74: Dreaming in Thai

74: Dreaming in Thai

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Dreaming in Thai

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

~Dr. Wayne Dyer

My mother passed away in March of that year. Because I had lost my father when I was only eleven, my mother and I were exceptionally close. She was both my mother and my father, my comfort and my security. Although she had been declining for several years, the loss was very hard.

Five months later, I received a “Dear John” letter from my older sister: Now that we don’t have Mom to keep us together, I don’t want to see you anymore. Goodbye.

Wow. That was out of left field. I had always believed that once my mother passed, my sister and I would be close. Even though we had never enjoyed an easy relationship, I hoped that without all the worry about our mom’s health, we might have a chance to enjoy each other in a more relaxed way. Now that was not to be.

The next year, my husband’s startup folded. What had been his dream ran out of funding. Suddenly, there was no paycheck coming in!

I was reeling. I’d lost security on all levels: my mother, my only sibling, and our income. I would wake with heart palpitations in the middle of the night. During the day, I was depressed and very tense. I started to worry about my husband and daughter’s safety and welfare. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my other two family members.

Over the next year, our circumstances slowly improved. My husband was offered a very good job in Los Angeles. Soon after, I started a new business that lifted my spirits. And I had the good fortune to win an international writing competition for my short stories. Things were looking up, but I still felt precarious, like I was on a tightrope. At any moment, it could all be lost.

Fast-forward two years. Even though our outer circumstances were on an upswing, and I was feeling slightly more peaceful, I was still anxious. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I realized that after my dad was taken from me, I stopped trusting the universe. When someone we love disappears, what’s to keep that from happening again?

My husband thought a trip to Thailand would be a good distraction and help me return to my old self — the happy-go-lucky Joan who trusted the universe. One of the things that attracted me to Thailand was that Buddhism is the main religion there. For more than twenty years, I had practiced meditation and worked hard to embrace being alive to the present moment.

Our trip to Thailand turned out to be great for me. I was truly beginning to feel moments of happiness.

The last stop of the trip was New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai where the holiday is celebrated with the Loy Krathong festival and the lighting of rice paper lanterns. Also on the special night, ordinarily locked inner chambers of the temples, called chedis, are opened to display sacred relics. Signs posted around Chiang Mai announced that monks would chant until past midnight.

On New Year’s Eve, we hit the streets right after sunset to gather with the throngs lighting lanterns. The idea was to “say a wish” with every lantern launch.

I rallied all my energy to set my intention, praying that on this special night a miracle would be possible: Keep my family safe and healthy, and please help me find peace and learn to trust life again.

We lit a half-dozen lanterns that joined hundreds of others to fill the sky with a warm, orange glow.

We wound through the crowded streets, ending up at the temple where the monks were chanting in the new year. When we arrived, a gentleman wound a piece of white yarn around the crowns of our heads. The yarn connected us to the large congregation. At midnight, fireworks and sparklers were set ablaze, and a monk struck a large brass gong with a huge mallet.

That night, I had this dream:

My husband Adam wanted to meet a man I knew who was a guru. I was hesitant to make the introduction because I’d heard that the man had lost his son in a motorcycle accident. I was afraid that the man might be a sad person. Adam pressed. Finally, the man appeared. He said: “I don’t know why everyone makes such a big deal about death. Life. Death. All the same.”

I woke up on New Year’s Day in Chiang Mai feeling that I had received an important Buddhist lesson. Even after one’s worst nightmare — losing a child, as the man/guru in the dream had — life still goes on.

This dream and its message (and maybe with a little help from those floating lanterns) filled me with an inexplicable peace. Of course, I want the very best for my family — and always will — but I no longer feel like I’m on that high wire, holding my breath. My anxiety has been replaced with a deep sense of trust. And every time I notice a hint of that anxiety tiptoeing back, I remember the guru from my dream and his acceptance that life and death are part of our reality.

~Joan Gelfand

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