Lucid Dream Ceremony - December 6th, 2016
Dream interpretation is not my forte, at least deciphering my own nighttime journeys. Perhaps the fact that I remember very few of my dreams explains why I've never spent much time dwelling on the possible meanings for them. One can't dissect something that isn't there. My wife remembers many of her dreams and enjoys discussing their possible meanings. Of course, there's no way of telling whose theory is right so it becomes a harmless, oftentimes fun distraction. If you know the dreamer intimately and are attuned to the symbolism they find meaningful, giving a guess about a dream's interpretation doesn't seem that difficult. Even if you don't know the person, archetypes are archetypes as the saying goes so how hard can it be to guess?
I can't remember the last time I had a lucid dream. I take that back -- I do remember one lucid dream. The one from the other night. And yes (how did you know), it was a dream strong in emotion, rich in thought, something that rocked me to my core. It lingers, teases, echoes, and begs to be shared. It even has an esoteric background story to make the saga so much more delightfully cumbersome for anyone put to sleep by listening to other people's dreams (hey, we've found a cure for insomnia).
It needs to be confessed at the outset that I've participated in some quite deep and meaningful plant medicine ceremonies recently (have you ever heard of a plant medicine ceremony that wasn't deep and meaningful - now really). All cleverness aside, this is not something to be flippantly glib or witty about. Days spent with the healing spirits of Mother Ayahuasca, Grandfather San Pedro and Kambo have convinced me with their compassionate assurance. Their spirit will stay with the ones who come to them. It's not provable or true except in the way that ultimately matters -- simply knowing, simply feeling. And running into unexpected situations that reinforces this point so strongly that one's heart fills and overflows is gratifying to say the least. The day of my lucid dream ceremony was like that.
I had an occasion recently to spend an afternoon by myself while my wife enjoyed an outing with a mutual friend. Take note that music has always been my first love (yes, my wife knows) and from music I've always discovered passages into myself, into emotion and meaning that never fails to amaze. No wonder I decided to luxuriate that afternoon by exploring new music on iTunes. Not just any music would do, of course. I'm a stickler for, as they say, the obscure and eclectic, the kind of recording that jars one into orgasmic surprise gasping "Holy Shiz, this is good!" It's the kind of music I've never heard before and yet once heard, I find it settling comfortably inside to show it has always been a part of me. I know, weird but true; the semblance of cause and effect is like that. Finding something great reminds me of the feeling one gets when a merchant at a local mercado or tienda hands you a little something extra, something you didn't pay for, as a thank-you reward for your patronage. In South America, they call it a "yapa." To me, a yapa is a great surprise, something unexpected and wonderful, and signifies so much more in the connection it makes between you and the merchant. It doesn't have to be given - that's the beauty of it.
You've guessed already that I found a composition just like that on my afternoon sabbatical. But oddly enough, it didn't elicit the typical orgasmic surprise. Instead, I was induced to close my eyes and let my headphones take me away into the most real-feeling daydream. My wakeful lapse of conscious thought went something like this:
I dreamed I was in Asia, near the center of the continent, visiting the Tuvan People. The wide plain was aflame with sunset and I met the most curious man. He came out of nowhere with a slight smile on his face. The smile was for me.
He could have been a walk-in, a medicine man, a ghost, a vagabond. I never did find out. But he invited me to a sacred ceremony. He pointed to the far hills and said when it was dark enough and the fire was lit, the ones who'd been called would assemble. I was intrigued but knew not how to traverse the empty plain and the great distance to attend. He assured me it didn't matter. If I felt I was called, there would be a way.
He turned and walked into the sun. I lost sight of him but his words stayed with me. Feeling the impulse, I walked after him, not even thinking of where I might be going. By the time twilight faded into night, I saw a fire and figures moving about. I joined them in the circle. No words were said. The man with the slight smile came around to each one of us. He brought kind eyes and a cup. One by one we drank the ceremonial brew.
The whole setting reminded me of Ayahuasca ceremonies in South America I had attended. But this was Central Asia. And the song the elder started to sing was not an icaro - but with the medicine flowing, it sounded like one.
If icaros were sung by Tuvan wise men, I knew this is the way it would sound.
The song flowed through me. I flowed into the song.
I released into the night. And the night released into me.
By the time the song was nearly done, I had met the Spirit of the Land.
And the message was clear.
After my wife returned home we had a wonderful evening together, as is our habit, the late hour coaxed us to turn in for the night. Nothing out of the ordinary. After so much fun sharing our day with each other and enjoying getting back together, the daydream from earlier in the day had faded. I went to sleep with no other expectations than to awake with the sun, refreshed.
Somewhere in the dark, my expectations were overturned. I was not yet done with the daydream's ceremony on the central plains of Asia. Either that, or more like it, the ceremony was not done with me. One does not decide when and how the sacred medicine will take hold or when or how it releases you. When one is respectful of the medicine, you always let the medicine decide. In my nighttime dream, I showed this respect and re-entered the sacred space from the daydream earlier. Apparently, I had left before the circle was broken. I needed to return and finish what I started. I needed to receive what was intended.
Somewhere in the remaining darkness, an awareness triggered an appreciation that became an incomparable comprehension. The essence of it was too perfect. I couldn't let go of it. It mustn't be swept away with the embers into the stars. In the next moment, I found myself writing it down on a thin square of white cardboard. I scribbled as fast as I could to be certain to retain it perfectly, just as it had been given, exactly as comprehended. I finished with excitement bursting upon joy. Seeing it complete on my little white square was such a relief. Now I had it. Now I would never forget. Now I could take it with me no matter where I went. I stood up as the sky showed first glow on the eastern horizon. I and my square of boundless value would leave the circle. The night, the ceremony was done.
When I took my first steps, the most curious man appeared at my side out of the darkness. His voice was deep, soft, but strong.
"You can't take that through the door. Some things must stay here."
My first reaction was to be crushed. How could this be? I held in my hand a truth, an answer so complete, so compact, so available, it must be preserved, it had to be brought back to my world. He knew what I was thinking. But I could also see by his face, by the caring but firmness in his gaze, those kind of thoughts didn't matter. I wouldn't be taking it back. Some things couldn't go back through the door. I looked down at my square of cardboard. It was now blank. Now I could leave.
I thanked him and walked away. The long deserted plain stretched out before me. It would be a long, empty walk. I couldn't help the feeling. No matter how much was experienced during the ceremony, how much was felt, leaving empty-handed after holding such a prize in my hands was difficult to push from my mind. The farther I walked, the more I fell back into dreamless sleep. The REM cycle was complete.
The next thing I was aware of confused me. It was very strange...I was somewhere...with someone...we were doing something...something important...and there were others...so much was going on...I felt a part of it but missing so much more...then something happened...it was incredible!
In fact, I soon discovered I was in a yurt behind a teepee. The two structures were connected by an animal skin flap. It was early morning, just after dawn. The curious old man was there, busying himself at a fire with crude cooking vessels and implements the likes of which I had never seen before. He was intent upon his work but unhurried. He moved with a calm insistence that the moment needed this. Finally content with what had occurred over the fire, he carried something past me into the teepee next door. He returned straight away and ushered me into the teepee too. I followed his direction and walked forward.
Contrasting with the dirt floor was the glide of white clouds in a blue sky in the circular opening at the teepee's top. In the center of the dirt floor were dead embers from a past ceremony. No one else was there. Nothing else adorned the teepee. Nothing else except a small yellow-orange object unceremoniously placed off to one side on the ground. The old man motioned me towards it and then left, shuffling back through the flap and disappearing.
I knelt down before the object to find it was some sort of fruit or vegetable, a type I had no name for. It resembled a fruit, like a papaya, only it was the size of a cantaloupe. It had been obviously cooked. A small flap had been carved in the top skin. Next to the object, on the ground, was a small glass tube. The tube was some sort of straw or pipe. Once I touched it, I knew right away what I was supposed to do with it. I knew this was the start of yet another ceremony. But how strange. No one else was there. It was dawn, not night. No fire was lit. And the ceremonial brew was not delivered in a cup, but in an odd preparation of some exotic fruit. I felt odd yet honored to be given this unique opportunity even though I had no idea what kind of plant medicine was being offered. I trusted this man, having spent the night with him on the central plain. Whatever this was, he thought I needed it.
I lifted the flap on the yellow-orange offering and sunk the glass pipe into the middle of the warm flesh. In the center of the fruit was a tasteless juice, viscous and stringy. All at once, another flap opened. It was the flap to outside. Three men stuck their heads in to see what was going on. One looked like some sort of official. I could see a dirt path behind him with several indigenous people walking every which way, going about their business. Satisfied with what they saw, the three men quickly left. The flap fell back in place and once again I was alone in the teepee.
But then the unthinkable happened. I realized I was dreaming all along. I was beyond myself watching myself in the dream. This was a lucid dream. I hadn't realized this before. Worse yet, I realized I was beginning to wake up. This couldn't be happening! Not now! I don't want to wake up and miss whatever this ceremony is about. It was just beginning! No, no, no, just let me sleep a little more! Let me see what this is all about! Even as I shouted all of this in my dream, the dim outlines of my bedroom started to come into view. My heart sank with anticipation of tremendous disappointment.
At that moment I felt the presence of the old man next to me. I didn't see him. In desperation, I turned my pleading cries to him. I didn't know if he had any power to keep my dream going, but if he did, it was worth a try to find out.
"Don't let it end now!" I kept sipping at the pipe, trying to hang onto the experience. "I don't want to wake up! I want to stay in the ceremony!
And then I heard him. I heard him in my mind. Once again his voice was caring, almost a whisper, but determined in its intent. There was a smile in his voice.
"You ARE going into ceremony."
"You are waking up!"
"That IS the ceremony."
"It's your yapa!"
At that moment, my eyes opened upon my world.
I was entering my sacred ceremony.
I was awakening to my life.
It was my yapa, my special gift.
The message is clear; life is the sacred ceremony.
I can't help but look now upon each day, each sacred gift, in a new way.