I’m dreaming about a beach. There is a cliff with huts scattered along the edge and a road that leads down to the shore. In the dream I live in one of the huts and I'm walking to the beach at sunrise. The beach seems to be located in some lost bay on a remote peninsula somewhere in Central America. There are lots of trees. When I awaken I remember the dream and realize that it was Xcacel beach I was dreaming of — a place I had lived years ago, only Xcacel has no cliff and it is hardly lost or remote. A dream within a dream.
I sometimes wake up while I'm still asleep and feel anxious about my inability to open my eyes or move my body. The anxiety grows into something more like alarm and I cry out with a muffled voice to someone I believe to be in the room, a room I believe I am in.When I finally awaken, I discover that none of it is true. I am lying alone in my bed in my house and the only one who could possibly have heard me, if indeed I did cry out, would have been Miatti, my cat, and she was probably outside hunting mice at that hour.
These occurrences happen over and over again. Tricked again, I think when I come back to my senses, my reality, my familiar perceptions. The pleasure of being alive is acute for the first few seconds that I’m awake, but fades quickly as if pushed aside by an overwhelming force of habit.
So am I awake or asleep?
I saw Prem Rawat recently, speaking at an event in Denver, Colorado. I was totally engaged: it was thrilling. He talked about being in the now. Of course you can’t talk about being in the now because as soon as you mention it, the word you just mentioned is in the past — he talked about that too, and somehow, through his humor and his skill and his many different stories and analogies, he brought me into the experience of now. Deep enjoyment and happiness happen in the now. It's like the experience of smelling a flower. While I'm smelling it, it excludes all other thoughts — only if I'm remembering the smell of the flower or imagining smelling the flower can I entertain other thoughts. Just for that moment I am totally present. This skill, if I can call it that, is highly useful. It provides me with the fresh eyes I need to see my life clearly so that it doesn't get boring or tedious. I need that awareness so I don't blurt out the wrong thing and stick my foot in my mouth again. I need to see the beauty of my life so I can enjoy it more and more and, when I am in the present, it looks very beautiful.
The event with Prem Rawat left me with a feeling of confidence that I can be in the moment, and an appreciation for helping me gain that understanding. That feeling has stayed with me — unlike the epiphanies of dawn. In fact, every time I hear him speak I am reminded about a different facet of life that I have forgotten — something beautiful and simple, something I can remember. It invariably brings the feeling of joy all over again.
What a sweet dream. What a beautiful awakening.
Illustration by Sara Shaffer.