Adrift on Lake Rift

© Matthew Word Bain

I don’t think of myself as the kind of person who has visions. Even active visualization is difficult for me, although I am very much a visual learner. Whenever a therapist has asked me if a vision or even a word or message wants to make itself known to me, e.g. from my subconscious, higher self, etc., I have typically found nothing upon looking within.

One time though, maybe seven or eight years ago, I was lying on a massage table, ensconced in a state of dynamic stillness from a combination of massage, energy medicine, and cranio-sacral work, when, in response to just such a prompt, a clear image appeared fully formed and with it a single mysterious word.

The image was of a placid lake in a mountainous region, viewed from above and at a distance, in strangely warm colors of what must have been a cold sunset. It seemed to be in the midst of a larger mountain range than any I’ve come close to – the Rockies, or perhaps somewhere in the Alps.

In the same way that a dream can leave you with a palpable physiological signature, a tingling sensation, or some heightened sense of vitality, this image brought all of that, and stayed with me. It also activated a new line of inquiry within me as the word that came with it was so unexpected and seemed to bear no relation to the image. I knew the word, but I couldn’t remember its meaning. More on that in a later post.

Several years after this experience, I was driving home a different way, seeking novelty, knowing intuitively that the repatterning process I had doubled down on in a therapy session that morning and was committed to on a larger time scale required novelty for the new pattern to take root. I was driving through the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, slowly wending my way along narrow gravel roads, referring here and there to my topographical atlas, but mostly letting the reins fall slack.

At one point the difference between map and territory became extreme, as an intersection appeared that was unmarked on the map. I turned down this anomalous road and very soon felt as though dream space had intruded itself upon waking reality – a sensation for which I had no doubt been primed when the territory diverged so clearly from the map.

Within a short distance I had entered into a landscape that was not supposed to be there. Instead of the hemmed in closeness of forest on either side of the road, or even the occasional rolling stretch of pasture land, here was a sudden and enormous openness, an expansive vista, and a wide, flat surface affording a view of distant ridges arising well beyond.

Here, where there was only supposed to be more farmland and forest, was an enormous lake cradled by forested shores with a backdrop of distant ridges. I had found novelty of such a degree that I was overwhelmed by its scope and the suddenness of its appearance. I was unable to grasp what was happening, where I was, or how I got there. My sensory experience was placed in direct contradiction with all other sources of information for evidence of its reality.

One benefit of an experience like this is that it provides a tangible, visceral experience of the potential for momentous, unexpected change. It is an experience of reality emerging without antecedent. The divergence of the map from the territory becoming a glaringly salient empirical phenomenon. The disorientation that arises in response is deeply fertile ground for repatterning, as it facilitates the recalibration of one’s nervous system with a new baseline of experience.

This place is a mystical one for me, given the significance of this experience. I returned to it last winter, feeling a little like Parzival trying to find the mystical castle of the Fisher King after straying so far from the path. I had just acquired a “real” camera (one that is not part of a phone) that I knew also recorded video, so I gave it a try, seeking to create just a very simple moving image.

It has taken me seven months to find a way to edit the vintage video file format, but I had a breakthrough just recently. Actually, to say I’ve edited the video is something of an overstatement, but I did introduce fades at the beginning and end and, more importantly, add an external audio track without wind noise.

This lake is and is not the lake that “came to me in a vision.” It’s significance lies in the way it is that same lake.