As I woke up, I immediately knew: the meaning of this dream will grow with me, keep unfolding; I will see clearer the guidance that Im getting from it, over the years. At the time of that dream, in the early seventies, I was living in Hungary under communist governance, between two markers of my life’s journey:
- being freshly released from prison, after serving 20 months for organizing a student movement, in September 1969
- being forced into exile for continued opposition to the policies of the ruling elite, in July 1975
Back then, there was an artistic avant-garde in Hungary, mostly young people who expressed their dissidence by engagement in artistic happenings, street theater, amateur films, etc. that was considered too “edgy” by the communist censorship. I was part of the scene, and after years of the rather ascetic, movement organizer lifestyle, I really enjoyed the fun, and was inspired by the irreverent, creative manifestations of my peers; some of our best happenings started as a “chance” experience. Like this one:
I am walking on the “grand boulevard’ of Budapest, named “Lenin boulevard,'” in the afternoon rush hour, the sidewalks teeming with people streaming from the offices. In their midst, I feel my movements slowing down, my legs move more and more unhurriedly, hardly lift, and advance at a snail’s pace. It feels like time itself slows, while the rushing continues around me. The boulevard is crowded and a bit dangerous because some people are so little present to their body or the space around it, that have a hard time to avoid bumping into and getting mad at me.
As I turned the spontaneous slowing down of my movement, into an “experience,” a happening, I didn’t intend to provoke the people on the street; I knew it may happen but that was not the point. My way of walking became a full-body, immersion experiment of not being part of the system, stepping out from the drub reality of living in a country without freedom. It was a little bit like a walking meditation, except I didn’t know that time what meditation was. I performed that slow-motion happening at different places of Budapest, a couple of times, weeks before the following “teaching dream” occurred.
In that dream I was also walking on the grand boulevard of Budapest but in a normal rhythm. I was not the same person in the dream; I didn’t have the same identity as in real life. I was a visitor, and the streets and buildings of city, they all were part of a living museum, the museum of the 20th century. I was a curious visitor from the future.
I came to the museum because I wanted to know first-hand how people lived in the 20th century; what made them tick, how did they do what they called their life. It was kind of exotic to me, because it was very different from the place I came from. In my world, life was basically a joyful experience. What I saw in the museum was not at all. The way people were looking at each other and the energies I sensed on the streets had various mixtures of boredom, resentment, anxiety, frustration and greed. Immersing myself in that environment, I felt grateful for being born in a different century, and happy that I was only a visitor not a resident in the 20th, and that I can go home after my visit in the museum.
I walked around, soaked up the experience, and after a while, I started really “getting it.” I felt I learned what I had to learn from this visit, and was ready to leave. I decided it’s time to go home, and to my dismay, I didn’t find the exit of the museum.
That gave me some more than a light concern; the question flashed in, “what if I can’t get out from here?” As my continued efforts to locate the exit gate didn’t result in success, this field trip in the past got more and more scary; it was definitely a century that I did not want to stay in.
In my despair, I started rushing around, looking and asking myself at every corner, was it this street where I have to make a turn to get to the gate? I found myself running circles, no luck.
Realizing that my way-out strategy was not working, I shifted into slower rhythm to allow myself to think more calmly about what I can do. I kept walking but this time, with anxiety suspended. Gradually, my attention became balanced, simultaneously including the sights and noises of the street, and the non-judgmental observation of my inner state.
As I was practicing my “balanced attention” routine, I noticed a man walking from the other direction, towards me. Before he passed by me, we’ve furtively looked in each other’s eyes but then stopped for a moment and maintained our gaze crossed. That was a very unusual experience because residents in the museum avoided eye contact with strangers. That guy not only didn’t avoid it, but I noticed his eyes holding a question. We relaxed into our reciprocated gaze, and then I saw in his eyes an unmistakable twinkle, a sign of deep presence, something that was rather common in my home century. It was a mutual recognition; we both realized–without needing any conversation–we both were visitors looking for the exit gate.
From that point on, we kept walking together. We met a woman, another man, and later two teenagers. As we discovered it in that special glow of aliveness in the eyes, we were all visitors looking for the exit. We grew into a small group, maybe eight people, and throughout the whole time of walking together, we didn’t talk at all. Any word would have been superfluous on the background of the clearly and jointly felt sense of our situation. We all had the individual experience of trying to find the exit and not succeeding, and we knew our best hope was to discover it somehow together.
We arrived to a crossroad, and as if we received a sign, we all stopped at once. We, spontaneously formed a circle, standing, and remembering the hoop’s wisdom generating qualities from our before the museum-visit life. The last, tiny pieces of concern vanished, I felt fully relaxed and knowing we will find what we were looking for. Not only myself, but also the whole field formed by our circle was very relaxed and very alert at the same time. I knew that everybody in the circle had the same experience, without exchanging any words about it.
There was a heightened, almost palpable attention from each of us converging on the center of the circle. Right there, in the air, a hologram-like map manifested itself, a few minutes later, showing exactly where we were and the direction to get to the nearest exit.
It seemed like a miracle that the map came out from nothing. Well, not exactly from nothing, because–I realized a few seconds later– there were some generative factors that helped it happen, such as standing still, forming a hoop, and directing our shared-attention to the center. After the map realized, we laughed, danced, and started frolicking our way to freedom. The whole journey in the museum, the experience of getting lost and the way to find the way back home, became a teaching experience.
I woke up from the dream with not knowing what to make of it, how to understand it. At that time I neither had life experience nor any suitable framework to help me interpreting its meaning. Yet, when I woke up, it was very clearly that it was an important dream that came to teach me something about my life’s mission. That was more than 30 years ago and it is still calling me deeper into discovering who I am, who we are.
Since that dream occurred, I shared it with friends only 4 or 5 times. Now that a parallel dream has recently occurred, posted here, with a similar message but pointing farther, I felt inspired to publish the one from the 70’s too. Below is Q&A from the conversation I had last New Year’s Eve, when I shared the story with a circle of friends.
Q: Did you know in the dream that it was a dream?
A: No, in the dream I didn’t know it; everything felt as real as ordinary life.
Q: Do you remember what exactly happened in the moment of meeting the first man who maintained eye contact with you in the dream?
A: It was like feeling a deep openness, feeling each other’s heart, having nothing to hide, nothing to show off, no games to play, just to be, naked and very natural, in a deep, mutual knowingness. There was fluidity to our movement that ensued the eye contact. We walked effortlessly, as if there was a common path and something guiding us, yet from hindsight, it feels like we created it as walked on it.
Q: Do you need a map now?
A: I guess so. Otto Scharmer wrote once, “[E]very human being is not one, but two. One is the person that we have become through the journey of the past. The other one is the dormant being of the future that we could become through the journey of the future….” In most time of history there is rarely a radical difference between those two beings. But when changes accelerate, and so is the rhythm, the pace with which things are changing, that’s a different story. In the generation of my parents, people lived most of their life in the same profession and mothers, like mine, liked to ask the kid, What do you want to become when you grow up, assuming that it was one and only one thing. Nowadays, many people act in different roles, different professions and not only serially, not only one after the other but within the same stage of life. The implications of that change for our collective journey ahead, are unfathomable. That’s why I am so fascinated with ways to discover/invent joint mapping of the emergent future It will take our collective intelligence to support one another in practicing the gestures from which the maps pointing to the next evolutionary shift can emerge
(The Scharmer quote I referred to in the conversation was from in the 10th principle of presencing that is in Theory U Excerpt: 24 Principles. You can find the whole chapter if you click on the “Shambala Downloads” on his home page )