Monday, July 25, 2016

The dream kitchen

In my night dreams, the place of creation is often a kitchen. I don’t do a lot of cooking, but I love the image of the kitchen — where we are fed and nourished and we mix things together and cook things up — as the creative center.
     I especially like to think of the creative process as being similar to baking. You get together your startup dough, then you knead it — you stretch it and pull it apart and bring it together again. Then you stand back and let it rise (if it will). Then you get hot, and expose your project to the fire. And finally comes the test: how does it taste?
     I know, from the state of my dream kitchen, how a creative project is coming (or not coming) along. Once, when working on a book, I dreamed that a splendid meal was being delivered, but that there was no place in the kitchen to set it down, since every surface was covered with papers or dishes. The dream gave me a clear message to eliminate clutter, push aside old drafts and research files, and make space for the main dish to be served up fresh and hot.
      The state of the dream kitchen may reflect the family situation. A woman once came to me with a troubling dream in which her kitchen was so messy that she could not tell the difference between the groceries and the trash. She insisted that she was a tidy person who would never allow her kitchen to get into that state. Could the dream be played out in the future? She was reluctant to accept that idea. We briefly discussed whether the mess in the kitchen could be a metaphor for the state of her marriage and family relations. She allowed that there might be some "cleaning up" to do on that front. Two weeks later, she came home to find that the mess from her dream had spilled over into her literal kitchen. Her husband and teen boys had done such a number on the kitchen that she literally could not tell the difference between the groceries and the trash. This prompted her to have a tough sit-down conversation with her husband, at the end of which they agreed that the mess in their relationship couldn't be cleaned up by anything less than a separation.
      In that kitchen dream, be it noted, we see how a quite literal precognitive dream can point us to a situation in ordinary life that is richly symbolic. We need to take dreams more literally, and waking life more symbolically.
      What's going on in your dream kitchen?

photo by RM

Friday, July 22, 2016

Patterns for Yama's Necktie


My husband gets out of bed and puts on his noose.


I saw you in a grassy field swinging a lasso,
dressed in black, with a flat black hat
like a character from an old Western.
I asked you why you put on this costume.

You told me, "I adapt to circumstances."
I said I would love to talk with you.
You replied, "I know you would, my dear,

but I will only talk to you if you let me
place my noose around your neck."
You let it hang there lightly that time.


The dark angel rips me out of my body
and drags me to the edge of the abyss.
"But you are the one who taught me to fly!"
"See if you can remember now," he mocks me,
bending me over the windy chasm.
I tell him I've got a job, I'm gluten free,
I'm not meant to die for a long time.

His laughter is the clack of cicada shells,
the clatter of knuckle bones.
"You've forgotten the game."
What game? I don't understand.
All I can do is scream into the hot wind,

He loosens his grip and then teases my neck 
with his fingers before he says,
"If you are nice to people you can go back."
He blows a kiss that throws me back to my body.
He doesn't tell me he has given me an invisible gift.
I am wearing his noose around my neck.

- Mosswood Hollow July 22, 2016.

verses from a work in progress

Drawing by RM

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Bhakti Checkout

A shaft goes hundreds of feet down into the earth, through masses of rock beneath the paving stones of a great square. Is this a jail for a very special prisoner? The way down is easy enough; the way up is fiendishly difficult, and there is no obvious way to call for help.
    I tell a friend who has died in the ordinary world that it is probably time to leave. Neither or us has been stuck here. We have been exploring together, in a breezy Indiana Jones spirit of adventure.
   Hmm. How to get up?
   It comes to me in a flash. We need to take the Bhakti Checkout.
   I know that in Sanskrit, bhakti means love and devotion, and that bhakti yoga is a way of devotion to a personal deity. recommended by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
   But I don't tax my brain for references or hand-me-down texts.
   Fresh words that may also be ancient flower in my mind:

Blessed One, light giver, let me rise on your wings into your heart of light.

   Yes, this does the trick. I am rising now, as if weightless, carried up by wings of light. I will my friend to rise with me.

- from last night's dreams. 

Feelings: elation. 

Reality check: I know this works. I feel I have been given a way of release from places of confinement, in any world.
    I find these words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (chapter 12, verse 8): "
Fix your mind and intelligence on me alone and ultimately you will come to me. Of this there is no doubt."

My intention for last night's dreams was to continue to explore ways to help people approach the afterlife. The intention was clearly answered.
    I ask myself: What is a Western song that carries this spirit? The answer comes at once. It is "Amazing Grace", the luminous creation of a penitent former slave trader.
   I ask again, what is the simplest way to practice the Bhakti Checkout, released from any specific religious language or tradition? It is something I have practiced and taught for many years:

Open your heart.
Find in your heart, your deep yearning for the beloved of your soul.
Feel that desire rising from your heart as a beam of light.
Feel and see an answering light from the highest reaching down like a finger of gentle fire, to meet the light ascending from your heart.
In the radiant place of encounter between your heart light and the fire from heaven, join in the embrace of the beloved of your soul, the one who never leaves you but seeks you everywhere.

Art: Marc Chagall, "Au dessus de Paris"

Monday, July 18, 2016

The complete guide to Loki

Once again, my dreams are setting me research assignments.
   Last night I dreamed I was shown a series of images of Loki, the Norse trickster god. A voice-over explained his many attributes and gave a fresh version of his role in the affairs of the Aesir and their rivals, and the perennial contest between order and chaos. My tutorial seemed to be taking place in Ireland, which confused me a little when I woke until I reflected on the Viking history of that island, and started researching symbol stones.
   In the dream, I was fascinated by the images. They looked nothing like the Loki portrayed in the movie Thor. They were abstract in style, only vaguely humanoid. The figures seemed composed of oblong segments that could move separately. The images were essentially two-dimensional, yet through their portals it seemed possible to see into a stir of action taking place within a larger reality, beyond 4D. I was reminded of how other 2D images - like mandalas - can also give access to multidimensional reality, sometimes more easily than 3D representations.
   I did not retain much of the commentary on Loki in the dream, but I know that it presented a Loki who is much more complex and less dark than the "devil god" versions. I suspect there is also interweaving of Norse and Celtic traditions, given the Irish setting.
   I am prompted now to press forward with an assignment given to me many years ago by Tolkien, no less. I was leading a group shamanic journey to a locale in the imaginal realm that I sometimes call the Magic Library. I met C.S. Lewis and Tolkien - or their semblances - and they offered me some advice on writing. Tolkien said, "You must study Scandinavian mythology."
    A few years later, while I was working on The Dreamer's Book of the Dead, C.S. Lewis turned up again, in a spontaneous night vision in the liminal space between sleep and awake. I asked him, "Where's Tolkien?" He replied, "Tolkien isn't talking to you because you didn't do what he told you to do."
   So: this morning I found relief carvings of a being that is believed to be Loki on symbol stones from both Ireland and Scotland. The one above is Pictish. It is from the Meigle museum of sculpted stone in eastern Scotland and shows a horned god in chains. The abstract style somewhat resembles the figures in my dream, who are less clearly humanoid. The stone below is at Carndonagh in Donegal, a guardian pillar with a monastic figure on the left and a possible Loki on the right.
    I shall try to draw the series of Loki images that were shown to me in the dream. I shall continue my researches, which have already turned up an interesting possible meaning for Loki's name. In Geirr Bassi Haraldsson's The Old Norse Name, "Loki" is a "loop in a thread", in other words, a loophole. One aspect of the Trickster leaps out; he can find or make loopholes in the weave of fate.
    For now, my catch phrase is: I got Loki.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What Face Will Your Death Wear?

Death wears many masks. In Hopi mythology, the god Masau’u — depicted as a skeleton wearing a mask — is the gatekeeper and mediator between the realms of the dead and the living. In the Hopi creation story, when the ancestors journey up from the underworld to inhabit the earth, it is Masau’u who welcomes them into the sunlit world. He is a friend and guide to humans and knows the ways between the worlds; he is also the lord of boundaries, fire, fertility — and humor. He can turn anything into its opposite.
     The ancient Greeks had two names for their death lord. They called him Hades, which means “the unseen,” and Pluto, which means “rich.” The words hint at the treasures to be found in his realm. The Greek myths also warn of the need to travel these roads with great care, to avoid the fate of the hero Theseus, who lost a part of himself when it remained stuck to a bench before the throne of Hades — and of his friend Pirithous, who remained stuck there indefinitely.
     The close encounter with Death brings courage, which Rollo May rightly identified in The Courage to Create as the heart of the creative endeavor. It encourages the ability to go beyond the surface vicissitudes of daily life. It brings keen awareness of a larger reality. This is clearly reflected in the experiences of survivors of near-death experiences. Kenneth Ring, one of the foremost researchers in this field, reported in Life at Death that 60 percent of all “returners” questioned by him said that their lives had changed; 40 percent said this had been the most important experience of their lives; 89 percent said they would gladly repeat it.
      All dreaming peoples know that the encounter does not require the physical extremity of a life-threatening illness or near-fatal accident. We move among the departed in spontaneous sleep dreams. As active dreamers, we can range far and wide through the afterworlds, observing how different aspects of the soul go to different destinations. In the process, we learn to brave our deepest fears. We encounter radiant guides and powerful spiritual allies. We discover special places to which we can return — in this life and perhaps beyond.
     I sometimes journey to a pleasant campuslike setting I first visited in a sleep dream more than ten years ago. It is a place of higher education for people who no longer have physical bodies. In my original dream, I found the “freshmen” gathered for commencement. They were mostly elderly, the women in cute white dresses with ribbons and bows. The choir sang hauntingly beautiful songs that celebrated the link between dreaming and the entry into a larger reality:

Morning, sunset, evening star — all dreams.
What cannot be known in the dream cannot be known in its glory.

The soaring beauty of their voices is with me as I write. Occasionally, in journeys to help the departed, I have tried to guide those who seem ready for those halls of weathered, ivy-draped stone, set among rolling lawns and exuberant flower beds and sparkling fountains.
     When my spirit needs to soar, I sometimes ascend, in conscious dream journeys, to a world as fresh as the first day where I flew with the winged powers after leaving my astral body, as well as my physical body, behind.
     And when I most need clarity, I check in with my personal Death. He/she has worn many masks. When I was a teenager in Australia, she came swirling through my dreams and reveries in the terrible shapes of Kali. At the back of the history class on airless afternoons, I wrote a cycle of poems in her honor:

In the darkness, a dark woman came to me
Softly as the ticking of a clock

     I have seen death swinging a Scottish broadsword. I have conversed with Yama, the Hindu death lord, who speaks - in beneficent mode - in the accent of an Oxbridge-educated maharajah. I have seen death as a great black bird, as a purple bruise flowering in an empty sky, as a sweet and luminous friend.
     The Death I want now (to echo a splendid line of Octavio Paz) carries my name, wears my face.

- adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Graphic: Yama, who is also called Kala ("Time") and may be the twin and/or consort of Kali, riding the water buffalo, with his mace and the noose he uses to pluck souls out of bodies in his hands. This is one of his more benign images.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

"Pick up, Sunshine": when our dead become family angels

Once they are free of their physical bodies and physically-oriented assumptions about the rules of reality, our dead can become extremely helpful and reliable psychic advisers, since they can see across space and time quite easily. We have this ability too, but while we are encased in physical bodies and self-limiting beliefs about physical laws and linear time, we often forget to use our ability to see beyond these things.
      Departed friends and loved ones very frequently turn up in dreams to pass on health advisories. They are especially sensitive to health problems that tend to run in families. I have heard hundreds of reports of dreams in which deceased family members have given specific health warnings, some of which have almost certainly saved lives. I have had this experience myself.
      Our dead may come to us in dreams with warnings and advisories of any kind. The Chinese Book of Zuo relates that the dead father of a general called Han Jue appeared to him on the eve of battle and told him that in the fighting the next day he should avoid veering to either right or left and lead always from the center. The general was victorious in battle, but the enemies' arrows killed all the men immediately to the right and left of his chariot.
       There is a fascinating episode from the history of American show business in which a dceased friend becomes an everyday angel. Lucille Ball was devastated when her good friend Carole Lombard died in a plane crash in January 1942. But their friendship continued after Carole's death. Lucille's decision to take the risk of launching the "I Love Lucy" show on television was guided by her dead friend. Carole Lombard turned up in a very smart suit and said, "Take a chance, honey. Give it a whirl!" Lucille Ball recalled that "After that, I knew for certain that we were doing the right thing." Later, at a party, she told Clark Gable (who had been married to Carole Lombard) that his long-deceased wife kept turning up in her dreams to offer helpful advice. Clark Gable reportedly "stared, gulped, and plowed off in a daze." 
       A young woman I'll call Kirsty lost her grandmother - a proud, creative, take-charge kind of woman - around the same time she developed a rare and serious illness. She then received a dream visitation from her grandmother, who told her, "I've arrange to be around for two more years. You and I have lots of work to do together, Sunshine."
      When Kirsty enrolled for an expensive series of therapy sessions, she dreamed that she heard her grandmother's voice on her answering machine. She did not want to pick up for fear that her grandmother would not really be there. "Pick up, Sunshine," her grandmother's voice encouraged her. When Kirsty did so, her grandmother said, "You can save a bunch on those therapy sessions if you meditate on your nickname. You are Sunshine, right? Be Sunshine! Let it stream through every cell in your body!"
      With the words, Kirsty felt waves of healing light and energy rolling through her body. She proceeded to make it a practice to sit with the sun and invoke a flow of inner sunlight every day, and this felt profoundly healing. In another dream, Kirsty's grandmother called to say she was going to help her arrange a move from her apartment in Manhattan to a house with a garden, and trees, and sunlight.
      Though Grandma was not visible in the flurry of real estate moves that followed, she had been very adept at this kind of thing, and Kirsty was buoyed by the feeling that she was active behind the scenes. It took less than a week to sell her condo, and she managed the house purchase in just one day. Magic.
      Grandma called again to say she wanted to support Kirsty in developing a new relationship. Nothing controlling, just a blessing. Kirsty was thrilled to find herself entering a warm and loving new relationship with a man who was not afraid of commitment. Kirsty's grandmother loved to paint cardinals. At her new house, Kirsty saw them all the time, glorious flashes of bright red among the greens.

Art: Marc Chagall, "Three Angels Visit Moses"

Friday, July 8, 2016

"Your dreams tell you what is needed for the cure"

A dream is a wake-up call. It takes us beyond what we already know. Dreams are the language of the soul, and they are experiences of the soul.
    There are “big” dreams and “little” dreams, of course. In big dreams, we go traveling and we may receive visitations. We travel across time – into the future and the past – and we travel to other dimensions of reality. This is reflected in the words for “dream” that are used by indigenous people who have retained strong dreaming traditions and respect for dreamers. Among the Makiritare, a shamanic dreaming people of Venezuela, for example, the word for dream is adekato, which means “a journey of the soul”.
     Most societies, across most of human history, have valued dreams and dreamers for three main reasons. First, they have looked to dreams for contact with a wiser source than the everyday mind – call that God, or Nature, or the Self with a great big Jungian S. Second, they have looked to dreams as part of our survival kit, giving us clues to possible future events we may want to avoid or enact. Third, they have known that dreaming is medicine, in several important senses. Dreams show us what is going on inside the body, often before physical symptoms present. When we do get sick, dreams are a factory of images we can use for self-healing.
    In indigenous cultures, dreaming is central to diagnosis and healing. From the Otomi Indians of the state of Puebla in Mexico, we have this marvelous account of a shaman named Don Antonio who used dreams as a medical text:

"When I became a shaman, I began to see how to cast out illness in my dreams. It was like looking at a printed page. The shaman receives knowledge, what sorts of illness one person has, what sort another has, in his dreams...
     "Learning how to cure from dreams is like being taught to read as a child, You ask your teacher, 'What is this or that called?' and your teacher tells you...In this way you receive knowledge about illnesses. These things are revealed to you in your dreams...
      "As you're curing the patient your dreams tell you what the problem is and who are the enemies who caused the illness. Your dreams tell you what is needed for the cure."

I know this to be true. My dreams have given me exact diagnosis of what is going on in my body, and they have directed me to the right sources of healing, on the imaginal plane and in the doctor's office.

Source for Don Antonio quote:  James Dow, The Shaman's Touch: Otomi Indian Symbolic Healing. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986. 51-52.

Photo: Otomi protective figure made with amate paper (bark cloth) in Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma