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11/4/06-Sat.-Happily and to everyone's relief, in the dream group meeting this past week we learned that Christine's illness, about which in a recent dream I did "not know what to do," has been found in the last few days to be still under control, with no worsening noted, though earlier indications had been otherwise.

Also in that gathering, new insights/interpretations resulted from our discussion of my "Hebe" book dream:

  • On one level, it indicates I have the "Heebie-Jeebies," the fear connected to the basic challenge in which I'm now involved.

  • However, the main import of the dream concerns that challenge itself: "Hebe" means "He be" and refers to an emphasis on being (a Jungian or Taoist approach to or emphasis on existence, with greater detachment from actions and their results) rather than on goal-oriented doing in which I would have a personal stake or get caught up.

  • The group felt that the maxim, "The only work we have to do is on ourselves" is pertinent to the dream's circumstances and message, in which I start a new "job," an intense program of "self-study."

  • The weekly sessions with my immediate supervisor correspond to the dream group, with which I meet 3-4 times a month.

  • In addition, I have two inner wisdom guides or gurus.

  • Two is also emphasized in the number of pages of the Hebe book I was to read before the next meeting (200=2x100).

  • Another theme of the dream, uniting two ways of living, being and doing, is the "bridge" (in "unabridged") inherent in the Hebe book of life or book of wisdom I am to study.

  • This is another "bee" dream (He-be) and, as before, the "be" stands for be-longing, but not merely a yearning to be part of a group. It refers to the more encompassing longing to be.

  • Introspection, introversion, or "navel-gazing" may be pejorative ways of thinking about or referring to what is called for, and I too have at least in part incorporated this prejudice, hence my preference for results-oriented doing (at being's cost), or for staying "busy as a bee," while I keep "missing (life's being) classes (or lessons), left and right."

  • But the dream, instead, emphasizes very powerfully (times 100), and with firm direction from the immediate wisdom guide, that I am to "get" (understand) and follow the message in the number two, which here represents job, mission, work, course, or an inner way of bridging duality through clarity, intuition, insight, self-reflection, or holistic meditation on potentially all of experience.

  • This was, the others felt, a very positive dream.

  • In the I Ching, the second hexagram is relevant: K'un. The notes on the hexagram include: "All will turn out advantageously;" "good fortune (with correctness and firmness)," presumably in adhering to the being vs. doing regimen; and "rising out of a condition of disorder."

In another recent short set of dreams, there was a "murder" and the playing of a "high sax."

These words are more or less all that was remembered of two dreams early this morning: one in which a murder occurred (and it seems it was mine), and the other in which someone had been playing an instrument that I identified as a "high sax." I think I was disturbed by the murder and briefly awoke. My musician wife was playing the "high sax." I woke up aroused. I could not help noting that high sax could suggest a lot of sex, a high sex drive, or something else similar.

The correct name of the actual instrument is a soprano saxophone. It is one that Fran plays from time to time. She also seems to enjoy giving oral sex as part of the sequence of our lovemaking activities. I'm not sure either of us still has a strong or high sex drive, though in years past we seemed to like "doing it" plenty often. Sex for us is hardly dead, but is now not nearly so frequent.

Since the "Hebe" dream, particularly since the last group meeting, I've had mixed reactions to the prospect of a new, more dedicated focus. It seems likely that both the mild disquiet and mild contentment of this period are but faint hints of potential feelings that may arise as I proceed.

There is quite a temptation to take on this challenge in a rather compulsive way, seeking to enforce a rigid discipline of greater "being" with even more force and ongoing resolve than, heretofore, I've added a variety of "doing" activities with which to fill most every extra available retirement minute (investing research, groups, volunteer work, visiting, etc.).

My inclination, for instance, is to make myself meditate at least five hours daily, try to maintain conscious awareness while doing other things, and so on. In the past, I've had numerous such self-improvement programs. Most all were sooner or later abandoned. Even to expect dramatic results from such an endeavor is surely going astray from a focus on just being.

So I'll merely lean toward a gradually increased place for "simply being" in my life.

Today proved more intense, though, than will likely be the case most of the time. I got ready, drove over to and worked a shift at the library facility, finishing about mid-afternoon, looked for bargains in the library's book sale, then meditated nearly an hour, drove over to the residence of one of the dream group members, and enjoyed a little dinner party there. Afterward, I returned home (barely avoiding a bad wreck in the drizzle), meditated some more, updated investment-related activities, chatted awhile with Fran, took Puff on a four-mile evening walk, meditated again, took a bath, meditated yet further, etc.

Am enjoying my latest good read: The Virgin in the Ice, a Brother Cadfael mystery by Ellis Peters.

11/7/06-Tues.-It's the long-awaited Mid-term Election day. Lately, there does not appear to be much reason for confidence in either major US political party, but at least if their power is split, we may have less absolutely terrible policies being carried out. In the current situation, with so much dominated by the Republicans, the results have been disastrous.

I awoke before 8 AM remembering the following dream:

"Well, I'd like to know how I was 'possibly subourning [per the dictionary, correct spelling is "suborning," meaning to induce by bribery someone to commit perjury, etc. - which does not seem to fit here...] police business' when I was myself cooperating and working with the cops" I was saying [in a Polish - unpolished? - accent, as if I were an immigrant from eastern Europe, to a pretty young thing, who seemed to be a policewoman or a lawyer, she trying to explain the authorities' point of view, about some incident about which I'd been, today, in a little cafe dinner party, complaining, from many years back when I'd been calling to report something, and the police, instead of taking my information promptly and courteously, had gotten all arrogant and stick-togetherish and us-against-them-like and suspicious, with more than one person on the line interrogating me, it seemed, while maybe trying to get a fix on my position and sending someone in a squad car to arrest me. I think the get-together was in the evening at a social club or restaurant, and the pretty young thing was perhaps a daughter-in-law to be, and I'd been trying a little boorishly to impress her with interesting tales from my long ago past. And, she, maybe there with my son, was trying to impress me as her potential, prospective father-in-law, by telling of the incident as she had understood it, from the police perspective. My attitude was really one of appreciation and respect for this professional woman who was giving me such attention (brown nosing, or sucking up?) and who might be joining our extended family, but I was pretending to be offended by her using phrases like "subourning police business," when really I was enjoying our interaction.]

It is, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment dream. It seems it would be pleasant to have my ego stroked by the sucking-up attentions of a prospective daughter-in-law. And perhaps Jim's girlfriend, met at the reunion, comes closest to fulfilling that benign fantasy for me in reality. But the truth is that decisions made long ago have assured nothing of the kind will be occurring. What, then, if not in the external realm, has the dream to say of my inner landscape? The bright, sweet, flattering young lady of the dream world, in Jungian terms is my anima or female, emotional, and likely intuitive, self. She is also using words more facilely, if incorrectly, than I normally would, and seems to be a professional, a policewoman or lawyer, apparently intelligent and competent in that career. The police provide security, control, law and order in an otherwise dangerous, disorderly society. If she's a lawyer working with the police, she might be a prosecutor or assistant prosecutor. A prosecutor takes cases to and through trials against defendants. In Iraq, we also are "prosecuting" (directing or conducting) a war. Nothing leaps out at me as pertinent here. What am I missing? And what of the repeated phrase "subourning the police"? Undermining or subverting authority? Resisting the security forces? Or is the key "bourning"? Being born? The underlying theme is of rebirth in a safe (police or security forces) environment? Is that a stretch? Well, it may be interesting, if I have a chance, to see what the dream group makes of it. I bought The Bourne Identity recently.

With the market up substantially in the last several weeks, as if in anticipation of gridlock in Washington as the likely (positive) outcome of today's voting, I sold off several assets this morning.

Next, Puff and I went over to the bank. A lovely fall day here in Austin. Later, I did a variety of small chores around the house plus my daily ration of exercise. But plantar fasciitis is keeping my left foot sore much of the time again. Bother!

11/10/06-Fri.-If a worthy goal, as in Buddhism, is to be more aware and accepting of impermanence, it may be worthwhile to do a lot of driving in central TX. Certainly there are numerous hazardous traffic conditions in Austin and its environs. Even driving defensively, I had two near misses within half an hour this morning, either of which could easily have killed me or caused permanent disability.

I'm on a trip (hopefully to Waco instead of the morgue) today. Virginia, one of my several nieces, is performing a major part in a play I expect to see with my mom this weekend.

The group helped me see the "subourning police business" dream with fresh insight at our Wednesday meeting:

  • The word "subourning" indicates a combined set of contexts or meanings, including being close to but not quite (sub) at the birth of a new self or persona, being subversive toward the ends of the police (who usually in dreams symbolize maintaining the status quo [hence undermining their ends would suggest change, treated as positive in dream analysis]), being (as in The Bourne Identity) (consciously) confused or forgetful while (unconsciously) possessing hidden and forgotten talents, and being still grieving (in mourning).

  • In several of my dreams lately there is the overall theme of feeling washed up, inadequate, past my prime, having had a wasted life, etc. That is apparent to an extent here too, but now there is also the new information, that one can both have rebirth and discover hidden or forgotten inner resources, which may transform the situation.

  • There is some intention to "cop" to or own up to things not previously admitted, which may involve confession of "sins" or shortcomings as well as "owning" or integrating with stronger, more effective qualities or selves.

As in cases of multiple personality, the conscious self with which the person identifies often is flawed and weak, while other selves take over for it in times of stress, protecting the more fragile, innocent persona that seemingly cannot cope. Curing the disorder involves reintegrating all key aspects into a stronger, more functional and adaptive whole, definitely greater than the sum of its parts. So too with dream work.

There is a cognitive dissonance between the self with which I identify (and that usually cannot come to terms well with his own dreams), seen as ineffective and limited, barely coping, and the knowledge from my dream group experience, when working with others' dreams, that from somewhere there is often an ability to focus in on what is significant. At nearly every meeting now, I'm getting positive feedback for my responses to members' dreams. At the last meeting, a member who's been in the group a few years mentioned that my interpretations are "almost prescient" and, after only a few months, well beyond what he can do. I find it hard to "own" this or know what to make of it when I notice it myself. But it does call into question my usual assumptions that I'm a failure, my life meaningless, or that my existence doesn't matter.

I got into the dream group just as a possibly interesting way of meeting new folks. Rather to my surprise, it is turning out also to be the means to an adventurous voyage of discovery. Unexpected, since not sought by me or apparent from the group's input before my dreams themselves had raised the issue, is the emphasis on "being." Indeed, when I ask the group what this means, they are reticent, reluctant to answer the question for me. But since the dreams clearly show this as significant, particularly with the wisdom guides focus, their even giving a big lesson or work self-study assignment in the area, I am impressed with the need to now take "being" into account.

Though I cannot tell for sure all that "being" means, it is apparent it relates to, includes, or is dealt with by at least these: the dream group itself, meditation, Buddhism, Taoism, William Shakespeare's writings, Goethe's works, William Blake's poetry, the teachings of Gurdjiev and Ouspensky, the Gospels (both traditional and Gnostic), the I Ching, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, the works of Rumi, Lifestream Way teachings and the works of Zen other esoteric masters or mystics, Joseph Goldstein, Stephen Levine, Ram Dass, and Mark Epstein (especially Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, among many others.

Later. Took a short nap this afternoon. Then Mom got home from a beauty parlor appointment. We chatted for an hour or so before going out to eat at a favorite Thai restaurant. This evening, as usual on Fridays during my visits, Mom and I watched preferred weekly business and news shows, particularly interesting this time due to the Mid-term Election results. I was thrilled that the Republicans this week lost and big time, with the Democrats picking up a majority of state governorships, more than they needed to take over the House of Representatives, and even barely squeaking by to win the Senate.

But, though I'm glad some brake has been applied to the ongoing catastrophe the Republicans have been putting the nation through, it reminds me of a too late braking before a horrendous crash. We cannot realistically expect that US foreign or domestic problems will now be resolved.

In my opinion, the brightest thing to say about the Democratic Party winning back Congress is that they did it largely with moderates, while more of the remaining Republicans are right-wing extremists, whose policies would not be so popular with the majority in future, undermining I hope that party's chances for soon regaining the initiative. However, the big danger for the Democrats will be overplaying the hand they have now been dealt.

Meanwhile, how long will an impatient electorate give the Democrats to get something positive accomplished? And what can they do with but a slight majority in Congress, an opposition president, Iraq unsolved, and very little money left over from the war to spend on needed domestic programs?

11/11/06-Sat.-It's the end of the day, and Mom is too inebriated to get up from the last chair in which she'd been sitting. She has settled there for awhile, not doing anything except wait to regain the mental and physical capacity to at last head for bed. I offered, as I sometimes do, to assist her in maneuvering to the other location, but she mumbled with slurred speech that she just wanted to remain in the chair, close to but not quite in complete unconsciousness after her third (or more) quite strong whiskey of the late evening. She gets very defensive if I try to keep her from drinking. Her behavior otherwise does not change. I suppose I could pour out all her liquor, but I doubt that would do any good besides right then. We have discussed AA. She prefers to keep drinking.

Earlier we'd gone to see a musical in which my niece, Virginia, had one of the significant but not lead roles, a high school production for which Horace (her father) had also helped with the sets and Leila (her mother) had assisted with the costumes. I think personally that she has good potential in the musical dramatic arts, but she kind of hammed it up too much in this show.

I got a couple pictures of her, still in costume, afterward.

There was some sort of communication difficulty with Leila. She had earlier told me that on 12/9 I could come for one evening and see both a one-act play Virginia had directed and one in which she'd be acting. Tonight she claimed she had never said that and that to see the one she was directing I should go on 12/8, while the one in which she'd be acting would be on 12/9. I'm not sure, under these new circumstances, I feel like being in the audience for both amateur involvements. It would have been better the way it was originally explained to me.

Referring to the interactions with my dream group again, they have been emphatic that a guarded way I have tended to write up my dreams (prior to 11/8), with relatively round-about rather than straightforward explanations, indicates I probably still have depression, anger, or fear I do not feel safe revealing as yet. They noted, however, that in those from 11/8 I seem to have put that style aside and to be far more direct, as, indeed, they said I usually am in responding to the dreams of others.

Here are my 11/8 remembered dreams:

I'm alone at a large modern millionaire mansion, standing at the front and outside. It is beautifully and interestingly landscaped. There is a gray sky and lots of rain. Excess water drains down a wide natural stone curved walkway near the house. The water's strong flow and certain unknown phenomena, that it seems to catalyze below the surface, are undermining the stability and integrity of the landscaping, so in places the earth is boiling up as if by the action on it of multiple small springs. Many of the large aesthetic landscaping stones and house siding rocks are behaving as though they have lost much of their weight and are now being violently shifted, torn off the lower part of the house, or even spun in topsy-turvy fashion in the clear current as easily as if they were bathtub toys, instead of big irregularly shaped, naturally bright colored decorative rocks each weighing at least 50, and in some cases 100s, of pounds.

And another: I'm at a run-down inn. [I've been here in dreams before, but this is the worst time.] I get a plate of food, but go to the bathroom before eating. On my return, the food is gone. I ask the careless, casual waiters about it and am sent from one to another, none giving me a fresh plateful or admitting having disposed of it. Seeking some resolution, I go to various inner rooms at the place, all cramped and informal, full of stuff in disarray. In the confusion of spaces and doorways, I spend awhile wandering fruitlessly where I'd as soon not be. In one of the more public areas, I see someone disgusting. I cannot tell if he's a street person, a resident at the inn, or a dinner customer. I avoid him, but am shocked to see he's nude from the waste (waist) down, indifferent about just sitting with his own bluish gray feces spread over his upper thigh and anal areas.

I do find, even if I'm able to be more plainspoken in the dream write-ups, I remain too easily and deeply sad for comfort, with little needed to set off such strong reactions. I suspect that in my case it is just my nature to be more depressed, but in Jungian therapy teachings there seems to be the idea that by simply observing and feeling the negative emotions, rather than avoiding them, one can get through "the blues," at least the more or less chronic ones, and move on then to a richer pallet of emotional hues. I hope the latter notion is accurate. I'm skeptical, but we shall see. At the moment there appear to be several years worth of "blues" to be observed and felt before any possibility of getting beyond them, so deep and pervasive do they seem. Is it any wonder I've sought to retreat into thinking (not feeling), or into a Zen-like detachment, instead of putting myself through a virtually bottomless sea of despair, whose origins I do not even understand?

Of course, if one wanted reasons for sadness, neurosis, or whatever, there are plenty to go around in this case, a long list, from an abusive, emotionally retarded father to an alcoholic, anxious, driven, depressive mom, heart failure and deformities in my infancy, a brother's death from brain cancer, severe asthma in childhood, and on and on. But knowing of those things is not the same as release from this perpetually empty or aching feeling. Nor do even they seem to get to the heart of the matter.

All that, though, is too complicated. This is simple: the dream guides are emphatic that I must study "being." So far, meditation is the main way I know to simply be. Ergo...

11/12/06-Sun.-Have stopped for a coffee break at a crossroads between Temple and Belton and expect to be home in roughly an hour. The distance ahead to Austin extends, with little or no obstruction, for about 65 miles. Should I choose any other destination, the ways open to me in any horizontal direction are limited only by seas or terrain for potentially 24,000 miles or so. Yet the travel possibilities are in reality quite restricted. I cannot go down at all. There are not even any basements here, much less tunnels or mineshafts. Thick, impenetrable limestone would at once block my descent. And if I could ascend, I would run out of breathable air in five miles or less, soon thereafter exploding in the vacuum of space. So, it is at best a rather spherical surface that we inhabit. We are all of us bubble creatures here. For all our exuberant goings and comings, our entire realm's like a shell or outer garment and quite sheer.

Interestingly, despite its burgeoning population billions and huge environmental "footprint," humanity lives on only about 1-2% of Earth's surface (two-thirds being frozen or liquid ocean and our developed areas only about 6% or less of the balance). So, to an alien species looking from afar at the terribly thin surface on which we live, there might be little difference between our so-called "civilization" and bacterial colonies getting started across an agar-filled Petri dish.

Later. Made it safely home and have had good greetings with Frances and Puff. Am spending the evening unpacking, exercising, meditating, etc. I also watched the fascinating PBS "Nature" show, "Penguins of the Antarctic."

Fran had a rehearsal this afternoon and has another one tonight.

I have a dental appointment tomorrow. Ugh!

11/14/06-Tues.-Both the dental appointment yesterday and my annual physical today went well. Frances has an exam today for evaluation of a cervical polyp, and I've yet to learn how that went.

The discrepancy between my cautious, low self-esteem self (with which I identify) and the direct, confident, insightful, spontaneous self often revealed in the dream group makes me think I need to just step aside more of the time. This dissonance is also apparent from analysis of my dreams. Several of the dream "selves" seem far more appropriate, confident, engaged, fun-loving, friendly, and competent than the ego self. Will the true Phil identity please stand up!? It would be good, then, to put myself in situations in which I must think on my feet and so perhaps be more real.

In lieu of planning to be mainly a meditative recluse, sitting alone for several hours a day (attractive as that sounds!), I may want to consider focusing more on what I am doing throughout the day, seeking to engage in everything with greater awareness. Thus, for instance, if eating I can concentrate on lifting the fork, opening the mouth, chewing, swallowing, etc. Similarly, if driving, walking, playing with the dog, or just looking out the window, etc., I can emphasize focus on the most immediate activity.

In writing too, there can be more allowance for spontaneous expression than the more methodical approach I'm used to taking.

In my agenda, beyond getting done a "bare necessities" minimum each day, I can let the time and my filling of it be more unstructured.

As a reward for completing the doctor's exam this morning, I took myself to the Trudy's near the Drag (Guadalupe and about 30th) for lunch. Mmm, good!

11/16/06-Thurs.-This just past night was one of our coolest so far this autumn, though still well above freezing. Our drought is yet with us and looks to continue through the current month.

Fran's doing OK. The polyp has been removed. Negative pap-smear. Everything apparently normal.

My car battery was completely dead when I left the library yesterday. I got a jump from a cooperative colleague, then drove on local freeways for a half-hour or so to recharge. I had left my lights on. ("Doh!")

Last night, went to my literature book group. We had a good discussion.

My brother, Ernie, is involved with a tragedy. This week one of his contract construction employees fell off a roof, hitting headfirst on the concrete below, and was killed. Ernie's dealing with the man's family, OSHA, state investigators, etc. Although he was compliant with the appropriate regulations, he is feeling the mishap deeply, and interacting with the agencies and relatives is no fun. Unspoken so far too is the possibility of being sued by the man's wife. Ernie has worker's comp insurance, at least. Everyone is saying the man himself broke the safety guidelines, taking a short-cut and gambling that the risk would not be too great.

This gorgeous day I'm getting a flu shot and running several errands.

11/23/06-Thurs.-Thanksgiving Day.-Since the last entry, I have had this additional dream:

It's a gorgeous, sunny day. It's early morning. I've been buying lots, or a new house and lots, first looking at various locations. I've already bought at least two. At the second, I am walking along one border line and very pleased to see that my new neighbor, not yet met, has already put in a temporary border. It is perfect, made of new, gray landscaping bricks and slabs of molded concrete [such as one can easily buy to put in gardens or walkways at Home Depot or Lowes]. Unusually, they have been laid out not vertically, [which would be most efficient and practical], but horizontally [which requires more pieces/bricks/slabs] set out on the St. Augustine grass across the surveyed dividing line between our two properties. It is done in such a way that the property line exactly bisects the middle of the bricks or slabs. As I approach the end of the line/row of divider blocks, I see that a set of slaps (slabs) has been set down, two on each side of the corner of our properties, with a small circular space left at the middle showing that division point or surveying stake. I note that, in order to create this balanced aesthetic effect, my neighbor has had to briefly step across our property line onto my side. However, this adds to my pleasure that he [or she, but it seems more likely a he] has been willing to do so in order to create the well-balanced set of four landscape pieces there. There are a few young trees, newly planted or that were left by the developers as part of the landscaping. The lots are relatively large, quite deep (long). The St. Augustine grass is healthy, recently mowed and about two inches high. [There are no bare earth patches or dead and dying grass areas, as in our actual drought-stricken yard.]

And another: I was looking at a large circular reflecting pool in my or someone's backyard, but at an angle above it so that I saw nothing reflected in it. It was blue, later white, like a crater lake simply reflecting the sky. Then I was looking at a circular mirror inside a large handle that also wrapped around it, but it was lying flat on a chest of drawers or bureau, so I did not see anything in it but white, apparently just reflecting a white ceiling above. Then it was a square mirror, again with nothing particular noticed in it.

Mary and I were talking yesterday, here at Mom's, about "being." She has a weekly gathering in Houston that in some ways is similar to my dream group. We came to these conclusions:

  • Small children just naturally "be."
  • To be is different from becoming.
  • Animals can "be" without even trying.
  • "Becoming" and "doing" are essentially the same.
  • "Being" is more about Myers-Briggs "P-ness" than "J-ness."
  • Being involves greater attention to each moment (ideally) or at least to more of our moments, whether or not they also involve becoming/doing.
  • Being is about here and now.
  • And it involves greater contentment with or appreciation of our moment to moment experiences/awareness.
  • "Being" is more what we are "into," enjoy, or love than what we "have to" do.
  • We can certainly be "being" while we are "doing," but we can also be "being" while simply hanging out, spacing out, "grok-" -ing, meditating, noticing our feelings, and so forth.
  • Being is not about should, ought, must, need to, or any self-improvement programs.

Fran and I arrived in Waco yesterday about noon. Mom had been shopping but got back around 1 PM. Allen, Nina, Sharon, Seymour, and Mary arrived not long after that. Jim, after bumper-to-bumper traffic more or less the whole way, made it from Austin to Waco (normally a two-hour trip) in only four to five hours, arriving about 4:00. He had to leave just five hours later. Ron and Jane arrived before noon today. Diane and Hank came in by mid-afternoon from the Dallas area, but had to leave just a few hours later.

After supper and visiting awhile this evening, most of us still here watched the video I'd brought of "Casablanca." The bedlam from Allen and Nina's kids, not controlled, as well as numerous interruptions from a garrulous Mom and others, detracted from the showing, but it was entertaining despite the circumstances. Fran and I are staying at night in a Motel 6 room, happily quieter than at Mom's place.

Jim Lehrer, of the PBS "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," had a heart attack several years ago and, besides learning to look after his physical health better with diet and plenty of daily conditioning plus aerobic exercise, he says he realized it would be good to reduce stress and enhance positive vibes by focusing on things he liked, such as his family, writing novels, and his daily news show (which would tense up most people, but evidently is a fun piece of cake for him).

11/24/06-Fri.-In our discussion the other day, Mary, who's tended to be quite driven, anxious, controlling, and depressed, said she's been much happier and more relaxed as she's been savoring her moments and emphasizing more her likes, even frequently breaking up or interspersing her less enjoyable or definitely disliked activities with preferred ones. She says she actually learned to do that from her son, Jim, and that alternating between more obnoxious but necessary chores and things she enjoys, or doing things she likes (such as certain video movies) at the same time as a disliked activity (i.e., stretching exercises, dusting, etc.) keeps her from getting burned out with the less desirable stuff.

If, consistent with my dreams' messages, I were to focus on more rewarding activities, these would top the list (in each case, the category also representing a number of related things):

  • meditation
  • investing
  • writing
  • social interactions
  • nature/travel

Examples of an array of "related things" can be shown with the category nature/travel, which encompasses:

  • walks in town;
  • walks in nearby parks;
  • hikes in more distant state or national parks or forests;
  • kayak or canoe trips on area lakes or waterways;
  • the same on TX coastal or FL rivers or lakes or at other more distant locations;
  • yard, garden, or landscaping activities;
  • attending lectures on interesting natural history topics;
  • trips to attractive areas, like (U.S.) Canyon Lands, Yellowstone, Redwoods National Park, WA State beaches and parks, New England, Banff (Canada), New Zealand, Alaska, Hawaii, etc.;
  • photography in interesting, varied natural settings;
  • reading about the geography, biology, etc., of different areas;
  • going to zoos, museums, aquariums, and similar;
  • watching good nature movies or documentaries;
  • hiking in large caves and caverns.

Each of the top five categories can be broken out this way, so there would never be any lack of fun, fulfilling options!

Nina and Allen, with their kids, as well as Mary, hit the road after we'd had a good visit this AM.

Awhile later, Fran, Ron, Mom, and I went out to eat at Applebee's (Jane having a little indigestion and staying home with Puff) and enjoyed a good lunch.

Ron and I talked about my visiting him at his Jonestown place overnight at some point during the next two or three months, perhaps while Fran's to be busy with the next opera production.

Fran and I stopped at Mom's place, while Ron (who wanted to do some shopping) and she remained in town. We picked up Puff, said "Goodbye" to Jane (feeling better after a nap), and started for home about 2 PM.

We got back around 4:00. After unloading the car and feeding the pooch, we took late naps. I got up a little after 6:30 this evening. Called and chatted with my brother, Pete, took Puff on a walk, downloaded my Thanksgiving digital pictures, began processing them, and started unpacking, sorting, and putting away clothes and other gear taken on the trip.

When, during our return drive, we had stopped for a break in Georgetown, at the Andice exit, Fran and Puff saw six or seven deer close by, while walking near the South San Gabriel River as I was getting us some refreshments in the Whataburger there.

Tonight, while I was walking with Puff, we were in semi-light and so also semi-darkness, in the shade of life oak trees though we were near a bright streetlight, when we heard from only about twenty feet away, an apparently frantic commotion of wing beating. I did not see either bird directly, but the next thing I noticed was the shadow of a large bird, its wings fully extended as it glided in silence across the street, more or less right above, between the street light and ourselves, and hence the shadow. A second or so later, from near the top of a live oak tree on the other side of the road I heard more frantic wing-beating and then five loud bird screams, then two or three muffled noises that I could not definitely identify, but which I imagined were from a big bird, perhaps a Great Horned Owl, piercing the throat or severing the cervical spine of its prey. It occurred to me, my hair feeling like it had lifted, that Puff and I had witnessed the angel of death as she silently glides down and, in barely a moment, takes the lives of millions on millions of creatures every day. From the force and loudness of its wing-beating and its final calls, the bird just killed seemed reasonably large as well, perhaps a grackle or a blue jay.

In dreaming last night, this was remembered:

My car was having some engine problems, so I had taken it for a tune-up, thinking it was probably a minor, routine thing. A team of two men and a woman [evidently professional mechanics] went over it carefully and then told me the carburetor and fuel system were dirty and needed to be cleaned. I told them I'd had something similar done about a year earlier by one of their competitors. "And how did that work out for you," the woman asked. "Well," I said, "I had problems soon afterward, but they were not anything major, so I just put up with them till now." The current team assured me, if I had the carburetor flush and fuel system overhaul, this time it would restore the car to normal, so I agreed to have them do it. They said my car should be ready in a day or two. [The car I was driving was my last one, a 1990 Toyota Tercel, which I'd had for 14 years and had cost just $3300, but which, a few years after I bought it, had needed a big overhaul of its carburetor/fuel system and some pollution control parts, altogether very expensive, about $1800, after which, however, it had run well for a long time. I've just had my own annual check-up and am apparently doing well physically.]

After certain views were exchanged, both in the dream group and in discussions the day before Thanksgiving with Mary and Jim, I want to better clarify my own beliefs. Most of the people I've been talking with lately about such things (Jim being the main exception) prefer to think that God has a plan for each of our lives, that we shall go to a sort of heaven, or at least continue in one or another higher plane, after we die, that we are essentially spiritual beings, i.e. having an eternal soul, and so on. I wish I found reason to agree, as it would be comforting, even inspiring, but at this point I do not. Here, then, are some tenets that seem relevant for me these days:

Basic Beliefs

  • Certain developments, such as the evolution of complex, organic life out of non-living molecules, or the occurrence of progressively heavier elements, all derived from the lightest element, hydrogen, fly in the face of energy's prevailing tendency to dissipate (entropy). Such anomalies or statistical aberrations, however, all have explanations in reliable natural laws, which are consistent throughout this universe. They are not reasons to assume a supreme being, a hypothetical personal deity concerned with and involved in the existence of any particular or all individual person(s) or creature(s).

  • There may be "miracles" or seemingly inexplicable phenomena. But all such occurrences also obey fundamental laws of our universe, whether or not we or our scientists yet understand them. Similarly, though we do not yet know their how or why, the presence of black holes in galaxies or of a big bang for a universe does not support the notion that those phenomena are gods or created by divine beings.

  • There are no phenomena outside the universe's natural laws. Other universes will be internally consistent with their own sets of natural laws, and these, as well as those of our universe, would all be consistent with still more fundamental, less divergent laws governing all of that which is.

  • There may or may not be a first cause for everything that is. Our human concern for such a first cause need not call for or justify the assumption of any deity.

  • Nor does our desire for special meaning, purpose, or persistence beyond the death of each individual, tribe, race, or, indeed, of any or all life here or anywhere, justify an assumption that there is a divine being behind that which is.

  • In whatever way it occurred (or has always been), the universe of universes, or that which is, whether infinite or merely incomprehensibly vast, also has no personal regard for any particular (or for all) organism(s) on each or any of the trillions of worlds (including ours) existent either at one time, in all of the times prevalent in a single universe, or in the multiple-time dimensions of absolutely all of that which is.

  • There are laws of the universes and of we ourselves, however, which permit, under special circumstances, flexibility in the experience of existence. This capacity may include moments or periods of qualitatively different awareness (both in kind and scope) from either dreaming or our normal waking consciousness. Some of the results may seem heavenly and others hellish. But there is no Heaven or Hell, and these experiences are actually nothing special.

  • Such additional realms of the inner landscape may be at either pole of, or anywhere between, the spectrum of relatively objective to relatively subjective awareness.

  • While there is no assurance of ever attaining easy movement among the diverse experiential states, dedicated efforts almost inevitably lead to a rewarding increase in insight.

  • It is worthwhile, and might be positively transforming, perhaps even enlightening, to pursue such inner landscape experiments and explorations, to whatever extent one finds practicable and motivating, bearing always in mind, however, that these pursuits are no excuse for avoiding involvement in and interaction with the "real world," and that death is as final for us as for any other organism.

11/26/06-Sun.-Got up a little after 7 AM. Well before 8, Fran and I were dumping our monthly supply of dirty clothes out at a surprisingly clean, bright, functional, reasonably priced, and yet unused neighborhood Laundromat. What with Frances' part in the recent opera performance, a quite busy time, and then our Thanksgiving out-of-town visit, the laundry chore had been put off a bit longer than usual. But we have a new trip planned for this week, to the TX coast at Galveston. So, if we were not to break down and hurriedly buy fresh T-shirts plus new packages of socks and underwear at Wal-Mart, we had to fit this job in before leaving.

Today I'll be resuming the emergency lawn irrigation task as well, hoping to complete half today and the balance tomorrow. We leave early Tuesday morning. Between the wear and tear on our lawn of puppy-like Puff, too much shade for healthy sod, and insufficient moisture the last couple years, about half our lawn is now dead or dying. My reseeding last month did little good. We shall need, this winter or spring, to get at least a pallet or two of St. Augustine, dig out space for each patch, plant all the grass over a day or two, and then keep it liberally watered till well established. I may try in the front another seeding, of Bermuda grass seed this time, in areas that still get some sun.

Here is the latest remembered dream, the meaning of which largely eludes me: My sister-in-law, Mary, is sitting wrapped in or wearing a large, thick, bright, colorful Mexican blanket-like garment or poncho. I become aware there is a coral snake, that looks also like a green tree snake, hidden beneath it, slithering about among the inner folds covering her body. As yet she does not know this and is placid, content, simply enjoying relaxing in the comfortable blanket/poncho. The snake finds a frayed hole in the garment at Mary's front and begins racing, sliding, and slithering through it. Mary sees it and becomes hysterical, screaming and afraid the snake will bite her before she has a chance to get out from under the garment and away. I know there is little chance of any damage from a coral snake. In fact, it is in greater danger from Mary's frantic, reactionary, flailing about movements. Since she's acting as if in mortal peril, though, I figure I'd better try to catch the snake. But I'm aware that if I simply reach for it, the snake then would be dangerous, able to bite one of my fingertips or the bit of skin webbing at the fingers' base. I turn to look for gloves, a jar, or hot pads I can quickly get and use, but Mary's panic reaction continues to worsen the situation. Meanwhile, with her hysterical movements, the snake, which had been leaving, has gone back under the garment, apparently to hide.

Last night, I read this in Mark Epstein's gem of a book, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: "In the sexual yoga of Buddhism the passion of amorous relations is harnessed as a means of converting the more familiar energy of doing into the more subtle, but ultimately more powerful and enlightening energy of being [emphasis mine - am still trying to learn more about being, in compliance with the dreams' directives]. Sexual relations serve both as a vivid model for the spiritual journey and as a reminder of how much is lost when the spiritual dimension of sexuality is neglected."

An odd thing happened the other day. One of the more experienced members of the group had called and left a message on our phone machine, saying she'd be happy to help me interpret my dream. She left no phone number, I had not requested assistance, and, in fact, I could not recall any dreams since I'd last been to the meetings, about a week before. I e-mailed her about it but have received no reply. Maybe she had confused me with another person. There is another dream group member called Phil. He has been coming to the meetings intermittently.

11/28/06-Tues.-We began our Galveston trip about 8:45 this morning. At Bastrop, we stopped for a break, and Frances found what she thinks is a recently deceased least shrew (a very tiny species). She kept its head to prepare and add to her 700+ collection of skulls and skeletons.

I had a couple remembered dreams last night:

There's a large comfortable bed (in a large room), good for snuggling. Fran and I are nude in it and much younger. It is cold in the house. We are anticipating sex, though making love is not certain. The house is not very big and not particularly private. A man I know well is in bed in a back room. Another man I know is in another room. There are no doors at all. For privacy, Fran and I would just need to be quiet, but really there are no secrets. Others seem to assume Fran and I will be intimate, as though we are married, and they are just friends living here too.

[In another dream it's also nighttime and] I'm on the front line in a conventional warfare battle. It is a World War II setting. There is a lot of death and destruction. I am giving a bunch of green soldiers a pep talk, but am being straight with them. "The next attack could come at any moment," I tell them, "and when it does, the odds are at least 50% of us will be mortally wounded or simply killed at once." (We are all terribly frightened.) "Don't worry about if you'll be a coward or not," I say. "Everyone is afraid, but what will happen will just happen. And tomorrow you'll either be among the living or you won't. But we're all together in this, doing our best. Nobody's running away. Besides, the danger is even worse outside the foxholes."

Frances and I passed what had been a lake, not far east of Smithville. It was now mostly just a big, muddy marshland, though the presence of a great blue heron suggested it may still contain a few fish, snakes, or frogs. The two-year drought is taking a toll here.

This vacation will be Puff's first experience with a salt water beach. We hope we can sufficiently and without too much trouble discourage her from drinking the surf. We brought plenty of extra fresh water. Our last trip was with Pepper. Despite old age and a two-year history of liver cancer, she was at least able to slowly walk about, sniff, taste, and look at things. She would be dead, though, only weeks after this, her last big adventure.

Later. We reached our motel in Galveston before 1 PM, got checked in, made sure the dog's needs were taken care of, and then drove over to the Fish Tales seafood restaurant on Seawall for a late lunch overlooking the Gulf. Next we returned to the room for Puff and drove over to the eastern end of the island to do some beachcombing and photography near a ship channel. The heat and mosquitoes were unpleasant at times. Overall, it was a good outing.

We had a rather relaxed time back at the motel room and turned in early.

11/29/06-Wed.-Perhaps "being" is more about inspiration, spontaneity, creativity, and fun stuff, while ordinary "doing" would be more about stuff that feels like a chore, work, or a "self-improvement" program.

Up about 7 AM. Weather here in Galveston today is again sunny and warm, with few if any clouds and not much wind. I'd prefer temperatures about twenty degrees cooler, but am still having a fine time.

"Being" must be natural rather than forced.

We went to the IHOP on Seawall for breakfast. Then I dropped off Frances at the Moody Gardens and drove the pooch and myself over to The Strand. We looked around there like any pair of human/canine tourists. I took lots of pictures of boats, ships, shops, decorations, waterfowl, and waterfront industry. Back at the motel, Puff enjoyed lunch, then took a nap, and I did meditation and awareness exercises.

"Being" may include good focus and concentration, yet either without attachment or with spontaneous, authentic emotional reactions. It must be what makes small children excellent photographic subjects. It may be well expressed in the graphic arts.

Later. I picked Fran up from Moody Gardens at 3:30. We took a break back at the motel and then drove with Puff over to one of the Seawall beaches again. We enjoyed watching the surf, the dog playing in it, or taking photos of both. We walked about five miles, getting back to the car around 6 PM.

We picked up some food to eat at the motel, then spent another relaxed evening, mostly in our room.

11/30/06-Thurs.-A cold front blew in dramatically about mid-morning. Fran and I had gone to the local aquarium in shirt sleeves but then were shivering when we left. Once better bundled up, we drove over to the ocean with Puff and played around there, but briefly. Besides colder temperatures, there was frequent rain and a constant wind of 40+ mph, enough that we felt unsteady on our feet much of the time.

I loved this change! We took a number of photos of the waves, sky, each other, etc., along the seawall, out on a jetty, and by another jetty out at the east end of the island. Still, after a couple hours or so, we had gotten rather cold and wet. We drove home and relaxed till a little after 5 PM, then went to Landry's for an expensive, but delicious seafood supper in a pleasant atmosphere.

Back at the motel, we settled in for a simple, but fun time our final night here this year.

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