Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nine Keys to Creative Flow

The springs of creation are mysterious. Goethe said that not only were the roots of his creative power veiled from him, but that he did not want to know the source of his tremendous gifts. But what can be said is that creative flow comes in a state of relaxed attention. Looking over my own experiences as a writer and occasional artist, and at the lives of creative people in many fields who have shared their experiences with me, I would suggest the following maxims as keys to opening to creative flow. Though I have written these with writers especially in mind, I think you will find that they apply in many areas.

1. Play first, work later. Do you ever give more of yourself than when its all for fun? On a book tour, I was once asked by a left-brain type, What can you tell me about becoming a writer? I told him, Remember to play. As he solemnly recorded my advice in his notebook, I added, I dont think youve gotten the message. It is not about scheduling an hour for play! Its about giving yourself to what you love, and letting the work flow from that unnoticed.

2. Sidle toward your story. Australian Aborigines say that the big stories the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush. Or like dreams. You dont want to startle them away. So, if you want to write, start by writing something other than what you are supposed to be writing anything but your writing assignment. Letter writing and journaling are ideal; but even a grocery list will do.

3. Every force develops a form. Dont worry about structure! The structure will reveal itself organically when you follow the energy.

4. Keep your hand moving. Work at increasing speed. Let the flow of associations carry you along.

5.   Release the consequences. The best things you will ever create or perform are things you do for their own sake, the things you would do if you never got published and never received a check.

6.   Don’t ask for permission. There is a time to check in with editors and producers or simply to share with friends but that time is after you have released what is trying to be born through you, not in the midst of conception and gestation. Never ask permission when you dont need it!

7.   Your real story is hunting you. Use peripheral vision. Be attentive to what is bobbing up on the margins of your awareness. Be canny as a traveler in the wood: dont turn abruptly to stare at these new creatures directly. Theyll come closer if you let them. These might be the stories, or story elements, that will make your day/month/year. Remember that they may be hunting you. You made yourself easier to find by entering these thickets, by going down the writers trail without following a route map.

8.   It’s as natural as breathing. In the language of the Tewa Indians, the three-syllable terms that is translated as art or creativity actually means water-wind-breath. This is a beautiful evocation of the creative process. Its about catching the current, about breathing in and breathing out. In-spiration is literally breathing in spirit; exhalation is releasing it into the world.

 Spread cornmeal for butterflies. Many years ago, I dreamed that a wise Native American woman told me, Its okay to make money, but remember to spread cornmeal. The last phrase was a mystery to me until I learned, during a visit to the Southwest, that the Pueblo Indians spread cornmeal to feed the butterflies in some of their rituals. Cross-culturally, the butterfly is a symbol of the soul. Indeed, the Greek word psyche means both soul and butterfly. Its all about feeding soul.

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

Lake sunrise photo (c) Robert Moss

Monday, July 28, 2014

Journaling at the lake

Champlain Islands, Vermont

"Are you writing your memoirs?" asks an old boy from a nearby cabin as I journal on the deck. "Close," I reply.
    It's a cool. rainy morning on the first day of my vacation on this island on Lake Champlain where I have been coming for many years. I am starting the day, as I always do, by writing in my journal. I have plenty to note down, including my dream of visiting a friend who died at the end of last year in his new lodgings, a luxury apartment on the sixth floor of an Art Deco building. I was thrilled by the wall paintings depicting scenes from medieval English history, so vividly alive that they appeared to be scenes you could enter. I remember my friend's fascination with researching his ancestors in those times.
    I record my dreams, and the flight of the heron who greeted me when I walked out into the day, flying north along the lake sure.
    The old boy who asked about my memoirs is back again, with his wife, after eating his breakfast. "So you keep a journal?"
    "It's my daily practice."
    "Do you write down your dreams?"

    "Every day."
    "I never remember my dreams," he says wistfully. "But my wife does, sometimes."  
    "I dreamed of my high school principal last night," she chips in. "What's that about?"

    "Well, if it were my dream, I might want to check on what's happened to my high school principal, whatever realm he's now in." The couple appear to be in their eighties, so it's a good guess that the principal is on the Other Side. I mention my own dream of my departed friend in his new digs.
     "If I dreamed of my school principal", I go on ,"I would also think of the principle that this life is a classroom. At any age, we are asked to take new lessons."

    "That's for sure," says the old boy. "It's a pity I don't dream, or don't remember."
    "That could change tonight," I tell him. "This stuff is contagious and you have been exposed to the dream virus."

photo (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Raven Gate Between Parallel Worlds

Raven sits in the doorway between the worlds.
He is black on my side,  white on the other.
Raven says, You have more power than you know.
You don't have to go on repeating yourself forever.

Once you remember that you've had this illness before
and gone through its whole progression
you can choose to release it from your present body
into a parallel world. It is the same with any scenario.

Once you recollect that you came this way
and suffered this consequence on your present road
or the roads of dreaming you can move the chain
to another of the many worlds. There may be a price.

To keep the boy from drowning in the deep blue pool
you may need to pay my counterpart in the coin
of the country, in rum and tobacco, or a black goat.
Talk nicely to your gatekeepers. Show some manners.

Don't forget that when you send off disease or disaster
to a parallel world you can stir a parallel self
out of sleep. If he wakes up and remembers you
he may decide to return your gift, with interest.

- Mosswood Hollow, July 23, 2014

drawing (c) Robert Moss

Friday, July 18, 2014

Notes for the Road

To find yourself you must lose yourself.
The One you are seeking is not inside you.
You are inside the One.

To be present in every time
you must be fully here, now.
Now is the center of all times.

Here, now, you can step on and off
the trains to past and future
and travel on parallel lines.

To get to a place you do not know
you must go by a way you do not know.
Burn your maps to make beacons.

To wake up, you must dream.
Without dreams, you are a sleepwalker
who could join the ranks of the living dead.

There will be monsters, of course,
dark dwellers at every new threshold.
Without them, how could you be ready to pass?

In dealing with demons, you must learn
to choose the forms of your worst fears
and laugh at your creations.

If you wish to see marvels around you
you must carry marvels within.
A mirror can't show you what you don't bring.

The gates of the Otherworld open
from wherever you are. Don’t think
you have to drink jungle juice with anacondas.

Put your blade away, dragonslayer.
You only conquer the dragon when you raise it
and ride it and turn its energy towards Light.

Turn out the lights if you want to find the Light.
The visible is the skin of the invisible.
In the dark, it is easier to see with inner eyes.

Don’t list the Trickster among your demons.
He is your friend if you expect the unexpected
Everything interesting happens on the boundaries.

If you want to be fully alive, be ready to die.
How about now? You feel the cool breath
of Death on your neck. Give him some foreplay.

To find the One, don't spurn the many
Name only one God, and you’ll always end up with two.
Seek the nameless behind the forest of names.

Make your confessions on the road
not from behind a curtain. The hawk will hear you
and the rabbit, the lily and the stone.

Walk on the mythic edge. Let your life
become a stage for divine events.
Notice what neverending story is playing through you.

Look after your poetic health.
Notice what rhymes in a day, and a life.
Follow the logic of resemblances.

Practice real magic: Follow the passions of your soul
and bring gifts from the Otherworld into this one.
You’ll regret what you left undone –

the fence you wouldn’t jump, the dream you didn’t follow –
more than anything you did when your cool lover
stops licking your neck and takes you in his full embrace.

-          Mosswood Hollow, July 18, 2014

Photo: Cloud Face at Mosswood (c) Robert Moss

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What the Dickens is déjà vécu ?

We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time - of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances - of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remembered it! I never had this mysterious impression more strongly in my life, than before he uttered those words.

This is a very exact description of the experience of déjà vu, though the writer does not use that term. The source is David Copperfield. The author, the prodigious Charles Dickens, left us an even more vivid account of the phenomenon of déjà vu in his account of an incident on the road to Ferrara, in his travel book Pictures from Italy:

At sunset, when I was walking on alone, while the horses rested, I arrived upon a little scene which, by one of those singular mental operations of which we are all conscious, seemed perfectly familiar to me, and which I see distinctly now. There was not much in it. In the blood red light, there was a mournful sheet of water, just stirred by the evening wind; upon its margin a few trees. In the foreground [of a view of Ferrara] was a group of silent peasant girls leaning over the parapet of a little bridge, looking now up at the sky, now down into the water. In the distance a deep dell; the shadow of approaching night on everything. If I had been murdered there in some former life I could not have seemed to remember the place more thoroughly or with more emphatic chilling of the blood; and the real remembrance of it acquired in that minute is so strengthened by the imaginary recollection, that I can hardly think I could forget it. 

"There was not much in it," Dickens says before sketching his word-picture. Yet we feel at once that this disclaimer is not to be trusted. The light over the scene is "blood red". What could be an idyllic scene of girls leaning over the parapet of a little bridge, as evening falls, fills the observer not only with the certainty that he has seen this before but with a crawling dread. If he had been murdered here in a past life, he insists, he could not have remembered the place "more thoroughly or with more emphatic chilling of the blood."
    Dickens clearly felt that he knew that scene near Ferrara because he had been there in a former life, perhaps a life than ended violently at that very place. A generic term we use for this kind of experience today is 
déjà vu. Dickens did not have that term. He was writing in 1846; déjà vu was first used to describe this phenomenon by a French professor in 1876, and only brought firmly into the English language in 1895.
     In any event, 
déjà vu ("already seen") may be too generic for the Dickens experience. This is an occasion where we want to reach for a different French term, déjà vécu. It literally means "already lived", and it speaks to the sense of recognizing a scene that you feel sure you have lived, fully and completely, in a previous time. This recognition generally comes with strong emotion, though it may be bittersweet nostalgia, or a sudden afflux of joy, even exultation, rather than Dickens' "chilling of the blood".

     You walked that cliff, you kissed on that bridge, you fought on that field of battle. You are sure of it. Maybe specific memories begin to stir. Are they buried memories of an episode from earlier in your present life? Are they ancestral memories, of members of your lineage or your spiritual kin who loved and struggled in the place you are at? Are they memories of a previous incarnation of your own spirit? Or are they false memories, hallucinations brought on by travel fatigue or an over-excitable temperament, or even inserted into your mind by some psychic deceiver?
    These are questions that all of us who experience a strong sense of déjà vécu are going to want to explore as best we can. There is a legion of reductionists - some armed with some neuroscience, some recycling Freud - that will tell us that our impressions are the effect of an imbalance in brain functioning or the bubbling up of repressed fantasies. But we can take heart from the knowledge that the sense of déjà vécu has a highly distinguished literary and historical pedigree.

Art: "Dickens' Dream" by Robert William Buss

Thursday, July 10, 2014

When You Can Ride a Dragon But You Can't Fly

Prelude: At Snoqualmie Falls

I was happy to be back at Snoqualmie Falls overnight. I enjoyed watching the peregrine falcons who nest in the cliffs darting through the mist. I have flown with them in lucid dreams and shamanic journeys that sometimes opened into grand adventures. I did not fly with the falcons this time because I seemed to be in the kind of energy body that does not shapeshift as fast as thought, and is not to be thrown around.
     I am reminded of a highly instructive experience from a year ago.

Flight Conditions

The forest is green fire, bursting and thrusting with life.  Below the great tree where I am stretched out, the slope of the mountain drops in green splendor for miles, down to a river that is green and small as a grass snake from this height. A bright green vine as thick as my wrist bends in a loop between me and the sky.
     My attention shivers. My cheek is on a pillow. My awareness is back in the body I left here, on the bed. Gray morning light comes through a narrow gap in the curtains above the bed. I smell bacon, and my inner dog is ready to go downstairs. But the tug of the green world is deeper.
     I plunge back into that world. My body feels stronger and lighter, perfectly toned. I want to jump off the cliff and fly. I have done this so many times before, in other dreams. I will my wings to sprout from my shoulders again. This seems less successful than usual. While my body in the green world feels entirely physical, my wings seem flimsy and insubstantial, hardly more than a notion. This does not matter, surely.  When I take the jump, I’ll find myself flying. Flying in dreams is easy. All you have to do is fall, and fail to hit bottom.
    I am at the very edge of the precipice. My toes curl over the edge. I notice these toes are much longer than my regular toes, and can curl into a loop, like my regular fingers. Cool.  What else can this body do?

    I consider a diver’s stance, then spread my arms and start gently flapping.
    Stop, says an inner voice, a voice I have learned to listen to. Look at who you are.
    I pull back. Now I am outside and above the person at the edge of the cliff.  I see him back away from the edge. He is puzzled. He sniffs the air, searching for something he senses but cannot see.
    Another hand reaches for him. There is a lovely woman under the tree, the slopes of her body arranged in such abandon that I feel sure they must have been making love before I interrupted. “Woman” is not quite right. They resemble humans, but they are much taller, with those prehensile feet. The male has little horns among his long dark hair. Not horns, exactly. The nubs of antlers. His tawny body is covered with fine light silky hair. Something sways behind him as he returns to the embrace of the female. Is it a tail?
    I am no longer observing. I am with him, in him, in his ritual of mating. He seems to be alone with his mate, yet I have no doubt this is a ritual, more than sex, more even than the love-making of two individuals. As he plunges deep in her body, I feel energy streaming from the roots of the great tree. And something more joins him – us – surging in at the base of the spine. The dragon is on him, and in us.
    Now we can fly, I tell myself.
    Again I hear the caution of an inner guide. This deer-man’s body is strong, and it can perform acrobatics beyond the human range. He can swing down the mountain face on vines, and leap from branch to branch. He can ride a thing like a dragon, the thing with which he is now bonded in another way. But he cannot fly. If I jumped this body over the precipice, it would probably be broken and destroyed on the rocks far below.

In dreams, in visions, in shamanic journeys, we can fly, when we let ourselves go, because we go outside the physical body and are no longer confined by the laws of physical reality. But when we travel in these ways we are not necessarily disembodied. We may travel in a subtle energy body, often called the astral body or the dreambody. And we can take on other bodies.
      Dreaming, we not only change states of consciousness. We may change worlds, stepping from one order of reality into a different one. These other worlds may be quite as substantial as the physical world we know in our everyday lives. They have their own laws of physics, and what we do with the bodies we are using can have physical consequences - in these "other"worlds, and, through astral repercussion, on the bodies we left dormant when we took off on our adventures.
      There are worlds in which you can ride a dragon, but you can't fly by yourself. So: Before you jump off a cliff, make sure you are in a body that is capable of flight. 

Photo of Snoqualmie Falls (c) Robert Moss

Drawing: He Can Ride Dragons, But He Can't Fly (c) Robert Moss

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

White Raven Woman and other mythic dreams

It's been said that myths are collective dreams, and that dreams are personal myths. The following dream reports, shared in one evening in a circle of active dreamers that I lead, confirm that dreaming gives us myths to live by.

I sense the iron inside my body, and I know that it is the dust of an exploding star. The iron in my body connects me with the supernova that created my galaxy, and as I move and stretch I feel the whole cosmology is alive in me. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe is leaving us. I see her starting to rise up off the sun-parched earth where her children in Mexico have been savagely abused. I am saddened to think that the cruelty and ignorance of humans may be losing us the support of higher powers. 

I go to my special place in nature, by the white pines along the creek. For the first time ever,I find no solace here. I feel separate from nature, after separating myself from the hurry of people at the office. I try to imagine myself going deep inside the earth and finding refuge there, but today I can't manage that either. What has happened to divorce me from nature? Is it me, or is it all of us? 

I am at a train station. I encounter an old woman with her daughter. Their heads are those of ravens. The old woman turns to me and her feathers turn white. The white-capped Raven Woman says to me, "Things are all happening too fast in your world. It's time to lift off. We'll come back at the right time." With this, she flutters up into the air. I realize that from her perspective it's possible to see far across time and space, beyond our present confusion. 

I come to a living tree, There is the living face of a woman in the bark of the tree. The tendrils of her hair are like the serpents of Medusa. Now a great bull comes, stamping and snorting, magnificent and scary in his virile strength. As he stamps down, his hooves take root in the earth and little by little, he becomes part of the tree. I am amazed that the bull energy can be rooted and grounded like this. I want to plant this strength around me, in my life. 

I am on the track of a part of myself that has been long buried in the ground. I feel the presence of a being that loves me, holding me by the shoulders, gently supporting me. The name of the woman that has been buried sounds like Michelle but is actually My-Shell, the part of me that had to hide and make itself small. I will dig as long and deep as it takes to bring her back to me. 

These are summaries, in exact sequence, of dreams and visions, mobilized by a drumming session, that were shared in one evening by members of an active dreaming circle that I lead. Not only does each report have mythic power; it is possible to read the whole sequence as a single mythic narrative.
    It starts (where else?) with the creation of our world. It dramatizes the perennial danger of the Dark Times that come when human behavior forfeits the support of higher powers and estranges us from the Earth. It introduces uncanny guides and living symbols: the woman who becomes White Raven, the bull (primal power of the ancients, consort of the goddess and preferred form of the gods) who becomes a tree. It brings the story home to us in the invitation to a personal quest for soul recovery, to bring out of the Earth what has been kept safe there through a time of trouble and trauma.

Raven photo from Vancouver Island Birds