As the smoke cleared, my mother pulled the final card from the deck. Ash. Meaning death, I was certain. She glanced up at me her eyes searching for a response. “I’m fine,” I said, glancing at the first card. Serpent. Rebirth, I was just as certain. “Worried?” she asked. No.
I awoke suddenly. At first, the only thing I remembered from that dream were the words “return to the sutras”, which strangely enough I couldn’t tie to an actual imagine from the dream. I started breakfast and quickly scribbled the words, ‘mom’, ‘ash’, ‘death’, ‘serpent’, and ‘return to the sutras’.
It isn’t necessarily strange that I remember my dreams in detail. In fact, I place a jade stone under my pillow because I once heard it helped others remember their dreams. Even if it doesn’t actually do that, at the very least it works as a talisman or a visual message for my brain to register. What was odd was not the memory, it was the intensity and clarity with which I perceived the dream, matched by certainty and fearlessness. The images, being as they were, should have startled me awake, but they didn’t.
Mom. Ash. Death. Serpent. Return to the sutras.
The message is clear and I’ll share their meaning to me here in case you are somewhere along the same journey. I’ll start with my mom. She represents my past. She is pulling the cards because my most vivid childhood memories involve my mom’s love of ghost stories, gothic art and literature, and cemeteries. Hence, the smoke, which adds an air of mystery and overall spookiness. The ash representing death is death of my old life. This is significant because of the certainty I had in the dream and my anxiety over this facet in my waking life. Just last weekend I had a kind of spiritual relapse, as we all do. I was tired of being “‘good”. I was tired of digging deep and confronting my shadows. I wanted a weekend of fun like the ‘good ol’ days’ when I seemingly floated through life with out a care. So, that’s what I did, with all the drinking and dancing and manipulation that a spirit can take. Come Sunday, I laid in bed with the realization that none of it was ‘fun’ anymore.
That’s what most people won’t tell you about a spiritual journey. Part of you dies. Although you’ll relapse a few times on the path and find some cheap joy, once the lies are stripped away, the old you is dead forever. That’s good, right? I mean, that’s the goal. But a death is still a death, and it must be grieved like any other. You loved that person once and now she’s gone.
The other part most people won’t mention is the loneliness. There’s a period between the death of the old you and the birth of the new where you are alone. Really, really alone. There are old friends you love that you no longer understand or feel connected to, and there are new friends that have not yet been found. This is the place where most people give up. It is also the place where the greatest transformation can happen. In solitude you decipher, interpret, and banish all the lies you’ve been telling yourself all these years. You refuse to believe all the lies others have told you, as well. Then, little by little, your spirit reaches higher, and as if you were a lighthouse, new friends appear before you. You see the same spirit in their eyes, and know this is who you were meant to be all along. This is the serpent, shedding it’s old worn skin, so fresh skin may kiss the light of day.
Return to the sutras.
The messages derived from the mother, ash, death, and serpent, I believe are universal. The sutras are specific to me in this moment. For two years, I’ve been fighting with my practice. I believe. I don’t believe. I practice. I don’t practice. It is the answer. It is my cross. “Return to the sutras,” for me, means a recommitment. It is time to once and for all, step into and acknowledge my beliefs. I believe in the power of the sutras, as I do the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. All paths lead to love, but only through commitment.
The practice of concentration on a single subject (or use of one technique) is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.
– Sutra 32, as interpreted by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Today I recommit.
To read about the beginning of my journey, you can access one of my very first blog posts, A Rebirth.