out a fox chasing a rabbit. "According to an ancient fable, the rabbit
will get away from the fox," the master said.
"Not so," replied the student. "The fox is faster."
"But the rabbit will elude him," insisted the master.
"Why are you so certain?" asked the student.
"Because the fox is running for his dinner and the rabbit is
running for his life," answered the master. (Hyams, 1979)
Let's think about the fox and the rabbit in this story as parts of ourselves. Let's also consider these animals in the narrative as symbols for the way we focus our attention. The fox focuses attention on satisfying his/her appetite; the rabbit turns attention to his/her life. For the purposes of the point I am making here, I think it would be accurate to say that the rabbit moves with some greater degree of urgency. This is "deliberation" as the dictionary defines it: "done with or marked by full consciousness of the nature and effects" (American Heritage Dictionary). As we shall see, the way we focus our attention determines the way we live our life -- with deliberation or not.
These are the choices I am attempting to put forth when I talk and write about dreams and meditation. For I am not promoting dreams and meditation as ways to become better foxes -- more efficient, more powerful, more able to gain one-up-manship over others. Nor am I hyping dreams and meditation as paths of devotion to become better persons. Actually, any of the above may result from intentional work with dreams and meditation. I would hope that our lives would increase with efficiency and productivity in the world, as well as with a deepening of one's spiritual being.
However, I am approaching the practices of dreams and meditation with the intent of transcending the dualisms of life that split us within, separate us from one another. I maintain an understanding and practice of dreams and meditation in line with the schools of martial arts that have influenced those teachers committed to the unity of body-mind-spirit, with rootedness in the daily affairs of life where there are conflicts, fragmentation, violence, and oppositions within and without.
This is not just meditation and dreams as an activity attached to our already too-busy lives. Rather, it is the work with dreams and meditation that become a way of life lived with deliberation. It is a way of life marked by moral intention, the exercise of power with others rather than over or under them, a recognition of love as the great force that straddles life and death, and the recognition of meaning as the grand outcome of living which -- it may be -- only we human beings bring to the network of stars making up our universe. It is a way of life described by Lao-Tzu like this:
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and the strong will fall.
The soft and the weak will overcome.
I think Lao-Tzu is using the metaphor of "hard" and "stiff" to suggest an attitude that is rigid, critical, and closed. On the other hand, there is the gentle and yielding attitude that takes into account the fullness of life, the diversity, even the many voices that occupy the mind of each of us -- an attitude open and expectant that greets each day with the surprises of potentialities, creativity, and connectedness with all creatures. At the core, we are one with ourselves; at the core, we are one with others and all being. At the core, we realize that life not lived with deliberation is a waste. Running from the fox, the rabbit reaches down into a deeper core where life is precious and moves with deliberate speed.
But, obviously, to get to that core, we have to deal with the many voices that buffer us within; we have to acknowledge the many faces we present to the world at different times. How can we know these things? How can we become aware of this diversity within? This is the focus of our dreamwork which reveals all that we are.
And how can we still these many voices within us? How can we cope with the tempest that rages within and without? This is the task of our meditation.
Through our dreams and in our meditations, we come to ourselves. And only then are we able to take our rightful place in our very troubled world, with wisdom, power, peace, and happiness.
For the uncontrolled, there is no wisdom,
nor for the uncontrolled is there the power of concentration;
and for him without concentration there is no peace.
And for the unpeaceful, how can there be happiness?
-- Bhagavad Gita
(For my quotes, I have borrowed generously from the collection gathered by Joe Hyam (1979). Zen in the Martial Arts. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.)