The strangest dream

I had the strangest of dreams last night. So vivid. But not about me. Like I was someone else entirely.

The dream was in the small hours, but when I woke up about four hours later I hurriedly wrote down some bullet points of the details.

It could have been “just a dream”. But having seen films about “clairvouyants” helping police in the USA, and also of course having an understanding from years of meditation that ‘we are One’; that on some levels the physical boundaries separating all beings are just (what Einstein called a) persistent illusion, perhaps it wasn’t.

Perhaps this ‘dream’ was something that happened to a real person. If it did, then it might be useful for someone. Who knows; maybe even someone will find this and work out who it relates to.

  • 3.26am Thursday 22nd October
  • “I” was driving police car with my colleague up a slight incline road
  • I was driving very slowly not overtaking a cyclist with no lights to see what he would do
  • He pulled in to a lay-by and dismounted
  • He started looking for his lights
  • Myself and my colleague got out of the car and walked over to him and started talking
  • As we were talking the cyclist heard something on my radio and stopped us saying “that’s here” or something like that
  • I listened and then heard my name on the radio
  • We received details and an address. The cyclist said “this way”
  • We followed him. Confusion. There was a lane, maybe a field, some trees. Was it the wrong way? Did we take this lane right to the end and straight ahead, or change direction off to the left?
  • We entered a cul-de-sac through a break between houses. On the opposite side of the road and slightly to the right of the cut way was the house
  • When we reached the house we could see in through the window a kitchen to the right; parallel with the front door and what must have been entrance hall
  • A European man was being violent with a European woman in the kitchen
  • We entered the house
  • I was killed.

Language and Intention

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.

This is of course the biggest bunch of crap.

Reality is that humans care deeply what others think of them. It’s possible to train ourselves away from that behaviour, but it is deeply engrained in many of us (Alain de Botton makes this point well in his book ‘Status Anxiety’).

Reality is that punches knocks and falls hurt bad. But we recover from them. Our bodies are ingenious at that. It will be a long time before robots become as good at self-healing as living systems.

But there are subtleties to this. If someone calls you a shit head but you know they are joshing (playing) with you, then the comment rarely ‘counts’ psychologically.

So the issue isn’t really about language; what people say to us. It’s actually about intention. (I’ve actually learnt this from Tim Field who wrote a not-very-well-known book called ‘Bully in Sight‘. It’s a great book, but the pain the author went through also comes through in the writing so it’s not for the faint-hearted.)

Intention is the key. If someone intends to hurt you and then says something about you or your behaviour then that’s much more likely to ‘count’ psychologically.

But there’s another subtlety to this. It’s to do with time.

A few intended comments, nit-pickings, public shaming, disempowerments don’t actually count for a lot. We all have a level of resilience to this; after all, we survived the playground at school didn’t we?

But our levels of resilience are different and, over time…perhaps even years… any human being can end up psychologically damaged by someone else’s words and actions. Psychological violence.

I was staggered to learn, when bullying happened to me, that because of the way our brains work some of the damage was actually physical. Our brains are psycho-physical things. They’re also very weird because unlike computers the software can rewrite the necessary hardware. In other words our electrical ‘thought’ activity can, over time, reroute neurons as required.

Recovering from poor mental health I was staggered to learn that part of the necessary healing was physical. My neuron pathways had to reconnect, and connect in different and new ways. Sometimes it was like I could even tell that this was going on (but not prove), because I’d get the most profound and unusual headaches and not be able to do much with myself mentally or physically.

And no amount of meditation or anti-depressant drugs were doing to do that work. Only time could fix it. Only the body-mind could do that part. I just had to let the process be what it was.

I found it interesting that my then meditation school had a set of ‘rules of the dojo’. One of those rules was that sick people and mentally unwell people should not enter the dojo. This sounds harsh. But it has something to it. Even the meditation dojo can’t do that fixing work. Only the body-mind and time can do that part. (Self-nurturing will of course aide this natural process.)

I guess my key learning here is, don’t consider people’s language. Consider what they are intending to do with it. ‘Are you intending to hurt me?’ is one of those good questions to ask people. They will rarely say ‘yes’, and when they say ‘no’ they sometimes back down – and that stops their action from ‘counting’.

Because of these subtle things – intention not language, words causing physical harm over time, harmful intention in a short amount of time causing little damage, none of the damage being visible – and of course our collective fear (because any human can be a victim of bullying) we tend to either want to misunderstand bullying, or even if we want to understand it we misunderstand.

After many many years (at least 8 now) of working on myself, I can (on a good day) talk through something I found difficult with someone; ask them if they are OK; and mentally give their own pain back to them. Vindictive behaviour rarely comes from a simplistic ‘evil person’ place. Show me an ‘evil’ person and I’ll show you someone who is suffering. (Many Buddhist authors such as Thich Nhat Hanh have written on this point.)

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve become bullying immune. But I have found this knowledge to be power. Knowledge that vindictive behaviour points to suffering in the other person. Knowledge that names do hurt – really a lot if given enough time to do so. Knowledge to look at intention not words.

A Hidden Majority

Who knows how many people in the world would now connect with, or relate to, terms such as ‘enlightenment’, or ‘spiritual but not religious’?

Members of a religious community of some kind still to this day tend to have visible buildings to congregate and celebrate within. Masses, services, teachings, rituals are held. And the physical building structures add visibility to the given religion, movement, school, belief system.

But for many of us we have drifted away from “religion”. We might not be affiliated to any one particular tradition or organised structure or we might be infrequent ‘hangers on’ to a community with a physical building for want of ‘a better expression’ of our spirituality. We can often share experiences and insights which resonate with each other; for example how life has taken us to the harder edges, wilderness times, times of great questioning and ultimately to a place of a more mystical and less defined sense of reality seen and unseen. Other than that we are expressing ourselves in as many ways as there are people! Some meditate alone at home, join a traditional wisdom tradition (sometimes with a building, sometimes not), join a ‘group’ of some kind – often meeting in a public hire venue or someone else’s religious building.

We are no religion and any religion. We are young. We are old. We live in cities and hippie camps. We would all agree that ‘We Are One’ (or ‘It Is One’) and yet to anyone apparently uninterested in “religion” or to anyone strongly committed to a religious community we are invisible.

It doesn’t matter. But it’s there. In the background. Humanity is going through a shift. In simplistic flawed terms the wisdom of the East has flowed into the West and changed our colours. Our old hierarchical structures of organised faith cling on like so many fossils to a rock, but we all are changing.

Again simplistically the materialism of the West is exported East. But that belies the continued strength (in some places such as China) of the wisdom traditions in those places.

We may not have buildings of our own, or a name for ourselves which isn’t problematic. (Who likes “enlightened”?) But we are many and growing.

Change can’t always be seen.