Friday, November 27, 2015

The dreams are coming back

The dreams are coming back.
Slow down and feel their firefly glow.
Stay still and hear the rustle of their wings.
Open like a flower
and let them feed from your heart.
Don’t be afraid to remember
that your soul has wings
and you have a place to go flying.
The dreams are coming back.

Art: "He Sees" by Reet Kalamees.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Orenda and the practice of giving thanks

In  indigenous North American traditions, giving thanks is a practice for every day, not just an annual holiday. Here is a little of what I learned about this from the Onkwehonwe, 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 in 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 at the farm, 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

Adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo by RM

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Birth of Athena

If you devour a mother goddess
make sure you have a loyal friend nearby
armed with the ax of the crescent moon.

It’s like this: the feminine power
you thought you could master
is going to stir and swell in you
until your whole being is a trembling womb
that can only open at the top
like a volcano rising from the ocean floor.
It will blow out your brains
unless your head is opened.

So keep a helper with the right tool handy
and be ready for the bright fury
with owl eyes and blazing mind
who will burst from your head fully armed
and love you to death, setting her spear
at the throat of your certainties. 

imageAthena fountain by Karl Donndorf, 1911. Stuttgart.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Directions for Travel through a Snail Shell

Which way is the direction of love?
Choose carefully before you turn the spiral key;

worlds within worlds are waiting.
The Blue Lady reminds you that to be great
you may need to become inconceivably small.

The sea snail gives you a pattern

you saw long ago in the eyes of a goddess.
An austere time lord who cannot be bribed

may explain it to you by drawing lines
in soft powder from a termite mound.

Turning and turning you enter a universe

where mountain spirits whisper like grasshoppers.
To follow the true direction of love

you must speak in the language of smells and tastes,
and make every nerve ending an organ of delight.

You must create the door and the keyhole
to fit the spiral key you now turn the other way.
Aphrodite was born on a half shell.
You must do better. You must play the shell game

in the foam of worlds in the making.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So Wild: A New Plan for Lucid Dreaming and Dream Incubation

I have come up with a new plan for dream incubation and lucid dream induction that suits our modern lives. It has worked like a charm in my own life and in the experiences of a group of two dozen dreamers with whom I have been testing it during the adventures I am leading at magical Mosswood Hollow this week.
    We need to recognize that very often, when we first fall into bed, our most immediate need is to rest and restore the body. We may be overburdening ourselves and failing to satisfy that need when we set dream intentions or try to embark on lucid dreaming right away in the first period of bed time. It is actually fine to let the first cycle be "industrial sleep", allowing ourselves simply to restore and regenerate the body.
    Of course, spontaneous dreams will come during this phase, and may trigger lucidity as well as lively dream recall. So we want to be open to dream gifts during the first cycle of sleep. But we do not want turn the pursuit of dreams, or the quest for lucidity, into a job of work during this part of the night. We never want to turn the dream adventure into another of our chores, or stress ourselves by setting objectives that are unrealistic given the body's need for rest and restoration.

    The prime time for pursuing dream intentions and embarking on lucid dream odysseys is right after the first cycle of sleep. People's sleep patterns vary, but chances are you will awaken - and know you are awake - three or four hours after going to sleep. Maybe you need to go to the bathroom or have a glass of water. Fine, do it. Maybe you have dreams, or at any rate elements of dreams, from the first sleep cycle. Jot them down. Titles or key words may be enough.
    Maybe you want to putter around for an hour or two before going back to bed. That's fine, too, as long as you leave yourself time for more nocturnal adventures before you need to go out on the business of the day.
    Now: settle back in bed. Lie on your back, or on your right or left side, whichever position is most comfortable but do not lie on your stomach (unless you want to be seriously grounded). This is the time to set, or reaffirm, an intention for your dreams.
    If you have a dream with some juice from your first sleep cycle, you can make it your intention to reenter that dream, explore the dream space, and carry on with the adventure you were having before.
    You may find you are in a space where communication with an inner guide is possible. The most important spiritual dialogues of my life have unfolded here, in contact with wiser intelligences I have learned to trust.
    You may find that an inner light comes on, as bright as the sun would be. Once you resist the tendency to open your eyes and check whether someone turned on the lights, you may find that this rising of the inner light can carry into a state of greatly expanded awareness and creativity, where you can find solutions to previously intractable problems, and much more.
    Or you can simply lay yourself open to the images that will rise and fall on your inner screen in this liminal state between sleep and awake. Chances are that one of these will catch your attention and grow into a living scene that you can enter. This will be your portal for a lucid dream excursion if you set the intention to remain conscious you are dreaming as the action develops. The chances that you will fall into sleep without memories are reduced because you have already received your essential rest.
    I dreamed up an acronym for this simple approach:

    O=open to experience

SO-WILD, and it works!

We will be experimenting with this new technique in my next course for The Shift Network, "Active Dreaming: The Essential Training." Classes start on December 10.

Photo: Skylight at Mosswood Hollow by Oana Calin

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Where I want to be in my dreams

I am in favor of setting intentions for dreams of the night. Sometimes I will simply say, to my dream producers, "Show me what I need to see."
   Sometimes I will set a specific intention for help or guidance. This might be general: "I open myself to the power of healing" or "I open myself to my creative source." It might be quite specific: "i would like guidance on publishing my new book" or "I would like to know how to handle the meeting next week".
    I might set the intention to go on an adventure or to rendezvous with a friend, or a group of friends, by common agreement. Dreaming is social as well as individual, and it can be wonderful fun sharing dream memories after a night when you made it your aim to meet others at a certain place. The best locales for a dream rendezvous, I find, are those that you have already discovered in the dreamlands - that magic library, that cottage with the blue door, that apple orchard, that cove where mermaids sing.
    When you set a specific intention for dream guidance, be ready to be surprised. You may find it hard, at first, to make a connection between the dream you recall and the intention you set. this may be because you have lost the best part of your dreams. It could be because the source of your dreams - which is wiser than the ordinary mind - may be unimpressed with your theme and is sending you something it considers more important for you to consider.
    However, I find it is always a helpful and creative exercise to try to make connections between the dream and the prior intention. This may require a lot of imagination and some element of detective work. The exercise may prosper faster when you draw on the imaginations of others, offering you feedback according to the "if it were my dream protocol".
    Sometimes the nature of the guide who appears in dreams is startling.
    When I was writing my first book on dreaming, I set the intention, "Show me how to bring the gifts of dreaming to many more people in our society." In my dream, I found myself under a huge circus tent. In the center was a character in a loud plaid suit, with a hat, smoking a big cigar. He performed impossibe acrobatics, leaping to the top of the tent, spinning fast in midair as he came down. Then he leaped into the bleachers and started smooching and cuddling an attractive blonde. I knew his name was "Marty", pronounced New York style.
    Now lucid in the dream, remembering my intention, I said to myself, This is my guide?
    Marty leered at me and gave me a horrible wink. Then he said, round the edge of his stogie, "It's about entertainment, kid. It's about entertainment."
     I came from this dream laughing. Marty may not have been the most evolved spiritual guide, but he was the counselor I needed. I kept his advice in mind as I completed the book that was published as Conscious Dreaming, and I have kept it in mind ever since.

Recently, in developing my practice and teaching of lucid dreaming, I have been experimenting with setting intentions in a rather different way.
    I let my body rest for the first cycle of "industrial sleep", when the body is most in need of sleep and repair . Then, when I stir from sleep in the middle of the night, I relax and compose a mental statement about where I want to be in my dream experiences.  

    If I feel in need of healing, I might say, "I am in a place of healing."
    If I want creative inspiration, I might say, "I am in a place of creativity."
    Around 3:00 this morning, in the liminal state between sleep and awake, with the soft patter of rain in the redwoods outside my window in California, I composed the following statement: I am living the life I am meant to live.

     I found myself in a thrilling  but gentle and caring adventure. I was given an assignment by higher authorities to save a woman's life. She was bent on self-destruction, and I was to play the role of the undeclared guide who would reawaken her to all the reasons she had for living.
    My assignment required me to get on a plane to Tegucigalpa. My seat had been reserved next to the woman who was bent on suicide. I would appear to be a charming stranger, meat by chance.
     I threw myself into the role with gusto. Soon the woman was coming alive again, swimming and diving in glorious blue waters, enjoying music and an excellent dinner.
     I came from the dream thinking, Yes, this is part of the life I am meant to live.

Drawing by RM

Thursday, November 12, 2015

With the fairies

In the liminal state between sleep and awake, in the gray hour before dawn, I dress for a visit to Faerie. I give myself a splendid body, young and strong, the broad shoulders and narrow waist worthy of a Minoan bull dancer. I give myself a simple crown, a band of gold around the hairline with a glowing blue jewel suspended from it to hang over the third eye. I place a torque around the neck. I add a cape and kilt, and a wand, worn like a sword when not in use.
    Grand adventures unfold.
    When I go up to the lodge for breakfast, a woman from my workshop can't wait to tell me about something she saw in that pre-dawn hour."Robert! I saw you in a dream before dawn. You appeared in a small TV screen in the midst of my other dream. You were dressed as a fairy king, with a crown with a blue star and a wand."
     I guess the weave of dreaming between members of a community of dreamers glows brighter when you add a little fairy dust.
     This thought was confirmed in the first session of my workshop that morning. An older man new to my work returned from a group journey and reported to me, joyously, "I met a sylvan nymph! She led me on a path of adventure in Faerie realms."

Photo: Elven Oak in Kensington Gardens by RM