Sharda Rogell
Sharda Rogell

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Friday, December 14, 2012
Waking up from the Dream
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Recently I gave a presentation at James Baraz’ Awakening Joy course where I was invited to share my thoughts on happiness and what brings about greater happiness. As I sat with this question beforehand, a koan (a spiritual question or statement that provokes “great doubt” about things) kept floating in my mind – “Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise.” This is a statement by a great wisdom master that I love and often ponder upon. I decided to explore this in my talk to the group.

Things are not as they seem. If we questioned our views and opinions more often and held them lightly, not only would we be happier, but also so would everyone else. When we question our worldview, we begin to open to greater possibilities for our world and ourselves. Things are less fixed.

When I was about 10 years old I saw the movie, Wizard of Oz. This was a life-changing event for me as I imagine it was for many others who saw it for the first time. It first premiered in 1939. I saw the second edition when it came out in 1955. It was a frightening movie for a 10 year old. Dorothy and her companions walk up the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to see the wizard who will grant them each a wish if they bring back the Wicked Witch of the West’s broomstick. When they arrive, they are met by a large, intimidating, disembodied head with a booming voice. Even though they are frightened, they are determined to fulfill the task, which they did.

On their return to the castle, Dorothy’s little dog, Toto, runs over to the curtain behind which the wizard was and pulls it back to reveal a small, little nervous man operating a machine that he is using to project his large powerful image. He was not what he seemed. What a shock!

This metaphor of the Wizard of Oz has stayed with me for many years. It is such a great relief when we see through what seemed so real and threatening. It’s true that many things in this world are scary and dangerous and we must be wise as we go about our day. However, so much is made up in our own mind that keeps us bound in a sense of a small, narrow world. And it keeps our heart closed and tight.

To awaken joy, it’s necessary to learn about the tendency to “paint” pictures, ideas, and beliefs on the screen of our mind because this is what limits and restricts us. Our ideas become so believable and often frightening. For example, when I meet with someone, I try to put aside my judgments and characterizations and see if I can be present with them without carrying the past with me. Or when I look in the mirror, I want to meet myself in a fresh way, not with my old images. I want to question my ideas and ask, “Is what I am thinking true? How do I know it’s true?” Or I stop for a minute and quiet my mind. I sense my body. I breathe into my belly. I feel my feet on the earth. This helps me ground more fully in the present moment, and the past and future have less of a hold on me. Fear lives in these ideas and gets impressed in our body over time. It takes great presence and attention to begin to release these impressions. Accessing presence is what I call resourcing.

To me, awakening joy has to do with the ability to access resources from within. Resources are anything that return us to our source, our center -- Re-Source. It is any activity hat brings our vitality back. A few examples are, walking in nature, singing, moving our body in any way, sipping tea, looking at the sky, talking with good friends, laughing, being creative, meditating. Drawing on our resources is the same as choosing happiness. When I do this I am moving towards kindness, towards, love, towards what is positive in my life. I’m not doing this out of denying what’s difficult, but I choose this out of wisdom and love and so to be stronger to face the challenges in my life. When I can return to my center, my nervous system begins to regulate. I know where I am. I can pull back the veil and wake up from my dream. I begin to live closer to reality once again.

Returning to the story of the Wizard of Oz, the wizard was able to grant Dorothy and her companions their wishes. This wasn’t because he had such great powers. It was because he reminded them that they already possessed what they were looking for. The scarecrow already had a smart brain. The lion already had courage to face danger. The tin man already had a sympathetic heart. Dorothy wanted to return home. The wizard told her that she always had this power. All she had to do was close her eyes, tap the heels of her sparkling, red shoes three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And as she did this, in no time at all, she woke up from her dream surrounded by all her loved ones. It is the same for us. We already possess what we are seeking. We have the power to return home.

But was Dorothy dreaming? Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise.