A Trip to Iona — June 7, 2003

Saturday, June 7

Another breakfast at the hotel, then a cab to the train station at Crewe, a train to the Manchester airport, and a flight to Aberdeen. Traveling is easier alone. Although one might think that another person would help find things, and avoid mistakes, and share the load, in practice, it isn’t so. I watch myself traveling very efficiently, very smoothly, except for moments of confusion that a moment sorts out without much difficulty. I watch myself glide smoothly from the train through the maze to the right place to check in for the flight, and even my movements are smooth and sure, usually. Far more so than if I were with someone, my attention half on the companion. This of course has nothing to do with the companion and everything to do with the way I operate.

I like the British ways so much more than commercial-American. At Dulles airport, every 15 minutes came a strident warning that “for security reasons” you mustn’t leave your baggage unattended; unattended baggage would be seized for inspection and might be damaged or destroyed. Here in Manchester, a pleasant voice merely asked passengers “to reduce the number of security alerts by keeping your luggage with you at all times.” No threats, no stridency. Same message underneath, but all the difference in the world how it was delivered.

We take off at ten till noon. Pretty full flight. I’m nearly the only person who doesn’t have a seatmate. Is it something I said? (-: I have my camera out, and take a couple of pictures of clouds, de facto sketches for possible future paintings. During the flight, I review the previous day’s events. My travel plans had proved practical. Seeing Robert first on Thursday and then going to the hotel and sleeping all those hours helped me adjust nicely.

And I note that when Rita and I get together, usually three evenings a week, we usually end the evening with a meditation that comes through me from the guys. The content of those meditations involves not only the river of life and health, but a reminder to envision a blue flame on the foreheads of ourselves and of others – a blue flame signifying the consciousness that observes our lives, which reminder helps me be more charitable, less judgmental of others. Rita and I have been accomplishing things without even quite noticing it.

“David, I like your country right well, despite the strangeness of little things.”

“And don’t think I don’t like yours, despite the same things you would cite. America was a dream to us, you know. It wasn’t by chance that I – you – were reborn in America. It carried the sense of spaciousness, of newness, of opportunity. It would have been too tiring for an older man, and too hard, not knowing the right people, to find compatible minds. But it was in the dream, eh?”

“And besides you had other things to do. What were they? Were you really [as we had gotten some years before] an editor on the Illustrated London News?”

“London Illustrated News, yes. Sub-editor, actually. Your friend’s [Kelly’s} glimpse of me was an accurate snapshot of my life then – being the grand old man (in a minor way) to my boys. I was the one who had been there and seen things and could tell tales.”

We’re down at 1 p.m. and I have scarcely retrieved my bag before I am met by a smiling Michael Ross, the first time we’ve seen each other since we met in Virginia when he did his Gateway at TMI. Michael, who has been involved with out-of-body experiences since he was a boy, had showed me and my friend Nancy Dorman a couple of energy exercises that were so powerful it was all we could do not to “click out.” (That’s a TMI term that means going out so far that you bring back no recollection of it. Subjectively, one minute you’re here, then you’re back – but from where?)

Michael is going to bring me to Findhorn. He offers to drive me wherever I want to go, by whatever route I want to choose. So we go round by way of Peterhead, Macduff, Banff, Cullen, Elgin, and Forris, talking of course as we go. Among the things we talk about are Robert and his great wealth of knowledge about dreams. We pass through great stretches of green, interrupted by buildings or towns. There is less of man in the landscape than in America. Nice, but one wonders what the people live on. We stop for lunch at Peterhead, and I find a postcard depicting Iona from the air. Makes the days I’m going to spend there seem more real somehow.

Just before we come to Forris, Michael brings us to Pluscarden Abbey, which turns out to be a moving and memorable experience. Pluscarden, like so much else of the medieval Catholic presence in Britain, was destroyed by the Protestant revolution. Now it is being restored, and there is a small community of priests and monks living there while the restoration goes on.

We walk up to the buildings, and I stop at the outside and put my hands on the old unreconstructed stones, trying to experience it. But when we go in, we look at the stained glass windows high above us, and we are among the stone, and the atmosphere sinks in further. We come to a portion with pews and kneelers, and I get down onto my knees – an impulse I’d had earlier – and put my head in my hands. I fall – rise – into a state of deep reverence and surrender. It doesn’t last long (I am well aware of protestant Michael standing next to me, though I get no sense of his judging me) but it is very deep. I think, it would be well to bring the holiness back into our lives, or rather, into life, into the life of our time and the time to come.

But the sight of some Catholic literature in a rack raises resistances in me stemming back to my teen years. In that my reaction is like a Protestant’s – and yet I was fully experiencing, savoring, what we might call the stone memories. I have the same feelings of deep uneasiness when a priest – I suppose he is a priest – passes.

As we leave the abbey and are walking back to Michael’s car, I say to him that the Reformation, like the French revolution, was the equivalent of a nervous breakdown in its effect on our psyches – for current Protestants are likely to have good Catholics among their soul heredity, and certainly have them in their physical heredity. Thus they are at war with themselves, internally, life against life. Our stupid age, of course, believes that what is past is past, not knowing that feelings and other lives have no time.

And even Catholics today are likely to be at war with other parts of themselves that have other values, other ways of being. And this confines the argument only to the west! What of the schisms between east and west, and both and Islam? And all these and others?

We arrive at the Findhorn community too late for things, but we walk around it a bit, and then find out b&b in Findhorn itself. We have a great walk out to the water in the late daylight. (It stays light in Scotland in June about 25 hours a day, or anyway from 3:30 a.m. to past 10:30 p.m.) Michael tells me of a dream he’d had, of visiting Findhorn on a beautiful day, when gale-force winds blow up, and overturn the old caravans he likes, the ones that went back to Findhorn’s early days. I help him analyze the symbols, and it resolves quite easily: the winds of change are going to overturn everything that is not substantial. In communities like Findhorn, presumably – intentional gatherings of people who would live spiritually. I wonder what else it means, how widely applicable it is.

Then we go in for a meal that is incredibly slow to arrive, but very good when it finally gets there. Skink, fish soup, is first. Delicious. Then I go to bed, much earlier than Michael. I’m still adjusting.

Sunday, June 8

I awaken from a dream, and make the effort to record it:

“I am in the church that Michael and I were in yesterday. There is a service going on, I think.

“Two women go up to the priest – he is in the aisle. They want his help, but I from behind one of them say, “I know what you need, my dear, and I can help you. But it can’t be right now. This is not to do with you, just I don’t have the time right now.” This is accepted by all concerned. From within the dream, I am concerned lest it be 8 a.m. when I’m going to awaken (alarm set) but am glad to realize that it is not yet that, but about 3:30 real time.

“As we were coming out of the church – but still inside, in the aisle, toward the door – there was something. The woman to my left didn’t figure directly in the dream – I’m not sure she said anything – but the dream concerned the four of us, among so many strangers I did not know.

I intend to communicate my dreams to Robert for his view, thinking we can thus help each other.

I note that the priest and the women accepted that I had the knowledge and ability to help the woman. It was not presumption, nor a vying with the priest. I could help her as he (the church, I think) could not, and all concerned knew it. But not just yet – I had something else to do first. I stressed, it wasn’t her fault that I couldn’t help right away, it was that I wasn’t yet free to get to it. But I would be.

After the dream, I lie in bed and do the “river of life and health” meditation. I feel an obstruction at about my stomach. The will-power chakra, I’d say. I don’t get it all but resolve to work on it over the next few days. I think this will solve my distended-stomach problem as an outward sign of the inner problem going. I feel the dried-up earwax in my right ear getting liquid, and I think, “no, not onto their pillow,” and forget about it. (In the morning, after my shower, I find the ear full of liquefied wax that comes out easily with tissue. Only a first step, I think, but a first step.)

Again at 6:15 a.m. I am up to record a dream:

“An experience that was almost suffocating in its intensity. I went into a church and proceeded down, down, down stairs to lower and lower – older and older – levels. I could see I was below the level of our civilization, where the steel foundations for it, the support of the structure, were. Construction was going on and I was concerned that I not interfere or get hurt. At a passageway, a ladder in front of me, a wooden ladder, very tall, of the A-shaped kind. A worker was sitting high up on the wall to the left. The ladder was tilted away from him [tilted onto one set of legs, on the right, its left-hand side in the air] though it was not falling. I gently pulled it down to sit firmly, and walked under it. I came to a level still far above the depths, I thought, though far below our time. But they had a press operating there, though it was not printing, but before printing. They asked if I would lend a hand for a few minutes – and hours later I was happily still there.

“They were not signatures but single sheets 8 ½ by 11 or larger, and were first individually written and colored – in many colors, not just red on black – and the sheets were collated and bound. It was full color printing, before printing, each sheet being individually prepared. [Here I sketched a sheet with the left third of the page being design and the right two-thirds being lines of text.]

“The dream ended there for the moment.”

As striking as the dream was the sight of my eyes in the mirror. “The eyes that I see in the mirror here are mine and yet not. They are calmer, more tranquil, wiser, with lines under them as of age and wisdom. Perhaps partly Bertram’s eyes. [He is a priest of the middle ages with whom I am connected in the same way as with David.] This is a fine start to a visit to Iona, is it not?”

[On a later day, I will work out that it may have been this morning that I awoke, with my eyes closed, and couldn’t figure out where I was. I knew I wasn’t in Virginia, but I didn’t know where I was. It’s an experience I have every so often – I think when I have gone particularly far away overnight.]

At 8 or so I take a little walk, waiting for breakfast which we had asked to be at 9. I am thinking, the trick will be, as always, to bring the results of a transformation into everyday life – or where is the transformation?

As I am communicating with a flowering plant, a curious bird comes very near. I could have reached out and touched him, had I not thought he would fly away. He stays with me quite a while as I walk, and I naturally think, “he likes my energy.” But of course it is more likely he is someone’s pet, accustomed to surveying everyone in sight.

When Michael sees me he asks how I slept and I say “great, and I had a great dream,” and I tell him. So we start talking about dreams, and he tells one he had had as a boy that was very affirming and meaningful, though he has never known why it affected him that way. I lead him through it, questioning what each symbol means to him, and much of the meaning of the dream comes clear. I tell him I will send the dream to Robert and see what else Robert can get out of the parts of it that elude us. But what we do get is important. I recount the dream here, as Michael says he has often told this dream to others, including children he has taught.

In the dream, he as a child was in an octagonal room, with a table and a bowl on the table. On one wall ahead of him and to the left was a table on which was a coffin containing an old person. Ahead of him to the right was another table, on which were two coffins, containing two people who had died in the prime of life. He went to each coffin and stared at the bodies with interest, but not with revulsion or fear. In the bowl was a powder made up of ground-up bird wings. He ate some of the powder and knew he could fly. He woke up very happy.

As I say, he had known this was a significant dream, but hadn’t known why. For 40 years, he had prized the dream, but had not understood it. All I have to do is to lead him through the dream symbol by symbol, asking him what each one means to him. (“What’s a bird?” “Something that flies.”) Then it is merely a matter of retelling the dream using the meanings rather than the symbols. The meaning that emerges is simply that death is not something to fear. He is immortal. And the allusion to flying has another meaning, given that out-of-body experiences are a major interest of his. As a point of interest, the first significant death he experiences – one of his grandparents, I believe – occurs within the year following this dream.

It is obvious that we miss much. For instance, why an octagonal room? Why two bodies in the prime of life rather than just one? But I have no doubt that Robert will be able to furnish what we miss.

This discussion takes us through breakfast. Then we go to Findhorn and sit and walk around and look in their bookstore. We agree, we’re glad it exists, but it isn’t for us.

So why do I feel so disinclined to make whatever effort would have been required to get into even slight contact at Findhorn? For I wasn’t condemning it, and I don’t. I couldn’t have become a part of it. That’s one thing. And it had its resonances to other New Age things I have experienced. Plus, I don’t necessarily do all that well with group activities. Too often group activities are closely aligned with group-think.

We drive to Inverness, have a bit of a time finding a b&b, but finally do, and Michael and I say an affectionate goodbye. I tell him, “I was getting a little tired of paying for everything,” and he laughs, because in fact he hasn’t let me pay for a thing either day, saying I treated him when he was in Virginia. His prodigal generosity is almost overwhelming.

At one point I tell him that I’d long wanted to write a book called Thoreau and Mr. Emerson, but thought now that I’d never get around to it. He says, “why don’t you write an article?” A very practical idea, and of course that’s what he does.

So here I am alone again. I take a nap, then let myself out to walk uptown. I get lost, wander around, get found. I walk up and down the streets of Inverness looking with no success for a place to eat. (It is early for supper, and I am picky.) I don’t know that there is anything else here for me. I am a terrible tourist: I fix my eyes on one thing and that’s that. City life, it seems to me, is one or another variant of shopping, which doesn’t interest me. Once get away from the news and entertainment media, as I have, and you are – where? Not 21st century community life.

I finally find a hole-in-the-wall Chinese place that is mostly but not entirely take-out. It has a couple of tables. I have chicken and corn soup, Kung Bo chicken and Chinese tea. Delicious. I walk back to the b&b. shower, lay out clothes for the morning, and pack.

I spend some time running through the “river of life and health” meditation, then removing psychic cords to and from everyone I ever made an agreement with that does not now serve me and others. If I am to do my work, I need my energy. I cannot have it siphoned off or – it occurs to me – diverted into cliched paths.

I go to bed, and wake at 11:30 p.m. to note an image from a dream. A three-story-high pitcher surrounded by a tree, in the countryside. The pitcher surrounded by some liquid – water? – for the countryside. I note, “Robert will know.” The next morning, it occurs to me the image may have been a pun: “the big picture is contained within the big three.”

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