Caption to photo: Reflecting Absence was the name given to the 9-11 memorial fountains at ground zero
Sometime it is in the looking back and in the reflecting that we can find a thread of connection between moments and experiences in our lives…
September 11, 2001 Something huge shifts inside of all of us. The terror breaks open our way of being in the world. My initial response to the horrific events is odd. Numbness. I watch the repetitious TV videos of the planes crashing and exploding into the towers in a detached way. I witness people jumping out of the towers to their death. But strangely, I do not feel. I know something is not right inside of me. Despite the lack of feeling, something deep within me begins to stir on that day. In the months and years that follow, the stirring grows into a sense of urgency. I have a hard time putting a name to this urgency. I wrestle with existential questions about the meaning of life. My desperate search is answered in my dreams where I am able to feel in a way that I am unable to feel in waking life.
December 1, 2010 Some 9 years later, my dreamwork leads me to a dream where I am finally able to feel sadness about the events of 9-11…
I’m outside on a tour in New York City. The tour guide is talking about remembering the firefighters. I am sitting next to a girl and we both burst into tears. We turn our heads toward each other, touching them. We cry and cry at the memory of 9-11 and the firefighters who lost their lives. The crying comes unexpectedly but it feels good. I can feel the wet tears coming from my eyes and I realize I am crying real tears. We hold our heads together and weep.
The dream shows me that there is a place inside of me that does feel the deep sadness. Although I am not yet able to feel this depth in waking life, this dream helps me touch into it. The dream is a gift in that it helps me to connect to a place that has been missing in me for a very long time.
May 18, 2014 AM I travel to a New York City synagogue to attend a workshop on dreams held by my dream teacher Rodger Kamenetz. He talks about the way in which upon awakening, a dream can quickly vanish “as if it never had existed at all. There remains only this fleeting sense — this trace — a reshimu …. the presence of an absence.” I understand what Rodger is talking about when he speaks of the “presence of an absence.” On September 11, 2001, I was awakened from the “deep sleep” that was my life at that time. And upon that awakening, I could sense the trace of the presence of an absence within me.
Later that afternoon at the 9-11 Memorial Fountains:
The sound of water rushing into the deep footprints of the fallen towers drowns out the noise of the busy city streets nearby. There is a solemn feeling that fills the air as I run my fingertips over the inscribed names of those that were killed. The flow of water into each memorial fountain leads to another deeper, darker hole in the center. I find myself staring into the black emptiness of it. I am touching into a sadness that is deeper than the hole. The word I learned earlier in the day floats into my consciousness. reshimu. The presence of an absence. I do not want to leave the fountains. I am drawn to stay with the stirring of deep feelings that I am experiencing here. Like the way in which I want to stay with the wisp of an unremembered dream when I awaken. There is this “fleeting sense – this trace — a reshimu.” In December, 2010 I was given the dream where I was able to feel the sadness of the events of 9-11. Today I am beginning to feel it in my waking life. I feel it deep, deep within my heart. It is painful. But like in the dream, it feels “good,” maybe because I am connecting to a feeling place in me that has been asleep for a very long time.
June 15, 2014 I am back in NYC and I feel pulled once again to visit the 9-11 memorial fountains. As I stand and run my hands across the names, I realize that I did not personally know anyone who died here. There are people all around me, possibly family member and friends of the victims, also touching the names. Some push stems of flowers into the space that was cut to create the name of their loved one. So many names. So much pain. I pick out a random name to reflect upon. Ramon Suarez. I wonder about his life and his death. I wonder about his family and those who loved him. The sound and sight of rushing water alter me into a dreamy state where I find myself falling into a feeling place. Again the word reshimu comes back. A trace of some kind of knowing or remembering. I touch into that depth of remembering.
July 18, 2014 I am jogging in the little town of Napa, California and I happen upon what looks like a collection of some jagged, rusted steel beams placed upright in the ground. When I take a closer look, I see that this is a 9-11 memorial site. I read the sign posted there. After the 9-11 disaster, the town of Napa had these steel beams sent to them in order to create this memorial. Along side the beams are huge glassed-in structures holding the list of names of those killed. I stand and gaze at the mountains of names. The list goes on and on and on. Thousands. I stand and reflect as the list of names towers over me.
September 11, 2014 I turn on the TV and listen to the 9-11 ceremony at ground zero. Names are read out loud of each fallen person. Thirteen years ago at this very minute (10:29am ET), tower two was collapsing. As I sit here in my kitchen and feel into that image, I stop and stay with what is coming up for me. I can sense the edge of deep terror connected to this image. This is a much different experience than the one of numbness that I had right here in this same kitchen thirteen years ago. Perhaps, at that time I was not yet ready to feel. But what I did experience on that day was reshimu – a faint remembering of something forgotten. That seed took hold in me, and it continues to grow. With every feeling I experience, there is a remembering. Some feelings like the ones attached to 9-11 are difficult to feel, but they can open us up to all of our feelings. Perhaps, in all of this there is an answer to the urgent “meaning of life” questions I wrestled with in the years following 9-11. The way I see it now is that to have a meaningful life is to experience all of life – in its full range of feelings.