Monday, November 18, 2019

In the Cave of the Dreaming Bear


Some nights, at the edge of sleep. I picture myself approaching the roots of a great tree – the oak that once called me to a country home, or a beech, or an ash – singing the chorus of the song that was given to me as a key to a place of regeneration and creation.

Praise and serve the Mother
and let her grace unfold
Praise and serve the mother
and reenchant the world

An opening appears for me among the roots, and I go down into the breathing dark of a warm and cozy space. I snuggle with a family of bears. We are family. I am welcome.
    Then I am called into the embrace of a primal form of Earth Mother, and am nourished and loved and replenished.
    I can now go down to a cave deep in the world of the tree. It is light-filled and full of creative tools and toys, especially art supplies. There is a long wooden pointer there. It points unerringly, like a huge compass needle, in the direction I need to take. Sighting along it, or with it, I can see scenes of possible and desirable futures in the outer world.
    I can go from here along paths where other adventures await. I may start following the flow of an underground river to a waterfall, where I can enter a place of the ancestors by going through and under the falls, or leap up over the falls into a different kind of experience.
    I can picture myself rising up through the tree, as through a library from a Borgesian dream, with countless levels filled with bookcases and galleries. I can make it my intention to read in these books and bring back a few pages in the morning.
     I always hope that the pages I’ll bring back will be from books of my own that are not yet written or published in this world, but can be.


I am launching my new online video course.The School of Imaginal Healing, for The Shift Network this week by leading a journey to the Cave of the Dreaming Bear.

Art by Tracy Cunningham

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Let the universe tap you


"Don't ask what you already know," I was once advised by a babalawo, a high divination priest of Ifa, the Yoruba oracle. I think he was correct. We annoy the spirits, and confuse our own ways, by constantly asking questions when the answers are already with us.
    I have many friends who start the day by putting questions to some personal system of divination, from Tarot to tea leaves.  And many more who put a question to their dreams every night.
    I am in favor of seeking guidance from sources beyond the ordinary mind. But I have mixed feelings about asking all these questions, especially if the questions are on the same theme.
    When I put a question to the night, it is most often only, "Show me what I need toknow".
    There are questions that have to be lived, not merely answered. And it is often better to hear the questions the world is putting to us, rather than constantly putting our personal questions to the world. 
    Spontaneous night dreams and the play of synchronicity in everyday life will tell us what we need to know, if we are ready to hear. By attending to dreams, especially dreams we did not ask for and may or may not want, and  to the voices of the Speaking Land (as Aborigines call it) we escape the trap of constantly moving among projections of our wishes and fears. Spontaneous night dreams and synchronicity speak with an objectivity the ordinary mind often lacks.
     We can tap to awaken the spirits, as the reader of Ifa does with his divination tapper. But it is more interesting to let the universe and the spirits tap us.


Image: Opon Ifa, Ifa divination tray

Reincidence and the Triple Goddess


I invented a new word for a run of coincidence: reincidence. While the words "coincidence" and "synchronicity" define a meaningful conjunction of an outer event and an inner sense of significance in a given moment of time, "reincidence" describes a sequence of conjunctions of the same kind, playing out over time. For example, you might dream of a flamingo, or see one on the side of a van, and then it's flamingos all over - on a suburban lawn, on a beer coaster, in the description of staff officers (with red stripes on their pants) in a thriller set in World War II, on a baby blanket.   
     The following sequence, mostly played out in Asheville, North Carolina, shows how reincidence runs:

April 15, 2010 - In Asheville, NC there is a big crowd at Malaprops bookshop for my talk and signing. A woman asks me about the significance of the number 3 in the title of my book The Three"Only" Things. I give her a bit of a lecture about three as the Celtic number, the number of the Trinity and of the Triple Goddess and the Three Fates, ending with the statement, "Three times makes the charm".

April 16, 2010 - I wake from a dream feeling super-charged, with a shimmer of possibility all about me. I have learned to associate this shimmer with the play of numinous forces. In my dream, taking giant steps across a beautiful landscape, I feel that each step I take is being taken in more than one world, and is bringing worlds together. I notice three red haired women walking together up the slope towards me. They move so close together that their bodies appear to be joined, and I notice their heads are all enclosed by a single hood. Am I looking at the Triple Goddess? I have seen them before, going a different way. They look at me with intent interest and I feel a stir of excitement that they are in the field.

April 16, 2010, afternoon -  I sip a glass of wine at a civilized establishment, the beautiful. dog-friendly Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, and admire the griffins that guard the entrance of The Grove Arcade across the street. Three women, two of them redheads, the third a blonde, take the next table. In jolly mood, sipping margaritas, they strike up conversation with me and prove to be very interested in dreams. I say to the blonde, "If you were a redhead, I would think that the three of you are manifesting my dream from last night." She replies, "Oh, I'm a natural redhead. I colored my hair just last week for fun. I think I'll go back to red."

April 16, 2010, evening - A cheerful crowd gather for my Synchronicity playshop at Jubilee, a lively community church downtown. I drum for the group, asking them to relax into the rhythm and pull up a dream or memory we can use in a game. My mind turns again to the three redheads of my dream, the many forms of the Triple Goddess and the Three Fates, and the distinctly Celtic quality of all this. Through my stir of images comes the keening of bagpipes. A piper is playing at John of the Wood, the Celtic pub behind Jubilee. The sound of the pipes, skirling over the drumming, is irresistible. When the time comes for us to write on index cards a summary of a dream or memory that came during the drumming, I write: "My ancestors are calling me, reaching through my stir of memories. They want me to honor and celebrate and embody their knowing."

April 17, 2010 - I wake from a dream in which Lady Charlotte Guest, one of the first to translate and make accessible Celtic literature including he Mabinogion, invites me to stay with her at a country house . We discuss how events and opportunities recur in a life or in a day, and how when something recurs three times, we are prompted to pay attention.

Later that spring, in a powerful dream of love and longing, I was presented with a choice of three paths in the greenwoods
.

Photo: Site of a Triple Goddess encounter: The Battery Park Boox Exchange & Champagne Bar, Asheville NC.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

If You Don't Have a Dream, Ask for One from the World

One morning when I woke with no dream recall, I stepped out into the street to walk my dog saying, "I would love the world to give me a dream."
     A man walking his own dog across the street called out to me immediately, "Robert, do you have a moment? I'd like to tell you a dream." He was a neighbor I knew slightly. Our previous conversations were usually about our dogs.
    Of course, I hastened across the street. He was very excited. He had just dreamed that he was riding on a train with a bear, sharing a basket of apples. The train divided and he found himself in a different railroad car. He said, "I was glad I still had the basket of food, but sorry that the bear and I parted ways."
   We had a lively discussion about how the dream might reflect choices he would need to make about his job, and the need not to part company with all that the bear meant to him - healing, play, living a natural life - while earning his meal ticket. He was grateful for our dreamplay, and told me later that it helped him to push for - and arrange - the right job transfer.
    I was grateful that the world had literally given me a dream when I needed one.
    The incident was also an example of the workings of one of the favorite oracles of the ancients. They believed that voices from the deeper reality are heard in a kledon - sounds or speech coming out of silence or the undifferentiated hubbub of everyday life. In my book Sidewalk Oracles I explain how to listen for a kledon as daily practice.
   Whatever your relationship with your night life, when you step out into the day make it your intention to be alert and alive to the dreamlike symbolism of what is going on around you.
   If you have a theme for guidance, carry that with you. Get a statement clear in your mind, "I would like guidance on...." [you fill in the blank].Then be willing to receive the first unusual or unlikely thing that enters your field of perception as a message from the world, a dream delivered on the street.

photo credit: Bear on BART

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dreaming to heal our lives


In our dreams, we have access to a personal doctor who makes house calls, provides an impeccable diagnosis of our physical, emotional and spiritual condition, and doesn’t charge a cent. If we are not in touch with our dreams, we are missing out on a tremendous resource for self-healing. Here’s why:

·         The body talks to us in dreams. It shows us what it needs to stay well and previews possible symptoms long before they manifest. If we recognize these messages from the body, and act on them, we may be able to avoid painful and costly medical intervention further down the trail.
·         Dreams are also experiences of the soul, and show us the spiritual sources of wellness and illness. The Iroquois say that dreams reveal the “secret wishes of the soul” – as opposed to the narrow agendas of the ego. If we honor the soul’s purpose, as revealed in dreams, we move towards health and balance. In traditional Iroquois practice, it is the duty of the community to listen to dreams in order to help the dreamer to identify and honor the wishes of the soul.
·         Our dreams provide us with fresh imagery and energy for self-healing.
·         By going back inside our dreams and consciously reshaping our inner dramas, we may be able to help shift the body in the direction of health.
·         Dreams invite us to reclaim vital soul energy lost through pain or grief or addiction. Absence of dream recall is sometimes a symptom of soul loss. Dreams in which we encounter a younger version of ourselves or return again and again to earlier scenes from our lives may be invitations to bring home parts of our energy and identity that went missing.
·         We can bring through dream guidance for others as well as ourselves.
·         Dreams give us a direct line to sacred sources of guidance and healing. In sacred sleep, the ancients not only sought diagnosis and healing images; they sought a direct encounter with the Divine Healer. We can ask for dream healing in the same way.

Here’s how to bring the energy and magic of dreams into daily life, in four easy steps:

1.       Make a date with your dreams

Before you go to sleep, write down an intention for your dreams. Make this a juicy intention – eg “I would like to be healed” or “I want to meet my soulmate” or simply “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.” Have pen and paper ready so you can record something whenever you wake up. Write your dream in a journal later, give it a title and see if you can come up with a personal motto or “bumper sticker” distilling the message or quality of the dream.

2.       Share dreams with a partner

Regular dream sharing is wonderful fun, builds heart-centered relationships, brings us fresh perspectives on our issues and helps to nudge us towards taking appropriate action to honor our dreams. You’ll want to begin by creating a safe space where you and your partner will give each other undivided attention. Whoever is sharing a dream should tell it as simply and clearly as possible, giving the dream a title. The partner then asks a few simple questions. Start by asking how the dreamer felt when she first woke up – the first feelings are usually an excellent guide to the general character and urgency of the dream. Ask the dreamer whether she recognizes any of the elements in the dream in waking life, and whether any parts of the dream might possibly be played out in the future.
   You are not going to tell each other what your dreams mean. You don’t want to steal the dreamer’s power, or to lose the energy of the dream in verbal analysis. You can offer helpful, non-intrusive feedback by saying to each other, “If it were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” Finally, you’ll want to ask the dreamer, “What are you going to do to honor this dream?”

3.       Act on your dreams

Dreams require action! If we do not do something with our dreams in waking life, we miss out on the magic. Real magic consists of bringing something through from a deeper reality into our physical lives, which is why active dreaming is a way of natural magic – but only if we take the necessary action to bring the magic through. Keeping a dream journal and sharing dreams on a regular basis are important ways of honoring dreams and the powers that speak through dreams. Here are some more suggestions:

·         create from a dream: turn the dream into a story or poem. Draw from it, paint from it, turn it into a comic strip
·         take a physical action to celebrate an element in the dream, such as wearing the color that was featured in the dream, traveling to a place from the dream, making a phone call to an old friend who showed up in the dream
·         use an object or create a dream talisman to hold the energy of the dream: A stone or crystal may be a good place to hold the energy of a dream, and return to it.
·         use the dream as a travel advisory: If the dream appears to contain guidance on a future situation, carry it with you as a personal travel advisory. Summarize the dream information on a cue card or hold it in an image you can physically carry.
·         go back into the dream to clarify details, dialogue with a dream character, explore  the larger reality – and have marvelous fun!

4.       Go back inside your dreams


When I started living in rural New York, I dreamed repeatedly of a huge standing bear. Though the bear never menaced me, it made me uneasy because it was several times my size. I realized that I needed to face the bear and find out why it kept appearing in my dreams. I made it my intention to go back inside my dream, and “brave up” to whatever I needed to confront. I stepped back into the dreamspace – as you might step back into a room you had left – and the bear was there, vividly real and tremendous. There was nothing cute or “made-up” about this encounter. I had to push myself to approach the bear.
    When I found the courage to step up to the bear, he embraced me and we became the same size. He showed me we were joined at the heart by something like a thick umbilical, pumping life energy. He told me he would show me what people need in order to be healed. I later discovered that the bear is the great medicine animal in Native American tradition, and that the most powerful healers of the Lakota are the members of the Bear Dreamers Society, composed of those who have been called by the Bear in dreams and visions.  Today, when I lead a healing circle, we call in the spirit bear.
    Our dreams may offer us gifts of power and healing that we can only claim by going back into the dreamspace and moving beyond fear or irresolution. We may need to go back inside a dream to overcome nightmare terrors, to clarify whether the dream is about a literal or symbolic car crash, to talk to someone who appeared in a dream, to reclaim our own lost children, to use a personal image as a portal to multidimensional reality – or simply to have more fun!
     Dream reentry is one of the core techniques that I teach and practice. If you would like to experiment, start by picking a dream that has some real energy for you. It doesn’t matter whether it is a dream from last night or from 20 years ago, as long as it has juice. Get yourself settled in a comfortable, relaxed position in a quiet space and minimize external light. Focus on a specific scene from your dream. Let it become vivid on your mental screen. See if you can let all your senses become engaged, so you can touch it, smell it, hear it, taste it. Ask yourself what you need to know, and what you intend to do inside the dream. And let yourself start flowing back into the dreamspace…
    In my Active Dreaming workshops, we use shamanic drumming - a steady beat on a simple frame drum, typically in the range of four to seven beats per second –to help shift consciousness and facilitate travel into the dreamspace. The steady beat helps to override mental clutter and focus energy and intention on the journey. If you are doing dream reentry at home, you may wish to experiment with a drumming tape or soft music.
    The applications of the dream reentry process for healing are inexhaustible. In this way, for example, we may be able to travel inside the body and help to shift its behaviors in the direction of health. In her wonderful novel for kids of all ages, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle describes a journey into a world inside one of the mitochondria of a sick boy; when things are brought into balance inside a particle of a cell, the whole body is healed. As we become active dreamers, we can develop the ability to journey in precisely this way. Our dreams will open the ways.


We will practice these techniques and explore further paths of adventure, creativity and healing in my new online video course for The Shift Network, The School of Imaginal Healing. Classes begin on November 20.

Art by Robert Moss: (1) "Serpent Staff in the Sky" (2) "Dancing with the Bear"




Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The night when the veil between the worlds thins

The hair salon on the corner advertises, "Halloween Makeup Done Here." There are spooks and scarecrows at the doors of the houses on my block. As we approach Halloween, I am thinking of the many meanings of the festival, from trick-or-treat to the turning of the year.
      This is the most magical, crazy, shivery night of the year. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead.
     The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced "sow-in"), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again.
     It's a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It's a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It's a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened.
     As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, "This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men."
     If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about - if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld - this is the time when you'll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you.
     It's a time for dressing up, especially if you are going out at night. You might want to put on a fright mask to scare away restless spirits before they scare you. You might want to carry a torch to light your way, and especially to guide the dead back to where they came from when the party is over. Before Europeans discovered pumpkins in America, they carried lit candles in hollowed-out niches in turnips.
     By tradition, Samhain is also a time for divination, since the departed can see across time and at this turning of the year we may share in their powers - and anyway, at New Year who doesn't think about what the year ahead may hold? 
     All of this was so important, and such wild, sexy, shiverish fun that the church had to do something about it. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided to steal the old magic by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day; so the night of Samhain became All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween for short. A century before, an earlier pope had borrowed the date of the old Roman festival to propitiate the dead - the Festival of the Lemures, or Lemuralia - and renamed that All Saints' Day. But since Roman paganism had been largely suppressed, the church fathers decided to grab the glamour of the Celts, among whom the old ways are forever smoldering, like fire under peat.
    Few people who celebrate or suffer Halloween today seem to know much about its history. For storekeepers and the greetings card business, it's a commercial opportunity. For TV programmers, it's a cue to schedule horror movie marathons. For kids, it's time to dress up as vampires or witches and extort candy from neighbors. My preferred way to spend Halloween is to rest quietly at home, with candles lit for my dead loved ones, and a basket of apples and hazelnuts beside them, tokens of the old festival that renews the world and cleanses the relations between the living and the dead.



Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.



I am offering a workshop on related themes in Berkeley over the weekend of November 23-24, "Ancestral Healing and Dream Archaeology"

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The dreams are coming back

In contemporary society, dream drought is a widespread affliction, almost a pandemic. This is deadly serious, because night dreams are an essential corrective to the delusions of the day. They hold up a mirror to our everyday actions and attitudes and put us in touch with deeper sources of knowing than the everyday mind. If you lose your dreams, you may lose your inner compass. If your dreams are long gone, it may be because you have lost the part of you that is the dreamer.
    Traditional Iroquois say bluntly that if we have lost our dreams, it is because we have lost a vital part of our soul. This may have happened early in life through what shamans call soul loss, when our magical child went away because the world seemed to cold and cruel. Helping the dream-bereft to recover their dreams may amount to bringing lost souls back to the lives and bodies where they belong. In my story “Dreamtakers”in Mysterious Realities I describe a shamanic journey to help return dream souls to people who have lost them. This is something I teach and practice.
     There are several ways we can seek to break a dream drought any night we want to give this a try. We can set a juicy intention for the night and be ready to record whatever is with us whenever we wake up. We can resolve to be kind to fragments. The wispiest trace of a dream can be exciting to play with, and as you play with it you may find you are pulling back more of the previously forgotten dream. 
    If you don’t remember a dream when you first wake up, laze in bed for a few minutes and see if something comes back. Wiggle around in the bed. Sometimes returning to the body posture we were in earlier in the night helps to bring back what we were dreaming when our bodies were arranged that way.
     If you still don’t have a dream, write something down anyway: whatever is in your awareness,
including feelings and physical sensations. You are catching the residue of a dream even if the dream itself is gone. As you do this, you are saying to the source of your dreams, “I’m listening. Talk to me.”
     You may find that, though your dreams have flown, you have a sense of clarity and direction that is the legacy of the night. We solve problems in our sleep even when we don’t remember the problem-solving process that went on in our dreaming minds.
      And remember that you don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. The incidents of everyday life will speak to us like dream symbols if we are willing to pay attention. Keep a lookout for the first unusual or striking thing that enters your field of perception in the course of the day and ask whether there could be a message there. When we make it our game to pay attention to coincidence and symbolic pop-ups in everyday life, we oil the dream gates so they let more through from the night.
     Dream recovery may be soul recovery. Call back your dreams and you may find you are bringing back a beautiful bright dreamer who left your body and your life when the world seemed too cold and too cruel. Maybe she has been hiding out in Grandma's cottage, or a garden behind the Moon. Sometimes the right song will help to bring back that Magical Child with all the dreams fluttering like fireflies in her hair. I wrote a song in this cause and you are welcome to try it:

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



Drawing: "Retrieving my Wings" by Robert Moss, from a dream