Ultimately I want the freedom to die. To die the first death, the ability to let go of all of my attachments. Actually to let them go, literally. How is it possible? It isn't at the moment. But little by little. If I can let one argument go, I have freedom from that. The argument's over. By moments, I wish to realize the possibility of death. How to realize that? I have to be able to somehow sense the loss of everything I value, except myself. Everything that my ordinary life gropes for, argues for, persists in. I have to see that all gone. All my constructions, all my plots and plans, my manipulations. I have to see myself disappearing from the scene. This is the way of our work, to get freedom.
Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
Returning from a calorific afternoon of ice-skating, I was driving home with my two boys. We were relaxed from the thrill and speed and effort of skating, and everyone was in a good mood.
"I had a dream, dad," my son, who's nine, spoke from the seat next to me in the car, as we sped through valley formed by precipices of snow rising up on both sides of the road. "You want to hear it?"
"Of course!" I said, preparing to focus as much attention as I could spare on his telling.
"Well, it was like this," he began. "I was running over hills and down into valleys, running away from a monster. It was terrifying, because every time I looked back the monster was closer. Finally, I realized I wasn't going to be able to get away and I turned around. The monster was on a hill on the opposite side of a valley, about 30 feet away, and he stopped too. We just looked at each other."
The younger brother was leaning forward from the back seat, straining to hear the story over the din of the road.
"Talk louder!" he said, "I can't hear."
"Put your seatbelt back on!" I shouted back to him. And he did.
The older boy continued, "The monster said, 'I have the power to destroy you!'"
I slowed the car to allow a very furry deer to cross the road in front of the car.
"So what did you do?!" younger brother called from the back.
"I said to the monster, 'Yeah, well, I have the power—to wake up!"
"So, then what happened?" I asked.
"I woke up," he said.
A chuckle rose up in me like the beginning of far-off thunder, and then became a deep, full, delighted laugh. The boy in the back began to laugh also. It sounded like a laughing duet.
"What's so funny?!" asked the teller.
I paused, wondering how to describe the source of my delight.
"Come on, dad. What's so funny?"
"Well, what you did in your dream is what we have to do in life, whenever there's something we're afraid of. We always have the power to wake up from the dream of the moment and see what's real. Your dream is a teaching dream. It's so beautiful, it makes me happy to hear it," I said.
"Yeah, I see that," the boy said.
We continued driving in silence for awhile.
"You know, dad, there's different kinds of knowing. There's knowing about things—you know, that stuff you're always talking about—and then there's knowing things directly."
"Do you think your dream was a way of knowing directly?" I asked.
"Yeah. Which one do you think is better?"
"I think knowing directly is infinitely better. That's why I love your dream."
"Yeah, I do too. But knowing about things can be useful too."
"Yeah," I agreed.
The conversation quickly changed to being about skating, and sledding, and snow, and we haven't returned to it since. But the boy's dream has stayed with me.
I see how often my attention is captured by fear of loss, concern for the future, or a perceived slight or insult. I watch my whole being contract around the concern, and become a tight ball of self-protective self-concern.
In some of these moments, by a kind of grace, I find enough attention to see myself in this disposition, this defensive asana. The glimpse, like a snapshot of the anxious sensing-thinking-feeling organism, is looking the monster in the eyes.
Seeing the monster that seems intent on destroying me, I realize that the same power I am giving the monster to destroy me can be used to wake up as though from a bad dream.
"Well, I have the power to wake up!" I say to the mis-identification. And I do.