Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mosswood directions

Mosswood directions

Go to the core of the squeaky avocado
to know why the mermaid keeps tripping
down slimy steps on her fish tail.
Sort out the dad who can't smash a piñata
to help the lost child in the woods come home.
Don't listen to talking heads on any wave.
Join the makeover crew who get people ready
to party by the light of the Moon. 

Place your hands over prints of the ancestors
on the cave wall that yields to your pressure 
and lets you into a world behind the world
or releases into your world, through your touch,
beasts with wings, goddesses with hooves,
the obdurate seed of the soft green earth. 

Stand with the great stump that nurses new life
and say from your belly, “I grow back.”
Remember the spirits love you and will keep
changing their skins until you join their embrace.

- May 20, 2019

In my writing retreats we play a version of my Coincidence Card Game in which we swap stories and images as starter dough. giving each other permission to borrow and adapt whatever we want to play with. This little poem is a hybrid of images shared in the first round of the game in my current retreat at Mosswood Hollow.

Photo of Great Stump by RM

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The people beyond the garden gate

Though mostly skeptical of reported sightings of the Little People, I’ve had some personal encounters – wide awake and dreaming in the animate world of nature – that have quelled my inner naysayer. Here’s a brief account of one such episode, when I stepped through a garden gate in Gloucestershire, into the greenwood:

I walk by the redwood - a newcomer to this English landscape,
 and a link to a place of my heart - above the cow pastures, and past an ancient sycamore that leans over a softly bubbling spring. I am drawn to a path that leads up to the kitchen garden on a rise behind the stone manor house. The far end of the garden is aglow with pink and peachy roses, rambling and climbing over trellises, forming a bower.
   Beyond the roses is a gate in the high, old brick wall that separates the garden from the woods beyond. In the arch is a weathered gray door, secured by a simple wooden latch. The woods are bottle green, dark as an inkpot above the top of the door. I open the gate and step through, onto a trail part covered by ground ivy.
  As I walk the path, a breeze picks up, and soon the woods are alive with whispers. The stir is most active beneath and around me, where the wind does not reach. I have the vivid sense of small creatures running and hiding. I am amazed by the thought that they are trying to hide from me. I can't see them, not yet. But I sense them quite distinctly. They are Little Ones.
   There's no need to be afraid, I tell them. I'm not going to hurt you.
   For a moment, the woods seem very still.
   Then a small country voice says, from among the roots of a tree, We thought you were one of the Lords.
   Oh, I don't think so. Who are the Lords? Do you mean the Normans? Or the Courts of the Fairies?
   Sshhhh. We don't talk about Them.
   This leaves me quite uncertain about the identity of the Lords they fear.
   Wait, they tell me. We'll get the Centaur.
   It seems that this creature is the Big Man in the society of the Little Ones. I am tremendously excited by the prospect of meeting a centaur. When he gallops up, I am amazed. He is certainly a Big Man, in this company, with a massive torso, a curling black beard, two stumpy horns - and a phallus like a club. But he is about six inches in length, from his chin to his tail. And his body below the waist is that of a billy goat, not a horse, although he does indeed stand on four legs rather than two.
-----The Goat-man tries to act bold in front of the Little Ones, but is plainly terrified. From his perspective, I am a giant, and of entirely unknown intentions.
-----I can see the whole company more distinctly now. The Little Ones are the size of elm leaves. I have no wish to disturb their society, or make their centaur lose face. I bid them good day, and follow the track deeper into the woods.
-----It does not surprise me that when I stroke the smooth bark of a beech, the tree responds. I absorb a deep knowing from within the beech, and have the impression of a feminine figure whose eyes are leaf-green, without pupil or irises. She instructs me on natural remedies for various bodily complaints; when I check them out later, they work brilliantly.

This is an excerpt from the travel journal I kept while leading a five-day summer adventure in “Reclaiming the Ancient Dreamways” at Hawkwood College in Gloucestershire, at the invitation of Celtic scholar and shaman Caitlin Matthews.

Drawig: "Gate to the Little People" by RM

Tales of the Delog: Those Who Die and Come Back in Tibet

Who knows what happens after death?
    Those who live there, those who have visited, those who have died and come back.
    The Tibetan language has a word for those who have died and come back. The word is delog (“day-loak, with the stress on the first syllable). There is also the term nyin log, for one who dies and returns in one day.
    Delog Dawa Drolma [d. 1941] recorded a detailed account of her travels in “realms of pure appearance” under the guidance of White Tara while her teen body lay seemingly lifeless for five days. These higher realms, like the lower ones, are understood to be “the display of mind”. The pure realms are the display of enlightened awareness, while the bardo state and the six directions of rebirth are “the display of delusion and the projection of mind’s poisons.”
    In the presence of the Death lord Yama Dharmaraja, she sings (with Tara) a song:

            If there is recognition, there is just this – one’s own mind.
            If there is no recognition, there is the great wrathful lord of death 

Sogyal Rinpoche discussed the delog phenomenon in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He reported that “In Tibet this was an accepted occurrence, and elaborate methods were devised for detecting whether d´eloks were fraudulent or not”.
    The Tibetan Library of Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India,  houses at least a dozen accounts of delogs
    French anthropologist Françoise Pommaret did pioneer work in this field,  published as  Les revenants de l' au-delà dans le monde Tibetain. She traveled often to the Himalayan highlands and  discovered historical records of ten delogs from the 11th to the 20th century. She interviewed a delog in a village in Nepal and three in Bhutan. Pommaret’s studies of  texts include a marvelously detailed story of a delog whose biography is based on a 17th-century manuscript.
    Pommaret observes that "at first, the delogs may not realize that they are dead, when the spirit separates from the body, leaving it seeming like an animal in the delog’s clothing. As the disembodied spirit roams about the home, the delog may not understand why the rest of the family is acting so strangely and unresponsive to the delog’s efforts at communication."
     A delog named Gling Bza’chos skyid reported that she did not recognize her own body when she saw the family gathered round it in mourning:

When I saw my own bed, there was the cadaver of a big pig covered with my clothing. My husband and my children and all the neighbors of the village arrived and began to cry. They began to prepare for a religious ceremony and I thought, “What are you doing?” But they did not see me and I felt abandoned. I did not think that I was dead.

When another delog met her spiritual guardian (yi dam), he said:

“Don’t you know that you are dead? Don’t show attachment to your body of illusion; lift your spirit towards the essence of things. Come where I will lead you”

Then she met terrifying minions of Yama shouting, “Execute!” but was protected by her yi dam and her mantra.


Lee W. Bailey,  “A ‘Little Death’: The Near-Death Experience and Tibetan Delogs”  in Journal of Near-Death Studies, 19(3) Spring 2001

Delog Drolma, Delog: Journey to realms beyond death trans. Richard Patterson.  Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995

Françoise Pommaret, Les revenants de l’au-delà dans le monde Tibetain: Sources litteraires et tradition vivante  Paris: Editions du Centre National de le Recherche Scientifique, 1989

Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York: HarperCollins,1992

Image: Yama Dharmaraja

Encounters with a Higher Self

As we go through a process of spiritual evolution, we may grow to the point where we can fuse our current personality with that a slightly higher self and progress to a relationship with a self on yet a higher level, and so on up the scale. Through successive transformations, we may reach a level where we are able to survey — on a continuing or even constant basis — our relations with many aspects of our multidimensional self, including personalities living in other places and times, without losing our ability to navigate in our present bodies.
    “Take heart. I am with you always. I know you better than you know yourself.” This was the opening of communication with an inner teacher that I recorded on the night before Halloween in 1993.
     "Now we are one but may still talk as two.
     This was the essence of communication from the same inner voice, as I received it on March 13, 1995. Over many months, I had come to know and trust that inner speaker. He had given me a wealth of information I was able to test and verify, and apply in ordinary reality. That night, I had stretched out on my bed after applying myself to several hours of reading and reflection on our relations with inner teachers. What was coming through now was direct knowledge.
     “Your mind on my purpose.
      That was familiar language, the way this inner voice encouraged me to give my full attention to what was coming through. The best communication of this kind, I had learned, comes in a state of relaxed attention, or attentive relaxation. I don’t think of this as channeling, because I am fully conscious throughout, able to ask questions and to engage in a full dialogue when that seems appropriate. On that night, a self that was no stranger gave me some very clear information on how we may ascend to communication and even fusion with success aspects of the Higher Self:
    "When fusion takes place between a focus personality and the Higher Self - that is to say, the control personality on the plane directly above the focus personality -the result is a step forward in personal evolution that will revise the scales of the contacts. The Higher Self now becomes an entity on a higher level than before.
    "This progression has taken humans from the conditions of the group soul — comparable to animals or even insects — to higher individuation. It can take the species as a whole to a new plane. Indeed, from this point of view, you are attending the emergence of a new species.Your physical equipment imposes limitations on both consciousness and memory. The three-tiered brain joins you to the crocodile and the horse as well as the emerging human. New structures in the brain are being evolved. Rising on the planes brings a process of physiological change — in the metabolism, in the composition and replacement of cells, and, naturally, in the chemistry and electrical engineering of the brain.
     "Now we are one but may still talk as two. Beyond us, a higher, clearer, purer intelligence is seeking to manifest and contact you as you rise on the planes."
       This came from an inner voice of the kind we come to know and trust. As I recorded hundreds of pages of communications from this source over the years, I reassured myself that if I was going crazy, I was in good company. Socrates knew such a voice, and Plutarch wrote an essay about it. The truest guide is no stranger. As Rumi put it: “The one who knows everything is with you now, closer than your jugular vein.”

Text adapted from "The Double on the Balcony", chapter 31 of The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a DreamArchaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

My second shadow

3:00 a.m. 

A malleable time, when I am often wandering between the worlds. As I walk into a neighborhood park, my shadow walks before me. A second shadow walks right behind. Who is there? I turn, and recognize the second shadow is also my own. 
    A deliciously shiverish moment, especially since I had been thinking about Egyptian forms of the the double and the multiple self.   
    I look up at the moon, and the street lamp behind me, and my rational mind concludes that their twin effect produced my twin shadows. Still, I wonder where my energy double may have been traveling in the borderlands tonight.

photo by RM

Monday, May 13, 2019

Liminal Complaints, the Hag and the Goddess

I'm fourteen years old and I've never been kissed. In the middle of the night, I feel a presence in my room. It's a woman, and she's coming towards me. She's little more than a dark cloud to begin with, but when she reaches my bed she is fully defined. She is a hideous, black-skinned hag, with multiple arms. Jouncing against her withered dugs is a necklace composed of rotting human heads.
     I want to flee from this apparition, but I can't move. My body is completely paralyzed, except for my eyes, which are taking in everything. 

The memory of this episode came flooding back while I was reading a lucid and helpful book on Sleep Paralysis by Ryan Hurd, Ryan writes from first-hand experience, and he makes a careful study of the varying explanations for this phenomenon, in which the sufferer lies dormant, unable to move, while ghosts and demons may appear to menace him, pressing down on his chest.  This condition is by no means unusual. At least half the population are estimated to have suffered from sleep paralysis at some point in their lives.

Ryan identifies high-risk communities (workers on night shift, insomniacs, the jet-lagged, college kids) . He offers clear, commonsensical guidance on how to minimize your risk of finding yourself in this state, basically: keep regular hours, get enough sleep, stay grounded, don’t forget to breathe. I confess that some of this was lost on me since I have never kept regular hours, fly constantly, sleep in two or three short bursts in a 24-hour cycle, and have been accused of having “no body clock whatsoever”.

We are coming to the most exciting part of Ryan’s book, in which he distinguishes himself from much of the literature by asking: What if sleep paralysis is not a curse, but an opportunity? What if this state is “a gateway for lucid dreaming”, even a spiritual initiation? What if the demon or the night hag is actually a guide who can take us on an amazing astral journey if we can go beyond our fear – and stop worrying about the body? Ryan knows that all these things are possible, and more, because he’s been there. So have I, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

A word about words. “Sleep paralysis” is actually a major misnomer. Why? Because everyone who has experienced this condition knows that they were awake at the time.

It resembles sleep in two respects. First, in the muscular atopia – paralysis – which is a benign and indeed necessary state during sleep because it prevents us from acting out our dreams at the expense of the furniture and the family. Second, shapes from dream or nightmare may fill the space. We might add that “sleep paralysis” is most commonly experienced near sleep, coming or going. Still, it is not a state of sleep.

I would like to see us develop the verbal imagination to call it something more exact. If we are going to focus on the physiology, we could speak of muscular dyschrony, which would be to say that the muscles are out of kilter with time. A better term for the larger phenomenon would be liminal paralysis, which would feature its identity at a threshold state, on the border (for example) of being in and out of the body.

Let’s return to Ryan Hurd’s proposition – which will be shocking to many – that we can learn to love what I will now call liminal paralysis.

My terrified fourteen-year-old self can attest to this. His experience with the night hag did not end with the scene above. When she approached his bed and mounted him, he discovered that not every part of his body below the eyes was paralyzed. His story continues:
The black hag is on my bed, stamping on my chest. She lowers herself on her haunches. Despite my disgust, I am erect and now she is riding me. Her teeth are like daggers. My chest is spattered by blood and foulness from the rotting heads.
     There is nothing for me to do but stay with this. I tell myself I will survive.
      At last, the act is done.
     Satisfied, the nightmare hag transforms into a beautiful young woman. She smells like jasmine, like sandalwood. She takes me by the hand to a forest shrine. I forget about the body I have left frozen in the wood.
      She tells me, I am Time, and I give you power to step in and out of time. You can call me Kali Ma.
      When I return, I am different. 

In the days that follow, I write a cycle of poems that I title "Creatures of Kali". More than half a century later, I remember the first stanza of my adolescent verse:

In the darkness, a dark woman comes to me
softly, as the ticking of a clock.
I, in panic, cry out, "Go! I have no head for horror!"

But she smiles and wraps her four black arms around me
beating her bleeding necklace of skulls around my neck
and holds me captive through the night.

If we are willing to face our night terrors, we may find that the alien in the room is what is truly most alien to us, our own greater power. If we can endure the night hag, we may earn an encounter with the Goddess.
The book discussed is Ryan Hurd, Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night (Hye

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My little dog guides me to Sirius

This is a story about everyday practice, the kind of practice essential for active dreamers. It involves the importance of keeping a journal and of going back into old journals and seeing what "old" dream reports may tell us about what we need to know now. It involves precognition. It concerns how dreams rehearse us for death, in this case the death of a beloved animal companion. Most important, it reminds us that dogs love us no matter what, in every world.
    I reopened a travel journal I was keeping in 2012. I regretted that I had failed to transcribe many of the reports, since my handwriting is almost indecipherable, even to me. Fortunately, the journal contained many sketches, and these helped to guide me to what might be most interesting for me today.
    I smiled at a little drawing I made on March 5, 2012. It shows me following my little dog Pepper through an underground concourse. We are somewhere near Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. There is a sign that reads "Avenue of the Americas", indicating a staircase leading up to Sixth Avenue. This is an area I used to frequent in my earlier life as a bestselling thriller writer. One of my publishers had offices in that area, and I was on NBC's Today show in the studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza several times.
    In the drawing, I am dressed for wet, blustery weather in hat and long coat. The remarkable thing is that my little dog is trotting ahead of me. He clearly knows where he is going. He seems to have taken the lead and may even be playing the guide.
    I noted in the brief dream report that accompanied the sketch that I was "moved" by the dream that it left me with a sense of "wonder". My feelings stemmed from the contrast between the condition of my miniature Schnauzer in the dream and his situation in regular life. Pepper was very old. His senses were failing. He was nearly blind, could hear very little, and even his sense of smell was attenuated. He had trouble walking and controlling his bowels. Yet in the dream, he is in his prime, and even better than that.
    I wrote these questions in my journal: Who is Pepper in the dream? What are we doing in NYC?
    On the night of the dream, I was in Hawaii, leading a workshop on the Big Island. I wondered when I might next be at Rockefeller Center. I checked my events calendar and saw I was scheduled to lead a weekend workshop at the NY Open Center at the end of June, but the venue was downtown and would not ordinarily bring me to Rockefeller Center.
     I ended my journal report with this motto, or bumper sticker:

Keep your senses in NYC

     Three months later, Pepper died. Then I received an invitation to do an interview for Sirius XM. As I made my way to the radio network offices in Rockefeller Center, I remembered that Pepper had guided me through these passages months before. Confused at a certain point in the underground concourse, I turned the way Pepper had led me. When I entered the right lobby, they gave me a badge at reception.  It read "Sirius Visitor", which delighted me because I have often felt I was dropped on this Earth from a distant star. I drew my own version with Pepper in the headshot. I found this, too, in that old travel journal from 2012.
     Pepper has appeared many times since his death, in my dreams and in those of family members, always in fine form, sometimes clearly acting as a guide and night watchdog. Most recently he led me on a globetrotting expedition across Europe, en route to Benares. The holy city in India (also known as Varanasi) is not in my current travel plans, but Pepper may know something I don't. If I am in doubt which was to turn in an underground concourse, or on any other path, I hope my little dog will be looking out for me. I am glad to know that he is also with me, and those I love, on the roads of the Otherworld.

Notes for practice:
1. Keep a dream journal and review old entries.
2. Pay special attention to dream locations.
3. Recognize that dreams may be rehearsals for coming events, including death.
4. Be prepared to meet guides in many forms.

5. Remember that dogs love you no matter what, in all worlds.