Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Story Part V (Splintered Visions)

Dreamstate
How dreams affected the lives of my friends as well as my own.

Life became a confusing roller-coaster ride for me throughout the rest of high school.  Between the drama of my developing social life and the stress of my extra-curricular activities as well as my educational, philosophical and spiritual studies, I found myself continually thrust into an existential quandary.

But I was not alone, close friends of mine shared the same experiences I did.  One particular friend, 'S', also had a revelation similar to mine when watching The Matrix.  During our Junior year, he became very quiet and always seemed sleep deprived.  He pulled me aside one day to talk to me about something I will surely never forget.

"My parents think I'm using drugs, I'm not, " he said to me.  "I'm having a continuous dream and it won't stop."

I was in awe at the thought.  I had very vivid out-of-this-world dreams myself, but never were they continuous.  "Tell me about it," I said very curiously.

He then related to me how he started off having dreams of coming to school like normal but then waking up to find that it never happened in real life, but only in the dream world.  This was something I could definitely relate to since I had similar dreams myself.  But what he said next I was not expecting at all, especially since it had to do with me.

"Eventually in one dream I noticed you weren't at school, " he said.  "You disappeared.  You were gone for a week and nobody knew what happened to you.  Later in the dream I got a phone call from you asking me to meet you on a bridge, that you had something to show me."

He continued, telling me how in the dream he met me and a girl he did not know.  We drove in a black car to a restaurant where instead of giving him a choice, I snuck a red pill into his food and woke him up out of The Matrix without his consent.  "But," he said, "You did it because you knew I was important to the fight against the machines and there was no time to waste.  Eventually I, with the help of the girl apart of the crew, accepted my fate and joined in the battle against the machines."

The time came the dreams stopped and life returned to normal for my friend, but he was frustrated that they ended before there were any sort of conclusions to the drama that had unfolded when he slept.

Dreams were frequent during the last year of high school and their mysterious nature was a subject discussed frequently among my group of friends.  I had learned to interpret dreams for my friends with the help of my friend 'B' back in my Freshman year, but I never really understood how it worked.  It was a very intuitive thing to do, having to completely empty my mind in order to better visualize for myself what my friends would describe in their dreams.  When 'S' had related to me his continuous dream, I didn't know how, but I knew that it meant my being such a profound catalyst of change in his dream meant it was a reflection of what was happening or would eventually happen in reality.  Normally I would've been straight to say what my feelings were about a friend's dream, but for this I chose to keep it to myself; I had matured and acquired a better sense of humility and restraint after all the drama the year before and did not want to seem boastful to my friend.

It was apparent to me at this point in my life that dreams had a profound impact on not only my life but the lives of my friends.  I was interested in knowing more about dreams and what their purpose was.  At the time, being an active priest in the LDS church, I sought answers through the usual means of prayer, scripture reading and the inquiring of my Bishop.

I found myself constantly referring to my patriarchal blessing, especially the part where I was related to Joseph of Egypt.  I knew Joseph was a dreamer and also an interpreter of dreams, but I was continually in awe at the direct synchronicities between the two of us.  But the more I inquired, the more I found myself with a mystical and ethereal definition of the dream world.  I wanted to know exactly what was happening with dreams, not just proverbial hints of personal revelation.

It was about this time in my Senior year that I had to choose a major world religion to study for my concurrent college humanities class.  I instantly jumped into the Buddhism group as I had become very interested and familiar with the belief system through my martial arts training.  I wanted to take this opportunity to discover more about the religion than I had already learned on my own.

Part of our final class projects was to attend services of the religion we were studying.  I had the awesome opportunity to visit the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple of downtown Salt Lake City.  This particular sect of Mahayana Buddhism is from Kyoto, Japan, called "Jodo Shinshu".

I remember I went on a beautiful and sunny Sunday morning in December.  The ground was blanketed with a fresh layer of snow and the air was crisp and fresh from the late-passing storm.  I entered the building to find the pastor greeting everyone as they entered.  I introduced myself to the pastor, letting him know I was visiting for school.  He was very welcoming and told me to sit anywhere I'd like.  I sat in a pew towards the back so I could observe all the people, mostly Japanese-Americans, filing into the main room of the temple.  In the back was a golden statue of a Bodhisattva with elaborate decorations surrounding it as well as an incense burner in the front.  There was no artificial lighting, just natural sunlight shining through the sky-light windows in the ceiling.  The atmosphere was very peaceful and very different from what I was used to at the LDS Sunday services.

Hymns were sung in Japanese to begin with and then people stepped forward to say the Nembutsu and offer incense to be burned, all the while the room was was very quiet and peaceful.  Even the children were obediently reverent during this ceremony, something I was not used to coming from an LDS background (my ward was especially loud with children.)

The time came for the pastor to give the sermon.  I was amazed to watch him invite all the children to come to the front and then start his sermon by asking them direct questions in a kind and cheerful manner.

"Do you know what today is?" he asked.  The children reply: "Bodhi Day!"

"Do you know why we celebrate Bodhi Day?" he asked in return.  The children took turns explaining in their own words the reason for the day, something I had been oblivious to prior to my visit.

"Bodhi Day is the day we celebrate in remembrance of the day Shakyamuni came to enlightenment underneath the Bodhi Tree,"  he stated, this time directing his attention to the audience in whole.

The story of Siddhartha Gautama was well burnt into my mind at this point in my research of Buddhism.  It was a story I had become very familiar with as I was able to relate to the story on many different levels, especially with how Siddhartha was just an ordinary man who was in search of deeper meaning of life, the root of suffering and how one could liberate oneself from it.  He was not half god, or part god and he did not seek answers from a god or gods; he looked inward for the answers to life, not outward.  I was truly amazed of all the days I had chosen to come visit this place that I did so on the occasion of Bodhi Day. 

The sermon continued-- the pastor talked of coming to enlightenment by letting go of worldly cares and living in a true spiritual reality.  He explained how the busy world of modern life could only keep us from attaining the same thing the Buddha was able to attain and that in order to prepare ourselves for such a change we must "awake" from the world we only think is real.

To illustrate this, the pastor told the story that Taoist Chuang Tzu wrote commonly called "The Butterfly Dream."
Chuang-tzu had a dream, in which he was a yellow butterfly. As a butterfly, he flitted here and there, completely oblivious to actually being Chuang-tzu. And then he woke, to discover that he was a man. But then he wondered: now am I a man who just dreamt he was a butterfly; or a butterfly who is now dreaming that he is a man?
The pastor continued, showing how this parable could be applied to the topic at hand.  Are we truly alive with our 9-5 jobs, our bank accounts and our fancy things?  Or are all these things a part of a dream we call life?  What is a dream? And how does it differ from the real world?

And then he asked, "Are you familiar with the movie, The Matrix?"

I'm pretty sure my mouth went wide-open at that point.  He gave a brief synopsis of the movie and likened it unto Chuang Tzu's dream of being a butterfly.  "Have you ever had a dream, Neo," Morpheus said, "that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference, between the dream world and the real world?"

He concluded that we should strive every day to connect with that of true spiritual reality and realize that most worldly concerns are only distractions in the long run.  In order to attain enlightenment, like Siddhartha Gautama, we need to disconnect from what we think is real and search ourselves for that which is eternal.

My mind was blown at the parallel that was just made.  It was even more so when I realized that I was getting this through a sermon of a religion I didn't even belong to.  Here I had been, earnestly praying to God for the answers I sought, and yet the answers were given to me from a source outside of the Church.  I did not understand how I could get spiritual answers outside of the Church as I was always taught that revelation can only come through the order of the priesthood and not by any other means.  Here I had been searching for answers in the external and was in turn told that the answers I sought could only be found within.

I left that experience feeling spiritually refreshed and renewed, but simultaneously confused and bewildered.  I went to my ward meeting afterward but I noticed the atmosphere of the meeting was not the same as it was at the Buddhist temple.  I did not feel the same sense of peace in that LDS chapel.

I asked to speak with my bishop following the block schedule in which he agreed to.  I told him my thoughts and feelings concerning what had happened that day, hoping he could shed light on my situation.  But, as it always had been with that man, I was met with disappointment:  "I'm not going to tell you something I don't know myself," he said, I remember very cautiously.  "I do not have any promptings concerning what you've just told me, so it must be something you'll need to figure out on your own."

---

I went home that afternoon mentally exhausted from the day's happenings.  I changed into more comfortable clothes and decided to take a nap in order to sort out my mind over some proper rest.

It was then I experienced one of the most dramatic dreams I have ever experienced in my lifetime, the beginning of a series of very vivid dreams that would come to me over the next course of the year.  I will now relate to you what took place in this first dream by transcribing from my dream journal that I felt prompted to start at the time.
"The dream began in First Person.  I leave my house, opening my front door and closing and locking it behind me.  These images are familiar as I do this most everyday usually early in the morning near or at dawn.
"My neighborhood is empty.  At first I think nothing of it but as I walk a few steps away from my front door I am hit with the sunken feeling of being alone.  Very alone.  I feel like I am the only human being for miles.
 "Suddenly, there is a tremor in the ground.  I look up and the darkest clouds gather in the sky together.  I look North East to the mountains and I vividly watch Mount Olympus crumble to the ground, engulfed in flames.  Fires in the valley reflect off the clouds making them glow as a smokey haze rises from the ground.  Then finally, I hear the screams of all the inhabitants of the valley.  I feel their pain and anguish as their torturous yells ring through my head.  I feel like crying but I can't.  It is at this point that I am thinking only one thing:  I've got to get out of here!
"I run to my car, jump in and start it up.  I go into third person as I watch myself back out of my driveway and speed towards the freeway, but I am having a difficult time.  Stop lights and traffic signals slow down my progress.  When finally I reach the on-ramp to I-15, it is in pieces an dI can't get on the freeway.  I try other on ramps but they are all unusable.  No matter what I do I can't get on and finally I give up.
"I enter First Person again as I step out of the car, awaiting an aftershock.  I look up to the sky and the clouds begin to swirl as if they were getting ready to create a giant cyclone.  The clouds are different now, though.  Now they are on fire.  Suddenly I feel dizzy and everything fades to white.
---
"Third Person.  I'm looking down at myself.  I'm laying on brick in the middle of a beautiful courtyard.  I begin to wake up.
"First Person.  I pick myself up, rub my eyes and look around me.  My thoughs are only this:  Am I dead?  As I look around I see a white picket  fence surrounding the courtyard engulfed in the greenest shrubberies.  The weather is nice and there are only a few white fluffy clouds hanging in a clear blue sky.  And then I turn around 180 degrees.
 "Before me, seated in front of me, are endless rows of people as far back as I can see.  They are seated in two columns with a wide aisle down the middle.  They are all looking right at me with blank emotionless faces.  And yet, oddly, I recognize every single one of them.
"I begin to hear voices.  They are talking but their mouths don't move.  It is as if I can hear their thoughts and feel their emotions.  They're all talking/thinking about me.
"Some are concerned for me, others are only thinking good things.  I do not recall hearing anything about me.  All these people care for me.
 "I step down from the elevated brick plane I've been standing on and begin to walk down the aisle.  Their heads follow my movement and they keep on watching me until they can turn their heads no longer.  As I watched when they got to this point, their heads snapped forward violently and their voices/thoughts faded away.  When they did this, their motions were blurred.  Every so often they would blink, this was also blurred, like they blinked several times really fast, but it only looked like they blinked once.
"Still in First Person.  I continue down the aisle, listening to these people's thoughts about me.  I felt sadness and sorrow for them, like I had failed.  I kept thinking, "Am I dead? Is this the afterlife?"  I continued to walk
"Eventually, to my right, I see an empty chair.  This void in the endless crowd of people made me more than ever want to fill it.  I quickly make my way towards the chair and sit down.
 "I lean forward and bury my face into my hands.  I rub my eyes.  I want to cry but tears escape me.  Even though I'm surrounded by all these people I feel alone and abandoned.
"I look up and I am stunned as the most beautiful girl I've ever seen turns around.  She looks at me and smiles.  She pats me on the back and tells me, vocally with lips moving:  "Everything will be alright.  Don't worry."  An extreme feeling of calmness washes over me as for the first time in this dream I feel happiness.  suddenly, the leas expected happens: she kisses me.
(At the time I had wrote this, I had never kissed a girl before.  I wrote this.)
"To this day I am 100% virgin lips.  I've never kissed a girl before.  But it was at this moment that my subconscious did the most amazing thing.  It created, for my nervous system, a sense of touch.  I could feel the kiss and thinking back it was just as real as me sitting here writing this.  I cannot, for the life of me, explain this in any terms at all.
"Suddenly I feel tears flow into my eyes.  Except these were not the tears I had begged for previously.  These were tears of pure joy and happiness.
"The girl smiled at me and began to turn back around in her seat.  I didn't want her to, but she kept going.  Slowly my vision faded to white.  I did not want to leave her.  I didn't want her to turn around.  I didn't want to be alone again.
 ---
 "Third Person.  I see myself running down (a private) lane, my childhood play area.  I'm running towards the main street, running towards my old home.  I am back amidst the chaos and destruction.  The sky is swirling and on fire.  Everything is hot and tinted red.
"I am running now in First Person.  I'm trying to get somewhere but I don't know where.  Suddenly my phone rings.  I reach into my pocket as I come to a halt.  I look at my phone and I see who is calling.  It is my best friend ('S', who I introduced in the beginning of this part).
"This is where I wake up.  I remember feeling disoriented and exhausted.  At first I didn't know where I was.  When I really came to I realized that I was breathing hard, like I had (actually) been running."
"My phone was ringing.  ('S') was calling.... to think that ('S') was actually calling in reality made everything (the) more crazy."
"This dream was not provoked by any outside forces as far as the five senses go.  I wasn't listening to music, I hadn't watched any movies or played any video games in the past (48 hours).  This dream was simply uncalled for."
As graduation drew nigh, I began to see how the first part of the dream reflected my mental state as I was very anxious to graduate from high-school.  I was not a straight-A student and due to my devoted time to extra-curricular activities ran by the school in the fine arts department I found myself having to catch up via make-up packets.  I was very stressed because of this.  I felt the bit where I was searching for a way out by taking the freeway perfectly represented my feelings concerning my life in general, especially with the biblical Armageddon-like craziness all around me.

But what threw me off was the second part where I seemed to do a dimension-jump to a calm and peaceful place with all these people directing their attention towards me.  It took me a while to realize exactly what this part meant, but what freaked me out the most is that I found myself experiencing all the emotions I felt in this part of the dream in reality in the exact same order.

One day I made my way to the music hall where I would often spend my lunch breaks.  At the time I felt as I did in my dream: alone, sad and anxious for a way out.  On this particular day I was surprised to find an attractive girl who I did not recognize eating her lunch in my usual spot, a place usually only those involved in the fine arts department would come by every now and then.  She, however, was definitely a stranger to these parts.

Curious, I introduced myself to her and said something a long the lines of "So, I haven't seen you around here before.  Are you in choir or orchestra?"

"No,"  she replied.  "My friend is, though.  I was just going to meet her here."

I soon found out her friend was also a mutual acquaintance.  We had light conversation as we ate until it was time for me to move on to my next class.  I was, however, perplexed at the fact that our mutual acquaintance never showed up during lunch.  I thought little of this and went on my way.

The next day I showed up to the same spot pleased to find this girl, who I will refer to as 'J', again in the same place eating her lunch again.  We greeted, talked lightly about the school day and ate our lunches again.  It was good to meet someone new who I could talk to so casually.  We departed at the bell again and I found myself in a mood more cheerier than I recall being in in a long time.

As the days went by, every school day we would meet at lunch and we would converse, each day the conversation growing more in-depth and much more personal.  We talked about where we wanted to go in life after high-school.  I had my eye on being a music major, but I wasn't sure.  She had her eye on anthropology and I found myself attracted to the idea of her pursuing such an interesting field of study.  She was a year younger than I, though, and she was jealous at the fact that I would be graduating soon.

This change of mood brought much more focus and motivation to my studies.  I was glad to finally graduate from high school a few months later with "J" in the audience there to cheer me on.  We had become very close in those few months and I was extremely excited.

But as I walked down that aisle amongst all my peers, the dream I had several months before flashed back.  There I was, again in my dream, looking for a place amongst all these people.  And then it hit me:  the girl in my dream, surely it was 'J'.  She gave me that final motivation, that final push to finally find my escape and to finally graduate high school.  The night of my graduation was a climax.

And as school ended and I entered into the real world, I realized that all climaxes must have a Denouement, a fall and finally a conclusion.

At this point I knew I was in love with 'J' and it made things even better that she had a deep interest in me.  I thought I had finally been blessed with an answered prayer, an angel to relieve me of my worries and someone to uplift me and bring out the best in me.  I had never been so happy in my life.

But as I contemplated the parallels between the dream and the direction my life was going I suddenly realized that if these paralells were to continue that I would end up alone again.  I remember seeing the girl in front of me turn away after kissing me with the ensuing deep withdrawl; the fear and the sadness overwhelming me as I reached out for her only to be thrown back into the world of fire, death and destruction all around me.

And with all that had happened in reality, I watched as she drifted away from me during the summer until finally she would not even talk to me any longer.  My heart was broken as I found out she started dating another guy and started associating with new friends.  In the end I was left alone, running.

I saw the pattern of my dream come to fruition and realized that I didn't know where I was going next.  I was just running to somewhere, anywhere.  The realization that the dream I had months before eventually came to pass literally blew my mind.  It turned my whole perspective of reality completely upside down.  I realized that I would need to face the fact that there was definitely something beyond the reality I understood at the time.  I admit, I had never been so frightened in my entire life.

To Be Continued...
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