I am back in Salt Lake City and am sitting in a café in the university and/or Avenues area. By coincidence, I catch a glimpse of Genpo Roshi wearing an odd-looking traditional Japanese outfit. He has a tall spiraling reddish wig, wears an elaborate and colorful kimono, and looks a bit nervous. He leaves. I see where he is going and follow him. As I enter the a building near the old Zen center, I see him in a room full of Japanese Zen masters. In the next room are several westerners I know from my time at the Zen center. Genpo Roshi is being promoted to a very high level of teacher, traditionally seen as having a kind of cosmic significance.
Yesterday and the day before, I saw a photo on social media from the time I was at Kanzeon Zen Center in the ’90s. I was reminded of that time, also because I saw comments from several I know from that time. Also, there is a small Zoom group of people from that time meeting regularly, and I am invited. I haven’t joined yet, mostly because of social anxiety and feeling a bit ashamed I didn’t continue that particular path. I deeply loved being there and the practice, and saw myself continuing and deepening indefinitely in that practice and path.
That did not happen. I got married and she, as she informed me the day after our marriage, refused to stay in SLC. I wanted to support her, in spite of her springing this to me after we were married and earlier having pretended she was open to stay, especially since she knew how much I loved being there. So I left what was most important to me – the Zen center, my friends there, my studies at the university – and felt profoundly and deeply off track. (I woke up with nightmares and panic for that reason for months after.) My life is still profoundly impacted by that decision and I still feel off track from it.
All of that was brought up by this dream.
What is the dream about? My old Zen teacher is receiving the highest level of acknowledgment from the traditional Zen community in Japan. It’s a level I hadn’t even heard about, so rare is it. It brings up regret in me that I didn’t continue the path. I loved it so deeply. Maybe it’s a reminder of my longing to work with a teacher and group again more deeply? Maybe it’s an invitation to connect with Genpo Roshi again and that sangha?
There is also an aspect of theater to organized spirituality and religion, and it’s very much there in Zen. Roshi’s outfit was theatrical and a reminder of this theatricality. It’s something that’s a bit fun and entertaining, but I am unable to take it very seriously. For me, it’s mostly a distraction.
What if all are parts of me? I often tell myself that what I write about and my life and orientations are not much different from how it was in my teens. I wrote about more or less the same in my journal then as I do here. My favorite composer is the same (Arvo Pärt.) My views on the world and politics are much the same. My priorities are much the same. I don’t seem to have developed or matured much since then. If anything, I had a passion and determination that I seem to have lost – from feeling so deeply off track and from the CFS.
Maybe the dream is pointing to that something in me has maturity and has matured? I don’t really see it consciously, but that may be the function of the dream.
I also remember one of my last thoughts before falling asleep last night. My (current) wife said something and it reminded me of Genpo Roshi going through a dark night while I was there. Back then, I couldn’t relate to it. But now, I definitely can. I have gone through a dark night of my own for the last several years, and what I saw in him then is what I know from myself now. Maybe the dream is telling me that this too is a kind of maturing? Or, at least, that it can be used to mature? Not that I seem to have much choice in the matter.
I don’t know. As usual, I’ll stay with the dream for a while and let it work on me, and see if anything comes up.
I told my wife about it, and she showed me The Hierophant from the Tarot. On the card, The Hierophant has a crown with the same shape as the wig in the dream. She said I often show up in readings with this card. I don’t know much about that card and plan on reading about it.
Image created by me and Midjourney