By Steve Priester
When the opportunity to attend an international spiritual conference on the mystical island of Crete came into my life, I wasn’t sure what to do. Whenever I considered going, ego was busy telling me “You’re too old, the trip costs too much, you’ve never traveled overseas, you’ll be way outside your comfort zone…” When I meditated and asked Spirit for guidance, all I heard was the quiet whisper, “Just go…” After much deliberation, I chose to listen to Spirit, follow my intuition and dismiss the chattering mind.
International travel can be a bit disconcerting—everything from a different language and currency to a seven-hour time shift and culture shock. But some things never change. On my first morning there I was meditating on my veranda, which faced a bay of the Aegean Sea to the east.
While waiting for the sun to clear the mountains, I noticed that when my eyes were open I was on Crete—but when I closed my eyes to meditate, nothing had changed! The same “me” that I always recognize and am familiar with was there.
However, the “movie reel” had been switched, because when I reopened my eyes, I was watching a foreign film without subtitles. My thoughts immediately flashed back to Zen class, where my mentor used to refer to life as a “movie.” The Buddha spoke of life as an “illusion,” while A Course In Miracles teaches that life is a “dream.” Was it really possible that this experience of life is a dream? It sure seemed so at the time.
Several other experiences on Crete had me wondering. We have all heard that linear time is an illusion, that all we really experience is the “eternal now.” If time is not illusionary, then where is yesterday? If yesterday was real, then where is it now, except in our memory? Six years ago I experienced a moment of stunning peace when my Spirit Guide called my name: “Steve.” Just one word, spoken with the most beautiful voice I had ever heard, and yet a voice that I somehow recognized. And at that very moment, everything stopped—no action, no sound, a true freeze frame of life—it was as though the movie projector had suddenly stopped. Ever since that time, during meditation, I have occasionally asked my Guide for her name. It was not until I was in Crete, during a group meditation, that her name came through in a clear channel communication. When I arrived home and had the time to Google the unfamiliar word, I discovered that it is a female name of Middle East origin. The six year gap between hearing her voice and then seeing her name in my mind was really just a moment, just a memory, just a split second.
There is a famous fresco at the Palace of Knossos on Crete that portrays the ancient skill of bull leaping. To leap a bull in Minoan style requires much training, physical strength and courage. This is not like bull fighting, where the matador is armed and the bull is sacrificed; leaping is a skill that requires perfection, otherwise the result will be certain injury, if not death. There is even some question about whether this skill was ever practiced or was just a mythical feat. The trip to Crete was my own leap of faith. While not comparable in risk to bull leaping, it was nonetheless an act of courage and an experience that happened within the context of a dream. Yes, it really happened. However, only a few months later it now appears to have been a dream, because the time and circumstances cannot be relived or, should I say, replayed? The whole Crete experience can only be lived in the “now” but is remembered as a “dream.” The spiritual challenge in life is to see not only the past, but also the “now”— at the time we are experiencing it—as a dream too. This is the level of consciousness that the Masters achieved. When we have accomplished this task we are well on our way to a greater spiritual understanding.
We all know the nursery rhyme from the 1800s, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Children love the melody, but there may very well be a spiritual message in the verses. How many of us row gently downstream? How many of us try rowing upstream? How many of us row with just one oar and end up going in circles? And finally, how many of us take the leap of faith, raise the oars, and see where the stream takes us? If life truly is a dream, then all we need do is gently row downstream. However, if we believe that life is real, there is the temptation to start rowing upstream, and such resistance results in all kinds of suffering, problems and drama. Even going in circles can be a waste of energy.
For some of us the raising of the oars will not occur until the moment of surrender, when we find ourselves in a nightmare rather than a dream.
Enlightenment has been referred to as an awakening from the dream, a realization that everything in life is not as it appears. When we meditate and quiet the mind there is a knowing that much of what we witness in life has a sense of unreality to it. It is for each of us to determine where reality ends and the dream begins. Perhaps all we really need to know is the last verse of this popular rhyme:
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
Steve Priester was born and raised on the Minnesota tundra and migrated to Florida after retirement. He had no idea in 2007 that his spiritual journey would winds its way through A Course In Miracles, Zen and the mystical island of Crete. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.