DreamA couple of days ago I had this very strong dream:

I was journeying along, as part of an expedition and discussing how dangerous it was.

Other people had got into trouble in this land because the tide would turn and the plain would become flooded with water. The only way forward then was to swim.

Then we saw these amazing beasts, like dinosaurs, heading deep and further into the wilderness. Some wanted to turn back, others to follow them, to drill down into the ground and capture them.

Next I’m walking along a path in a forest and I meet this towering hooded figure. I know that this is what people are afraid of in this place, but also that they misunderstand its nature. I bow my head, opening up my arms a little and say ‘Kill me’.

The figure turns away from me and sits cross legged. We meditate together and my fear dies, as I die.

Later, I say ‘I should make the time to do this for myself’ and he says ‘Good answer’.

I thank him in reply and look into his face, half of it is normal and half has drooped as if with great age or disease.

‘Dont be afraid’ he says. ‘No fear, just gratitude’ I reply.

Then I wake up and stretch out my right arm. My shoulder and hip click into a new and better position.

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Interpreting my Dream.

I think the key to understanding the dream is the tall hooded figure I meet in the forest. I believe the figure represents my body. The face which is half drooped with age or sickness, closely mirrors an aspect of my physical condition. I have scoliosis, a twist (two in fact) in my spine which renders one of my shoulders lower and further forward than the other. My hips are also out of alignment, and the scapula of my right shoulder ‘floats’ away from my body. The cause of this seems likely to have been postural, probably relating to earlier days when, less happy and psychologically healthy than I am now, I had poor posture in various ways.

None of this would really be an issue, but over the last four or so years my body has begun to change, as if it’s realigning itself to the more healthy posture I have now developed. Although positive, these ongoing changes mean that my body is never really still or relaxed – in fact I haven’t been able to sit, lie or stand comfortably for several years. Its a fairly mild physical ailment as they go, but a peculiar kind of hell for me as a committed meditator, because it’s when I settle down to tune fully into my experience, that the movements seem most pronounced and distracting. I’ve made good progress in not overlaying the physical discomfort with a lot of mental commentary about it, but it has a very noticeable corresponding effect on the stillness, or lack of, of my mind. Its rather like having to learn to meditate all over again and although I’ve been able to work effectively in other aspects of my spiritual practice, I’ve developed and held on to a view that I’m not going to really progress as a meditator whilst my body is in such turmoil.

In my dream, it was as though I was meeting my physical experience head on and embracing, or surrendering to it (and/or it was embracing me) – perhaps recognising the progress I’ve made in learning to live further ‘in’ my body, (whereas previously, I’ve often been rather stuck in my head) and challenging me to do so further.

I’ve been making physical activity much more of a priority lately, with regular, swimming and cycling to add to my yoga. I’ve also been looking at taking the next year off from recording and public performing which will hopefully reduce my stress levels (muscle tightness is a big part of the issue) and free up plenty of time for physical activity and relaxation.

At the same time as approaching the issues physically, I’m also looking at the mental side of things. Lots of people manage to meditate with difficult physical conditions, so I know it’s doable and I know that even through the difficulties, the meditation I have been able to do has been immensely helpful. The challenge is to go deeper. As it happens, the next Adelaide Triratna retreat is meditation focussed, so that will be a good start. Later in the year we have a big trip to the UK, and I have a study based Ordination Training Retreat early next year, but thereafter it’s time to look at decent length solitary retreat and this time next year, committing to at least a week of the annual Meditation Intensive retreat in Sydney – something which I’ve shied away from so far in my time in Australia.

There’s a strong theme of gratitude in the dream, suggesting much to reflect on. When something goes wrong physically (I’ve been very lucky with my health by and large) it’s easy to focus on the negative. Also, being underweight I’ve often felt somewhat ashamed of my body (yes, its not just overweight people who are prone to body shame), so I can see it being very valuable to reflect on my body with gratitude, after all, without it, what would I have?

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