Moths to a Flame.

I had a dream. I was walking across the lawn of a deserted campground toward a big, handsome, bearded man sitting at a wooden picnic table, beneath an enormous pin-oak tree. I was aware that I was dreaming, and that I had “appeared” in this place. The campground seemed real, but it also seemed like a composite of a lot of other campgrounds I’d visited. It was a pleasant place, and I felt drawn toward the man at the picnic table. The tree was large enough to block the sky and cast a long shadow over the lawn. The man at the table was a guy I know named Jeff. We’ve never met, but have spoken on matters of the spirit via online chat. I was pleasantly surprised to meet him in this dream-space. He stood, smiled at me warmly and hugged me across the table. We exchanged small talk, and then he said, “You know, you can stop taking those antibiotics.” He smiled.

“I’m not taking any antibiotics, Jeff.”

“Yes you are!” He began laughing–not at me–but from a place of warmth. I wanted to laugh with him, but I was confused. “You don’t need them anymore. You can stop now,” Jeff said.

He held out his right hand. In his palm was a small, gray capsule. He popped it open, blew on it and scattered gray dust in my face, which morphed into several small, beautiful gray moths. They fluttered around my head, landing on me, taking off again, and I batted them away as they all flew up, up, into the branches and leaves of the enormous pin-oak tree behind Jeff. He started laughing again, the joyful laugh of a prankster, and I felt a lightness growing within me. It was as if I could spread my own wings again; as if I had let go, finally, of several things to which I’d been clinging.

According to Carl Jung’s dream imagery, the symbol of a moth in a dream evokes something that is annoying, or eats away at fabric, something that is harmful to us. The moth is also a symbol of transformation.

Releasing those moths into the branches of an enormous pin-oak tree signaled the release of some things in my life that have been tearing holes and eating away at my fabric. My fabric is my “isness”–creativity, presence, focus, the ability to exist in the now, unencumbered. The moth symbol calls to the importance of “listening to the inner voice” and battling the “mental noise” that keeps so many of us from achieving our true goals. There’s so much noise these days…so many moths.

I began to list as many moths as I could name. It’s interesting that Dream Jeff called the moths “antibiotics”–medicine we take to cure bacterial infection. I’d been ingesting something that, at one time, had a benefit but had now outgrown its usefulness. I wrote on a page,”Things that I no longer need to swallow. Things that no longer help me. Things that get in my way. Moths.” Here’s the list so far:

  • Cigarettes
  • Gay social apps and the attention I’ve sought there
  • Flirting
  • Accolades and validation
  • Facebook
  • Television
  • The ego gets in the way
  • Fitting in, being popular, being liked
  • Being accepted for who I am
  • Fear of commitment
  • Self-doubt fueled by negative thoughts
  • Fear of the power I possess
  • Casual, empty sport sex
  • Not committing to the gym and physical self-improvement
  • Helping others grow and not helping myself

These elude me, just like moths will do, bouncing off walls and lampshades, fluttering near my palm and escaping before my fingers can make a fist to trap them. And so, they’re not easy to list because they’re in sight, within reach, but never still for very long. The moths must be captured and released instead of being attracted to my light–my flame.

The “flame” nurtures my creativity, the is-ness and the spirituality that grows within me like a tree. The gigantic oak tree behind Jeff represents the boundless, enormous creativity I possess. It shelters and spreads toward the sky. Moths will feed on the precious, tiny new growth, block the warmth of the flame, distract the spirit. Also, the moths call out to me to pay attention to my inner voice.

I wonder what I’m capable of. What would we all be capable of if we limited or eliminated the distractions–the moths–in our lives that flutter around our flames? Why is it so difficult to do? Is it more difficult today than ever before because of all the options, all the choices, the distractions, the obligations, the urgent, the important, the news-feed, the status updates, the photos, the narcissistic dance steps, the ego-based chatter, the addiction of self-importance and the fear of obscurity we associate with leaving the Social Network, the tribe? Is it time once again to leave the comfort zone and strike out to the wide expanse of the unknown, uncertain country beyond The Shire?

When I think of giving up the cigarettes, distancing my time from contemptuous Facebook and other social apps, and the myriad other distractions that make me “feel good” or “connected, somehow”, I become uneasy. And yet, I know what I would do instead–I’d write more, workout more, pick up the violin and play, read more, study Spanish, and become a better cook, better lover, brother, and friend. I’d become a Shaman. I’d practice mindfulness, meditate, apply Toltec Wisdom to my life and my counseling practice more than I currently do. I’d stop half-assing things. I’d commit fully. I’d stand independent, connected to those around me. I’d love more. I’d spend less energy on certain people who just don’t matter all that much. I’d have more real friends and fewer “Facebook Friends”. I’d spend much less time in my head. I’d learn to separate the urgent from the important, and become very clear about all the shits I give. I’d howl again and run at night beneath the full moon. I’d remember what I’d forgotten. I’d unlearn much of what I’d been taught by well-meaning charlatans.

So what’s stopping me? Honestly–what if I do all these things and no one is there to give me a gold star for doing it? What if I become all this and more, and no one notices? What if I do this and nothing amazing happens? What if it’s hard to commit fully? What if I get bored? What if I lose the spontaneity? What if commitment is just too difficult? What if none of this matters anyway?

Commitment to personal growth is a continual struggle–and I know I’m not alone. The struggle to win acceptance, and succeed has fueled me for as long as I can remember. My fear is this: If I really commit, and I start to see progress, and I get better, what will I have to struggle against? Then again–what would my life be like if I did one thing, each day, that scared me? How many moths would I burn up as the flame of creativity grows in intensity?

Like Jeff said in the dream, with a deep belly laugh: “You don’t need these antibiotics anymore. You can stop taking them now.”

My subconscious knows I’m healthier than I “think” I am. I need to stop thinking my way into living differently and live my way into a different way of thinking. Well, shit. I just put it down in print so I guess I’d better commit to it.

*And, a special thanks to Jeff for showing up unannounced in my dream. I appreciate it, buddy.

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