Siamese Twins (written 2015)
I had a dream one night that I was a Siamese twin. Actually within the dream it was more accurate to say I was both individuals in a set of Siamese twins. The dream was full of a sense of struggle. Of course, being joined at the hip or the side somehow, was awkward. All efforts had to be coordinated and both “selves” had minds of their own and my unfortunate obstinate tendencies. Compromise was necessary. The arguments, well, discussions, were civil. I never have liked raised voices, even in my dreams. But the twins could never agree easily.
I have a blurry recollection of a car that conveniently had two steering wheels, and the chaos that followed from this equal opportunity arrangement. Most of the dream, however, was lost in the befuddled moment of waking. I was left with an image or two and a sense of frustration and unease.
During the day that followed, I thought about this shadow self, the Siamese twin that would have been beside me were the dream the reality I lived. And in the midst of a moment of indecision over something very simple, I suddenly had to smile. Because, my shadow self, this Siamese twin, really is with me always. I'm seldom of one mind about anything. Options and choices abound.
I'm following a practice path that is built on mindfulness. That is, I strive to be with the moment so that I know what emotional pulls arise and I am able to choose to act in a way that is skillful. One of the twins resists this. She is pulled by emotion, by desire and by aversion, and she'd head for the ditch and ultimate calamity if given the wheel. She isn't going to go away. We're joined at the hip after all. But when I am calm and centered, she'll settle and quit the frantic dance. When I'm calm and centered, she becomes transparent and light and there is no struggle at all.
That calm arises from a strong sense of intention, of knowing how I want to live my life. Of knowing I do not want to carry the burdens of regret or anger and so choosing to act in ways that do not give rise to these. It's not a perfect system. Acting in a way that seems to me to be reasonable, I may find that others react with judgment and anger of their own. But I can let the chain of events stop here by not letting my emotional twin loose to defend our actions and choices. And no matter how “good” we are, there will be times of hurt and loss. That's when she's most prone to think she's all alone and so to get rather self-involved and pouty or sad. Buddhist teachers will often talk of sending metta to ourselves in such times of distress. That's when I need to cradle my emotional twin, opening our shared heart and eyes to the reality that everyone has these experiences. That this is what life brings.
I remember the fuggy and unpleasant feelings I had waking from this dream of struggle: the cloud that was a bit persistent as I started my day. And this was only a dream. When I have gone head to head with my emotional twin in daily life, not relying on the calm of my life's intention, but giving a willing ear to her strident protests and ego-driven worries, unhappiness results. We may in fact get our way, but there is a bitter flavor to such victory and too often disappointment in the outcome.
It was only a dream and I've pushed the metaphor far enough. Yet, to taste its truth is instructive. Mindfulness gives me the ground where it is possible to be of one clear mind, intentionally acting toward the end of suffering for all beings.