Last October I dreamed about a snake. It wasn’t just an ordinary snake. It was a sly snake carrying a message. She bit me on my index finger. I jumped in surprise and grew angry. How dares she bite me? She made camp on my parents’ balcony and feasted on leftover food my parents kept there. She seemed to enjoy us looking at her. She held her head high and there was an air of pride around her. Then she leaped over the balcony fence in one sleek, powerful but utterly ephemeral movement and flew away. As she did, a handkerchief landed onto the balcony. The handkerchief opened and thousands of bees swarmed out.
Regardless of whether we believe that our dreams are telling us something or not, we cannot remain unfazed when we wake up from a powerful dream. Sometimes we can’t shake a feeling we carried over from a dream into our conscious world for many hours after we wake up. To me, my snake dream represented a wake up call. I have read that dreaming of a snake is a sign that one is on the verge of a deep personal transformation, but also a warning sign about something that paralyzes one’s ability to make a choice in order to take a next step in life. Both of these were true for me.
My snake dream came to me at the time of heightened spiritual practice and deep and intense personal reflection on life and death. The dream also came to me at the time of profound unhappiness at work. Instead of enabling me to fulfill my life-long desire to make a real contribution to the world, my job crippled me and took me further away from fulfilling this desire than I ever was. A few weeks later I had another snake dream. In this dream I helped a friend avoid a lethal snake bite. In the moment of sheer braveness, I took a stab at the snake and by doing so I put my own life at risk. As the knife touched it, the snake dissolved. I woke up from the dream with an immense feeling of gratitude and a glimpse of the meaning of true compassion. That same day my husband and I shook hands: I am getting off the hamster wheel!
So was this it? A couple of dreams and I was off? Of course not! The dreams were a wake up call and also a result of a long process of change. In a way, they mark the beginning of the end. Over the ensuing six months, I revoked and again reinstated the decision to get off the hamster wheel several times. I weighted more options. Multiple plans were drawn and subjected to the highest scrutiny. I needed to make sure I thought through everything I could. I needed to leave no room for even a tiniest regret to come sneaking up on me later on. The beauty of these tumultuous months, however, was that deep down I knew that the decision to get off the hamster wheel was now only a matter of time.