Monday, October 24, 2016

Digging for Smile Recovery

You don't know how you came to be
so deep underground, where walls are crumbling
and the air is powdered with burned bones.
This kind of archaeology is new to you.
The crew cannot be trusted; diggers mutter
behind your back and will steal any treasure you find.
Are you here to release a trapped soul
or make sure it stays sealed in its cage?

You're not happy when you recognize
someone who died from your life
who wants to travel with you to fields of war.
You want out, but there seems no way up.
The shaft you came down rises vertical,
intransigent, without handholds or footholds.

You ache for released, for yourself and the one
who was buried alive. Out of your longing
a deep voice speaks, strong as a drum,

nearer to you than your jugular vein.
Blessed One, light giver, let me rise
on your wings into your heart of light.

This is no time for surrender.
It is the time to speak, and to act.
You repeat the fresh mantra,
Let me rise on your wings.
The words of power are fireflies in the dark

that explode and expand into wings of light.

You rise on your new wings
strong enough to carry any you choose to release.
Now you can send your buried dead and undead

to fields of light and healing grace.
At last you can give yourself to the way
all the dark passages of life have prepared you for.
You are here to practice smile recovery.

- Hameau de l'Etoile
St, Martin de Londres
October 23, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

If it were my dream

Don’t let anyone tell you what your dreams mean. And never do that to anyone else. This is the golden rule of dream-sharing.
     None of us have the right to tell another person what his or her dream means, based on any certification or presumed authority.  We don’t need to be doctors or shrinks, gurus or experts to offer helpful comments on someone else’s dreams. In commenting on each other’s dreams, we should begin by saying, “If it were my dream,” making it clear that we are offering our personal associations and projections, not presuming to tell the dreamer the definitive meaning of his or her dream.
     If you are commenting on someone else’s dream, you can do little wrong as long as you follow the simple rule that you will preface your opinions and associations by saying “if it were my dream.” You will not presume to interpret another person’s dream. You are absolutely free to give your own ideas on the meaning of the dream, but you will do that by pretending that the dream is your own. You will own your own projections instead of foisting them on the other person. You will not only help to guide the dreamer towards grasping the meaning of a dream; you will help her to claim her power to determine the meaning of her dreams, and her life, for herself.
    You listen to a dream, you ask for the dreamer’s feelings on waking (which are always the first and best clues to what is going on in the dream) and you run a quick reality check, asking the dreamer what she recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life and whether any of it could manifest in the future, literally or symbolically.
     Then you offer your comments, starting with the phrase, “if it were my dream”. As long as you follow this protocol, you are free to bring in any associations, feelings or memories the dream arouses in you, including dreams of your own that may come to mind. Often we understand other people’s dreams best when we can relate them to our own dream experiences.
     For example: If the dreamer has told you a dream in which he/she is running away from a bear, you may recall a dream of your own in which you hid from a bear – before you discovered that the bear was an ally. Your own experience may lead you to say, “If it were my dream, I would like to go back into the dream and meet the bear again and see whether it might be an ally”. You are now doing something more useful than merely interpreting the dream; you are gently guiding the dreamer to take action on the dream.
     It is very rewarding to receive a totally different perspective on a dream, so sharing in this way with strangers can be amazingly rewarding – as long as the rules of the game are respected.
     The fact that we may be highly intuitive, and highly skilled as dream interpreters, does not give us the right to take people’s power away by telling them what their dreams mean – even (and perhaps especially) when we are convinced we are “right” in our reading of what is going on in the dream.

      As dreamers, we also want to be open to what other people can contribute to our understanding of our own dreams. We don’t want to adopt a “know-it-all” attitude, because even if we think we have a pretty fair idea of what is going on in a dream, more than likely someone else’s take will offer fresh perspectives. Even if feedback we receive seems remote from our own feelings about a dream,  that can help us to home in on what matters for us.            Because dreams are multi-layered, it is also possible that a different perspective can help us open up aspects of the dream we may have missed. I find it very helpful to hear from people who have a very different perspective than my own. For example, because I tend to see dreams as transpersonal experiences in which we encounter other beings, in one order of reality or another, it can be very useful for me to be prompted to ask “what part of me” are the different characters and elements in a dream. 

Offering feedback according to the "if it were my dream" protocol is one of the four steps in the Lightning Dreamwork method of dream sharing, invented by Robert Moss. The Lightning approach can be used for any kind of personal story. The rules are fully explained in Robert's books Active Dreaming and Sidewalk Oracles.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Welcome to the Twilight Zone, Your Launch Pad for Lucid Dreaming

The easiest way to embark on lucid dreaming is to practice maintaining awareness as dream images rise and fall during twilight states between sleep and waking.The twilight zone offers optimum conditions to develop your ability to make intentional journeys beyond the physical body to learn the nature and conditions of other orders of reality. 
     As you spend more time in the twilight zone, you will discover a notable increase in both your creativity and your psychic awareness. Going with the flow of spontaneous imagery in the twilight zone puts you into the stream of the creative process. It puts you in league with your creative source, mediated by mentors who appear to you in the half-dream state, or coming through cool and clear as a mountain spring. It is no accident that highly creative people — from Einstein to the romance writer and the powerboat designer I met on recent plane trips — are very much at home in the twilight zone
      In the language of the sleep scientists, the twilight zone is the realm of hypnagogic and hypnopompic experiences. Hypnagogic literally means “leading toward sleep”; hypnopompic means “leading away from sleep.” But these terms do not take us to the heart of the matter. You may enter the twilight zone before and after sleep, but you may also enter it wide awake, with no intention of sleeping.
      It is not the relationship to sleep that defines the twilight zone; it is its character as a border county. It is the junction between sleep and waking, certainly. But more than this, as Mary Watkins wrote beautifully in Waking Dreams, it is “the plane of coexistence of the two worlds." In this borderland, you will find the gates to other worlds opening smoothly and fluidly — if you let them and are prepared for what may follow.
      When I allow myself to drift through this frontier region with no fixed agenda, I have the sense of leaning through a window or a doorway in space. Sometimes this feels like hanging out of the open hatch of an airplane. I have come to recognize this as the opening of a dreamgate. Depending on circumstances and intention, I can step forward into the next dimension or haul myself back into physical focus.
      From this departure lobby, the great explorers of the imaginal realm have used many gates and flight paths. This is why the twilight state has such vital significance in dream yoga, in shamanic training, in the Western Mystery traditions, in the “science of mirrors” of the medieval Persian philosophers, and in other schools of active spirituality.
     According to Tantric teachings, it is by learning to prolong this “intermediate state” and to operate with full awareness within it that you achieve dream mastery and, beyond this, the highest level of consciousness attainable for an embodied human. The Spandakarika of Vasagupta, which dates from the tenth century, recommends the use of breathing exercises to focus and maintain awareness as you move from waking into the twilight state. The dreamer is urged to place himself “at the junction between inhaled and exhaled breaths, at the very point where he enters into contact with energy in the pure state.” This is the entry into conscious dreaming, whose gifts (according to Tantric text) could be immense: “The Lord of necessity grants him during dreams the ends he pursues, providing that he is profoundly contemplative and places himself at the junction between waking and sleeping."
     The aim of the practice is to achieve continuity of consciousness through sleeping, waking, and the intermediate state. When this is attained, the practitioner has ascended to the mystical Fourth State — the turiya of the Upanishads. This is the highly evolved consciousness of a person who has awakened to the reality of the Self; it now infuses his awareness at all times.
     In the Greco-Roman world, the twilight zone was a place of rendezvous with divine messengers and even the gods themselves. Iamblichus, the author of an important book on the Mysteries, urged the need to pay special attention to “god-sent dreams” in the intermediate state, especially after waking:

“They come when sleep is leaving us, or we are just waking. We may hear a certain voice that tells us concisely what needs to be done. Sometimes we feel surrounded by a presence that cannot be perceived by the sight, but is sensed in other ways. The entrance of the spirit is accompanied by a noise….But sometimes a bright and tranquil light shines forth.”

From the ascent to the Fourth State to a walk-in by a spirit or daimon, there is clearly no ceiling on possibility in this area. But first and last, experiment in the twilight zone is wonderful fun. Think of this as your cosmic playground. 

Adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Drawing: "The Moon Is At the Foot of My Bed" by RM

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Call of the Mountain Mother

She calls me again
to walk the avenue of sacred lindens

and climb the steep hill
that leaves me breathless
to where light falls
across golden fields and sleeping volcanoes.
She says, terrible and beautiful

in her majesty, "Show me what you can offer."

I unfold my tents in the market
that is already hot and busy.
I proffer dolls that were lost by little girls
and toy soldiers broken by lost boys

and a rocking horse that can fly across the sky
and mirrors where you can see more of yourself
whether you like it or not.
My tents open into each other

making a breezeway that can float you
to the place of the stuffed animals
whose shadows are giant lions and bears
that walk by themselves.

The Lady accepts what I have to give.
She calls me through the tent flaps

to taste the harvest she is stirring in her bowl
and enter her glorious embrace.
With apples and cherries on my tongue

I become a tree on her mountain
streaming with the juice of many fruits
putting roots down and down, deep and wide
able, on her fertile ground, to draw lightning
and hold it without falling, spreading wings of light.

from a journey to Mount Říp, in the heart of the Czech heartland.

Monday, October 3, 2016

How to Handle a Giant People-Eating-Goat: Making a dream book with a six-year-old

On the last day of a training for dream teachers I was leading in Prague, Marketa brought us a little book with the most wonderful illustrations. She told us she had made it with her six-year-old daughter Františka. She said, "It is one of the most precious books we have at home."
    She proceeded to tell us the origin of the book, which is titled V
elký Kozel, or "Big Goat".
Františka woke crying from a very scary dream. Her mother comforted her, but did not press for the contents of the dream when her daughter said that she did not want to talk about it. "I know that my daughter is brave, and I knew she would deal with it when she was ready."    A couple of days later, Františka came to her mother with a question. "Mom, do goats eat people?"    "I don't think so."
    "And what about billy goats?"
    "That's an interesting question. Why do you ask?"
   At this point, 
Františka was ready to tell the  dream. What had scared her was a giant black billy goat, bigger than a tree, that was eating people.    "Let's explore," her mother suggested. "Why would a goat start eating people?"
Františka thought about this. She loved puzzles and codes, and soon her creative and investigative mind was working.     She started telling the story of a goat who was desperately unhappy because he was abnormally large and shunned by other goats.
   "Wait," her mother said. "Don't you want to draw his picture?"
   She drew the big black goat, and as her story developed, she made picture after picture. Not wanting to miss a detail, her mother helped her to write the chapters that went with the drawings.

Once there was a very big goat who was unhappy because he did not fit in. He had eaten a blade of magic grass that made him bigger than trees or houses. He grew as big as a mountain. He was always hungry, and he started eating people. One day he ate a goat that had wandered away from the flock. Now the goats were very scared and they asked a giant for help. The giant asked the black goat what was wrong with him. "I'm too big!" the black goat complained. The giant went to consult a wizard.

    When the giant found the wizard, he was in the middle of an experiment. He was so startled that things blew up. Nonethless, the wizard was able to tell the giant where to look for the counter-spell that will restore the people-eater to the normal proportions of a goat. This will require another blade of magic grass, dipped in oil. The wizard also explained that humans must make a special blueberry cake that would bring the people and other creatures the giant goat had eaten back to life.
    The story develops terrific energy on its way to a happy ending. 
Františka's mother, who is a librarian, was able to bind the pages together to make a lovely little book, which will always be treasured.
    There is a rich teaching here for anyone who has the privilege of listening to the dreams and stories of young children.
     There are three things we need to be prepared to do, always, to help kids with their dreams. First, we need to listen up, to be present without judgment or analysis to what is being shared. Second, we need to be ready to provide help, right away, with the scary stuff, In  
Františka's case, this simply required hugs from her mother and reassurance that mom would be there whenever she needed more. In another case, a child might need to be encouraged to spit out bad energy (quite literally) or to accept a stuffed animal as a guardian for the night.   
    Third, we want to be poised to help kids do something creative with their dreams. Pictures on the fridge are a great start, but why not think about helping a child to create a long-running journal, or even to make a finished book? 
Františka's dream book, in its text and pictures, is at least the equal of many books for children produced by professional writers, and it has the power and authenticity of imagination working on first-hand experience.   
Františka! And Bravo, Marketa, for being a dream mother!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Muskrat came to Europe after helping to create the World

At the chateau of Dobříš in central Bohemia, it wasn't the massive rococo facade, glowing terracotta red in the sun, that seized my imagination.  Or the giant horses of the sun god Helios being watered in the sculptured fountain at the far end of the French garden behind the house. Or the statue of a lion eating a horse - a strange decorative feature for any backyard - or even the Venetian mirror, in a lady's bedroom, that is said to grant any wish you make when you look into it, as long as you can avoid looking at any other mirror for a whole year afterwards.    
    What grabbed me was the statue of a little muskrat behind a hedge. A muskrat, in Bohemia? I learned that it was the aristocratic owner of the chateau, Josef Colloredo-Mannsfeld, who first brought the muskrat to Europe, in 1905. He set muskrats breeding in a lake, and today they are found all over the continent and are regarded as an invasive pest in France.
    From my studies of early settlement and the fur trade in colonial America, I knew that the muskrat is indigenous to the New World. I did not know about the muskrat migration until now, or that the muskrat is known here by its Huron name, ondatra. Why my excitement? Well, the muskrat has a crucial role in the creation story, as told by the Huron (or Wendat) and the related Iroquois nations.
    The story is one of the great ones, a cosmogony that can even fire you up to remake your world. I give my own retelling in my book Dreamways of the Iroquois. In summary: First Woman falls from a world above and before our own. Call it Earth-in-the-Sky. She falls, or is pushed, through a hole that opens among the roots of the Tree of Life in her world.
    Now she is spinning and plummeting down in darkness towards a watery chaos. Something comes to break her fall. It is a flight of great blue herons. They spread their wings and carry her down gently like a magic carpet.
    Down below are animals that can live in water. They feel compassion for this strange being who is coming down from a lost world. They hold a conference to determine how they can help. Great Turtle offers his back as a place where Sky Woman can live. But more will be required: the substance from which she can shape a living environment.
    Some of the animals recall hearing that there was something like that at the bottom of the watery abyss, something tangible enough to use as starter dough for world creation. One by one, animal volunteers dive down to look for this. They all fail, until the muskrat makes the dive. Muskrat comes up nearly dead, but with a little mud between its paws.
    First Woman takes that mud, spreads it on Turtle's back and starts to dance. She turns counter-clockwise, the direction of expansion for her people. As she dances, a world is born. It is the world we are living in, here on Earth, and muskrat made it possible.
    I learned this story when I was called in my dreams and visions by an arendiwanen, a woman of power, who lived long ago in Northeast America. In my books, I call her Island Woman. She was born Huron, and in her conversations with me she uses words from her birth language as well as the Mohawk language, which she learned after she was captured and adopted by a Mohawk raiding party as a young child. She reminded me that in dreams we learn the secret wishes of the soul, and that it is the responsibility of good people in a decent society to gather round the dreamer and help her discern what the soul is seeking, and to honor those wishes.
    It was entirely unexpected, and thrilling, to feel her presence here, among the forests of Bohemia, at a castle with a history that reflects the tides of Central European history, dark and light.The original castle was rebuilt in rococo style for the German Mansfeld family in the eighteenth century. During World War II, the chateau was seized by the Nazis and became the seat for SS Oberst-Gruppenführer Karl Daluege, who acted as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia after the assassination of Heydrich, ordered mass murders and was executed as a war criminal in 1946. After the war, the chateau was appropriated by the Czech government. Today, it is again in private hands.

    I look again at the statue of ondatra, and I hear the voice of Island Woman:

Through dreaming, we recover the knowledge of our sacred purpose that belonged to us before we came into our present bodies. Then we can begin to live from our sacred purpose and unite ourselves to the powers of creation. We can also begin to get in touch with other members of our soul families who live in other places and times.
     Unless you dream, you’ll never be fully awake. In the Shadow World, we go around like sleepwalkers. In big dreams, we wake up.

    I give thanks for an amazing discovery that suggests the secret of making worlds, and brings alive a connection with the spiritual guide who helped to put me on my path as a dream teacher.

Photos by RM

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Secrets of Flow: creative dreamers and shaman poets

Creativity comes most deeply and naturally when we enter a state of flow. This is evoked in the Tewa Pueblo word for creativity or art. The word is po-wa-ha. The three syllables literally mean “water-wind-breath”. The understanding is that creating is a process of connecting to a deep natural flow [and that art is a process, not a product]. Rina Swentzell, an architect and artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, explains that the Tewa do not have a separate word for art because they do not experience art as an activity separate from any other in life. Creativity is as close as breathing; it is the spirit of life moving effortlessly through its cycles.

Po-wa-ha, literally “water-wind-breath” is that energy that flows from everybody and everything – plants, stones…Creativity just begins to flow out of people. [It] breaks through limits and limitations and flows through from the very source of life. [1]

Dreams can help move us into creative flow, as poet William Everson observed:

The development of the dream-life is one of the best of all possible ways of getting you into the imaginative dimension from which true writing springs…There is no real creative process without mood. It is a losing of objectivity to another dimension, a further loss of self, and it is from this loss that all authentic work springs. It is not possible to create without losing your ego-consciousness. The great thing about the dream is that it takes us into that dimension of mood. Sometimes your finest poems come out of dreams, or out of your recording of a dream. [2] 

Creators and shamans both enter a state of conscious dreaming to do their work, and bring back gifts of magic and healing. In Birth of a Poet William Everson beautifully evoked the similarity between those who reenchant the world as poets and as shamanic dreamers:

In trance [the shaman] descends to the unconscious and like a grebe or cormorant swims underwater in search of the delivering images, the spirits…It is the talent and the genius of the shaman to control the conditions of the trance until the remedy is found and the cure effected. The artist must do the same thing…The shaman enters a trance-like condition in order to engage the archetypes of the collective unconscious and stabilize their awesome power, appease the demons, as it were. This is precisely the function of the poet today. For the poet, too, can only work through trance. [3]

    The connection between the shaman and the creator goes even deeper. The Inuit say that the spirits like “fresh words”. They want to be entertained. They are easily bored with humans who go on repeating old formulas and old ways. When we bring something fresh and new into the world, we entertain the spirits and delight our own creative genius, and our lives are infused with natural magic, confirmed by the play of synchronicity about us.
    I teach an unusual creative writing retreat called "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming" at a magical private retreat center in the green woods east of Seattle. But I have the pleasure of watching people move into creative flow in many other situations as they learn to start their day by drifting in the fertile space between sleep and awake, and then to bring fresh dreams to the breakfast table and take action to create with the fresh energy and imagery that is with them. 


1. Rina Swentzell and Sandra P. Edelman,  “The Butterfly Effect” El Palacio 1, vol 95 (Fall/Winter, 1989)
2.William Everson, Birth of a Poet: The Santa Cruz Meditations edited by Lee Bartlett, (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1982) 41
3. ibid 133.

Art: "Mandala de l'arbre" by Annick Bougerolle.