Monday, April 27, 2015

Weathering a writer's monsoon

This just in from a writer who asked me for guidance:

We've all heard of writer's block. This is the curse of the empty page. I seem to be navigating through something that exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from writer's block. It's more like writer's deluge. It is as if I am in a creative monsoon, each raindrop a poem, a potential short story, novel, script, non-fiction work exploring some topic or theme, and they are all coming fast and furious, all at the same time -- as if a vast ocean of ideas is trying to flow through a small pin hole. As a result, a similar feature of writer's block happens: no writing. What can I do?

My response:

Two thoughts.

1. I have always loved the saying of a Moroccan tribe that values poets above all others that "All poetry comes from flooding." This does not answer your problem, but it may perhaps reassure you that a surfeit of inspiration is not a bad thing at all.

2. So much in life depends on selection. If you go to a restaurant and you are so fascinated by everything on the menu that you can't make a choice, you'll go hungry.

So choose one idea. Give it 15 minutes, 30 minutes tops, when you can. Time how long you will spend on it. Stop when the time is up. 
    Great if it's unfinished because when you go back you won't have to start; you have started already.

By the way: your vivid description of monsoon season in a writer's life is already great writing.

 Art: "Deluge" by Brij M. Sondhi

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My black dog's first plane trip

I took my black dog walking stick on his first plane trip on Saturday. Waiting for our connection at Baltimore airport, we pause for refreshments and are immediately invited to play dream ambassadors.
    "What do you do?" asks a lady who strikes up conversation when she notices the black dog.
  . "I teach people how to dream." "Oh my God I need to sign up for that. I've been having all these bad dreams."
    I reassure her that dreams are not on our case, they are on our side. I explain how to go back inside a scary dream to confront the challenge and resolve it on its own ground. 

    Now my black dog deserves a beer. I scan the draft selections. They have an IPA on tap  called Flying Dog Snake Dog. How perfect is that?
    The lady pays for her wine and leaves, but rushes back a few minutes later, saying, "I want to know all about you and which of your books to read." 
     She makes eye contact with my black dog and tells me her family got a black dog for her brother in law because he was depressed. They called the dog Søren Kierkegaard because he was a cross between a Great Dane and a black lab. I observe that this is a doubly appropriate name since Kierkegaard was not only a Dane but a somewhat depressing philosopher He compared life's joys to the momentary thrill experienced by insects who die at the moment of fertilization. Happily, Kierkegaard the dog is apparently a cheery fellow.
     Now the lady tells me her "bad" dream from last night. In it she cut open her husband's skull and hacked his brain to pieces, trying to understand how he thinks. She woke up feeling terrible.
   ."If it were my dream", I say gently, "I would compare what my dream self was doing with the behavior of my waking self. Do I pick at my husband in a way that leads to pain and conflict. I need to understand him better, but the dream is telling me I need to go about that in a subtler and more effective way. Maybe the dream is showing me how he feels about some of our interactions."
     She blushes and nods.

     I talk about how to go back inside a dream to try to work things through. And how -, when she feels the time is right and can do this with humor - recounting the dream to the husband could actually help them to establish better communications.
     Now she is off to her gate, with my books
The Three 'Only" Things and Conscious Dreaming on her immediate to-buy list.
     When I join the line for departure at my own gate, I find my neighbor is a cat named Magnolia, going to California in her crate. The conversation with the humans around me immediately turns to the character of cats and dogs as life companions and  therapeuts. My black dog is pleased.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dreaming with the Goddess

She has a thousand faces.
She is virgin, mother and crone.
She is creator, preserver and destroyer.
She gives birth, endlessly. 
Her womb is the gateway of death and rebirth.
She is Queen of Earth and Heaven.

She fell through a hole in her world
and danced our world into being on turtle’s back.
She hid the sunlight from the world
when she was abused by men
and could only be lured back
when shown her radiant face in a mirror.

She is lover, warrior and shaman.
She is the one who repairs the broken soul.
She raises the god in man with her breath.

Men tried to confine her to limited roles,
to force her into wedlock with despotic gods.
Then the Church sought to bury her.
But the Goddess returned as Mary,
and now she is loose again,
asking us to honor and embody her
in the forms that please her.

I am only a man, but I serve the Goddess.
When I was still a virgin, she claimed me
in one of her most fearsome forms,
and I carry her mark in a secret place.

I have been taught by ancient priestesses
in a mountain temple in the sky
in a mandorla of amber light
in worlds that open through an oak door
and a bee hive and a sea mist.

I have met the Goddess in molten lava,
as Spider Woman and Reindeer Queen
and as Great Mother Bear.
Bees flew me to a place of her mysteries.
I feel her hair stream in the sea waves.
I love her in the deep loamy earth.
I see her robe swirl in the shifting stars. 

Images: Top: Venus of Willendorf
Bottom: Nut at Esalen (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, April 23, 2015


I am in favor of affirmations. At a certain period in my life, I did not think much of some of the self-help gurus who were pushing them. I still have major reservations about affirmations that seem to be pitched from the head instead of the heart, and either project ego-driven "gimme" agendas or , alternatively, are shackled by received notions of what is spiritually correct. 
    But I am greatly in favor of starting the day with a statement to the universe that affirms the intention to live as fully and creatively as possible, and return thanks for the gifts of life, especially when life seems hard. 
   To affirm is literally "to make firm", or strong. To make a conscious affirmation, on any given day, is to firm up our whole approach to life. Whether we know it or not, everything is listening, in our conscious universe.
    If an affirmation is going to work good in the world, it must enlist the support of the body and draw the approval of higher powers, especially the one that is no stranger: the Higher Self. As you shape your words, test them in your gut and in your heart. Feel what is stirring or stagnant around you. Let your thoughts become charged with natural energy.
    It is good to put an affirmation in the present tense. Not, "I will create something new" but, "I am a creator."
    Sometimes you can come to a good affirmation by listening to those negative mantras you have been playing in your mind, and even speaking out loud, for far too long. Like, "I can't speak in public." Go to your heart and your gut and ask what they want you to express. You may find you can then say, with conviction, "I speak my truth."
    I like to come up with fresh affirmations as often as possible. But I also find it good to voice "default" affirmations on any day they feel right, including those on which "fresh words" are lacking. I think of the stump of a great red cedar from which a new tree is growing and I say, "I grow again".
    Here's a simple affirmation that came to me long ago, when my dreams and visions drew me into the Earth-centered wisdom and the imaginal realm of a Native American people - the Onkwehonwe, or Iroquois - for whom returning thanks is part of what keeps the world turning: 

I return thanks for the gifts of this lifetime
and for its challenges
I seek to walk in balance between earth and sky

Photo of great stump (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Atlantis-haunted: Tolkien and the Bent World

A recurring dream of the drowning of Atlantis was the secret engine of some of J.R.R. Tolkien's greatest work. As he described this work in a letter:

This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming out of the quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green inlands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcized by writing about it. It always ends by surrender, and I awake gasping out of deep water. I used to draw it or write bad poems about it.

Tolkien came to suspect that the dream of the downfall of Atlantis may have been ancestral memory, passed down through the generations, especially after his son Michael shared similar dreams with him before they had ever discussed the dreams of the father. Tolkien spoke of his "Atlantis-haunting."
     In many unfinished drafts and sketches, as well as in his most famous works, Tolkien attempted to describe the fate of Atlantis before and after the fall. He gave it many names, settling on Númenor for the civilization at its height, and Atalantê - directly evoking "Atlantis" - for the drowned world. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien transfers his dream to Faramir, dreaming of the fall of Númenor . The short fourth book of The Silmarillion, titled Akallabêth (The Downfallen in Adunaic , one of Tolkien's invented languages) we are given Elendil's account of the destruction of Númenor.
    For me, the simplest and earliest of Tolkien's many versions of this theme is the most stirring and provocative, hinting at a workable geography of a deeper reality that may be directly relevant to our condition today. This is a two-page sketch for "The Fall of Numenor", published by Tolkien's son Christopher at the start of The Lost World and Other Writings, volume 5 in The History of Middle-Earth. In the story outline Tolkien describes how, when the gods decided to punish the Numenorians/Atlanteans for their crimes, they "globed the earth".

The Gods therefore sundered Valinor from the earth, and an awful rift appeared down which the water poured and the armament of Atalantê was drowned. They globed the whole earth so that however far a man sailed he could never again reach the West, but came back to his starting-point.

This was the creation of what Tolkien came to call the World Made Round. Before the bending of the world, a traveler could sail West in a straight line towards the realm of the gods (though few humans were welcome to go all the way). Now, in our "bended" (or bent) world if we travel West and keep on going for long enough, we merely come back to where we started.
     On a higher level of reality, however, above the clouds of our consensual hallucinations, the Line of the Gods still runs straight. Unless you are an elf, or at least an elf-friend, however, you have little chance of finding the straight path. Tolkien's dream of Atlantis not only spurred him to become a world-maker, a master shaman of the imagination; it made him a world-rememberer, offering a vision of the sources of our human condition and a possible path (through travel in dream and in time) of transcending our bent condition. Makes you think twice about the possible merits of being a flat-earther.

Of related interest: A Robert Moss vision of Atlantis

Graphic: "The Fall of Numenor" by Darrell Sweet

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When I like my body best

I like my body when my creative writer is at home
 and the muse is in bed with him.
She is a glorious, ardent and insatiable lover.
She keeps my body up for whole nights before
she lets it drop for an hour of industrial sleep. 

I don't complain, any more than you would
after a night with your perfect lover
as you watch the stars go to bed over Copacabana,
or the dreaming spires of an Old World City,
or the Mountains of the Moon. 

I have heard some writers moan that their work
involves sweating blood. Maybe so, but when
the creator is home, in the arms of the muse,
what you sweat isn't ordinary blood. It is ichor.

Photo: Garden goddess at Esalen (c) Robert Moss

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mountain of the Dreamers

Today I go up to a very special mountain where I have led very special gatherings over twenty years. It is a place where the Deer energy is strong and where dragons are sometimes seen. Here I test-fly new techniques and lead group journeys to explore many interesting territories in the multidimensional universe
     Here is a poem I wrote about the experiences we have shared on this mountain. This is traditional Mohawk Indian country, so the first words are in Mohawk, addressing the ancestors of the land:

Aksotahi, Raksotahi,
Grandmothers, Grandfathers,
We remember you, we honor you here
we feed you with tobacco and laughter and tears
we ask your blessing and protection for all our journeys.

Spirit of the Fire, we give you our old skins
you turn our despair and anger into cracklings
you carry our heart’s desires to the high ones

Dreamer adrift in the shadows:
When you fall through a hole in your world
you can come here to dance a new world into being.
When the moon is eaten out of your sky
by the men with hungry caterpillars in their hair
you can come here to grow it back.

There'll be days when you have to struggle to get here,
climbing out of flooded subways, plowing through snowbanks.
There'll be times when you forget the way.
There'll be nights when you can't believe this place is real
and you let it fade from your heart like an exhausted dream.

You may lose the mountain, but the mountain will find you,
calling in the voice of the wind, in the color code of fall leaves,
in the taste of rain, in an old song on the radio, 
in a poem urgent to be born, in the dream you cannot slay.
Hawk may give you a feathered sign, and wings to follow it.

White wolf may call you here, into the light of the Peacemaker,
where your soul is healed in the garnet heart of this mountain,
and your inner compass is restored, and you rediscover yourself 
in the best of all families, a family stronger than blood,
and the extraordinary is easy because we allow it to come through.

The dream people are always here for you.

Photo of Robert opening fire ceremony on the mountain by Jeanne Cameron.