Sansaku: Seventeen

Sansaku: Projection


We’re headed to the great northwest to attend a ceremony.  The initiation began four years ago when Amy, our niece, was accepted into medical school.  Her initiation is about to continue for another four years, but now she’s a doctor.

I don’t want to stop writing the story, which is exactly why it’s a good time to stop.  I’ll want to return and I’m sure to remember.

The last time I saw Lisa, she was a street artist on the mall in Boulder. I was home visiting my parents, and I’m sure she saw me before I saw her.   After all, I’d spent a summer with her where I never once wore glasses.

She wanted me to pose, and then gave me the drawing.   I didn’t like that one either, but Lee wasn’t there to burn it and I wasn’t quite as stupid.

She said something that evening that worked a bit like the painting Lee burned. I had mentioned her family and she said, in that other-worldly voice of hers, “I wonder which stories we told you.”

I’m glad she said that, it’s something I’ll get back to, and I’m glad I don’t really know what Lee saw that I didn’t and had to imagine. Maybe he was just messing with me and didn’t like the way I criticized.   I’d done that earlier in the summer, when Lee showed me a manuscript of the book the two of them were writing.   I never saw it again.

I don’t often talk about the book, because Lee didn’t make a lesson out of it and I didn’t realize what happened until long after the summer.  But when he burned that painting, he gave me a magic mirror I would often look into.

It’s been a powerful projective test for me.   Not only is it extremely ambiguous and charged with meaning, but it can hold whatever I shine its way.  I can see bad art and a cartoon image, and often I see the young fool that’s full of himself.   But sometimes the well opens deep.

I’m seeing something very different this morning.

The young man in the drawing, I’m looking at it now, is an idealized image. She saw a better person than I saw in myself, and for some crazy reason it bothered me.

What did Marianne Williamson write that Mandela spoke so powerfully: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.   Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

I think I’ll leave it like that for now.





Sansaku: Sixteen

Sansaku:  Maybe Next Time


Since we packed for twenty-eight days or more, my pack was outrageously heavy.   And now that I’m older, I can’t even imagine how Lee carried his.   The one time I complained, Lisa shamed me.   It might have been on the same day I was chastised for trying to please him.

We had hiked ahead of Lee and stopped at a small pond to swim and sun.   When I took off my pack, I happened to mention I carried far more than my share.   I wish I hadn’t.   Lisa said, “Would you like for grandfather to carry more?”  She knew how I would feel.

As usual, Lisa brought out her watercolors and painted.   I’d been watching her do this all summer and frequently modeled.    We were sitting in the midst of high alpine beauty, and I was incredibly proud to be with these two magical beings.

One of these days, I’ll begin to tell the story of my time with them.  I’ve had to let it ripen.

When Lee arrived at camp, we had already made the circle and gathered some wood.   Lisa was out in the meadow collecting the plants she would use for the soup.  I had gone foraging for mushrooms and found a newborn king boletus.   We would eat well that night.

I just took a look at the journal I was writing that summer, and I can hardly read it for any number of reasons.  I wrote in a microscopic hand and, because it was damp, the ink smeared.  Sadder still, I didn’t realize the magnificence of the moment and there is no record.  I have been very slow to learn.

I will have to remember and re-imagine what happened.   The trouble is, I’ve told the story too many times.   But that shouldn’t bother me.   It’s been developing over time like a photographic image.

We had finished our meal and Lisa poured hot water into the cans we used as both pots and bowls.   It’s how we cleaned the dishes.  We drank the rinse water as weak tea.  I loved the ritual and miss it now.

Most evenings, Lee would ask to see Lisa’s watercolor from the day.   It was something I looked forward to.   Again, I wish I had recorded all of the talks, but I was trying to save what little paper I had.   I tended to spend it on dreams.

On this night, Lisa handed the painting to me before Lee.   That was a bit unusual.  Since I didn’t wear glasses and have extremely near-sighted eyes, I held the painting close.   I was looking at myself and didn’t like what I saw.  I told her.

Lee said, “Let me see it.”   And I handed it over with some reservation.   I knew I had set myself up.   He studied the portrait carefully, often looking at me.  It wasn’t what I wanted and I wished I hadn’t fussed.

He smiled and told Lisa to come over.   “Look,” he said, “you’ve caught his shadow.”   I said, “Let me see.”  He shook his head and rolled the painting up and fed it carefully to the fire.   I was blown away.

I’ll never forget what he said, “No, you don’t want to see it.   Maybe next time you won’t be so fast.”








Sansaku: Fifteen

Sansaku:  Just Wait and Watch

5/15/16, Part Two

After forty years of keeping them, I started to read my journals three years ago.   One of the first things I noticed, besides knowing how my well-intentioned and otherwise plans played out; I mostly stayed the same.  That seemed unlikely, given all I’ve been through.

I also noticed my dreams hadn’t changed all that much.  I’m still the same character and fool I’ve always been.  But those inner ones, like Anand and Mahri and Wind, are there, too, in some form or another.   Along with any number of stylized shadows and situations that shift shape and haunt me on a regular basis.

Although I’ve regularly worked on individual dreams and series, I’m cooking down decades full of them each morning.   It makes for a mighty thick stew.

Anand served Wind in much the same way that Wind served the Temple.   And because Wind lived in that much slower time space, Anand learned to wait and to watch.  Wind often told him, “Pay attention to what happens, and then pay attention to your dreams.   Don’t hurry them.”

He didn’t need to add that last part, Anand was well aware.

Most days were spent at the Overlook.   Wind called himself a Weather Watcher, and said there were many.

Anand asked few questions now, and waited for Wind to speak.   It was Wind who questioned him or offered answers to questions Anand had not yet asked.

Wind could read the clouds and weather, like a city person listens to the news.  He paid close attention, especially to the wind, which carried all the channels, all the frequencies.

He might ask Anand, pointing down at the highway, “They’re all asleep and dreaming, you know.”   And then he’d point to the clouds, which had started to swirl and spell out words.   “They can’t see that.”

Wind showed Anand that there were many ways to the Overlook.   What looked like a single staircase had many twists and turns.   It was like a labyrinth in design, but always led to the top.  The dogs liked to explore the different directions, and Wind let them lead.

At the end of the day, they returned to the stone house.   Simple food and wine awaited them, and Wind did the clean up.   After watching the fire, Wind would ask Anand what he had seen in the flames.   Anand would answer and then head for the Well.   He had learned how to enter through dreams.

When he gave advice or made a suggestion, Wind did not expect a comment or reply.  That wasn’t the point and Anand soon learned.   If he tried, the old man would snap at him, “Just wait and watch.”

I remember Lee getting really pissed at me one day.   He complained that I stayed to the trail, but when I wandered off and bushwhacked, he’d complain there was an easier way to go.   I was frustrated and now he ever-so-gently said, “Stop trying to please me.   You’re driving me nuts.”

He burned the painting that night.


Sansaku: Fourteen

Sansaku:  Not the Ceremony

5/15/16, Part One

We commonly mistake the ceremony for the initiation, but it’s just the start. The marriage ceremony is hardly the marriage.   My retirement ceremony, which lasted a full year, reminded me of the scene in so many movies, where a champagne bottle is busted against the bow of a boat.   Bon voyage.   Now it begins.

I’ve been using Anand to describe the initiation process, which looks much more like a story he’s experiencing than any event or action.   When we are initiated into life, we find out what we’re made of.

When I was twenty-seven, I met Lee.   He was an old man and artist, who traveled with his granddaughter.   Lisa sketched constantly, but rarely talked.   I had to woo her like a wild thing.   They were both mysterious, in different ways, and I badly wanted to know them.

Although I only spent a summer, from the end of May until September, it was a long time in coming, and even longer after it ended.   I’m still processing.

I identified with Lee and could see myself in him.   He was a seeker and philosopher of the non-academic type.   He lived what he taught, and his life was the lesson I wanted to learn.   I wanted to be like him, but make completely different choices.  He lived in a different time and world.   I grew up in Boulder during the sixties.    That says it all.

I call that summer an initiation, because I was never again the same.   The way I saw myself, others, and the world had changed.   This has happened since I retired, too.   I’m starting to process differently, and much is uncertain and new.  I’m drifting.

Before and after an initiation period, it’s much easier to plan and control what happens.   For years I’ve had a work schedule and knew exactly where I’d be each day.  Before that and after college, I drifted.   I had no idea where I’d end up, what I would do, or with whom.   It was a mystery, and I looked for omens almost each and every day.

Drift is organic and nonlinear.   It’s neither rigid nor chaotic, it flows and changes as needed.   We had a code word in the counseling center, “parking lot.”   With very little control and planning, yet with maximum efficiency, cars can quickly decide where to park and we could schedule clients.

When it comes to initiation, it’s a drift of a different order.   We don’t know where to park and end up circling and starting over.

Sansaku is another word for drift.  Choice and decision are made again and again and again.   Anand, of course, is drifting.

Anand didn’t need to ask and Wind didn’t need to say.   He knew he would be allowed to live with Wind, but only if he could live as Wind lived.   He would have to pay close attention.

Wind lived in a slightly different space and time dimension. What he experienced, Anand could only get there in his dreams.



Sansaku: Thirteen

Sansaku:  Some Context and History


Dreams are like an organ of perception, and sometimes I think we’ve forgotten more than we’ve learned about them.   There was a time when dreams were taken seriously and we educated them.   It’s never too late.

I had that dream about Diamond Light when I was twenty-five and had just arrived in Durango.   I’d made my decision to study dreams six months earlier, but hadn’t found a way to integrate them into my life.

At the time, I was working a construction job and feeling extremely out of place.   It was late September and the weather had begun to change.   I hated the thought of winter, and had no idea of what was soon to happen.

The guys were giving me grief that day, and one of them said, “We’ve been talking about you.”   I was hardly surprised.   I must have looked like a tropical bird that belonged in a zoo.  I didn’t fit and it didn’t take a psychologist to notice.

“We think you’re educated, but not skilled.”   I said, “What gave it away?”   They laughed and later that day I almost died when a board I was standing on broke, and precipitated me into the foundation pit.   I landed on my feet, but between lengths of rebar sticking from the concrete.  I could have been skewered in the worst of ways and knew it.

I quit that day and went home early.   A friend who worked at the hospital had called and I began another job that didn’t fit.  But the hours did.   I worked the evening shift and it gave me time to study.

I had started to read Jung and practically copied all of Man and His Symbols.  Metaphors and meaning were the kind of power tools and heavy equipment I was designed to operate.   Besides, I figured my hands and health would last longer.

This was in early October, which is when the aspen temples turn gold and remind us of what matters.   I was with three friends and we had spent the day wandering in and out of groves.   I was tired and picked a flat rock, right in the middle of the confluence of two streams.   I fell asleep.

The dream wasn’t lucid, but I’ll never forget. I was descending into the most sensual pleasure I had ever experienced, when I realized I was being swallowed and consumed.    I thought a bear had eaten me.

It didn’t hurt but I was dropping into darkness and wondered how I would ever get out.   And then I had a thought.   “In the dead of night, when things are darkest, look up.”

I could see a single star and knew I was to will myself in that direction.   In dreams, we navigate by will and if we want to change the content, we have to change our attitude.  It’s like learning to turn towards fear.

When I directed all of my dream consciousness towards that one point of light, is when I emerged in the courtyard and the fountain, and realized the Diamond Light was also conscious and watching me.

Now I was lucid and began to ask questions.   I wanted to understand the symbolic language I’d been reading about in Jung.   I thought about the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and that’s when the fountain came to life.








Sansaku: Twelve

Sansaku:  Emergence


Most therapists try to imagine, “What wants to emerge?” It’s about the growth and development of the personality.   And the other side of the question is similar, “What is preventing this emergence?”  Therapy is about encouraging the first and uncovering the second.

A few years ago, Chyako told me a story Jack Kornfield tells.  He admitted to his supposedly enlightened guru that he was disappointed and felt let down.  The guru was very happy to hear this.   He said, “Good, you have an image of what enlightenment means for you.   That is what you are supposed to become.”

It’s similar to the idea about emergence and learning to study where we’re stuck.  In dreams and in life, there’s a Watcher in the psyche.  Everything you experience, even in your dreams, so does the Watcher.   And the Watcher is the emergent self.

We might be socialized to have a super-ego and a sense of moral shame, and we’re taught to be normal and stay to the mean, but the Watcher is not like that.  He helps us to go on beyond.

After he asked Diamond Light about the bird and evolution, the Fountain helped him remember.   And now Wind was helping him, just by his presence.   He had been there, too.

Anand said, “I asked an earlier question.   I wanted to know if I had lived before.   I don’t know why I asked it, and almost believe the Fountain wanted me to.  Immediately I saw my birth, and I was coming from far away.”

Anand did his best to put into words this experience.   Wind only helped him by listening and encouraging him to remember.

“I was coming from a distant galaxy.   I wasn’t sure I would get there in time.   My mother was deep into labor and I hadn’t arrived.   I could see the room clearly, and then I exploded into light and harsh sound.”

“What else did you remember?   What did you see before you were born?”

“I knew why I chose my parents and family, my friends, and the place in the mountains near the forbidden forest.  It was all meant to be.   I could see both you and Mahri.”

Anand knew that this soul journey was symbolized by a bird, a raven or eagle, and it was stylized in the hieroglyphic script in the Temple.   And the symbol for evolution was the Diamond.

He watched as his inner earth evolved.   Mountains rose and eroded, great boulders broke off and rolled towards the sea.   Life did the same, and it happened again and again.   The forests turned into coal and the coal slowly turned into diamond.   Many images flashed before Anand.

Not just diamonds, there were different kinds of jewels.   He watched as each of them emerged and evolved, transformed and returned.   He saw a cosmic tree where each blossom was a star, a galaxy, universal and unique.

There was a period in Jung’s life when he drew a mandala each morning.   Many of them are painted and survive in The Red Book, his illuminated journal.   But it wasn’t the art he was after.   He’d found a way to enter.







Sansaku: Eleven

Sansaku: Diamond Light


When I dreamed about the Temple, I was still in high school.   After a knee operation a few years earlier, I had taken up yoga to regain flexibility and learned how to meditate.   I was also beginning to read books that hinted at an inner world and reality.   No one seemed to know much, and school never said a word.

My dream was lucid and similar to the one Anand described to Wind.   In mine, I actually memorized what I read on the wall of the temple, and when I awoke to write it down, found it was in a cuneiform script, a most ancient language.

Looking back, I took this to mean I needed to learn about dream symbols, the language of the soul and psyche.   I realized there was an inner source of consciousness and being that was larger, older, and much wiser than I.  It started me on the quest.

Like most seekers, I easily and often confused the inner exploration with the outer.   I had no idea the one reflected the other.  But I had started a journal and was writing down dreams and their context.

In a superficial sense, all of these journals I’ve written over the years have been like the house where Wind dwells.   They have given me access to the Well and to the Overlook.   I’ve learned how dreams reflect our experience of life from a more expanded point of view, and how to reflect upon these reflections.

The Diamond is also a dream I had, and it’s almost word for word the same.   Concepts like the soul and psyche have lost their meaning, so I am writing them down in symbolic language.

Wind said, “It’s important you remember the vision you had in the Temple.   There was something written on the Wall.  When you were there, you could read it.”

Anand remembered the symbol, which was like a living hieroglyphic. While it looked like a bird, a raven, it told a story of evolution.   It was coming alive again.   It was written in a language like water, like flames, that both flowed and stayed the same.

Wind told him, “Close your eyes.  Memory will help you.”

He saw a courtyard built around a fountain and deep pool.   A low wall contained the living water, and he approached and sat down.   The fountain responded and he experienced the water as light, which was conscious and very aware of his presence.

Anand asked a question, only in his mind, and the Diamond Light responded.   It did not use words or spoken language.   He had asked about the bird and evolution.   He had been given a vision in answer.

The Diamond Light was playful and the fountain danced and sparked. “How could you forget what you’ve always known and remembered?”

Anand had wanted to ask another question, but Wind had called him to attention.   He was back at the Overlook.

Several of the dogs who lived with Wind were present, and they seemed curious, too.   Wind asked again, “What did you experience?”