I'm a fire dragon. I've always instinctively identified with my Chinese zodiac animal and element. If you told me I was a wood rabbit or a metal dog, I would laugh and tell you you were wrong. I am a beautiful, magical, larger-than-life fire-breathing creature with golden red scales who flies around protecting the temple, and I know it. I come in groups of one. I feel most comfortable curling up taking little dragon-naps on the steps of temples.
I've always been proud of my job. It's a sacred trust, being the Watchdragon of the Temple! Perfectly suited to dragons, and fire dragons are the best (and most arrogant) kind for the job. I love circling around outside the temple, making sure it's optimally guarded. When I have a spare moment and all's quiet on the western front, I like to admire my sparkling scales, buff my iridescent talons, and swish my tail around in its most fetching manner. There's nobody like me, I think, smugly, and puff little snorts of purple smoke out of my snout.
But every once in a while I look around at the less-sparkly, less-fire-breathing animals and notice that although they have not been entrusted with the magical and sacred responsibility of guarding the temple, they do have something else: companionship. Packs of dogs. Herds of oxen and horses. Whole countrysidefuls of bunny rabbits. Sometimes I look around and my magnificent pointy tail droops. I get that I'm special, and I have a special job...but sometimes it gets a little lonely, permanently on duty outside the temple, always circling, circling.
Then one evening....
I had just done a ton of mind-blowing, primal, shamanic yoga with the great maestra Stephanie Snyder and her congregation. Everybody's energy and chemicals were flowing in heightened spirals. The room was fogged with heat and sweat. Everyone and everything was bathed in the sweet-smelling sweat of calm, focussed exertion. It was primeval, it was out of time, it was raw.
I had never been happier.
We gave ourselves up to savasana.
And then I awoke and found myself in a new place.
I was inside the temple.
I had never been inside the temple before! I felt nervous! I was the Watchdragon, my place was outside the temple! I knew every inch of its buff-coloured exterior, its Corinthian columns, its wide stone steps upon which I had taken so many dragon-naps! And what was this feeling inside me? This body, so used to continually circling, circling, always on guard...was not circling! What...?
I was curled up in front of an ordinary English suburban fireplace. Snout laid over forepaws. Look at me, I thought. I'm like a big dog. A dragon is not so different after all. I felt my belly entirely engrossed in being on its home hearth. My hind legs grew out of their sockets and extended more onto the bricks of the hearth. My magnificent tail settled down. “I am a tail,” it thought. My spine got longer in both directions and my whole outsides got bigger in every direction. I felt my dragon-mouth turning up into a smile. I licked my chops a little and settled my head more onto my forepaws.
I felt my human mouth turning up into a smile too.
And then I realized that I was not alone in the temple.
I had always, always been alone before. But then, I had always been outside the temple before.
I looked up and saw a woman sitting next to me!
She was a very beautiful woman. She was wearing something long and white and shiny and flowing. “Maybe this is what that white samite they're always talking about in Arthurian legends looks like,” my human mind thought. It was like light was coming out of her. I took a closer look at her diamond sandals and her toenails and it looked like she had a pedicure made out of stars. Then I realized it was the light coming out of even her feet.
She was big and quiet and peaceful and still. She did not move. I knew she was with me. Knowing that she was sitting there, my whole dragon self sighed and relaxed all the way. She was here.
I did not have to guard. I was off-duty. I had never been off-duty before in my whole life, at least, not that I remembered. But I knew she had me protected. She was the most powerful, grandest being there could be. I was her pet dragon. I had always been her pet dragon. I loved her absolutely. I had always thought of myself as a feral creature, but with her, I was tame.
I looked at the fire in the suburban English hearth and saw that the flames had turned to roses.
In my dragon-mind, I looked around the room and saw it was a great hillside, covered with a myriad of other resting creatures, in every rainbow colour. We were all resting under the protective stillness of the woman in white. I saw a turquoise wing here, a round pink rump there, a tired flank over there. Next to me rested a mauve-and-grey pigeon. And over all of us watched the woman in white.
I thought I was your special pet dragon, I thought. You are all my creatures, she said in me. Yes, but I want a little extra reassurance.
I lay my head on her knee and looked up at her adoringly. And then she did something quite amazing. She looked down at me. She looked right into my eyes! Oh!
“I am God,” she said.
“You look an awful lot like a big fancy version of Stephanie Snyder,” my human mind said.
“I am your God,” she repeated, patiently. “I take any form that helps you understand me better.” She looked deeply into my dragon-eyes and I looked up into hers. “This,” she said.
This was the essence of everything. There was nothing else. This was all. Know this.
Her dark blue eyes filled my horizon and that was all. I saw with her, accepted her gaze into my self, and shared what we shared.
There was no such thing as time.
It could not have been longer than a moment or two, in my human perception. More than a moment would have superfluous anyway. The human Stephanie started to sing. My human self started to fight for dominance with my pet dragon self. I whimpered as the moment started to slip away.
“But wait, don't go,” I said, part dragon and part human. “Usually when I have you on the line, I like to chat with you, ask you questions, discuss life. This time we haven't spoken at all!”
“You know we just discussed everything that matters.”
“I know,” I said. “But, but, but—what about my human life? What about feeling alone when I see all the bunny rabbits together? What about all the sad things that happened recently? What about my troubles? What about...stuff?”
God laughed a little. “Stuff” was barely worth mentioning! It was completely unimportant. Because she knew. And I knew too, that that moment was what mattered. And it was rather small of me to even contain things like worries and a linear perception of time. But I was human and God always meets us where we are. “You have so much ahead of you,” she said. “There is so much coming.”
And then she left and I came back to a foggy, sweaty yoga room, and for a minute, I could still see the human bodies combined with vestiges of their energetic selves. I saw a human Stephanie in very tangible, non-glowing spandex walking around, but wisped around her, a last whisper of trailing white samite. And then it was gone.
A congregation of human beings sang a great chant. Because everyone around me knew it, I magically knew it too. And then we went home, the same yet different.
Ever since that night, I've been different. Because I saw into God's eyes and let her see into mine. Because instead of constantly circling, never at rest, always outside, I have learned how to rest inside. Because I learned that I was not alone, but have the best company of all.
Because now I know that God lives inside my temple.