Dreams, Forgiveness, and the Surf

I have been thinking a lot lately about the power and impact of dreams - and the effect they have in our lives, and the messages they often bring...

Just a couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about "Lucid Dreaming" - the ability to recognize you are actually dreaming in your dream and the conscious decision to change the script or outcome of the dream. I read about the pioneering research Stephen Laberge did in this field at Stanford University, back in the 80's, when I was very interested in dream interpretation, so this article contained little I hadn't heard before, except to correlate more recent applications to this research and to note the benefits to long time Buddhist monks and meditation practitioners.

Recently, I had a series of very powerful and telling dreams. Some were very vivid and frightening and I woke up with a start on a couple of occasions, with my heart pounding. One of them contained a very clear message about some current issues in my life. I found it hard to go back to sleep. But, as often happens, that very night, I had a second dream, where I was granted the opportunity to visit the afterlife, and I was struck by how lush and beautiful everything was, and how happy everyone was. Needless to say, I didn't want to come back. Then, somewhere during the course of the dream, I encountered the father of a dear friend, who actually died on my friend's birthday a few years ago. He had a very clear message for me. It was unmistakable. He gave very specific instructions, very similar to something his own daughter had shared and suggested to me a couple of months ago. I felt very much at peace as a result of this dream and this visitation...

When I shared the dream with my friend, she was not surprised. Her father has regularly visited her - in addition to her mother, her daughter, and a number of close friends, giving everyone needed and clear guidance. I felt both touched, and honored. My friend pointed out that her father had visited and supported her friends, something she considered incredible, and suggested I should follow his advice...

Dreams can sometimes change our lives, or the direction we take...

Yesterday, I taught the first week of a short course at Willow Street Yoga Center, titled, "The Yoga of Forgiveness." I was deeply impressed with the assemblage of students and what they shared when I asked them to introduce themselves and share why they came to this course and what they hoped to attain.

I noted that forgiveness is a practice - and a choice - that sometimes we must make over and over again. And throughout the six weeks we would come together, we would explore different ways to forgive others and ourselves through sharing, the practice of various techniques, meditation, asana, and so forth.

I began by telling them the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, whose whole family, save one sibling, was brutally murdered during three months of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. And still, she managed to forgive their assailant - the man who ordered all those murders. I shared other stories as well, taken from these very blog entries of the last few years.

I taught them a simple version of Tonglen - a practice of extending compassion - to ourselves, loved ones, and those we have difficulty with. I also taught them the practice of Ho'oponopono, a simple and ancient Hawaiian technique consisting of four simple sentences meant to clear and heal our relationships with ourselves and others, and I encouraged my students to chant them inwardly, everyday for a few minutes:

Forgive me.
I'm sorry.
I love you.
Thank you.

These four simple sentences can be arranged in any order. Often I just allow them to spontaneously emerge as they choose.

Finally, I asked my students to write down one to three things that they are grateful for - every day. In a week's time - we will share our progress, and note any subtle changes in our attitudes, our feelings, our perspectives, and our behaviors...

Today, I reflected on both the impact my recent dreams, and my own commitment to practice forgiveness as I walked along the beach in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The foamy surf was very warm and soothing, even though it was also hot and humid. Still, to go for a long, leisurely walk with sandals in hand, without any agenda for the afternoon, felt very healing to my heart and soul...

A couple of days ago, this same friend whose father "visited" me, and I, went for a walk by the lake near her home. I shared with her some changes I had recently enacted in my life, and some directions I was considering. Later, she wrote me, that she had sensed a shift in me. That I appeared more calm and settled, and focused - and she felt that I was on the right path...

How do we get to where we are going? In many different ways...For me, in this last week or so, it has entailed dreams, the practice of forgiveness, talks with a few dear friends, and walks around a lake and an ocean shore....

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