Twenty years ago I had a dream in which I stood in a long hallway lined with many doors. Behind each door that I opened stood the same aged man. I thought him to be a Wise Old Man although we hadn’t actually spoken to one another. After I’d opened and closed all the doors, the man came out into the hallway and offered up his name as Chogyam Trungpa. He explained that he was my husband’s “ordained teacher,” but that he (Trungpa) was having a difficult time convincing him of this. He intuited that this was the result of my husband’s displeasure over seeing the same person behind each door. I agreed and explained to him that my husband likes variety and the repetition of seeing the same person behind each door could only serve to irritate him. Trungpa laughed heartily and said, “If your husband understood the multiplicity of my true nature, he would know that I only appear to be the same person behind each door.”
The significant events preceding this dream are typical of the way that synchronicity works in my life. First, about six months before the dream, a psychology professor at the university I was attending told me about Naropa
Institute, a school in Boulder, Colorado that he felt would be the right graduate school for me to attend. My interest was piqued, but I didn’t investigate Naropa at that time, being busy with my newly acquired position at Wayne State University as a research technician.
A few weeks later, my cousin called from California, and suggested that I read Meditation in Action,
stating merely that it was written by a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. My job and the 200-mile drive between where I was living to where I attended the weekly meetings at Wayne State precluded my looking into the book as well. Several months passed before a friend also suggested that I read Meditation in Action
, this time stating the author’s name, Chogyam Trungpa. The second suggestion by my friend in Michigan to read the same book my cousin in California had recommended finally got my full attention.
Between my decision to read the book and actually reading it, I had the above- mentioned dream. I wasted no time in purchasing Meditation in Action, and discovered while reading the author’s credits that he was the founder of Naropa, the same school I had been gestating thoughts about attending for my graduate studies!
As the above story illustrates, our experience of inner reality and its external counterparts are intimately connected. I grew up knowing that the world I perceived with my physical senses was only a portion of total reality. As a child, inner space was where I integrated external experience with internal knowing. It was the safest space where I could incubate and protect my emerging selfhood. I knew the power of imagination and myth from the vantage point of being an active participant. My ‘childish’ ego and unconscious were connected in such a way that the energy from their union charged my life.
After years of schooling and taking in the cultural values of the West, I began to lose much of the natural intuition and imagination of childhood, replacing these with the skill of information gathering, ultimately becoming over-identified with ego. My study of psychology became a quest to understand the ‘science’ of mind according to the prevailing paradigm of the times: objective research and testing of neurological brain activity.
It didn’t take long before I began to look for some sign of spirit within the science of psychology and, finding it sorely lacking, started to wonder if I were even in the right field of study. It was around that time that I discovered the works of C.G. Jung and Jungian writers like James Hillman
, June Singer
, Barbara Hannah, Jean Houston, Thomas Moore, and bid farewell to the upholders of psychology’s behavioristic status quo, like the Cognitive Psychology professor who gave me an off-hand compliment after my senior presentation, “A job well done, Jenna! In spite of your reliance on the theories of Carl Jung et al.”
I never had the opportunity to attend Naropa’s Transpersonal Psychology Program because when my real life husband became sick and died of cancer the following year, I was thrown into the role of sole support of our young family. But the seed had been planted to learn in an atmosphere that combines the best of scientific method with ancient soul-making activities such as meditation, ritual, active imagination, story, dance, art, music, and dream and shamanic journeying. My vision of finding a graduate program where my multifaceted spiritual self could communicate with my lover of information self was fulfilled when I found Atlantic University’s Transpersonal Studies Master’s Program 12 years later.
From this future perspective, I feel that I can interpret the opening dream and the synchronistic events leading up to it as guiding me into contemplative practices and the transpersonal work I love. I’ve finally found satisfaction for the longing to combine spiritual awareness and psychological studies in a way that mere scientific research and collecting of concepts and ideas never could.Ciao,