Thursday, 10 October. Once I dreamt the inscription on my tombstone: “Here Lies Annie, Who Never Did Anything.” In the dream, I was walking with my friend Margot, a woman I met soon after settling in England for Chet’s last tour of duty. We were on our way to someone’s house to meet with other women and talk about recipes. The picture of the tombstone flashed through my mind.
I felt resentful and sullen when I woke up — I don’t like being reminded that I have never made anything of myself in the world; then I remembered that the dream’s atmosphere had been one of sunny contentment. I was puzzled. There I was walking through eternity a happy woman and at the same time meeting the fierce judgement of death.
I want to keep my journal from now on in a different way — no more ripping out of pages because I don’t like what I have written.
The year I turned forty was a period of intense openness for me. I had anticipated since my teens that I would know fundamental change when I reached forty, and my expectations were fulfilled as if they had been drawn for an architect’s blueprint. I met Margot; I read the teachings of don Juan. I don’t think often about the teachings now, but they remain a matrix for the changes that take place in my life. The teachings — along with the help of another friend, Rosemary — nudged me toward dreaming. The teachings urged me to consult with my death as an advisor and live with the impeccable abandon of the warrior. The teachings introduced me to the curious concept of “not-doing.”
Perhaps “not-doing” is what my dream was all about. There is a difference between “not-doing” and not accomplishing. “Not-doing” is a state in which I relinquish my need to be in control of the environment. I am neither passive nor inactive, but take cues from the situation itself. I am attentive to my feelings and physical responses and I act according to them, released from preconceptions and plans.
I am the mother of four children. The youngest is Paul, and his lifetime coincides with the search I began, when he was an infant, for the worthwhile and purposeful work I would do when he was grown. Now I want to be released from this search, declining ambition, embracing introspection, and burying ugliness as deep as it will go. I don’t want to “do” anything any more.
Friday, 11 October. I dream I am in a classroom with tiered seats curving around a stage at the front of the room, like the science lecture room at the community college, or like a movie theater.
In the dream, my cousin, Bea, is sitting to my left with one person between us. The teacher makes several comments about Bea’s work and then tells her to come up to the front of the room to pick it up.
Bea’s work is not good enough.
Bea steps over the legs of the person between us and then squeezes in front of me. I have stood up to let her by. As she passes me, I mumble a sarcastic remark about how inept she is. Enraged, she attacks me like a ferocious animal. I struggle with her. Before someone pulls her off, she cuts me with a knife.
At first I am astonished. I stand quietly and watch my surroundings in silence. I feel grateful to have gotten away with my life. Then, just as I am about to leave the room, I decide to go to Bea and question her. Now she is sitting with her sister at a table in a large, white, kitchen-like room, talking about ordinary things. When I interrupt her, she looks at me with the weary, burdened look I have seen on her in recent years, though she is as pretty as ever. She wears the simple, innocent expression of a child. I tell her, “You acted like a five-year-old. It’s true, I acted like a teenager by saying what I did; but you acted like a five-year-old.” As I speak to her, a feeling of superiority grows in me. Though I was the one injured, I now have the upper hand by conducting this talk with her. On my right forearm there are three long, deep, parallel cuts, oozing blood. I am going to bed now and when Chet sees this, I will have to tell him what happened. Finally I ask her, “Why did you do this?” She stands up and says to me vigorously, “As a reminder that we hate each other. So we won’t go around pretending we like each other.”
Before I go to bed, I walk through a dark room cluttered with large furniture. The room is like the European living room that is used for many purposes, with a covered table in the center, a sideboard, and flowered curtains. I tidy a few objects and think to myself, “If everyone would do a little bit, like this, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
My inner Bea is perfect in every way. Sometimes she controls me with her drive to be the conventional, always accommodating woman. I am glad when the teacher (is it life?) embarrasses her by revealing her mistakes. She makes one last attack on me, trying to kill me; but I gain the upper hand. I recognize the origin of her childishness in my first- and second-grade self. As I write, memories appear of school photographs of myself. I was such a good, well-behaved girl.
No, I don’t understand. I don’t know why the image of Bea, my inner childish obedience, has appeared in this dream at this time. Maybe it’s because I was always deeply respectful toward adults. Even now, in middle age, I am that way. But circumstances have changed. I must “put away the things” of this child in me. To do what needs to be done, I can no longer be merely respectful, deferential, and obedient.
Saturday, 12 October. In the dream of Bea’s work, the large, cluttered room is my mind. It is a comfortable and homey place. “I,” the one who takes action, am the only one who can keep it tidy. This “I” is the same “I” who exists in the world. I see the world through my own eyes, in an individual way. If what I see is a world that needs to be tidied, then it is my responsibility to make sure that the job gets done. This is my private vision. I can ask others to help me fulfill that vision, but I can’t expect them to have the same vision.
Sunday, 13 October. I have felt at odds with Chet since Thursday morning. I think this is because on Wednesday I withdrew deeply into myself to write. When I withdraw, he comes after me; he pays more attention to me than usual, and this aggravates me. When I woke up this morning, I saw this problem of not wanting to move toward him, not wanting to get up, not wanting to do anything.
Last night Chet dreamt that he kept a slave on a long tether in the back yard. The slave was strong and powerful. Standing just outside the range of the slave’s tether, Chet called to him and ordered him to bring his water dish to be filled. The slave looked like himself, he said; but he was dark and dirty-looking because he lived outside. Then Chet was tired and lay on the ground, but he continued to give the slave orders. As the slave approached, Chet saw that he had broken loose from his tether.
To me, Chet’s dream is about the dissipation of his “I” energy; his “I” feels tired and lies down on the ground. The slave who looks so much like himself is his dreambody, his eternal and total self, the one he was before he was born and the one he will be after he dies. It is all of himself that has been kept unconscious, and now he has reached the stage in his life where the unconscious dimensions of his experience will insist on making themselves known.
In and out of sleep this morning, I wondered what it would be like to let go of all “I” energy and follow the summons of the dreambody. I don’t feel it is so terrible that I can’t move toward Chet right now. I see his disappointment, but things will change.
Monday, 14 October. It is 9:20 a.m., on one of my two days off this week. How shall I spend my time? The house needs to be cleaned. A decision needs to be made on my relationship with the past. Invitations are constantly being made to examine my behavior in light of the past. I am in pain. I look for a way to escape pain rather than to go deeper into it. Perhaps I should explore the meaning of forgiveness. But what I hear echoing in my ears are the words, “Let the dead bury their own dead. Let the dead bury their own dead.” I go to Luke for an explanation. There is Jesus, encountering people with varying degrees of commitment. Jesus tells a man to follow him, and the man replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus says to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.” Another one wants to go back and say goodbye to his family. Jesus replies, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.”
Wednesday, 16 October. I refuse to allow myself to be unhappy, or at least to be unhappy in the same old ways that I used to be. What does it mean to follow Jesus? Just at this moment, Paul comes in to say good night. He flops down on the bed to read a little Charlie Brown and talk about going to buy his Halloween mask on Saturday. Now he’s gone again, but while he was here I had the old familiar fear that he would stay forever — he likes lingering good nights; sometimes he goes out and comes back several times. Then there is the conviction that I must be alone to write well in my journal. The result is disappointment and unhappiness, which I have just vowed to avoid! So I relax into the situation, pay attention to Paul, write when he is quiet, and see how in the present moment I can do my work (of seeking the truth) and maybe after all abandon the past.
To put one’s hand to the plow, to serve in the Kingdom of God — what do these things mean? All I know is not to look back when setting out to do the work. I know this from experience. The words of Scripture do not teach me; they sum up my experience for me, when I have had the appropriate experience. When I haven’t, they are koans and they wait for me to catch up with them.
Thursday, 17 October. What I meant last night was that I was no longer going to (here comes Paul) look to the past (“where is Dad, Mom?”) for answers, explanations, or agreements. This came up after I read something that made me realize it’s important (there he goes) for me to think of myself as intelligent. I was going to write about this, starting out with, “It has always been . . .” and bringing up memories (“Good night, Mom.”) to support it. (“Mom,” he says, crouching on the edge of my bed and peeping at me from under his arm, “Why are you upside down?”) Suddenly I thought, no, I won’t do it. It was the second time in two days that I had made such a decision. I wondered if a dream would come in response. I am testing my relationship to dreams, wondering if it is possible to respect them too much, wondering if I must apply some discipline to the collective energies that send me dreams. Speak firmly to God.
Then a strange dream woke me up in the middle of the night.
In the dream I am busy accomplishing things, some of which seem to be in a college dormitory. Perhaps I am getting ready for a trip. Outside in a stormy and barren place, an image of my mother comes rapidly sweeping toward me. I have never seen her like this. She is taller than life, more erect, wearing dark clothes and dark glasses, an image of strength and menace. I can’t see her eyes. She sweeps toward me and grabs me; we move together as if gliding above the surface of the earth. She says to me accusingly, “Couldn’t you see that I wanted to marry you?” Now it is all over. My recent actions have made this impossible.
My mother has the look of someone who is totally turned in on herself — a look accentuated by her dark glasses, a severe look I am sure I have seen on some movie star. My mother holds me tightly and moves toward me to kiss me with her lips open and rounded to a small circle. It is a kiss that is both sensual and calculating. My reaction is disgust: this is really sick, thinking we could get married. She embraces me tightly and we whirl across the ground. We whirl right off the edge of a cliff and fall to earth about ten feet below. She is underneath me when we hit the ground, and she disintegrates, first into particles and then quickly into nothing.
The first stage of this dream is over; now it is time to do the next thing. I get up and warn someone I see moving on the cliff above not to get too close to the edge.
I refuse to entertain the personal associations aroused by this dream. In the busy world of my mind, my relationships with others shall rest in peace. The frightening image of my mother is not about my real mother at all. A manifestation in dream terms of the archetype of the Terrible Mother, it reflects my decision to let go of the past. The image is a troubled summation of all the parental influences I have received since birth. Its disintegration at the end of my dream is immensely satisfying.
Sunday, 20 October, 3 a.m. I just received an awakening insight! Ever since Chet and I got home from Washington last night, I have been reading a book about setting goals; about going after the life you really want. When I started to read, the old questions arose: can I really find out what I want? Is there a kind of work just waiting for me to do it? The author presented the idea of the touchstone, the emotional core of one’s goal. She gave examples of fame, glamor and publicity, acclaim for fine acting, love, admiration, attention. It was when she used the word “crave” that the insight came to me. I had thought I wanted purposefulness. I suddenly realized: I crave appreciation.
The insight jolted me out of my mental condition of embroilment, my fierce longing for The Solution, and the perspective of my personal desires, thus putting me in a more objective stance. Do I need this craving? If it is true that all is Self, as I have learned in yoga philosophy, I must rephrase my expression of craving and say: appreciation is lacking; in the environment, there is not enough appreciation going around.
To appreciate is to think well of; to value and enjoy. It is to recognize gratefully, to estimate rightly. Appreciation is a just sense of worth, a full recognition of worth. It is esteem and sympathetic recognition of excellence. If I find appreciation lacking, I need to feed it into the environment, into people, into nature, into myself.
I’m going to bed.
2:45 p.m. I dream the words, “It is finished.” I have written a story. I pick up a stack of pages, with text closely written in pencil, and square the pages neatly by hitting their edges on the desk top. I was going to start rereading, but this can wait until later. I can take a rest. It is quite a thick stack of pages, about half of the work. The other half is somewhere else, perhaps tucked into a book. I didn’t make plans for the length of the work, nor for a method of writing it. I sat down and wrote until it came to an end, then I discovered I had written a story.
I’ll have to reread, edit, and type the story, but I have a feeling that not much will have to be rewritten. I have a feeling that it is good as it stands. I have written knowledgeably and carefully about things such as boat parts and sailing. I glance out the window again and see the woman who gives the readings in church walk across the beach in a leisurely way, carrying a juice container, going to get it refilled. She wears a voluminous sundress. For four days, during our whole vacation at the beach, I have been writing instead of relaxing in the sun like this woman. For a fleeting moment it seems a shame; then I realize it was exactly what I wanted to do.
An idea I have is to become a dreambody worker — working with disease to find the meaning behind it; helping others, through their dreams and body symptoms, to discover their hidden purposes. I’m only now articulating it. Office work keeps me busy, helps me to feel useful, earns me some money-spending power. It’s a respite from too much thinking about myself. But it can’t be more than temporary. Maybe I’ll start training for physical therapy. I want a thorough knowledge of the human body before teaching yoga again or venturing into dreambody work.
But I don’t want to be moved toward goals by cravings. That’s why the dream of finishing the story came last night after I read the book on getting what you want. It had exercises for discovering what is behind your desires. Through a process combining brainstorming and wishful thinking, it is possible to uncover old and valid root yearnings. Yet, as I read, I kept hearing in my mind the words, “There is nothing you need that you don’t already have.” I think that simply being hungry for experience is no longer enough for me. Wanting something is not enough. I see my craving for appreciation in my daily life. Its cause is my constant devaluation of my own activity; its antidotes are grateful enjoyment of each moment, grateful recognition of the activities of those around me — simply living life as an enjoyable experience.
I have been in mourning such a long time.
Today I looked through How To Survive The Loss of A Love, which was immensely helpful. The emotional illness of mourning, like physical illness, must be given space and allowed to run its course, says the book, or it will continue to erupt. I imagine its stages must be the familiar denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I feel as if I have been mourning all my life.
Monday, 21 October. In Dreambody, The Body’s Role In Revealing The Self, Arnold Mindell discusses the fairy tale of “The White Snake” to show how a hero uses his powers to change real life. The transformation of the hero begins when, as the faithful servant of the king, he can no longer contain his curiosity about the white snake eaten by the king after everyone else is finished with dinner.
“Since the king symbolizes rulership of consciousness, a king who eats the white snake [symbolizing samadhi, a state of deep concentration in which one hears the inner signals of one’s own body and mind] represents a divinatory government of conscious life. The servant of such a king is a person who follows dreams, oracles (such as the I Ching), body phenomena, and synchronicities. Learning to serve the divinatory principle is the first stage of apprenticeship to the unconscious in the Journey to Ixtlan, where Don Juan asks Castaneda to pay attention to ‘agreements from the world around us.’
“But if the servant does not eat the white snake himself, he does not integrate the unconscious. He only admires it from a distance and handles it with intellectual gloves. Synchronicities, agreements, and dreams are ‘out there.’ The difference between someone who serves the king and someone who eats the king’s dinner, and then receives the ability to understand the animals himself, is the same as the difference between one who listens to his dreams and one who steps into the body in order to experience directly what the dreams are saying.
“Jung says in his Letters that stepping into dreams and doing active imagination is the second half of analysis, and that without ‘active imagination’ one can never become independent of a psychotherapist.
“One serves the king and is not free unless one personally experiences the unconscious. Since animals refer to archetypal processes and images, understanding the language of animals is psychologically equivalent to stepping into the dreambody world and living with dream images and body sensations.”
I cannot seem to rise to the top.
I cannot seem to extricate myself from this chaos and see with the clear vision I once had.
Tuesday, 22 October. I was afraid the getting-what-you-want exercises were trivial and self-centered until I came to the concept of determining the essence of one’s goal, the touchstone, the emotional core. I believe that in touching one’s emotional core one can touch the soul. Powerful transpersonal forces move through me, and they seek expression. If all the things that God has given us are good, then so are our desires. The few exercises I have done reveal that I have a great longing to return to the religion of a three-year-old, enmeshed in nature and inventing rituals of my own. Agreements from the world: this morning Spooky was yowling like crazy. I picked him up, held him close, and stroked him. Immediately he quieted, closed his eyes, and purred loudly. I imagined I could take my animal-stroking to my family. People yowl for affection, too, though not so loudly. I went to Chet, who was sitting at the table reading the newspaper, held him, and nuzzled his neck. I chided sleepy Paul into getting his shoes and socks on for school.
In yoga philosophy, the idea that all is Self means that what I do to change myself touches all other selves. If this is true, then taking myself back to be in touch with nature is the same as taking others back. The process of nature works in me now as I mourn the loss of my childhood religion. The expanded awareness of adulthood has brought me to this. I suffered my loss — the loss of innocent companionship with creation — many years ago; but I have not known what I was mourning until now.
Can one return to this innocence? A symbol both in my dreams and in the preferences of my waking life points to an answer. I love handcrafted woods whose natural color and grain are enhanced by carving, joining, sanding, and polishing. The simple, unworked nature of childhood is gone. As adults, we take the things that nature gives us and we shape them. We apply our imagination and our skill to them and create harmonious and pleasing objects out of them. Paradoxically, our precious crafted objects then remind us of forms more ancient than the trees.
Wednesday, 23 October. The phone wakes me during the night. I rush to answer it because I have just been dreaming of Dad and imagine the call might be about him. It’s a wrong number, but I’m not annoyed. Catching a dream of Dad is like catching a rare, prize fish. The unconscious has goofed and let me see something it usually hides.
I don’t consider it a dream of Dad. It is actually a dream “using the image of Dad.”
As an architect, Dad is the one who knows how a house ought to be built. In the dream I am showing him the baseboard in the dining room, where Chet and I have applied new wood over the old. As we look more closely, I am embarrassed. The new wood is coming away from the old, leaving a gap. I didn’t know Chet had done it this way, alternating six-inch sections of wood in an uneven pattern. It looks sloppy.
Dad doesn’t greet or kiss me. I put my arm around his shoulders lightly and kiss him on the cheek. He gives me a direct, sharp look. I know he is angry because I haven’t gone to see him in a long time.
As we move around the room, we come to a tall bookcase standing in the middle of the floor. “Chet, we can’t use this chessboard for a shelf,” I say, “because it warps.” The chessboard has ballooned upward in the middle. I take it out and put it on the table. Now its four quadrants are each ballooned up, but I know they will settle down. On one of the quadrants, whose ballooned top is flattened and glossy, I place a chess piece, a grotesque-looking, four-legged mythical beast. I am very proud of our chess pieces. They are carved out of a peachy, amber-colored stone and polished so that they glow from within. This one is a pretty sight on our fine chessboard.
My inner Dad is a perfectionist, critical and unforgiving — he is the one who causes my shame when I look at my house and see disrepair. He shows me no affection. My inner husband, who fails at his job of keeping our house in good repair, is strangely inept with the concrete details of our life together. It has been three years since I started refinishing the baseboard heater-covers, and they are still undone. The dream is a response to my mood of yesterday, when my shame over my poor housework was especially great. Looking at the school kids who were waiting on the front porch for the bus, I was ashamed of the dirt on the storm door. I cleaned the glass, then struggled unsuccessfully to replace the metal panel in the bottom of the door.
I gloat over the secret information I have captured from the unconscious. The dream reveals my inner Dad, who is a strange contrast to my biological father as he is now, a mellowed man. It reveals my despair at ever pleasing this entrenched inner father. Still, what an ending! The wedding of what is warped but still beautiful with what is ugly but still beautiful; and the promise of a smoother future.
Thursday, 24 October. I dream I am sitting at the dining room table, working industriously at something like the getting-what-you-want exercises, when Chet comes in the door. It’s late and he’s probably been in class.
A moment later I am standing at the table where Chet is sitting, reading the newspaper. I am going through a new pack of cards that I’ve just opened. These are special cards, not playing cards. All at once, as I come to a card that is blank except for a scrolly green border, a voice says, “Of course, there is no M” (in a tone that suggests there is never an M, though there ought to be). I tell Chet, “You must help me,” and I clasp the card to my breast with both hands, as if this could mend it. My plea to Chet is too late. I am swept off the floor and straight upward by some unseen and unfelt force, until my feet are level with the top of the table; then the force turns me so that I am horizontal and carries me swiftly around the room. My body is rigid and my hands are clasped at my breast. Willy-nilly, something carries me back and forth. I am totally helpless and deeply frightened. Over and over, I call Chet for help, but he doesn’t hear me. When I near a wall, I tap it with my foot, trying to get his attention. He never hears me and continues to read his paper. My voice is muffled; it’s hard for me to make sounds. When I do, I shout for my son, “Marty! Marty!” Finally, the effort of trying to make a sound wakes me.
Awake, I hear a strange noise I had been hearing in the dream. It is like the repeated squawking of a pheasant, a shrill, scraping sound. I lift my head from the pillow to identify it, and as I do I see Chet, whose face is turned away. In the dimness of the night, on the featureless side of his face, I see an ugly, flat, scarred death mask. Quickly I turn my gaze away. The shock of it wakes me fully. I realize that what I have been hearing, weirdly distorted by my sleep, is his breathing. I have also been lying on my hands, which are pinned helplessly and painfully under my chest in the same position as in the dream.
I am very frightened. Now I am completely awake and I know I’ve had a nightmare; but I am still frightened. I fight sleep. I look for trust, trust in something; familiar surroundings, my body, Chet’s presence, thoughts of God. But there is nothing to trust. Finally, it helps to get up and walk around.
In this dream, my inner husband comes home to my inner house, but he has no influence there. Anything can happen.
To husband means to use sparingly or to hold back for future use. My real-life husband does this well, but I need an inner husband who can take better care of my talents, my resources, my time, my energy. I tend to be extravagant, to spend myself recklessly. I tend to get carried away with projects like working the getting-what-you-want exercises and frightening myself with the hopes they arouse.
The missing M is the missing young, male, vital energy. You must help me, husband of my vital energies; something terrible is going to happen. I may take charge of my life, like a new, young, adventurous man. Yesterday I went to the library and photocopied “I Wanted To Do It All,” from a two-year-old Reader’s Digest. I think the article has been in the back of my mind since I first read it. It’s about the explorer and adventurer John Goddard, who at the age of fifteen drew up a list of everything he wanted to accomplish in his life, calling it “My Life List.” His 127 goals included: “Explore the Nile, Amazon, and Congo rivers. Climb Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Matterhorn. Ride an elephant, camel, ostrich, and bronco. Retrace the travels of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. Appear in a Tarzan movie. Land on and take off from an aircraft carrier. Read the works of Shakespeare, Plato, and Aristotle. Compose a work of music. Write a book. Visit every country in the world. Marry and have children. Visit the moon.”
After I read the article, I started a similar list with the words: “The things I want to do in my life are the following.”
I am scared to death.
Tuesday, 29 October. The sanskrit word samskaras describes memory traces, experiences from the past that have been left unfinished or are imperfectly assimilated. They are lessons that were not learned the first time around and so must be repeated again and again. In the context of yoga philosophy, the idea implies leftovers from past lives, but it is just as useful in the framework of a single life. The experiments I have been doing with wishful thinking reveal samskaras; but I think it is a tricky thing, teasing out goals from yearnings left over from the past.
Life brings me the lessons I need to learn. Sometimes they look new; they are in forms I don’t recognize as consonant with my past yearnings. The thing to do is not to go back and try to learn a specific lesson, try to fix the past, but to be a better learner now — more active, more receptive than ever before.
Take one thing at a time, give it attention and love, be as thorough as possible, and let it go when the time comes.