Monday, May 2, 2016

What is your rescue story?

A rescue story is one that can buck you up and give you strength and courage, or simply warm smiles, when you need those things.  It's a story that can get you out from under a black cloud of despair, and move you beyond the belief that you're not good enough, or worthy enough, or that the world is cold and cruel.
    There are days in our lives when all of us need to be rescued by a story of this kind.  I asked members of one of my Active Dreaming circles to identify their own rescue stories. Among those offered:

- My first boyfriend kissing me so hard he put hickeys all over my neck and then sat with me for an hour with an ice-pack trying to make them go away so my mom wouldn't notice.

- leaning into the breeze on a cliff above the sea in Hawaii

- giving birth to my first child

- holding a humming bird in the palm of my hand

- seeing the sun shine at midnight, in a dream of healing and initiation

- with Grandpa in a laundromat when he magicked a gold ring out of one of the machines and gave it to me

- having a close-up encounter with my own Death, and coming back with the knowledge that Death is my teacher, not my enemy

Sometimes we can borrow a story others have told, and find courage or laughter within it. When things seem really bad, I often think of Viktor Frankl, reduced to a walking skeleton at Auschwitz, growing a dream of a future world where Hitler was a nightmare of the past, in which - liberated and respected - he saw himself giving lectures on the psychology of the concentration camps. 
    As he recounts in Man's Search for Meaning, one of the essential books of the 20th century, Frankl grew that dream so strong in his imagination, in the midst of constant terror, that he found the strength to survive and was eventually able to manifest his vision. That's a rescue story.

Art: "The Rescue" by HonorĂ© Daumier

There is one direction in which space is open to us

Champlain Islands, Vermont

The sun rises from behind the mountains, and golden light bursts over the lake. Though the analogy is too pedestrian for the glory of this moment, it seems to me that an immense light bulb has come on, impossible to miss yet difficult to look at head-on. 
    The moment before I walked barefoot across the wet grass to wait for the sun by the shore, I was rereading lines from Emerson that give exact shape to the sense of illumination and direction that is now with me: 

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. 
    This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call.

This passage, from Emerson's Spiritual Laws, gives vital navigational guidance for our life journeys. Every word is as precise as a compass bearing. To read this passage deeply and take it to heart is to turn on the light in a darkened room, or put the sun in the sky.
    The talent is the call. When we follow our soul's calling, and give ourselves to the work, the life Work that is ours and no other's, our gifts are multiplied, because we draw to us supporting powers from the unseen, starting with our own creative genius. 
    There is one direction in which space is open to us. This explains why, when we are unsure of or uncommitted to our calling, we find blocks and opposition placed in our paths, doors slammed in our faces, savage reversals of fortune or of health that compel us to ask what we are doing in our lives. Such obstruction isn't random, and it's about more than toughening us up. Dead ends and adversity, repeated often enough, can make us aware that we've been following the wrong charts. Knowing that we have been misdirected gives us the chance to find our true direction. 
    On that side all obstruction is taken away. When we follow the soul's direction, the way ahead is open, and wind and water flow with us. We "sweep serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea." We draw new allies, events and resources to us. Chance encounters and benign coincidence support us and ease our passage in ways that are inexplicable to those from whom the spiritual laws of human existence are hidden.
    What we now deliver in our world is unique, yet it springs from the mode in which the general soul incarnates in us. We draw from "that age-long memoried self that shapes the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches the birds to make their nest", as Yeats wrote, thrillingly, in The Trembling of the Veil. The poet added that "genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments to our trivial daily mind.." Yes, but Emerson arouses us to the understanding that the flash of genius can become a steady beacon for a voyage in which the mixed crew of personalities that compose the self are willing to work the ropes together, because the helmsman is unerring.
     We have no rival when we follow our one direction and live as creators. To be a creator is to bring something new into the world, the thing only we can give.
     Each of us has all of the power to do something unique, and no one has any other call. Ah.
     As I write this line, releasing it from gender to become fully the property of all, the sun calls me, laying a path of light clear across the inland sea and through my window, so it shines before me. My pencil, on the table, glows in this brilliant morning light 
silently inviting me to endless exertion with the talent I am given, the kind of exertion that is no sweat because it is the soul's delight.

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

Photo: Sunrise on Lake Champlain by RM

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Making Big Magic: Re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert

What a deliciously good book is Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. Her insistence that ideas are out there looking for the right people to carry and create with them matches the ancient wisdom of Aborigines that the Big stories are hunting the people who will tell them. I love her account of how, when she put aside the idea for a Brazilian "jungle book", it jumped, with specific characters and plot themes, to another wonderful writer, the novelist Ann Patchett, who brought it through in State of Wonder.
    I especially like her recognition that genius is not something a person is, but a greater creative spirit who will infuse and inspire us when we are available. That is the whole theme of the last chapter of my own ConsciousDreaming, and to operate with this awareness is to enter the heart of creative action. We miss the real meaning of genius. The Romans never said that a person was a genius. They said that a person had a genius, a tutelary spirit that brought them greater creative gifts. The Latin word "genius" is related to gignere, which means to engender or "beget". It implies reproductive energy, the power of inseminating new life. The Romans believed that a person's genius rejoices in good living, in laughter, in healthy sex, in having fun. Forget to play, and you are not working with your genius, for whom play is the only thing in mortal affairs worth taking seriously.
    Gilbert reminds us that for the Greeks the highest state of bliss is eudaimonia, being “good-daemoned”.
    Later she makes practical use of Einstein’s practice of “combinatory play”. To release your best in your primary field, play around in a lesser (for you) field where consequences are unimportant. On is way to a discovery, Einstein would pick up his violin and play a sonata or two.
    When it comes to negative thoughts, Gilbert recommends, act like a hostage negotiator. “Speak to your darkest and most negative interior voices the way a hostage negotiator speaks to a violent psychopath: calmly, but firmly. Most of all, never back down…The life you are negotiating to save, after all, is your own.”
     She borrows wonderful advice from W.C. Fields: “It ain’t what you’re called, it’s what you answer to.”
     She invites us to choose the trickster in each of us over the martyr.
     And then there is her story of the poet Ruth Stone, who wrote

Poems came to me
As if from far away.
I would feel them coming,
I would rush into the house,
Looking for paper and pencil.
It had to be quick,
For they passed through me
And were gone forever.

- Ruth Stone, "Fragrance",in her last collection What Love Comes To

As a poet myself, I feel for Ruth Stone, because thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert, Stone's mode of chasing poems like runaway horses is now famous, but few have read the poet herself or even remember her name. It's well worth seeking out her work and noticing, along the way, how she rose above a dark river of grief and pain, especially after her second husband (also a poet) hanged himself from a door in the family home.
    There are delicious further revelations in Gilbert's account of how Stone caught her poems. When a poem got away from her, she felt it galloping away, "searching for another poet". Then sometimes she would manage to grab an escaping poem by the tail, and would feel herself pulling it back. "In these instances, the poem would appear on the page from the last word to the first - backward, but otherwise intact."
    Many of us dreamers know exactly how that works, as we pull back dreams by the tail as they run away. How many of the dreams that escape go searching for another dreamer?

Top image: Winged genius in the Louvre

Friday, April 29, 2016

Praise and Serve the Mother and Re-enchant the World

I am walking in deep, springy grass, humming a little hum, a bit like Winnie-the-Pooh.. Ahead of me, near a fine lake, is a great tree, and I know that important things are waiting for me if only I can open a door among the roots of this tree. In fact, I need to do this very much, because people are looking to me for direction I can only find if I go down to a world below the great tree. I can see their faces - the faces of decent family people in ordinary situations, all over. They are doing their best, but they need something more. 
     I understand that I can only gain access to the place where the guidance they need can be found by putting words to my hum. By finding the song that will be the key.
I wake from this dream with the hum in my mind, but not much more, beyond a sense of urgency. 
     I call a dear friend, Carol, who has companioned me in many adventures in dream travel and dream teaching. I ask her to come over and drum for me while I attempt to reenter my dream and find the song key.
     Soon we are together. I am stretched out on the rug, eyes closed, humming the hum I recall. As Carol gently taps the drum, words begin to come:

I am walking on the Mother
I am sailing on her skin

"Sailing" on her skin? A critical, editing part of my mind natters that this can hardly be correct. I ask that part of me to wait outside while I go on with this. Let me have this adventure and I'll talk to you later. (This, in my experience, is the best way to deal with the skeptic in the left brain, who has his place but must be reminded where that its.) As Carol  continues to drum, the first stanza becomes whole:

I am walking on the Mother
I am sailing on her skin
I become her child and lover
from the outside enter in

Now the flow is coming stronger, unstoppable:
I will praise the sky above her
I will praise her in the deep
I am dreaming of the Mother
she awakens me from sleep

Walk lightly on the Mother
and let her grace unfold
Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world

Oh, I need to hear those last lines again:

Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world

Now, in my lucid wide-awake dream, I am approaching the roots of the great tree. An opening appears, like a door, and I go through it without hesitation. I go down into a velvety, breathing dark. Then a great shape, formed of the Earth itself, takes form and embraces me. I am enfolded within the body of the Great Mother. She holds me and nurses me like a baby, and I feel love and healing coursing through every part of my body.
     Now I am allowed to go deeper, into a kind of Creative Cave in a world below our world of appearances. Here I find powerful guidance and direction, to be shared with those who have been waiting.
     When I signal for Carol to end the drumming, I have the song, and the directions. I recall that in the Mohawk language (which I was obliged to learn because of my dreams) the word for "song" - ka'renna - literally means, "I am putting forth my power."

I have shared the song of the Mother gathering of active dreamers in special places. When we sing the chorus together, we know we are on our way, to "re-enchant the world." I shared it in my last class for my current online"Quantum Dreaming" course for The Shift Network, and saw the doors to the deeper world opening again.

 Art: "Tree Crossroads of Worlds" by Annick Bougerolle

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The worlds behind the dream door

The best way to grasp the meaning of a dream, and to determine what action the dream requires, is to go back inside the dream and recover more of the story. We should never confuse a dream report - what we remember and can say about a dream - with the full experience of the dream itself. Even a very copious and detailed dream report is missing much of what went on during the night, including deeper levels of dreaming in which the dream self may have traveled not only through different locations, but through different orders of reality.
     Why would we want to go back inside a dream? Our motive might be simply to have more fun and adventure. We were with a dream lover in a tropical paradise, but were roused by the alarm clock or the kids jumping on the bed. We'd like to revisit that delicious scene, and enjoy it for longer.
     We may want to talk more with a dream visitor. A deceased grandparent, or a friend on the other side of the world, or a famous writer of the past we admire turned up in a dream, as if they sat down in the living room or leaned over the bed, and we'd like to know why they came and what we need to share. By putting ourselves back inside the dream scene, we can initiate a conversation.
     Maybe we've been running away from something in dreams, or trying to hide from it. This is an urgent reason for learning to reenter a dream. When a fear or a challenge arises in dreams, we want to learn to confront it on its own ground. If we keep running away from something in our dreams, chances are that the underlying issue will pursue us in waking life.
What we are hiding from in dreams may be our own power. I learned this early in my time in North America, when I dreamed, repeatedly, that an enormous bear was in my space. I made it my intention to go back inside the most recent version of the dream, confront the bear, and understand why it was showing up in my house. I closed the blinds, turned off the phone, slouched back in an easy chair and used the edge of fear as power to take me back inside the dream scene.
    I was there right away: the bear was in front of me, huge and wild, showing its claws. It took a real effort of will to brave up and approach it as it towered over me on its hind legs. When the bear wrapped its great arms around me, I feared it would crush my ribs. Instead, I found myself inside a warm and loving hug. Later the bear wanted me to look at my heart. I looked, and was amazed to see their was a thick cord between my heart and that of the bear, something like a thick umbilical, pumping life juice. I understood, in that moment, that the bear and I were joined at the heart. Bear's message, moving through my senses and slowly translating into human speech, was Call on me, and I will show you what people need to be healed. Since then, whenever I open a healing circle, we call in the Bear through song and dance.
    You may find, as I do, that an aspect of your own power and healing is waiting for you behind a dream door, if you will reopen it. There are further reasons for learning the technique of dream reentry, which is explained in depth in several of my books, including Active Dreaming and The Three "Only" Things. I have become convinced, through long experience, that any image that belongs to us - even the most terrifying - can be worked with in the direction of healing and resolution. Our dreams, if we will use them, are factories of fresh and spontaneous images that the body believes because it belongs to us and comes hand-crafted from our personal dream producers.
     Then, too, a dream may be an invitation to become whole by reclaiming aspects of ourselves that went missing when life became too cruel or too complex. Dreams show us parts of ourselves that go unrecognized by the daily mind, and may have been absent for years or decades through the conditions that shamans call soul-loss. When we learn to go back inside a certain kind of dream - the dream of the childhood place, for example, or of a childhood self - we are on our way to a soul reunion with a younger self that can bring fresh vitality, joy and imagination into our present lives.
- Wings for the Journey     Dream reentry is the royal road to becoming a conscious or lucid dreamer. In my workshops, we use shamanic drumming to fuel and focus our adventures in dream reentry and tracking - which means entering someone else's dream space, with permission, to get information for them or support them. For home use,  Wings for the Journey, my recording of shamanic drumming for dream travelers, is available from Psyche Productions.

Art: "Dancing with the Bear" by RM.

Release your inner winds

In the sacred psychology of the Malay bomoh (shamanic healer), the natural path of our energies is determined by inner winds (angin). We are born with these. They are part of our basic character and identity. They also connect us to larger forces, to the world of living myths and archetypes. Our power to create or destroy is conditioned by these inner winds. When they are blocked, we are in trouble.
     As anthropologist Carol Laderman explains it in a remarkable book, Taming the Wind of Desire, if people cannot express their inner winds, "their angin is trapped inside them, when it accumulates and produces sakit berangin, or sickness due to blockage of the inner winds. We recognize this problem in artists and writers whose creativity is blocked, or whose art is insufficiently appreciated, and would not find it difficult to understand why Malays say that musicians, actors and puppeteers are attracted to their professions because of angin and could not succeed without it." 
     Releasing and directing the inner winds into productive channels is the aim of dramatic rituals of healing. These involve drumming, fiddling, dancing, play-acting, theater with shadow puppets and calling in beneficent spirits.
    In our Western nosology (the science of classifying diseases) we might gain by borrowing from this shamanic diagnosis of types of sickness that result from "blockage of the inner winds". In our approach to healing, we have even more to learn from the shaman's prescription. Release the inner winds through movement, drama, dance, ritual, group energy, laughter. Then "farm" the inner winds through creative action, supported by the community.

Art: John William Waterhouse, "Boreas" (1903)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Forever Jung

I devoured Jung’s Collected Works as an undergraduate. What fired me up most – as it did so many others – was the version of his life in the larger reality as he gave in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Two statements from that work have lived with me, from my late teens, as precepts for living. The first is: “All day long I have exciting ideas and thoughts. But I take up in my work only those to which my dreams direct me.” I have lived most of my own life in precisely this way.
    Jung also wrote: “Dreams are the facts from which we must proceed.” Exactly! Dreams are not texts, nor delusions caused by random neuronal firings, nor merely day processing, nor subterfuges of the guilty psyche to protect sleep: they are the facts of experience in a larger reality, and to work with them and let them play with use, we must seek to get those facts as clear and complete as possible, if necessary by going back inside the space where we encountered them, through conscious or shamanic dreaming.
     Jung’s practice has inspired me more than his theories. For example, his way of consulting what was going on in the field – the wind on the lake, the fox in the woods, the scarab-like beetle at the window – in counseling clients. His famous essay on synchronicity is much less interesting than his personal practice of monitoring coincidence and symbolic popups from the world around him.
     Jung, for me, is the model of what a real shaman of the West would be like. In indigenous cultures, the master shaman is a scholar and scientist, a poet and dramatist, whose vocabulary may be many times that of the average person. He or she is someone who can change a body, or an experienced world, by telling a better story about it, and entertains the lively spirits with “fresh words”, as the Inuit say. And the true shaman is a dreamer, one who dreams strong, one who can dream for others. So, if you want to see what a dream shaman of the West is like, look at Jung, who went to the Underworld and died and came back as true shamans are obliged to do.