I Had a Dream Ian Prattis
I had flown into the small airport of Castelgar in the Kootenay Mountains of BC 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 Castelgar 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 for the night in nearby Nelson prior to the wedding ceremony 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, 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 the 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 knew 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 a 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 it, 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 have been revealing.
The creation of my recent book – Failsafe – 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.
The book 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 now ready for publication. 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: Essays on Culture, Symbol and Consciousness – was published in 1997, followed by The Essential Spiral: Ecology and Consciousness After 9/11 in 2002 and Failsafe: Saving The Earth From Ourselves in 2008.
The second trilogy begins with Earth My Body, Water My Blood. Failsafe had investigated the necessity of changing the mindset of humanity while Earth My Body, Water My Blood provides a detailed investigation of how to do this by establishing the pre-conditions necessary for eco-communities to function. Living Dharma provides a road map for peace, reconciliation and planetary care. The volume does not shrink from controversial issues of suffering in the 21st century – Iraq, corporate power, church scandals, fundamentalism, degraded environment and flawed teachers. It draws on training not only in Buddhist practice but also in Shamanic and Vedic traditions. The writer emerges as a seasoned mature “cactus in full flower”. Portals and Passages is about meditation and the human spiritual journey, rooted in the life experiences and crises common to all of us. It outlines the necessity for our global civilization to synchronize individual, planetary and universal consciousness. This book talks to you from the seasons of my life. My insights, disasters and occasional breakthroughs are its basis.
These are all done and off to prospective publishers. Yet there is another book percolating in my mind, which will be much more difficult to write. Trailing Sky’s Story refers to my dedication in Failsafe to Trailing Sky Six Feathers – an 18th century medicine woman from the American South West. This story crosses time and moves outside space to bring home our continuity with the past and engagement with the future as a single tapestry. It is part story and legend but also autobiographical. It will take me many years to complete this work with an extended stay in the American South West.
Which brings me back to the dream – If your mindfulness and discernment have done their job, you no longer need them. They have brought you to the point where they can be thrown away, for you are no longer a wave. So trust and surrender to the stream of consciousness that has been there throughout your journey.