Saturday, January 16, 2010

Who's ready to meet the Reverse Boggart?

A woman in one of my workshops is resolved to confront her worst fear. She will do this in a conscious shamanic journey, aided by my drumming, with a small group of people accompanying her as her family support. I suggest that they take all the room they need in the space beyond our main circle.

-I realize it's time for all of us to make this journey to overcome fear. I direct the rest of our people to form small groups of four, in which everything will center on one person - the one who is resolved to face his or her worst fear - in the next journey.

While people generally sit or lie down for journeying with the drum, a man remains standing, feeling that he needs to confront his fear on his feet. The people in his group stand with him. There are a few individuals who don't partner up. It seems they are nervous and want to stay on the sidelines to see how this goes.

The first woman has an image of her fear. It's come up again and again in recurring dream scenarios. Not everyone is quite so sure of what form their fear will take. I suggest to these others, "You can approach the journey as a Reverse Boggart. In third-year Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin gives Harry's class the assignment of confronting a boggart. This is a nasty , shapeshifting creature that takes on the form of your worst fear. In Harry's class, the boggart comes out of a wardrobe. In our exercise, in contrast, we are going to step into the space in which we will encounter our very worst fear.

"Remember that the charm for dealing with a boggart is a Riddikulus spell, which transforms the fear into something funny or preposterous. The most important weapon you'll need to take into the closet is your sense of humor.
"Now picture a huge dark wardrobe rising in front of you. When the drumming begins, you will open the door and step inside. The space within may seem very cramped, or larger than you might have dreamed possible, defying any laws of proportion. The door closes behind you. For a moment, you are in the dark. Now, obscurely, a shape is starting to form. It is assuming the shape of your worst fear. Ready?"

I woke charmed by this dream in which, yet again, I caught a glimpse of my dream self in possession of a technique my waking self had not yet invented or used. Doing a Reverse Boggart seems like an intriguing exercise to introduce in one of my workshops in the regular world - just as soon as I am sure that whoever is asked to do this has all the security and support they need. That isn't so hard to arrange in my circles, where we grow wonderful group energy, and enlist the help of the powers that love to support soul and its healing.
In the dreams we run away from, leaving them as broken shards of nightmare, we see forms our boggarts have assumed in the past: as spider or tsunami, as the walking dead or a possessed elevator. Dream reentry - going back consciously into the dream space, with the clear intention of carrying the action forward to resolution - is the sovereign remedy here. Doing a Reverse Boggart requires us to take more of a leap into the dark. We must be prepared to encounter forms of our fears we may never have seen, because we kept our eyes shut tight or because the boggart is wily, trying on successive fright masks.

-What we most fear is what we most need to do. Who's game for a Reverse Boggart?


Wanda said...

I will definitely share meeting the Reverse Boggart with my grandson, Joshua.

Joshua was visiting my house from his home in California - he was about 5. He went on a walk with his dad and his grand-dad. Unbeknownst to any of us the airline movie - The Wizard of Oz - had terrified him. For some reason the topic of tornadoes came up and the story of a tornado hitting our upstate New York house was told. Joshua screamed and came running back across the fields into the house and grabbed me and his mom, crying that the tornado was coming. Forgetting about the tornado that hit our house and not knowing about the story shared, I wrongly told him there were no tornadoes at our house and certainly none on that bright sunny stormless day.

The story is now worse than ever - Joshua thinks I'm lying. He hides all day, screaming if we come near him and finally reveals the Wizard of Oz terrors. His mom is at her wit's end, and Joshua won't even talk to his dad or any of the rest of us.

Morning comes. Joshua comes downstairs bright and cheery and accusingly announces that it is all fixed - that he asked his dreams about tornadoes [since we were obviously all unreliable sources]. A woman in his dreams - wearing a great swirling skirt that looks like a ground tornado - sucks up all the bad stuff and resolves his issue for him.

Nancy said...

I want to play -- this clarifies something I've been doing for myself already, but not in such a formalized way. My Reverse Boggart has appeared to me in dreams several times, already a cartoon character (so I guess I've started the process!). It's the fierce swirling destructive Tasmanian Devil Disney character.

I've braved up enough to print out the most fearsome picture I can find of this fiend, thinking of coloring it in now, or having some kind of ceremony to put it to rest. It feels tamed and less of a threat now. Interesting that it's also tornado-like: I wonder if that's a common childhood fear.

Irène said...

I will suggest this proposed structure, a Reverse Boggart, to the members of my local dream group. Thank you, Robert.

I do so however with undeniable reticence. Recently, during the blog discussion "Why Swim?" (Jan. 10th), Naomi said, "I swim because I'm terrified to swim", a statment that has delicately haunted me since I read it. I thought about it a lot this weekend because I ride horses and asked myself, "Why jump such large obstacles in competition? It's absurd. Isn't it enough to just be with them?" And I thought about how terrified I am before competition & how my fear is literally transformed into vital energy at the reception of the last obstacle, opening my heart wide with gratitude for the physical world (and horse spirit with pounding hooves on endless sand)."

But it's easier to evaluate the risks of confronting physical fears compared to the more insiduous fears that take form in subtle thoughts like, "You're a bad mother" or "You must pay for happiness with suffering" and all other kinds of nonsense that I (think I) understand but spend a great deal of time & energy avoiding. So I guess a "Reverse Boggart" would be good for me.

I think it was Russel Crowe who said in "Cinderalla Man" (where he played the part of a professional boxer), "I box because I need to see what I'm fighting."

So here I go. Off into shadow. ... with a flashlight in my pocket!

Eug said...

Which reminds me (from Rumi)

Which reminds me of the mother who tells her child
"When you're walking through the graveyard at night
and you see a boogeyman, run at it,
and it will go away."

"But what," replies the child, "if the boogeyman's
Mother has told it to do the same thing?
Boogeymen have mothers too."

Robert Moss said...

Wanda - What a great dream resolution for little Joshua, thanks to the dream lady with swirling skirts!

When I posted my dream instructions for a Reverse Boggart, I was reminded of an occasion in your own Active Dreaming when your dream self transformed something like a menacing spider into a silly wind-up toy that could be tossed outside. Now I'm recalling a scary image of my own from many, many years ago that at first resembled a giant octopus with tentacles coming down from the sky that I re-visioned as a glowing solar disk with many armlike rays, recalling images at Amarna from the time of Akhneton.

One of my all-time favorites in this genre of re-visioning a boggart is the climactic scene in the comedy "Ghostbusters" in which the terrible demon trying to manifest in the world is turned into a giant marshmallow man.

Robert Moss said...

Nancy - Sounds like you've already made great progress with the Riddikulus spell if you have turned your boggart into a cartoon character.

Irene - Do let us know what happens if you try the Reverse Boggart with your intrepid circle of dreamers. For an initial exercise along these lines, I would recommend the gentler meditation I offered in an essay on this blog on July 28, 2009, titled "Unwanted Visitor at the Door."

Eug - That's really funny, Rumi's reminder that a boggart may have a mother too. It seeds the idea that what we fear may be scared of us, or what we might become if we found the courage to go beyond our fear and leave it by the roadside.