Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Colorado adventures in shared dreaming
I spent last weekend in Boulder, Colorado, leading my "Active Dreaming" workshop. On the Thursday evening before the workshop, 111 people (nice number) braved rain and sleet to come to the Boulder Bookstore for my talk on "The Secret History of Dreaming". The energy was crackling as we explored the need to reclaim ancient tools of healing and seership such as the construction of webs of dreaming by intentional families to scan the environment and scout out the possible future in order to help whole communities to thrive and survive.
Someone at the bookstore commented on all the Bear energy he felt I had brought into the space. So I was cheered - after driving through a snowstorm to Denver the following afternoon for another bookstore event, at the Tattered Cover - to be welcomed to the downtown area by a huge blue bear saluting his double in the glass facade of the conference center.
The weekend workshop was held on the Naropa campus. I was reminded how, the night before I first traveled to Boulder, twelve years ago, I dreamed I had a delightful dinner conversation with an Asian man I regarded as "a shaman in a business suit". He had a great sense of humor, enjoyed a drink or two, and had the aura of a true magician. We talked about life and death and the larger reality. When I got to Boulder and reported my dream to people at Naropa University, they were convinced that my "shaman in a business suit" was Chögyam Trungpa, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher who founded Naropa, enjoyed alcohol, and once greeted the Governor of Colorado by saying, "Welcome to my kingdom." Chögyam Trungpa had died long before my visit, but it would have been very like him - so one of his former students said - to appear in nonordinary reality to welcome a visiting teacher.
In the Active Dreaming workshop, I was struck by the depth of our shared experiences in dream tracking and group dream travel. A Swiss woman in the group shared a dream in which she is on the deck of a cruise ship at night. The moon grows bigger and bigger until it fills half the sky, to the right of the boat. As she nears the moon, she is amazed and thrilled to see that it is covered with lush green vegetation that reminds her of scenes from her childhood in the French part of Switzerland. She is eager to reenter this dream and so, of course, are we.
We set the intention to travel together and explore this moon of grass. People arrange themselves comfortably in the space, and I drum to fuel the journey. I find it unusually difficult to enter the dreamscape as it was described to us. I can get on the cruise ship easily enough, and feel the rhythms of the waves. But however hard I try, I cannot visualize the moon on the right side of the boat; it continues to hang in the sky on the left. So I try a path I have used before, the path of moonlight on water. Now the moon of my vision is straight ahead, across the ocean, laying a path of light along which I travel into the realm of Luna. There is no sign of the lush green vegetation the dreamer described. Instead, I see locales familiar to me from previous journeys. Something inspires me to go through this lunar scenery. I travel rapidly through a series of doors and passages and come out in a lush green garden on the other side of the moon. The high grass and the flowering trees are full of eyes, the eyes of boys and girls who are living here. I understand that this is a place of Lost Children, who came here when the world was too much (or too little). I think about how to bring them home to the grown-ups in the world who are missing their beautiful moon children. As I turn around, I see that the moon - the moon of grass - is now on my right.
The Swiss dreamer's report of her own journey was extraordinary. In the realm of the moon, she found a tool of vision: an abalone shell filled with water. As she looked in this mirror of water, she saw a second self, looking in an abalone shell - at another, smaller self, looking at a yet smaller version...and so on, all the way down. Then she sensed a larger self, viewing her in a mirror or water...and so on, all the way up. From this lovely and simple vision of nested realities her consciousness expanded and she began to perceive something of the possible shape of the multiverse.
Later in the workshop, I was privileged to work with a Navajo elder named Abraham who had driven up from Flagstaff because he had heard that I dream in the way of the ancestors, and can teach others how to do that. He wanted to reenter a dream from many years ago. In 1984 [*], he told the smaller group of dream trackers we formed for this exploration, he dreamed he was riding a paint across the desert with his deceased gradfather and a famly friend who had also passed on. They were riding hard towards a great rounded sandstone boulder rising above the dunes. He knew there were important teachings to be received at this place. But the dream was interrupted and he was unable to get back to that place.
When I drummed for the journey, I enjoyed galloping across the desert on a cream horse with a white mane. Rattlesnakes sounded a warning as I neared the great sandstone boulder. I could see no obvious way either to enter the sandstone - using it as a portal - or to move beyond it. I began to feel that perhaps this was sacred territory reserved for the Navajo and that I was not welcome within it. Then I sensed something above me and looked up to find a giant eagle - an eagle as big as a mountain - hovering overhead. Its wings were striped in horizontal bands of bright rainbow colors. I looked down at the ground and saw the same rainbow eagle depicted in a sand painting at my feet. In that moment, I realized I had stepped through the sandstone portal and been received into a Navajo imaginal world. I walked by water, and saw Abraham walking there too, with an animal ally at his heel. I heard the long blessing way chants of his grandfather, and witnessed some indigenous ways of healing.
When we shared journey reports, the deep grooves on Abraham's face opened into a smile of delight as I described the rainbow eagle. He proceeded to tell us how he had found a place of sacred teaching and healing by water, inside the world of the sandstone boulder, and had been followed everywhere by a gila monster - regarded by his people as a great diagnostician - that he would now work with, consciously, as an ally in healing work. He pronounced "gila" the Spanish way, so it sounded like he was speaking of a "healer monster".
Later I was privileged to have Abraham as one of my trackers when I shared a dream from the Saturday night in which, on my way to giving a lecture on Sir William Johnson and the Iroquois in a huge auditorium, I found myself on top of a soaring mountain, inside a security fence, and had to jump down in order to give my presentation. Abraham saw the mountain becoming an eagle, with the area at the crest within the security fence as the head of a bald eagle, and then saw the mountain-sized eagle wrapping itself around me to guide and protect. Thea, another of my trackers, had a very down-to-earth vision of my dream. She advised me to remember "not to make mountains out of molehills" and to remember to "come down to earth" in order to reach all my audiences where they live. I loved both messages, which were nicely balanced and again demonstrated how we always benefit from multiple perspectives on our dream material.
[*]A typo turned this into "19874" in the original post. See Wanda's effort to find some meaning in this slip in the Comments