From Don: Most of the time when I have a dream during the night I can barely remember any of it by the time I wake up. But occasionally a dream is so striking that I wake up right out of the dream, rub my eyes, open up my computer, and write down every scrap that I can recall, because I know that there’s a message from The Mystery contained somewhere within the dream.
In a recent dream a young woman approached me and told me that she was called “Insistent Heart.” Her name had a resonance for me because of my own long-held desire to be fully openhearted. When I went back to bed again after writing down the dream my heartbeat became quite irregular, and I asked myself why my heart keeps on being that way. Then the meaning of the dream became clear to me: the “Insistent Heart” is just that: The Mystery wants me to keep paying attention to my heart, to focus all of my attention on it to the exclusion of everything else, and the heart irregularity is the way that has been chosen because it gets and holds my attention. If I stay focused on the heart then there won’t be any more irregularity. Why, I asked, do I need to focus on the physical heart when it’s the emotional heart that needs to stay open? Because, came the answer, there is so much overlap between the physical and emotional hearts in terms of their location within the body that focusing on one results in a focus on both.
Following these insights came the thought there’s only this, there’s only now, all else is illusion. Nothing matters but this moment and the nature and quality of the attention that is put upon this moment.
I need to keep reminding myself that I get what I get, and that how I deal with what I get is the only thing that matters. Acceptance must continue to be my watchword. I know that I’m much better at accepting whatever happens in each moment than I have ever been, which is a good thing, but there are some things that I find more difficult to accept, and problems with my eyesight is one of them. My glasses were stolen with my backpack. It has not been much of a problem, except when it comes to reading street names or notice boards at airports, but fortunately Alison’s eyes are good at reading those things. It’s the floaters that get in the way of seeing things clearly that bother me. So what’s the message? What am I refusing to see clearly, or put another way, what am I not seeing clearly? Let me think about that: I’m not seeing where our lives are going beyond the next few months, but I’ve been that way since we became nomads. I’m not seeing where we’ll end up living, which itself is premised upon the assumption that we will eventually stop travelling and settle down in one place. So far there’s been nowhere other than Vancouver on the horizon, but that could potentially change with every new country we visit. I’m not seeing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, beyond my current new focus of paying the closest possible attention to my “Insistent Heart.” Of course that’s really the only thing I need to be doing, and everything else will unfold in whatever way it is meant to unfold moment by moment. My concern about my eyes just tells me that I’m not yet fully accepting my life just as it is: I’m still trying to see into the future. Silly me!
This moment, this moment, this moment; this is all we ever have in which to live our lives: we have no real way of knowing what will happen in the next moment, or the moment after that. One moment Alison was having a fabulous time taking photos of the participants at a festival in Mexico and the next moment she lost her footing and fell head first onto concrete badly scraping and banging her forehead. Two days later, as the swelling on her forehead was going down, the bridge of her nose began to swell and she developed purple bruises between the bridge of her nose and her eyes. Because of my training and experience as a neuropsychologist I became quite alarmed about the potential significance of this: even a relatively minor head injury can damage blood vessels in the brain causing them to leak, and even a slow leak will eventually cause pressure on the brain that can lead to brain damage. Bruising around the eyes can be a sign that there is a leakage of blood from the brain. So when the purple bruises began to show on Alison’s face we had to make a decision as to what action to take: go and see a doctor seemed obvious, but which doctor and where? So far, every time we’ve needed assistance when some type of crisis has arisen for us, we have received the help we needed from friends and/or strangers. If anyone asks me about everyday miracles I’ll tell them about our landlady telling us to go to the local hospital, which was a five minute walk from where we were staying, and then Ali getting interviewed and examined by an English-speaking neurosurgeon within half an hour of us arriving at the hospital. The surgeon told her that there was nothing to worry about, that the bruising around the eyes was caused by gravity: it was just blood from broken blood vessels under the skin on the forehead moving downward. And that was all: nothing to worry about, just get on with your lives and let nature take its course.
You get what you get and then you deal with the consequences. Sometimes there are clear messages from The Mystery and we need to pay close attention to those. At other times stuff just seems to happen. Of course stuff is going to happen whether you are travelling like us or homebodies like some of our friends: it’s just that when you’re on the road all the time decisions often have to be made on a more urgent basis, with only a minimum of local knowledge or information to fall back on, and almost always there are issues with language. We’ve been incredibly fortunate so far, or, as we like to think of it, incredibly well taken care of by The Mystery as we continue on our nomadic journey.
From Alison: So of course when I fell, and hit my head, really hard, the first reaction was shock, then a knowing that nothing was broken, then (having been the wife of a brain specialist for many years) fears of an aneurism or brain bleed or concussion. There were people there to help me instantly. Except for my fears about some kind of brain injury (that could have symptoms that would not show up immediately) I was basically okay and able to get up and walk to the nearby first aid tent where I received excellent medical attention to several cuts and scrapes, and ice for my very swollen head. We were about to watch a major festival performance and I was determined not to miss it. I didn’t. Everything was patched up and a nurse held on to me very tightly and took me back to my seat in time to see the beginning of the show. Don did the brain doctor thing of regularly checking my eyes, asking if I was dizzy, was I conscious throughout it all, etc. It seemed everything was okay, and as the shock wore off I enjoyed the show more and more.
Ah but what was the message? That was the question. I kept feeling inwards to try to know what I was supposed to learn or do or understand. It seemed like one of God’s two-by-fours, a good whack to the head, and I’d better be getting the message. It came the next morning from a great blog I follow called Breathing Space. The post on Breathing Space that day was a quote from The Child Thief, a novel by Gerald Brom – “Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.” And then from Breathing Space: Life is more fun if you know how to play. I was inspired to comment on this post and found myself writing: I was playing a bit too hard last night photographing the performers at this festival we’re at in Oaxaca and fell and hit my head hard on concrete – ouch! I was running around and getting dirty and having fun. Things happen. Just like with kids. And as I wrote that I understood. That’s all it was. Running around. Playing too hard. Having fun. Fall down go boom. Oops.
It’s now 11 days later and my face is still quite colourful :)
Photo of the day: Great grandmother. Somewhere in India.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.