Life is but a Dream

Sundar Kadayam - USA Articles, English 11 Comments

oar in water

Sitting in meditation can also bring drama to the fore.  At least for me it has and it does!

In meditation, various experiences in body-mind come and go, sometimes nice, sometimes intense yet nice, sometimes painful, sometimes unbearable.  And then, there are rarer occasions like this one here for me —  I felt an expansive energetic throbbing in the third eye, and great energetic and physical pressure at the root / base of the spine, kind of like a wall / dam breaking.  Equally interesting to note, was fear.  A fear I could recognize from before. Like the fear of dissolving. In the past, this fear had come in panic attack proportions  as a sense of expansiveness grew.

I remember this story which I retell here in the way I recall it.  A young monk was a new student in a Buddhist monastery. Like other students, he too had to sit in meditation regularly.  One day, the young monk had a stupendous experience in meditation, and he ran out in sheer joy and delight.  “Master!  Master!  Where are you?”.  Coming upon his master, without hesitation, the young monk blurted out loud “Master!  You will not believe what happened in meditation just now!”.  As the master looked on compassionately, the young monk ranted “A big shiny golden Buddha with a thousand arms, seated on a massive lotus flower appeared, smiling at me”!  As he paused to catch his breath, the master told him gently “Don’t worry!  Go back and meditate. It will go away!”

Wonderful lesson, and note to self – “Don’t worry!  Go back and meditate. It will go away!”

But that didn’t stop me from bugging Frans Stiene, my teacher.  Like the young monk in our story here, I ranted to him in email, and got essentially the same sort of gentle sagely response from him,

🙂 When we have fear, we struggle with the experience and when we struggle, the experience will become more overwhelming because we are struggling with it. When we let go more and more of the fear then whatever happens is okay, even it is painful!

I can be a slow learner often.

I let that sink in.

All that I experienced in meditation is just what it is.  Neither here nor there, but just is.  

Noticing the fear, rather than engaging in it or fighting it, and letting it pass on like the storm cloud of anger – that I’m so much more familiar with handling – this is how I should navigate it, and I should try to do just that.  

In the moment of contemplation, I notice that there is also an insidious impatience, a low lying, not obvious feeling that wants to go somewhere, arrive somewhere, perhaps at an awakened state faster.  I’ve not paid attention to this, but it is here.  

Where am I rushing?  To achieve what?  Who wants to get enlightened?  All this is more “I” play, is it not?  

Nowhere to go.  

No time to arrive at.  

No place that is perfect, and no place that isn’t.  

Enlightenment isn’t an achievement, it is waking up from a dream.  Waking up from our nightly dream isn’t an achievement on a daily basis, so why is waking up from the ultimate dream an achievement?  That which I’m trying to wake up to is already here, now.  Hidden only because of being caught in the dream state.

Relax. This is a dream state.  Relax deeply.  Don’t fight it.  Don’t push against it.  Don’t fear it.  Don’t try to rush it, or finish it, or get rid of it.  Relax.  This is a dream.  The dreamer will awake.  In due course.  No need to kick and scream.  No need to be anxious or hurried.  Relax.  This is but a dream.  

Frans wrote to affirm this:

No need to go anywhere because it is all here.
No need to add anything because our True Self is all fine in all its glory
No need to take away anything because our True Self is all fine in all its glory
Just relax indeed.

I am reminded of this song I’ve sung to my kids when they were young:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream

Like the precepts of Usui san, now this seemingly childish song seems laden with wisdom to me:

Row, row, row your boat –> Work hard, diligently, honestly!

Gently down the stream –> Not upstream, not in resistance of what is, but with the flow of the stream of life, downstream with life.  Gently. No need for forcing anything. So there is no anger, no fear.  Just the flow of what is!

Merrily, merrily, merrily –> Happy with what is. Grateful for what is. Compassionate for what is!

Life is but a dream –> Exactly what it says!  Life as we experience it is an illusion.  Just do this above, and one day you will awaken.  In the mean time enjoy the dream while flowing with the stream of life.

Eternal wisdom in a kids’ song!  

And so it flows in this amazing journey!

Comments 11

  1. Avatar of Elly

    Thanks, Sundar, for another lovely post! I especially love your turning a children’s song into a life lesson. So many children’s rhymes began as life lessons, then lost their meaning as time passed and were considered nonsense rhymes for children. (“Ring around the rosie” and “Pop! goes the weasel” being two famous examples.) I think those monks who sought for instant enlightenment were the first overachievers, or at least the first spiritual overachievers. They wanted enlightenment, and they wanted it NOW! And so many still do. Caught up in a culture of instant gratification (“Lose ten pounds a week with [fill in the blank]!”, “Ten ways to ace a job interview!”, “Get a new car for no money down!”), no wonder people get caught up in the “enlightenment now” trap. If it was that easy, everyone would be thin, have the job of their dreams, drive around in new sports cars, and be enlightened. What actually is easy is enjoying the trip through life, letting go of our competitive edge (“I got enlightened in two weeks, but it took you three, so I must be more spiritual than you”), and simply maintaining our daily practice without expectation. As Milarepa so pointedly puts it, “The affairs of the world will go on forever. Do not delay the practice of meditation.” Ignoring the outcome, letting whatever arises come and go, forgetting about attaining enlightenment, this is the key to losing the ego, the “I” that stands between us and the all. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Sundar and the rest,
    Great article.
    Yes dreaming can be pleasant and sometimes a nightmare but we have to ask ourselves who is labeling the dream, labeling it a good or a bad dream?

  3. Avatar of Sundar

    Frans, Thanks.  There’s layers in all this as always, and critically, as you point out, who is dreaming and labeling the dream!

    Elly, Thanks.  You say it well that we are in an instant gratification culture.  Get it fast, consume it fast, move on to the next thing.  Where are we running, and when we do arrive there, will it all be what we thought it would be!  As you say, this trap affects the spiritual aspirant, the Reiki practitioner too.  In our healing work, what are trying to achieve?  In our meditation, where are we trying to get?  All this rush and buzzing about, when all we are ever needing to do is to learn to BE.  I don’t know how many times, I go off-track, wander about lost, only to return to this core idea over and over again: Relax. Be.  For me, this epiphany was about patience, one of the P’s that Frans always talks about.  Patience. Perseverance. Practice.  It is not possible to relax and BE without first being patient.  Patience is allowing what is now.  Patience is not rushing into the future.  Patience is not resisting the present.  Patience is letting things be.  In the persevering practice with patience, the stillness can come, BEing can flower.  No quick fixes here either 🙂

  4. Avatar of seema

    Hi Sundar,
    thank you for sharing a forgotten nursery rhyme that I used to sing for my daughter , trying to interact with her so she say some thing to me :).

    We can learn a lot from children don’t we , all we have to see our own childhood some times.
    Swinging on the swing for e.g. some thing where a child would say and want to keep pushing him/her heigher and heigher , while playing , and laughing. Some thing I used to and still love , going heigher and heigher ….

    wonder the seeds of “suffering”  were placed right there and than…the moment we are born . How?

    I think that moment when we want to go heigher and heigher in the swing( life),impermeannce and feeling of unsatisfaction interplay right then. our desire to want this one and not that one, wanting more of this and that.Seems the seeds of suffering starts to sprout the moment we are born ?

    and that is what the impatince is about especially in todays culture where even as a child there are so many options , if not this than that etc.

    may be that is why older people have more patince ?

    what do you think ?

  5. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Sundar and the rest,

    Patience is the key indeed. So hard to come by especially in our modern day with constant tweets, constant checking of that phone if there is a message, constant checking if we have email, our life has become very rushed. In the past we would get excited about the post which came just once a day! Now we do not have any rest.

    I think patience doesn’t depend on age, I was with some old people the other day and they were so impatient. I think it depends on the person.

  6. Avatar of Elly

    Thanks, all! Certainly, patience is the key to progress on the Reiki path, and the key to kindness, as well. As Sri Eknath Easwaran says, “By now, most of us are aware that compulsive speed—-‘hurry sickness’—-can be a direct threat to our physical health. But hurry has another alarming repercussion: it cripples patience.” Without patience, there is no peace. And as the Bhagavad Gita points out, “When you know no peace, how can you know joy?” Without joy, how can you be kind to others, to yourself? If you are not kind and compassionate, how can you progress on the path? It’s a vicious circle unless you can heal yourself of hurry sickness. As Frans suggests, getting off social media (to the extent that’s possible), giving up a video-game addiction or other time-waster, and seriously evaluating how you spend your time is a great start.

  7. Avatar of Sundar

    Seema, I think Suffering begins right at the first moment we identify something out there as this or that.  The One is now two, then more and more and before long in childhood, the One has receded into oblivion in personal experience.  A lifetime of ‘learning” begins, adding one brick, one stone at a time to this, and soon, along with feeling “learned”, there is suffering too – anger, fear, resentments, grief … and one day the sensation dawns, “Something is wrong”, and the quest begins, the journey starts.  The journey proceeds, oddly enough, dismantling the megastructure we’ve accumulated, stripping it one rock, one brick at a time (sometimes many at a time).  Learning is not that valuable, as inner wisdom begins to shine.  Letting go, dropping layers, shedding the baggage, we strive to strip ourselves back to our original state, so we can recognize who we are, the One. And be free.  Strange stuff isn’t it?

    Frans, along the lines of what you suggest, back in 2009 January, I stopped watching the news, reading papers etc.  And I’ve lost nothing in the process, and regained by stability, my peace, my grounding.  If something is vital for me, there are always family and friends who make absolutely sure I don’t miss it 🙂  One small step in simplifying life.

    Elly: Exquisite quotes from Sri. Easwaran and the Bhagavad Gita.  Thank you.

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Sundar,
    I was staying with some family last week and they were watching the news a few times a day plus reading the newspapers. I said I stopped watching the news and reading the papers, they couldn’t believe it 😉 They said how do you stay up to date? But we have to ask ourselves up to date on what? All that negative stuff, do I really need to know all that?

    I think our world has become so far removed from being in tune with nature.
    In nature we can observe that life is but a dream, plus how to deal with things.
    Frozen water doesn’t flow around a rock, but free flowing water does, so be free flowing.
    The trees move according to the wind and each tree moves differently according to their branches, leaves, roots etc.. so remember that each person is different when we practice or do hands on healing.
    So many examples.

    Life is but a dream… to realize this we need to wake up from our sleep of ignorance. And if we want to help others we need to wake up first ourselves, because if we are still asleep how can we wake up others.

  9. Avatar of seema

    Thanks Frans, Patience could be person specific and not age don’t know . However what I have seen in everyday life professionaly that folks who belong to 80+ age group they seem to have more tolerence, respect and drive to get better and go home whereas the patients who belong to say 30s or 40s are less tolerant , angry and I have to say some what lazy , seeking so much more pain relieving drugs etc.

    Not sure if it is because we want everything instant , so instant relief with no work…and I also belong to same age group, perhaps my laziness is catching up on me also :).

    Myself too stopped watching news , etc two years ago , it doesn’t make any sense any more , its the same shit negativity on news and like you Sundar if there is anything important my family make sure I see it :).

    Sundar, yes as soon as the awareness starts suffering begins too. It is a destructive process walking on this journey , everything destroys. To love we need to be free and to be free I think we need to know suffering , its a process . Having to go through this and that just so we can arrive where we already are, yes it is strange .

    I think suffering is not seperate than us in that aspect . May be if we see it such than we won’t try to run away from it ?.

    So this is what I say-

    Understand it , its you
    Same and not different.

    No labels , no name
    See than what happens

    No fear as no separation
    No escaping through distraction

    No separate manifestation in mind
    Keep it focal unified attention

    Understand comprehend fully
    See it disperse by itself…

    Not sure if it disperse by itself :-)) ,  still in mud bath…..

    oh yes , waking up is needed and what a dream we live in we find out . Yes we cannot wake anyone else if we are sleeping ourselves and I think we have to be willing to be awake , so easy not too and fall asleep again…

  10. Avatar of Deborah Shields

    All of the posts I’ve read here today were not a coincidence, but rather just what the Universe knew I needed to hear.  In 4 days it will be a year since my husband and I had to tear down our home of 27 years and throw out almost everything we owned, because we had finally figured out why we were all getting sick so often:  our attic vents had gotten clogged with debris from Hurricane Sandy, which had caused condensation to build up, creating a good habitat for mold to break out and travel down between the walls.  We had to completely rebuild our home, receiving no aid because our insurance said we couldn’t prove the damage was from the hurricane.  We have finally moved and most of the time I’ve managed to keep my hands and heart open, seeing the deep lessons in it all and even have moments when I can honestly say this experience was one of the best things that ever happened to us.  But lately I’ve been feeling weary and a little PTSD from it all, and have had a hard time staying grounded.  Thanks all for the deep sharing.  You all touched my life deeply.

    Sundar, your essay also reminds me of the following Rumi poem:
    The Guest House
    This being human is a guest house
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    Some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows.
    Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.
    Still, treat each guest honorably,
    He may be cleaning you out for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    Meet them at door laughing and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whoever comes.
    Because each has been sent
    As a guide from beyond.

  11. Avatar of Elly

    Hi Deborah, so sorry for your trouble!!! Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful Rumi poem. I hope you and your husband have recovered from the mold-inflicted illnesses and can begin to rebuild yourselves as well as your home.

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