Living in a Dreamworld

Earlier this week my partner and I came to Slogan 40, Two activities, one at the beginning and one at the end. The two activities are 1) in the morning, setting an intention for the day; and 2) before sleeping, reflecting on how it went bringing this intention to life. As usual when encountering this slogan, I thought “Aha, this is one I never remember to work with.” So I set the intention to put it into practice immediately.

The first day, my intention was “to cultivate patience and respond to unexpected situations with curiosity rather than reacting with frustration or anger” (in the direction of Slogan 23, Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation). This did not go as I had hoped, because even before lunchtime I had experienced angry reactivity about the impact of slow internet on something I was doing. Soon afterward, I realized I had reacted so predictably and habitually. I felt a bit humbled. That evening I reflected on the experience and it was fruitful to see what had happened with gentleness and compassion for myself.

I woke up yesterday morning from a dream that was both particularly vivid and also very strange. Reflecting on this, I realized that in dream life I just accept whatever is happening and go along without resistance, no matter how strange or unexpected I find the events. What if I could live my whole life like that? I repeatedly have the experience of thinking about the past (even the recent past) and seeing it as dreamlike, so why not just begin with the dreamlike quality? Maybe that is what is meant by Slogan 6, In post-meditation, be a child of illusion. This contemplation crystallized into my intention for the day: “to live as if I were in a dream.”

By late afternoon I was blessed with the opportunity to really meet this intention head on! It all started when my partner and I stopped to put fuel in the car we are borrowing from her niece while ours is being repaired. When we arrived at the pump, my partner’s phone rang and she answered it, so I hopped out of the car and began fueling it. Almost immediately my partner jumped out of the car and yelled, “Stop!!!” I immediately realized what had happened – I had just put seven liters of gasoline into a diesel car!

My first reaction was chagrin and disbelief: How could I do this? I KNEW this car was a diesel! Then it all slowed down a bit and a part of my mind was able to observe what was happening internally as well as externally. My partner and I had lots of conversation about what to do, including consulting the internet, asking inside the gas station and checking with her brother who is a mechanic. In the end we decided on the most conservative strategy, having the car towed to a garage and the fuel pumped out. Eventually the tow truck came and we all went to the garage. Before long the tank was emptied and cleaned out, fresh diesel was added and we drove off again.

As we drove back toward home and I reflected on what happened, of course the entire experience took on that familiar dreamlike quality. It all seemed so mundane – once again we were in the car together going somewhere, just as we had been before stopping for fuel. We just happened to be in a different place, going somewhere else, and my bank account was a bit lighter. I thought more about the gap in mindfulness that resulted in my mis-fueling the car. Was that “dreaminess?” Is that different from “being a child of illusion?” Where else in my life do I miss paying attention?

All in all I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity to see my mind in action. I celebrate that throughout the whole experience I did not get hooked into self-doubt or blame for myself or others and was able to just flow through what was happening with curiosity. I’m amused that I am so much more reactive to something like the effects of bad internet than to a relatively big and potentially permanently damaging experience like mis-fueling a car. I am humbly grateful to be a participant in this workshop without end called Life.

In closing, here’s a brief poem I wrote many years ago that captures part of the experience:

Whipping cream
A moment’s inattention

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