“Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great, strange dream.” ~ Kerouac
When I read this quote for the first time, I felt a deep sense of comfort wash over me. I remember I smiled inside. It was as if some deep inner light switch was flicked on and I knew with all of my heart that I was home.
My heart was home, but my mind couldn’t explain why it was comforting to know that life was but a dream. I know my ego mind can’t grasp the profound simplicity—or the inexplicability—of it all.
There are no words for Truth.
How do we answer the question humans have been asking for eons: why are we here?
Well, we can’t, at least not with words!
We can only ponder the deep meaning and mystery of existence with one part of ourselves—a part that is waking up for humanity—a part that is meant to be our True Guide through life.
That part of us that is here to lead the way is not the mind.
I will tell you a story about that, a story from my journey that showed me this quote was truth—that life was indeed great and strange and dream-like.
I had a profound awakening—or satori—during the Sa-ta-na-ma chant in yoga teacher training. We chanted Sa (birth), Ta (life), Na (death), Ma (re-birth), for 11 minutes, as Kundalini yogis recommend, because they say there is power in the number 11.
I remember my body began to shake so much that it became hard to sit still. My teacher looked at me in a curious way as I got up out of my half lotus pose to sit in a chair while continuing to chant. When my feet planted themselves firmly on the ground, I felt more balanced and my spine straightened up.
Suddenly, a big inner gong reverberated throughout my whole Self. My brain literally took a deep breath and my thoughts stopped.
In that moment, I realized how tiring constant thoughts were for my mind.
That moment lasted for hours.
Hours upon hours with no specific desires or thoughts was a surreal experience to me.
I remember immediately looking around the room when the meditation ended and our teacher instructed us to open our eyes. Empty-minded and desireless, I looked around the room to see what I was supposed to do—without desire leading me, I no longer new.
I noticed all the student clearing yoga props, so I joined in.
My body then told me it had to pee, so I went to the bathroom. This is where I realized I was not in my “normal” state. A friend from class was standing at the sink, looking at herself in the mirror. We’d had a falling out a few days before and weren’t speaking to each other. I remember looking at her and feeling no animosity. I felt a neutrality that was calm and peaceful.
In the 10 seconds that I watched her on my way to the toilet, I remember seeing—not with my normal eyes, but with my intuitive eye—her thoughts. I could tell she was speaking to herself, saying affirmations. Her mind was moving a mile a minute, and as she glanced at me without saying anything, I could sense the grudge she was holding and judgemental thoughts she had moving through her mind.
The drama I saw was hers, not mine. In that moment I wasn’t a part of it. My highly sensitive self would normally be sucked in by that stuff. But now I was a completely detached observer, just experiencing and exploring my presence in a body.
When I stepped out of the bathroom, everyone was gone. Our training day was over. I normally had a million and one desires after class. I was living in Vancouver, B.C.—a new and interesting city full of lots of exciting things, and would sometimes just get on the city bus and get off at a random spot to explore a new area.
But today, I had no desires. I had no scheduled plans with friends, so when everyone shuffled out and went on their way, I was at a loss. My empty-minded self did what I normally did: I got on the bus. But I had no destination in mind, so I just went for a long ride.
At some point in that ride, my thoughts came back and my desires kicked in. I believe it was triggered by an underlying anxiety that I “should” be doing something more than just sitting and riding.
When my thought switch turned back on (and that’s exactly what if felt like), I missed that mental quiet like a rainbow misses the rain. I tried many times to do that chant and get it back, but I’ve never had the same experience again. I remember a teacher telling me not to hold onto what felt like powerful experiences. “Don’t get attached to them. That can be dangerous. The past is the past. Stay present here and now—that is where the power is at.”
I was given a gift in this experience, of knowing the truth behind the monkey mind. That deep stillness planted a seed that continues to sprout daily, nourishing my being with the waters of its impermanence.
I was given a taste of the sweet nectar of inner freedom the feeling of being a light in a body, without attachment to what’s going on around me.
Every day I feel the resonance of that gong that was rung by my soul on that day in my yoga teacher training.
As I feel it’s reverberations, I am reminded that life is being done, I am not doing life.
When I get out of life’s way, I feel like a character in a dream—a waking, living, breathing, loving, palpable and delicious experience.
So that part that we are meant to allow to take the lead of our life— it is not our ego mind with its million and one desires. That part is—well, I don’t think I can put it into words. The closest words in the English language are Heart and Love.
But even they don’t do justice.
What does do it justice is the mystery—the illusion of impermanence that lies behind the idea that this life is but a dream.
And the best way to enjoy it:
Row your boat
Down its stream.
Author: Sarah Lamb
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Radu Emanuel at Unsplash