Haibun Journal

Buddha Smoke & the Lightness of Being:

a dream haibun

19 February 2021

A week ago I experienced an elaborate series of dreams that contained three "scenes" that all feel related to what Jungian author James Hollis calls “the middle passage” (the midlife journey between the first and second adulthood). The day after, synchronistically, my father sent me a gift: James Hollis' new Sounds True recording, A Life of Meaning: Exploring Our Deepest Questions and Motivations.


I am a British trader-explorer in China. I have been sent on a mission to “map an unknown territory," and to establish trading partnerships. Somewhere along the way, however, I allow myself to get sidetracked. Rather than complete my task, I wander into a tucked away establishment called Yān Fo.

With my poor grasp of the Chinese language, I think the sign reads: “Buddha Eye.” Within the dream I think, “Good! The eye of the Buddha. Maybe I can finally find some vision in here.” I soon learn that, while “Yan Fo” does translate as: "Buddha Eye," the sign’s specific characters actually translate as: “Buddha Smoke.”

As it turns out, the establishment is a bustling opium den with sultry “ladies of the night” also “plying their wares.” My mission summarily dismissed, I spend the rest of my earnings communing with the opium and the ladies of “Buddha Smoke.”


I am somewhere in the lands of my maternal Scandinavian ancestors. I am trying everything I can do to raise successful crops in a challenging environment. The land seems dead, frozen, devoid of life. Nothing new will grow. I increase my efforts. I work longer hours. I invest in new farm tools. Nothing works.

Winter arrives. There is no food. No sustenance.


I am in Japan at a roadside saké shop, sitting with a man at a low-table. I find myself there in what is clearly an earlier era. We’re drinking saké, eating pickles and dumplings with mustard.

We’re each wearing hanten (quilted coats), dark-blue sashiko-patterned bandanas, and dark-blue scarves with small, gray, stylized sakura flowers (cherry blossoms) on them. This attire is somehow “code” to others who are "in the know." The sashiko patterned bandana symbolizes the masculine, the warrior. The sakura blossoms symbolize the feminine, the goddess. I somehow know - in the dream - that these garments represent the aspiration to integrate the two energies (yang and yin), sturdy but creative, within one being.

The man is my mentor. I call him "Oji" (Uncle). He calls me "Hanshō" (Midnight). We are poets, meeting up to go on a journey.

Oji tells me that we are going to "meet a master"..."to learn a new kind of poetry."

When I awake I think to myself, "Hmm....Karumi?" (Bashō's term for "lightness," or "celebrating the light and simple things"). I decide that's not it and that some other energy is calling.


deep winter dreaming

like levels of opening --

a new spirit calls


Much gratitude to my father (“Da,” LaRue, “Hawkeye”) for always putting the right material in my path, at the right time. Thanks also to James Hollis, Ph.D. for being a superb cartographer of a psychospiritual territory for which modern Western culture offers no maps.