Inner Dialogue

October 10, 2013

In June I posted something about active imagination and gave an example of how I had used active imagination, based on a drawing, to develop a story. About two weeks after I posted that story, I used it as a basis for inner dialogue, developing as imaginary conversation with one of the characters in the story.

Here’s a transcription of what I recorded at that time.

I am sitting with the explorer and asking him to take a few moments for us to breathe together.

I: I’ve read your account of visiting the tribe where the men wear only the penis sheath. Do you feel you discovered what you intended to find?

Explorer: No, because I never was able to interpret the map which that other explorer had drawn.

I: And what did you expect the map to show you?

E: I don’t know – islands, flora, fauna, plants, plants that had not been discovered before by westerners, maybe medicinal plants; but I didn’t have time or even feel I had a way to get the confidence of the medicine man. And I know he healed me. Whatever medicines he gave me got rid of the parasites, but I don’t think that’s what he was trying to do. I think he was trying to show me something about myself, and maybe something I didn’t want to see. Maybe there’s something I try to escape when I go into the jungle or into the desert – into places Westerners don’t go. I try to say, “What am I trying to escape from?” and yet I know I carry that from which I’m trying to escape along with me.

And so there I was in the jungle, just another man – two men who sheath their penises with gourds and otherwise walk about naked. And I think the headband was woven with something that protected us from insects. That wasn’t the problem. He didn’t speak much English, and that just left me looking within myself as we walked, day after day, for probably six days. He never seemed to indicate anything that was of interest to him, and I sometimes think he knew that what I needed was to walk alone by myself – but I couldn’t walk by myself without getting lost. So there he was, walking ahead of me, and all I could see was his naked figure- bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs. If he turned, I’d see that penis sheath. And I’m walking behind him – bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs, sandals on my feet – trusting we were not going to find snakes or dangerous animals.

We walked to a river. We walked upriver, sometimes walking in the water, sometimes walking along the side. We stopped. We removed our penis sheaths and bathed. I looked at him and said, “Is there something special about this river?” and he said, “Sacred river.” And I felt a certain sense of gratitude – this was probably on the fifth day – that he had felt that he could trust me enough to let me bathe in the sacred river. And we followed the river back and then got on a trail.

I would have no way of knowing how to find that river again, And somehow, that doesn’t seem important. What seems important is that I carry something of that sacred river within me. I would like to be able to go back – but I can do it only in my imagination – stand there with him beside the river, take off my sandals, take off the headband, take off the penis sheath, plunge in the ice-cold water, stay under the water as long as I can hold my breath, come up, breathe in, go under – my eyes are open; I see blue all around me; I can see his naked form but it’s hard to distinguish. He pulls me up. He’s afraid I will pass out under the water. I stumble to the bank. I sit on a rock. All is quiet. There are no birds. Of course, it isn’t quiet; there’s the rush of the water, the falls upstream – but all of that is part of an inner stillness – a stillness like one I’ve never known before. And then, all of a sudden, he’s pulling on my shoulder. he’s helping me tie on the penis sheath, and we’re walking back to the village, and the next day I will be on the boat back downriver.

And what does all this mean? What has it done for me? Does it say to me I should give up exploring? No. Should I go to a different place? Maybe. Should I really try to clarify what’s important in my life? Yes.

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