A reader asks: “So the Tivoli residents have yet another tragedy at the entrance to the village…how do we stay present when we travel through these vortex points in our world?”
On January 31, 2014 two young women were killed as they walked along the shoulder of Route 9G just leaving the village of Tivoli, NY; Bard college students on their way to the shuttle bus stop that would take them back to the campus. On March 3, 2014 a 21 year-old man was killed as he turned to drive south along Route 9G at that same intersection.
Indeed, there are energetic vortexes, whirlpools of energy that swirl beneath the currents of energy that flow on well-travelled roads—rivers of energy. Route 9G, a stretch of highway that runs parallel to the Hudson River—a mile to the West—for a long stretch of Northern Dutchess County in New York, is no exception.
The Hudson River, for all its magnificence, is a river of powerful, hidden currents. This is not a river to swim, and it has taken the lives of many innocent, daring, inexperienced and experienced swimmers alike.
The river is a metaphor for the vast energetic reality that lies beneath the surface of our consciousness. Our cars are our vehicles of consciousness, reflecting our ability to navigate the world through our will and conscious intention. But, upon entering our cars, how quickly we are taken beyond our neat little containers of consciousness! Suddenly we find ourselves in a sea of power drives, overtaken by rages at those who negate us, pass us, pressure us from the rear. We might find ourselves embroiled in power struggles and fantasies of conquest, of winning or passive-aggressively, sadistically, causing pain as we ride the brake.
The energetic currents of the highway are as powerful as the hidden currents of the river and they catch us unawares. Often, when people leave the office I warn them to walk on the earth for a while before driving away. The phenomena of highway hypnosis is the impact of the deeper energetic currents that suddenly transport us into a recapitulation. We might find ourselves suddenly transported out of body to another place and time, perhaps into a past experience or into a coexistent other-world that takes us out of this space and time.
The other day, I opened Theodore Gaster’s abridged version of The Golden Bough to this quote: “Often the soul is conceived as a bird ready to take flight.” This is the danger of highway hypnosis. The roadways we travel are filled with energetic whirlpools, vortexes that can free that bird, sometimes as a tragic dream changer. But then, who really knows their exact appointment time with death?
In a dream the other night, Jan and I found ourselves at a mountain resort next to a powerful river. I inquired about a place to swim and was shown a section that to me looked no safer than the rest of the river. Suddenly a young man surfaced from the water and came ashore. I asked him about the current. He confirmed that it was powerful, but explained that he loved to be dragged below. It was where he experienced emotion, he said.
The deeper energetic currents are indeed the home of the powerful emotions and sensations that make us feel alive. The I Ching, in the hexagram The Well, states that life that does not go down into the deepest waters of the well is an unfulfilled life.
Young adulthood is flooded by the currents of this life energy, and many of our youth are sacrificed or sacrifice themselves to the river gods who both enliven but may also swallow the daring, the innocent, and the inexperienced.
In my dream, Jan and I left the resort only to be met by torrential rains which flooded the steep mountain roadway. We descended carefully, in low gear, gripping a handrail outside the passenger side window as we inched along. Eventually, however, we had to let go of the rail and flow with the current, with no guarantees. There are no guarantees; even with the greatest of caution, we must ultimately let go to the unknown.
The other day, amidst a computer crisis, I secured a midweek evening appointment to meet with a “Genius” at an Apple store a great distance away. I meticulously covered all my bases. I broke through the Apple firewall of computer voice-generated direction to speak with a living person who assured me that the battery I needed was in stock and could be installed at the appointment. I checked directions, highways, travel conditions, where to park, etc., to ensure arriving on time.
With time to spare, Jan and I embarked on our journey. As we entered our neighboring state of Connecticut, we both were sure we’d see the mall that neither of us had been to in years. I was certain it was exit 3, Jan thought exit 4. We saw no signs, we saw no mall, a mall we both remembered to be clearly visible from the highway. “Maybe it’s exit 5…6…7…” Well, by exit 9 we pulled off, only to discover that the river had mischievously swept us along its currents with no guideposts.
We turned around—both exits 3 and 4 were right—arriving 15 minutes late for our appointment, but that was not a problem. The Genius, as well as two ascending managers brought forth as I protested, informed us that the battery could not be changed that evening, that I’d been misinformed! Despite my angry persona, I wasn’t really angry. What mystified me was what it all meant. It came to my humble wife, Jan, to explain: “You know, we just aren’t special.” That was Jeanne’s profound realization too, as she acquiesced to her own death—she was just not special. The highway of energy delivered us to this realization.
We are beings who are going to die. Regardless of our most meticulous efforts at impeccability and warriorhood, or our most foolish surrendering to the undertow—at some unknown moment the dream will change.
Jan and I recently watched the movie, The Girl. A young woman, inexperienced at life, tried to bring a group of Mexicans illegally across the border. She had them cross on foot at a river’s low point, the current appearing mild. She was to meet them on the other side. A woman drowned while crossing. Her little daughter survived. Stricken with grief and guilt, the young woman takes the young girl back into Mexico, into the hills, to a remote village where her grandmother, a devout spiritual woman, lives. The young woman apologizes to the old woman for the death of her daughter. The older woman, listens to her apologies, then pauses and calmly says, “You didn’t take my daughter. The river did.”
The shamans teach us to begin each day with the statement: “I, [Your Name], am a being who is going to die.” And with that awareness, they instruct us to enter the dream of the day, conscious but unafraid, ready to flow with the dream changers we may encounter along the way.
Flowing with caution,