The ‘Oasis’ of Self-Inquiry

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

Self-inquiry is so much more important now than I ever could have imagined. I take it so dead-seriously these days that I catch myself off guard.

I used to hear the term ‘journaling’ and scoff a little bit. Mostly because I didn’t have the time to do it (or so I told myself), but also because I was a bit jealous of these people who did have time and did take it so seriously.

Earlier in my life, I latched onto the idea and image of journaling steadfastly – I wanted so to be a writer, and how else would I get there then diligently writing the accounts of one’s own life, every day without fail? Duty bound to the written word, and eventually left with a large stack of journals and pen scratches as evidence. Credentials.

Yet inevitably, those old journals of mine from middle school and high school didn’t quite stick as a habit. I became bored with them and barely ever wrote in them regularly. But I was living in the outside world then – I was scribing my daily traverses, but of course it was boring: I was not turning my attention as inward as I should have.

The inward motion makes a difference; it moves mountains and carves universes. It is fluid and ever-changing. Reflecting on the outward side of things, without the inward motion, only reinforces tropes and boxes of cultural and personal constructs that are already evident.

Once I was in college and testing the waters of asking myself deeper questions through writing, journaling – or as I have come to call it, ‘personal essaying’ – finally found its proper niche in my life.

Writing in self-inquiry has taken its place as the rightful oasis it always was and could be. It is NOT the “palace of intellect” or “shrine to craft” like I assumed it was in my youth. No… it is much more modest than that, as it humbles yet enriches me every time I do it. To dip my pen in and drink deep of the waters I find, thirst quenched in surprise and awe, as I hadn’t realized I was parched in the first place.

In this way, self-inquiry is really, really important. And I want to stress that to all people I know and all people I don’t.

As you write, or think, or meditate, or talk your way through hard, tough questions, take care to not repeat the stories you’ve been told previously. Don’t regurgitate. Don’t just reflect back what the world wants and what culture has told you is important. Take the world and bend it through your most important lens – that of your heart.

Whose stories are you telling? And why? 

In a way, I think this sums up my budding interest in Buddhism, and how I feel about it a nutshell.

To me, it is applying self-inquiry to your life to root out those voices that are telling your story for you. That are whispering in your ear the script of what’s already been written; thoughts already outlined and feelings already validated.

Self-inquiry is a path, a road, to understanding and recognizing the true You that exists regardless. The true You that has always been there, the shining kernel at the center of your outward persona and self-constructs.

I want myself and my loved ones to ask these questions of themselves and look deeper, to know that luminous self underneath all the horrible muck that we tell ourselves. The muck that society / family / culture / friends / gender roles / media / and even their own inner critic (the most formidable voice among these) spews at them every day and in every moment. To see and recognize each of these voices and see how they influence our lives and our decisions. To see how these voices are not them. They are not You.

Whose stories are you telling? And why?

“Tell them stories” has always been one of my favorite  “this is the meaning of life” quips from a fiction book series that I’ve ever read, from the third book in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Phillip Pullman. This quote jumped out at me when I read it.  It was one of those truth-y moments that lies with you for the rest of your life.

Stories are a mainstay in our culture and they define us as humans; a unique attribute of our consciousness. And we have the power to harness and tell the stories that we want to tell.

So in a way, Buddhism to me is a vehicle of self-inquiry from which we gather and amass tools and skills to hear and tell the stories of our true self – to hear and tell the stories of the heart.

An oasis that lies within.

A Rejection of the ‘Reactionary Self’

Uncertain and quiet, I still just don’t know.

Lately I feel like I have no authority to be espousing my opinion on the internet, to post blogs, or even to write privately because I feel contaminated.

A deep-seated feeling of perpetuating something that’s not genuine. Of creating something that’s not bore of myself but merely a reaction of external and incongruous things. Something that in the end is just word garbage.

(And as I pointed out in my first blog post here, this was one of my prominent reservations that held me back when I started blogging.)

We all know that pure and unadulterated “reactions” are not always virtuous or the right idea/thought/feeling to hold onto or to emulate.

Perhaps this explains my relative lack of blogging and writing, perhaps not. But it does explain why I have started and stopped MANY different essays, none of which are posted here, and helps to explain why I never felt comfortable doing so.

A lot of my thoughts lately have resembled ‘rants’ of some kind and have been rather depressing and deflating to re-read (even to myself).

In a large sense, they are pure reactions to the pain and grief and anxiety and frustration of the people and situations that surround me and share this life. I’m mixed up in them and these myriad worlds of feeling right now, and therefore do not feel a ‘divinity’ or true connection to my writing space as of late.

The other ‘Me’ that catches words – not creates them.

When I’m writing for myself, I’m elated – because this means I have no agenda but to push my own buttons. But when the world is constantly pushing my buttons for me, I am stuck reacting to them and not my own. I have no thought energy or emotion left for the good stuff: The personal and inner journey.

This one takes effort, too. Much more effort than off-the-cuff reactionary thought.

And after crying and fretting at the news all day, sometimes I don’t want to delve down to the inner recesses of my being. I don’t relish opening up a crisp notebook with empty, white pages staring back at me.

Instead I just want distraction.

I think many of us are feeling this right now. Like a suffocation under chaotic clouds. Disbelief and bewilderment of the swirling, vaudevillian world we are suddenly witness to, manifesting before our eyes and before our children’s eyes.

But my inner voice keeps telling me that my reaction to all this is my choice – and that it is so, so, so important. I’m not sure how, but it is.

My heart swells and whispers to stop reacting and start Being. To stop getting caught in the swirl around me, and to create my own swirl. My own message. My own energy.

To connect to the message and energy that reside at the heart.

This or that tragedy. This or that anarchy. This or that doomsday proclamation of pressure and sadness. This is not you. It is not me. It is not Us.

This isn’t what we truly want. It’s energy gone wild. And I’m reminding myself – and maybe you – not to fall into it.

Be the rock in the swirl. The loving rock that observes and sees all things, accepts them as they are, and lifts them up to know the love that you feel so deeply. The love that exists so infinitely and without condition or borders or feelings or thought.

We are all so cataclysmically loved that we feel torn apart sometimes. But maybe that is ok.

The seams are coming undone. Power for power’s sake is getting ripped with cracks and slivers of truth, and is buckling under the weight.

We crave honesty. We crave connection and spirit. No more fakery. No more facades.

Feel the seams rip and love them all the same. Whether apart in pieces or together as a whole, we need to cover it all in love and fly.

The Promise

5

Zerian slipped out the back alley and into the throngs of mercantile shoppers and shopkeeps, many of whom were milling about during midday meals. He was nervous, but it didn’t deter him. It needed to be done, no matter what his mother had warned him.

Stay away from the Body Readers. They will not help you, only confuse you. They discarded the old ways in favor of the new. They will misdirect and mislead, and plant ideas that will not bear fruit. This is my only wish.  Promise me, Zerian? Please?

Zerian kept walking, playing their conversation over and over again in his mind. With a determined frown he justified himself to her.

“Mom, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. They can’t pull the lights out of my eyes. I will be vigilant – please trust me. I need help, I need second opinions…. and you’re not here.”

He shook off the last phrase. It wasn’t her fault she wasn’t here. He was here in Atuva-tera of his own accord.

She was the one who didn’t want him to leave.

*

“I need to do this, Mom, I know this is right.” They were on the side terrace of the small farm house where they lived. Zerian had been apprenticing with Sol for almost five years and had mastered everything he needed to know about the terrain, soil conditions, horticultural varieties and breeding the fruit varietals that enjoyed the sloping hills of Verasco. He needed another challenge – and Sol had presented him with a job opportunity.

It was sunset, and late summer. The air was thick and jeweled, and the sunlight held a deeper resonance than it did in springtime. A weightier glow.

A presence of possibility.

“Sol wants me to open a shop in Atuva-tera.” His smile and enthusiasm were not returned, and her eyes had widened.

He would continue on: “He knows someone who excels at sales, who has worked with him before. We can run it ourselves and stock with Sol’s goods. Isn’t this amazing?! This is just what I was talking to you about the other night! A new challenge – taking things up a notch. This isn’t what I was thinking it would be – but I’m going to do it.”

His mother had worn no expression. She had looked shocked and belied, for whatever reason. He remembers feeling disbelief. What mother would not want her son to be an enterprising business owner? To make a name for himself in a great city-state like Atuva-tera? Was it fear of his wellbeing? Fear of loneliness if he went away?

Sure, they lived alone on the small farm, but she wouldn’t be lonely – she had Peri and Dorvi nearby, and not to mention Lufan from the neighboring farm. Oh, how he would miss Lufan.

The minutes had marched by. She wasn’t responding. She had sat down at the garden knee wall, staring at the distant tree line. He remembered the sunlight haloing her shoulders, her green and gold aura swirling and catching its glimmer.

He remembers coming up behind her and giving her a warm embrace, and how she sobbed into his arms as soon as he did.

“I’m not dying Mom – please don’t act like I am.”  She sighed and laughed lightly, and set her hand on the side of his face.

“Right you are, dear Zerian. I’m just surprised. The day has come. I always knew you would never be happy staying here. I think I had convinced myself that this decision was not expedient.” She sniffled and laughed, hugged him tightly, and sobbed quietly into his arm again.

“Just promise me one thing. Please?”

“Anything Mom, anything.”

*

The canal and adjacent thoroughfares leading to the city center were bright and bustling with activity. He smelled the sting of salt water and sweat in the air as he walked. His shop was in the main shopping veranda – the market place proper, with the most competitive prices and best products from around the known world. A very desirable site, indeed – Sol had an excellent relationship with the city proprietor.

Out of the main business district, here by the sunny canal and green grasses full of horses grazing, there were smaller carts and merchants; restaurant stands were numerous, and offered soups and terrines and skewers of meat and greens galore. All of them competing for the mid-day shopper’s attention, kicking up a lot of noise and selling as hard as they could.

Zerian slipped by them without making eye contact. He walked along the canal for a bit before turning into an older and tighter part of the city, closer to the city center and closer to the temple and citadel. Here were the richer residents of the city, many of them a part of the governing body overseeing day to day operations of the city-state, and many of them also disciples, initiates, and students of the temple on high, the Temple of the Graces.

Zerian wasn’t in the mood to ruminate or sightsee in this part of the city that he had rarely ventured. He turned down a smaller alley, only wide enough for pedestrian traffic, and looked for the small gallery with red marble pillars and the distinctive banner on the outside. He had seen it once before, when delivering goods to one of Sol’s smaller subsidiaries.

The noonday sun was hot and heavy, and tugged his eyelids down. He was growing weary when he caught a glimpse of it: a white cloth with a sun, superimposed on the four cardinal directions and surrounded with an aura. The sign and banner symbol of the Readers.

His heart quickened as he started up the steps, drew a sharp breath, and silenced the promise to his mother.

Continue to Part 6 

Go back to:

Part 1 – Downed with Despair
Part 2 – Z+B I
Part 3 – Z+B II
Part 4 – Anava

Time & Existence: a quick manifesto

What is ‘time?’ Why do we perceive it linearly, when science tells us this is an illusion?

*

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. For a couple of months, actually, it has been consuming my thoughts.

I watched the series ‘The Fabric of the Universe with Brian Greene’ (which is streaming free on Amazon Prime, by the way! Drop what you are doing and watch!). Like the studious nerd that I am, I took notes and paused the episode frequently. I ruminated on it quite a bit.

Then I saw the movie ‘Arrival’ a few weeks ago and the concept of time has been on my mind nearly every day constantly ever since. (HIGHLY recommended)

*

So we experience time in a linear fashion, yet science tells us that time in its entirety is actually ALL being experienced in one moment simultaneously. Why don’t we experience time in this all-encompassing way? Why does it need to be linear for us?

This morning I read a theory/belief manifesto posted & written on Twitter (you can pop over to @amie_zor to get a glance) and this moved my theory needle quite a bit. Props to the original poster @PhilosopherK1ng!

This manifesto posited the stance that time as we know it is linear because we are moving more slowly. So slow, in fact, that this in turn allows us to perceive the linear-ness of the moments we are in – which if we were moving faster, or perhaps the better term is if we were existing faster, we would not be able to observe.

In order to perceive this “becoming-ness” and immerse ourselves in this 3D experience on this plane we need to move/exist more slowly in order to perceive the cycles. Better yet – we need to be a visceral part of the cycles. Hence – the human body.

*

I was thinking along these same lines a few weeks ago as I was ruminating on the cycles of nature. In the grand scheme of things, time and our reality is really recycled; therefore existing in one long, extended moment. In terms of atoms and molecules, there is no “death” – they just keep recreating themselves within transformation. The particles that make up our bodies do not leave upon the concept of “death.” They just transform themselves again into something new.

I was thinking about time and how trees and plants might perceive it. Trees grow so slowly – their lifespans easily eclipse ours in many cases – and I wondered what it would be like to exist in that state. Humans and animals scurrying about, the seasons cycling through quite fast in comparison to our own human perception.

Then I wondered if there was life out there that was even slower – or even faster. Like the mayfly, for instance: their life span might be just 30 minutes to 2 days. To them, humans must seem like trees or part of the landscape, maybe.

*

Then I was pondering the concept of sleep. Why is it that we need it so badly? That we need that recharge every night in order to operate so optimally in this world? It feels to me that we actually cannot sustain ourselves here without it – so it’s almost like the dream world is our real home. Our energy center, so to speak. Without it, we could not exist here. We need dreams and REM sleep in our lives, but we really cannot articulate why.

Perhaps the answer is that we cannot exist here without sleep because we cannot FULLY inhabit this waking plane of existence 24/7 because we are not preternaturally inclined to it? Perhaps we inclined to move/exist faster than is normal here, but we need to be ‘locked’ into our human bodies in order to live and perceive this experience. We need the ‘locking’ mechanism that is the human body and waking consciousness in order to see / hear / be here at all?

Without the human body, maybe we would perceive all of everything and inhabit all worlds and all times simultaneously – like we do when we sleep. Perhaps that is our true existence – but somehow it does not stick in our memory the same way as it does here in our plane of existence because it doesn’t adhere to the memory structure. Dream-time existence doesn’t move as slow as our waking consciousness, so our waking consciousness cannot hold onto these memories as well as it can when things are slower.

*

All this considered – this makes me reconsider space travel. I read an article discussing space travel, the ongoing search for exoplanets, and how the nearest one would take us nearly 75,000 years to travel to using our current fastest technology. Needless to say, we move / exist too slowly to conceive of traveling that distance in any perceivable way without artificial intelligence.

But if we could somehow unlock ourselves from our current body-consciousness – this perceived reality that moves slowly enough to appreciate and participate in the unfolding cycles of this world – perhaps we can move faster, and therefore this distance would not be an issue. Maybe we could just manifest ourselves to said exoplanet without issue, since we are perceiving time as one moment?

*

All theory, of course, but I love the puzzle pieces when they seem to fit – even if in fantasy. However, in my mind, fantasy is but the beginning of fact. We cannot go where we have not first imagined.

I will be reflecting much more on this subject and look forward to finding some additional reads that might catapult this further. If there are any readers out there with sources / books / podcasts / etc. that might add to this unwieldy thought-train, please share or add in the comments !

Happy Thursday friends ❤

Q+A: A Conversation with the Scales

Where am I?  I whisper into the night. Why am I here, in this place, at this time?

I wring my hands and crack my neck and stay worried all the same. Nothing feels grounded, nothing feels right about this place, this ephemera – this ME.

The constant swirl of dogma. The constant berating threads from social media and how EVERY fucking person needs to express to the world their feelings, and have them legitimized in some fashion.

And, of course, every single fucking person is RIGHT about what they feel because, well, it’s what THEY feel. WE don’t feel it, so how in the world are we supposed to tell them how NOT to feel it. Insensitive, right?

“Ugh.” Inner critic chimes in and scoffs at this thought. “These people are just expressing themselves. The problem is that every expression gets amplified and routed around like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. People will have opinions – this is fucking normal! – what is NOT normal is how we are bombarded with every single one at one time and then expected to nod our heads and tell everyone ‘I respect your viewpoint.’ Because we don’t, really. Not our inner selves. Not our heart.”

{ Inner critic has a point. }  Yes. I see it. So what about these other people’s opinions that we don’t respect? What’s going on there?

“If their opinions differ from yours, it will be a challenge – difficult even – to hear their side of things. You will have to exercise good listening skills and empathy –things that do not exist in great numbers! And are not supported or encouraged by social media and sound bite data streams. People these days listen to speak and react – not listen to learn. Listen to observe.

“But back to topic: you are certainly not going to agree with everyone – it will NEVER be Kumbaya and hugs all the time because there are billions of people with all shades and shadows of disagreement to what you think and what you believe. You will never find solace really.

“But somehow we convince ourselves that it is possible. That maybe – just maybe! – if we create a nice safe box to live in, where everyone looks and acts the same way, then we can finally be at peace. We can finally feel safe in our own skin and our own comfortable canon. But that’s just because people these days don’t know how to have disagreements with others and not feel existentially threatened. A shame really.”

Whoa, Inner critic. On a roll there!

“Yeah, well – needed to get that off my chest. Whew! Felt good. You’re not going to broadcast this on social media now, are you?”

What! And let this gem sit in a Word doc forever?

{ I am causing my Inner critic to deal with hypocrisy, and it makes me snicker so what the hell. }

*

{ But….. I linger on the conversation a bit. I can’t leave it alone. Picking the scab open further, I keep at it. }

So what was that part about not respecting people and that coming from the heart – what in the world does that mean? Because what I have been led to believe by my own heart-searching is that all people are of unfathomable worth and equal in the eyes of God. Why in the world would my heart not respect some of these people, brothers and sisters that share this planet?

“Oh I never said the heart does not respect the PEOPLE, I just said viewpoint.” Inner critic jumps back in with zealous rigor. “People don’t equal their viewpoint. Viewpoints change.

“But yet, to find a viewpoint that the heart truly and deeply disagrees with is a difficult one. I imagine the figure of Lady Justice inside of the heart, mother of the Fates, blindfolded and holding the scales and sword. That is her true home. If you weigh something against your heart and the scales don’t measure right, that is the sign that the heart will find it difficult to respect, because it will weigh against the heart of humanity. The wrongness will ring, and make it difficult to ignore.”

But….what? How do I know if this is the case? I am troubled by this train of thought, it sounds a little religious-right to me. Like, “I feel this is morally wrong because my heart/religion/God told me so, and so I cannot respect you.” A little bullshitty and hive-mind and not intellectually sound.

Inner critic pipes back, “Ah – but that is the hard part to discern. Was it truly the heart we are weighing against – or the words of man interpreted though another mouthpiece and mistaken as heart?

“If it is truly the heart, then you will know it as truth. If they are words you have heard or been reflected to from another source, then it’s not truly the heart. It might be something that aligns with your heart-logic, but it might also be something that aligns with your “safe little box” guidelines, and so they FEEL right. Heart-logic informed solely from mind-logic, which is easily influenced by “safe little box” logic. An erroneous place to start from. Remember that these visceral feelings are fleeting, and should not define a person.

“Also, you inferred that you cannot respect a person if their opinions offend your heart-logic; that is incorrect. They are still fallible human beings that are capable and deserving of love. Sometimes they know not of what they are doing. They just want to be safe in their boxes. And just because you don’t really respect their opinions doesn’t mean you can’t love them and hope they will find unconditional love for all beings.”

Yeah… sorry Inner critic, but I’m having trouble getting on board with radiating love to all people if they are spouting horrible hate-rhetoric, even if they “know not of what they do.” That sounds like it would feel weird and horrible.

“But it is not a silent love – it is a noisy love, a love in disagreement. Because you care. And it will feel weird and horrible maybe. But it will also weigh right against your heart and against humanity. “

OK, shit.

That is true. It feels true.

Thanks Inner critic for this dialogue. Didn’t know you were into love and stuff on top of questioning everything I do.

“Yes, I am 100% dialed in. And remember: if things are done in the name of good, but are detrimental or demeaning to others, then they are not wholly good. 100% goodness is a rarity. Just be comfortable with loving on your fellow people and doing it more noisily. Because you care. That is a wonderful goodness. Just be sure to self-examine once in a while to ensure you are not getting swallowed up in “safe little box” logic.”

Ok – but I’m an introvert sooooo…… can I love noisily on a blog?

“Oh absolutely.”

Wait – are you really my Inner critic, or are you a brand of heart logic that I wasn’t recognizing?

“You’ll have to weigh me against those scales and see where I fall.”
😉

 

Um seriously? A winky-face?

“I’m funny sometimes. Just you wait.”

Dismantled // Anointed

Wispy grey willows
Hang down from the stars

Ready to reclaim what
Once was now ours

Reaching and grasping
Down to our Earth

Whispering shadows
Of darkness and mirth

Enact into truth
Pushed out into light

We feel that something
Just isn’t quite right

Blessed to our people
We shake these lies down

And no longer perch
Upon Power’s great crown.

 

Anava

“I’ve been here before,” she whispered under her breath. She stepped through the rocks and moss and cushiony undergrowth carefully. The trees were gallant and tall. Birds chirped from far away and sunlight glittered through canopy cracks, trickling down to reach the dead leaves and rotting trees below. Familiar and foreign, the landscape seemed to welcome her with outstretched boughs and tiny twig-like fingers; reaching to embrace her and lead her home. It was a happy, unsettling feeling. Butterflies in her stomach.

“Wonderful,” a warm women’s voice said over her. “Now touch, interact, this place is only as real as you make it!”

Anava reached out her hand to touch a small fern growing beside her. The deep green leaves were soft and variegated into thousands of tiny jagged lines. Up and down the spine of the fern she moved her fingertips, savoring the feathery lightness. The leaves then began to sway in a light breeze – she looked to where it was coming from, the Northeasterly direction, and closed her eyes to feel the tiny swirls on her cheeks. “The wind started to blow just now. It’s heavenly,” she whispered again softly, as if to herself.

“I feel it too. And your prickly skin – it’s quite cold here!” The voice laughed, and Anava did too – yes, it was cold. She was feeling hot, so the cooler air was refreshing and felt so great on her skin. She smiled and held her hand out to the sky and wind.

“Exhilarating,” the voice stated. Anava smiled wider and nodded her approval. She had been waiting to come here, she finally decided. Or perhaps, this place was waiting for her. Either way, the feeling was mutual. It was as if a dream had materialized before her, a dream that had no discernment or shape prior – only a feeling. A puff of air on a warm autumn day.

This was the embodiment of a homecoming. She let it sink in, and tried to memorize it all. She might not ever return. In the space of a moment, she suddenly fell full of doubt.

“No – Anava! Stay with it!”

It was too late. Anava felt the trees start to crumble like cake washed away with the rain. The sun light faded, and the birds silenced. She opened her eyes in a jolt.

Rana was seated before her, eyes full of sadness and forehead furrowed. Her warm voice had been guiding her throughout the journey, but now she looked cold as ice.

“I’m sorry Rana, I  – I suddenly felt like I would never see this place again. I began to mourn it in my heart as soon as I thought it. I’m sorry for letting that overtake me so quickly.” Anava wrung her hands and clasped them in her lap, nodding her head down in apology. Ah – she had never made it so far before! And she ruined it with a moment of self-doubt.

“Anava, no – that was wonderful! I have no doubt you will be there again. You will see – have faith in your agency. You are quite gifted. Know it in your heart,” Rana reached over and took her hands in hers and kissed her on her crown. Ana lifted a little, knowing Rana had such faith in her. But it was still unnerving. They had been working through this for a year – and how suddenly it had dematerialized in front of her eyes. How one rogue feeling could swing in and unseat so much hard work.

Rana seemed to feel this same thought coursing through her. She pulled back and put her hands on Anava’s shoulders. “Feelings are powerful, Ana – and you mustn’t let them run the show. YOU run the show, and YOU choose the feelings with which to run it. That doubt is powerful – and although it is fine to feel it, and be with it, and comfort it and let it run its course, while you are in dreamtime you have to guard the gates. Be vigilant. You cannot let that doubt in, or it will take over. In dreamtime, you must imbibe pure confidence. Do you understand?”

Anava looked deep into her eyes. They were hazel, and blue at the center. She suspected they had seen so much in her lifetime, and had traveled far and wide and back again. She felt empowered and comforted by Rana’s guidance and eyes and reassurance. It was as if she was her own mother.

“Yes,” Anava squeaked softly. She cleared her throat – “Yes!” she said again emphatically. No better time to start practicing this confidence and swagger she would need.

Rana smiled. “Alright my girl – that’s it for today.” She rose from the rug where they were seated and stretched her hands high. Her gold bangles tinkling as she moved her limbs – bracelets, ear charms and ankle charms. Rana always sounded like a music composition as she reached this way and that, and walked across the room. Like bells calling from another world.

“Thank you Rana,” Anava rose also, and held her hands at her heart and bowed in thanks. Rana bowed in return and left the room, her gown flowing behind her in a glowy daze. It was a misty blue color today, with some intricate knotting and lattice-work. Anava suspected she handmade all her gowns, as she never saw anything like it in the market or in any nearby city.

Anava turned and grabbed her study book and side satchel from the chair at the other side of the room. They met weekly at Rana’s home – a large manor house that was painted in white and constructed from marble, stone, and mason’s mud. It was always cool, but today the meditation room was hot for some reason. Ana suspected it was due to the depth of their session. She had overhead others discussing how difficult it is to keep people cool while they are in dreamtime – this was why they desired to conduct sessions at dusk.

She started out of the porch and into the gallery, where she ran into Rana’s son Ren.

“Hi Ren, good day?”

“Yeah. Great.” They clasped hands lightly in greeting. Ren looked distracted.

“Are you coming to ceremonies tonight? I heard the others discussing leader Soan’s desire to start initiations – isn’t that exciting?!” Ana tried to override Ren’s distraction. He didn’t seem fazed.

“Yeah. I heard. Not sure if everyone’s ready – but should make it interesting. Maybe I’ll just watch, I don’t know if I’m there yet.” He smiled and shrugged and started to turn away.

“What! No, that’s not true Ren – you are being ridiculous. You are ready.” Ana reached out and gave him a reassuring smile.

“Maybe. But not ready enough for private lessons.” He cocked an eyebrow and kept walking.

Anava stopped in her tracks and watched him walk away. So that was it. Her coming here for lessons. She knew something was bothering him lately. But that would mean… Rana wasn’t giving Ren lessons? Her own son?

Ana suddenly felt incredulous. She had assumed this whole time that Rana would have been coaching them both. Ren was a great student, why in the world would she invite Ana for lessons at her own home and not to her own flesh and blood who lived under her roof?

She frowned as she stalked out and onto the winding path back home. This was not a good feeling. This was not how a wonderful session with her beloved mentor was supposed to end. This wasn’t right.

Did she even know Rana?

You don’t, she answered herself.

You don’t.

Keep going to Part 5