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(if you should learn to do this will your toys of knowing, you will achieve a form of liberty more valuable than any other skill)

‘oops, I swallowed it...’

I was dreaming that some of the members of the Sangha (then called the Harbor Sangha) I sat with were gathered informally in a subterranean pool-room, of someone’s house. There was likely a complex preamble to this phase of the dream, but I cannot recall it. This was a smallish room with a pool-table and a few other simple furnishings, down some wide stairs from the common level of the large home. We were sort of goofing around, and chatting, and being ‘regular folks’ together. I am not sure if there was a game in progress or not.

Somehow, I got my hands on the cueball, which I found to be a particularly fascinating object to hold. I decided to playfully attempt ‘to get my mouth around it’, and for some reason, I not only succeeded, but to my great shock and dismay — I instantly swallowed it! I felt a gigantic lump going very slowly down my throat, and I was horrified at what had happened.

Immediately I turned to my teacher and explained the situation. I’d no idea what to do. I mean, it was clear that I had survived the swallowing (it was still going down) — but now what was going to happen? There was no way that I could imagine in which this situation could improve without first worsening dramatically.

He was not much help. He rather shrugged it off, explaining that ‘Well, it’s in there now. if it’s going to come out, it will. If it isn’t, it’s going to stay there’. There was the hanging implication of surgery, which further terrified me.

As I stood there, stunned by the unconcerned nature of his response, I felt the weight of the ball, falling down, down, down...

...and I suddenly awoke...with a huge lump of something going down my throat, just as if I had just swallowed a large ball of soft bread. It was an uncanny sensation, and whatever I was swallowing was far larger than anything I can remember successfully swallowing, or felt that way. So I awoke from a dream into a circumstance very similar to that I was awakening from, and this was peculiarly fascinating, and startling.

I made very little of it, other than to maintain its memory, and speak of it on occasion when Zen stories about ‘swallowing a hot iron ball’ arise, which — these days, is practically never.

I never did find out ‘what I had swallowed’. Back then it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to look in the obvious place. Not that I’d have wanted to, or would necessarily have followed through, regardless.



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