Last night I had an interesting dream. I can’t remember the exact setting, only that it was before the pandemic, or maybe timeless, because no one was wearing a mask. There was a stage outdoors. The color of the background was dark and orange-yellow, and there were several people present, most of them women and middle-aged. I am a retired secondary school teacher, and some of the people were parents of former students of mine and neighbors. My Dad and, for a second, my Mom, were visiting me. They have both passed.
We (not including my parents) were doing an improvisational theatre exercise. People were standing around the stage area and would spontaneously walk across it and do and say something in response to a theme. For example, if the theme had been friendship, we might walk across the stage holding the hand of a missing friend or dance around with our arms outstretched. But the theme was never stated, although everyone seemed to know what it was. The same with the improvised responses⎼ they were heard and seen with the heart more than the ears or eyes.
I sometimes felt like I was the teacher or leader, sometimes a participant or a bystander. One of the subjects I used to teach was theatre. But in the dream, I never joined in, although I had that familiar feeling of wanting to do so but fearing to look foolish.
Was the dream proclaiming, “all the world is a stage”? Was it reminding me that when we don’t take action, we might regret it? Was the presence of my own parents, as well as the parents of former students, a message of how we’re parents to ourselves? Or was it saying that we create the sense of the stage we act upon? Or maybe it was something else?
Because of my direct focus in the dream on the image of myself, I lost sight of the fact that my mind was creating the whole scene, the people on stage as well as the audience and the stage itself. Every aspect of what I saw was me.
The next morning, early, I sat outside on a bench, intent on meditating for a short time. Immediately, everything went silent. It surprised me, totally.
Silence is not an absence of sound, just an absence of noise or consuming or unwanted chatter. But how full it is.
It is when a bird sings and it is so sweet, we open our mouths without thinking and taste sweetness. A car or maybe a truck rattles the road and it’s simply⎼ rattles. It is when our hands get heavy and fall onto our thighs as they do when deeply relaxed.
How great it is. The bird and the truck all sit together with air cooled by the shade of trees. It is like a dream where we feel all the characters in it, all the creatures, all the objects and colors, are one mind being itself right then. We need these dual perspectives⎼ the world according to me, with me in the center looking at it, and the world looking at itself with each of us as just one of the players.
Especially now, in this time of magnifying pandemics, we need to find this inner silence even if it’s only for a few moments.
We also need both the ability to act spontaneously and to pause to think critically. We have regrets and difficulty acting when we identify ourselves as one isolated entity in a whole scene and there’s an audience of critics watching, applauding or judging. The fear of making a mistake, or appearing foolish or imperfect, can be debilitating. But fear can also be very helpful, if we interpret it as a caution and not a statement of who we are or what has to happen.
Instead, we can ask ourselves: What am I beyond all the words, images, memories, and dreams? Beyond the resume, the story, history and list of actions and accomplishments?
Instead, we can take fear and regret as more of a reminder to look more deeply, not less, and to tenderly care for our own inner lives before and as we act.
When we treat the voice of the judge no differently than the song of a bird, and every aspect of what we perceive is realized as somehow tied to who we are⎼ how different life becomes. We act more appropriately, and we feel more engaged and alive.