Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Practical Dreaming #2: Walking The Path Ain't Complex -- or -- Don't Mistake the Path for the Journey

One of the things we humans do well is perceive patterns in complexity. Even thousands of years ago many cultures had nutted out the mechanics around solar/lunar eclipses to the point where they could predict them with great accuracy. Think about that: without the aid of computers, or maps of the solar system showing orbits and planets and ol' Sol, humanity had the ability to know when the hurtling orbs of the Moon or the Earth would pass in front of the sun and throw a shadow across the other. I take no points off their achievement if they thought the shadow was cast by some celestial dragon eating the sun or moon. When we look down our nose at the "superstitions" of ancient "primitives," we're maybe forgetting that even in this modern day great swathes of the general public think evolution is some atheist scam.

Back to complexity: we clearly have a great intellectual capacity to perceive and manage complicated things. Whether it's the science of managing traffic patterns in urban areas or a soccer mom's lively juggling act on a Tuesday afternoon (John's piano lesson, William's football practice and Kathy's dance class [wrapped around a trip to the market for groceries], including making sure the minivan contains all the necessary equipment for the kids, and the complicated calculations as to whether or not Maple Ave or North State Road are quicker ways to get across town at 3:22 p.m.) we humans do complicated well.

Since we're so good at navigating the busy flow of our lives, we sometimes tend to see complexity where it doesn't exist -- or unconsciously act or think in ways which impose a bogus complexity on things that are otherwise relatively simple. Our spiritual lives are no exception.

The essential message of Jesus was "love one another as you love yourself." Think about the 2000 years of extrapolation that have led to the many various branches of the Christianity Tree (Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, and so forth) and then the thousands of dogmatic beliefs that differentiate one branch from the next. Does all this complexity serve the Christ's truth? Answer me this: when you're on the coffee aisle at the supermarket, how important is having 99 different types of bean to choose from? Is your essential Coffee Experience at 7:12 a.m. different because you're brewing Kenyan Morning Roast as opposed to Chiapas Breakfast Blend?

Navigating this life is hard to do well. Our energies are too-often fractured and spinning off in wildly divergent directions. The spiritual path we choose to walk should help us integrate ourselves and our vision of how to live. It should bring in energy -- not sap it. So when we allow our complex minds to complicate what is essentially a simple yearning -- "I want to live my life in a way that honors the Divine within me" -- we are undermining our own best wish for ourselves. When we focus too deeply on the minutiae our progress slows and eventually ceases altogether. Don't mistake the path for the journey. Here's a dream I had that helped me realize this:

"Mistaking the Road for the Journey" February 17, 2002

I am back on Maui [where I once lived] and am riding my motorcycle up Mount Haleakala. I want to get up to the summit in time to catch the sunrise. Just as in waking life, the road leading up the volcano is full of endless turns and switchbacks. I'm getting impatient to get to the top -- sunrise is coming! -- and yet I'm enjoying the humming of the engine beneath me and navigating all the twists in the road. Yet as I climb the mountain -- unlike the Haleakala road in waking life -- the turns get closer and closer together, until the very mountain itself becomes obscured by all the blacktop. I realize that I'm making no appreciable progress towards the summit. In my increasing anxiety and frustration it seems as if all the switchbacks of the road have turned in upon themselves, mazelike. "This kind of defeats the purpose," I think in annoyance, and awaken.

I had this dream after I'd been working actively with my dreams for almost a year. After a rather heady rush of initial awakening and spiritual breakthroughs (a period of several months) followed by a gratifying consolidation of my new skill and understanding of dreamcrafting, I had begun to encounter some frustration and a sense of diminishing returns. My then-girlfriend and I were doing a lot of spiritual work together and in the initial phases (6-9 months prior to this dream) hit upon several approaches that worked really well for us as a couple and individually. However, we made the mistake that we had discovered The Tools for Enlightenment, instead of some tools that cast some light. We had begun to identify the approach with the path -- so it was little surprise our progress had slowed to a crawl. Just as an aside, our approach to our relationship had also largely become our relationship, which was suffering a slow tapering that would lead to our parting ways at the end of the summer. But that's another post altogether.

It took some time, but I came to understand this dream and what it portended for my spiritual journey. And with some thought and more time, discovered other ways to engage the divine that brought the juice pouring back with renewed vigor. And let's face it: once you've lived your life in synch with the divine mojo, living without it is, well, dispiriting -- and unnecessary.

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