An experience is in search of me. Last night I dreamed that I had my car washed. In reality, I don’t own a car. I also dreamed that I sat on the ground in a forest, in a meditative position, watching a tree grow. I felt it growing. I don’t want to drive again, which is strange to see in writing, although I haven’t sat in the driver’s seat since 2002, the year I moved from Seattle to Madrid. I’m afraid to count the years between then and now. The counting happens on its own. A tree grows on its own. I don’t control my mind. I experience it. What might it mean to me to be in the driver’s seat of my own inner experiences?
I imagine the opening sentence in the paragraph above appearing and disappearing in the surface of my mind, as if I were meditating in a forest and observing a tree experience its own natural process of growth. I pause before writing the next sentence. Silence becomes the pause, before noise in my mind returns and the pen moves again. Trees belong in a forest. My imagination has made the impossible possible: I sit on the ground, and the growth of a tree becomes a moment to moment visible experience.
More words that feel strange to see in writing come to me: this experience is experiencing me. I am being experienced by life in the forest. The mind is a miraculous place.
Can this be my mind right now? Seconds stop. Time travels. I’m frustrated with person X, and with Y and Z. I’m uncertain whether or not I want to attend an upcoming lecture on myth sponsored by the local Jung society. Everything feels uncertain. The experience might be calmer if I were meditating. My decades of life on this planet feel as if time has decided that they’re unnecessary for future thought. I feel paralyzed, as if bodily and mental movements were no longer possible. I’m stuck in a dark tunnel. What if I never experience another beginning in the light of day?
The anxiety I feel in my body tells me that all of these mind movements are real. My imagination is real. I imagine myself as a fisherman of mysteries deep inside of me, most of which will probably never see the light of consciousness. I fish in my imagination because my pen keeps moving across the page, because of the images, feelings, and thoughts that never stop reminding me that I’m alive.
Fishing for the unknown within me becomes a moral activity. I feel as if I’m searching for the unborn inside of myself (or maybe it’s searching for me), whose birth must happen in consciousness.
The dark tunnel is behind me. There will always be anxiety in my future. Yet I’m experiencing another beginning, in the light of day.
All afternoon while I worked on various things at my desk, I imagined deleting a sentence from my last post, “Holy Books in the Psychology Section,” in which I compared one of Carl Jung’s thick volumes to a dog needing a walk. I don’t have a dog. I haven’t walked one since I was in high school. I’m a cat person. Yet I felt that this particular sentence needed to be written.
I prepared myself an afternoon coffee. I returned to my desk. And I couldn’t focus on the editing work I must finish today. Instead, I imagined a black dog with a black hardcover of Jung’s writings on psychology and religion clenched between his teeth. I wash my hands before I touch one of my books, so it’s hard for me to focus on this image.
Evening has arrived and I’ve yet to delete the sentence mentioned above. I also haven’t finished my editing work. After I finished my afternoon coffee, I was able to focus on the editing again, and I thought I was almost done when I imagined the dog as a religious symbol. Along with a snake, it was guarding a sacred treasure (this image came to mind from what I read in a paragraph of Jung’s Symbols of Transformation). I thought: I don’t have time to connect with an inner dog. I must finish my day’s work.
My work is done. I’m going to have a glass of wine before I go to bed. The image of the black dog with Jung’s book clenched between his teeth feels important to my reading future. I picture myself clutching a volume of Jung and reading with what I imagine as animal intensity, as if my body were more involved in the reading than my mind.
I must arrive at the bookstore before it closes. It feels like a matter of life and death. I don’t realize it’s raining until I’m on the sidewalk. There’s no time to take the elevator or run up four flights of stairs to grab an umbrella.
Somehow I know that the book I’m running to NonStop Books to buy has yet to be finished. I’m writing it. I imagine the bookseller with whom I spoke on the phone before I walked out the door without an umbrella. She said she was in a hurry, that she had much to read and write before I arrived in the rain. After speaking with me, she sits down and starts reading a book open on the table before her. She falls asleep. Somehow, I know that she does her most creative work while she’s asleep.
I run in the rain. I dream in it. The question of what I’m seeking seems lost in the rush. Then I realize I’m still, except in my dream.
The following nine words might change what happens next in my mind: I don’t know what I want to write about. Then a voice belonging to an image I can’t see yet speaks: Words aren’t enough to bring me back. I imagine this something disappearing behind a door that closes as I realize that I’m having a creative experience.
My inner vision becomes clearer. The image is of a human being, a writer like me, who needs time alone on the other side of the door, in his imagination.
An email appears in my inbox. The phone rings. I’m needed in the world outside of my mind. I glance at the time on my laptop screen. Whatever is happening on the other side of the door, in the world of my imagination, will have to wait.
The nine words repeat themselves. An image of a large room, with a stone floor and stone walls, appears. It’s as if emails, phones, deadlines, jobs, don’t exist. I’m standing barefoot on the cold stone floor. I’m on the other side. I know what I’m writing about: this.
Anxiety everywhere, in my body, in my head, says: not this. That. That pays the bills. This is fantasy. I’m about to respond to the email or phone the person whose call I missed or attempt to do both at the same time, when the inner voice that said words aren’t enough to bring me back speaks anew: the heart is the language of truth. Words become words after the heart speaks them.
The image speaks to me as if it were part of my waking life. I’m trying to translate it into words in my journal. A woman who knows me quite well awaits me in a forest. I’m within a few feet of her when I wake up.
I’m preparing my morning coffee when I see the woman’s face again. A bridge appears, and I imagine it connecting my current state of mind with the world of fantasy, where dreams live.
My coffee cup is empty within ten minutes. I haven’t left the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time I drank my morning coffee without a book in my hands. The caffeine should start waking me up soon. I feel as if I’m in a dark tunnel, and I’m uneasy because I can’t see the end of it.
I’ve returned to my desk. I’m writing more words in my journal. The image of my psychoanalyst in the forest returns. She appears different in the woods than she does in her consulting room, although what she’s wearing I’ve seen many times. She looks as if she belongs there. What are we going to do together in the middle of nowhere?
Why couldn’t the dream have continued? I woke up too soon. These words in my mind are interrupted by another voice, as if someone else were also in my head. “The dream hasn’t ended yet. You two encounter each other in the forest. Let the dream continue. Imagine what might happen next.”
I’m on a bus in downtown Seattle. It’s mid afternoon on a chilly, sunny day in the city where I grew up, and which, thirteen or fourteen years ago, I thought I would never call home again. I picture myself writing the following words in my journal: Perhaps I’ve been searching for my childhood in the wrong place.
The bus has left downtown and is moving uphill into my neighborhood. Maybe the right place to discover or rediscover my childhood is here in my imagination.
I imagine the bus making an unscheduled stop. A tall elderly man dressed in a dark suit stands on the sidewalk waving a book at those of us on board. My intuition suggests that he’s waving it at me. These images feel so real that I remind myself that this psychological thinker and author died in 2011. Seconds or minutes pass in my imagination. He’s seated alongside me. The images that follow don’t show how his book ends up in my hands.
His spoken words feel as if I’m reading them in his book. “How do you know you’re not dreaming and seated alongside a god?” I don’t utter the words that come to mind: You don’t look like a god to me.
I see the words myth and image in the title of the book, but I can’t see the whole title. The word childhood comes to me, alone, as if it were too important to be confined to a sentence or clause. “Don’t search for childhood,” the author says in a soft voice, as if he can read my thoughts. “Read and imagine and you’ll find what’s looking for you.”