~ By David Jones
I went to bed Sunday night feeling sullen and dejected.
Not only was I facing spiritual questions of my own, it seemed like my social media feed had filled up with disdain of religion.
Now I’m not a big fan of “organized religion” myself, but when aspersions are cast upon folks simply because they profess belief in something, it starts to hurt.
I know. It’s my fault for ingesting angry comments, things which wiser folks have said not to take internally—but still it hurt. Despite the generalizations in the angry comments, not every person of faith says/does/believes all the things that make folks so angry, and I was getting defensive and angry myself.
So, I put my phone on the charger and began my meditation and prayer. I prayed for guidance and for understanding because I felt lost and alone—a rudderless boat tossed about on a black and green storm-churned sea. I finally fell asleep.
My dream began as simple mental housekeeping but soon became a horror movie. Something vampiric was going for my throat, so I opted out of the dream and chose to wake up.
I woke up in bed, cold and heavy-minded, and opened my eyes, trying to shake the dream so I wouldn’t just resume it when I fell back to sleep, then began praying that I wouldn’t simply fall back into the dream I just escaped.
And then I saw it. In the darkness of the bedroom, in the darker recess of our closet, something moved. It was beastial, yellowed eyes and very sharp teeth and claws. I got up and faced it, praying to Jehovah: “Help me help me please help me” but remaining ready to fight. It leapt, both of us sinking our teeth and nails into each other.
I felt the intense pain in my left shoulder as blood soaked my nightshirt, making me twice as determined to hurt this beast as much as it was hurting me. I felt myself losing the battle so I concentrated once more to wake up. I dove into the deeper dark and woke up in bed.
I thought about reaching for my phone and headphones, cueing up a YouTube video for guided relaxation to calm me down, but I was told it was too late. Numberless gray wraiths fell upon me, heavier and heavier. I sank underneath the weight of inescapable shadows, crushed down into dull heat and suffocation. I prayed again, this time about my attackers.
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.” I saw Jesus’s face appear in the darkness looking up. A voice beyond me and within me spoke, soft and low.
My mind embraced the shadows crushing me. “They attack in rage, but their anger is born from pain. They’ve been hurt so deeply that their only remaining course seems to be to lash out. I don’t want them to be in pain, Father. I don’t want to bare my teeth and try to hurt them more. I want them to be okay. I want them to be well. Please forgive them for their anger. Please forgive me for my anger.”
As I repeated my prayer over and over, focusing on the shadows and beasts, I saw them differently.
Waves radiated out from me and the wraiths evaporated. The voice and I spoke a little more and my words echoed amid the waves. I slid sideways, back into my original dream.
When I woke up—you guessed it, in bed—I was still repeating my prayer in my mind. Throughout the day I revisited the dream, blessing the beasts and shadows. May they be okay. May they be well.
Some don’t believe in a single deity or any deity. That’s fine with me, I don’t need them too. We all have our own paths, teachers and traditions. But we also have each other, and that’s what really matters.
“When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Editor: Dana Gornall