Sunday, May 17, 2015

The cry of the trees

The cry of the trees, at the very end of a training I led deep in the woods in the Pacific Northwest, was the only disturbing episode during that grand adventure. All that week, we had delighted in a world of green – frilly greens of the cedars, mossy greens hanging from high trunks and draping stumps and nurse logs, bottle-green shadows of the deep woods, juicy greens of berry bushes and young vines, splashy brown-greens of the beaver swamp.
    -On our last morning, preparing for an exercise in community visioning, I asked the members of our circle to join hands and imagine that we were creating a Dream Tree with our joined energies.

“Let your awareness go down to the souls of your feet. You feel yourself standing with the Earth. You are reaching down now, through the souls of your feet.
     "You are reaching deep into the Earth, going deep and spreading wide, as the roots of a tree go deep and spread wide. You feel your energy filaments touching and clasping the energy roots of all of us in this circle.
      "We are coming together, forming a root ball deep within the Earth. As you breath in, feel the Earth energy rising up to form the trunk of our Dream Tree – our One Tree, soaring towards the sky, spreading its canopy to catch the light.
       "Now we are feeding on sunfire…”

-In this way, we wove our energies together in a Dream Tree that we intended to use as a base for visioning, from which we could scout in different directions to fulfill a common agenda: to find new ways to bring dreaming into our environments and communities all over the map.
    I suggested that during the drumming, we would all find our way to an observation deck or tree house high in the upper branches of the Dream Tree. We could look out from there to see what we needed to see, and zoom in on things we needed to study closely, or take flight like birds to visit places many looks away.
-   When I started the drumming, the energy form of the One Tree emerged vividly. I could feel it, see it, smell it. It was unlike any previous tree of vision I have used. It was an immense elder of the rainforest, as wide and tall as a skyscraper. Its lower trunk was alive with creeping and slithering things, including thousands of snakes, hard to tell apart from the creepers and strangler vines until they darted out.
-    I moved gingerly to a shelf high above where a giant white heron was perched, looking out over vast distances. I was shot out from there, to meet one elder tree after another - a great Douglas fir, an ancient oak, a mighty poplar, a wide banyan rooting itself again and again from its branches.
    They showed me scenes of pain and destruction in the landscapes they inhabit. I was made to watch clear-cutting in the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest, and to be present during brutal deforestation in Brazil, with great machines rending the Earth, and the stink of smoke and the cries of dying trees everywhere.
    The grief of the trees entered my being. It was like being made to witness the rape and butchery of innocents. Choking and sobbing, I had difficulty sustaining the beat of the drum.
-   I heard the voices of the tree elders. Their message, in different accents, was the same.

-You use trees for your dreaming.
The trees need humans to dream with them.
The trees are dying through the ignorance and greed of men,
and with them your world.
We need Tree Speakers to speak for the green world.
It is your duty to find them and give them voice and vision.

-  I want to reissue an invitation for members of our dreaming community all over the world to dream with the trees and discover what it would mean and require to become a Tree Speaker. We can embark on this – as my group did at Mosswood Hollow – by imagining ourselves coming together to create a Dream Tree, with a shared root ball deep in the Earth, and a place of vision high in the upper branches. 

photo: Great Stump at Mosswood Hollow (c) Robert Moss

An expanded version of this article appears in my book Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom. Published by New World Library.

Friday, May 15, 2015

How she made death a birthday party in the room next door

Artist, dream teacher and hospice volunteer Valerie McCarney helps the dying to prepare for the journey into the next life by remembering and sharing their dreams. I asked her to write a guest blog about her moving experience of helping an elderly woman in hospice care to follow the road of dreams to a birthday celebration in a "room next door".

Guest blog by Valerie McCarney

As a hospice volunteer, I have been blessed to be there when people transition from this world to the next.
     Such is the case of a wonderful woman who died last week. I will call her B.  She was 94 and sharp as a tack with a great sense of humor and a love of laughter. We had the most wonderful conversations over these past months.
     Her daughter usually went south for the winter but did not want to go this year because her mom was so sick. But B would not let her stay. I will be fine, she said. I have plenty of other people caring for me. Her daughter called her every day. B was happy that her daughter was off having fun and living her life.
     Her daughter came back two weeks ago. I thought when I went to see B, she would be ecstatic because her daughter was home. That was not the case. She was very anxious. I asked her why and she said, "I prayed every day that I would not die until she came home. Now she is home and I am going to die. I lie in bed and wait for my heart to stop." So we talked and she eventually calmed down. Then she started to talk of the dreams.
     She was having many dreams that frightened her.  I told her about others who have had similar dreams and how they were gifts. I told B, "The people that love you are here and will help you make the journey."
     The hospice chaplain visited her and reconfirmed how common these dreams were for people. I knew her faith was strong because of the worn Bible next to her bed.  I think the chaplain’s reconfirmation of the importance of these dreams helped her open up. She said, "I pray for contentment to meet what is happening without fear."
     Over the last two weeks of her life, we talked about her dreams. She told me of being in rooms with people she had known in may periods of her life. She was surprised to find that now they were all in the same room. She walked around looking at them. She noticed they were all surrounded by shimmering light.
    She saw her husband and her parents. Their appearance had changed. They all looked to be the same age, and they all looked good. She was really enjoying her dreams. She started to say "I think dying must be like going into another room.  You are still there, only people can’t see you!" Another time she said, "Maybe death  is like a boat going over the horizon."
   She said that sometimes in dreams she was holding a rope and knew that when she dropped it she would die. I suggested that she might fly up like a balloon when she let go. She liked that. 
     Then one day she saw someone very special. He was floating and looked like a tiny angel without wings. It was her firstborn son, who only lived four hours.  This dream helped her the most. She had never forgotten him and remembered his birthday every year. Had he lived, he would have been 72 on May 9.  She announced, "I think this year I will celebrate his birthday with him for the first time."
    She did exactly what she said she would do.,  B died on May 9.
    I think when she opened the door to her dreams and allowed herself to step in all her fears left. She found peace and contentment.
    I came home filled with thoughts of her and all we talked about over the past weeks. I went directly to my studio to work out my own grief.  I do a technique I call Expressive art, where I pick two colors, put on music and with each hand scribble on a huge sheet of paper hung on a wall.  I scribble with my eyes closed until it feels right to stop. Then as a child would do looking at the clouds, I pick out the images I see.
    B’s face was right there so I darkened those lines, a man in a boat, the sea, a Cheshire cat with a fish in its mouth, her son swimming towards her and a bird.  From our conversations I knew each image was there because we had talked of them. I used metallic paint for the shimmering light she described.
    I sat back after I was finished and could almost see the boatman bringing her home. I wrote this poem.

You knew this would happen once she came home
You waited for her even though the dream people were reaching out
Nervously, you read “ the bird is not anxious, he trusts in the lord”
Listening for your heart to stop
You pray for contentment.

Peace arrives in the hands of your infant son
As your body like a clock winds down
You step onto the boat
The boat that is waiting to take you home.

Text and art (c) Valerie McCarney

The Stand

The erotic scent of wood’s decay and earth after rain
fills the primal stand of giant poplars, oaks and elms
and I know I have been coming here always.
The golden one parts the forest as a wing of light.
The dark one pushes through as a ruthless red boar.
They come without armies, without banners
though legions have bled for them, and empires died.
They meet as She who watches loves them best:
as lithe young men in their prime of manhood,
as antlered kings in the fierce season, fighting to possess.

There has never been peace between them,
only a balance that shifts and spills, never still or sure.
They battle now with the arms of the forest,
wielding uprooted trees as spears, as clubs.
The trees groan and sway, taking sides.
The golden one finds the opening for the killing blow
but stays his hand. From his hesitation, the dark king
gains boldness and vigor, and drives a rowan
deep into his brother’s side. Wounded and waning,
the light king drags himself to the mothering oak
and darkness swallows the sun. The dark one
raises a cry that calls hungry ghosts to the feast.
But something restrains him from the final act.
It can only be Her voice, walking through his mind.

If either wins, the game is over.
Without contraries, nothing is created.
It is through your unending battleand its lack of resolution
that the game goes on.

The dark one brings a gift to the wounded king.
A flock of seven black sheep. One of them gags
and vomits up a glowing blue egg.
With his last strength, the light twin palms the gift
and his body is suffused with healing light.
He rises, intact, ready to renew the battle

here, or anywhere that is world.

"The Stand" is included in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories published by Excelsior Editions.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Visiting Yeats in the Magic Cottage

I have enjoyed a lifelong relationship with William Butler Yeats. I have always loved his poetry and have been able – since elementary school – to recite long passages from memory. I have had dreams and visions of Yeats and his circle for as long as I can remember. He was not only a marvelous poet; he was a Western magus, one of the leading figures in the Order of the Golden Dawn.
      Yeats began to appear in my dreams at night as well as my daydreams and willed journeys in consciousness. In these dreams, I sometimes seemed to be living in his era – sometimes I seemed to meet Yeats in another reality altogether.
      Many years later, I dreamed I received a message from him inviting me to visit him at home. I was not sure where ‘home’ for Yeats might now be, but it did not appear to be in Ireland. In a subsequent vision, in that promising state of fluid awareness that sometimes develops in the hypnagogic zone between waking and sleep (or vice versa), I found myself floating above my body, up through the ceiling, and then through some kind of mesh that looked like an intricately woven fabric or netting.
     I was drawn up as if a traction beam had been turned on. I was under no compulsion, but I let myself rise on the intention of the one who was calling me. I had no doubt who that was. His lines were running through my head:

I shall arise and go there, and go to Innisfree…

Oh, yes, the early poem that has been quoted so often that Yeats himself got bored and irritated by it, vastly preferring the maturity and complexities of his later work. But its rhythms helped me travel, helped me swim through the subtle air. You don’t reject a wing song that works (and indeed, Yeats wrote many).
      I passed through many landscapes, perhaps whole worlds. They were separated by dividing partitions that were sometimes like cloud-banks, sometimes like membranes that stretched to let me through, and sometimes like woven fabric or netting. I came at last to what appeared to be a pleasant country cottage on a winding path. The flower beds were bright with color. It seemed to me that, as I glanced around, the colors at the edge of my peripheral vision would change. Behind the cottage was a gentle river, and on the banks of the river, spires and towers that might have been those of Oxford. I began to drift along the path beside the river and saw another town beyond the first, this one quite certainly Italian; the architecture was that of the Quattrocento Florence or the Urbino that Yeats had loved and sometimes threatened to make his sanctuary from the critics and civil unrest in Ireland.
      I was thrilled that scenes the poet’s words had often conjured in my mind in lesser, drifting states of reverie were now so vividly and palpably available to explore. I hurried toward a palazzo worthy of a Medici that looked as if it has been constructed that day.
      But again there was that tug of another’s intention, and I allowed it to pull me back to the cottage. Did the cottage really have a thatched roof before, or was that detail changed while I was looking elsewhere?
     Through the door, long a hall, and there was Yeats, sitting at a broad table covered with books and papers. Through the leaded glass window at his left hand I saw the cities along the river; they changed from one to another at the blink of an eye. I was excited to see that Yeats was continuing to study and to write. I wondered whether it hampered or helped his craft that his new work would not be published on earth. He was patient with me, letting me gradually awaken to the understanding that, from his new perspective, the most important from of publication might be to inspire others, to operate as one of those ‘teachers of the thirteenth cone’ he wrote about in A Vision.
      He showed me a large blue crystal lying on his desk. He was most insistent that I should use this blue stone for creative inspiration and to open and focus the third eye of vision. This blue crystal was a place in which to see, and a connection between the two of us.            He gave me some personal guidance and an update on certain psychic crosscurrents involving individuals and group that had been caught up in psychic battles in the past, in the time of the great rift within the Order of the Golden Dawn and in the darker times of the struggle between British magicians and the Nazi occultists. I asked Yeats where exactly we were.
      He told me very precisely: “We are on the fourth level of the astral plane”. It seemed this was a neighborhood essentially reserved for people of creative genius, for writers and artists and musicians.
      I felt immensely privileged to have been given this tour of Yeats’s environment. It was not clear to me whether he lived in the cottage alone; I was not shown the private rooms. I did feel quite certain that this Yeats was embarked on a vast new project, though its exact nature was not yet made clear to me.

Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

Drawing: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, May 3, 2015

When her dead ex-husband warned she was walking in his shoes

A guest blog by Deborah Dutilh on her remarkable personal experience of life-saving dream diagnosis facilitated by a deceased loved one.

My ex-husband, Jean-François, died from brain cancer in February 2011. And then he came back.
    When he visited me in a dream on August 22, 2013, I wondered if I should be worried or not. In spite of our divorce, we still cared for each other and said we’d always be connected through our children.
     In this dream, Jean-François visits and gives me a picture of a playful seal that he’s drawn. We’re walking along the beach, hand in hand. I’m wearing his hiking boots, the worn leather ones with sturdy thick soles and long red laces wound around my ankles a few times. Then suddenly we’re inside a big store like Target, driving his car down the aisles, looking for an exit.
     I woke up feeling anxious and not liking the meaning of this dream at all! I know the seal represents our pact of being connected. Does walking in his shoes mean I have a health issue, too? Do those long red shoelaces symbolize our forever entwined souls? What does the future hold in store for me? Will I need to be shopping around for solutions?
     Of course not! I don’t have any health issues. I’m in perfect health, I try to convince myself.
     When we don’t want to face the fear of what our dreams might mean, it’s easy for our inner critic to step in with a different interpretation to protect us from what our intuition is telling us.
     Upon awakening, mine tells me, “Of course you don’t have a brain tumor! But, you know how hard you’ve struggled with building your business now? Well, you could have supported him more when he was building his business, I don’t know, 25 or 30 years ago! Remember you said you’d work while he built his business, but after years of still no money coming in, you were getting fed up, you started to really resent it all. C’mon admit it! You should be feeling guilty about that!! “
      “So there you have it! Guilt beats having a brain tumor, doesn’t it,” he concludes. Without any symptoms at this point, this could be plausible, but my intuition knew better. I had no choice but to wait and see.
      On September 14 I got a massive migraine that landed me in Urgent Care. Headaches can have so many causes that the doctors weren’t concerned. They sent me home with pain meds and instructions to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Once again my intuition did not agree.
      Then, September 18, I had another very clear dream that I was at my own life celebration, invisible and easily physically passing through the guests who were telling stories about me and how courageous I was! This dream confirmed that indeed, I had something terribly wrong.
       I saw my doctor that very day. He listened intently when I told him about the recent dreams and what my intuition was telling me. The dates were lining up ironically, too. I had my headache on September 14, exactly 4 years to the day, after Jean-Francois had his seizure. My unusual headache had my sons concerned, too. We’d already been through this once with their dad. We all needed peace of mind.
       “Doctor,” I asked, “do you believe in the power of our dreams to predict illness?”
       Fortunately, he did and referred me to a neurologist to request an MRI to rule out anything serious. Still, I’m functioning perfectly and my only symptoms are three migraines and two very clear dreams that needed little expertise to interpret. No one is overly concerned, yet.
      Six weeks later, to everyone’s great surprise, the MRI showed a tumor the size of an apricot on the surface of my right temporal lobe. I was immediately admitted to hospital and scheduled for brain surgery, two days later, the day Jean-François would have been 60. I was released two days later on my 60th birthday.
      Thanks to my intuition, dreams and doctors who believed me, my life was saved with early detection. The diagnosis, glioblastoma multiforme, is the most common, deadliest and highest grade tumor. There’s no cure and it’s recurring. Sadly, 8 out of 10 patients will die from this tumor. Fortunately, in spite of the dismal statistics, there are more and more long term survivors. I plan on being among them.
       It took me quite a while to embrace the surrealism of my new “normal.” I am convinced that all the dream work done over the years, my belief in soul recovery and the power of our dreams saved my life with early detection before any diagnosable symptoms. I was also very blessed to have doctors who believed my dreams and intuition.
       Since I did soul retrieval with Robert Moss, Jean-François has visited me in dreams several times to reassure me that all is well. He always tells me he won’t let our sons be without both of us. I believe this implicitly, that his soul is with me, along with Panther, my spirit guide, symbol of death and rebirth.

Deborah Dutilh began studying her dreams in France over 15 years ago with a Jungian mentor. She has attended workshops with Robert Moss and is part of a weekly dream group in Los Angeles. She is a theatre artist sharing her story in a one-woman show called “Into The Panther’s Cage.”

Friday, May 1, 2015

The faery of the avocado tree

Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

The mist from the sea has been burned away by the early sun. I am walking the path through the gardens at Esalen, apple in hand, among red and gold poppies. I pass the pond where a little water snake is swimming, and the easel of an artist who has almost captured bright blue wildflowers.
    At the crest of the gentle slope, I hear a voice singing from inside a tree,

In the avocado tree

That is where you'll find me.

    I look for the source of the lovely song. I see a lithe, olive-skinned girl with long ringlets.
    "Thank you," I call to her. "That is a beautiful kledon to start any day." I explain that a kledon is a sound, sometimes a song or a snatch of conversation, coming out of silence or undifferentiated noise. A most important oracle for the ancient Greeks, and one I value highly.
     "Come into the tree," she invites me.
     I step under the mantle of broad green leaves.
     "Would you like some avocados?"
     "I would love some." 
     She shinnies high up the trunk and out along the branches with simian grace , dropping grenades of green joy around me. 

       Now she is hanging upside down like a fruit bat, singing and inviting me to take all I want. I take only one, but later she finds me on the terrace outside the dining hall and tells me she wants me to take more. She brings me three more green avocados, and lays them on the table next to my black dog. A wonderful start for any day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Where worlds meet

Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

A seal is basking in the sun on a rock
below the Place of Leaping
where sweet water joins the salt

This is a place where worlds meet.
I remind a woman who may be a selkie
to be careful where she leaves her skin.
I follow a path of monarch butterflies
to the bridge over the ravine
where a woman comes swinging a broom;

she left her other ride at home.

New altars to ancient gods are flowering
Poppies are the color of blood and of desire.
I offer tobacco and spirit to the head 

of an African gatekeeper
I give breath to a goddess of the sea.
I walk a plank hung with prayer flags

where they say it is not safe to walk alone,

Fox showed a laughing face in a pink cloud.
A flighty bear weathered a cyclone 
in my birth country to join us. 
A latecomer arrived from the hot land
where the Dogon remember the blue star.
Stag instructed a dreamer to shoot him
and when her arrow touched his heart
she vomited frogs, and was healed.

A dead Romanian scholar got a message to me
through a traveler who came here because
she found a book she dreamed  
where he instructs that it is not only shamans
who go through crises of initiation.
I met him in Transylvania and in Chicago  
and he suggested books for me to read and write.
He had been dead twenty years at the time,
but only in one of the many worlds.

A brave woman plunged into a mountain lake
where a man left her baby self to drown
and brought her back with the help

of a king-sized salmon and a star child
who showed her how to play with sun and moon.

A faery gave me a message for the morning
singing, "Look for me in the avocado tree,

that is where I'll be." When I thanked her
she invited me to come inside the tree
and shinnied up the trunk with simian grace
and threw down grenades of green joy.

In the baths a benign conspiracy of sisters
is plotting to soak this world in dreaming.
Eight cormorants on their own rock

pause from their exquisite fishing
to tell me it is time to communicate
with those I love in all worlds.