This morning, I had a dream that I was a dog. I was aware as I was walking around that I was in ecstasy most of the time, but there were these moments when I was angry and barking. I was speaking to someone, and saying, I came back here to work out the last of this futile anger. I’m here to release this last bit of deep worldly emotion. This will be my last life on the planet.
I’m not sure why I gravitate toward the idea of reincarnation. Intellectually, it seems a little too neat of a situation, that we keep coming back in order to educate the soul until the day comes when we see clearly, when we clear out all the baggage and let go the human-ness that holds us back from enlightenment so we don’t have to come back anymore.
I don’t know why, but I just can’t help it. I don’t remember not feeling that this was the way the universe works. As a young child, I would have dreams of grown-up situations, streets that had no place in my reality, worlds that a 4-year old Southern California suburban girl with limited television access could not have invented. There were strangely familiar urban environments, clearly furnished rooms, characters and situations populating my reality and I don’t know where they came from.
Back then, I was a bad sleeper. I would wake in the night and walk through the house, making sure nothing was on fire, nobody had died. I was worried and afraid of the dark. I’m still scared of the dark. I can spook myself easily and when I’m home alone the lights in the house are blazing. When I was very young, I developed a technique to help myself sleep that I have used throughout my life. I would start at the top of my head and just try to relax every part of my body all the way down, noticing every bit, trying to feel it in my mind, working my way down, often not making it to the feet before I would fall asleep. At my first meditation retreat, when they taught us this exact same technique over the course of 10 days, I recognized it as something I already knew.
I love to think of our microbiome, and how we are each a map of living bacteria, some of which can attach to our DNA and, in a sense, travel through time. Maybe these things I knew as a child were just cellular memories of my ancestors, bacteria releasing deep memories of my great grandparents’ experiences into my consciousness. When I participated in a past-life regression in my early 20s in an office building in lower Manhattan, the two lives I experienced were of a Native American woman and a Scandinavian man. I have both of these ethnicities in my immediate family history. I like to think when I was dreaming these supposed “past lives,” that it was just my bacteria remembering, firing off these old memories through the dark channels of my biology.
From the time I was a child, I have had ecstatic experiences of the self falling away and being bathed in a feeling of oneness and pure bliss. Intellectually, I see these moments as an imbalance of chemicals and hormones in my body. Maybe my face was buried in the pillow and I was sleeping so deeply it was triggering an experience of oxygen deprivation. Maybe I was over-tired and my neurotransmitters released some chemicals to soothe me. Maybe I am just a bag of muscle and potion and the balance is fraught with happenstance and coincidence. Maybe my search for enlightenment is being generated in my temporal lobe, and it’s all just chemistry.
In the twilight of my mind as I woke from the dog dream, the idea of reincarnation was again around me. I saw my life from a distance. I asked, if I am an infinite being, why did I come back to this planet as a suburban white girl in California, blandly following her passion for music in a tribute band, happy in love, happy in life, never too much of anything. Moments of oneness, moments of falling away of the self, but then always coming back to live this very simple and relatively uneventful life.
It sort of fell on me through the quiet of the morning. I think what I’m here to learn is that enlightenment, the beautiful moment that the monks in Tibet experience, the moment that the Buddha experienced sitting under the tree saying, I am going to sit here until I fall into the infinite self, can come to anyone. Each being is the face of it. Here I am with the sum of my life, being born and my family and my schooling and my friends and my career and my income and my struggles and my sorrows and my passions and my emotions and I am exactly as capable of enlightenment as the guru on the mountain with the matted hair and the beatific expression. I don’t need to do anything to be it. I am it.
I see my self in my childhood bedroom, the small boxy room with the cleanly painted walls and the carpeting and the light through the white blinds and the dresser painted blue and the drone of the lawn mower outside the window and my family somewhere; a little body in a box on a planet spinning through the solar system and the galaxy, floating in millions of years of time, and I am as enlightened then as I am now. Underneath this ego, underneath my mind and all my intellectual volleyball is this infinite expanse of consciousness that animates all of my reality. I am the dark matter and the dark energy and the entire biome of the universe rests in me. I am here to learn that it doesn’t matter, the face of it. I am the infinite love of the universe. It doesn’t matter what I think is happening, reincarnation or dust to dust. It doesn’t matter if this is the only time or one of a thousand times I am to be here. I contain it all.
Now I’ll get up and go into my day, go to the recording studio and worry out a song that this incarnation feels compelled to put into the atmosphere, love up my people as I encounter them, get ticked off at San Francisco drivers as I make my way across town, worry about the future of the country and the planet and humanity, feel the sorrow of the broken souls on Sixth Street and lock my car when I get out to go to the bank. When I remember, I will take a breath. I’ll watch it travel from my head to my feet, sink underneath this Clementine person who has been set here for some undisclosed reason or purely by accident, and expand into the bliss of knowing that we are all enlightened, that we are all walking infinity. Even this corny Southern California suburban-born tribute band drummer.