– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

Winter Dreams

In the winter it gets dark very early. The world is a quieter place—as though the darkness hangs over us, muffling sound and bringing our voices to whispers. Or maybe we don’t want to disturb the dark. Is there something still about darkness? Why is the night hushed? I guess that’s when the world goes to sleep and begins to dream, and there is something very intimate about dreams which makes us want to protect them. In our night-dreams, entire worlds unfold inside of us. It is a baffling reality which we find words insufficient to describe when we awake. Sometimes, if our recollection is strong and the dream was powerful, we discover something new and important about ourselves. Emotions come to the surface, even as we make our beds and pull on our clothes and get ready for the day, because we hold on to that very real thing that came out of our dream. What that very real thing is, I can’t say. Sometimes it may be an ache of longing for someone you once loved, and still do love—it’s the surprise of still feeling love that shakes you up. Other times, it may be the shock of realizing our vulnerability, our fleetingness—of realizing that the people surrounding you today will not always surround you, at least not in body, and so you must understand there’s no time to waste in showing them how much you care. There are times when a dream is strong enough to leave a physical impression, and you wonder how a sensation borne of a dream could feel so real. But, then, you realize—it is real in its way. What gives life to the body but the spirit within? It’s not too surprising, after all, to think that a longing of the heart, a germ of thought planted in the imagination, could be felt in the whole being, the feelings and physical senses included. Of course, sometimes the content of our dreams can be misleading. It would be absurd to apply a straightforward, or even a serious, interpretation to everything of which we dream. But we can shake out the wheat from the chaff, and sit quietly with the underlying meanings. If a dream prompts us to love more, or warns us not to take life for granted, then it would be foolish to throw aside the lesson. Dreams, ironically enough, are a wake-up call, rousing us to something greater or deeper by uncapping our senses and letting us feel and imagine in extreme ways. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves permission to fully engage our senses while we’re awake, and they—our senses—get bored and restless and then take their exercise while we sleep. Dreams can be friendly to us—a help, a guide to seeing in new ways. But they’re not meant to take us away from reality altogether. We can’t spend our whole lives sleeping, and the person who wants to crawl under his covers and escape the day by dreaming more, has neglected to see the beautiful value in his dreams. For, you see, dreams can’t, and shouldn’t, replace reality. Instead, they make reality richer and fuller. Dreams show us something of impossibility—and this is a precious gift to us when we awake, because believing in the impossible is the stuff of hope—and it is hope which carries us triumphantly through our day.

Writing, Truth, and Desire

Writing is a way for the truth to slip out. Sometimes the truth is knocking at our rib cages, dying to say its piece, but our obdurate minds, tied up in logical merry-go-rounds, don’t give it the time of day. That’s why, in writing, sometimes the logic is of a whole other sort: almost fantastical, as if it comes from another world. But the inner kingdom of the heart is, you could say, another world: defined by tenderness and truth and quiet simplicity. So different from the light chatter that goes back and forth inside the skull, trying to lead you to truth, but in fact taking you on a dizzy stroll through the labyrinth, and never making so much impact as the small, quiet voice of the heart, which seems to go straight to the core of your being, from which it emanates. The Bible says of God: He has a “still, small voice.” And this is so. God dwells in the innermost parts of our being—where no falsehood can exist. The utter silence is something that both contains and surpasses words. It has no need of saying things in a particular way because it says everything at once. That’s just an imprecise way of describing it, but I do believe in the mystery of God’s coming. His mystery is something so beautiful that should never be forgotten or put aside—as I’m afraid some people do with it. Mystery is something that eludes us, that can’t be encompassed by our finite grasp. Which is a perfect thing, after all; because we will never be satisfied with something we know fully, to all its borders and perimeters. The thing that draws us, the seed of attraction, lies in the unknowable. Because in not knowing, we are opened up to a vast terrain—and that is the only really acceptable thing. We can’t be convinced or liberated or inspired by a limited view of God. Expansiveness is a sign of truth, I think.

On the subject of desire: desire is an essential thing. How can we accomplish anything worthwhile—I mean, to the heights of its possibility—without it? Please let me never be a person who kills desire and tries to live without it—how dreary, dull, and dead! I think there’s a fear of desire, because, oh dear, desire might be a sin, or my desires might not be the will of God. I’ve gotten all tangled up in this way of thinking many times. But it doesn’t get me very far; and in fact, if it gets me far, it gets me far in the wrong direction. It is good to desire a oneness with God; but to always decide from a place of fear—I’m afraid it might not be God’s will, I’m afraid this desire is not true, I’m afraid I don’t really know what I want, I’m afraid that my feelings aren’t as trustworthy as my mind—is not helpful. And when you get so far tangled up in doubts that you’ve begun to mistrust your heart’s desire, you do yourself a terrible disservice. Because the desire of your heart is one of the most perfect gifts you have been given. It is truly the key to your whole being, the place where dreams are born and the energy for good actions is summoned up and sustained. It makes a person warm with life—not cold with unfeeling. And I don’t ever want to be cold—I think that’s one of the worst adjectives you could ever apply. Don’t confuse shyness with being cold; for one can be shy, and timid and slow to open herself, but still a very warm and generous soul. To me, coldness implies a life shut off from other lives; a severing of the natural tendency of limbs to reach out, to touch—and therefore a slowing of the blood, because the blood has no person to run toward, no body to warm. Warmth is the stamp of vitality; to be cold is the mark of death.

We all have desire, though. It is part of our blueprint. It can’t be eradicated, though it can be covered up and tuned out. After many years of burying desire, a person might need to strip away many things. The detritus might be thick. But always, the desire remains; and it is always possible to uncover it; because that is our purpose, what we are intended to do—and if something is truly our purpose, we are given all we need to accomplish it.

This means that a cold person is never absolutely cold. There is the possibility of warmth in her depths. If she clears away the unnecessary things—which she thinks are there to preserve her—and opens a few doors and windows, bringing in the light—then life can begin to flow. Life’s natural instinct is to flow and move and connect, and when the clutter is swept away, and the impediments are removed, life will move again as it has always known how to do, and always will.

Dwelling on Good

It is much better to dwell on the good things. I guess the reason is that You, God, are all goodness. Goodness and love are your being, and nothing else can exist in You. In this sense, goodness is a positive entity—a real thing. Ugliness, shame, anything that is not good, that is bad—there is a trace of unreality in it.

How to dwell on the good? What is good? The fall day is beautiful. Blue, blue sky and colored leaves. Cold breeze makes you feel brisk and alive. Friends exist even when communication has been stinting. Friends are happy to reunite. There is a whole lifetime of good reading that lies ahead, and the possibility of knowing and loving and imagining more. The power of the imagination is not lost. It is fully recoverable—an inborn talent, simply in need of exercise. Emotions are infectious—not only the downtrodden ones. Smile inside and smile without—a transformation of the inside reflects itself in some special beauty on the outside. The health of our bodies responds to the health of our souls and minds—they are interconnected, after all. Strengthen two and the last will bear up also.

A Record of Transformation

Why is it always hard to think of something to write when you actually sit down to do the writing, even though, moments before, your mind was teeming with thoughts?

It’s nice to reread old writings. I guess that makes for enough motivation to get some writing done—because I enjoy looking back and reading what came before. The past can’t be replicated, and it’s easy to lose track of the frame of mind you had at a given time, even if the concrete events and happenings can be recollected. Over time, you hope, you can observe an evolution of thought. The changes might be subtle, but they are there, and you can see the mind adapting and becoming flexible and taking new shapes and integrating new knowledge as the years pass on. Having a record of this transformation is a useful thing. It lets you know that you are growing and moving forward, after all. It also surprises you, sometimes, to see the calm equipoise and the insights you once had, and which are still very timely and to the purpose.

Stripping away the Unreal

There is a great joy—a light within—when reading a book like Circle of Quiet. Soul speaks to soul and there is a current of understanding—someone has put into words all that you have thought to be true without ever giving it more than a hazy translation in your mind. What a good thing, to see your desires, your joys, revealed to you—to discover what it is that makes life well up inside you and signal “this is the direction of truth.” After all, that’s all we have time for, following after truth. There’s no sense in bothering with untruths; they’re unsatisfying and they fall apart in the end. Sincerity is a quality that I am quick to desire in my relationships—my friendships and my first encounters with passing strangers. Sincerity, I think, is in the business of earthing out the real—and that is the aim, to throw off the detritus of unreality, of all that is nonessential, and strike to the core of being. That’s what we are called to do, when we are charged with making life “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” In Heaven, all beings—all souls—exist perfectly as they are, and each is revealed fully to each, but without an encumbering self-consciousness, since everything is communion, corporality, unity. The core of our beings is love, and anything that interferes with love must be stripped away.

Inner Voice

It’s very silly to tap into a part of the mind that deals in falsehood. It talks and blathers all night long and keeps you crazy all through the day, whispering lies that, if you took them seriously, would leave you all bundled up in a chrysalis of confusion—a total paralysis, I mean, in the act of reflecting on the self. Ignore the voices that confuse your sense of being and tell you that the fundamental things you thought you could trust in are lying on shoddy ground. These little devils of thought try to upset your peace by pulling at the very strings of the heart-core and flipping upside-down your notions of what’s really important. “You thought you knew yourself,” the voices say, “but you’ve been deceived all along.” Then they proceed to tell you some absurdity that would make you miserable if it were true—or, actually, it makes you miserable to consider precisely because it’s untrue. The tension between the truth and the untruth of a thing leads to bodily effects and you can feel it in your whole being, this clash between what reflects reality and what is merely a devilish confusion meant to lead you astray. Listen to the simpler voice that speaks to your inmost part. Joy is meant to be our lot, not self-fracture and distress.

Why shouldn’t I share the things I write? Is it vain to desire it? Why do I bother so much about vanity and the danger of being too caught up in the self? It ends up being more stifling than anything else. Why not acknowledge my humanness and say, Yes, um-hum, it’s fine and proper and very normal and even good to share the things you make. It’s all right to want affirmation and a sense that you belong. Why do I try to quash these things, believing them to be residue of fullness (rather than emptiness) of self? It makes for a difficult relationship with myself. I can’t keep trying to perfect myself all the while squeezing myself into nonexistence. It just won’t work that way!