Cover art by me, photo by Douglas, Star of David via Wikipedia Commons by Midnightcomm, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, Sri Aurobindo’s symbol via Wikipedia Commons (public domain)
From Safed, Israel, the book’s primary setting, I tell the story of my life, in terms of inner and spiritual experiences, and also of my shadow, in both prose and poetry, doing that with an almost constant eye on racism, from the perspective of a White boy growing up in the 60s and 70s in the South of the U. S. and of a non-Jewish adventure traveler in Israel in the mid 90s, the former where I am the racist, the latter where I’m discriminated against. In light of all that, I examine the scope of reality, inner exploration, the human soul, enlightenment, religious orthodoxy, the heavens and the hells, the demonic and the divine, how we became distinct from other animals, the development of the ego in humanity as a whole and in every child born, Jewish Identity, Israel, The Green Berets, tactical nuclear weapons, the Holocaust, the healing of human evil, LSD, human unity, the International Township of Auroville, taking back the world from government overreach, the coming evolutionary change in humanity, the inspiration of poetry, and the purpose of dog.
This post is going to show a type of dream that Donny, Mithun and I have worked with a lot, and that’s a very common class of dreams that show things that are going to happen the next day or the next couple of days or even what happened yesterday. And while I’ve had dreams that show actual physical outer events symbolically, the type of dream I’m going to share here shows what’s going to transpire within us psychologically, how we’re going to react to things that are going to happen in the outer world. The dream I’m going to share today also shows, in my opinion, a psychological movement in someone else.
I should point out that this particular dream is related to sex and sexual desire, which in the yoga that I follow is something to be overcome, along with a lot of other things that come from the animal part of our nature, such as anger and fear. So my dream treats it as something dangerous even though it’s something quite natural, and for most people overcoming sex isn’t something required of them. Regardless the dream is quite clear, and thus a good example of the way dreams do things. So I would encourage everyone to keep reading, especially if you’re someone who has a sexual deviation that makes your life miserable or even hurts others, because then you’ve got a good reason to get sex under control.
This dream, which I call ‘The Queen Dream’, forecasted an uprising of sexual desire that occurred in me later that same day. The dream also gave a warning, and I’ll relate the consequences that uprising of desire had on my state of consciousness.
When the dream began, I was in State College Pennsylvania, where I went to college at Penn State. I was somewhere that was sort of like a commune in the middle of the city. The focus of the place seemed to be gardening, as there were lots of potted plants around. A number of people were living and working there. I can’t remember if I was staying there or just visiting.
There was also a group of pretty, young, dark-skinned women there, wearing long dresses of different bright single colors. One of them was the queen, and it was forbidden that any man should touch her, though it was understood that once she got married her husband would have that privilege. The punishment for any man that touched her was death. She was allowed to touch men though, because at one point I was close to her, and she affectionately reached out and touched my stomach, but there was nothing overtly sexual or flirtatious about it. It was clear though that she was fond of me. Afterwards I asked a guy standing next to me, “If I just bumped into her by mistake, would I be killed?” He said, “Yes.”
So that’s the dream. Now what’s important to mention is, while I can feel attracted to all types of women, the kind of woman that gets my blood burning the most is a dark skinned woman like the queen. It’s the queen of my desire you might say. When Donny and I discussed the dream we both agreed the queen represented my vital/sexual attraction to this kind of woman. That touching the queen in the dream, means death shows it isn’t good for me sadhana-wise in the way that dreams tend to exaggerate things. The fact that there were potted plants around where the dream took place indicates the vital since plant life such as forests, etc. often indicates the vital part of the being, as does the color green. In addition, the fact that the larger setting of the dream was State College, Pennsylvania also brings lower vital indulgence to mind since it’s a renowned college party town. However, Donny also suggested that the setting was a college town since I’m dealing with sex on the ‘college level’, in other words, a more advanced level than say would be represented by high school or grade school. Regardless, we see that everything here points toward the vital, a vital atmosphere or a vital movement. So keeping in mind that dreams often show symbolically how we’re going to react psychologically to something the day after the dream (or how we reacted the day before), let me tell you what happened in the outer world that sparked my desire that day.
The evening after the dream, Midhun came into my room talking on his phone with a girl, and I wondered if it was his sister Priyanka, who’s a pretty young Indian woman I find attractive, though I’ve only met her once in person, since she lives three hours away. Under the influence of what I call ‘color’, I said loudly enough that she could hear, “Hi Priyanka!” Now what I mean when I say ‘color’ could be described as a mild form of sexual attraction, which makes us want to interact with, in whatever way we can, the someone we have color for. Color also makes it easier to be more kind, patient, helpful or understanding with people who fall within the range of our attraction. So I had said hi to Priyanka just to have the thrill of a little contact with her, but then Midhun handed me the phone so I could actually talk to her. So I said hello to her again, and she said hello back in a friendly way. She’s actually quite happy with me because I helped her and Midhun put together a video of her singing a song for her boyfriend as a birthday gift. I should mention she has a very sweet singing voice, which is another thing I find alluring about her. Anyway her English isn’t very good, so I just wished her a nice evening and that was it. Midhun left the room, and then I suddenly felt a rise of desire for Priyanka enter me like a breath, and the urge to fantasize about her was strong. I remembered the queen dream though and could see the connection. That is, the queen in my dream represented my attraction to this type of woman and this current state of arousal that was bad for my sadhana. That made it easier to stand back from the desire and let it settle down.
Now hopefully I have explained things clearly enough that the reader can see the connection between the queen in my dream, the symbol of my desire for dark skinned women, and the state of desire that was sparked by my interaction with Priyanka. I think it’s important to note that this dream was at the end of a long sequence of lucidity where I was going in and out of different dreams, and having varying levels of lucidity. This I believe is why the dream is so simple and clear. It was a purer dream or a deeper level of dreaming that doesn’t have as much weirdness or bizarreness as a lot of dreams do, even if they’re meaningful dreams. This dream was straightforward and to the point.
If you remember, at the beginning I said I felt the dream also showed what was going on psychologically in someone else. This has to do with the action of the queen in the dream, who touched my stomach and not my penis, and she did it in a fond and affectionate, but not overtly sexual way. And this is how Priyanka actually responded to me in our interaction because as I said, she is grateful for the help I gave her. She has a vital friendliness towards me like the queen did in the dream.
Now of course I didn’t literally die from all this, but it did have an effect on my consciousness. At the time of the dream I was getting a little bit of steam going sadhana-wise, and I had actually been lucid in another dream a few days before that. In addition, I was somewhat detached overall and able to keep from giving sanction to reactions that were rising up the way they do in life in response to this or that. I was also having periods of time where I was more conscious than normal of the constant stress, dissatisfaction, unease and grumpiness that is my vital’s default state. Hand and hand with this there was the recognition that things don’t have to be this way, that these moods are just habits of the vital, and it really is possible to be content and carefree instead. I know you might be sitting there saying, so what? But there was a knowing quality to it that isn’t there now when I think these same thoughts. I was really aware of the truth of this in a way that was subtle, but yet more substantial than just a thought in the head. All this up-buoyancy ended after the sexual uprising, which opened the door to other lower movements getting in. My little bit of detachment was replaced by a state of perpetual irritation with virtually everything and everyone that lasted for weeks and was frustrating because, try as I might, I couldn’t get a handle on it. It was an unpleasant drop in consciousness and the ‘death’ you could say of a more positive state.
But perhaps this was a drop that was avoidable. As I said at the beginning, this dream was a warning, or could have been, if I had taken it in the right way. It was showing me that something was going to happen soon regarding my sexual desire. The problem is, I wasn’t vigilant, and the dream went out of my mind after Donny and I discussed it in the morning. If I had used the dream as a tool to keep on the outlook for something, I may very well have caught myself before I blurted out, “Hi Priyanka!” with so much color. Regardless, the remembrance of the dream, after the desire had gotten in, did aid me to let it go faster than I might have otherwise. So it still helped. I want to mention that I also find it interesting that I didn’t actually touch the queen in my dream. This further makes me wonder if this little misstep was avoidable.
Now, in contrast to all this, something else very interesting happened that same day. Earlier in the day, before the phone call, Midhun was resting and had a very vivid vision of Priyanka, who reached out and touched his heart. He said he could feel her sweetness and her love for him, and that he was very happy to see her, actually felt like he was in her presence. In the vision he smiled, and when he came out of the vision that same smile was on his face. Now something like this represents, in my opinion, an actual contact with someone. Perhaps it was just him receiving a strong formation of love from his sister Priyanka, generated, no doubt, while she was thinking about him. Or perhaps it was her inner being, which came and paid Midhun a visit. Priyanka adores her little brother and makes lots of sacrifices for him and his musical endeavors, buying him first a keyboard and then a laptop, which is a lot of money for the salary she earns here in India, even though she has a college degree. Now, I think it’s fair to assume my dream and Midhun’s vision we’re related somehow, but what exactly that relation is, I can’t really say.
Now in closing, I’d like to come back to the subject of ‘color’, this low level action of sexual attraction that influences most, if not all of us. It’s something we’re all familiar with, though most of us probably don’t give it much thought it’s so natural. It brings to mind the image of the high school nerd following the gorgeous cheerleader around like a lost puppy dog carrying her books for her, even though he has no chance with her at all. So with this in mind I’d like to invite the listener to take a closer look at color in themselves and color in the world outside and see what a large part it has in making the world go round. If you look deeply enough and attentively enough, you might find yourself shocked at how pervasive it is, and how it’s showing itself in places that your unsuspecting mind would never have thought to find it. I will say though that while color is an insincerity, a form pf preference, there’s something true about it at the same time. At its fount and origin, it’s still love, despite what happens to it when it manifests on the surface of ourselves, that is, in waking life and in normal human consciousness. Anyway, nuff said!
[Although formatted to fit your screen, the poem was originally written in 2014. It’s in the form of a dialogue with multiple speakers: the poet, his divine, various people in the audience, including children, and even a hostile being. Paying attention to punctuation and listening to the poem read, the voices dramatized, play key roles in interpreting it.]
You can see whatever you want.
I’m eraser not found you come in here.
We’re a friendly service.
Pull on it make sure it’s there.
your whole universe.
Wisdom is as free as doorways,
long direction movement
wrapped around your skin.
What the hell is going on?
That facility to hear playback,
all the universes spinning and you got a sound.
We pop in your head.
It arranges things,
continually adds to your bank account.
Completely unborn children
spend all their time
(Alright then I got plenty of time)
warming up to this sound.
It’s their pleasure arrangement.
Like packed honeycombs they are born.
I’m sorry you’re not very easy to control.
The baby knows a greater TV.
It’s his home channel.
We see our voices,
images in the air on the notebook of sight
the inner eye sees.
They’re often read.
Language can’t describe their variety
unless you had infinity’s notebook.
You can open up this vision,
this paper weight of silence
in the magnet of your thinking
that reaches beyond itself.
Large voices will attract,
entertain your ear.
There is no limit to its development.
You can construe it,
order it around,
when you want it to say something.
There’s mixture there,
an unaffordable see.
It costs dearly vision.
This eye of sight
can see the world in view
and work about to change it
starting with you.
It habits this land,
makes it build bridges
to further understanding.
Low and behold a new bridge is built.
We widen our view.
It goes without thinking.
We are in the cockpit of a larger plane
I’m going to fly around.
We silence our music,
give it greater strings to play.
Then it listens further
than the frontiers of time.
I see the images:
a waterfall of words that pressurize silence;
large freedom hills
naked as the Sun;
a camera that reads music.
Those’ll get yah warm.
A greater life is calling.
We seem to think we’re fine.
I’ll destroy your music
If I can’t stomach your thought,
so the Pied Piper says.
Wouldn’t want to hear about it first.
We’re not living.
We’re dead ants.
We suffer our measure
and drink it as wine.
Come to think of it,
Can we escape?
We have this infinity’s ear
that helmets in the sight
to what larger there may be.
I’m giving you airplane.
I mean what stopped it?
It’s not broken.
We can try to remember it
some close to a dream.
It slips in like a spiritual thought
and says something new.
The listening is active but your father can’t come in.
Thought will override the program.
You must keep it on its knees.
We wait our season.
Right in the place where people are talking,
you give it an in-look.
That means you wait for something to happen
in the beginnings of sleep.
His day would go quickly he was trying to clean up.
Not a hat could be found.
He reached into his vision.
Just take that other one.
Just take His one.
I’m not going to talk to you about it
A teacher does my thinking in moments of silence.
He is my vision’s partner.
We dock a few lines.
Ever hear of the master worker.
I’m the arrangement.
He’s actually there.
I can hear a reflex pointing our research first.
It aggrandizes the dime.
This snake has many things
at its garbage disposal.
Open your eyes and smile.
Village your truth.
Do you hear mouth here?
I hope you’re able to separate your hairs,
I mean lines.
A rough text point,
this signals your thinking.
We infinity our truth.
These are infinity’s guidelines.
I hold them out straight.
Infinity would never believe it.
You’re supposed to catch on.
I’ve rounded your thinking
with the history of milk.
You must be a pauper to drink it.
It orders only silence.
You listen in need.
We pull the kid out.
I’m about your thought,
I follow the leader
of what you drink.
There caution sorrow,
if you go off on some tangent.
Listen to spiritual practice.
You’d need to listen wide.
A dream fashions from this same fount,
and you can take us anywhere.
I come from a higher place than that.
I come from infinity’s window.
I’ve ordered your thinking
along these lines:
there is a listening post,
your higher heart.
Sit in there
I can get richer,
but I’ve spent all my dime.
To be read over,
Recently I had a dream that I feel foreshadowed an interaction that took place on facebook two days after the dream. The dream and the facebook event both revolve around my friend Angelo with whom I lived for nearly a year twelve years ago when I was residing at Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham a.k.a. the Lodi Ashram near Lodi California. Angelo and I haven’t communicated with any kind of regularity over the years, but he’s a frequent figure in my dreams, often in regards to the Lodi Ashram, but also in regards to Auroville of which he recently became a member. This dream had the flavor of Auroville though it didn’t take place there and is a excerpt of a longer dream. Here it is:
Donny and I are in a busy part of a city, and there is at least one other guy with us. We stop in front of a counter that is selling pieces of cake, and the guy with us wants me to buy him a piece. Some other people show up who are trying to get me to buy them things too. Donny and I go into a restaurant to get away from them. Inside is a table with 8-10 people sitting at it, and Angelo is sitting at the head of the table. Most of the people have the look of Aurovillians (permanent residents of Auroville). I call out to him and run over and give him a hug. Donny and the others head to another part of the restaurant to find a table and leave me to talk to Angelo. We talk for a few minutes, and then I tell him I’ll let him get back to his party. There is a girl there with dyed purple hair. In the dream we’ve met online but never in person, and she tells me it’s nice to finally meet me in person. I tell her I feel the same.
This dream took place on the morning of August 26, 2017. On August 27th Angelo updated his profile picture on Facebook, and a number of people including me liked the post. Many of them were people involved with Auroville and also the wider community of those connected to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. Angelo doesn’t post frequently on Facebook, but I clicked through to his timeline to see what I may have missed if anything. I didn’t see any posts I’d missed, but one of the people he was friends with caught my eye because of the name she used, which obviously wasn’t her real name. We’ll call her Barbara. So I clicked through to Barbara’s timeline and when I got a better look at her I was pretty sure she was someone I had briefly met before, first in Auroville eleven years ago and then not long after that at a retreat center near Tiruvannamalai. I wasn’t 100% sure though since back then she had long hair.
So, a few hours passed and I went back to look at Angelo’s post to see who had liked it etc., and I saw that Barbara had left a comment on the post. Then, in one of those sweeping ‘aha!’ moments, I remembered the girl in my dream with the purple hair, and it struck me she might represent Barbara, and that the dream was representing this Facebook interaction on Angelo’s post. As I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Angelo was at the head of the table like the guest of honor, and all these people had gathered for him in the restaurant just like all of us gathered together around him on his Facebook post. And many of the people who liked the post were Aurovillians, just like many of the people at the tables in the dream were Aurovillians. I can see the logic too of why the Facebook interaction was represented by being in a restaurant and also perhaps by the cake at the beginning of the dream. Restaurants are places for social interaction as well as eating, and looking at things on Facebook is sort of like having a meal for the vital. It’s something the vital can sink its teeth into for a moment’s or hour’s diversion, something that scratches the itch of desire. But also something that gives a very real social interaction by way of the comments, likes etc. and thus entails an exchange of vital forces the same way a conversation at a party does despite the fact that the person or people aren’t right there in front of you.
I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Facebook phenomenon could be forecast in a dream, but I guess since things on Facebook occur online they seem somehow less real than a party or gathering you actually to go to physically. So as a result I was initially ‘wowed’ by this realization. Now that I’m awake to the possibility, perhaps I’ll find more examples in the future to share.
In my last blog I gave an example of a dream where I feel I had an actual encounter with a hostile being, that is, a being of conscious darkness. I have another example I wanted to share in this post.
This dream happened quite a number of years ago when Donny and I were living in Cusco Peru. We stayed there for a span of months and shortly after arriving we befriended a group of holistic doctors there. Two of these doctors, Carlos and Luis, had a small apartment in Cusco, but on the weekends went to their homes and families in the small town of Urubamba nearby. Donny was a frequent weekend guest at Carlos’ house, and I went less frequently to stay with Luis. Luis had four children who were all teenagers or in their early twenties. One of them was a daughter, Chani, if I remember her name correctly.
The first few times I stayed with Luis and his family, I slept on the floor in an unused dental examination room. On one of those early visits I had a dream I was there on the floor in that room and Chani was on top of me, but fully clothed. She lowered her face to mine and we started kissing, but the experience was rather unpleasant, as she was moving her tongue around rapidly and violently in a circle. I opened my eyes and instead of Chani there was a being like the alien from the movie Predator in the sense that it was transparent, but I could still make it out and see its features to some extent. It was humanoid, but more bizarre and alien looking than anything Hollywood has ever managed to come up with. What I remember most clearly about it though was a small beak like thing it had for a mouth that had a tongue like thing that was circling around the outside of the beak the same way it had been doing in my mouth just few seconds before. Then I woke up and it was either still dark out or dawn was just beginning while in the dream the room had been fully lit.
If I remember correctly I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that the being I was kissing and that had appeared to me in Chani’s form was a hostile vital being. I also realized I had probably been in the cataleptic state back in my body, yet still in the dream state when the encounter occurred. The whole thing made a strong impression on me and I’ve never forgotten it over the years. I’ve also had other dreams where I was kissing someone and there was something unpleasant about it, -usually it’s something they’re doing with their tongue, but sometimes their mouth has a really gross taste- and I’ve wondered if at those times I was kissing another one of these beings in disguise. I honestly don’t know though nor do I know if it’s possible to have intimacy in a dream with one of these beings and have it be marvelous. I just know what I experienced that one time.
Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have spoken at length about these types of vital beings in their talks and writings. According to their experience there seems to be a whole spectrum of them from fallen divine beings to small mischievous entities that like to cause accidents. And some classes of these beings it appears are actually spawned from our own lower desires while we’re still alive or from parts of our own vital makeup after we die.1 And for all these types of vital beings their food is the energy we give off during lower vital movements such as lust, anger, depression etc., and they’re pushing our buttons and setting up situations both in dream and waking life to get us to give off these types of energies. My feeling on the matter is that if our eyes were suddenly unsealed and we saw how pervasive their influence is, how much they’re pulling our strings, not just individually but collectively, we’d all be in for one hell of a shock. In his epic Savitri, Sri Aurobindo speaks about their pervasiveness in a very striking passage. He tells us:
Their whispers come, an inarticulate force, Awake in mind an echoing thought or word, To their sting of impulse the heart’s sanction draw, And in that little Nature do their work And fill its powers and creatures with unease. Its seed of joy they curse with sorrow’s fruit, Put out with error’s breath its scanty lights And turn its surface truths to falsehood’s ends, Its small emotions spur, its passions drive To the abyss or through the bog and mire: Or else with a goad of hard dry lusts they prick, While jogs on devious ways that nowhere lead Life’s cart finding no issue from ignorance. To sport with good and evil is their law; Luring to failure and meaningless success, All models they corrupt, all measures cheat, Make knowledge a poison, virtue a pattern dull And lead the endless cycles of desire Through semblances of sad or happy chance To an inescapable fatality. All by their influence is enacted there.2
Now I think it’s necessary to point out that in this passage he’s describing their action and influence in the vital planes or the ‘Kingdoms of the Little Life’ as he puts it. As the passage continues however he goes on to point out they’re doing the same thing here in our material world.
Nor there alone is their empire or their role: Wherever are soulless minds and guideless lives And in a small body self is all that counts, Wherever love and light and largeness lack, These crooked fashioners take up their task. To all half-conscious worlds they extend their reign. Here too these godlings drive our human hearts, Our nature’s twilight is their lurking-place: Here too the darkened primitive heart obeys The veiled suggestions of a hidden Mind That dogs our knowledge with misleading light And stands between us and the Truth that saves. It speaks to us with the voices of the Night: Our darkened lives to greater darkness move; Our seekings listen to calamitous hopes. A structure of unseeing thoughts is built And reason used by an irrational Force.3
Discussing this article with Donny, he pointed out again something we’ve talked about before, and that’s how the knowledge of how much these ‘crooked fashioners’ are involved in our lives and in all the harm that’s done on this planet is something that has to come out on a societal level and be looked at squarely in the face if we’re going to effectively deal with human wrongdoing and evolve to a state beyond these hostile influences. In science fiction there’s the common theme of humanity uniting to face a common alien invasion, and I can see how this knowledge of hostile forces and beings manipulating and controlling us could serve as a catalyst, or one of them at least, that will give humanity a reason to unite and a common enemy to fight against. This would be a battle of a different kind though since the fight would to free ourselves from their influence, the kingdom conquered our own purified nature and we would all be allies trying to help each other win that personal and at the same time collective war. I honestly don’t expect to see this sort of shift in my lifetime, but I do think it’s coming. How it will all be played out though remains to be seen.
For a number of years now I’ve been living with chronic pain in my lower back and my knees. There’s not a whole lot I can say about it other than it was a major life change that came on suddenly, and one that took a long time to even begin to adjust to. As you might imagine I’ve been searching for answers via my dreams as to what’s actually caused these disorders and preventing healing, since I suspect it’s something deeper than just physical injury or wear and tear. I hope one day to be able to know and be able to share insight into the deeper causes of my physical state, be they emotional, mental etc., but I can’t do that now with any kind of certainty. One thing though that I’ve suspected for years is that a hostile force (and by that I mean a force of conscious darkness) may be a factor involved in aggravating the pain, and maybe also in preventing its resolution, and I recently had a dream that for me verifies this.
Before I share the dream let me say that I had an actual injury to my lower back from a fall almost eighteen years ago that healed after a few weeks, and which I believe was a manifestation of the same causes that have brought about the chronic pain.1 The chronic pain itself didn’t begin until about eight years ago. The knee pain is more mysterious, and began suddenly about a year and a half after the back pain started, and was so intense for a while I didn’t feel the back pain very much. Some other pertinent details to know is the back pain started while I was staying at Nilambe Meditation Center in Sri Lanka, and that there was an Israeli man, Adi, who was giving me massage to help and actually succeeded in eliminating the pain for a couple of days before it came back.
So having given a little background here is the dream:
I’m at Nilambe. I’m in my room there, and it has amenities like a small refrigerator and microwave as well as a coffee maker. There is also a TV and DVD player. Outside my room I can see some people having a drum circle, and I’m thinking about how much this place has changed and become like a Rainbow Community2. I leave my room and go into the new library but am shocked to see only something like 25% of the books are there, and I’m wondering what happened to all the others. I figure they must be in a room somewhere else. I talk to Upul (the leader at Nilambe) a little bit, and at one point I’m outside by the dining area. I’ve got a motorbike I’m going to use to drive back to my room. I start driving, but then I’m walking, and I become lucid and don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but at one point I find myself lucid again and am laying in a bed lying on my side in the dark. Behind me I sense a disquieting presence and can sort of sense its form without actually seeing it. It’s humanoid, but very strange with some appendages on it a normal human body doesn’t have that come from the front of its trunk and are of different lengths. The appendages are stiff and wood-like but flexible at the same time and have blunt ends. I turn and start to struggle with the creature calling on the Mother as I do so. One of the appendages is attached to my lower back and I knock it off. Now the light is on in the room and I’m on top of the creature, which has changed into a blond woman. I’ve got her by the throat with both hands and am trying to choke her to death. I can’t seem to kill it, but I leave it on the bed in a seemingly incapacitated state. Now though it’s a brunette woman. Then I’m talking to Adi about what happened.
I can’t report the back pain being resolved or even greatly relieved on that day, but the dream did finally offer some proof to my suspicion that a hostile being or force is involved in the pain. The Mother speaks about this in her Questions and Answers, pointing out that sometimes behind an illness there’s also “an attack, a pressure from adverse forces who really want to harm you…encouraging the illness to become as bad as it can be.”3 I imagine her statement is also applicable to disorders like chronic pain syndromes, and she goes on to say that the right spiritual force can remove or destroy the adverse force “if you have this Force at your disposal or if you can ask for it and get it.”4
It was this passage in Questions and Answers that planted this idea in me some time ago, leading me to suspect that this was the case with me. So even before having this dream I’ve been asking for this Force to act and remove the hostile influence and also asking to be shown and to get help to change whatever mental, or emotional elements there might be that have given rise to this. I believe there might also be some kind of blockage or resistance in the body consciousness itself, and so I ask for help with that, help with making the body plastic and receptive. I also try to exercise regularly and stay as active as I can.
Ultimately what’s hard for me is letting go of getting any results, to ask and aspire for healing, but to put whether or not that happens in the end in divine hands and to try to keep my focus on doing the sadhana, on the goal of surrendering completely to the Divine in order to gain release from ego consciousness. But I’ve come to believe you even have to let go of whether or not your sadhana bears any kind of fruit as well, but yet still make the effort and aspire. It’s a level of sincerity I’ve yet to reach. A few days ago I read another passage of the Mother’s in a later volume of Questions and Answers that I’ve been trying to take to heart and would like to share since it spells out what the right attitude needs to be. It’s a rather long quote, but one that I think ought to be read in its entirety:
As with everything in yoga, the effort for progress must be made for the love of the effort for progress. The joy of effort, the aspiration for progress must be enough in themselves, quite independent of the result. Everything one does in yoga must be done for the joy of doing it, and not in view of the result one wants to obtain…. Indeed, in life, always, in all things, the result does not belong to us. And if we want to keep the right attitude, we must act, feel, think, strive spontaneously, for that is what we must do, and not in view of the result to be obtained.
As soon as we think of the result we begin to bargain and that takes away all sincerity from the effort. You make an effort to progress because you feel within you the need, the imperative need to make an effort and progress; and this effort is the gift you offer to the Divine Consciousness in you, the Divine Consciousness in the Universe, it is your way of expressing your gratitude, offering yourself; and whether this results in progress or not is of no importance. You will progress when it is decided that the time has come to progress and not because you desire it.5
Now THAT’S sincerity.
When I originally started writing this article I considered leaving the first part at Nilambe out, but decided to keep it in for two reasons. One, it seems significant because that’s where the chronic problems started and two, because of something that happened at Nilambe a couple of days before the chronic pain commenced. Let me explain.
Since Nilambe is a mediation center, I was obviously doing a lot of daily meditation as well as yoga classes in the morning and afternoon. One day after the afternoon meditation I found that I was very peaceful and relaxed and also had a very pleasant feeling throughout my body. I found it was a physical joy just to move as long as I moved slowly, and a walk up the hill to the lookout which normally took less than five minutes, took more like fifteen as I enjoyed the experience. After that I seem to remember the experience faded. Then like I said a couple of days later during the afternoon yoga class the pain started up. Given this I’ve had to wonder if there’s a connection between the two things. I’m unsure what that connection would be if indeed one exists, but one possibility that occurred to me is that the positive experience in the body may have been brought on prematurely by all the meditation and asana, and the result was that a resistance in the body which could have been worked out more slowly and less traumatically by the progression of the sadhana was brought up in a very abrupt way. There isn’t this kind of correlation of a nice bodily experience with the commencement of the knee pain, but following my neurologist’s recommendation, I was doing a lot of physical exercise at the time including two weekly one-hour power yoga classes when that pain started up. Maybe overdoing it with exercise, especially asana, brought up more resistance in the body. It’s hard to say, but it seems possible.
Now I’m not sure as to what symbolic meaning the part of the dream with Nilambe may have had. The dream did prompt me though to look up their website and see what was going on with them. When I was at Nilambe it was a fairly open place and you could show up and stay just one night if you wanted to and long term stays were also possible, though most people were backpackers who would stay for a few days or a week or so. At some point though since the last time I was there in 2010 they have changed things considerably and are only running seven day retreats that you are required to attend for the whole seven days. My dream showed an even more bohemian and unstructured arrangement than when I was there and not a more structured one, so this dream doesn’t seem to reflect those changes. This leads me to believe it perhaps had more to do with where I was at in my life at the time of the dream. Our house here is pretty bohemian as far as things go with the young people that live or visit here, none of whom have any interest in the spiritual life and just want to get as much vital pleasure out of existence as they can. There’s a freedom here in our house for young people that probably doesn’t exist anywhere else in Pondicherry, though nearby Auroville has a more western and free atmosphere throughout the whole community. I can see how the dream might represent the state of our house which for Donny and I at least is our ashram in the midst of life, but overlaid with the vital atmosphere of our young people.
I will say however, if I can get up on my soapbox for a moment, something that Donny suggested, and that is that my dream might more truly represent the spirit of Nilambe, which is actually stunted by all this added structure. There of course was a daily schedule when I was at Nilambe, and people were expected to participate as well as maintain the Noble Silence, but if you slept in and missed the 5am meditation one day no one gave you a hard time about it. I missed that particular mediation often during my stays there. People would also do things like go into the woods to get high or even for romantic/sexual liaisons, and even though that was against the rules, the staff didn’t try to crack down on it much. I would guess there is a lot less tolerance for that sort of thing there now. I do think that Nilambe is a retreat center, and you can’t just let it be a free for all, the same way Donny and I can’t let the unregenerate vital just run riot here and completely rule the house. I imagine the purpose of these changes at Nilambe is mainly to change the clientele, so that even if backpackers show up, they’re serious about doing a seven day retreat. It also probably makes things easier on the staff there since the retreats are done one week on, one week off. I have to say that I do understand why Nilambe has made these changes, to do things dynamically requires more work, and it’s easier to just lay down hard and fast rules. I have to wonder though if the center’s lost something of the magic it had by being ramrodded into something like a vipassana.6 Nuff said.
So to sum things up I haven’t been able to provide any answers regarding my physical problems in this article. I do feel though some kind of victory is possible in this situation, whether that would be healing for the body, or reaching a state of consciousness where I’m free inwardly from what’s going on with the body, or some combination of the two remains to be seen. I do think though if the influence of the hostile being could be removed or negated I wouldn’t have as difficult a time, but to do that seems to be something beyond my personal power and would require grace. In the end, it seems what I need to do is carry on persistently with the sadhana as sincerely as I can. There’s one particular quote of the Mother I call to mind frequently to help during trying times and will share to end this article. Very simply she says:
To the most stubborn goes the victory.7
Notes and References
At the time of the accident I was experiencing a very joyous state brought on by an acid trip and was wondering why I couldn’t remain in that state. I guess the accident or what it represented was my answer. For those who are interested, I have incorporated a more detailed description of that joyous state in my short story Slumdog Epilogue which is posted here on our old blog The Chipmunk Press. Scroll down a little to read.
Here I’m referring to the Rainbow Family that puts on the Rainbow Gatherings not the LGBT community.
In some recent blog posts I’ve been looking into the phenomenon of outer events that I’m unaware of in my waking life making an appearance symbolically in my dreams. Rather than restate things I’ve said elsewhere I will refer the reader to both of these older posts if they want some background for this post.
I will reiterate however that I’m finding that the occurrences making their way into my dreams relate to significant developments with things that my vital has an interest in such as movie and sports franchises. I’m going to share another example of this with this dream:
I’m watching a lead in for the World Series where Bob Costas is talking about all these different pitchers for this one team. He’s talking about one pitcher that got benched during the semifinals, but that he was very supportive when his teammate pitched a shut out.
The morning after this dream I found out via my mother that the Stanley Cup finals had started while I was sleeping, and that Pittsburgh had won the first game. Now I was neither aware of the finals starting nor that the Penguins were in it for the second year in a row. I’m a lover of all things Pittsburgh when it comes to sports, so even though I never watch hockey, I had tuned in some to the Stanley Cup finals the year before just because the Penguins were in it. And of course my vital got a thrill out of their winning the Cup.
But you might point out that I dreamed about the World Series and not the Stanley Cup. My answer to that would be that if you have any experience with dreams you know that this is how they operate a lot of the time. Things aren’t always or even usually exact, just approximate or analogous. I did come to discover later though, that for at least the first two games of the series one of Pittsburgh’s top players, Carl Hagelin, was benched due to poor play during the post season, and, before game 3 when he was asked by Pittsburgh Post Gazette reporter Sam Werner about being benched, his response was “When you find out … you’re pissed off. But it’s the Stanley Cup final. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.” So if you can accept the analogous nature of dreams I think you can see I was picking up on what was going on with the Stanley Cup final and this particular player even though it was all presented in the garb of the World Series.
As in my last two articles I’ll take a stab at a personal interpretation for me in this dream since, as Donny pointed out while we were discussing my first draft of this article, one could assume the dream builder has a reason for weaving these events into the dream. One also has to ask if the appearance of something you love in a dream, like Transformers for example, always correlates with a significant outer event happening close to the time or at the same time as the dream. I have to admit I haven’t found that to be the case so far, but I do think I can say it’s the case sometimes, and for the moment I’m going to assume it’s going on even when you aren’t looking for it, and not just once you become conscious that it’s possible.
So getting back to the personal interpretation I would point out that this dream took place a week before I got about a two-week break from my life in India. That life involves dealing with a household of maturing youths in their late teens and early twenties and all the difficulties and responsibilities that entails. The first week was more or less a complete break, as I went to Sri Lanka by myself on a visa run, and then in the second week Donny and I left our charges here and went for a few days to stay in a quiet area near the holy mountain Arunachala not far from Pondy. There we were still in contact by phone with the house back in Pondy and were periodically checking up on things. Perhaps like me you can see how that final week before my break could be shown as going into something like the World Series, capping off a process. And even though the break was short, it may have been long enough that I was able to process things a bit and ‘start a new season’ so to speak when I returned, one not the same as the preceding season, at least as far as myself and my dealing with it are concerned, a bit of a fresh start to some degree. At the same time though, something like the World Series is quite significant, implies perhaps that I was being tested or challenged at that time. If I had snapped to this idea at the time I had the dream, I may have been able to connect it to something going on during that week before I left, but I didn’t, so I’ll just have to put that idea out there as speculation.
And if you didn’t already know the Penguins did take the cup for the second year in a row.
In Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri there’s a series of cantos where the heroine, Savitri, journeys inside of herself to reach her soul. This, however, is more than just a story, but Aurobindo’s presentation of a significant step in the process of the integral yoga. A few years ago I started aspiring to try and remember to use my instances of lucidity in dreams to try and reach my soul. Though I have not yet succeeded in doing so, along the way I have had dreams where I think I have made some progress toward that goal. I want to share my most recent example of a dream like this, but I need to physically describe where the dream started which was in the driveway of the house I lived in during high school.
I was able to find this picture of that driveway on the internet. What you don’t see that’s important is a descending terraced path that runs along the left side of the driveway down to the back yard. The path was gravel and each terraced step was about five to ten feet long or so and ended in a railroad tie turned sideways to hold the gravel and that particular step in place. There are also railroad ties running along the side of the driveway all the way to where it meets the house. Where the latticework fence is there’s about a 12 foot drop to the back yard. That fence was not there when I was living in this house. There was also a basketball hoop over the middle garage door, and we often played basketball in the driveway.
So having set the scene let me share the dream:
I’m in the driveway of my old house in Richmond, and I am looking at some improvements the new owners have made. The rail ties that run along the edge of the driveway are covered with something smooth and white like the cement in a skateboard park and decorated with rows of something like painted stones or pottery. The pieces are circular and of all different colors. The path that goes down to the yard is also paved and decorated like this. The whole thing is very beautiful to look at. Right at the curve of the driveway a piece of the rail tie has been removed, and it’s possible to go down a step and reach the path here rather than where the path starts. In the dream though it was only a foot or so down to the path at this spot, whereas in waking reality it’s almost the full 12 foot drop. I walk back up the driveway toward the street, and I’m with a couple of other guys. Then I realize I’m dreaming. I jump up into the air and start being taken up by a force. I ask the Mother to take me, and I’m going up fast as things fade to black. I move through the blackness for a long time and see some different vague images and patterns. I remember some five pointed stars and also a sun either setting or rising. There’s one part where the space I’m in seems constricted like I’m moving through a tube or something. Then I notice I’ve come to a stop, and I open my eyes and I’m lying in a bed. The bedspread has been pushed back and is rumpled at the end of the bed. It’s a light blue color if I remember right. Lilo, our yellow Labrador, is at the end of the bed, but it’s strange, like she’s melded with the bedspread. I’m still lucid, but I start losing the dream and have a false awakening.
So what I believe happened here is, as in other dreams I’ve had, I was journeying toward the soul and reached a waypoint, a deeper level of dreaming. Some of these deeper levels of dreaming can be kind of weird like this one with the dog strangely melded with the bedspread. I’m not sure what that might mean, but on one level maybe it’s showing something about my relationship with the dog who sleeps in my room frequently, though I don’t allow her on the bed. The light blue color of the bedspread, if I’m remembering the color correctly, would probably have some spiritual significance since blue, according to Sri Aurobindo, can represent the spiritual consciousness that lies above the normal human level of consciousness. It’s possible I was actually in my bed in the cataleptic state, but I don’t think so, as the usual sensations I have of a sort of numbness in the body and difficulty moving were not present.
Regarding the events of the dream before I went into the blackness, I would guess that the beautifully decorated descending path to the backyard represents the journey towards the soul since that’s where I went as soon as I became lucid. Donny suggested though that the path might also show the light getting down into the lower levels of my being as part of the process of sadhana. I think it may have that meaning as well for reasons I’ll explain later. The gap in the rail tie with the step down at the curve of the driveway (basically a shortcut) is maybe showing a way is open to some of these deeper levels of dreaming, showing that if you reach there once, the way is clear to get there again, though you may not find yourself there frequently. So maybe in this dream I reached a level I’d already been to before and didn’t actually go any further. It’s hard to say because I’m quite far from being any kind of expert on how to differentiate between these different dreaming levels.
Now in the first part of the dream I only observed the beautiful downward path but didn’t actually go down it. Everything I did took place in the driveway, and before this dream I’d never given any thought to what a driveway might mean as a symbol. Though I think there’s much of dubious value in dream dictionaries, I do consult them online frequently because I’ve found they can be quite insightful at times. So when I looked this time I found a couple of sites saying a driveway represents the end of a journey. That interpretation would make sense and fit in this case I think, even though I didn’t reach the end of the journey and actually arrive at the soul. And a driveway of course leads to a garage or in this case a three-car garage. Donny has come to believe that a garage1 represents your dream life and if that’s right that would fit into things too, even though I never went in the garage, nor were the garage doors up. All of this would be enough to explain why my dream builder chose this particular location to represent where I am in the process of completing the journey to the soul, but I think there may be another reason why this particular driveway was chosen, and it relates to something that happened there in waking life, something that was a manifestation of a major character flaw of mine. Let me explain.
As a child and a teenager I was basically skinny and a wimp as well as fairly unathletic, though not to the point where I had the unenviable distinction of being last kid picked for kickball. But I more or less always found myself on the losing end of any individual contests in sports, video games as well as the wrestling matches that boys often engage in. You could imagine that was very frustrating in a culture that places so much value not just on athletic prowess, but also being strong and tough. What made matters worse though were some things that had to do with my brother who was fourteen months younger than I. Despite the age difference Rick, who was very strong and a star athlete, could basically whup me from the time we were small children, and that was a bitter and humiliating pill to swallow, since the big brother is supposed to be able to whup the little brother. In addition to that, since he was my brother there was sibling rivalry, and the fact that he was so much better than me at sports was very frustrating for a couple of reasons. One was just competitiveness. I wanted to be as good as him at everything and got very angry about the fact that I wasn’t. The other was the fact that his athleticism won him the approval of my father, who wasn’t so interested in the things I was good at like theater. Another thing about me I should mention is that I didn’t like losing in general, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to do something like flip a board game over in frustration if things weren’t going my way.
So with that as the psychological backstory let me tell you what happened in that driveway in Richmond, Indiana. It was a winter day, but it wasn’t too cold, and there was no snow on the driveway. I was sixteen or seventeen. I was playing one on one basketball with my friend Jeff. As usual I was on the losing end of things, and there was some roughhousing on both our ends, though nothing unusual for boys playing sports. As Jeff continued to best me, I got more and more angry and frustrated. At one point on the crest of it Jeff and I were both going for the ball near the edge of the driveway, but near the top of the downward path where the drop was only a few of feet. As we went for the ball I didn’t outright shove him, but leaned hard into him knowing that that would be enough to send him over the edge. And it was. I’ll never forget the utter horror I felt as I saw Jeff fall back flailing over the edge as the more reasonable part of me kicked back in. Fortunately as I said, the drop was only a few feet, and Jeff landed flat on his back on snow-covered gravel, his fall further cushioned by the winter jacket he was wearing. So he jumped up unhurt to my great relief, and we continued playing. The way I had done things had been quite sneaky, and just appeared like normal roughhousing. If Jeff had noticed or sensed that I had purposely tried to hurt him he didn’t give any indication.
Now while I had had plenty of tantrums and outbursts over losing, I had never done anything quite like this. And unlike a lot of descriptions of people’s reason being unseated by the vital, I didn’t have the sense that I was watching myself do it or that it was like I was another person. It was more subtle and insidious than that, but it was still an act that went beyond my normal ethical boundaries. Fortunately it didn’t end in a way that would have haunted me for the rest of my life, because even though it was a short drop, Jeff still could have been seriously hurt or killed if he had landed on his head or hit one of the railroad ties. I think there may be more people out there than we realize who could relate an instance like this and who through luck or grace were spared a lifetime of regret or even imprisonment. And then there’s the cases where things didn’t turn out so well, people who, even if they’re not sitting in a prison cell over what they did in the heat of a moment, are sitting in an inner prison of guilt and regret wondering how in the world they could have acted that way and wishing very much that they hadn’t.
One thing it seems obvious we’ll have to do in order to evolve as a species is we’re going to have to start bringing these sticky and unsightly things into the light of day and start talking about them. If enough otherwise ‘good’ people came forward and admitted they’d been temporarily taken over in the way I’ve described here, we could perhaps start to realize that we aren’t the masters of ourselves that we think we are, and that in the right conditions many of us are open to what for a lack of a better word you could call temporary insanity. And it’s not just on the level of the individual, but also in groups, as the examples of angry mobs and Nazi Germany will attest. Understanding this would be one of the things that would get us on the way to a right way of dealing with harm and wrongdoing, forgiving others for the hurt done to us, and forgiving ourselves for the hurt we do to others. Punishment would eventually be taken out of the equation, but that wouldn’t mean you still wouldn’t have to try and take responsibility for harm done even if it was done in a genuine moment of temporary insanity. There couldn’t be any fixed formula though for how you would take responsibility, since for whatever reason it might not be possible or appropriate to help the person you wronged. If you were open to it though the universe would present you with opportunities and situations to balance the harm done by helping or being involved with other people that had nothing to do with the original harm, or even just having to endure a difficult trial or situation as a way of balancing things out. It would take a very plastic society with spiritual growth as its aim to implement this sort of thing, and it would be hand in hand with many other changes. The time where we’re doing this as a global society seems to still be a ways off, but a beginning could be made now on a small scale in small organizations or communities. This was a bit of a digression here, but one that I think was worth taking the time to make.
Getting back to me though, how does this event from my teenage years relate to the dream. Well as I said earlier Donny suggested the dream was showing the light getting down into the lower parts of my being. That interpretation makes sense since this competitiveness in me is a major stumbling block. Perhaps this particular locale was chosen to show not only that this character flaw is something blocking me from finding my soul, but also that I’ve made progress with it. Some aspects of this weakness I let go of many years ago. I no longer get really bent out of shape about losing for example. The only area it really comes up is with the only thing I really value or have a strong interest in anymore and that’s spirituality. And it’s mainly something that comes up in my relationship with other seekers I’m around which most of the time is just Donny. With all the spiritual experiences he’s had and the mountains of muse he’s had come down on him, it’s hard not to feel that I don’t measure up, since I’ve no ‘big’ spiritual experiences I can talk about, and what I get from the muse is hardly a trickle, which I often can’t interpret. And while my mind can see that all Donny’s grace is one level a sort of compensation for a difficult issue in his vital, my vital, like everyone’s, is an irrational creature and has more difficulty grasping that. Nor could my vital grasp when I was a boy that I had talents and abilities that were more developed than Rick and be content with that. Ultimately I think feelings in the vital of inadequacy or lack or not measuring up are what usually underlie most movements of competitiveness or jealousy, and it’s also a lower movement, though perhaps it’s more legitimate because it’s emotional pain. It’s still egoism though and has to be dealt with. One thing too about competitiveness I’ve found, is it breeds on proximity, and if I didn’t know Donny and wasn’t close to him, and just read about his experiences online or in a book, and never saw him or had anything to do with him, it might still hit that painful inadequate spot and produce jealousy, but it would be much less significant. But because he’s close to me I compare myself to him, and also since our work is side by side online I don’t like feeling like I look like a second fiddle.
Some people might be shocked at what I’ve divulged here or wonder why I’d be willing to admit to such a thing. As I said though we need to start talking about these things so I’m talking about them. What it boils down to is that all of us still living in ego consciousness are dysfunctional to one degree or another, and that’s a key truth to see: that ego consciousness itself is intrinsically flawed. The other key and complimentary truth is that there’s the possibility of getting out of ego consciousness2. Understanding these two truths can provide a framework in which, as I’ve suggested, small groups and communities and eventually all of society can safely talk about and work on integrating our darkness. This is what Donny and I are trying to do on a very small scale here at Harm’s End, with basically just the two of us at the moment, though other people live here. We hope though that in the future more like-minded people will join us here and take part in the endeavor, and that eventually we’ll have a little model here that other people can use as starting point for similar undertakings. Anybody interested?
Dream symbols often have a simple logic to them, so I asked Donny what he thought might be the logic behind a garage representing your dream life. He said that a garage is where you store things, and also where you work. He also said it’s not where you live. You don’t spend as much time there as you do in the rest of the house.
I don’t know this from personal experience, but I’ve read a lot of accounts of people who’ve made this leap, and in a few cases even spoken to people who had had glimpses or permanent realizations beyond ego consciousness. So I’m convinced enough that I feel comfortable saying the potential to go beyond ego consciousness is a truth.
Recently I attended a conference called ‘Pain: Its Cause and Cure’ at the Sri Aurobindo Center For Advanced Research (SACAR) in Pondicherry India. I had arranged to stay at the SACAR guest house and arrived the evening before the conference began. While eating dinner I got to know a lady from Texas named Debbie who was attending the conference as well. I also took note of a pretty young Indian woman who came into the dining area briefly, but I didn’t actually meet her.
That night I had this dream:
I’m attending a lecture at the pain conference. I’m next to Debbie, though she looks much younger, and we just end up holding hands. I’m feeling desire and thinking we might hook up later. I end up resting my head on our clasped hands, but this puts my head behind a tall guy so I can’t see the PowerPoint presentation on the projector screen.
The dream was a little puzzling for me because, although Debbie was admittedly cute for her age (60), I didn’t really feel attracted to her sexually, though I liked her personality-wise. Anyway, at 9 a.m. we all went into the lecture hall and sat ourselves at two person desks. A very tall Indian woman sat down in the seat directly in front of me, effectively blocking my view of the screen, so that I had to lean to the side and peer around her in order to see it. I was struck by the exactness of the outer event matching what had happened in the dream, and I figured there was some meaning there, but I wasn’t sure what it might be. Arriving a little late was the pretty young Indian woman from the night before, and as is often the case when such beauty is around, my vital wants to eat it through my eyes, sexual staring I call it. It’s an urge that still just comes, like a reflex even though there’s part of me that would gladly be rid of it. As I sat there listening to the speakers, the desire would come in waves, and I would repeatedly have to use my will to keep pulling myself away from it. Later that afternoon I found myself sitting at the same table as her at lunch and found out her name, I’ll call her N. in this article, but I didn’t talk much to her. Then that evening at dinner she arrived late, and she sat down at the table with me and another American man, Don. The three of us conversed for a little while, and I found her quite charming and sweet as well as pretty. There was something too about her vital that my vital really found appealing, and I could feel that vital thrill you experience when you’re interacting with someone you’re really attracted to. It’s a kind of feeding, one you can keep at bay, but I didn’t do such a good job of it here. This thing in her vital though wasn’t anything flirtatious or overtly sexual, but quite the opposite really. She was actually very much a lady, and if you give my vital the choice between the tart and the lady it will take the lady the majority of the time though perhaps not every time.
At some point I excused myself to go up to my room, and that’s when my vital problems really began. What happened was the vital latched onto the idea of inviting N. to my house so she could see the work I’m doing here with some young tamil adults that live in a multi apartment complex with me and my partner in the endeavor Donny. It’s a work that’s been going on for a number of years, and Donny I both feel that what our house needs now, beyond some changes and structure within it, is for people in the community here to come and see what we’re doing. Since I knew I was going to this pain conference at SACAR and would be mixing with a large group of people, I was on the lookout for potential prospects to invite.
So with N. my vital took that ball and ran with it with, producing waves of thoughts and fantasies about bringing her to the house. Most of the scenarios the vital was cooking up we’re just about being around and her taking in her vital energy the same way I had at dinner the night before, but there were to a lesser degree outright romantic and sexual thoughts and feelings. The morning of that second day at the conference it was hard to stay focused because of the vital tumult. I kept trying to reject it, and also to turn my attention away from it by focusing on the lecturers and what they were saying. I’d succeed for a while and there’d be a space of clarity, but then another wave of it would come and it became quite apparent that my dream from two nights before, and the way my view of the screen was actually physically blocked the day before were foreshadowing this vital movement which was ‘blocking’ my view of the conference. And though the love interest in the dream was a young Debbie, it was N. it was referring to.
One thing that really helped though as these waves of desire would come was something Donny and I had been talking about just days before that had come from his muse which said:
What is a victory, getting over a temptation? Getting over a limitation1
These lines may not look like much at first glance, but the idea here is quite powerful. Looking at something as a temptation automatically gives it the association of badness, and creates a resistance or aversion to it that just makes it harder to throw out. Looking it as a limitation though takes that charge away from it. You can still see it for what it is, which is something getting in the way of one’s sadhana and not make excuses for it, but you can deal with it in a more calm and detached manner. Which is what I was able to do.
Now in addition to taking that attitude of a limitation towards the vital desire, I also tried to reason with the vital, pointing out things like the fact that having N. visit the house would mean wrestling with this desire, and the fact that even if she was game and I was willing to put a halt to twelve years of celibacy, my lower back problems would make it impossible to really enjoy intimacy with her or anyone else for that matter. I don’t remember exactly at what point in the day it happened, but there was a decisive moment where my vital basically said “Yeah, you’re right” and let go of the idea of bringing her over to the house. At that moment I felt something lift within me and instantly felt lighter and more clear to the point that when Donny came to visit me at the SACAR guest house late that evening he remarked that I seemed to be quite clear and focused. The thoughts and imaginings of bringing N. to the house still came a little bit, but the vital push and urgency that had been behind them was just a fraction of what it had been before.
The next day however it became apparent that while the vital had let go of the desire to invite N. to the house, it still hadn’t totally let go of the desire to be around her and to interact with her while the conference was still going on. During lunch an Austrian man and I spoke a little Spanish to each other, and N., who was also at our table, showed some interest by mentioning she really likes a Netflix series called Narcos which is full of Spanish. So I took that opportunity to teach her a few words in Spanish as a way to interact with her. That in itself may not have been inappropriate. You can do something like that in the right way and for the right reason, and when I woke up on the morning of the fourth and last day of the retreat I made a strong resolution not to follow the vital’s desire to interact with N. and to try and handle whatever interaction came up in the right way, i.e. without vitally eating.
What was amazing though was that after having made that resolution it seemed like every time I turned around, there she was. So I taught her a number of Spanish words that day as well as explained some concepts in Spanish such as gender and different words for the verb ‘to be’. I also talked about places I’d traveled in Latin America and she told me she had a sister that was living in Mexico. I tried not to vitally eat, but I don’t think I was completely successful. The truth is I still have things to learn regarding the subtleties of when I’m vitally eating or not eating when having these more casual interactions with someone I’m sexually attracted to. Overall though, I felt pretty good about things at the end of the day, felt like I’d been the friend she needed me to be and it seemed that her interest had been perked further not just in Spanish, but also in the possibility of traveling in Latin America. I wondered if maybe that’s something that will be important in her process. That’s just speculation though.
Be that as it may, when I got home from the conference and was reflecting on everything that had happened, I was initially a little disheartened since I hadn’t had the romantic/sexual thing come up that strongly in many years, didn’t think it actually could come up that strongly anymore. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Even though I’ve put a lot of effort into breaking the habit of following the romantic/sexual impulse in all its forms in waking life, it’s still there. It’s also in dreams too, though outright sexual dreams and nocturnal emissions aren’t nearly as common as they used to be. When the romantic/sexual impulse does come up in dreams it’s usually just on the level of feeling and flirting where often there’s the potential for sex later if I can find myself alone with this person. Even these types of dreams aren’t so common anymore, but even if I were able to free my waking and dream life completely from these movements, they could still rise up from the subconscient according to Sri Aurobindo2. What I think it basically boils down to is that until you reach a certain turning point in the yoga these things will always have the potential to rise when given the right stimulus. And with N. I had a very strong stimulus both physically and vitally that was hitting on all cylinders as far as what gets me going sexually and romantically. I will say however that it didn’t get its hooks into me as badly as it has in the past, and I think that’s because of the effort I’ve put into breaking the habit of following that impulse over the course of many years, and also because mentally I understand I’m not going to get any lasting satisfaction from a romantic/sexual relationship.
Now of course it’s good that I didn’t get as carried away with the vital movement as I have in the past, but it seems like the process of getting free of these things is interminable, like the curve of a hyperbola which gets closer and closer to its asymptotes as it extends into infinity but doesn’t ever actually touch them. So what is the turning point? It seems to me it could be different things for different people. For some people it might be something really major like the vital being becoming fully converted and giving itself wholly to the divine instead of the pursuit of its desires, or the psychic being suddenly and irrevocably coming to the front. A letter I recently reread of Sri Aurobindo’s gives me reason to believe though that it can happen in a more subtle way. He tells us:
By constant effort and aspiration one can arrive at a turning point when the psychic asserts itself and what seems a very slight psychological change or reversal alters the whole balance of the nature.3
Now other people might read this differently than I do, but it doesn’t appear to me that he’s describing the psychic being coming completely forward in this quotation. I think what he’s talking about here is a turning point where the psychic being wouldn’t be fully out in front, but its influence would become more powerful than the resistance of the outer nature. Then it would only be a matter of time for things like the complete conversion of the vital, or the psychic being coming irrevocably forward to happen.
However that turning point happens though, you have to carry on with your effort and aspiration until you reach it, and that’s hard. I’m finding in my own case that the vital has become fairly neutral, and while it’s not opposing the sadhana much, it’s not putting its enthusiasm into it much either. It also gets discouraged and I’m finding the only way is to will myself forward despite movements of discouragement and loss of faith. It’s kind of like walking in the desert, and while you come across the occasional oasis, you wonder if you’re ever going to find your way out of it. I hope one day to be able to tell people what’s it like on the other side of that desert.
Copyright Donny Duke
‘When the waking consciousness has renounced the indulgence of the sexual desires and impulses, these take refuge in the subconscient as impressions, memories, suppressed desires and come up in sleep as dreams and involuntary sleep emissions. If the waking consciousness is not itself clear, if, that is to say, though there is no physical indulgence, yet there are imaginations in the mind or desires in the vital or the body, then these dreams and emissions can be frequent. Even if the waking consciousness is clear, the subconscient emergences can still come for a time, but in time they diminish.’ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 31 – Letters on Yoga Volume 4, pg 526
Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 28 – Letters on Yoga Volume 1, pg 121
When I was living in India, myself and two friends, David and Donny, started a kids program for urban village children. That program later evolved into a home for five of those children with us as the primary caretakers. As it turned out I left India when those kids we’re on the cusp of adolescence, but I’ve still stayed involved by funding the project. For most of the time I was in India as well I was funding The Lighthouse, as we called it then (now Harm’s End like the blog), with money that I had.
In addition to the five residents (now three) we also had and still have what you might call an ‘extended family’ of Lighthouse kids that we’re involved with. Because nearly all the kids we were dealing with were from severely impoverished families we were getting asked constantly for money for all kinds of things and not just for the children’s needs. The situation has continued with me in America and I sometimes get emails from Donny voicing someone’s request for this or that. The whole situation hits a trigger in my vital and was a struggle for me then as well as now. Part of it is selfishness as well as a conflict with the conservative values I was raised with. As a result I’m pretty tight fisted by nature. Donny is the opposite though and we often found ourselves at odds on the giving issue which created resentment in me towards him and towards the giving in general which was something I sometimes felt was forced on me. This was made worse by the fact that the people we were dealing with would try to play Donny against me in order to get what they wanted. There was also a lot of lying where we’d be asked for money for something, but find out later the money had actually been used for something else. That also created resentment.
Both now and in the past I either decide to give or am convinced to give more often than not it seems, so that really hasn’t changed. I have mellowed out some though in regards to the giving, see the need for it in some cases, and I’ve gotten a lot better at not getting taken over as much by the feelings of annoyance etc. that come up nor letting the decision about a certain request take over my thoughts.
I still have reactions though to the requests, sometimes big reactions where this unintegrated resentment from the past comes surging up. I had one of those reactions recently when Donny relayed a request to pay for drum lessons from Samuel who is part of the extended family. I said no since Mugu, a resident, had been asking for the same thing, and would probably have gotten irate at us giving lessons to someone else. That in itself was a valid point, but as I said the resentment towards the giving came up as well as another source of resentment. Let me explain. Over the years I’ve given a lot of money to Lighthouse kids for this or that class (usually something with getting a job in mind), and I know the way these urban village children will quit things at the drop of a hat if they decide they don’t like it or find it to be too much effort. And even in the instances where a class was finished, in every case they’ve either not used the education at all or gotten a job with it and quit within a matter of weeks. The hours are long and the pay is crap in India unless you have a lot of education so I can’t not empathize a little, but as you might understand, there’s a part of me that’s really tired of watching money go to waste in the attempts to help these people better themselves. I figured if history was any indication there was a good chance Samuel wouldn’t stick with the drum class, and it would just be more money down the drain.
So getting back to the story, even after I told Donny my answer, the vital was still miffed about the whole thing, and the mind kept mulling over things such as what I’d say if Donny didn’t drop it etc. Then that night I had this dream:
I’m in a town and Eli Manning is there as well as a guy who’s running amok. A car almost runs the crazy guy over, but then some people manage to capture him and put him in an old car like a Model T that has no roof. I get in the car too as a passenger. We’re interrogating the crazy guy, and it’s apparent he’s completely nuts. I finally just get sick of him and throw him out of the car. I’m glad to be rid of the guy and he’s gone for a while. Then he’s suddenly back crawling up the outside of the car, but he’s a zombie now. We manage to dislodge him again, but then he comes creeping again up the side of the car. Somebody suggests we go play a video game about zombies, that doing so might give us a clue as to how to get rid of him.
Shortly after waking up the next day I decided I’d had enough of all this ruling my mind and vital so I made a firm resolution to throw it out. It wasn’t so easy to get rid of though. It took quite a bit of work and even though I wanted it gone the thoughts and antagonistic feelings kept coming back as the thing expended its emotional charge. The dream shows this process very well, first with the crazy guy, who represented these irrational thoughts and emotions, and how I threw him out of the car, which shows my decision to throw out the vital reaction I was having. Then we see how even after I’d ‘killed’ the guy, i.e. the vital movement, it kept coming back and this is shown by the guy becoming a zombie that I can’t get rid of.
Regarding some of the other symbols in the dream I have to admit I don’t know what to make of the part at the end about playing the video game, but Eli Manning is an interesting symbol. As any football fan knows, Manning and his team the New York Giants have toppled arrogant quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots twice in the Superbowl, the first time giving New England their only loss of the season. In addition to their reputation for being arrogant, the Patriots are also known for the two times they’ve been caught cheating in recent years. So if you look at the Patriots as cheating jerks with big egos, as many non-Patriots fans do, then you could see how maybe Manning represented some force or movement helping me to throw out the nasty vital reaction that had taken me over.
Another interpretation though is that Eli Manning might represent the nice guy in me since Manning, a two time Superbowl MVP quarterback, always comes across as a humble, well meaning fellow as well as a good sportsman except, of course, for when he was drafted1. The truth is there was part of me that wanted to give Samuel what he wanted because I feel sorry for him. He never stood a chance in the cutthroat Indian public school system and ended up dropping out. The future looks pretty bleak for Samuel, and the Eli Manning part of me wanted to give him something that he might take pleasure in.
So after I’d cleared out the vital reaction the Eli Manning part of me was still pleading Samuel’s case, but in the end I decided that since Donny didn’t voice any objection to my decision I would let it stand and see if Samuel pressed the issue. If he did I figured that might mean it was more than just a fleeting fancy or just arising out of a desire to make noise. Another reason, however, that I decided to let the thing drop at the time was because that I knew after I saw the meaning of the zombie dream that I’d eventually be writing this article, and that would be a chance to take another look at things.2
So in closing, while I think it’s been valuable to go into the nuts and bolts of my vital reaction, I want to reemphasize a really important lesson in this article, which is how these vital movements won’t go without a fight once you’ve let them get in and really take over. The best thing of course is to not let it get to that point, to detach yourself from them immediately if you can and don’t let yourself get fully pulled into the vital vortex. That can be hard to avoid though with things that really get your goat the way this situation did with me. Once it’s really gotten to you though, the best thing to do, once you’re able to, is make a firm resolution to throw the vital movement out and then be more stubborn than it until it’s gone.
Notes and References
Manning stated publicly that he would refuse to play for the San Diego Chargers should they draft him.
After proofing the article Donny revealed to me that Samuel had in fact been persistently asking for the class for a while before he finally relayed the request to me. Donny also said that Samuel kept asking for a while after I’d said no, but that he kept telling Samuel the answer was no. When I asked Donny recently if he thought we should give Samuel the class he said he thought we shouldn’t at the moment, because Samuel didn’t seem to be interested anymore, but that somewhere down the road it might be appropriate if he asked again.