The Pondering Grapefruit
a blog of moments
Excuse me for the long gap in writing—I guess by “soon” I meant several weeks! I’ve been busy giving goodbyes and saying hellos, moving away to start a new job. Things have finally settled down, and just as scattered particles of an exploding star eventually gravitate and condense into a stable, radiating sphere, my life too has gained enough ground for me to write again. I would like to finish all of Vipassana Part II, but it’s getting late, and I have to work early tomorrow, so I will do just #6 tonight, and finish the rest, 7-10, at some other opportune time.
6. Memories and Dreams
On the second day, I got tired of sitting in the humid, stuffy meditation hall, so when it was time for the fifth sitting, I went outside instead to sit on a chair, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze of the late morning. When I settled into the anapana meditation, memories from my childhood that I had not thought of in years suddenly came flooding up. I remembered how in the third grade, I would make all these origami paper cranes and thread them together to make curtains for my bedroom. I remembered in excrutiating detail the garden in our backyard, how there was a square patch of dirt in the small pine forest where we would grow various herbs and vegetables. Sorting through these memories, I saw my childhood in a more accurate light. I saw how much time I spent alone as a child, in the quiet whimsy of my own world. But I also recognized that it wasn’t as depressing as I thought, because even amidst all that time spent alone there was a lot of curious happiness, creativity, and wonder. I realized that my love of plants goes way back to when I was a small child observing the spores on the back of ferns. It struck me how many good memories came up, including many pleasant ones where I spent time with my sisters too. I realized how, over the years, I had tinged my recollection of my childhood with a patina of sadness that was unfair to all those pleasant moments.
Then, on the third or fourth day, after we finished an afternoon meditating, we were all walking towards lunch when we heard the sound of gunshots. It might help to explain that hunting is a major pasttime in Jesup, Georgia, where the only attractions are the animals, the Wal-mart, and the church. At the end of every sitting, the course manager walks around and rings the gong to signal students who didn’t meditate in the hall that it’s time to move on to the next event. The sound of gunshots was interspersed with the rings of the gong, a schizophrenic dance between a vibrationof peace, and then a series of violent explosions that might have resulted in the death of something. The shooting went on for almost three minutes, and the gun must have fired at least fifty times. I laughed from the sheer absurdity of it all, the juxtaposition of this meditation center inside a hunting community.
That night, I had a nightmare that was similar to the ones I had when I was going through the worst of my depression. It was gory, bloody, almost demonic. I was walking through a city at night, going to a dinner party of some friend. We were leaving the house when I saw a man on the balcony, hunched over and vomiting over the ledge. It was one of my uncles. The lens zoomed in closer, and I saw that the man’s body hung limp over the edge of the balcony. A bit closer, and I saw that he had thrown up something red. Still closer, and the red gunk was actually meat, a huge chunk of meat that was as wide as my wing span. He had thrown up his own gut, a blood dripping sirloin with the bone still in the middle, the bone, of course, was his own vertebrae.
Though this nightmare was really similar to the ones in the past, I did not react with terror in my dreams. I was aware that I was dreaming, and aware that this must also be old stuff coming up. I also thought that, perhaps because I experienced so much pain during meditating, the vomiting of flesh might also symbolize me getting rid of internalized pain. Still, it was rather disturbing. I woke up from the nightmare to the sound of my roommate snoring. Her sinuses had gotten very bad, so her snores sounded like some carnivorous animal roaring. I then heard the sound of loud footsteps, and it wasn’t until a minute later that I realized it was the sound of my own heart beating. That’s what terror felt like, but unlike in the past, I was aware of my terror, and was able to look at it objectively. Eventually, my heart calmed down, the snores became neutral, and the image of my uncle’s flesh vomit ceased to be so vivid. I wonder how much this had to do with the shootings…
I had one other nightmare that began the night following the meat dream. I was somewhere in Japan, walking in the streets at dusk. Someone was chasing after me, so I took a right turn down a small alleyway. Eventually the path became wider, and I was running along a railroad track. I then starting running inside the railroad tracks, and the tracks kept becoming deeper and deeper. Soon I was knee-deep, and then chest deep in the tracks. As it got deeper, it also filled up with cherry blossoms, beautiful pink ones, and the sun also began to rise. Soon the sky was blue, and I was neck deep in flowers, feeling both incredibly joy and incredible fear. I then heard a train coming from behind me. I still kept on running, and it was no longer possible to get out of the tracks. I knew I was going to get run over by the train, a most beautiful death to be covered in flower petals. But just as it was right behind me, erything became quiet. The train stopped. I was spared death. I never looked back to see it, but I knew that it was gone—I was going to live.
That same dream happened again the following night. I felt the same terror, and the same unbelievable relief when the train suddenly disappeared from behind me. I signed up to meet the teacher after the second night of the train dream. She told me that sankaras can also come up in the form of memories and dreams, and told me not to hold on or worry too much about the significance or meaning of these events. I took her advice, for the most part—I wonder if writing about them right now means I am holding on…
Since the retreat ended, I still experience memories that I hadn’t thought of in years flashing into my mind at the most random times. Once, while eating breakfast, I remember how my sister, dad and I would do house projects together in our old house, adding sections of concrete to the back porch, or how my sister and I would play hours of street puzzle fighter, how the couch felt, and how safe I felt watching her play other videogames. My active memory also has improved greatly. I have an easier time remembering things, and when I work, I am more focused and productive. I haven’t had any more nightmares.. I think that the ones I had during the retreat were some rather deep-rooted seeds that reach back to my most depressed days. But because the dreams happened, and I did not react to them, I was able to dissolve that evil remnant. I feel cleansed, and still lighter and lighter.
So yeah this is some serious shit! We were told from the beginning that this would be a deep surgical operation of the mind, and these dreams ad memories are evidence of the changes. A lot impurities removed, as indicated by the nightmares, and a fair amount of restructuring as well, which gives room for memories to flow up. Many mysterious things happening, I find myself amazed, humbled, and grateful. Until next time!
About this Blog
I have no idea how to describe what my writing is about. I just write. I post when I can, which can be weekly or monthly depending on where the universe is taking me. As for the Grapefruit, my Vietnamese nickname, Buoi, means grapefruit.