One of my parents suggested that, it being my dream, the next time it happened I should just dream up a soft landing. I scoffed. Sounded so simplistic, so like a parents advice when really they could not understand that if I had any control over my dreams I would not be falling in the first place!
And yet somehow in the subsequent weeks and months, when this dream would occur I recall thinking "wait, I can try and change this." Suddenly there was a small space, inside the dream, where I could look at it without being completely overwhelmed by that seemingly endless sensation of falling. It took some practice, but I vividly recall the first time I was able to conjure just a grey piece of solid ground underneath me. Such sweet unbelievable relief to be landed, resting, no longer in stark peril. After a few months the dreams stopped completely, and for years afterwards I gave it little thought.
By college, I had run into the concept of lucid dreaming and could occasionally 'wake up' inside my dreams, and perhaps affect their course or content. I mark this as the first way in which I ever understood that my mind was somehow multilayered...that myself and my mind were anything but unified and monolithic. That a technique applied with one part of the mind can affect how another part of the mind operates, functions or reacts.
I think this is why, when I encountered Buddhism, it made so much sense to me that hundreds of years of self observation, comparing notes, codifying over centuries could lead to a theory of mind not too far from our own neuroscience. And that everyday practices such as lovingkindness, tonglen, and Zen sitting, working with precepts, could help me or anyone else create the space to better respond to everyday struggles.
In extremis, the past week I have been losing stamina, feeling more and more dizzy. Over the weekend I crashed so hard while out with my children I had to lie down on the sidewalk. The cascade of panic about possible outcomes to the situation was very much a free fall. Even now, days later, I still get stuck in loops of what might have happened, how badly things might have turned out. And what might happen next.
So it was just last night lying in the dark in bed, I remembered about the dreams of falling. From a practical day to day standpoint, especially given my current challenges in recovery, I realized that the practice now must be to try to recognize when I am falling while awake, and instead of focusing on the terrifying heights or the fear of the crash, to try to work with crafting a soft landing place. May it serve all beings.