When I was first introduced to the world of psychiatry in May of 1981 at 24 years of age, I experienced a particularly unique synchronistic event that rocked my world and changed my life forever. I burst onto the scene of psychiatry in a dramatic way, as a life-transforming event happened within the very first minute of my being admitted to my very first psychiatric hospital. I have a very real edge around sharing this synchronicity with others, however, as it brings up my fear of being pathologized, of being told I that I am just hallucinating or imagining, or worse yet, that I am crazy. This would just be a re-creation of the trauma earlier in my life when I did share this experience with my parents, friends and psychiatrists, and they did think I was crazy. This is why I’m more than a little gun-shy about sharing my story now. In the past I got really beat up for it, it seemed to upset just about everybody, and it got me in a lot of trouble. To get around my fear, I’ve even imagined telling the story as if it was “just a dream,” and didn’t actually happen in the so called waking state. But it did happen, at least in my experience.
It feels like the right time to share this, as it feels like it’s not just my story. On the one hand, this synchronistic experience was tailor-made just for me, while on the other hand, it wasn’t just my experience, a circumstance meant solely for my personal consumption. It feels like it is a revelatory experience that contains gifts for all of us. It feels more right to share it now because it has taken me this many years to digest it, and to integrate the meaning of what was being shown to me so that I’d be able to share the story without identifying with the role. It also feels like the time is right to share this miraculous-seeming event because I’ve developed the psychological fluency so that I can now describe what my experience was in a way that I imagine will be received and taken in, instead of judged. Being archetypal, my synchronistic encounter is a self-reflection for all of us, revealing a process that exists deep within each one of us.
To place this event in context, a couple of years before this experience, I had suffered terrible abuse from the psychic hands of my father. The specific content is unimportant to the story I want to tell here. The salient feature is that I felt psychologically violated to my very core. The emotional abuse was so toxic that I literally woke up the day after one particularly bad incident with a fever, which from that day onwards lasted on and off, for a year. I went to doctors and hospitals, and no one could find anything physically wrong with me. Over the years I’ve realized that the fever was my mind-body’s way of attempting to integrate the overwhelming and shattering nature of the emotional trauma I had endured. This abuse changed the trajectory of my whole life. After the fever subsided, I was never even remotely the same, never to return to the seemingly normal life I had been living. It created enormous suffering for me, and yet, at the same time, it’s what inspired me to find my calling.
The only refuge that I had found that made me feel any better from the overwhelming trauma was to step out of trying to figure my way out of the suffering with my mind, and instead, to simply watch what was happening inside of me, which is what meditation is. For about a year and a half I began doing very serious meditation practice called “vipassana,” known as “insight meditation,” or the practice of mindfulness, as a way of dealing with my troubles. One day I was sitting in meditation and all of a sudden, out of the blue, in one nano-second, a bolt of lightning ignited in my brain. The lightning bolt didn’t come from outside of myself, but originated from within the inner sky of my own mind-body. At the time I had no idea that being struck by a bolt of lightning, as with Zeus and his thunderbolts, symbolizes in mythologies the world over the initiation of a spiritual process.
Within hours of being struck by that flash of lightning, I began merging with the spontaneity of the present moment, and entered into an ec-static (beyond stasis) state. The next day I began acting so unlike my ordinary, conditioned and repressed self that a close friend thought I was going crazy and had me brought, by ambulance, to Highland Hospital in Oakland, California (please see my article, “We are all Shamans-in-Training”). I had so “let go” that I was just following the process and going along for the ride. I was stepping out of myself in such a way that every moment was synchronistically and effortlessly creative and full in a way I had hardly even imagined was possible previously. I had become unself-conscious, at one with myself, as if I had stepped out of all restraints. It was as if I was released from any social conditioning, in that my actions were no longer a reaction to what I thought others thought. As if snapping out of a double-bind, I wasn’t limiting myself anymore. I wasn’t contracting against myself but simply getting out of my own way to let my light shine, as if I went from being a 75 watt light-bulb to being a million watt bulb. This was a dangerous situation, however, as at the time I certainly hadn’t yet developed the container within myself to channel this energy in a way that was socially acceptable. I had so surrendered to what was happening, which was the only thing that made sense to do, and the only thing that I could do, that I had stopped trying to control the situation. Little did I realize that upon entering the hallowed halls of psychiatry, my life would be changed forever.
In the very first room I was brought to in that hospital, some sort of lounge for psychiatric patients, I saw among the group of patients a blind woman, whom I immediately approached. Her eyes were a blind person’s eyes, opaque, with no color or radiance at all. Without any thought on my part, I went right up to her and found myself staring at her eyes, saying over and over the following words: “All you have to do to see is open your eyes and look.” These words were literally coming through me, having fallen into my head, as if I was channeling them. I kept on getting closer and closer to her as I repeated these words, looking into her eyes all the while. What happened next, over the course of less than a minute, I will never forget. In front of my very eyes, her eyes began regaining their color and luminosity, going from the dead, diseased eyes of a blind person to normal, healthy, seeing eyes. She had regained her sight.
At that moment, as if divinely choreographed, a beautiful woman doctor came into the room, gave me some pills to swallow, and brought me into another room. The attendants then strapped me on to a bed, where I was bound hand and foot. And there I spent the night. I remember lying there knowing I was going through a profound spiritual experience. It was hard not to realize this, after just having had the exchange with the now ex-blind woman. My encounter with her helped me to inwardly know that I wasn’t going crazy, but rather, was evidently going through some sort of spiritual awakening process. There is a correlation between abuse and spiritual awakening: The seeming miraculousness of what had happened with the blind woman feels inversely proportional to the horror of abuse that I was passing through via my relationship with my father, as if they were inverted mirror images of each other. While tied up, I remember feeling that whomever I would think of I was in some way connecting to and “bringing along” on my awakening, so I kept on expanding my imagination of whom I could bring along until I began thinking of everyone I had ever known and then some. Needless to say, I didn’t exactly get a normal night’s sleep that evening.
The next morning, after I was unstrapped, I was brought to a room and the only other person in the room, sitting across a table from me, was, coincidentally, that same ex-blind woman. She’s looking at me and lovingly smiling from ear to ear, not having said one word to me as of yet. All of a sudden, it was as if a closed fist in my heart completely opened. It was perfectly clear to me that this was my heart chakra blossoming. This is described in spiritual literature as the opening of a thousand-petaled lotus, and though I had never had this happen to me before, it was an experience that I immediately recognized. I then had the spontaneous realization of what had happened between us the day before. I intuitively understood that her eyes had been physically fine, it was just that she was not letting herself open her (inner) eyes and look, which was “causing” her blindness. It was like she was keeping her inner, psychological eyes closed, was choosing not to look, and this was reflected through her apparent physical blindness. And the day before I somehow “saw” this, as if a clairvoyant part of myself had announced itself in a most eye-opening way. In addition, I somehow knew just what to say and do, as if I had become a conduit for some deeper, healing force to play itself out in form. It was also clear to me that it was no accident that she and I had come together. It was clearly a synchronistic meeting, one in which we were both playing roles in a deeper drama. As if we were telepathically connected, within a few moments she says to me “Aren’t you going to answer the phone call from Roy?” (my father’s name). These were, literally, the first words she spoke to me. Moments later the nurse came into the room and said my father was on the phone. Word had evidently reached my parents that their only child had been hospitalized with a nervous breakdown.
STEPPING THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
While in the hospital I found myself in an absurd situation: I’m in the midst of a full-blown, life-changing spiritual awakening (see my article “Spiritual Emergence”) and the doctors are interviewing me about my grasp on reality to see if I am crazy. In my “enthusiastic” (en-theos means to be filled with spirit) sharing with them about the revelatory experience I was having, I can only imagine how this certified in their minds that I was crazy. When this event happened with the blind woman, I couldn’t possibly have been prepared for the energies that this synchronicity helped to unleash, both within myself and in the field around me. Not having had time to integrate the overwhelming mystical experience that I was having, I was “crazy” not to realize that I shouldn’t be talking about my religious experience with people who were still entrained in consensus reality.
I was let out of the hospital after three days, however, once I realized that if I simply appeared normal and talked about my problems, I could leave. When I got released from the hospital, whereas all of my friends and family thought I had suffered a psychotic break from reality, I knew something very important had happened. I intuitively sensed I needed to find someone to talk to who would understand what had occurred. I found out that there was a Burmese Buddhist monk named U Silananda, who was living across the bay in San Francisco. I went to see him and told him what had happened. He said that I was in luck, that one of the most spiritually developed practitioners of the twentieth century in his tradition had just arrived in the Bay Area, and that I should go and get his blessings. Within the week I was sitting at the feet of and being blessed by The Most Venerable Taungpulu Sayadaw, at 85 years old considered to be the greatest living Buddhist master of all of Burma. When I told him what had happened with the blind woman, he didn’t think I was crazy, but recognized that I was in the midst of a spiritual unfoldment.
Over the next 16 months, I continued to have a series of over-the-top “non-consensus reality” experiences. Some of the experiences so defied the conventional laws of third dimensional time and space that they seemed physically impossible, as if they could only happen in a dream. Because I was still in the process of metabolizing what was happening to me, I was still learning how to express my experiences in a way that didn’t upset the applecart of consensus reality. As a result I was hospitalized at least three other times, as I tried to contain, understand and assimilate the deeper process that was happening both within me and in my outer life circumstances. Concretized by the psychiatric system as being mentally ill, the psychiatrists “hoped to one day make me a functioning member of society” (please see my article “Psychiatry Almost Drove Me Crazy”). The event with the blind woman was also a demarcation point in my relationship with my family, who bought in hook, line and sinker to my psychiatric diagnosis. From that moment on it was as if we were living in two very different universes. Over the course of time my relationship with my family deteriorated, became more and more fractured, dis-connected, and estranged, until now, where I have no “blood” family left. But I have a huge spiritual family, which only continues to grow.
My whole life changed from this synchronistic experience, as if I had given birth to a new part of myself. I was no longer living in the same universe that I was in the moment before this experience. From that moment on, I was inhabiting a world of expanded possibilities, where even the seemingly impossible now seemed possible. It was as if I had fallen through a rabbit hole, stepped through the looking glass, or passed through a portal, and found myself playing a role in a cosmic, visionary drama that certainly had my highest attention.
Even though the situation with that blind woman actually happened in waking life, it is quite profound to contemplate what happened symbolically, as if it were a dream. To see our life in this way is to view the events in our life as if they are a dream that a deeper part of us, what I call the “deeper, dreaming Self” is dreaming into materialized form in and as our life itself. Just like doing dreamwork on a night dream, we can then ask ourselves, what is the meaning of this dream (i.e., our daily life experience)? How would I interpret it? What parts of myself are embodied in the different dream characters that I meet as my life unfolds?
The encounter with the blind woman was a waking dream that the two of us were collaboratively dreaming up together. Being a mutually shared dream, we can look at what got dreamed up between us from either of our point’s of view (what dream character was I in her dream, and what part of myself was she?). Who was I in her dream, but a visionary part of herself that she was split-off from, and hence projected out and dreamed up into and as an in-sight-ful (dream) figure in her (waking) dream. As if waiting for me to arrive, it was as if I had become drawn in and drafted into her dreaming process. It was as if I was sent by central casting because I was open and sensitive enough at that moment to simply pick up a role that was being dreamed up in the field, waiting for someone to give it full-embodied, incarnate form. Just like I was the living re-present-ative of a part of herself, at the same time, she was an embodied reflection of a blind part of myself. She symbolized the part of me that was refusing to look at something within myself. In healing her own blindness, she also stood for the part of myself that was now stepping into and embodying a new level of seeing, as if the blind part of myself was regaining its sight.
It was as if the blind woman was ready to heal her blindness, and just needed a little reminder of what to do. Upon entering the scene I said my lines perfectly, with genuine aplomb, as if I knew the script, as if I had practiced for lifetimes. We stepped into each other’s waking dreams in such a way that our interaction was a re-presentation of what was going on inside of both of our psyches. At the same time that I was being dreamed up by her to help her heal, she was being dreamed up to pick up a (third) eye-opening role in my unconscious. We were collaboratively dreaming each other up, reciprocally co-arising relative to each other, as if we were both contained within and expressions of a higher-dimensional process. This experience between us was an epiphany in materialized form, a revelation in time encoded with catalytic information.
The two of us were engaged in a mutual synchronicity that we were sharing, not just as passive witnesses sitting in the audience, but rather, we ourselves were the act-ive participants in our own living revelation. Though this experience seemed like a miracle, with Biblical associations, it was actually a synchronistic, auspicious co-incidence of factors, a synergistic convergence of two beings coming together in a moment of time, revealing a deeper, more fundamental creative process at play. At that moment my relationship with that blind woman was the medium through which a more grace-filled order of reality emerged and incarnated into the third dimension. She and I were just the actors through which the deeper process clothed, in-formed, and revealed itself. Not being able to heal by ourselves, the two of us were collaboratively helping each other to dream up our own healing. The archetype of the wounded healer had been constellated in the field between us. The relationship between the two of us is a prototype, a microcosmic iteration of a fractal, of what is available to us en masse, as a species. Just like the blind woman and I, we can come together and co-operatively help each other to heal and awaken.
Through this experience, a deeper order of reality was revealing itself while at the same time I was being used by it as one of its instruments of revelation. In other words, this deeper dimension wasn’t something separate from myself that I could objectively contemplate, but rather, I was participating in its revelation of itself. I was enlisted in the service of being an instrument for something deeper to happen in the field. I am very clear that I didn’t do anything special, but rather, that a miraculous-seeming event made itself apparent through a synchronistic encounter I had with another human being. “I” didn’t do anything, other than to just be myself. There was no “I” healing anyone other than just being spontaneously present to what arose in front of me. There was no “I” in that in that moment, “I” was empty, an opening, simply allowing the universe to move through me so that healing could happen in the field.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that what happened between the two of us, when contemplated symbolically, as if it were a dream, was revealing what is happening all of the time, with everyone. With the majority of people, however, this dreaming process between us – in which people are simultaneously dreaming each other up while being dreamed up by each other – is happening unconsciously in a way which usually just continually reinforces each other’s limited, wounded identities. We are all co-dreaming with each other all the time, as we are interconnected and interdependent in such a way that we only ultimately exist in relation to each other, which is to say there is no separation. In a nonlinear, acausal process that happens outside of time, we are all dreaming each other up to play roles in each other’s waking lives. We can help each other to recognize this in a way which helps everyone. We are all dreaming up the deeper field as well as, concurrently, being dreamed up by it, a process that Buddhism calls interdependent co-origination. Every part of the universe is evoking, while simultaneously being evoked by, every other part. The event with the blind woman was a materialized crystallization in form revealing, literally and symbolically, how we dream up our world, what I call “the dreaming up process.” Encoded in what happened between the blind woman and me is a revelation of the dreamlike nature of our universe. Contemplating the experience with the blind woman symbolically, as if it were a dream, was the key which helped me to extract the blessing of what this situation was revealing, becoming the seeds which later helped me to articulate and develop my life’s work.
“All we have to do to see is open our eyes and look.” This is in essence what I always find myself coming back to in one way or another in all of my writings. I notice that when I am working with people, this is exactly what I am trying to get across – for us to simply open our eyes, so to speak, and see, i.e., to recognize the dreamlike, and hence, creative nature of both ourselves and our situation. It brings to mind the saying of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas, “The Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people don’t see it.” All we have to do to see is open our eyes and look. We teach what we need to learn. I am in essence talking to myself. In finding the words I am helping myself heal my own blindness.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis, (click here to read the first chapter). Feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. Though he reads every email, he regrets that he is not able to personally respond to all of them. © Copyright 2010.