I woke to the sound of people milling around outside my tent. Their moonlit silhouettes were moving across the tent fabric with a random purpose as if a gathering was taking place. A very large woman came to view just beside my tent and in a loud, booming voice declared, “YOU NEED TO MOVE CLOSER!” The ground literally shook. It was clearly directed at me. My first thought was that I needed to move my tent closer to the cabin which was the central gathering place for the retreat I was participating in that weekend. But why would I need to move closer? Was I in danger staying where I was? Was that really what she meant? Maybe she meant closer to something or someone else?
As I laid there pondering what she meant, the people outside started gathering around my tent. The tent flap zipper was slowly pulled down and a multitude of hands were reaching inside and coming in my direction. All of a sudden I was terrified. I could not move, I was frozen stiff. My mind was racing, saying that I needed to move, I needed to move!! The hands continued to descend toward me, now coming from all directions, surrounding me. They were almost upon me. My flight response was screaming but I could not respond, I could not move. Then I suddenly woke up in a state of panic, realizing it was just a dream.
But was it just a figment of my imagination? Who knows the mysteries of what we cannot see.
This was one of the most memorable and vivid dreams I have had. The only other one that comes close is when I dreamed about living on a farm in a particular location, with my wife, and raising our children there. About two years later I drove down a lane looking for a small farm and emerged inside my dream. We have lived here for the past 23 years. That dream was clearly a premonition, but what was first manifest in my head turned into what we call reality. But what of this other dream? What does it mean?
I thought a lot about that dream during the weekend of the retreat. I spoke too many of my fellow retreaters about it, as I gathered my thoughts. Sometimes dreams contain subtle, hidden meanings that are not easy to discern. I tried to think deeply into to it but I kept coming back to the most obvious of direct messages.
When I chose a career path (or more likely we chose each other), I tell myself that I took a rational look at the biggest environmental impacts of humans and said I will work on energy systems. Agriculture is another big impact area and has always been a strong interest. Over the years working on energy conservation and renewables thankfully expanded to green buildings, allowing me to broaden my thinking. But something was missing.
This story I tell myself satisfied my intellect but has sometimes left my heart longing. My essence has something to do with the process of discernment in alignment with the transparent values of the living biosphere. I have always had this deeply felt longing for a more visceral connection to my fellow living beings. This is more than a connection to individuals like my family, friends or my dog. I long to more fully feel that I am a part of the greater community of beings. It feels like my relationships with much of life are mostly fractured. They are not whole. In fact I think I have a significantly greater degree of empathy at a collective, meta life level than I do for individuals. It makes me feel as if people think I am sometimes uncaring, even though I care deeply.
Back to my dream. I think the earth mother was sending me a clear message. More than a message, a clear urging. She spoke to me loud and clear. But I am afraid. I’m afraid of sounding like some way out, wacky, hippie tree hugger that will not be taken seriously in the supposedly rational discourse of human interrelationships within our dominant culture. I’m afraid of going too far outside the mainstream of society and not being able to support my family. I’m afraid of losing what I have. Basically I am afraid of fully embracing myself and who I wish to be. Perhaps that sounds familiar?
As my life has evolved, I have continued this trajectory of thought toward identifying the root causes of the disconnection of humans from nature and working on how to reconnect. I am spending more time outside trying to connect. I talk to the living beings I encounter and often wait for a response. I express gratitude to the gifts of our world on a regular basis. My fears have lessened. I try to speak more of these thoughts and connections. My hair grows long. But am I really connecting? Am I truly living my values? I question this still, every day.
I had this dream in October 2015 on the first night of a retreat with David Abram in the Shenandoah River valley. That experience was truly informational for me. It helped me to feel into what I do and who I am. It helped me to use all my senses, and bring my whole being into my life. Nothing is separate and I felt the people, mother earth, the waters, fish, plants, animals, trees, winds, clouds, sun, moon and stars come together to teach us how to be with the great mystery of life. I am exceedingly grateful for this experience. It aroused my heart and expanded my mind. I literally felt the love of the universe lift me up and carry me home.
I’m in need of continual reminders to stay on this path. This requires periodic disruptions to the everyday routine. Come join us for a jolt of reality with David Abram. More at spillian.com.