Despondent, I sat down and tried to make sense of my situation.
Suddenly, I had a clear vision of myself from a witness perspective.
I saw myself beating on a heavy wooden door, studded with metal, banging my fists until my knuckles were raw and bloody. I saw myself pausing to take a few rasping breaths, seemingly exhausted, before pounding again on the door that would not open.
Okay, that's how it is. Like many night dreams, my spontaneous vision was holding up a magic mirror to my actions and attitudes. Was that all?
I felt a prickling sensation at the back of my neck. I found myself drawn from my observer position into the scene, which was more alive to me now than the family room where I was sitting. My second self was still beating his fists uselessly on the unyielding door. But the prickling sensation was guiding me to turn around and look at something invisible to him. I turned to my right, and saw an elegant, mysterious figure beckoning me with a crooked finger. There was a Trickster quality about him. He was standing in a beautiful archway. Behind him a winding path led up a slope among flowering trees into a landscape of beauty and abundance. I felt that everything I was seeking in life was through that arch.
The Gatekeeper waited for me to grasp what he was showing me.
My vision and understanding were still far from complete.
If all this bright promise was waiting for me, through an open door, what was I doing beating myself bloody at the door that would not yield?
I turned to study again the situation of the Robert who was beating on the door. I discovered two things. While with one hand the Gatekeeper was beckoning me through the open gate of possibility, with his other hand he was holding that heavy, metal-studded door shut. The real shocker was that I could now see what was behind the door I had been desperate to open. The space behind it looked like a jail cell. I had been exhausting myself in an effort to put myself in a place of confinement.
This powerful vision led me to make some radical life choices. I abandoned the project on which I had been working for months. Little by little, I found myself on the path between the flowering trees, in a world of ever-burgeoning creative possibility.
The vision helped me to gain clarity on some rules for conscious living that work for me:
1. When one door closes, or won't open, look for the door that opens onto better things.
2. Before you push too hard, check whether you are at the right door.
3. Recognize that there is a Gatekeeper in life who opens and closes doors, and be ready to honor him (or her) and pay the price of entry, which may simply be a clear eye and an open heart.
Oh, there is one more.
4. As long as you stand in your own way, you will find the world stands in your way.
I confess that #4 is borrowed from Ralph Waldo Emerson, my favorite homespun American philosopher. The original version is: "As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way."
Photos (c) Robert Moss. Doors at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, at the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, Vyšehrad, Prague, and at the exit from the harem at the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul.