I had flown into the small airport of Castlegar in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia for my son’s wedding in the summer of 2009. The short hop over the Rockies in a Dash 8 aircraft from Calgary was spectacular – especially the flight into Castlegar airport. The wingtips seemed to touch the valley mountains, as the aircraft swerved sharply into the river fringed village of Castlegar. My son, his bride to be – Nancy – and my grandson Callun were there to pick me up and deliver me to where I was staying that night in nearby Nelson. The wedding ceremony was the next day in the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa. I was expected to wear my Buddhist duds as I was there not only as a Dad but also apparently as a Zen teacher!
That evening in Nelson I had an unforgettable dream, vivid in every detail. I dreamt I was in a river running kayak, sitting quietly in a pool outside the swift eddies that raced to the edge of a waterfall that was huge, sheer, with a vertical drop of 1,000 feet. The kayak was bright yellow. The short stubby craft was an extension of my body. My wetsuit was black and I wore a red lifejacket tightly fastened. My helmet was also red. The shaft of the paddle was black and the twin blades a dancing red. I looked around at the high mountains and forest. I noted the mist rising from the swift flowing river before pushing out into the racing eddies straight to the edge of the waterfall. As I went over the edge I raised the paddle high over my head and leaned back into the kayak. I did nothing to steer or guide the kayak. The descent seemed forever though timeless. Yet in a moment my craft had submerged into the river below and then I was bobbing on the surface paddling downstream.
My first thought in the dream as I manoeuvred close to the river’s edge was “That was a really bad run. I didn’t do anything.” Then moments later in the dream I stopped my thinking, realizing that it was the perfect run, precisely because I did not do anything. My lack of insight was that I missed the surrender to the fierce current of the waterfall, to the awesome power of the stream of consciousness. I had to share this dream with Iain and Nancy next morning, so they could perhaps see for themselves the surrender to the other necessary for their marriage to work well. They received it and understood. Their dharma and mountain friends enjoyed an incredible wedding in the Tibetan Gompa. Although there was a mountain of alcohol at the reception and dance afterwards, hardly anyone drank, as the “high” was the quality of celebration and surrender in the wedding ceremony.
I have thought about this dream a great deal and the reflections are revealing. The creation of my 2008 book – Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves – was part of this surrender though I did not realize it at the time. It was written from an unusual place and was also the midpoint for two trilogies of books. Several years ago at the beginning of spring after a severe winter in Canada, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with respected elders from the Ojibway, Dene and Mohawk First Nations. We made deeply personal and collective commitments to serve the Earth. At the end of the final round of the ceremony we emerged into the pristine beauty of a late snowfall under a clear star studded sky. There had been a two-inch snowfall during the ceremony. As we walked barefoot to where we were camping I turned round and saw our footprints in the snow. It seemed as though these were the first footprints on the new Earth. I gestured to my companions to stop and look. They silently shared the same insight with soft smiles. In that instant the stillness and silence renewed our commitments to serve the Earth with all our hearts and minds. Failsafe was born from that moment at the end of winter in 2006.
It was published in October 2008. I was giving a talk about this experience to an audience in Vancouver and suddenly found myself talking about two previous books I had written and the next three books. Failsafe was the midpoint. These books had all been writing me, although I was not aware of it. Each book had issued forth from the experience of profound silence. There was a life work inside that was writing me! It took me twelve years to wake up to this. The first book – Anthropology at The Edge was published in 1997, followed by The Essential Spiral in 2002 and Failsafe in 2008. These books talk to you from the seasons of my life. My insights, disasters and occasional breakthroughs are its basis.
The second trilogy begins with Redemption. It was a lost manuscript, first written in 1975. I rediscovered this heartfelt book in 2011. The narrative was vivified with hindsight from my writer’s eye forty years later. The story is an allegory for life difficulties I experienced at that time. I was a real mess, yet despite my desperate state of mind this novel about Awakening emerged. Laced with grim humor, the novel has nature’s harsh and beautiful rhapsody as the background for tragic human failings Redemption is set in The Hebrides, islands off the northwest coast of Scotland, with startling cycles of maturing and downfall of the epic character, Callum Mor. He was a gifted child, master mariner and derelict drunk, who eventually gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey. Redemption reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world. Redemption alludes to more than what is openly stated. Every scene provides a striking visual clarity that mystically slips into the realm of timeless storytelling. All of this provokes the tapestry for deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold.
Book Two of the trilogy, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, is a Hero’s Journey as if Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. Shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training and near death experience in an Indian ashram has this author stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in his own sovereignty in the latter part. Past life memories collide head on with the present.
With a voice steeped in authentic experience, I navigate past and present lives over four centuries; from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century, to a decisive life moment of surrender to the Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay-worthy epic tales weave seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers. The genre is legend mixed with autobiography.
In New Planet, New World, I bring the 18th century to collide with the 21st century. Time, culture, space and consciousness are fused across centuries to create the final book of the trilogy. New Planet, New World provides a counterpoint to the demise of modern civilization. I chart a Beginning Anew for humanity, a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing, as power elites ignore their complicity in the destruction of life on Planet Earth. This adventure is not without risk or cost. The clash of centuries opens Chapter One with a lyrical and dangerous meeting on a distant planet later this century. The protagonists are from different centuries and cultures. The dark episodes and lyrical passages move the story along with action, fear, resolution, death, execution, rape, bravery and exile in a futuristic opportunity for humanity. This action packed book of intertwining plotlines arc into the epiphany of the final chapter (Thirteen), which muses about human survival anywhere. This end game is a philosophy for the future. The reader now begins to anticipate and harken to the rip tides of this futuristic novel
This brings me back to the dream and wedding in Castlegar. If your mindfulness and discernment have done their job, they have brought you to the point of trust and surrender to the realities that have been there throughout your journey. It does require, however, surrender to the awesome power of your consciousness.
YouTube video with Jennifer Jane Clark about the dream I had that lead me to my destiny.