A monk asked Hongzhi, “What about the ones who’ve gone?” 
Hongzhi said, “White clouds rise to the top of the valleys, blue peaks lean into the empty sky.”
The monk asked, “What about the ones who return?”
Hongzhi said, “Heads covered in white hair, they leave the cliffs and valleys.
In the dead of night they descend through the clouds to the market stalls.”
“What about the ones who neither come nor go?”
“The stone woman calls them back from their dream of the world.” 

(PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 34)

Last week we visited five dreams the Buddha had before his great enlightenment:

—Lying on the great earth as his couch
—A creeper growing skyward from his navel;
—White grubs with black heads crawling on his legs
—Four birds of different colors alighting on his feet and turning white
—Walking in a mountain of dirt without getting soiled

These dreams of the Buddha got me deeply considering my own dreamworld.

I seem to dream a lot and our Pacific Zen teachers often appear in them. In a recent dream, I was at a retreat held deep in some very high mountains like the Himalayas. It was a really secluded place, and there was snow everywhere on the ground. As I was leaving the retreat house, I realized I was in my underwear. On the way out, I met Tess Beasley and Amaryllis Fletcher, and gave each of them a hug, saying “Nothing concealed here!” We all had a great laugh. I walked out the front door onto a snowy mountainside but found that somehow everything was covered in six inches of water. I was supposed to meet David Weinstein for dinner but the water slowed me down. Then John Tarrant came by.

Once in another dream, Chan master Linji tried to get me to throw my pants in the river. I wouldn’t do it and then quicker than I could stop him, he picked up my pants and ran away with them. I was yelling at him to come back: I needed my wallet and keys and they were in the pants. He kept laughing and ran off, leaving me standing there.

I’ve written plenty of songs in my dreams, but for some reason I seldom seem to recall them. One morning, slowly waking, I remembered a fragment of a dream song, which went, “You, you. You. You, you confuse me.” I laid in bed for ten minutes, still half asleep, thinking “This song is gonna be so great!” When I was more awake, I picked up my guitar and started to play the song. Only then, fully awake, did I realize that it made no sense whatsoever.

However, there was one singer-songwriter, Townes Van Zandt, who famously wrote “If I Needed You,” perhaps his most popular song, while in a dream. It’s a beautiful love song, but it also has this strange little reference to his two parrots, named Loop and Lil. In the song, the parrots agree that the lady in the song is “a sight to see.”

The lady’s with me now
Since I showed her how
To lay her lily
Hand in mine
Loop and Lil agree
She’s a sight to see
A treasure for
The poor to find … 

Would you come to me
And ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I would swim the seas
For to ease your pain

Loop and Lil agree, the Stone Woman was a sight to see.

—Jordan McConnell