Monday, November 23, 2020

Thanks giving is for every day

In the indigenous North American way, giving thanks is a practice for every day, not just for an annual holiday. Here is a little of what I learned after I was called in dreams by an ancient woman of power to study the traditions of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois.

Orenda is the power that is in everything and beyond everything. It clusters in certain things – in that tree, in that stone, in that person or gathering – and if you are sensitive you will feel its weight and its force.
    People come from another world – in the Iroquoian cosmogony, they call it Earth-in-the-Sky – and the origin and purpose for life here below is to be found in that Sky World. Tosa sasa ni’konren, they say. “Do not let your mind fall” from the memory of that other world where everything is directed and created by the power of thought, and everything lives in the glow of a great Tree of Light.
    The first person on Earth who was anything like a human came from that Sky World, after she fell – or was pushed – through a hole among the roots of its great tree. As she fell, she was caught on the wings of great blue herons, who carried her gently down to a chaos of water. Animals, diving into the black deep, found earth for her, so she could begin to make a world. Turtle offered its great back and First Woman danced a new world into being. Under her feet, a handful of soil became all the lands we live on.
    The memory of Earth-in-the-Sky in no way blurs the knowledge that orenda – which is power, spirit, energy, consciousness all at once – is in everything. In the way of the Onkwehonwe, the Real People (as the Iroquois call themselves) we must remember that our relations with our environment are entirely personal, and require appropriate manners.
    If you want to take something from the Earth, you must ask permission. The hunter asks the spirit of the deer for permission to take its life and wastes nothing from its body. I once watched a Mohawk medicine man gathering healing plants. He started by identifying the elder among a stand of the plants and speaking to this one, seeking permission. He offered a little pinch of native tobacco in return for the stalks he gathered for medicine.
    In this tradition, the best form of prayer is to give thanks for the gifts of life. In the long version of the Iroquois thanksgiving, you thank everything that supports your life, and as you do this you announce that you are talking to family.

I give thanks to my brothers the Thunderers
I give thanks to Grandmother Moon and to Elder Brother Sun

In the Native American way, as Black Elk, the Lakota holy man, said, “the center of the world is wherever you are.” For him, that was Harney Peak. For you, it is wherever you are living or traveling. You may find a special place in your everyday world. It may be just a corner of the garden, or a bench under a tree in the park, or that lake where you walk the dog. The more you go there, and open both your inner and outer senses, the more you will find that orenda has gathered there for you.
     A woman who lives near the shore told me that she starts her day like this: “I go to the ocean in the morning at sunrise and put a hand in the water and say Good morning, thank you, I love you. I feel a response from this. The tide will suddenly surge up a little higher, hugging my feet, which is kind of cold in winter but wonderful in warmer weather. I talk to everything out loud like this.”
     The simple gesture of placing your hand in the sea, or on a tree, or on the earth, and expressing love and gratitude and recognition of the animate world around us is everyday church (as is dreamwork), good for us, and good for all our relations
    It is good to do something every day, in any landscape, to affirm life in all that is around us. This may be especially important on days when the world seems drab and flat and even the eyes of other people in the street look like windows in which the blinds have been drawn down. The Longhouse People (Iroquois) reminded me that the best kind of prayer is to give thanks to all our relations, to everything that supports life, and in doing so to give our support to them. When I lived on a rural property, I began each day by greeting the ancient oak on the dirt road behind the house as the elder of that land.
    These days, it is often enough for me to say to sun and sky, whether on the sidewalk or in the park or by the sea

I give thanks for the morning
I give thanks for the day
I give thanks for the gifts
    and the challenges of this lifetime


For more on indigenous tradition, please read my book Dreamways of the Iroquois. For more on everyday practice, please see my book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Becoming Dean of Dream Archaeology

 


I have just been honored by the invitation to become Dean of Dream Archaeology of the University of Užupis. As some of you - including those who have read The Boy Who Died and Came Back -  will know, I have been Dream Ambassador for the Republic of Užupis since 2013. Here is the story of how this connection was made.


Republic of Užupis, May 29, 2013

I sit down to lunch at a breezy café table at the edge of the little Vilnelė river, just across the bridge from the Old City of Vilnius and the bed and breakfast where I am staying on a narrow cobbled street. There is a mermaid in a wall on the other side of the river. My companions are a Lithuanian therapist and Zen practitioner named Agne, who is a brilliant translator for my workshops here, and dreamers from the Netherlands and Sweden who will soon be traveling with us to Kernave for the depth adventure in dream archaeology I will be leading there over the weekend. Our conversation is lively, and turns (of course) on the play of dreams and synchronicity.
    I pause to swallow a mouthful of an excellent local "live" (unpasteurized) beer, and a bright-eyed, bearded man with long hair leaps up from a neighboring table. "Your conversation is fascinating," he declares, "I invite myself to join it." He introduces himself as Tomas 
Čepaitis , the Foreign Minister of the Republic of 
Užupis. Is he joking? He doesn't look like any foreign minister I have ever encountered, and his republic sounds like something from a story book. Our Swedish friend has heard of it, though. She tells us she read a big feature article about Užupis in the Stockholm paper that same morning; she later showed me the article, which describes Užupis as "the coolest little republic in the world." 
    Tomas gives me a copy of the constitution of his republic, which includes such fundamental principles as "A dog has the right to be a dog" and "Everyone has the right to be unique." I learn that the word Užupis means "On the Other Side of the River" and has double meaning. The territory of the republic is about 150 acres of a once largely Jewish and then (post-Holocaust) notoriously seedy and dangerous neighborhood across the river from Old Vilnius. But "the other side" also means the other side of reality. "Our work is similar," Thomas tells me. "Like you, we are dedicated to bringing the dream world and the ordinary world closer together."
    He introduces me to the President of Užupis and other government officials. The Republic On the Other Side of the River declared its independence in 1997, unfurling its own flag, currency and cabinet of ministers. This is essentially a republic of artists, and their work is everywhere on the cobbled streets, in luscious murals and voluptuous goddesses, in pagan symbols and Surrealist provocations. At one of the main art centers, the Gallera, a Belgian-Lithuanian exhibition is opening that weekend, Tomas tells our dreamer from Belgium.




We have our picture taken and Tomas informs me that he wants to appoint me Ambassador of Dreams for the Republic On the Other Side. I tell him, naturally, that I would be delighted to assist the Republic in growing its factory of dreams.
    In a later email exchange, the web of synchronicity became tighter and stranger, Tomas told me that he had lived for several years in upstate New York, not far from my present home. Specifically, he had lived in the village of Ghent, N.Y. Ghent is about 10 miles from the farm where I used to live near Chatham, N.Y.; one of the people who worked on my house renovations after I purchased the farm lived in Ghent. The story gets better still. Tomas added that he had some "Mohawk drawings and dreams" from that period in his life that he was still trying to understand. It was in that same neighborhood on the edge of traditional Mohawk Indian country that I started dreaming of an ancient Mohawk woman shaman and entered the visionary adventures that persuaded me to give up my previous life and become a dream teacher.


I returned to 
Užupis on Monday, to admire the goddesses and have lunch at the same cafe on the river with a view of the mermaid in the wall. I discovered that the Republic also has a king, a splendidly fat and self-confident tiger cat named Nicas, who has his private entrance to the restaurant and is well-fed and well-petted by everyone, including the group at our table. Consulting the constitution of Užupis, I read that "Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat."

We were distracted by banging and wailing from the river below us. From the railing, we saw a couple who had lost control of a hired canoe, banging against the rocky bank. Agne sprang into rescue mode. She took fresh strawberries from a bag we had been carrying around and started tossing them to the inexpert boat people, who caught and ate them with gusto, calling up that these were the first strawberries they had tasted this season. However, they had now managed to tilt their craft so it was half-full of water and sinking fast. Agne rushed down to the river and pulled them up onto the bank. I congratulated her on her efforts and declared that I would use my high station as Dream Ambassador to recommend that she should be appointed Commandant of the Coast Guard of the Republic on the Other Side of the River. I wasted no time in penning Rules of Riverine Safety in Užupis:

1. Carry strawberries at all times.
2. When a boat is sinking, pelt the occupants with strawberries.


Note: While Užupis declared its independence in 1997, it has yet to be recognized by any government in ordinary reality, but it has a seat in the United Nations of Dreams.



June 8, 2013

It's official. I have now received my formal credentials as Dream Ambassador of the Republic of Užupis. I solemnly undertake to execute all my rights and responsibilities, including the most important clause 5:

enjoy life and sustain in people the feeling of life as Brazilian Jazz

November 22,2020

My invitation arrives to be Dean of Dream Archaeology for the University of Užupis. From his official portrait, the Pro-Rector is clearly a serious fellow.



Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Kinds of Seers

 


 There are three kinds of seer: the receivers, the travelers, and the far-seers.

Receivers know things because they come to them or come through them, in the way of the medium. They receive visitations, both waking and sleeping. They may be “speakers for the dead”, passing on messages from the departed. This type of receiver is in great demand, because there are so many people on the other side who are desperate to communicate with the living. Receivers may also be empaths who pick up what is going on in other people’s bodies and energy fields. The very first kind of training receivers need is instruction in shielding and screening, and above all in discernment. They must learn how to pick up things it is useful to know without being swamped by someone else’s feelings and psychic litter. They need help in establishing healthy psychic boundaries. They need fully functional BS detectors that will help them to screen out false or misleading information.

The traveler knows things by going to the places where knowledge is to be found, in this world or in other dimensions of reality. This is the shaman’s way, and the journeys beyond the body may be assisted by drumming or other forms of “sonic driving”. Some indigenous cultures use hallucinogens to facilitate astral travel, and there is a lively New Age tourist traffic that involves going into the jungle to ingest rather nasty stuff like ayahuasca. Drugs are not recommended for Western journeyers, and they are not required. A practiced traveler requires only two things to embark on a journey, once the body is relaxed in a quiet and protected space: a picture and an intention. Essential training for the traveler includes learning to recognize the nature and the needs of the different energy vehicles that can operate outside the physical body. And it involves developing a strong working relationship with guardians who can protect and guide the journeys. As young children and shamans know, there is no better escort for these journeys than an animal guardian.

The far-seer knows by expanding his or her sight to include whatever he or she needs to know. This may be like turning on an inner light and directing it — like a searchlight with X-ray properties — on a target that may be on the other side of the world, or inside the molecular structures of the body, or in another dimension. Or far-seeing may be a process of mental expansion, in which the field of consciousness grows until everything it is necessary to know is inside it. This is profoundly simple, once we understand that if we think of something or someone, we are with the object of our thoughts. Thought travels faster than light, so the connection is instantaneous. The trick is to get out of our own way — to sideline the clutter and confusion of the trivial everyday mind — to we can see and operate in the larger field.

Seers may also be skryers. Skrying means using an object — or a series of objects — as a focusing device. We may recall how, as children, we used to stare at a certain spot on the surface of a creek or a lake, where the light struck just so, and would stare and stare until pictures came to us, in the mirror-bright surface of the water. Or we found shapes inside a rough rock crystal, or peering through a hole in a stone and saw the Other Side as well as the other side.

 In our time, as in other times, the core training of the seer will come through paying the closest attention to dreams, coincidence and the symbolic language of the world.



Text adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

 






Photo: At the threshold of St Columba's church in Drumcliffe, a symbol from an older religion: the Celtic AWEN.  W.B.Yeats' headstone is in the churchyard, though it is not clear that his remains are in the ground there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Duke and a Secret Library


I am often excited when my house turns out to have an extra wing, a terrace, or an additional floor, that I did not know about. I am super-excited when I discover that it contains a secret library. I am talking, of course, about my dream house, which is often a composite of houses where I have lived in ordinary reality.

 I can’t say that finding a secret library in my dream house is truly a new discovery, since there are versions that I have been using for decades. Nonetheless when I enter a secret library in a dream, I am frequently surprised that I left it unvisited for quite a while. Sometimes access requires me to roll back a whole wall of books (like the one in my living room photo, complete with library dog); sometimes I pass through a door that is not immediately obvious in the outer room. 

Here’s my report of my visit to a secret library in my dream house last night. If the history part seems a little dry, a theme that is opened here is of compelling interest to me: the possibility that we are living parallel lives in parallel worlds, and that dreams show us how.

November 18, 2020

Dream

Marlborough and a Secret Library

I want everything on Marlborough to complete writing something important I must deliver the next day. I open the door to my secret library, a door I have not opened in a long time. There is an air of hushed expectancy throughout the house. As I walk the passage behind the door and approach the thousands of books on the shelves, I expect to smell dust or – horrors - mold. However, everything seems clean and dry. I find the heavy hardback biographies of Marlborough without difficulty. I have quite a reading assignment ahead of me, but I can do it if I stay up all night. This should not be a problem. I have done it many times before. 

Feelings: intrigued

Reality check: I know this secret library in my dream house. I have gone there in many dreams over decades. The books in this dream library (I have others) are mostly history. I do pull overnight binges of reading and research.



In my physical house I have a 4 volume paperback version of Winston Churchill's biography of his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Marlborough was Captain-General of the English forces in the wars in the Low Countries in the early 18th century. The huge biography became a bestseller and the earnings kept Churchill afloat in dodgy times. I was impressed, dipping into these volumes, by the vividness of Churchill's historical imagination. He was able to transport himself right inside the living field of another time, putting himself inside a scene in which the outcome among the many possible event tracks in the many worlds was not yet determined. 

Why am I researching Marlborough in my dream? Well, I dipped into Churchill’s biography when I was writing about his historical imagination in The Secret History of Dreaming. I wrote elsewhere, in my historical novel The Interpreter, about the visit of the “Four Indian Kings” to London in 1710, when Marlborough and his wife Sarah – the on-again, of-again favorite of Queen Anne – were at the pinnacle of power. 

I am aware that there are many parallel Roberts, on parallel event tracks, who are also writers but have chosen different themes and genres. Maybe I stepped into the life of Robert the Historical Novelist or Robert the History Professor. Or into a future project I have not yet recognized, let alone decided on, in regular life.

Dreams set us research assignments. Naturally, my dream drove me to reopen my book The Secret History of Dreaming to my chapter titled "Churchill's Time Machines", where I read this:


Imagination and History

In his valedictory lecture at Oxford, Hugh Trevor-Roper observed that “the historian’s function is to discern alternatives, and that, surely, is the function of imagination.” He added: “History is not merely what happened: it is what happened in the context of what might have happened. Therefore it must incorporate, as a necessary element, the alternatives, the might-have-beens.” Churchill had excellent reason to look at history this way, his mind always turning on alternatives, the ghost trails of roads not taken.

 Another English historian, J.H.Plumb, observed that for Churchill history was not a subject; it was “a part of his temperament” that “permeated everything that he touched, and it was the mainspring of his politics and the secret of his immense mastery.”  Isaiah Berlin, studying Churchill in his “finest hour”, concluded that “Churchill’s dominant category, the single, central organizing principle of his moral and intellectual universe, is a historical imagination so strong, so comprehensive, as to encase the whole of the present and the whole of the future in a framework of a rich and multicolored past.” 

Churchill was a time traveler, at least in imagination, and his ability to read the tides of human events and the workings of character across the ages enabled him to see the patterns of the present - through the fog of war and the incredible proliferation of pressure and detail - and to grasp the history of the future.

In his time travels into the past, Churchill may have gained most from his ability to enter - fully - into the mind and situation of his great ancestor John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, who led the (uneasily) allied armies of the Grand Alliance to victory against the French in the early 18th century. His four-volume biography of Marlborough, written during his “wilderness years” when he was out of office in the 1930s”, is widely regarded his greatest literary work. Churchill announced that his intent was to unravel “the unfathomable mystery which Marlborough’s character represents.”

He learned from Marlborough’s steady resolve in adversity; early in his command Marlborough announced, “The issue in this matter is liberty or death.” He studied with Marlborough how to exercise leadership within an alliance, in a war involving much of the world and therefore offering multiple choices and rival priorities. Marlborough “never ceased to think of the war as a whole”; Churchill also was always looking for the big picture. Churchill noted that Marlborough’s success in command was related to his ability to enter the mind of his adversary: “The mental process of a general should lead him first to put himself faithfully in the position of the enemy, and to credit that enemy with the readiness to do what he himself would most dread….The safe course is to assume that the enemy will do his worst — i.e., what is most unwelcome."

Churchill concluded from Marlborough’s example that contrarians win when they are guided by accurate intuition. Marlborough made many command decisions that baffled or terrified generals with more conventional minds. 

Churchill was able to roam the past without being lost in it. Churchill’s command of history helped him to see the broad lines of a situation; he was able to swim through details without drowning in them.

 Churchill’s works of history were participatory. He wrote about events in which he or ancestors with whom he felt close affinity had taken part, and about causes he had espoused. There is no pretense of standing at the margins of the action as an impartial scholar. He said that his method was borrowed from Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier, in which the author “hangs the chronicle” of great evens “upon the thread of the personal experiences of an individual.” 



"Imagination and History": text adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

 

 


Friday, November 13, 2020

Causing a Bear, Scandinavian style


In my courses on healing through Active Dreaming and imagination, we call on Great Mother Bear as healer and protector. The Bear is the great medicine animal of North America and in Native tradition, the most powerful healers are those called by the Bear in dreams and visions. In ancient Europe, the Bear was the king of beasts, and there was a sacred kinship between bears and humans that we can trace from Paleolithic times. The Bear was a form of the Goddess and Athenian maidens danced in bearskins for Artemis, as She Bear, in the festival of Brauronia. Here, drawing on the Icelandic sagas, we recollect something of the warrior history of the Bear, and a shaman warrior of the North who could do much more than put on a bearskin and go wild.


His name is Bödvar Bjarki, which means "Warlike Little-Bear". He has a typical Scandinavian genealogy: his father Bjorn was a were-bear (as a result of a witch's curse); his mother's name, Bera, means "She-Bear". He casts a long shadow through the sagas of the North. He is the perfect warrior, stronger and fiercer than the berserkers ("bear-shirts") who are the champions and bodyguards of kings but must yield pride of place to Bodvar at the royal tables when he makes his entrance, often by knocking the door or wall down.
    While berserkers whip themselves into the fighting frenzy of an angry bear, Bodvar causes a bear. While his father was condemned by sorcery to turn into a bear of uncontrollable appetites in in the daytime, Bodvar is free from the curse of the were-bear; he chooses when to project a second body, in the shape of a warrior bear. This recalls the practice of Northern sorcerers who project fylgjur, "fetches" or shadow selves. The fylgjur are sometimes phantom figures, used to spy on adversaries or confuse their minds, but Bodvar's bear is entirely physical to those who meet it, and invincible among men in battle.   
     Bodvar is the hero of the last chapters of the Icelandic Saga of Hrólf Kraki. He is now the champion of King 
Hrólf of Denmark. who is leading a tiny force into battle against a vastly larger army that has invaded his lands. As the battle rages, a great bear advances in front of Hrólf's men. Always standing next to the king, the bear kills more of the enemy with a single sweep of its paw than five of the king's best warriors can despatch with swords and axes. The bear seems impervious to blows and missiles. It crushes men and horses with its weight, and rips enemies apart with its teeth.
     Against the odds, things are going well for King Hrólf until Hjalti - a boon companion of Bodvar - notices that his friend is missing from the field. He protests to the king that Bodvar should not be looking to his own safety in the midst of the fray. King Hrólf counsels that "Bodvar will be where he serves us best."
     Not grasping what this means, Hjalti runs back to the king's chamber, where he finds Bodvar apparently "sitting idle", or perhaps asleep. [1] Bodvar is in a state of shamanic trance. Not understanding, Hjalti seeks to rouse him, protesting that it is a disgrace that he is not fighting. "You should be using the strength of your arms, which are as strong as a bear's." In his outrage, Hjalti threatens to burn down the house, and Bodvar in it, unless his friend goes into battle.-
     With a deep sigh, Bodvar rises from his place and complies. After affirming that he is a stranger to fear, and fully aware of his obligations to the king, Bodvar cautions his friend that"By disturbing me here, you have not been as helpful to the king as you intended. The outcome of the battle was almost decided. You have acted out of ignorance...Now events will run their course, and nothing we can do will change the outcome. I can now offer the king far less help than before you woke me." [2]
     When Bodvar goes into battle, the giant bear disappears. Now King 
Hrólf's army is exposed to psychic as well as physical attack. When the bear was present, the dark arts of the invader's witchy wife Skuld were useless. Now she is able to project her own monstrous animal, a hideous boar that shoots arrows from its bristles. Bodvar Bjarki fights furiously, mowing down enemy warriors like grass. Yet their numbers do not diminish, and he begins to suspect that ghost warriors are fighting among the living. The champions fall, and after them King Hrolf. Because the bear shaman was torn from his trance when the bear was most needed.

[1] In a paraphrase of the famous (but otherwise lost) poem "Bjarkamal" appended by Saxo Grammaticus to his Gesta Danorum. Bodvar Bjarki (here called "Biarco") is in a deep "sleep" from which Hjalti has great difficulty in rousing him.
[2] Quotations are loosely based on Jesse L. Byock's translation of The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (New York and London: Penguin Books, 1998).



Graphic: Bodvar's fetch on the field of battle in the shape of a bear, in "Hrolf Kraki's Last Stand" by Louis M. Moe (d.1945).

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Reclaiming the Art of Dying


In most human societies, preparation for death and the afterlife is a central part of life. The practice of the ars moriendi  -the art of dying - does not reflect some morbid preoccupation. It is actually life-affirming rather than life-denying. By coming to know Death as a friend, you release the energy you have invested in trying to bottle up your darkest fears. When you establish for yourself — through personal experience — that there is life after life, you will find you take a more relaxed and generous view of the vicissitudes of everyday life. When you examine your life from the standpoint of your death, you will surely find that there is no reason to perpetuate old quarrels and jealousies. You will wish to put things right between yourself and others, to give up petty agendas and live fully and creatively for the years allotted to you.

In postindustrial Western societies, the neglect of the art of dying has led to a vogue for spiritual practices drawn from other traditions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, which offers a detailed geography of the afterlife that may or may not be relevant to you if you are not a Tibetan Buddhist. Our general neglect is fed by both fear and denial. The denial thrives on our hurry sickness, our tendency to fill up our time with compulsive, external activities — interspersed with infusions of passive consumer entertainment, IV-fed through the TV tubes — leaving no space for the inner search. Filling our lives with a bustle of responsibilities that leaves us with “no time” to commune with soul is mockingly described by a Tibetan master as “housekeeping in a dream.” Sögyal Rinpoche asks, “Would anyone in their right mind think of laboriously redecorating their hotel room every time they booked into one?

Our fear of death is bound up with our confusion about who we are. We fear losing all the props, connections, and résumés that we confuse with identity. We are terrified of being stripped of rank and title and credit cards and cell phones and being sent naked into the next world, as Inanna must descend naked into the underworld.

Your death is a rather important subject, not just the when and how, but the question of what follows, and what it all means. On a subject this vital and this intimate, you would be ill-advised to take answers on trust from other people. But how can we know before dying what lies on the other side, and know this as personal truth? In two ways: through a visitation by a resident of the Otherworld whose information can be verified; or by soul travel, by making a personal journey to the Other Side. My book Conscious Dreaming explores dream visitations by the departed. Here I want to suggest a variety of techniques by which you can embark on conscious dream journeys to explore the conditions of the afterlife for yourself.

An art of dying adequate to our needs and yearnings today must address at least these five key areas: 

        Practice in dream travel and journeying beyond the body. By practicing the projection of consciousness beyond the physical plane, we settle any personal doubts about the soul’s survival of physical death.

       Developing a personal geography of the afterlife. Through conscious dream journeys, we can visit “ex-physicals” — and their teachers — in their own environments. We can explore a variety of transit areas and reception centers, adapted to the expectations and comfort levels of different types of people, where the recently departed are helped to adapt to their new circumstances. We can tour the “collective belief territories,” some established centuries or millennia ago, where ex-physicals participate ins hared activities and religious practices. We can examine processes of life review, reeducation, and judgment and follow the transition of spirits between different after-death states. We can also study the different fates of different vehicles of consciousness after physical death.

      Helping the dying. The application of insights and techniques gained in these explorations to helping the dying through what some hospice nurses describe as the “nearing death experience.” In many of our hospitals (where most Westerners die) death is treated as a failure, or merely the loss of vital signs, followed by a pulled-out plug, a disconnected respirator, and the disposal of the remains. As we recover the art of dying, many of us in all walks of life — not only ministers and health care professionals and hospice volunteers — will be able to play the role of companion on the deathwalk, helping the dying to approach the next life with grace and courage and to make the last seasons of this life a period of personal growth. The skills required in this area include the ability to communicate on a soul level with patients who are in coma, are unable to speak or reason clearly, or have suffered severe memory loss. A vital aspect of this work is facilitating or mediating contact between the dying and helpers on the other side — especially departed loved ones — who can give assistance through the transition. Dreamwork and meditation are invaluable tools in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of life beyond the body.

               Helping the departed. We pray for our dead in our churches and temples, and no good intention is ever wasted. However, you may have a hard time finding a priest who is willing to take on the role of psychopomp, or guide of souls, and provide personal escort service to spirits of the departed who have lost their way and gotten stuck between the worlds, causing pain and confusion to themselves and sometimes to their survivors. Yet the living have a crucial role to play in helping to release earthbound or troubled spirits. For one thing, some of these “ex-physicals” seem to trust people who have physical bodies more than entities that do not, because there is comfort in the familiar, because they did not believe in an afterlife before passing on — or quite simply because they do not know they are dead. An art of dying for our times must include the ability to dialogue with these spirits and help them to find their right path.

              Making death your ally. Finally, we are challenged to reach into the place of our deepest fears and master them: to face our own death on its own ground and re-value our lives and our purpose from this perspective. When we “brave up” enough to confront our personal Death and receive its teaching, we forge an alliance that is a source of power and healing in every aspect of life. We may now be able to carry a sense of divine comedy that can help us weather whatever life throws at us on a given day.


Art: "Storm Bird Brings Me Back" by Robert Moss

 


Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death. by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library. Here you will find detailed practices and travel repots.

 You may also want to consider joining my new online video course Dream Journeys Beyond the Veil, in which we will travel deep and far in these realms in a wonderful international community of creative spirits. Classes start on November 12 and run for seven weeks.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

When your inner guide is an ugly dwarf



I have a friend who has held high office in the Swedish government, a man deeply versed in both the humanities and science who has attended Nobel Prize dinners under the three crowns of Stockholm’s town hall.
   He hosted me for dinner one night. Within moment of being seated at a table in a fine restaurant, I noticed I had  beer, red wine and akvavit in front of me, before I had asked for anything. "You are in Scandinavia, Robert," my host declared. "You will drink like a Scandinavian."
    That night he confided, “I have an inner guide who has helped me greatly, in and out of government service. He turns up in my dreams and fantasies. He is a horrible, ugly dwarf. He always begins by insulting me, using filthy language. You miserable piece of shit, he’ll begin. Then he’ll proceed to tell me all the reasons I’m a failure. When he’s satisfied that he’s hit home, and I’m starting to fill with self-loathing, he’ll tell me something useful. He gave me the location of a legal document that had gone missing. I found it exactly where he said it would be, and that resolved an important family matter.”
   “How reliable is your ugly dwarf?”
   “He is eighty percent reliable. Better than most advisers. So I put up with his insults.”
   I was delighted with this revelation, which sounded like something from Scandinavian folklore. It also occurred to me that there are the elements of a practice here that can be very helpful for all of us on our road to manifesting our life dreams.
    Each of us has an ugly dwarf inside us. You’ve heard his voice. It’s the one that’s forever reminding you of your failures and shortcomings. He knows your every weakness. He won’t let you forget how you let yourself or others down. Let him vent for long enough, and you’ll squirm with self-loathing. And this can become a moment of power. Let your ugly dwarf pull you down far enough, and you may find yourself bouncing up with fresh ideas and new vigor. Why? Because there is energy in all strong emotions, including the ones we tag as “negative” and that a certain kind of self-help book advises us to avoid.
   Let your ugly dwarf beat you down, break you down, and rattle you out of the need to maintain pretenses and defenses. Then move with the energy of the emotions this releases. But don’t put up with someone in your social environment who tries to play ugly dwarf; accept no substitutes for your very own version.


Drawing by RM