Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Calamity Dreams

This morning I first work up around 5AM when Phoebe, the youngest cat, decided it was time for her snuggle. I dozed off again once she settled down against my chest. When my alarm went off an hour later I had drifted into a nightmare of sorts.

I was at a team meeting for work, however, there was imminent flooding happening. People had been evacuated, however, there was not enough room to take everyone and I was one of the ones still remaining. I could see waters rushing though the street outside, rising rapidly. As I was frantically gathering together what items I felt would best prepare me to survive outside and opening a window to climb out. That's when the alarm went off and I awoke with a start. Hours later I find I can still distinctly recall feeling somewhat frantic, that I did not want to die, however I was also very calm, efficient and methodical about preparing to escape on my own. I also had a sense of acceptance if I was going to die, I just sure was going to try and prevent it if at all possible.

Work has been filled with upheaval, so the bit of work thrown in there makes sense. In Portland we've had 6 people retire due to downsizing. They all got very good retirement incentive packages, but two of the 6 were people I genuinely felt like were my friends at work. I've felt a little lost without them, especially in team meetings where sometimes the other part of our team in Denver ride roughshod over the Portland folks. That the dream was a face-to-face team meeting too doesn't surprise me as those often leave me feeling uncomfortable and hits into all those ways in which I feel awkward and uncomfortable being a part of a group.

I shared the dream with my boss, who gave me a concerned look. She's the one person I've always felt was my friend at work, it helps that she's only recently been my "boss". In the past two years I also started to open up to her a little bit about my PTSD. Moving in 2006 really set off a lot of things and I needed the space to work from home a bit more often, finding being in the office too much to handle sometimes. Especially after having had some flashbacks trigger during a team meeting; I figured she really needed to know what was going on since it was starting to affect my work to some degree.

When I told CK about it later she asked if I thought it was related to all the stuff about Mom churning around. I thought it could be -- when I look up a little online about dream interpretations I find that having a flood in a dream may represent emotional issues and tension or possibly feeling as though circumstances are out of my control. Dreams of escaping might signify good health and prosperity -- not sure if I was going to escape, but I certainly was making my plans for it and was fiercely driven to survive. I also find reference to dreams of escape being about feeling the need to discover new potential in myself, drop old habits, or that I've encountered some self-imposed limitations and feel the need to overcome them.

I suppose all of those things fit pretty well. I absolutely have a huge amount of tension around my relationship with my Mom; how to maintain as healthy and positive relationship as possible given the history there. This is tough practice. A few years ago I saw how heavy the aspect of a "hungry ghost" that hangs over my Mother and most of my family. Sometimes it gives some reason to, but never an excuse for some of the ways she behaved. Other days I really despair at how willingly, desperately she clings to delusion, resentment, and dissatisfaction. On those days I try and stick with what my teacher reminded me of, that my practice on her behalf helps her even if she refuses to help herself.

That I need to discover my own potential... If I were to say otherwise AM and CK, not to mention my Zen teacher and therapists (psychotherapy, massage therapy, physical/craniosacaral therapy), would be quick to point out this out to me. Not necessarily discover, so much as feel grounded in, believe in my own potential. Last ango my teacher suggested I work on developing pride in what I've accomplished. Months later I still struggle with it.

Sometimes I get a glimmer of it. Tonight I convinced my yoga students to try shoulderstand. They gave me dubious looks after I showed them pose, but I walked them through it carefully. After a few minutes I looked around and saw several wavering pairs of legs up in the air around the room. All of them attempted the full pose and did very well, most of them doing the pose for the first time, after I'd given them options to do only part of the pose if they felt that would be more comfortable.

That's big and obvious, it easy to take pride in that. I have confidence in my ability to teach a challenging pose to beginners while encouraging them that they could do it. I do recognize pride in the rush of positive feelings upon seeing them all trying and succeeding.

The trick is recognizing and cultivating that positive side of it elsewhere. That's what seems so much more difficult at times. I spend such amount of time not even thinking about myself. Not in a mindful denial of self or an endless litany from the inner critic. Not even that much attention to self. To learn how to have pride takes being more mindful of myself and that is challenging to learn. When I maintained a persona it was easy to be mindful of the self I thought I was, I spent a great deal of time on being caught up in the idea of self. With the persona gone, with finding the path to who I really am -- maybe who I was as a child or who I was before this lifetime -- there is a disconnect from a sense of self that makes pride or recognizing potential challenging for me.

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