tarantula

I run a taxi service for the disabled and elderly near my high school.

I deliver an elderly couple to their nearby home and help them inside with their luggage. The man discusses his heart surgery.

A strange “creature” is perched on the window sill. Similar in size and shape to a kitchen sponge, only having the appearance and flexibility of a slice of jelly. No other features. I am aware that it is the product of the death of a tarantula, a kind of metamorphosis.

The creature leaps off the sill and onto the man’s bare back. He and his wife are familiar with the creature, and explain that it causes or exacerbates diseases such as cancer.

The creature jumps away, and then onto the woman’s arm. She is in a panic. I am surprised that she doesn’t simply brush it off, but it becomes apparent that it doesn’t work that way – the creature will only let go of its own accord.

December, 2018

the nothing

I am standing on a dusty playing field in a remote mountain setting somewhere in the developing world. Local children are scattered around. I see a frisbee descending to the ground ahead of me and consider taking it on my walk. When it lands I notice that it is a heavy wooden object, not flat like a frisbee but awkwardly shaped. I decide against taking it, for fear that I will lose control of it and be unable to return it to the children.

I become aware that I only listened to the first half of a voicemail from earlier this morning. I retrieve it again and see the caller’s image as I listen, a short, solid, brown-skinned man of around fifty. Wild hair, animalistic in appearance, apparently a senior figure in this community, a shaman perhaps. In the missed portion of his voicemail he advises that a special woman has summoned me to meet with her at a particular time this morning. She is some kind of guru, an oracle, someone held in deep spiritual reverence amongst the people in this place. She is insistent that I see her to receive her assistance. Having only now received her invitation, I have missed the meeting. The shaman is angry with me. I feel his anger hissing in the air around me.

I run to the boundary of the field and exit via a small gate. I proceed in a series of exaggerated frog jumps towards a woman in the distance. She is of similar appearance to the shaman and reminds me of a woman I worked with a decade ago in the waking world. She seems to be an assistant to the oracle, or perhaps a disciple. She is irate, incensed that I would be so foolish, ungrateful and disrespectful as to miss a meeting with the oracle. Such meetings are apparently rare and of profound significance.

As I arrive by the side of this woman a strange phenomenon stirs into action. In the mid-distance ahead of us a deep, pervasive darkness is dispersing across the landscape. It is reminiscent of “The Nothing” from Michael Ende’s novel The Neverending Story, less a darkness than an absolute void, a kind of antimatter so devoid of substance that it wounds the eyes and the soul just to look in its direction. The void is pluming out like heavy clouds of smoke, accompanied by its voice, the savage, sadistic, blood-thirsty growl of a wolf.

This is a scene of pure, relentless terror. As we stand there the void is accelerating towards us, the growling growing ever louder and more depraved. The experience takes on the proportions of an altered state of consciousness, where the approaching doom is perceived less by the outward-facing senses than it is as a swirling physical and metaphysical process within the substrate of the mind-body continuum. As it becomes impossibly loud and impossibly close I begin to wonder if in fact this void was never outside of myself to begin with, that it has rather arisen from some place hidden deep within me and now becomes “closer” and “louder” not by approaching from without but by swelling to fill my body from within. This helps to explain the profound sense of terror, too, for the feared attack is not an impending threat from the outside but is rather actual and live within me.

The fear is indescribably intense. My consciousness is shot through with the sense that this unearthly darkness will at any moment manifest physically into the wolf-like creature that its voice suggests and my companion and I will be torn to shreds. Our gruesome death is imminent. My companion, for her part, is not coping at all. She is yelling and screaming and crying in a desperate and futile attempt to escape the grip of this terrifying force. For my part, I am coexisting in two opposing frames of being. On the one hand the terror has compressed and frozen my energy body into a dense, rigid column, quivering erratically at high frequency, with localised volcanic storms of emotional activity. On the other, the overwhelm and the profound vulnerability is driving a subtle but unambiguous resolve to stand my ground. The irrepressibility of the terror has broken my resistance to death. I have been forced to accept and hand myself over to the possibility that this violence is a distortion of my perception, or a deliberate play on behalf of some benevolent entity to fortify my spirit through a baptism of fire, that whatever the case it may not actually kill me, not the whole of me; that the things that might most profoundly bring one alive will most often begin life as objects of terrible pain, confusion and loss of bearings, even as abject nightmares.

This perspective does not, however, fill me with hope or a sense of power. I stand in a state of ferocious surrender. Perhaps I could describe the emergent psychological state as one of Faith. Suffused by a logical and visceral certainty that my body and soul are moments away from violent obliteration, I stand, held up only by a previously undiscovered filament of psychic material within my core, something so new and apparently independent of the rest of me and of my predicament that I barely recognise it as, in fact, my fundamental self, a kind of quantum string that gives birth with each moment to my surface existence but does not depend on the integrity of that surface for its own resilience. It does nothing to take away my fear, it simply sits alongside, unperturbed, and holds me in place as the storm rages around and through me.

Held in the torrid embrace of such psyche-bending opposing forces, the Terror and the Faith, both of which are in themselves fundamentally novel in my 37 years of life, I whimper like a child, breathless, “I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I welcome you. I welcome you. I welcome you.” I am momentarily conscious of my companion, fretting and screaming in anger, and worry that she will undermine my attempt to welcome this pregnant form of death. But I quickly determine that she is irrelevant, that I must focus only on my own energy without distraction, that I can and must carry the both of us.

Finally, as this shadowy maelstrom descends ever more impossibly deep towards and within me, I muster the heart to issue a humble invitation. “Be with us, in love. Be with us, in love.” With this, the chaos lifts to a final crescendo. There is no space left for words or thoughts or hopes or regret. The whole of my awareness is growling and darkness and fear and Faith and horrific death. In the final moment, even these are swept away as obliteration arrives.

And then, Breakthrough.

I find myself in a maloca, the traditional ceremonial building used by natives of the Amazon. The ceiling is a series of overlapping triangular canvases, which gently suffuse the morning sunlight. In the centre is a middle-aged white woman, lying on her back on a mat, as if in ceremony. I watch as she opens her eyes and comes to standing. She walks with levity on the balls of her feet, her knees bent, in silence, towards two women waiting in support. Her affect and the atmosphere in the space are filled with a delightful feeling of freshness and vitality.

21 December, 2017

church, Eiffel Tower, survival skills

This is a long dream entry, and perhaps not especially exciting to the reader. But the felt sense was very elevated, excited, ambitious, and primitive. And the trajectory of events is quite curious.

I find myself working in an unusual church. A service will shortly begin. The staff seem very confused and disorganised. The woman in charge, in particular, seems to lack any skill or sense of purpose.

The service starts before we are ready. A hymn begins, but the congregation is missing hymn books and stumble awkwardly over the words.

I glance around the space. The church is a mess. The fittings are outdated and in disrepair. I ponder how the space could be updated, painted, decorated. And how the community could be reinvigorated through improved services, activities and community engagement. I feel a keen enthusiasm for the task. What if I were to raise my hand to plan a refurbishment of the church? It seems an unlikely role for an agnostic like myself, but somehow feels right.

The building is an enormous rectangular box, more akin to a warehouse than a church. The ceiling is perhaps twenty metres above. The walls and ceiling are flat, concrete, painted white, and mostly free from decoration.

Along one of the building’s long walls are bookcases reaching almost to the ceiling, filled with old books that appear to have gone untouched for decades. I imagine relocating most of these into storage. It seems pointless to leave them there gathering dust and cluttering the space. But perhaps, I wonder, they have a purpose I’m unaware of. Maybe they are important to the community. I need to be cautious and respectful. Yet it does seem excessive, and the upper shelves are clearly inaccessible.

“I presume this is used as some sort of library?”, I ask the manager. She seems to sense my interest in making changes, and finds this idea suspicious.

I notice that the opposite long wall of the building, where the entrance is located, has wall to wall glass windows along its upper half, allowing a tremendous glow of natural light. I notice an obscure metal structure through the windows, partially shading the building. I am again filled with excitement at the possibilities for re-enchanting this space.

At this moment the tone and perspective of the dream shifts.

I find myself outside the church, ascending skyward along an arc as if carried by an enormous Ferris wheel with its base station at the church. I notice that the church is situated between the legs of the Eiffel Tower, which rises high into the sky above.

My trajectory soon becomes horizontal. I am relaxed and tired. I am hovering metres above a freeway, my face poking out of a little window in the cabin. A couple in a car below gesture to me to keep my head inside.

I suddenly realise that the cabin is no longer tethered to the Ferris wheel and I need to control it. I pull over on the freeway and consult a laptop, which I sense has led me the wrong way.

At this moment the dream shifts again into an entirely new setting.

I am in the Australian desert. Two indigenous Australians sit at a distance from each other, each with his own fire. I notice they are cooking chunks of wood which, when heated, crack open to reveal an edible core. I have some, too, however mine seem inedible, or else I do not have a fire to prepare them over.

I ask one of the men if I can use his fire, or have some of his food. I feel vulnerable, and humble. I feel I need help, that help is necessary, but that it is wrong for me to depend entirely on the man.

The man is sucking on the last half inch of a cigarette of sorts. He offers it to me, smiling, and suggests in a friendly manner that I go and make my own fire, and that I will know what to do.

I walk a little way, sucking gently on the cigarette to keep it alight. I feel excited to be venturing to learn this new skill, to look after myself in the wild, to reinhabit the animal in me. Though I am conscious that I really don’t know what to do.

I find a patch of mossy ground and set myself down. I understand the moss to be essential for the creation of a proper fire. I am lacking firewood, however. I see shrubbery nearby, but this is no good.

I return to the man for his guidance. He advises gently but firmly that I will need to search for it. He suggests searching over by the other man. I feel excited to have to really work for my own survival. I reflect on the likelihood that, although I will lose weight, I will feel strong.

I notice a small group of white people nearby. I suspect they may be put out by my endeavours, that they might expect me to return to help them. But I continue unperturbed.

My final memory, as I search for wood, is coming across a jovial chap, leading some sort of indigenous dancing ceremony.

January 2019

surrender

I am witnessing an aircraft experiencing critical difficulties, a life-long recurrent motif. It is spinning along its horizontal axis as it comes down. I notice it has rotors on top like a helicopter, and wonder why I’ve never seen such a plane, and what purpose it serves.

The plane finally makes a controlled crash landing over the sea, and the whole scene shifts. I am now lying, closed eyes, “asleep” and lucid. As I wake I found myself lying on a triangle of pavement in the middle of the road, a pedestrian crossing, by a roundabout in a local shopping strip. A few concerned onlookers approach cautiously from different directions.

Two animals also arrive together from across the road, a small dog and another unusual creature, something like a Staffordshire Terrier only with shorter legs and the rounded body of a panda. Both of them are a beautiful copper red.

Although they bring me an initial sense of peace, the panda dog soon has my hand in its mouth and is clamping down hard. I can feel it with real-life fidelity. When I resist, attempting to pull away, the animal holds firm. When I relax my hand, hoping that the dog will respond to my calmness in kind, he clenches his teeth even more firmly and the pain deepens. I try both strategies a number of times. Although pulling my hand away is less painful, as the dog only holds his grip here rather than strengthening it, it somehow seems an unsatisfactory course of action. My intention is to be free of the dog, not be held in its grip indefinitely while my energy ebbs away from the combination of pain and resistance. Something in me keeps saying that, despite the pain of relaxing my hand and allowing the animal to bite ever harder, this is the way. There are two possible eventualities: he continues biting harder and harder until he tears my fingers off, in which case I am disabled but free; or at a certain point, if I can practice supreme surrender, the pain will cease, the physicality of my hand and his mouth will dissolve into the spacious energetic clouds they really are, and whether or not I remain in his grip will not matter as the whole predicament of our entanglement melts into nothingness. This is the route I take, and soon enough my surrender delivers the dissolution I am seeking. And the dream opens into a world of wonderment I cannot readily translate.

5 December, 2017

fronds

the dreaming sent me
a wise man
with a weather-worn face
the warmest eyes
the truest smile.

and he told me this:

“we must live life
with our fronds swept out
behind our heads
not out in front of our faces
shielding us from the Wind.”

the felt sensation of the dream was clear.
life exists in the friction between
our body and its environment.
life is the hum of Relationship.
to shield one’s face from the Wind
is to starve oneself of Life.

20 October, 2018

the dreaming

I sigh, and plead with hoped-for allies,
for tools, knowledge, skills,
for wit, charm, poise;

for passion;

for some unique quality and confidence and persuasiveness
of voice or regard or movement or thought or turn of phrase;

for humility;

all this to honour the deep-felt call
to channel the surging waters of the dreaming
out across the overworld,
out into all life, the still and the moving,
out into the hearts and minds of the vast hive of humanity
with such a clear voice
that they might see me…
… for my dreams are the deepest me I’ve found;

and that, in seeing me,
they might also see something new
of their own depth,
of a shared story…
… for I know that the dreaming is more than a perplexing self-portrait,
I know that the collective births the individual – not the opposite –
and that the dreaming is its voice;

however, though I clamber for these things…

in my clearer moments,
often when exhaustion, like an ocean,
has smoothed the shards of broken self
and I am a humming truce of all the perfect, warring elements;

I cease to believe
that what I seek is what I need,
that what I need can be sought;

I see that the dreaming needs,
and will allow,
no translation;

I see that my task is only to release my grip
and allow the dreaming to burn wild within me,
in the movement of the day,
as it does in the stillness of the night,
and to speak for itself.

2018