A week and a half or so (maybe two weeks) after arriving in the jungle I felt like I had already been there for months and my return to "normal life" was an eternity away. One of the last few days in the wild it suddenly hit how what had seemed like an impossible dream had become a reality so solid that it seemed to have always been there. Now it seems to be slowly fading out of existence leaving behind only the knowledge and memories. Due to the experience being so different from my normal life, I might as well have been on another planet. It's like a dream except I have my journal, photos, tattoo and souvenirs to certify that this indeed happened.
Hinduism states that life is a lucid dream but most of us perceive a difference between dreams and "reality". What separates the two? Persistence of a repeated environment produces a pattern that becomes what we accept as reality. Should your environment suddenly shift, it can feel like you are in a dream and that's how many people describe incredibly powerful experiences like witnessing a terrorists attack, meeting their hero or being in a foreign country. It's when something happens that seemed like a major incongruity with your expectations. The radical differences between "worlds" are hard to reconcile except through self-assurance of what we have previously experienced and believed to be real.
A popular aphorism states that "time heals all wounds" but this is inaccurate. Time and distance are figments of our imagination yet they keep us bound to the past. If there is no real time but the present, then all of time is contained in it. What heals wounds is a change in perspective which we erroneously believe requires time to gain distance. If you choose to sit staring at your pain, no amount of time will act as a salve. Gaining a new perspective doesn't require any time to speak of, it only requires you being open to the unknown. I used to work a job that involved being inside people's homes most days and it never ceased to amaze me how different everyone's lives are. A change in perspective may only require going a few streets over, spending time with your next door neighbor - or even just reading an article on your computer.
All of us are simply a different pair of eyes, a unique perspective in an infinite consciousness experiencing diversity for the sheer joy of creating. If you allow yourself to put the day to day reality on pause and realize each moment is what you make it to be, life begins to feel like a dream you are awake and making choices in. Experiencing this odd juxtaposition has been like taking a hammer to the glass walls of a snow globe screen on which is displayed that thing we call the world. As I passed through the broken shards, what I experienced on the other side was the product of long held dreams. Now being back in the world that has been my prevailing reality for thirty-three years, it's like the broken screen has been trying to glue itself back together to obscure what is beyond whispering "this is what your life is". Except that I'm not buying it.
If the only thing separating "reality" from dreams is repetition then you would probably be convinced you lived in two worlds if you had a reoccurring lucid dream with a persistent set of environmental factors every time you "drifted off". What we perceive as real is constructed by maintaining a belief long enough that it becomes engrained in our subconscious neural pathways. It's hard not to live in the past because it has cut deep grooves to slip into and ride the familiar song. We hold so tightly to our perspectives out of fear of the unknown that we stop ourselves from growing. I can sit here and talk for the rest of my life about all the things I've done in the past or I can accept the infinite potential of the universe and know that anything is possible. Yes, going to Peru was a dream that seemed insurmountable but it was no more a dream than where I currently reside. What we focus on is what our lives become because focus comes from values derived from belief. Repetition of belief is reality.
There is no reason to be sad about chapters of life coming to an end unless your belief system is intertwined with an inflexible vision of yourself. Each new experience should reveal / reflect more clearly who you are which intrinsically is unrelated to current conditions (gold is still gold regardless of market value). Most of my life has been far out on the fringes of what many would call normal (whatever that means). As I've grown into adulthood, I've spent a lot of time feeling like I was on another planet. As icing on the cake, I've had several volunteer experiences over the years lasting 1-4 months, that provided an even further fringe perspective. Each time I got out of my unusual, though personally standard environment, I was faced with new challenges and potential for growth. As a teenager I remember feeling like I would grow and then return to my parents home only to step back backwards into the role I was expected to play. What I didn't realize is that I was allowing this regression to happen because I felt I had no control over my environment or more to the point - I hadn't absolved myself of many core beliefs.
Walking out of a large house set for a TV show the other day I felt like I saw an overhead view of myself and all the rest of the crew milling about like ants. "We are all actor just like Shakespeare said" I thought. "I'm fulfilling a role just as much as the actors are but with no scene breaks". If we choose our lives before they happen, it's like an actor giving permission before filming for another actor to hit them during the scene and then having their memory wiped. Without the memory of previously granting permission, the slap delivered during the scene will probably feel like an assault instead of acting. We lead these lives to learn things but we are never powerless. At least for me, part of this learning process has been that I am the actor, director and editor - I've always had a say but I was too afraid of the consequences because I lacked confidence in myself. Being thrust into an unfamiliar environment reveals a lot about you but it's up to you to determine what happens with that knowledge. Do you believe in your dreams even though they may have seemed real but now feel distant and vague?
The challenge I have accepted is not to dwell in any place but the current moment full of infinite possibilities. A guided meditation I've used says "let the past turning into wisdom" which I really like. While I may encourage myself from time to time with memories, the more vital endeavor is to allow my belief system to be changed based off the experiences gleaned. Our memories are fickle things subject to the whims of perspective but who we are at the core, as it is revealed by life more fully - that is where truth and dreams come from. Focusing on yourself is not selfish if it is in the light of oneness knowing that if you feel something, it's what you are putting out there or have previously agreed to. Self-absorption and narcissism are products of a solitary, I-am-an-island mentality which leads to pain being prolonged. Pain filled folks usually have a long list of wrongs done against them that they would love to tell you about. Jesus said "only that which comes out of a man defiles him" which makes me think of the whole "the universe is a reflection of you" concept. When you view yourself as something separate in a world you are out of control in - self focus results in self pity and self hatred.
Peru is fading and I can hold onto this experience and milk it till the udder wears out, or I can take the knowledge and allow it to change my reality so that each dream becomes permanent (or at least till the next dream). Wake up in your dream and then keep dreaming.