|by Devan Duke|
A column dedicated to exploring the role of dreams, voices, and visions in the integral yoga.
by Douglas Mcelheny
I had a dream where I am laying in bed and this being that looked like a Predator from the Predator movies was leaning over me. He has big thick dreadlock looking things coming from his head. On one of them I can see the form of a small doll or figure molded into a dreadlock towards the tip.
Then I woke up with the lower abdominal problems that I have so often in the mornings. It’s a sort of mixture of cramping and nausea but anxiety is there too and my heart is pounding some. I’ve had this problem to some extent for about as long as I can remember and I believe it’s largely a response to emerging from sleep as well as the dehydration and hunger that go along with that. I imagine many people have this problem. In my case however, it’s been exacerbated (sometimes severely) over the last couple of years because of chronic and disabling pain in multiple parts of my body that I have to deal with on a daily basis. This brings feelings of anxiety and an understandable aversion to having to slog through another day of it. I’ve gotten better with time at getting out of this funk, but it always takes some time for it to lift, and sometimes it can linger and color the entire day. In general too I’ve found that I almost always wake up in this state if I had a hard time with depression and anxiety the day before.
This creates a vicious cycle, and for most of the last two years I’ve been eating this amplified anxiety for breakfast, but I’ve had more success in dealing with it the last couple of months. The majority of mornings the abdominal pain is mild and major anxiety isn’t present, just a general anxiousness and inertia but there are still days or spans of days where I have more problems. I’ve mostly chalked this up to the ups and downs of anyone’s emotional life, but the dream reminded me of something obvious which is the role that hostile vital beings and forces are probably playing in all of this. In the Predator movies the Predators are cruel and menacing creatures and dreadlocks suggest something (to me at least) of the vital plane and things like voodoo magic. In addition, the doll-like figure in the dreadlock was similar to a voodoo doll in that it was kind of vague and featureless. All that along with the fact that this being was leaning over me in bed before I woke up, and I was immediately clobbered with acute form of this bad state leads me to believe a hostile being did something to help bring it on.
It seemed to me the reason I had this dream was to make me aware of the influence of this hostile being not only to know what was going on, but also so I would ask for protection against it. So I tried and am still trying an experiment. The following morning I got up around 5:30am to use the bathroom. In general if I’m going to have a real problem it doesn’t hit until after the sun comes up, so I was feeling okay at this point. Before going back to bed I stood in front of my altar for a moment and asked for protection from this hostile being. Then I went back to sleep and was able to get up a few hours later without any big problems. The next morning I woke up around the same time but didn’t have to urinate, so I sat up in bed a little bit and looked at my altar again asking for protection. As with the previous morning, I woke up without any serious problems. For four days in total I was doing pretty well.1 I had to deal with pain of course but my spirits and energy were up and I was productive. There was also more conscious faith and trust in the Divine. Then a couple of yucky feeling mornings came on the heels of dreams full of vital activities such as going to parties and having sex, but they weren’t too bad. Things were more or less like that for a few more days, and then a bigger lapse came after I had this dream:
I am with Medhananda (a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother) and there is a snake there as well. Medhananda confidently grabs it by the back of the head, handling it. It seems the snake is trained and harmless. He allows the snake to gnaw on this woman’s finger, but it doesn’t sink it’s fangs into her. The snake also gnaws on my finger but without sinking its fangs into me, and at this point (if I remember correctly) Medhananda no longer has a hold on the snake. Then the snake lunges at my palm, and this time the fangs go into me. At first I’m not afraid because I believe the snake has had its venom glands removed, but once the snake releases my hand I see a milky white substance coming out of the puncture wounds. Medhananda grabs my hand and starts sucking and then spits out a mouthful of venom.
Sri Aurobindo says in Letters on Yoga that “The serpent is a symbol of force, very often a hostile or evil force of the vital plane”2 and I believe that is the case here. Let me describe what happened afterwards and I think you’ll agree this snake represented an attack designed to bring anxiety and depression and perhaps as well an attempt to make me physical ill.
I woke up feeling gross and lethargic after this but what really started the downward spiral was when I checked my email and saw my boss wanted to meet with me in half-an-hour. I rushed to get ready, which brought on a very nervous and agitated state. Later it occurred to me to ask Medhananda or whatever he represented to suck out the venom, so to speak, as he had in my dream. Things improved but the agitation stayed with me as background noise for the rest of the day. The next morning I was more or less okay, but during our staff meeting Nancy (the office manager) was really coughing and hacking, and now I was feeling a cough trying to take root in my chest. I was really afraid of getting sick because I figured the deflation of vital energy that would cause would really open the door to a nasty depression. That fear however, ironically but predictably resulted in depression and anxiety getting the upper hand for the rest of the day. The miracle though is that the chest cold wasn’t able to get in all the way and I actually woke up feeling fine the next morning. Maybe that was a result of the helping force represented by Medhananda, but whatever the case, I was able to bounce back and have been more or less okay emotionally since. Throughout all of this I have continued the practice of asking for protection both before going to bed and when I wake up in the early morning.
So what’s the lesson here? Well for me it’s the fact that there really seems to be no magic bullet for problems like this, and as long as I’m living with constant physical pain this amplified depression and anxiety is probably going to be knocking at the door. It’s like walking a tightrope, and whatever balance I find is hard to maintain indefinitely. Remembering to ask for protection is just another tool to try and stay on top of this problem along with things like exercising, drinking plenty of water, and trying to keep busy. I guess the goal one wants to achieve is mastery, and I have to admit in clearer moments I can see the possibility of not getting sucked into this depression or any of the other emotional and vital reactions that come up in response to this pain, but at the same time the process seems interminable, the resistance a bottomless pit, and any balance one might achieve would seem to be easily toppled by a worsening of the situation or some new affliction.
The truth is I have no definite answers. I hope I do someday, but I don’t right now. For months now though, when I go to the gym, I’ve been listening to Nolini Kanta Gupta reading the Words of Sri Aurobindo on my iPod. I’ve noticed that as I listen to them over and over again certain points keep popping out at me. To end this article I want to share one that has been helpful for me and I hope helpful for the reader as well.
The persistence of your own will to conquer with the Mother’s force supporting it will come to the end of the resistance.4
1. There is one thing I want to bring up related to this. After the Predator dream, as I lay in bed feeling lousy, I was able to put two and two together and my initial response was a feeling of hatred towards this hostile being. My mind reminded me though that it’s just acting according to its nature and there’s really no sense in hating it. That enabled me to drop the hatred. Later on I was exercising and thinking about the dream some more and I recalled the lines from Savitri where the demons weep with joy at the prospect of their defeat 3 and I thought about how it’s just a suffering creature like me. I thought this was worth mentioning because I think its possible that bit of compassion might have helped to further weaken its hold over me.
2. Letters on Yoga by Sri Aurobindo pg 975
3. And as he sang the demons wept with joy
Foreseeing the end of their long dreadful task
And the defeat for which they hoped in vain,
And glad release from their self-chosen doom
And return into the One from whom they came.
Savitri by Sri Aurobindo pg 417
4. Letters on Yoga by Sri Aurobindo pg 1436