I am back in Salt Lake City where I lived at Kanzeon Zen Center for a few years in my mid-twenties. There is a new center there now, in the same tradition. I see someone I knew back then who is about my age. We talk and it’s clear we have the same realizations and insights. It turns out he is now the teacher at the center and he is leading a retreat.
I am seen and treated by the others as a beginner. Both he and I go along with it without saying or doing anything to change that impression.
My friend in the dream is a generic composite of several I knew back then.
This dream reflects some familiar experiences for me. I see people who started with things when I did, and continued within the system and have risen within the system while I left and did not. It’s familiar to me to be treated as if I have no experience when I join a new spiritual group, and I have experienced that what I say is interpreted within that context. It’s familiar to me to feel not seen, understood, and included.
All of these are relatively normal experiences, and for me they are connected with some issues. After waking up from this dream, I explored the issue of feeling not seen, understood, and included.
And behind that is the issue of fearing being seen, understood, and included. This feels more core. There is a fear of being acknowledged and for people looking to me as an authority and for answers.
That’s one reason I often don’t speak up or say or do things to change the impression people have of me.
Exploring that, I was brought back to a very vivid dream I had during the initial awakening process in my teens. I was a man in his late 30s or early 40s in Russia, well dressed, and with a genuine passion for art, literature, philosophy, and how we organize our society. My home was in a town near Moscow (?) and the time was the 1850s, ’60s and possibly ’70s. My family was wealthy so I spent months or years in Paris in the art circles there. As far as I know, I was not a professional artist myself but I loved the Parisian art scene.
I was also an anarchist and belonged to an anarchist group in the Moscow area. Some wanted to use violence to create the society they wanted, and as I was pacifist, I strongly opposed this. Perhaps unwisely, I stood up and said I would stop them by any means necessary, including going to the authorities with names and what I knew about them.
Instead, they stopped me. In the dream, I am running through a field a frosty winter morning, the pale sun is barely visible through the haze, and I know I am assassinated later that morning. I will be shot through the head. (When I shaved my head some years ago, I noticed I have birth marks where the entry/exit holes would be. According to people who do reincarnation research, it’s not uncommon to have a birth mark where a physical injury led to the death of the previous incarnation.)
I had a sense or knowing that this was my most recent incarnation, and others with good sensing abilities later confirmed that this looks like a real incarnation and my most recent one.
Who knows but the themes definitely make sense. I have a fear of speaking up and being seen, understood, and even taken seriously. If I was killed in a past life for doing that, those fears make sense. And if not, the Russian anarchist dream still makes sense as a reflection of these themes in my life.
I notice I feel slightly embarrassed and ashamed sharing this here. And that shows that this is an issue – or an issue complex – it’s good for me to continue to explore. Embarrassment and shame shows I haven’t quite found peace with it and that there is further to go in finding healing for the issue itself.
Notes: In waking life, a friend of mine (DT) is in the process of becoming a Zen teacher in that lineage. I assume the dream didn’t use him because I do feel seen by him.
We are all beginners in an important sense. We are all exploring and discovering. What we think we know we don’t really know. It’s very helpful to approach anything with receptivity and grounded humility. At the same time, in a conventional sense, we do have some experiences, skills, insights, and so on. And it’s good to acknowledge that as well – within the context of being a beginner in a more fundamental sense.