Pastel Shells, Mark Rothko and Meditation

IMG_0773When I was around eight years’ old I had a dream so vivid that the images contained within it have stayed with me ever since. I dreamt that me and three of my friends—Eli, Michael and either Emily or Jessica—went through the door of the Year 7 classroom at our school. The door in my dream was exactly the same as the door in reality, a very distinctive dark hardwood frame filled with swirly, yellow, bubbled-glass panels. Yet when we crossed through the door and into the space on the other side, we were suddenly on a beach, but instead of sand or pebbles, the shoreline was made up entirely of pearlescent pastel coloured shells. The sun was setting over the ocean and everything was bathed in an extraordinary golden light and we could feel the closeness of the cosmos, as if there was no atmosphere separating us from the entirety of the universe. We played on the shore for what felt like hours and at the same time only minutes, collecting the beautiful shells, all the while the door hovering there in the distance, surrounded by pink clouds. I began to feel anxious about the sun setting and tried to encourage everyone to finish up what they were doing and get back through the door. I don’t know why I felt anxious, but for some reason I knew we had to return home imminently. As we finally stepped through, I remember looking back and seeing the beach begin to darken and feeling a profound sense of yearning not to leave. A moment later, we were back in the real world and the other three ran off, as if indifferent to our adventure. I, however, became sick with longing to return to that beautiful place. But the door was gone—there was a door there to the classroom, but it wasn’t the same glass panelled one. And as time skipped forward as it tends to do in dreams, my quest for the door continued, the finale culminating in me standing on a demolition site and finding the door on a pile rubble. I ran and opened it yet there was nothing but debris on the other side. My heart sank, the magic all but departed, and I wondered if it had ever been there to begin with. Then I woke up.

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern, gazing upon the Seagram Murals for the first time in about fifteen years. The quietude this room encourages, not just in hushed literal terms, but the stillness of mind it invokes, the dimmed lights and sombre tones that ease the eyes from the dazzling outside world, forcing one inward, seemed a rather poignant exercise for me given my recent sustained campaign of anger and stress. At first glance, my thoughts went to the all-seeing eye of Sauron, immersed in sulphurous gas, flames and darkness, but then as I let the images of the clouded frames wash over me, the dream which I had not thought of in some time, revisited me. Thoughts of toxic gas were then pushed aside and replaced with the heavenly glow of my twilighted beach, as if having trudged through Mordor, I now found myself stepping into the backdrop of a divine image of Vishnu.



Mawkishness aside, my being there in that room at that particular point in time, felt like the onset of a paradigm shift in my thinking. Something clicked over the proceeding days. I stopped hating the Doc so much, I ceased crying quite so extravagantly, I began enjoying my children more, and work and money matters seemed less overwhelming. It wasn’t as if anything had substantively changed, I just seemed emotionally more capable of putting everything in perspective. And even though that dream has been with me for years, it wasn’t until this point that it occurred to me to use it as a tool. Many a time have I tried to create a place in my head to retreat to, but the practice has always felt rather synthetic. The beach however, was a real place. Subconscious of course, but real enough in that it provoked genuine feelings as the result of having experienced it. Although, I’ve added some embellishments. There are no longer childhood friends with me—I’m utterly alone in the universe, but it is a comforting loneliness. The sound of the lapping waves intermingled with the  melody of Franck’s violin sonata in A major, as I gaze out at the darkening sky, filled with giant planets moving inexorably along their ancient trajectories. And for someone governed by a near permanent state of fizzing, bubbling rage, establishing a space such as this, is no mean feat.




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