My friend Elizabeth King recommended the book, In the Blink of an Eye by the film editor, Walter Murch, to me, adamantly. Elizabeth’s recommendations have the quality of prophecy and I know to follow them. Know that whatever it is will be something that becomes useful from the inside out.
This passage about an exercise called “dreaming in pairs,” has come in very handy.
“In dream therapy there is a technique that pairs the patient–the dreamer, in this case–with someone who is there to listen to the dream. As soon as possible after waking, the dreamer gets together with his listener to review the dreams of the previous night. Frequently there is nothing, or just a single disappointing image, but this is usually enough to begin the process. Once the image is described, the listener’s job is to propose an imaginary sequence of events based on that fragment. An airplane, for instance, is all that is remembered. The listener immediately proposes that it must have been an airliner flying over Tahiti filled with golf balls for a tournament in Indonesia.”
The dreamer takes issue.
“No, it was a bi-plane, flying over the battlefields of France, and Hannibal was shooting arrows at it from his legion of elephants. In other words, the dream itself, hidden in the memory, rises to its own defense when it hears itself being challenged by an alternate version, and so reveals itself.”
I started to apply this framework whenever someone responded to me in a way that felt patently wrong, or irritating, that the degree of wrongness I would have taken before as a sign of how the person had misunderstood, now became a tool to sharpen my own understanding, a prompt calling me to rise into a clearer articulation of my intention. Part of what feels intriguing about this as a practice is that it takes as its framework the proposition that there is inherent cooperation even when it doesn’t seem apparent. I suppose that is the opposite of paranoia. Everyone’s not out to get you; everyone’s out to help you. These are the Pain-in-the-ass bodhisattvas. It’s a perspective that imbues the Vimalakirti Sutra and it’s an encouraging, if athletic experiment. It introduces a note of fun into whatever inevitable discord one meets.