Some years ago I awoke from such a deep dream that I immediately closed my eyes and went back into the dream in order to stay there as long as possible, absorbing the atmosphere of silence and stillness.
In the dream I was walking down the main street of a small country town, accompanied by the actress Jane Lapotaire. The impression was that we had come to a place of deep silence. It was early in the morning – very still. There was no one around.
Eventually we came to a building which had been a Catholic church in the 12th century but was now a Quaker Meeting House. On the door, acting as a handle, was a circular flower carved in wood. I intimated to Jane that we should enter for the Quaker Meeting but she intimated (no words were spoken) that we should walk on a little and stay in the open.
At the end of the street I saw an archway leading to an Oxford college and my thought was that I would like to show Jane this place of learning and scholarship. But she was leaning her head against the wall of a house, listening. I then did the same.
There was such a freshness in the air, like a day in the Mediterranean presaging great heat later on. No one stirred. The silence was intense and the air so pure. I was reminded of Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain built with peaceful citadel
Is emptied of this folk this pious morn?
It is in this Ode, of course, that Keats also writes:
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
Beauty is truth, truth beauty! That is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
I have come to recognise that what the dream was telling me was to go deeper into this silence and the practice of meditation – and to leave the area of the intellect, of academia, unexplored at this time – to go with the heart and not the head.
Frequently since that dream, often in meditation, I have gone back into that place of silence.