Prague, Czech Republic
It is dark in the part of the city where I am walking, as if there has been a blackout. I must go carefully, and be wary of shady characters in the streets.
I arrive without incident at a gas station that is brightly illuminated. Families are gathered there with bicycles, as if about to depart on a group bike tour. Smiles and laughter, lots of happy energy. The scene feels familiar. Beyond the gas station, I must take care crossing busy roads with tram lines and converging lines of traffic.
It is daylight when I come to a bridge. I must cross this bridge in order to get to an important meeting. I don't approach the bridge in an ordinary way, by walking a footpath or climbing up steps. I start scaling a rickety structure that seems to be part of the frame. As I climb higher, it becomes hard to find secure handholds or footholds. Metal struts are missing or hanging loose. I am now very high above a river valley, and I realize I am in real danger.
But wait a minute. I remember that I have watched this scene on a cinema screen. I am in the middle of the action in a film in which the hero climbs a bridge in exactly this way. He gets to the top without falling. Since I am playing the hero's role, and the film is already "in the can", there is no problem. The moment I recognize this, I am across the bridge, on my way to my meeting.
The meeting is in the offices of a film production company. The offices are rather shabby, and unfinished. In the bathroom, there is raw plaster on the walls and the sink has not yet been installed. The movie producer I am meeting seems rather coarse and vulgar, but I reflect that this is not unusual with certain types in the movie business.
Others are there for the meeting, people who may be involved in a film we will make together. I am drawn to a handsome older woman in a blue dress. She was once a well-known singer who appeared in several films. Her glory days are over, but she is still attractive and I am intrigued by the idea that she may have a part in the film. She has a female companion, in a matching blue dress, rather plain, of the type that would be cast as a governess or housekeeper in a period English film.
The singer opens her mouth. The jaws open wider than seems possible for a human, as wide as a big cat. Out comes an incredibly beautiful stream of sound. I am awed by this voice, and by the spectacle of the jaws opened tiger-wide. I am startled to notice that the song is not coming from the singer, but from her plain companion. There is a mystery here.
I was excited and eager to know more when I rose from this dream during my Prague workshop. I discussed it with some of my dreamers, and received helpful feedback, but the big discoveries came in a workshop session, when we formed small groups for exercises in dream reentry and tracking. This is a core technique of Active Dreaming. We take turns to share dreams we would like to explore in depth by traveling back inside the dreams, with the help of shamanic drumming. While the dreamer reenters his dream, the others in the group travel with him, providing support and gathering information.
I shared my dream of the long journey to the film company with three Czech women. I told them I would like more details on every stage of the itinerary. I was especially interested in the strange way my dream self approached the bridge, and the mystery of the singer whose voice seemed to be another person, and in what we were doing at the film company.
I learned a lot from my own journey back through my dreamscape. It became clear to me that I was in Prague, from beginning to end, but also in an alternate reality of the kind it is very easy to access in that magical city. The gas station reminded me vividly of a period Esso gas station in a pivotal dream in my life that guided me in publishing Conscious Dreaming, my first book describing my synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism. As described in my later book Dreamgates, that dream led me to the publisher who sent me, a year later, on book tour, to a cinema in San Francisco where I found myself watching the re-release of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg". When the male lead in the film achieves his life goal, of owning a 1950s-style Esso gas station, I recognized the key scene from my dream playing out in front of me, on the screen. So: the movie theme was clearly important. And just as important was the sense of abundant juice, and energy, available at the dream gas station.
One of my Czech trackers picked up on the energy theme. "The gas station is a place where you re-charge and gather energy, among a community of people who believe in your work and can carry it in all directions, each traveling in their own way, on their own vehicles."
In my reentry, the rickety structure I was trying to climb now looked to me like a set of scribbled notes and sketches for a work-in-progress. My power to teleport over the bridge came when I realized that, on a certain level, the work has already been completed.
The most fascinating tracking was done by the Czech woman who located my dream, stage by stage, in the geography of Prague. She described a gas station within walking distance where families and friends gather to begin group bike tours. Next, a train bridge which it would be difficult or impossible for pedestrians to walk. Then, up the hill, the offices of a Czech film company that works with many foreign film producers.
I became quite excited, since when I returned to the film company in my own reentry, it seemed that I was at a place where a movie was being developed from my work, centering on a location in the imaginal realm that I call the House of Time. I have described some of the group shamanic journeys I lead to this most interesting place in Dreamgates and in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead I report on conversations I have had there with "my" W.B.Yeats. If there is an ideal shooting location for the House of Time in ordinary reality, it may well be Prague, the city of magicians.
The singer and her separated voice? All my Czech trackers saw a theme of soul loss and soul recovery here, and they may be right. I had thought about how a central part of my work is helping people - especially women - to claim their voice. In my reentry, I found that the women in blue dresses were auditioning for roles in the film, with many other actors waiting in other rooms. A story to be continued....
top photo: Vysehrad through the girders of the Výtoň iron bridge (c) Robert Moss