ONE: The (Un)likelihood of Dreams
If I hadn’t ended up in the worst imaginable airbnb room in Sanur, I never would have fled Sanur four days before my rental in Ubud was ready, meaning I never would have needed to stay elsewhere for four nights, where I somehow ended up at Cito’s guesthouse.
If I hadn’t been deeply ill upon arrival, I likely wouldn’t have experienced so acutely the care and concern of Cito and his mother, and later, his father.
If I hadn’t felt such a connection to Cito and his family, I likely wouldn’t have canceled my original reservation elsewhere that was to start four days later and spent the next month living with them, where I felt I was taken in as family. That was the first major series of events, although I could count other related events that were already transpiring years before this (see this post).
If one day, I hadn’t taken an innocent enough turn down a tiny walkway where I saw a sign that read, “Coco Wayan” and something about coconuts, I wouldn’t have met the man, and maybe the idea of leasing land in Ubud to build a house wouldn’t have otherwise been hammered into my ear. But i did meet him, and that’s what he said to me for the next thirty minutes. Or he put the idea into my head without my realizing that it had gone in. Instead, it just felt like something foreign. Something completely out of the realm of possibility or even desire. I was mostly trying to be polite, letting him prattle on about something he seemed passionate about.
And yet, a few days later, I was standing out on a rice field looking out at the sheer beauty of the place, and I noticed a thought: It would be like a dream to live here.
I wouldn’t have given that thought a second thought except that my heart went tender, soft, like inward tears were flowing. And so I knew the thought was important to my heart. It was my heart telling me to listen. It was saying to me, Hey, pay attention to this thought. It may seem unrealistic to you, but just remember it. Mark it in your mind.
And so I did. And that was the second major event.
I met many Balinese who spoke openly of their dreams (and I made it a habit of asking them since they were so open with them). Each of these encounters were significant to me because it’s easy to begin dreaming of the most unimaginable things when you surround yourself with others who do that as a matter of fact.
And on and on I could go, outlining one event after another.
There are so many things that could have gone otherwise. And to be keenly aware of it while watching the whole thing unfold, I’m continually struck by a sense of events being orchestrated by something larger than myself, while my own role in it remains fairly minimal. I seem mostly to be required to do a few things when called for. And they’re called for, as in, I’m told pretty clearly what to do, right when I’m supposed to do it. My mentor and friend, John, often said to me, “You’ll find out what you need to know when you need to know.” I never liked that back then because I was impatient, but mostly, I didn’t understand.
That wasn’t just a description of how things are. That was a set of instructions on how to live.
It means, This is how things are—they come when they’re needed. So you can struggle in doubt, worry, control, and manipulation, or you can just relax and let go, knowing it’ll all come when you need for it to come. And the more you can relax (as in stop meddling: see this post and this one), the less is required of you and the more fluidly things can happen. Your job is basically to show up to life, enjoy it, and wander around to your heart’s content until you feel tired, and then, you can go take a nap or whatever. Doesn’t matter. You’re simply to stay relaxed in mind and heart and to pay attention to what shows up as you show up.
And that’s all I’ve done.
Well, some worrying and farting around.
I have an internal GPS machine. It’s like this: I say, give me directions from Sacramento to Los Angeles.
It says, go over to Interstate 5 and head south.
So I do that. I’m heading south.
Then somewhere along the way, it blurts out, Re-routing… Turn east to Bakersfield.
I’m like, Bakersfield?! I don’t want to go to Bakersfield!
But I do. I head that way, not knowing why the GPS is telling me to do it.
So I end up in Bakersfield. And the GPS goes silent. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. So, I just park the car in the shade cause it’s hot out and take a nap. Or I just sit there, hoping that either the GPS comes online again or that I make a decision to do something in life.
Most of the time, nothing happens. Time passes.
Until I have a thought, I want to eat a donut. So I start the car and find a donut store. And I buy a donut. And since I paid for the donut, I decide to stay in the cool, air-conditioned store and pull out my computer. And maybe I type an email. Or maybe I get inspired and write something like this story (although I’m really writing it on a plane).
Then, the GPS comes online when I’m done with my writing, and says, Head south toward LA.
So I go.
Maybe I end up in LA, but more likely, the GPS machine takes me on numerous detours. Maybe I end up in Japan (like I am now while editing this)? Most of the time, I don’t know why it’s taking me there. It would be cool if everywhere I went, there was someone in need of my help, or someone with answers to questions I’ve yet to ask. Or a mind-shattering insight and experience! Then, I would love following the GPS machine’s directions. But come to think of it, I’ve had those GPS machines too, but that’s when I was younger. The current one isn’t great like that.
But I think I know why I got this older-person unit.
I think that following directions when you get a cool reward (even if that cool reward is helping someone else) isn’t the best training. Maybe that’s good for when I was beginning. But it causes a mind to think that following directions should lead to rewards. But this current GPS machine doesn’t dish out rewards like that, or at least it doesn’t seem to on surface. I go to Fresno or Kuala Lumpur because the GPS tells me to. Not because anything great is going to happen. I think it’s training me simply to follow directions better.
It’s a dirty word in some circles, but I’d call it something like obedience (or a certain stupidity). But for me, obedience isn’t a dirty word. Obedience come from the Latin oboedire, or ob (“to”) + audire (“listen, hear”). So to become obedient isn’t to become someone’s dog (although my friend James might say that’s the whole point, and he might be right), or to become a mindless follower. It’s to listen and to hear what’s being offered. If one doesn’t listen well, one can’t follow well. Or put in its logically-equivalent contrapositive, if one wants to follow well, one has to listen well. That is, to follow the whisperings of the universe, one must first learn to hear it. This to me is the true spirit of obedience. To become obedient is to quiet myself down, and listen intently for what’s being asked of me. When I do this well, I can hear things I couldn’t hear before.
This is why I don’t mind when the GPS tells me where to go even if I don’t know why, before or after.
I do have this sense that the more I can just follow without worrying whether I’m gonna help someone or something cool’s gonna happen, the better off I am, the better off this world is. Each time that happens, I’m losing something, something of myself. It’s like I’m slowly being chiseled away.
Maybe in time, there won’t be a me.
(Not that there ever was. But I digress… to the primary point, actually, but anyhow…)
I just know that the less there is of me, the more there is of something other than me, meaning something I don’t know, a sense of mystery, constant surprise, unpredictability, fun!… Whee! And being scared out of my mind!
But it’s also why I enjoy smart jokes or good stories. I never know where they’re going. I want my life to be like that. Interesting. Intriguing. Not so much to others, but to myself. I don’t want to be in charge of where my life goes because I’d lose the element of surprise, of mystery. It would become boring. Or it is boring when I know what’s gonna happen. I don’t even like saying the same thing twice (or three times)! ;)
So that’s why I’m keeping this seemingly nonsensical GPS machine. Or that’s not up to me either! I know that… And it’s not about where it’s taking me. It’s about what it’s doing to me. Life takes me where it will, and the lighter I become, the more easily and fluidly this being that will soon give way to dust, flows with the rest of the (star)dust.
III. On the Phenomenology of a Dream
(I posted this earlier on facebook/instagram, but I added an incredibly important (!!) sentence here, not on facebook or instagram!)
The thing about pursuing a dream is that it doesn’t feel that way to me. Instead it feels more like the dream beckons, I say, okay, or sure, why not. Then, it leads. And I follow.
The whole time I’m thinking, I’m so incredibly lucky, as events I couldn’t have imagined are coming to be, and yet I realize, this really isn’t my dream! It’s the dream of the universe, and it’s just using me to make it happen. It’s basically one big con job!
And i know how this is going to go. I’m going to be assigned a job of some kind.
But an amazing job! Something that matches my deepest impulses and values. Something that will pull me, and likely others, more deeply into the Great Mystery, into the deepest imaginable freedom.
And the universe is using me only because I was willing.
And I was willing because I realized at some point that I didn’t have any good plans. My plans amounted to eating an almond croissant or a buttered bagel and thinking about myself. And taking a nap. Easy to give up one’s plans when one realizes how menial and pointless they are—and how utterly insubstantial I am (when examined to the core, which come to think of it, is how it all started!)