Well, I asked for it. Just a few days ago, I was talking with a colleague about our shared profession, counseling. I was conveying to her the direction in which I’d like to grow as a professional. Counseling and psychotherapy are not medicine, and the tools of our trade include a capacity to form effective therapeutic relationships with clients. Some researchers argue that the effectiveness of psychotherapy (a scientific fact) stems largely from this very personal dimension…not the methods and tools we commonly acquire in graduate school or trainings.
As I believe this to be true, I asked my colleague if she knew of any trainings that could help counselors become more intuitive about the people they serve. She didn’t know of any, but apparently since I had asked, the Universe decided to step in and provide me an unsolicited lesson in intuition.
That night I had a dream. Nothing elaborate, just me and my barefoot dreambody descending the steps of an old cellar into a cool, dark place beneath the ground. Halfway down, I spy a rattlesnake making haste in the other direction. As I descend further, the snake is coming at me out of the dark – fast – covered with cobwebs and debris. Then I’m the one beating the hasty retreat.
Fast forward, next morning. I’m sitting in the garden with my best friend, coffee, and my wife starts calling excitedly from across the yard about THE RATTLESNAKE that has coiled itself before one of our cats, Mei-mei. She is harnessed and leashed in her usual fashion near the cool, dark shrubbery lining the front of our rural Oregon home.
The decision is as simple as it is unappealing: I must kill this creature because of the threat I perceive. Mentally, I kick myself for not having purchased last year the tools I needed to capture and transport rattlesnakes. Instead, it is my 12-gauge that must do its bloody work today, and I curse my luck as well as the snake’s.
Later, as I sat online sadly ordering the tools of snake capture, I wondered. What was snake telling me in that dream? Was it a warning? Was it a chance to find some means to capture instead of kill? As a long time student of martial arts, I can be relatively sanguine when I contemplate the thought of necessary killing. But always, I have been one to question “necessity,” particularly the expedient kind that conveniences our delicately poised lives.
That I was communicated with, I have no doubt. Yet in the dance of two-by-two communication, I was the clumsy partner. Not only were my morning awareness and mindfulness of the dream limited, so too was my ability to make much sense out of the dream. Often “sense” arrives belatedly, embedded in the overall experience of living, waking and dreaming. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl writes,
We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering.
Rattle has spoken. I hope I can do all three.