Sunday, August 19, 2018

Architects of the Imaginal Realm

"You are a space architect,"one of my students declares. "You create tents of vision and bring us inside for shared adventures."
     I like the idea that I am an architect of imaginal space.I dream of scholar cities and pleasure domes, of temples and libraries in a real world that is constantly and delightfully under construction. I invite others to accompany me to the Moon Café, and the House of Time, to the Silver Airport and the Cosmic Video Store. I give them route maps and floor plans. I tell them how to deal with gatekeepers, what to offer and what to leave behind. 

     I help invited visitors to frame their intentions: to meet a guide or an ancestral soul, to find a new song or look (if they dare) in their Book of Life, to design a home on the Other Side, to embrace a lover in an apple orchard at the edge of Faerie. I don’t lead them around like a tour guide. I open space, then turn them loose to make fresh discoveries on their own. 
    The travelers add to the locations they visit. Their very presence makes the ground more solid, the structures more durable and more complex. They are composed of subtle stuff, but may endure longer than buildings of steel and concrete.
     The taste and imagination of visitors add flourishes and sometimes whole floors.In these ideoplastic environments, every visitor is a builder and decorator. A bronze mirror replaces a daguerreotype; a cello is heard in a music room that wasn't there before; a wall of books in the Magic Library rolls back to reveal a druid wood; golden carp gleam in the pool of the Garden of Memory. 
    I created a huge tent, the kind used for family reunions and elegant outdoor weddings, and told my invited guests that they could come here to encounter and reclaim multiple aspects of self and soul. I showed group after group the way to this House of Gifts, and to make sure they did not get lost, I assigned the sheepdog of shamanic drumming to sort out their brainwaves. These visits produced marvels. Then I noticed that what I had raised as a tent had grown in wondrous ways. From one side, it looked like a fairytale castle; from another, like a Victorian mansion with many wings and countless rooms to open one by one.
     The act of observation, we are informed by quantum physics, makes things, even worlds. Looking brings definite events into manifestation out of a soup of possibilities, Heisenberg's "world of tendencies." Frequent explorers of the Imaginal Realm are quite familiar with the observer effect. I am constantly astonished, though rarely surprised, by how the travelers who follow my maps change what they look at. There is now a pink woman with an elephant's head at the ticket counter of the Cinema of Lost Dreams, and there is a three-headed oracle on the dark side of the Moon.

Image: illustration for Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities 

Tracking the Traveler

Sometimes, lying in the drifty state near sleep, I sense that as I grow drowsy, a second self, back to back with me on the bed, is stirring awake, ready to prowl. I call him the Traveler.
I can only keep up with him by becoming him. When I come home from our travels, I am not quite myself and no longer him. When we part company, I am left to pore over scraps of memory like the things I find in my pockets and on my phone after a regular plane trip: a boarding pass, a bus ticket, a foreign banknote, a scribbled love note, random photos of far-away cities and beaches and train stations.
    I track the Traveler by recording his exploits – the ones I manage to catch – in my journal. In one report he seems to be very like my present self, just two days ahead of me, on my present probable event track. Sometimes he is much further ahead, or on a different – mildly or radically – event track, or he is in another body in another time or another world.
     When I am the Traveler the journey often begins at a certain threshold, a gap between the worlds, in a twilight of the mind. I may find myself floating upwards. I roll over and as I do so I feel something pulling loose from my physical body. Lights flash at the top of my head and I find myself being drawn up into a cone of light, like a pyramid with an opening at the top.
     There are days when, flat on my back under a tree, I fall upwards into the bowl of the sky, like Rumi. There are nights when I feel I am about to blast off like a rocket, or be blown from the mouth of a cannon, through circles of red within black. Or I find myself stripping off, shedding the body like a snake skin, dropping it like an old overcoat. When the travels begin, I often find myself looking at a geometric pattern. It may be a glowing energy grid. It may resemble the weave of a carpet, or the strands of a net.
     This has been going on for as long as I can remember. You might say I got a jump start by being thrown out of my body and into other worlds at an early age. At age 3 and again at age 9 I was pronounced clinically dead in hospitals during crises of illness. Today we talk about near-death experiences but I still think of this as dying and coming back, which is what Australian doctors told my parents I had done. During one of these experiences, during a few minutes under a surgeon’s knife, I seemed to live a whole lifetime with a different people in another world. So I have always understood that there are worlds beyond the physical world that are no less real – and possibly more real – and that we can travel there by shifting consciousness.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Six Gates to Lucid Dreaming

A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming. This awareness can give you the power to use the dreamscape as an adventure theme park, a place of training or higher education, or a field in which you can vanquish nightmare terrors and recognize and integrate different aspects of yourself.
     How do you become a lucid dreamer? Let me count the ways.

1. Waking up spontaneously to the fact that you are dreaming

This may happen because you notice an anomaly inside the dream. In ordinary reality, you don’t stand up naked in front of a crowd, you are not still in elementary school and you do not keep dragons in your basement. You look in a mirror and see a different face.
     When dream elements of this kind make you aware that you are dreaming, the trick is to stay with the dream instead of letting yourself be startled out of it. This requires practice and a fine melding of excitement and familiarity. Your excitement over what is going on will make you want to stay with the dream. Increasing familiarity with the phenomenon will help you maintain the poise and balance to go on with it.
     It is interesting that it is often scary experiences in early life, especially adolescence, that first bring spontaneous dream lucidity. For example, the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, in which you begin to stir from sleep and find that you cannot operate major muscle groups, can be the prelude to lucid dreaming – when you are able to relax into the situation and let something else develop.

2. Recognize your dream signs

You want to follow the practice of journaling all your dream experiences. This is going to be your personal encyclopedia of symbols and will give your first-hand data on the reality of precognition, parallel universes and so much more. In relation to developing your abilities as a lucid dreamer, your journal is the place where you can study your dream signs – the elements in your dreams that could make you aware that you are dreaming.
     For example, the dead are alive in your dreams. Or a dream element is repeated, exactly, in the way the black cat runs across the room the same way twice in the movie The Matrix. There is a sudden transit from one scene to another and you don’t know how you got to the new place. You are making love with a movie star. You find that when you try to read a text, it blurs.
     You can then select one or more dream signs and tell yourself that when you observe the same element, you will become aware that you are dreaming. You can borrow suggestions from frequent flyers. A very popular one is Carlos Castaneda’s suggestion (in Journey to Ixtlan) that whenever you see your hands, you should ask, “Am I dreaming”? I do that when I look at my watch. Inside a dream, the watch sometimes operates very differently from its regular functioning.

3. Set an intention for lucid dreaming

Before going to bed, you set an intention to be aware you are dreaming and repeat that intention until it is firmly implanted in your mind. Give the intention some juice. “I am going to have fun in my dreams and I will be aware that I am dreaming” is perfectly acceptable. So is “Tonight I will go on a road of healing and I will know I am dreaming.”

4. Start in the Twilight Zone

The twilight zone between sleep and waking is a great launch pad for adventures in lucid dreaming. Sleep researchers distinguish the hypnagogic state, when you are on your way to sleep, from the hypnopompic state, when you are leaving sleep. In both states, if you are able to relax and entertain the images that form on your mental screen, you may find you are being offered a rich menu of portals and scenarios for dreaming. Choose to go with one of those images or developing stories, and you may start out lucid and stay that way.
    However, when the adventure begins in the first period of the night, you may fall asleep and lose dream awareness (and often memory of the dream) because your body craves rest. In most people’s daily cycle, the first hours in bed are a time for “industrial sleep” to restore and replenish the body. Dream recall and lucid awareness may be less important in this period, in relation to daily maintenance, than the need for nourishing sleep and downtime.
    The best times to experiment in the twilight zone are when you wake in the middle of the night, and when you wake from your final sleep cycle to start the day. I love what becomes available in the middle of the night (especially between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.) when I can simply lie back in a drifty state and let images come. After your final sleep cycle, you may find you remember dreams that have juice and energy and vivid detail. If you can arrange your life so you don’t have to jump out of bed right away, you can stay with one of these dreams and let it unfold into a fully lucid dream excursion.

5. Reenter a dream

Dream reentry is the royal road to lucid dreaming. This is one of the core techniques of Active Dreaming. The central idea is this: a dream scene is a place you have been, wherever in the worlds that may be. Because you have been there, you can go there again.
     Why would you want to do this?
      Maybe you were having a great adventure or romance, but were interrupted by the alarm clock and would like to go on with it. Maybe you were fleeing from a nightmare bogey and you realize it is time to face up to that challenge and resolve it on its own ground – which, by the way, is the smartest way to end a series of scary dreams. Maybe you want to talk to someone who appeared in the dream.
     Maybe you simply want to develop entry points for lucid dreaming, personal dream gates through which you can access realms of adventure, guidance and healing.
      How do you practice dream reentry? You need three things: a strong image, a clear intention, and the ability to fuel and focus the lucid dream journey that is going to unfold. You hold the dream that is calling you in your mind and let it become vivid and alive. It might be the dream from which you just awakened or a dream from years ago, maybe a dream that frightened you in childhood and was never resolved. Next, you set your intention. I am going to see what’s behind that door. I am going to confront my pursuer. I am going to dance with the bear. I am going to meet my dream lover again on that tropical island and I don’t have to pay for the plane ticket.
     If you have a tendency to drift off to sleep, you may add the intention: I will remain alert and aware that I am dreaming.
 If you find that you need extra fuel to accomplish liftoff, and/or that your focus is easily distracted, try using shamanic drumming as you embark on the journey. In my workshops, we use shamanic drumming very frequently to power conscious dream journeys. I have recorded a CD of shamanic drumming specifically for conscious dream travelers, Wings for the Journey.

6. Look at the world around you as a waking dream

As is well understood by teachers of dream yoga, lucid living is fundamental to growing the practice of lucid dreaming. Practice mindfulness in everyday circumstances. Ask yourself from time to time, What am I doing now? What is playing on my inner soundtrack? Take some quiet, unscheduled time, inside or out and about, and receive impressions – both the contents of your mind and the incidents of external reality – without judgment.
     Look for signs and symbols in the world around you. I suggest many games in this cause in my book Sidewalk Oracles. You’ll become aware that the world is speaking to you in many voices, and you’ll start to glimpse the patterns of a deeper order of reality, behind the veils of ordinary perception.
     You’ll find you can carry this heightened awareness into the dream state, and that your deeper dreams will expand your consciousness, in turn, on the roads of everyday life.

Photo by RM

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How did I get here?

You set off from home and find yourself on a high mountain top, or another country, with no idea how you got here.
    You go to the rest room and come out in a completely different place: a forest, a space ship, a theme park.

    You close your eyes and wake up somewhere else. Maybe this happens again and again.    
    You're in one place and then suddenly in another, without any recollection of how you got from A to B.    
    These are common experiences in dreams. If we are too quick, on waking, to flatten our adventures into a single linear narrative, without pausing to reflect on the unexplained transits, we can miss a very important opportunity to learn more about what goes on in dreaming - and about the nature of reality itself.    
    When you jump from one scene to another, you may have stepped from one dream into another, as you might step from an outer to an inner courtyard.    
    Make it your game to ask "How did I get here?" when a sudden scene shift takes place. Ask people around you, if they can see and hear you.
   These maneuvers may cause you to wake up to the fact that you are dreaming. Stay with your experience, and you may find yourself embarked on a full-fledged lucid dream adventure.
    Look deeper, and you may find you are traveling between different realities, no less real than the one where your body is lying dormant in bed. You have not only switched dreams; you have changed worlds.

Art: Leonora Carrington, "The Inn of the Dawn Horse"

Dreaming with the Animal Guardians

When shamans go dreaming, characteristically they operate under the protection and guidance of animal guardians. Forging a close relationship with one or more "power animals" is central to developing the arts of shamanic dream travel and tracking. It is invaluable in maintaining healthy boundaries and defending psychic space. A conscious connection with the animal guardians shows us how to follow the natural paths of our energy. A strong working connection with the animal powers brings the ability to shapeshift the energy body and project energy forms that can operate at a distance from the physical body. 
    Our ancestors believed that we are born with a connection with a particular totem animal; this was the raison d'être of the clan system. Some Australian Aborigines believe, up to the present day, that when a human is born, its "bush soul" is born in the form of an animal or bird. We may feel that we have a lifelong connection with a certain animal or bird. Others may observe this in our body type, our life styles, our modes of responding to challenges. 
    But in the course of a lifetime, we may develop many animal connections. Some of these may stem from our relations with the animals who share our homes and habitats, from the family pets to wild animals encountered in nature and in our travels. Animals we have met in the physical world may reappear in our dreams, as allies and helpers. 
    Here are two personal examples, one involving a dog who had shared our home, the other a bird who had shared our habitat: After a black dog I had loved was killed on the road, he appeared again and again as a family protector. His presence, for a time, was all but physical. Driving the Jeep he had loved to ride in, a family member saw him in the rearview mirror and told him firmly to "Sit down!" The dog had died, but he was still very much around, watching over the family he had loved fiercely. After a time, I performed a ceremony to release his spirit. 
    After this, he appeared in a different way. A larger intelligence began to work through his form, and I found a black dog - who sometimes walked upright and even drove an automobile - appearing as a guide and bodyguard in my dreams and journeys. He showed me passages into the afterlife. He played guide and escort for me on a powerful and challenging journey that finally resolved a past-life issue that had shadowed my current life in many ways. I believe that, in the year after his death, I was dealing with the individual spirit of the dog I had loved. I feel that in later years, the form of my beloved dog has fused with a larger transpersonal source of guidance, linked to the precinct of Anubis, the "Opener of the Ways". 
     On the same land where I lived with my black dog, I had a series of physical encounters with a red-tailed hawk who spoke to me in a language I felt I could understand - if I only spoke hawk. In a spontaneous vision one night, when I was drifting between waking and sleep, the hawk lent me her wings, and I found myself drawn to a cabin in the woods, north of Lake Champlain, where I had the first of a series of life-changing visits with an ancient Iroquois "woman of power." I have written about this at length in my book Dreamways of theIroquois. The hawk has appeared again and again over the years, to offer confirmation or warning in its flight patterns over the roads of everyday life, and to lend me her wings in dreams and visions.
     Animal dreams may be the doorway to developing strong working relations with the animal guardians. These dreams may hold up a mirror to our health or habits. They may show us how we need to feed and attend to our bodies. They may reveal a potential we have not yet developed. They may tell a story about our lives or relationships like one of Aesop's fables. They may be the place of encounter between our dream self and a spiritual ally or guardian. 
     Our true spiritual teachers come looking for us in our dreams, and often they come in unexpected forms.The cat in your dreams may be the kitty you remember from childhood, or an aspect of your self that needs to be pampered or walk by night or play hunter, or a guide that has assumed a familiar face. Next time it scratches at the door, you may find it has turned into a tiger, a leopard or a goddess.

Painting from RM private collection

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Hermit Crab, Garfield the Cat and the Space Alien Game

When I am sharing dreams I often enjoy playing the Space Alien Game. This means asking the dreamer to explain a character or element in the dream as if speaking to an extra-terrestrial who has just dropped in from another star system and has little or no idea of how things operate on Earth. Speaking as an inter-galactic drop-in, I may ask you to explain a refrigerator, or a hippopotamus, or George Clooney. If we are talking about George, it won't be enough to tell me that he is a movie star, because I may never have heard of films or actors. You are going to have to explain what is a cinema, and what is a role - and what roles you most associate with Clooney.
     I once played the Space Alien Game with a dream of Garfield the Cat. During a break in an evening lecture for a church group, a very earnest woman approached me with a question. She wanted to know whether she could meet her guardian angel in her dreams. "Absolutely!" I told her without hesitation.
    I started to explain dream incubation. "I've done that," she cut me short. "I've read your book Conscious Dreaming and I know about setting intentions for dreams. The problem is, I asked three times to meet my guardian angel. And three times I got Garfield the Cat."
    It struck me that the original meaning of "angel" - άγγελος - in Greek is "messenger". Was there some sense in which Garfield could be a messenger for a woman who had clearly given much of her life to service for others?
    "Pretend I've just landed from another star system," I invited her. "I've never seen the funny pages and I know almost nothing about humans or their imaginations. Tell me who is Garfield the Cat."
     "Well, he's greedy and selfish and always looking out for Number One."
     "Is there a sense in which he could be a messenger?"
     She thought for a moment, then glanced at the line at the well-stocked buffet. "Do you think it would be okay if I jumped the line and got a piece of chocolate cake before it's all gone."
     "Garfield would say, Go for it!"
     She ran to the buffet, shouting, "Garfield told me to do it!" and came back with chocolate cake and the grin of a mischievous child all over her previously solemn face.

I played the Space Alien Game on another occasion with a dream of a hermit crab. A woman artist who felt trapped in a hollow marriage told me that for years she had dreamed of a hermit crab, or a succession of them.
    "I've just arrived from Arcturus," I informed her.'"Tell me about the hermit crab."
    "It's a sea creature. It's different from other crabs because it doesn't grow a shell of its own. It borrows the shells of other creatures. It moves from house to house."
     Her eyes widened in recognition as she made the last statement. "I know what the hermit crab is telling me," she said with sudden conviction. "It's telling me I no longer need to stay trapped in a borrowed house that no longer suits me."
     She took decisive action to honor this insight. She took on a teaching job her husband had told her she would never be able to fulfill, asserting her own value and moving towards financial independence. She started spending more time by the sea which she recognized as her natural habitat, and made a series of paintings celebrating the freedom of wind and wave and light. When she was ready to leave the marriage, she met a new partner who was able to fulfill emotional and sexual needs that had long been repressed.

In our Active Dreaming approach to sharing dreams, we recognize that it is the task of the guide to help the dreamer become author of meaning for her own dreams, and her own life. Asking a dreamer to explain a dream element to an innocent or mystified ET can bring up deep levels of knowing that had not previously entered consciousness. As with any of our processes, we always want the exchange to end with action to embody the guidance and energy of the dream in physical life. This may bring back the playful child to the over-serious adult. It may free the creative spirit from the confining shell of a sterile relationship.These are examples of real magic, which is the art of bringing gifts from one world into another world.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Healing the wounded men in our ancestry

She stands before the fire, straight and tall as a flame, her fierce green eyes blazing. Irene stoops for a moment to make an offering to the fire, a pinch of tobacco, a sprig of sage. Then she carefully unfolds the first piece of paper. She reads aloud the following statement she has written:  “I give to the fire all deep encrusted feelings of powerlessness that drove my ancestors, our beloved men, into alcohol dependency.”
    She consigns the paper to the fire, and the fire takes it hungrily.
    She unfolds the second message and reads it in a clear, ringing voice so that even the people on the edge of the circle can hear her without leaning in. “I give to the fire the great sadness of my ancestors, the abandoned men, who never knew love and felt less than honored by their women, mothers and sisters, daughter and lovers.”
    The flames leap higher as the second paper crackles and burns.
    She bends to blow into the fire, adding soul, which travels on the breath, to her deep intentions.
    When she stands again and turns to face the circle, there is a moment’s hush before we applaud her and celebrate what she has done, because we are amazed. In a fire ceremony like this, people bring many things they wish to release: old habits, fear or guilt, addiction or attachment. She has just sought to release a multi-generational history of stunted lives and toxic relations. Instead of casting out the men who blighted the lives of their women, she has asked to free them, back through the bloodlines, back through time immemorial. She has asked for deep ancestral healing, and she has asked as woman of power, with the right of the priestess to forgive and to intercede.
     When we sat quietly together later that night, I asked where she had found those remarkable words. “Kate and Caroline,” she told me. “They were very clear. They had written everything out. They wanted to make sure I got it exactly right.”
    She explained that Kate was her Irish great aunt, Caroline her German grandmother. Both were long deceased, but both had come through to her as spirit helpers in the soul recovery work we had been doing with the group. They had helped her recover a desperately sad and lonely six-year-old part of herself who had been left in a foster home and cruelly separated from the father she loved without explanation, and then beaten for mentioning him. Though she remembered Caroline as aloof and rigid, this grandmother now appeared as warm and loving, urgently concerned to assist in healing all the family, across the generations.
     We were both filled with gratitude for the help that becomes available when we make ourselves available for soul work.
     Guided by strong women of her family, reaching to her from the other side of death, Irene sought to free the generations of men in her bloodlines who were trapped in powerlessness, sorrow and addiction. I believe she made a difference that night, bringing light into many lives across time and across dimensions. Her example may inspire us to seek similar healing for our ancestors.

Text adapted from Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

photo by RM