Thursday, September 12, 2019

In the Garden behind the Moon

The Garden Behind the Moon, by Howard Pyle, originally published in 1895, may be quite my favorite story for younger readers and for older readers who would like to recover the magical child within themselves.
    My friendly daimon of Luna concurs*. He especially approves of the fact that a beautiful but terrible entity “whom so many people know by a different name and are so afraid of” is called the Moon-Angel. Around his face, it is bright like sunlight. He “never brings something but he takes something away from him again” - and we come to learn that this is most often the soul of someone who has died. The Moon-Angel of the story is also called the Master Cobbler, which appears to reflect the preferences of an old cobbler in a fishing village who “knows less than nothing” and thereby more than those around him. We see the old cobbler pegging soles to uppers on his last. My daimon points out that there is a crafty allusion here to Sandalphon, the Sandal-Angel or Shoe-Angel who gives and takes away soul bodies for transits to and from the Moon.
   So to the story:
   A boy called David, who is not yet twelve, and is regarded as dreamy and simple (a “moon-calf”) by his peers, learns from the old cobbler that a moon-path opens across the sea a day or two after the moon is at its full. Close to shore, the first steps float in the tide as bars of light, slippery underfoot. But if you persist, the moon-path becomes a gravel road, and finally a broad shining field, until you get to the Moon.
    After an initial mishap, the boy gets to the Moon, where a man-in-the-Moon pulls him up a stair. From each window of the Moon house, he sees into different scenes, into the inside as well as the outside. He is set to polishing stars with lamb's wool, for nights when the Moon is waning. He earns a little break; he is allowed down a back stair into a lovely garden where he plays with other children. He has his time in the garden for three days every month, and falls in love with a little princess, but is then told that he cannot return to the garden because he is turning twelve, and will be too old.
     Now he is called to the Quest: to win his girl, he must find the Know All book in the Wonder Box that has been hidden since Eve and Adam (note the order) were driven form the garden. To do this, he must “go behind” the Moon-Angel, something that has almost never been done. When he confronts the Moon-Angel, we begin to feel his terror as well as his beauty. In effect the boy has to step THROUGH his form, through unbearable cold that transforms to unbearable heat. He bursts through a great iron door into the landscape of the Quest. He is no longer a boy; he has aged ten years.
    He finds his local guide - a woman in a red shift who cleans souls and leaves them out to dry. She tells him what he will need to do to capture the black winged horse that will take him to the Iron Castle of the Iron Man where the Wonder Box has long been locked up. He catches the black horse by the forelock (like Kairos - opportunity - time). It can no longer fly with a human on its back, but it can run fast. David manages to enter the Iron Castle, and steals the Wonder Box, and rediscovers the girl - escapes from the Iron Castle, and kills the Iron Man with a stone from the sea shore.
    David and his beloved return to the “brown world” on the moonpath, but find that the path branches to take each to their separate homes. So now there is another test, for the princess (she's a real one) to find her hero and for the Wonder Box she took from him to be opened with the key that he retained. A happy and triumphant ending, of course. In which the most interesting feature (as my daimon observes, pointing a finger up under his left eye) is that nobody knew that David was missing all the time he spent in the house of the Moon and the lands beyond it. And nobody in Princess Aurelia's kingdom knew she was gone either; they had merely found her, from birth, strangely mute and emotion-less. She's fully alive now that her soul has come home from the Garden Behind the Moon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dreaming with the People of Amber

Suvalkija district, Lithuania

I am out in the woods, in the rural part of western Lithuania where I am staying. I come to some wide, shallow steps, just packed earth with wood at the edges. I notice two snakeskins, tied in knots that resemble figures of 8, then a larger one, tied in a slightly more complex knot, on a higher step, and know these were left as signs and also that the snakes were not venomous.
    Now I see vivid, brightly colored scenes of ancient battles - of Teutonic Knights who invaded these lands, and Lithuanian Grand Dukes with their knights and men at arms, struggling against great odds to force them back. This living history unfolds into times where local people took to the forests and the mud to carry on their resistance against invaders. I see people who lived with wolves and bears and tried to call on their energies in the fight. I see huge mystery beasts in the woods that look like elephants and wonder whether these are the shades of extinct prehistoric creatures, or entities created by the country''s defenders in an effort to equalize a conflict through psychic means of attack.
    I wander deeper into the woods. I am conscious that sticky mud is everywhere, and getting deeper, just as I found it roaming fields and ancient hill forts the previous day. I come to the house of a ragana - a witch - on one of the sloppy forest trails. It is just a hut among the roots of a crooked tree. I see the face of the witch before she scuttles away into hiding. She has painted the upper part of her face, from the hairline to the cheekbones, chalk-white so it looks like part of a death's head, or perhaps a venomous spider. While she avoids me, nasty slithering things rise from the mud.
    I'm willing to fight her allies, if need be, and am glad to see that an enormous Bear is with me, as a bodyguard. Yet I'm thinking that the witch is merely defending herself; I have wandered into her territory, and she has reason to fear intruders. Instead of starting a fight, I call down Light, and a bright shaft of amber light immediately descends.
    I am happily surprised to find that it serves as a traction beam. It pulls me straight up into the air, far above the mud and the dark woods. I find myself inside what seems to be an egg-shaped amber the size of a spaceship, with female presences who remind me of ancient priestesses of this land I have met in previous dreams and journeys.
    The leader tells me, "You must understand that there are the Mud People and the Amber People, and here you belong to the People of Amber. Your duty - and that of those you train here - is to build bridges and wooden pathways so people can get across the mud safely. You must avoid allowing yourself to be sucked down into the mud. You must remember to call on the power of Light Amber to heal and to guide, and on the power of Dark Amber to remove the darkness."

As I surface from this mostly lucid dream, the moon shines bright in my face for a moment, like a spotlight. Then a cloud blows above the apple trees and mountain ash outside my window, and I lie back in the gentle dark, savoring my latest encounter with the "understory" of the Baltic country where I am traveling.

    I am staying at the country place of a "good witch" in the Suvalkija district in Lithuania. She invited me to learn practices of healing and divination handed down in her family from mother to daughter and never written down (until I took notes, with her permission). She made the invitation after she heard me speak words of ancient Lithuanian after a shamanic journey I led at a workshop she attended in Vilnius. During that journey, I met a
  priestess of ┼Żemyna, the Earth goddess of Lithuania, who brought me inside a chamber like the inside of an egg-shaped amber, a smaller version of the space I was in last night. It glowed with golden light. The priestess instructed me that I could use a pocket size version of the amber egg as a place to see.
    The wood witch bu
rned amber in a ritual in her house the night before my new dream of the Amber People. In the morning, after hearing my dream, she continues my instruction. She demonstrates how to move light amber over the body in a spiraling motion to heal. Then she shows me how she uses a dark amber (also called "vampire amber" here when used in this way) in a different pattern to extract disease and "strangers" in the body.
     Over a breakfast of dark, nutty "grandmother's bread", homemade cheese and butter and coffee chewy with grounds, we talk about the significance of "Mud People" in the literal history of Lithuania, whose name means "Rain Country". Lithuania has no real natural borders. Its main defense against invaders and occupiers, across the centuries, has been the mud. When the cities fell to enemies, people "went into the mud".

I plucked this narrative from my journals of ten years ago because of dreams of amber being shared now in my dreaming community.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Our Most Potent Muse

Our most potent muse is our inner child.               
                 -   Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play

“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves,” said Carl Jung. An earnest man at one of my lectures once asked me to summarize what I consider essential practice. I said, “Remember to play.” He carefully wrote down those three words as if he was marking a schedule. I don't think he quite got the message.
       The child inside him
and in each of us knows. Like puppies or lion cubs or dolphins spinning silver lariats of bubbles, children play for the joy of playing. Young children are masters of imagination, since they know the magic of making things up. Our first and best teacher of conscious living is our inner child.
       But that inner child may have gone into hiding, under a glass dome or in a room in Grandma’s house, because of shame or abuse, ridicule or loneliness, because the world wasn’t safe or it wasn’t fun. If we have lost our dreams, if our imaginations are stuck in a groove, it’s because we have lost our inner child. To live as active dreamers in everyday life, we have to bring that child home. This requires a quest, a negotiation, and fulfillment of a promise.
       The quest will lead us down halls of memory to a place and time where our wonder-child went missing. We can embark on the quest as a guided journey (through an exercise at the end of this chapter) to a real place in the imaginal realm.
       The negotiation requires us to convince our child selves that we are safe and we are fun to be around. Fulfilling the promises we make will require us to remember to play without scheduling it.
       Play first, work later, the child that is with us will insist. The cautious, dutiful adult self will protest. But if we are to keep our inner child at home in our bodies and our lives, we’ll need to fulfill our promise to be fun as well as safe. If we play well enough, then before we quite know it we’ll fall in love with our work, because it will be our play.

Text adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Children Dancing on the Strand" by AE (George Russell)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Nine Keys to Living Consciously in the Multiverse

The only time is Now. All other times - past, present and parallel - can be accessed in this moment of Now, and may be changed for the better.

We dream to wake up. Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up to a deeper order of reality. Dreaming is a discipline; to get really good at it requires practice, practice, practice.

Treasures are waiting for us in the Place Between Sleep and Awake. The easiest way to become a lucid or conscious dreamer is to spend more time in the twilight zone between waking and sleep, or between sleep and waking. Tinker Bell told Peter Pan to look for her in the Place between Sleep and Awake. This liminal state is a place of encounter with inner guides and transpersonal visitors. It is also a place of heightened psychic perception and creative breakthroughs, where it is easy to make connections that escape the daily mind.

We live in the Speaking Land, as the First Peoples of my native Australia say. Everything in the world around us is alive and conscious and will speak to us if we are paying attention. Navigating by synchronicity becomes very simple, even irresistible, when we stream into this mode of understanding.

To live well, we must practice death. We bring courage and clarity to life choices when we are aware that death is always with us, and that we should be ready to meet it any day.

We must feed and honor our animal spirits. A working connection with them gives us immense resources for self-healing.

We have a guide for our lives who is no stranger. He is always with us and does not judge us. This is the Self on a higher level. When we rise to the perspective of the Greater Self, we are able to make peace between different personality aspects, including our counterparts in other times and parallel realities.

We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues. We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons. We can dialog with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.

We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own - the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits, the creative daimon.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: Path in Transylvania by Robert Moss

Friday, September 6, 2019

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

The liminal state of hypnagogia, when you are drifting between sleep and awake, or between waking and sleep, is a marvelous launchpad for lucid dreaming. If you can train yourself to maintain a state of relaxed attention in this in-between state, you will notice that you may be receiving a whole menu of possibilities for lucid dream adventures. Images, faces, landscapes rise and fall. When you learn to hold one of them in focus, it may become the portal for a conscious journey.
    The Parade of Faces is a frequent phenomenon in this state. You may feel you are among a crowd of people, with faces and figures rushing by. Sometimes one may turn to look at you, which can be an interesting opportunity to enter a shared experience with another dream traveler you may or may not know in ordinary reality. Sometimes the images rising and falling before you look like a child’s sketches, or cartoons.    
    A frequent sighting for me, in this in-between state, is of what initially looks like the weave of a carpet or the mesh of a net. I have come to recognize this as a kind of border between states of reality and consciousness. With intention, I can part the strands and find myself in another order or reality.
    This liminal state, which I also call the twilight zone, is a good place to become aware of the ability to travel beyond the body. I often find myself lifting out of the body quite effortlessly in this state, without bumps and grinds. Sometimes, when tired, I simply rest half in and half out of my physical form. Sometimes I float up to the ceiling. In my second body, I may go through a series of simple kinesthetics before becoming airborne
    As I drift toward sleep in the twilight zone, I may notice that a second version of myself, in a different form, is waking up. One night, as I flirted with sleep, I became aware that I was lying back-to-back on the bed with a maned lion stirring from his nap as I slumbered. Quite often I go flying, like a bird, over a landscape, to places far away.
   The twilight zone of hypnagogia is a wonderful place to rendezvous with other beings and other intelligences. It is a state in which we often become aware of the psychic activity around us. We may receive visitors, and we will want to learn to screen and discern who we are letting into our space, because to be open to all comers is like opening your doors and windows in a city at night  and hanging out signs saying, “Party! Come on In! Everyone Welcome!”
    I frequently have inner dialogues in the twilight zone, with sources of knowledge I have come to trust. This is a time when I can often receive streams of counsel and information from inner guides. In Dreamgates, I record some of my conversations with the intelligence I decided to call “G2.” He carried the vocabulary and knowledge of a great Western Mystery order. I felt he was a transpersonal figure, though in no way alien to me. Many others have come to me in this liminal state. The most important of these inner guides is certainly no stranger; he is a self who observes and operates on a level of reality above the one I inhabit while living on this earth in a physical body.
    In the history of creative breakthroughs in every field, including science and technology, the hypnagogic state has been of vital importance. In this liminal zone, it is easy to make creative connections, which often involves linking things that seem to the routine mind to be unconnected. Many inventions and discoveries attributed to dreams by overhasty writers — like Kekul├ę’s discovery of the benzene ring — are actually gifts brought through from hypnagogia, to such an extent that I call this zone of consciousness “the solution state” in my Secret History of Dreaming.
     The place between sleep and awake can also be the very best place to go on with a dream or go back inside one. You may want to practice dream reentry to clarify information from a dream, or get to its full meaning, or continue a conversation with a dream character. You may need to reenter a dream because there are terrors to be overcome, or a mystery to be explored, or simply because you were having fun and adventure and would like to have more. Or because Tinker Bell is waiting for you.
     Often, I find different casts of characters waiting or popping up as I hover on the edge of sleep or linger in the twilight zone after waking. Sometimes, they appear to be quite literally on stage, or in the wings, waiting for me to show up in order to start or resume a play. More often, they seem to be characters in life dramas that are being played out in other times or in parallel worlds, dramas in which I have a lead role from which I may have been absent while attending to things in my default reality.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: With Lion at the Night Cinema. Drawing by Robert Moss from adventures in the twilight state

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Acts of creation

To be creative is to bring something new, and valuable, into our lives and our world. You don’t have to be an Einstein or a Shakespeare to be creative. You need to play the best game you can, in whatever field is calling you, and come up with some new moves, and play so hard you don’t think of your game as just work (and may never want to retire from it).
What makes a world-class creative remains mysterious. But new research in neuroscience is telling us interesting things about how the association centers of the brain work when new ideas are coming through, confirming that one characteristic of creative people is that they make connections between things that other people don’t see as connected. Nancy Andreasen, a pioneer of brain imaging at the University of Iowa, found that in episodes of high creativity, multiple association cortices of the brain are communicating back and forth with each other - not to process sensory input, but in free conversation. Wild and novel connections are made, and from these – through the brain’s character as a self-organizing system – new creation emerges.
 Educational psychologists who try to rate creativity levels speak of a “fourth-grade slump”, when adult assumptions and formal training start to block kids’ natural ability to make things up. This suggests another key to creative living; we want to stay in touch or get in touch with the spontaneous creativity of our inner child, our master imagineer. 
Something important that creative people have in common is that they develop creative habits. For choreographer Twyla Tharp, these include “subtraction” – making a conscious effort to minimize distractions and make sufficient time and space available for a new project. For creativity researcher Keith Sawyer (a psychology professor at Washington University in St Louis) good creative habits include “working smart”, creating a daily rhythm that sets the right balance between hard work and “idle time” when the best ideas often jump out.
    For Columbia business professor William Duggan, creativity in business hinges on “opportunistic innovation”, the readiness to watch for unexpected opportunities and change your plans in order to cash in on them when they turn up.
Other habits of creative people:

- They find personal ways of getting “into the zone”.
- They are risk-takers. They are willing to make mistakes, and learn from them. They look at mistakes as experiments rather than failures.
 - Creative people are “prepared for good luck”; they view coincidences as homing beacons and turn accidents into inventions.
- They make room for creation – time and private space.
- They find a creative friend. This is a person who provides helpful feedback and supports their experiments.
- They persevere.

Creativity is not just the preserve of a lucky – or tormented – few. It’s a power we can all claim.

And here is what, for me, is the most important key to creativity. When we take on a creative project - and its element of risk - and step out of whatever box we have been in, we draw supporting powers, especially the power that the ancients called the genius or the daimon. Most people understand this intuitively, even though we may fumble for an agreed language to describe it.

Photo by RM: Creative soles at the Bloom School in Sarajevo

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Unwritten story

I wanted a story and I have one, a perfect miniature narrative recorded in my travel journal in what I hope will be legible writing, complete with title. I am pleased I have fulfilled two of the assignments I set for my writing class: to write at least one page of their journal and harvest at least one page of something sufficiently polished to be presented to the group. I have both, in a single journal report.
    I glance at my watch on the bedside table. 3:00 a.m. I am usually awake at this time. The hour between 3 and 4 in the morning is possibly my favorite in the daily cycle. The world is quiet, reality seems fluid and malleable. The veils to other realms are thinned. I go to the bathroom then pause at a window to look up at the stars. Perhaps I will put a blanket over my shoulders and go out on the porch to talk to them. But first I want to savor the story I brought back from my dreams.
    Funny, my travel journal is not where I set it down. It is still in the bag I have been carrying to my writing class. I don’t remember putting it away but I am glad to see that I made sure I would be ready to share with the class. Don’t trust a teacher who does not do his own assignments, and make sure he produces evidence of that!
    I open the journal to the page bookmarked by a red ribbon. I see a drawing of a tree with two trunks, one that I visited on a lunchtime walk the previous day. A silver birch, related to the paper birches that grow beside the evergreens in the wood near my home. They provided a medium for the sacred stories of the First Peoples of that country, maps with pictographs of the soul’s journey and its interaction with the spirits of animals and ancestors and greater powers. The twin trunks of the tree I met yesterday rise towards the sky like the legs of a diver who has plunged into the earth. There is the impression  that the tree is rooted in heaven, like the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists and the tree bridge to the World Up Top of the Aboriginal spirit men. The gap between the trunks is surely a portal. I stepped through it, in my imagination, when I drummed for a journey the previous day.
    But this is yesterday’s story. I turn the page. The next page in my journal is blank. This is not so unusual. I often leave a page empty to receive later musings and sketches and notes on what follows a dream or vision. I leaf forward. The next page is blank, and the next. There is nothing in my journal after the sketch of the birch tree with two trunks.
    Perhaps I was confused, and actually wrote my story in the workaday notebook I carry as well as my beautifully bound journal. No, it’s not there. Or maybe I roused myself to do what I must always do at some point: to enter report on a digital data base, on the small screen of my mobile phone or the petite screen of my laptop. I fire up both. I check and recheck. There is no entry from the night.
    I wrote a story but left it in another reality, in an outer courtyard of dreaming around the inner courtyard where a dream adventure gave me the narrative. I fulfilled my intention to write from a dream after a false awakening, in a world that was not my current physical reality.
     Can I step back into that world, and bring back the missing story?
     I lie in bed, on my back, willing myself back in the dream where I wrote in my journal. My inner screen comes on but it shows me random things: patterns and odd objects and unfamiliar faces. Nothing solid.
     Can I at least bring back the title of my story?
     It comes at once.
     I close my eyes, then open them to make sure I wrote the words this time in a place where I can hold on to them. Yes, I have my title.
     Unwritten Story.