if they bring hardship and suffering. (We’ll discuss those issues more another time.) In my case, I was simply deaf to the assistance I was receiving, even though I was certain that I was understanding it.

We’ll finish this tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A Bee Sting On The Face: Post #2

 photo courtesy of medicalnewstodaycom

On Monday, I began relating an experience I had 25 years ago on a farm in Vermont. I had begun my metaphysical studies, and was sure of what I knew and how to handle the "inner realms." As with all of us who have a decent amount of book learning but not much practical experience, my over-confidence was about to get me into trouble. I had been walking the perimeter of my farm--this in late autumn--checking to see that all was well. I wanted to do this in a mindful way, staying in tune with the elementals who are responsible for the natural world and can offer important insights about the needs of the local animal and plant populations. If one is tuned into these beings and their message, it can be of great assistance.

The trouble was that I understood what I was supposed to be doing, but didn't really have the necessary skills to go about it correctly. I kept making an effort to communicate with these natural entities. I would silently send them a message or ask them a question, and without a doubt, the response would come back to me. The trouble was that the response was coming from my own brain; I was making it all up.

Probably in some frustration, the elementals did, finally, communicate with me in a way that was unquestionably not from my own head: They sent a totem. It was an animal capable of delivering the very message I most needed to hear, namely, that I wasn't succeeding in what I had set out to do.

The animal was a bee which somehow came out of hibernation in late October in northern New England, and stung me on the face. What seems so comically obvious now was shocking and upsetting at the time. Here I was, being particularly conscientious, going out of my way to include the inner realms in my work. Instead, from my perspective at the time, I was abused and maligned. There was no question in my mind that I had received a message from the "world of the fairies." I just could not understand why they were being so cruel to me.

These days I just laugh and shake my head at my own naivete. It seems amazing to me now, but it took me over a year of periodic pondering to finally understand that all the elementals were trying to do was get my attention so that I could correct something that I was doing wrong.

Yes, now I laugh. But there is something else I do as well: I send thanks. Any time a bee uses its stinger, it dies, and from a purely outer-world perspective, this bee had no cause to sacrifice itself. I was not disturbing a  nest or invading a special territory; I was simply walking in the woods. Yet this bee came out of seeming-nowhere in brisk, nearly-frigid weather, and stung me. Not only did it behave uncharacteristically for its species, but it gave its life to help me. It became my teacher, offering me a lesson that has stayed with me ever since. I am eternally grateful to it.

More on Friday.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A Bee Sting On The Face

 photo courtesy of

I want to continue last week’s discussion of totems, and how animals appear in our lives when they have a message to deliver. For that reason, my posts this week won’t follow a typical pattern.

In general, when we think of totems, we imagine eagles or wolves or other exotic and rare creatures that we are unlikely to encounter in the course of a normal day. Yet any animal can act as a totem. In our modern parlance, a totem is the same thing as a waking dream symbol. With that understanding, it gives us an advantage: If we know how to work with dream symbols, we can easily figure out what the totem message is.

And to repeat a point that was made last week in our examination of the waking dream about ants, animal totems are willing to die to get their message delivered. To them, the difference between being killed for food and giving their lives to assist life forms in other ways is negligible.

The example I’d like to use this week is a waking dream that happened to me in the early 1990s. I was living in Vermont on a 50-acre farm, and its care was my responsibility. I had been studying metaphysics for a few years, and was overconfident. In fact, I was sure of myself to the point of arrogance. I understood the idea that someone in charge of a farm is also the spiritual custodian of the land and its habitat, and I took this responsibility seriously.

Every autumn it was important to walk the perimeter of the property and make certain that all of the “No Hunting” signs were still intact; weather, wear-and-tear, and occasionally, vandalism tended to take their toll, and many signs had to be secured and replaced.

I had been working with Sufi geomancers and had been studying the elementals—they’re called “fairies” in more archaic parlance—and set about to walk the perimeter of my property (a half day event on 50 acres) staying in touch with these beings. It is their job to oversee the natural environment, and I wanted to be in tune with them and do things in accordance with what they thought was best for the land.

The trouble was that my intention was more of an idea than it was based on any experience or actual psychic communication. I was sending out thoughts that I believed—rather naively and arrogantly—were a communication with the elementals. In fact, I was just communicating with my own brain.

About half way through my perimeter survey, I was walking along, feeling “in charge,” when suddenly, a bee came out of nowhere, and stung me on my face. Keep in mind, this was late October in Vermont, and bees had gone into hibernation weeks ago.

I was stunned. Shocked. Mortified. My pride was wounded. I was perplexed and confused. And my left cheek was swelling up and painful. I could not understand why I had been so hurtfully treated when I had gone out of my way to be considerate of the elementals. After all, who else would have been so “in tune” with nature?

More on Wednesday.

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