The last two dreams I posted have had a lot of significance for me.
“Digging Deep” is very much about digging into the unseen regions of our lives — our psyches, our pasts, our histories… the things and experiences and thoughts and feelings we have buried, in hopes of never finding them again. It’s about taking a deep breath and plunging in, to see what’s there.
Even if it makes us feel sick.
Even if it frightens us.
When we dig, we can find amazing things.
The old woman by my side represents to me the generations up on generations of others who have gone before us, who have done that work — and lived to tell the tale. They speak to us from their silenced experiences, to remind us — it’s okay. Keep digging.
Digging for what? For the things that we crave… the things that will make us whole. For the things we have pushed away from us, thinking they are too frightening or uncomfortable or even useless, to be much good to us now.
That dream was an excellent reminder, and it gave me a much-needed boost in a time when I needed it. Funny… my dreams often do that.
“Reclaiming the Castle” also gave me an incredible boost, at a time when I was doing my best not to lose my cool at a job that was financially necessary, but just murder on my self-esteem. The little software company where I’d written and managed a full documentation set had gotten “dot-bombed” about a decade before everyone else, and I had to take an admin job in the HR department of a major multi-national tech company. Talk about lousy gigs… it was not my finest year. (Then again, it did provide excellent experience, and I ended up turning that sow’s ear into a major silk purse full of money, so it wasn’t a total waste.)
At the time when “Reclaiming the Castle” came to me, I was meditating regularly. This was around 1994, and I’d just found out about sitting zazen (where you sit motionless and just “be” for extended periods of time). I was also discovering and diving into the works of medieval European women mystics, and liking what I found. Their works meshed nicely with my lifelong fascination with the Holy Grail mythos, and I found traces of that long-beloved mythology in their words.
One of the things that struck me, as I was sitting zazen and reading up on women mystics, was that I was combining traditions from East and West in ways that really complimented each other. At that time, I recall coming across an increasing body of work by Western writers about Eastern spiritual practices. And I discovered some books that connected both ends of the spiritual practice into a continuous spectrum.
One thing that struck me, however, was an apparent assumption that Eastern practices are somehow better or more elevated than Western ones. Yoga and meditation and Buddhism were all very popular in the area where Laney and I lived at the time, and there was no lack of talk and instruction on them. And somehow, it seemed that underneath all the instruction was an all-too-eager genuflection to the East — where you can really get enlightened, not just pass your time in a consumption-driven, manic-depressive haze till you drop dead in our industrial, spiritually dessicated wasteland.
And that troubled me.
Because I knew — from my own personal experience — that the Western tradition is anything but spiritually dessicated. Sure, a lot of Westerners have abandoned their faith and their spiritual practices, and there’s been a sh*t-ton of oppression and bloodshed by the Powers That Be to keep people in line with their religion. But the apparent belief that the West has little to offer in the way of enlightenment and spiritual connection seemed, well, fundamentally flawed.
And it struck me that people were really looking in the wrong place (and faulting the wrong things), in hopes of finding their way to the Light they needed.
It seemed to me — then, and now — that the real source of our despair, our sense of desolation, is that we’ve abandoned our own indigenous paths to Light. We’ve gotten our fill of the standard-issue religious structures, we’ve witnessed the abuses of power and the overthrow of authenticity, and we’ve decided to reject the whole lot. We look elsewhere for answers — never realizing that the fact that we’re not actually “getting” what they offer. Eastern traditions originate elsewhere — from languages and cultures and historical contexts completely different from our own Western ways.
And because of that, we’re never going to fully understand what they mean.
Our translations are flawed — in word and deed — but of course, we never realize it, because we’re the ones doing the translating. Our modes of practice are necessarily going to be completely different in substance and nature from those of the originators. Our measures of whether we’re “getting it” or not are going to be skewed, because what we seek may actually not be what those practices are actually offering.
But because we’re so hungry, so determined, so needy of these things — which are part and parcel of any complete life — we don’t see it.
And in chasing after those “otherly” ways, we lose our connection with our own histories, our own practices, our own paths. That just separates us all the more from what we seek — a sense of connection, a sense of belonging.
“Reclaiming the Castle” to me is really about that conflict. Patrick Stewart, to me, represents our Western impulse to boldly go where no one has gone before, and in the process, leaving behind a connection with a valuable, anchoring past. He’s a technological sage, a hyper-modern character, and he is desperately lonely and sad. His soul is depleted, and he knows it.
And he says so. To me, his opinion that herbalists are “the real thing” is a parallel with the parts of our modern selves that look to ways which are more connected with the natural world for relief and solace. “Herbs” can equate with anything in our modern lives that isn’t manufactured, marketed, and tracked. They can be the equivalent of anything we associate with more natural, less artificial approaches to life. Look at all the dollars spent on alternative healthcare and healing modalities. Look at all the money spent on supplements, herbs, and various forms of yoga, not to mention DNA analysis and ancestry research. They’re both connected, as very real needs in the population for approaches that connect us with our own health and well-being, as well as our history.
“Reclaiming the Castle” isn’t just a treatise in favor of herbalists. It’s a metaphor about how we actually feel about our place(s) in the world — and what we think will save us. And it’s about how, deep within the symbolic forest of the unseen and nearly-forgotten aspects of our lives, we can actually find something there that will bring us back to ourselves.
That dream was an elaboration on “Digging Deep” — it showed me what can come, when we don’t shy away from our past, when we truly excavate the traditions and practices of those who passed our DNA along to us. I believe that we inherit the orientations, capacities, and capabilities of our ancestors. And I believe that our spiritual practices and traditions become all the more meaningful and potent, when they are aligned with our heritage.
Of course, our Western heritage reaches far, far back… much farther back than the version we’ve been living with for the past 1,500 years or so (give or take). And when we do connect with that — as I did, through exploring ancient women’s mythology, as well as the words of medieval women mystics — the change it can bring to us… well, that’s nothing short of miraculous.
May you dig — and dive — deep. And find all you need… and more.