I had a lucid dream. These are the sorts of dreams where I control the storyline instead of the usual style of dreaming where the dream just haphazardly happens to me. In this lucid dream, I found myself floating naked, as if lying on the floor with my fingers interlaced, elbows outstretched and my chin resting on the back of my hands. I was floating inside a wormhole that connected various parts of space and time. The wormhole's diameter was about the width of a small bedroom. The walls of this infinitely long tube shimmered with an iridescent blue, swirling light, like an oil slick on the surface of a puddle of water. The tunnel snaked across space in both directions and I neither knew where it came from, nor where it went. I was not moving through the tunnel but hovered weightlessly only in one spot. The wormhole, for as far as I could see in front of me, was full of balloons of assorted sizes and colours, each tailed a short piece of pearl-white, soft, silky ribbon. They slowly drifted through the tunnel towards me, some alone, others in pairs and clumps, playfully jostling each other. A few bumped up against me, their ribbons tickling my skin as they brushed past and on their way down the tunnel behind me. I floated there for a long time, curiously watching the balloons pass by and I tried to see patterns in the way in which they came passed. Were all the red balloons big ones? Were large green balloons always followed by little yellow ones? But there was no pattern in their arrangement. They came randomly and, in a bizarre way, there was something very reassuring about their randomness. I flicked a few balloons aside and they let me. I vainly tried to stop them to see if I could dam them up but they were far too sneaky and gently slipped by without much effort at all. Playfully interacting with the balloons seemed to be my best choice.
A naked man and Coloured Balloons
by Thomas W E Budge © 2011
Taking hold of a big blue balloon, I curled up around it and held it tightly to my belly, too tightly perhaps because it popped, not with a big, frightening bang but with a soft puff. Poof! Popping the balloon immediately transported me into a bygone experience I had had when I was a kid. I was one of two young boys in the middle of a large circle of other kids on the school playground, all of whom jeered and egged us on. I was a scrawny kid back then and, there in the middle of this big circle, both of us wore oversized, bright-red boxing gloves. We were about to settle a personal dispute in front of the whole school. I remember how frightened I was and how cornered I felt. The whole ordeal was unfair and sadistic. The other boy had a stocky build and a mean personality. He and a gang of his friends were the school bullies and they kept isolating and terrorising some of us kids. They teased and mocked me incessantly and I didn't know what to do. I became very depressed, my grades worsened and I feigned illness to opt out of school. This gang operated as a pack and seldom made tactical mistakes that would have exposed them. They got away with murder. I've only retaliated twice in my defence. This boxing match on the playground was a result of one of those retaliatory moments, the other was when I was a bit older. The incident that led to the boxing match was one day when this primary school gang taunted me and tripped me up on my way to one of the classes. I fell hard, grazed my hands and knees and sent my things flying across the corridor. They just walked past and laughed at me. I lost it and punched one of them hard. He squealed to the teacher who then reprimanded me and sent us to the Principal's office. This overly stern man had a reputation of never listening to the children's case and either caned us boys or handed us over to the teacher in charge of physical training. He too was quite a sadistic man and dealt with these disputes by arranging a boxing match on the playground during the lunchbreak. What did I know about boxing? The first punch hit me on the nose and blood spurted everywhere. I staggered and fell to the ground dazed and embarrassed. The bullies had won and I hated them even more. The other time I retaliated was with this same gang who had graduated with the other kids to high school. One afternoon, I was returning home on my bicycle and these thugs cycled around me like flies. They were abusive and ugly in what they said and one of them tried to kick me off my bike while the others grabbed at my satchel and shirt. I didn't interact with them and kept on riding up the hill as fast as I could until the group of us reached the traffic junction where I had to wait for the cars to clear before I could cross the road. This gave them further opportunity to taunt me some more. One of them unscrewed the top of my bell and threw it into the gutter. I'm longsuffering and tolerant to a point but push me over that boundary and I snap. In that state, I see red, I have no control over my actions and I act instinctively in a reactionary way. Jumping off my bike, I ran towards the kid who had trashed my bell and as he saw me coming for him, he abandoned his bike and made a dash to escape. They had pushed me too far and I picked up his bike and rammed it against the stop sign pole which caused the bike's metal frame to buckle badly, such that he could no longer ride it. That solitary act was enough to dissipate my rage. Pumping with adrenalin, I picked up my bike and bell and cycled home. The boys didn't flinch. For a moment, they knew better and let me be, except for the kid whose bike I had bent. He was in a rage but he didn't leave the safety of his pack. They lived much closer to school than I did and by the time I got home, my mother was waiting, ready to have me answer a whole lot of questions. I had mentioned some of the bullying to her but I had always played it down because I was worried that Mom would take it up with the Principal and that'd make my life hell forever more. Now that I had destroyed Gregory's bicycle, there was no way out but to give her the full picture. Gregory's mother insisted that we go to her house, apologise and pay for the bike's repairs. We went and, standing there on the stairs leading up to the house, Gregory's mother started to verbally lay into my mother. Gregory, now a pathetically weak boy hid behind his mother, crying. Mom let her finish. My mother backed me all the way, tearing a strip off of Gregory and his bad behaviour over the years. Gregory carried on crying and his mother had run out of words to say. Needless to say, Mom and Dad refused to apologise or pay for the bike repairs. Instead, they agreed to let the matter rest and to not bring it to the school's attention. I might have done it slightly differently but it is what it is.
This part of the dream left me sweating and anxious and then, in a flash, I was back in my tunnel of balloons and it dawned on me that each balloon stood for an opportunity that the universe offers. None of us can experience all balloons that came down the wormhole (there are just too many of them) but, if you are brave and courageous enough, you could explore lots of them. Choosing a balloon is tricky because you can't tell from its shape and colour what kind of experience it contains for you. These balloons were a little like the lucky-packets we bought as kids and this is how real-life experiences come to you — full of unexpected surprises. The universe continuously offers you a stream of opportunities but most of us close our eyes and choose not to see them drifting by. When you take up an opportunity, you don't really know what sequence of events that experience holds out for you. Some opportunities end tragically while others yield massive amounts of enthusiasm, fun and joy. The balloons are very eye-catching and seductive but there is no way of knowing what they hold until you pop them and embrace the experiences they contain.
My old Scottish grandfather once called me aside and said he had something to tell me.
"Yes Grandpa, what is it?"
"Every now and then a strange man will knock on your door. Do you know who he is?"
"No, Grandpa, who is he?"
"His name is Mr. Opportunity. Every now and again, this man opens an opportunity for you to explore. Invite him in and take the risk because, if you do, your world will be filled with rich experiences. Do you understand, my boy?" I nodded. "He can arrive at any moment, day or at night. Be ready for him. He'll tell you what he's got for you and, even if you feel scared to try it out, find the bravery and courage to give it a go. If you turn him away, it'll be a missed opportunity and it might never come your way again."
My grandfather wasn't asking me to be reckless and to take unnecessary risks that could harm me but he was suggesting that I be brave and courageous. He and my parents had taught us the signs of potential abuse and danger, like, "Never get into a stranger's car" and, "Never, ever let anybody touch you on your secret places." These were very well drilled into us kids and there was one occasion where a learner driver mounted the pavement while I was walking back from school and she drove into me. I remember lying there on the pavement, concussed and confused. Her and her mother were trying to lift me up and place me in the car because they probably wanted me to see a doctor, but I was having none of it and screamed in protest. They left me lying there and ran for my mother, just a few houses away. Grandpa's advice however, was about very different kinds of experiences and I knew exactly what he meant.
The dream brought about another realisation too. There is a part of us, symbolised as me floating inside the wormhole, that stays detached and is unaffected by the experiences we have in life. Some might call this part our Spirit, the Observer or the even the Inner Godhead. This part playfully chooses your experiences and allows them to happen to you. However, the part of your awareness caught up in the drama of the experience is not the same aspect of consciousness that chose the experience. These two parts are very distinct and separate aspects of your being. None of the experiences ever effect Spirit and it always relishes the moment when it can choose another balloon. The drama of the experience deeply affects the human part of you. Depending upon the nature of the experience, that part will become terrified, anxious, angry or, if the experience is a pleasant one, it'll feel elated, joyous and uplifted. It's like a person experiencing all the emotions of a rollercoaster ride with all of its twists, turns, ups and downs, while your friend stands over there with feet on the ground, watching every move yet not being affected by any of it.
When the part of you that is in the experience gets a chance to choose balloons, it'll err on the side of caution and may not want to choose anything at all. You may be one of those people that are slightly neophobic who prefers predictable events over the wild, spontaneous ones. If this is your nature, you will be unlikely to go bungee jumping, do skydiving, travel alone to unfamiliar places or meet and turn strangers into friends. If you let Spirit choose the experiences for you, you'd be like the group of young trainee Buddhist monks who build a large kite which they flew from their home in the Himalayan mountains. One day, they coerced one of the smaller boys to stand inside the kite's box frame and ride it up into the sky. It worked well for a day or two and then, one day, a huge gust of wind picked up the kite and smashed it into the side of the mountain, killing the young Buddhist monk inside. "Oh, what a fun way for him to leave his body," the other boys concurred as they travelled back home to the monastery to tell the Abbott. Their belief in reincarnation was so firm that they never once considered the boy's death as their fault. They assumed he had chosen a balloon having an experience containing his physical death and they seemed quite happy that he'd chosen to leave his body this way.
Why then is that part of us, figuratively floating in the space/time vortex, choosing our experiences? Well, every experience you have had throughout your life, regardless of whether it had a comic or tragic ending, always brought with it a little wisdom. You cannot trade wisdom and the only way to get some of it is through your experiences. The playful, floating part of you there in the spiritual wormhole, chooses experience after experience and life after life, each bringing a rich understanding of your true self. When you are amid a tragic experience, ask yourself, "Which part of me is having this experience?" It is highly likely that it is the human part of you that is shying away from tragedy because it is too difficult to endure. And, it is also this part of you that craves the fun side of life because it feels safe and uncomplicated. Yet your spirit remains indifferent, in its holy way, to any of the things you undergo, comic or tragic. When you find yourself in one of these experiences, try to align your thinking, not to your human side, but to your spiritual one. Then ask yourself, "What is it that I can learn from having had this experience that I could not have learned any other way?" The quicker you find and integrate the wisdom from the experience, the sooner the experience fizzles and ends. Think of the countless balloons you have popped in this lifetime and consider the amount of wisdom you have taken from them all. However, you have been floating out there in the spiritual wormhole for a very long time and you will continue to do so for a while longer yet. Imagine the infinite wisdom you'll gain from all of this. All you need is to muster the bravery and courage to ride your experiences.
Why though in the dream was I naked? I interpret nakedness in this context as 'stripped of all external identity.' Spirit, while being formless, is as naked as it can get. An oxymoron? Possibly. But I see this sort of nakedness, not as a defiant, rebellious statement about the reality of my physical self, shed of its outer covers, but as the untarnished, uncluttered, what-you-see-is-what-you-get spiritual self at a very different level of being. We may dress up to hide our naked bodies from each other but I doubt that God sees us as anything but naked. He sees us only as He created us.
There is another intriguing aspect to the symbolism of the wormhole dream. It is, "Why was I endlessly hovering in only one spot in the tunnel and not moving forward into my future?" The answer to the question about not moving through space and time, as we are presumed to do, was a bit obscure at first but it came to me after a while. I was hosting a Bhagavad Gita retreat some years ago and we were discussing time and space, especially from a spiritual point of view, trying to reconcile it with the Gita's teachings. I remember drawing a typical horizontal timeline on the board and I marked the middle of the line and labelled it with the word, 'now,' representing this present moment in time. To the left of it, I wrote the word 'past' and to the right, the word 'future.' At the two extremes of the line I drew an infinity symbol, denoting that the line extended out infinitely in both directions. This is a common way to represent time and I suppose that we adopted it because of the number line where we represent positive and negative numbers centred about zero. George, one of the retreat attendees, asked why I had shown time this way because it posed a couple of challenges to the way the Gita spoke of time. The group pondered how else we could draw time and came up with a couple of nifty alternatives. One of them was to draw a tiny dot in the centre of the board and label it with the word, 'now.' Everything else in the tree-dimensional space around the dot, was labelled 'not now.' If time is a relative thing, as Einstein suggests in his theory of relativity, then somewhere elsewhere in the universe, past and future might overlap and in the world of pure, formless, spiritual consciousness, past and future could vanish altogether, leaving only the present moment of now. The trouble with drawing the horizonal form of the number line is that it doesn't help us understand what we mean by 'now' because 'now' is an imaginary, non-existent interface where past and future meet. The 'now' cursor travels at a constant pace into the future and this schematic representation of time implies movement through time. With a missing, imaginary 'now,' how are we supposed to follow the sacred advice of 'being in the now?' What gave us a different perspective on time at the retreat, was a television advertisement at the time, depicting two adventurous teenage boys on top of a domed mountain where the wind blew strongly and continuously. These boys clamped their bare toes onto the rocky surface, stretched out their arms and leaned, precariously into the wind which supported them at a precarious angle. It was an impressive balancing act and it offered just the right clue as to how we might represent time differently. What if the wind blowing against the boys symbolised the future? The boys weren't moving through the wind. They stayed stationary atop the mountain and the wind blew passed them. They were in the 'now,' ever present and they played with the wind with joy and excitement. It is perhaps possible that time moves past us while we stay still. I've pulled up once or twice next to another vehicle at the traffic lights waiting for the lights to change when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other car creeping forward. Instead of seeing what was actually happening, I interpreted this movement as though I was rolling backward and instinctively pressed down on the brake pedal even harder. If time moves past us and we are stationary, it would create the illusion of us moving through time. Whereas, in reality, we, like the boys on the mountain, weren't moving at all. We could then say that we were always in the now. 'Now' would then be an ever-present moment of stillness with time rushing by like the wind blowing past the two young boys. It seems proper then, that I should not be moving through the wormhole in my dream but stayed hovering only in one place. Opportunities, like the wind, drifted past me and the ones I missed would be lost forever behind me.
Lucid dreams intrigue me and many of them happen to me during that magical, transitional state between being awake and falling asleep. Sometimes they happen in the morning when I'm only half awake, lingering a bit in bed. This dream of mine happened a long time ago but it stuck with me and it has positively influenced me to take many calculated risks. I've done lots of crazy things, like: skydiving, bungee jumping, flying my microlight and presenting this show, a risk I took nearly a year ago at the age of 64. I urge you to play with life and be aware, there are a few things that could go wrong, death being one of them, but, like the young monks flying their kite in the mountains, I believe that life doesn't end with death. It continues in repeating cycles until we learn what we came here to learn. Go and pop your balloons!