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At 7:20 A.M., I awoke with this healing dream:

It is evening. I’m walking outdoors, anxious. My tooth aches and my dentist’s office is closed for the day. Out of the blue, another dentist sees my distress and offers his treatment: laughing gas. Despite its unfamiliarity, I agree. After injecting my body with the tiniest of pinpricks, the tooth pain is gone, and we resume walking.

The dream’s time, evening, suggests my waning energies, all the more depleted by my terminal illness. My toothache, a disorder that pains me, suggests my inability to chew deeply through experiences, to avoid matters that command my attention, even hold anything in place—an irritant that sours my mood and plunges me into self-pity: nothing matters other than the diseased tooth.

The toothache also suggests weeks of being out of sorts, soured by my new symptoms and side effects of a new drug.

The dentist, unknown from reality, suggests “a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity,” or in other words, the Sacred disguised beneath the practitioner who knows my distress and offers specific help, laughing gas. The numerous pinpricks, barely felt, suggest cues toward deeper practice of the Twelve Steps and the rediscovery of the joy of living.

My healing astounds me and together, we walk into the evening, enjoying dusk’s sky-colors through bare branches of trees.

(Sir Humphrey Davy, early nineteenth century English chemist and inventor, colloquialized nitrous oxide into laughing gas, a reaction caused by inhaling it.)

Yearning, we all do it—whether for a new bicycle, for the phone to ring, for the healing of a break-up, or for restoration to health.  Woven into this feeling is a pseudo hope, even perhaps a flight into fantasy or theft. How well I remember stealing the faux-gray suede wallet at a downtown store, related in an earlier blog.

But there’s a spiritual kind of yearning that empties the heart of the inessential, that demands reigning wayward instincts, that activates patience and discernment, and that reorients the psyche toward experiences of critical new learning.

Such leaves stretchmarks upon the psyche, hankers for the unknown that alone will satisfy, and thirsts for the unquenchable.

Old Testament texts abound with examples. Whenever yearning’s grip is too much, the waiting, too ambivalent, I turn to the psalms or the Book of Job for help: The Ancients had experienced this pull, as well, and recorded their experience.

Then you will call, and I will answer you, you will yearn for me the work of your hands, says Job to Yahweh (14:15). Such references His Unconditional love for us, and for those preparing for the physical death of their bodies, an extreme consolation. 

In these Heart-whispering blogs, I’ve given way to the many faces of yearning, only to have waited out another lull with its subtle diminishment. And more purification and spiritual growth are still to come.

Who’s messing around with the rough edges of my life?

Whose sinewy hands tweak my brokenness?

Who forces me to feel my shards and claim them?

Whose fingers pull and knead, pull and knead?

More pinches, slaps, punches startle me.

Take me where I never dreamt sojourn.

Patting smooths my new shape.

A wet towel cools me.

Then explosion—

Like toddlers, jumping piles of reddening leaves.

Expanding-resting-expanding-resting.

What am I becoming?

More pulling and kneading.

Will this never end?

Yet this touch coaxes surrender.

A song releases mine, long hidden beneath barrels of stale flour.

Change continues:

More shifting from here to there.

My pregnant shape swallows my fears.

More waiting follows.

Suddenly, my belly is cleaved and braided together.

Brushed with egg yoke, I wink at the sun.

The brick oven’s fire evokes more transformation.

It’s happened–the aromatic new creation.

Above me a shawled woman blesses candles,

chants psalms to the Challah I have become,

offers me to be torn apart and consumed by her loved ones.

Within my new brokenness, I am whole.

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