I’m at the Healing Beyond Borders conference in Aurora, Colorado.

Healing Beyond Borders is the organizational “nest” and certifier for therapists using Healing Touch in their practice. Many nurse practitioners and other professionals from the medical and healing community are here to train in how to use this energetic touch practice to give more heartful and skilled care to their patients.

I won’t kid you, in the past I had my blinders on when it came to practices outside Zen. I shared the arrogant approach of many Zen friends, that unless you did a retreat and sat from 4 in the morning to 10 at night, you weren’t going to get very far in the spiritual world.

This arrogance went its way a long time ago, but I still blush to think of it. At Healing Beyond Borders I found the most open-hearted humans imaginable. A healing touch teacher sitting next to me that first evening, describing what she’d learned over the years, said: “I learned to connect with people very strongly, but what I most appreciate is how much I learned about connecting with my own heart.”

Isn’t it strange? When you connect with people who’ve worked hard to heal themselves, you find that outward connection rebounding right back to you, going deep into your own heart.

In Zen we often say that the best way to connect with your heart is to sit. I would correct that to say that it’s just one of the ways. A deep connection with others—not just anyone, but someone in deep resonance with his/her own heart—is equally powerful. These are the kind of connections I wish to pursue now. These are the kind of relationships I wish to pursue.

Something happened the night before I left Massachusetts that seemed to promise something powerful, though at the time I couldn’t know it.

I flew to Colorado on Wednesday. Tuesday night I returned from the zendo, all packed and ready to go, knowing I had to get up early the next morning. Only I couldn’t sleep.

Time passed and I was getting more and more awake, and soon anxiety began to creep in. Was this going to be like last July, when I couldn’t sleep all night before my scheduled flight to join our retreat at the Black Hills and finally decided to cancel at the very last minute? Was it happening again? When I was asked to give a keynote talk at the conference months ago I was sure I could do it. It felt far away,  plenty of time for the grieving process to follow its course before going off to Denver. But here I was again, unable to sleep.

I finally did fall asleep, and I had this dream:

I am in a New Jersey corporate park, where I have arrived to talk about a writing job for a company. I show my interviewers various kinds of writing samples, we exchange ideas, they are very impressed with my creativity, but they ask me specifically if I will write beautiful things about a hair product they are selling. I say no. I tell them that I will soon turn 70, and I don’t wish to write to sell things commercially.

We part very amicably, I walk to the elevator and look at my watch. We are scheduled to fly to Poland for our annual retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau and it’s getting late, our flight’s taking off from New York.

Bernie’s waiting in the lobby along with three other Zen Peacemakers old-timers: Chris Panos (currently chairman-of-the-board of Zen Peacemakers International), Paco Lugovina, and Genro Gauntt. All of us have worked together for many years. “We have to get a taxi fast or we’ll miss our flight,” I tell Bernie. Paco says that he already ordered one, but given the size of the group he asked the company to upgrade the taxi.

At that point a large, antique bus appears. It looks like a school bus, I think to myself. Meantime, our group has grown larger; people have joined whom I don’t know, but all of them are also going to the retreat. Genro takes the hand of a young girl holding a stuffed bear close to her chest and introduces her to everybody. Shyly, she tells me the name of the bear is Lucio.

Paco offers to get coffee and muffins for everyone for the ride to the New York airport and we board the bus. I sit next to Bernie, behind us is the girl still holding Lucio with Chris at her side, while Genro sits alone behind them doing his prayers. The bus leaves and I suddenly realize I never got my coffee and muffin.

“Where is it?” I ask Paco.

Before he could answer, Chris looks out and sees that the paper plate holding my coffee and muffin is on a bus tray which is suspended outside the window. Wow, I think, I never thought of that, what a terrific way of saving space inside the bus. Chris leans out the window, grabs the plate off the tray, brings it into the bus, and hands it to me. I look down. The plate holds a cup of black coffee and there are 2 extra muffins in addition to mine.

“There are a couple of extra muffins here,” I say aloud. “Who wants another muffin?”

The girl behind me says that Lucio, her little bear, wants a muffin, so I give her one. Somebody else across the bus raises his hand, so I hand the muffin to Bernie to give to him. And now I see that there are more muffins. They’re smaller than the big ones sold in delis, nicely-shaped and home-made. People raise their hands for muffins and I hand one after another to Bernie who gives them out. Each time I’m sure we’re down to my one last muffin I find a few more underneath, so that everybody is getting more muffins. We give out more and more, and still there are always more buried underneath.

“Where do you suppose Paco got these muffins?” I ask Bernie.

The alarm rang and I woke up. In fact, I jumped up. There was no question in my mind, of course I was going to the Healing Beyond Borders conference.