Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


And Dream of Beloit

A strange dream that I actually remember after the usual morning routine...

I was visiting Beloit. Not that I was a student again, although I was there to take an exam, with CK. Or perhaps CK was there taking an exam and I was just tagging along since it was at Beloit. I recall asking her if she felt like she was sufficiently prepared and wanted to explore.

Only I had a plan. I lead us across campus, to the far southern end where the Logan and Wright are. When I came around the old Carnegie library, used for English mostly when I was a student there, I was surprised by the closed up anthropology and art buildings. I felt an anxious at seeing those shuttered spaces.

I found out from someone that both were being renovated and was directed to the temporary offices of the director, still my old advisor (in that amazing way dreams can bend time). I lead us over the the strange space filled with a few desks, books, notes, and random pieces from the collections of both museums.

HM seemed bewildered by me. Although I haven't been back to Beloit since 1990 HM looked exactly the same. In response to his not recognizing me he gave me a stiff hug and then uncomfortably commented on the passage of time, so many students, etc. There was much awkwardness and HM started to tell me about the renovations.

This is about when my pager went off to notify me that some patching had been done on a server at work.

Mostly I'm jotting this all down because I don't always remember my dreams. I tried writing about them first thing in the morning, I should pick that habit up again. My therapist doesn't do a lot with dream analysis, not "one of her main tools" as she likes to say, but we have had interesting discussions about them.

The thing she said she found interesting about them is how often I am not a major character in my dreams. I end up in the background of them, I likened some of my anxiety dreams to feeling like I'm Rosencrantz... An inconsequential bit player to important events. I don't actually have the power to change anything going wrong in my dreams, I just happen to be there when things go wrong and am unaware of the potential danger to myself.

This one was a bit different in that I recall it more clearly and I'm a more major player. I was active and doing things, taking part in the dream. I don't often dream about real places or people, but here was CK and one of my old advisers from college. CK wasn't a non-entity either, I felt her support and interest in being with me.

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Thursday is for Bells

It was warm nearly all last night in CK's flat. I fidgeted being on top of the bed, finally getting under at least the sheet. Somehow that bit of "normal" behavior around trying to sleep helped me settle and rest even if fitfully. CK got up in the early hours, it had finally cooled considerably, and covered us up, dropping a kiss onto the back of my neck. She said I made a happy noise when she did so.

It would have been nice to slide from that sub-aware moment of feeling a kiss, responding to it on some level, into happy dreams. Instead I slid into taking a chemistry exam. Knowing I was truly in the wrong room, the wrong exam, "I don't study chemistry!" Yet there I was, trying to make heads or tails of questions, calculations, and knowing with certainty I was failing utterly.

Then it was time to get up and get ready. I rode into the office of the Broadway Bridge. The bridges get marginally less terrifying each time, just practice. Work was starts and fits of progress here and delays there (yet more again, same project).

Although I slept poorly, insufficiently, I don't feel quite the same volume of anger-static around me today. The grief feels less enormous again, just there with me. IW's work yesterday seems to have cleared a little of that energy up.

The ride home was difficult but possible. I was congested, the August air is rather stale from all the heat, so the uphills were even more difficult to breathe through steadily. My legs were pretty done by the time I got to the house, but no cramps or spasms. At times I'm not sure I'm actually enjoying the activity of bicycling but I enjoy being done with a ride and having traveled under my own energy.

AM had a rough day with his depression and I walked into the hosue into a storm of it for a moment. He settled after a bit. I tried to point out to him in a more compassionate way that I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the, to me, sudden and unexpected intensity. We just sat cool basement together for a little bit and let the whole day settle.

AM made us Vietnamese inspired rice noodle bowls, bun, for dinner. We discovered that the marinated tofu, nearly charcolized on the grill by accident, tasted quite good. A maple and tamari marinade would make for a crispy, "bacon-eque" type snack. We included cucumbers from the garden, which is really wonderful to be enjoying.

AM didn't feel up to, or had the time to shower for, before zazen at the Dharma Center. I quickly changed and brushed my teeth. Still having printer problems so I swung by CK's to print the merit list and drop off some things she needed. I had wanted to check in on her anyway because Atari had another UTI and I knew being at the vet with him, transporting him, and worrying about him all had been stressful. I felt bad at having to rush away from her, she looked so tired.

More compliments and suggestions of improving confidence at hitting the bells during service. I'm still so caught up in all the things to keep track of that it is hard to also have confidence. Besides, having confidence is truly difficult practice, same as pride. I am trying to remind myself it is only the second time I've done the chanting and bells together, something that is traditionally done by two people. There is a lot to learn and it is OK to learn it at my pace. I did think I felt a little more confident in my chanting at least; the stress of the bells distracting me!


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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