Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Were you happier in the life when you died, or the life you are living now?"

I recently posted a story about what unfolds when I am carrying certain kinds of travel reading. A friend just responded with this question:

"Have you ever tried picking a specific book, on purpose, to influence reality you are about to live in a certain way ? That would be an interesting experiment."

Yes, indeed. And I will try it. In the meantime, it occurred to me that I often travel with copies of my own books, and sometimes this leads to wonderful encounters and conversations. Here is what unfolded when I was traveling with a copy of the French edition of Dreamgates in 2012:

I thought I would not have much of a story to share from my long overnight journey to Montpellier. no flight delays, no missed connections or lost bags, empty seats beside me on the first two flights, so no stories like that of the Death's Head Dominatrix (in my new book Sidewalk Oracles).
    Then, on my last short flight from Paris-CDG to Montpellier, I took out my inflight reading, a book in French titled Les portes du rêve. A flight attendant immediately asked me if she could see the book. Leafing through it with mounting excitement, she saw that one of the driving themes is using dreams of the departed and conscious dream journeys to the Other Side to gain first hand knowledge of what happens after death.
    "This is my favorite theme," she told me. "I am passionate about it. I am going to get this book!"
    I now confessed that I was the author. I explained that I was reading myself in hopes of brushing up my French prior to opening a depth workshop near Montpellier titled "Faire de la mort une alliée" (Making Death Your Ally). Les portes du rêve is the French version of my book Dreamgates.
    Cabin service at my end of the cabin was now suspended while the flight attendant proceeded to fire a volley of questions. "To write about these things you must have had a near-death experience, yes?"
     Yes, indeed.
    People around us did not seem to mind that the coffee and juice was not being poured. An older couple next to me wanted in on the conversation. Violette, the wife, said, "We are all so hungry for first-hand information about what happens after death. I want to know what I 
can expect in the afterlife, and I don't want to hear it from priests or psychologists. I want to hear it from people who have been there! And I want to know how I can find out these things for myself."
    I quoted Montaigne. 
Puisque nous ne savons pas où la mort nous attend, attendons-la partout. I had forgotten that I don't speak good French as I quoted this wonderful counsel in the original version. "Since we do not know where Death will meet us, let us be ready to meet it everywhere."
    There was a stir of agreement from folks around us. I realized I now had an audience of at least a dozen people.
    "I can't think of any subject as important as what you are discussing," a man across the aisle contributed, writing down my name and the title of my book. A male flight attendant joined us, wanting the same information.

    I observed that we have two main ways of gaining direct knowledge of l'
au-delà, the Other Side. We can communicate with people who are at home there, and we can make the crossing before death, to see for ourselves.
    This led to an urgent series of fresh questions, again centering on my personal experiences.
    I noted that I have never been content with the term "near death experience" for what happened to me a s boy, when I died and came back. On one occasion, when I checked out of my body during emergency appendectomy, aged nine, I seemed to live a whole life in another world. "I don't think I had a near death experience. I think I died and came back."
     More questions, more and more urgent.
     "Do you have no fear of death?
     "Do you talk to many people who have died?"
     "Are there many different places where people go when they die?"
     The short answer to those three, of course, is Yes, Yes, Yes. I gave highest marks to this question: "Were you happier in the life when you died, or the life you are living now?" 

    That was a tough one. I confessed that I was so in love with the people of the other world who raised me as their own when I went away from this world at age nine that I had a hard time living in the body of a nine-year-old boy when I came back. "I suppose I was in love with Death. I have learned to make Death an ally rather than a lover. I want to be ready to meet him anywhere, everyday. I also want to use him as a counselor who can help me to make my life choices with the courage and clarity only Death can bring."
     The flight attendant had returned to her regular tasks, but kept coming back to rejoin the conversation. When we landed, she was waiting outside the baggage claim with some of her colleagues. They were all very interested and wanted my website and book information.
    "You see, we are making you some good publicity, so you will have to keep teaching us about l'
au-delà here in France."
    There was a synchronicity at play in all of this that make it a marvelous confirmation, one of those secret kisses, a bisou from the universe. An hour before I left for the airport on Friday, I had sent my favorite editor a few pages from a book-in-progress, from a chapter titled "The Boy Who Died and Came Back." That became the title of the book itself, and I recounted this episode in an introduction titled "Kiss of Death".

Watch what stories you are carrying

I see that I must be more careful about the books I select as my travel companions. This week it felt like a mischief-making tree spirit leaped out of a book onto the train track in front of me.
    On Monday I set off to New York City on Amtrak. This was the first time in ages I had gone to the city by train. It can be a beautiful ride. The line runs along the Hudson River most of the way, and it was a fine day to view the fall foliage and the play of light on the water.
    My attention flitted back and forth between the shifting landscapes through the window and my first literary selection, an excellent collection of cross-cultural studies on the practice of dreaming. among indigenous peoples titled Dream Travelers and edited by Trent University anthropology professor Roger Ivar Lohmann. If you consider a scholarly text safe reading, read on.
    I was soon immersed in Lohmann's account of his own fieldwork among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. They consider dreams to be real experiences; you make visits and you receive visitations. Dreaming is a field of interaction with beings of various kinds, including the dead,  the fairy-like wobuno, wild nature spirits and witches. "Supernatural encounters are frequent; nevertheless, they are odd and exciting. They are long remembered, the source of many tales around the hearth." *
    In dreams, spirits might provide guidance that would lead to a successful hunt, especially when the hunter made certain offerings. Dreams could also reveal when a malevolent spirit was the source of illness or misfortune. It seems that in this part of the island, tree spirits are especially engaged with humans. Before recent Christianization, an elder told Lohmann, "When a man was sick, people would dream that a tree spirit or other thing had hurt him."
     I was startled by the idea that a tree spirit might attack a human. I read on, in the New Guinea elder's account, "I myself have dreamed when someone was sick that the tree spirits made him or her sick."**

     At this precise moment, less than fifteen minutes into my journey, the Amtrak train came to a shuddering stop. After a long pause, it was announced over the crackling intercom that "a big tree fell across the track." After another pause, a conductor rushed up and down the aisle yelling that the tree was on fire. "There's smoke!" We couldn't see what was going on, but we were next told that the "big tree" had brought down some power lines.
    After a long wait, we were told that the train was going back to Albany-Rensselaer, where we had started. We had to shunt in reverse the whole way, agonizingly slowly. Back at our point of departure, we were left to meditate upon life for a long time before we received word that railroad crews had succeeded in clearing one of the two tracks leading to New York City, but we would now have to wait for an incoming train to come through before we could leave.
    I got to Penn Station nearly four hours late. A ride scheduled to take 2 hours 25 minutes took over six hours. When our train resumed the journey interrupted by the falling tree, I put the anthropology book that did not seem able to contain tree spirits back in my overnight bag.
   I contemplated the demonic cat on the cover of the second book I had brought with me. It is one of my favorite novels, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, in which the Devil comes to Moscow with an amazing entourage. I reread it for pleasure every few years.
    But not today. I recalled that in the opening scene the Devil, traveling as a foreign professor, makes the accurate prediction that a certain person will be beheaded before the end of the day - by a tram. Not a train, but near enough.

    Over a late dinner in Manhattan, I mused with a Russian friend about a recurring pattern in my travels: the stories I am carrying proceed to play out in my experience of the physical world.
    I once  took off from Bucharest with a Romanian fantasy anthology that included Mircea Eliade's story "With the Gypsy Girls". I was drawn deep into Eliade's eerie tale, in which a man is lured into a bizarre alternate reality from which he cannot return. I found by the end of that first flight that I had been drawn into a very strange parallel reality of my own. I wandered lost all night, stranded at Warsaw's Chopin airport among Russians and Ukrainians who lacked Schengen visas and lay sprawled on every surface like the dead on a field of battle. I managed to extricate myself only two days later. I wrote about that here.
     On another plane, I was reading a memoir by one of Churchill's bodyguards when a stranger dressed as Indiana Jones took the seat beside me. When I asked him about his costume, he declared that it was "the real thing." He proceeded to tell me that his clothes were made by "Churchill's former bodyguard" - Peter Botwright, who designed the costumes for the Indiana Jones movies. That was just one element in an amazing episode that seemed custom-made for me by some designing minds just behind the curtain of the world. I tell the whole story in the introduction to The Three "Only" Things.
At a newsstand at Prague’s Vaclav Havel airport, I once found a new bilingual edition of the folktales of Czech writer Karel Jaromir Erben. This became my reading on the first leg of a very long trip home from Europe that ended in a weird limbo of late-night train stations that were not part of my itinerary. My journey took on the coloration of Erben's dark, compelling verse fantasies in which (for example) a woman leaves her husband's bed every night to lie with the dead. You can find that story here.   
    There was the time I was reading 
A Story Waiting to Pierce You (Peter Kingsley's book on Tibetan-Mongolian shamanism) and got, for my neighbor on another plane....a dominatrix wearing a top hat and Death's heads on the backs of her gloves. The full story is in Sidewalk Oracles
    Back to my latest story. Late Monday night, after walking uptown from Penn Station and checking into my hotel, I was sitting with my Russian friend in El Mitote, a lively Mexican restaurant on the upper West Side. I sipped a margarita and quoted Borges: "The mind is dreaming. The world is its dream."
    "Good thing you did not spend too much time today with The Master and Margarita today," my friend observed. "Strange things are known to happen when people get involved with that book."

    In the Mexican restaurant, the Dia de los Muertos had come early. Skeletons in flouncy skirts and tight jackets were dancing on the wall.
    In the light of the morning, I found Dante standing in a little triangle of green between my hotel and Lincoln Center. Of course. Story within story, all unfolding within the great Commedia. At the television network where I recorded a show, I was greeted by a young woman named Angel. Things seemed to be looking up.
    Memo to self: when you travel, check what themes and plots you are carrying with you.

*Roger Ivar Lohmann, "Supernatural Encounters of the Asabano in Two Traditions and Three States of Consciousness" in Lohmann (ed) Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Culture in the Western Pacific (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) 191.
** ibid, 193.

Monday, October 26, 2015


You begin Sidewalk Oracles by saying, “We are embarking on a path of real magic.”  Please explain.

Real magic is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. We do this when we go dreaming and when we remember to bring something back.  We can also walk the roads of everyday life as conscious or lucid dreamers, learning to recognize how the world is speaking to us in signs and symbols. In night dreams and conscious excursions, we get out there; we go near or far into other orders of reality where the rules of linear time and Newtonian physics do not apply. Through synchronicity, powers of the deeper reality come poking and probing through the walls of our consensual hallucinations to bring us awake. Sometimes they work to confirm or encourage us in a certain line of action; sometimes they intercede to knock us back and discourage us from persisting in the worst of our errors.

Sidewalk Oracles is full of fun everyday games. You call one of them Sidewalk Tarot. What is Sidewalk Tarot and how do you play it?

I invented the phrase Sidewalk Tarot after I noticed that things keep literally popping up, like tarot cards, on the streets and sidewalks of the small city where I live. Anything that enters your field of perception, through any of your senses, within your chosen time frame may count as a card in play, even as one of the greater trumps.
     There are two basic ways to play the game of Sidewalk Tarot. The first is to put your question to the world. Do you have a question or theme in your life on which you would like help or guidance right now? Then try to state that theme as clearly as possible. A simple way to that is to fill in the blank in the following statement: “I would like guidance on……”      The game now is to be ready to receive the first unusual, striking thing that enters your field of perception as the tarot card the world is dealing you in response to your question.
      The second basic way to play Sidewalk Tarot is to schedule ten or twenty minutes of unscheduled time to let the world put its question to you. Using all your senses, you gather impressions during that short period of time and then study them as you would look at a tarot spread.
I make it my intention, the first time I leave the house (or wherever I am staying) in the course of a day, to gather three observations from my external environment. These do not need to be extraordinary in any way, just things that pop up on the street. As in drawing from a tarot deck, you can choose to play with as few or as many cards as you like. The big difference is that a tarot deck offers you only 78 cards; the number of cards in the world deck cannot be counted.

You invented a new word – kairomancy – for the practice of navigating by synchronicity. Please explain.

I invented the word “kairomancy” to describe the practice of navigating by synchronicity. It builds on the idea that a key feature of the experience of meaningful coincidence is that we know this is a special moment when things operate differently. The Greeks have` a word for a special moment of this kind. They call it a Kairos moment. Kairos is also a god, the antithesis of Chronos, the old god of tick-tock linear time. Kairos is jump time, opportunity time, the special moment you have to seize before it is lost.
    So: Kairomancy. The word literally means divination by special moments. But it means more. It means being poised to seize time by the forelock – to recognize a special moment of opportunity (or warning) and act on it tight away.

You invite us to become kairomancers, which sounds romantic and mysterious. What is a kairomancer and how does someone become one?

A kairomancer is someone who is ready to recognize the special moments when synchronicity is at work – and to seize on the revelation or opportunity that is now available. To be a kairomancer, you must be:

Open to new experience
Available, willing to set aside plans and step out of boxes
Thankful, grateful for secret handshakes and surprises, and ready to
Honor your special moments by taking appropriate action.

If you want to become a kairomancer you need a poet in your soul. You need to grow your ability to recognize what rhymes in a day, or a week, or a life and to build that “talent for resemblances” that was held to be the primary requirement for a dream interpreter in ancient Greece. So, yes, this is quite romantic. Walk this path, and you’ll find there is a champagne fizz of excitement in the air any day.

Explain what you mean when you say “coincidence multiplies when we are in motion”.

When you are on the road, outside your regular commute, you are more likely to notice novel things around you. When your plans get screwed up, and you can avoid Type A personality disorder, you may find that  Trickster energy comes into play, making new connections.
     Synchronicity often becomes especially strong when we are going through major life passages, involving birth or death, falling or out of love, losing a job or taking a creative leap. Our emotions are stirred up, and the world seems to be stirred to move in different ways around us.

You give us a synchronicity game called “Listen for Your Daily Kledon”. What is a kledon and how does this work?

I borrowed the word kledon from the ancient Greeks. A kledon is sound or speech coming out of silence or undifferentiated noise. Sounds and voices heard in this way were one of the most important oracles in ancient Greece. A kledon is often something you overhear — a snatch from a stranger’s conversation, a song from a passing car radio, the croak or cry of a bird, the siren of an ambulance.

Another everyday game you suggest is bibliomancy. What is that and how does it work?

Bibliomancy is literally “divination by the book”. You have a theme on your mind, and you open a book at random and look for guidance in what you see on the page. People of faith have often used sacred books in this way, as Abe Lincoln turned to his family Bible (the one on which Preseident Obama swore his oath) for a second opinion on his prophetic dream of his assassination. You can use any book you like, and instead of setting an intention you can simply let the text in front of you offer a spontaneous message for the day.

One of your rules for navigating by synchronicity is “Notice What’s Showing through the Slip”. You say this even led you to your present publisher. Talk to us about that.

When I first spoke to Georgia Hughes, the wonderful editorial director of New World Library, on the phone, she spoke to me as if we had been close friends for ages. I was surprised, and asked if she knew who I was. “You are Robert Moss,” she told me. “You are the author we are publishing.” This was strange, because I had never discussed any book project with Georgia, though I now had one in mind. When I mentioned this, she realized she had confused me with Richard Moss, one of her stable of authors. I begged her not to apologize. “There are Freudian slips and then there are cosmic slips. This one is an opportunity.” I was now emboldened to lay out the idea for the book that was published as The Three “Only” Things. A day later, we had a contract. I have stayed with New World Library ever since. An editor’s slip turned me into a constant author. So: if you hear a name misspoken, or spot a typo, pay attention. Something may be showing through the slip.

Physicists speculate that we are living in Many Interactive Worlds. You say that through dreaming and monitoring synchronicity, we can acquire evidence of the existence of parallel worlds and use this to do some good. Please explain.

It is an emerging consensus in physics that we live in one of numberless parallel universes and that the “many worlds” are interactive in ways that escape our ordinary attention, Synchronistic encounters and moments of déjà vu can help to awaken us to these possibilities. When we keep dream reports over time we sometimes notice that we seem to be living continuous lives in other realities, near or far from our present one. Once you awaken to this possibility, you may start to observe how choices you are making now are bringing you nearer or farther from parallel selves who made different choices in the past. This discovery can equip you to make the conscious effort to draw gifts and lessons from those parallel selves

How do you explain what you do to people who are meeting you for the first time?

When I am asked by a stranger on a plane, "What do you do?" my favorite answer is this: "I am a storyteller, and one of my greatest pleasures is to help people discover their bigger stories, and live those stories and tell them so well that they want to take root in the world."

What is the most important thing you have learned about reality?

The only time is Now. All other times - past, present and parallel - can be accessed in this moment of Now, and may be changed for the better.


Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss has just been published by New World Library.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Soul loss and soul recovery: Essential Q&A

Ø  What is soul loss?

When we suffer trauma or bitter disappointment or violent shock, soul may leave the body, to escape. This produces the phenomenon that psychologists call dissociation and shamans call soul loss. It can be seen as a survival mechanism. When you can’t take any more pain, you go away in order to make it through.
          A child who has been abused, a survivor grieving for a beloved partner who has died, a lover who has been betrayed and abandoned, a soldier who  is shell-shocked, and the victim of a terrible accident are all likely to have suffered major soul loss.
          Let’s notice that soul loss need not be major, or the result of violent events. We suffer a lesser degree of soul loss when we choose one direction in life over another, or when we put our energy and focus into one thing rather than another – like holding down the job instead of pursuing a creative project, or being a mom instead of a lover (or vice versa).  Soul loss may be merely temporary and transitional “soul drift”, as when we are jet-lagged and it takes a while for us to catch up with ourselves. 

Ø  What are the symptoms of soul loss?

Common symptoms of soul loss include:  chronic fatigue;  emotional numbness; chronic depression;  spaciness;  addictive behaviors; low self-esteem; inability to let go of past situations or people no longer in your life; dissociation and multiple personality disorder; obesity or unexplained weight gain;  abusive behaviors;  absence of dream recall;  recurring dreams of locations from earlier life, or of a self separate from your present self

Ø  What is the difference, in a practical sense, between someone with a lot of soul in their bodies and someone who does not?

For people with a lot of soul, or vital energy, in their bodies, most of the symptoms of soul-loss listed above would be rare, transient, or absent. For someone who has suffered significant soul loss, three or more of these symptoms are likely to be chronic.

Ø  Why does the soul have a hard time staying in the body?

We suffer pain or abuse, grief or shame, and part of us finds the world so cruel that we want to go away. Soul loss is also caused by wrenching life choices: we decide to leave a relationship, a home, a job, a country, a lifestyle — but part of us resists that choice, sometimes to the point of splitting away and withdrawing its energy from our lives. We also lose soul energy when we give up on our dreams and settle for a life of dull compromise, refusing to trust ourselves to love or to take that creative leap.

Ø  Where does soul go when it leaves?

Sometimes we find that a part of ourselves  is stuck in the old place, in Granma’s house, or in the apartment we shared with our first love. Sometimes a soul part we lost seems to be living in a separate reality, like the land of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. When we wish ourselves dead, a part of our soul may go far way, as far as a Land of the Dead.

Ø  Are all aspects of soul recoverable?

There are parts that are so damaged we don’t want them back. Sometime they appear burned or charred, dark or addicted. Sometimes our life choices are so radical that a part of ourselves simply cannot be persuaded to share our present situation. My inner businessman is quite disgusted with the choices I have made, and won’t stay close to me unless I make money more of a priority than I am likely to do!

Ø  What is the first step that someone who would like to experience more soul in their life to take?

You do some cleanup, and you ask for help. In my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home, as in my retreats, I offer practical guidance for psychic cleansing and release. One of my favorites is a very simple fire releasing in which we cast out any heavy energies that are holding us back and clear a space for vital soul to come back in. It’s very important to remember that we have help available, including from our spiritual allies and our own Greater Self, and that it’s always a good idea to ask for help nicely.

Ø  What role does addiction play in soul loss?

Addiction can be both a cause and an effect of soul loss. Part of our brighter energy may leave us if we fall into habits and company it doesn’t like. When we are missing a part of ourselves, things come in to fill the gap, and we reach for things to fill that gap. From a shamanic viewpoint, addictions are often worsened by spirits of the dead who are seeking to feed their own cravings through a living person. I have never met a true alcoholic, for example, who has not (from my viewpoint) been accompanied by dead drunks. In the book, as in my programs, I offer practical guidance to create healthy psychic boundaries between the living and the deceased.

Ø  What is the difference between spirit and soul? 

We can’t lose spirit, when the term means mind, higher consciousness or our spark of the Godhead.  But we can lose contact with it, and block our own access to the Greater Self.  Soul is a different matter. Soul is quite mobile and soul energy is divisible; we can lose parts of it and take on parts from others that we really don’t want around.

Ø  You have developed an original approach to healing through what you call “soul recovery”. What are the key elements in this approach?

We use the core techniques of Active Dreaming to bring more of soul into the body and help others to become whole. By learning to share dreams with others in the right way, we create a safe space where our younger and brighter selves can draw closer, and we start to build communities of soul friends. By learning to use a dream as a doorway through which we can travel — in shamanic lucid dreaming — into a deeper space, we can go to the places where lost souls can be found and reclaimed, and we help each other to do this.

Ø  Are there other ways, in addition to working with our dreams, to experience soul recovery?  If so, what are they?

Soul retrieval, as opposed to soul recovery is a shamanic operation in which the practitioner makes a journey on behalf of a client to locate lost aspects of soul, brings them back, and transfers them to the client’s body, often by blowing them into energy centers such as the heart and the crown of the head. It can be a profoundly healing event. It reaches parts that Western psychology often does not reach, and may be essential in cases where people are missing so much of themselves that they are not equipped to become self-healers until an intervention has taken place. The limitation of this is approach is that nearly everything depends on the character and skill of the practitioner, on the reality of his or her connection with spirit helpers, and on the quality and motivation of those helpers.

Ø  You say that dreams not only show us what the soul wants, they also show us where it has gone.  Please elaborate and provide an example of this.

Our dreams can tell us which parts of ourselves may be missing, and when it is timely to bring them home. Recurring dreams in which we go back to a scene from our earlier lives may indicate that a part of us has remained there. Dreams in which we perceive a younger self as a separate individual may be nudging us to recognize and recover a part of ourselves we lost at that age. Sometimes we do not know who that beautiful child is – until we take a closer look
     A middle-aged woman recently approached me for help. She told me, "I feel I have lost the part of me that can give trust and know joy." As preparation for our meeting, I asked her to start a dream journal, although she had told me she had not remembered her dreams for many years. When she came to see me, she had succeeded in capturing just one tiny fragment from a dream. She remembered that she was standing over a table, looking at three large-size "post-it" notes. Each had a typed message. But the ink had faded and she could not read the messages.
    Slowly and carefully, I helped her to relax and encouraged her to try to go back inside her dream. Quite quickly, she found herself inside a room in the house where she had lived with her ex-husband prior to their divorce, almost twenty years before. Now she could read the typed messages. The first read in bold capitals, "YOU CAN DO IT." They were all about living with heart, and trusting life.
    She realized that she had left her ability to love and to trust in that room for nearly twenty years. I asked her what she needed to do. She told me, "I need to bring my heart out of that room and put it back in my body." She gathered up the messages and made the motion of bringing them into her heart. As her hands crossed over the place of her heart, we both saw a sweet and gentle light shine out from her heart center. She trembled, eyes shining, and told me, "Something just came back. Something that was missing for twenty years."

Bear creation by Tracy Cunningham. Bear is a great ally in soul recovery.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The shaman's diagnosis of our existential complaints: soul loss

The greatest contribution of the ancient shamans to our medicine and healing today is the understanding that in the course of any life we are liable to suffer soul loss - the loss of parts of our vital energy and identity – and that in order to be whole and well, we must find the means of soul recovery.
     On a visceral level, we all know how soul loss comes about. We suffer pain or trauma or abuse, we are overwhelmed by grief or guilt or shame, and part of us goes away because it doesn’t want to stay in a world that seems so harsh and cruel. We are compelled to make a wrenching life choice, leaving a partner or a job or a home, and part of us resists that choice and parts company with our dominant personality, clinging to the old relationship or the old place. Soul loss deepens when we fall into depression or addiction or make compromises with the world as we understand it, giving up on our big dreams of life. Lacking the courage and confidence to make that creative leap, or to trust ourselves to love, we wimp out – and part of our bright spirit, disgusted with us, goes away.
     Good analysts and therapists can help us to recognize parts of ourselves we have repressed and denied, including the famous Shadow, the term especially favored by Jungians for what we have tried to relegate to the basement of the personal unconscious because we would rather not own it as a part of ourselves. The shamanic concept of soul loss reaches further. It recognizes that soul healing is not only about recognizing and integrating aspects of the self that we have buried or denied; it is retrieving pieces of soul that have literally gone missing and need to be located and persuaded to return and take up residence in the body where they belong.
    In my own practice, I have come to distinguish five forms of soul loss or disconnection that call for healing. I have yet to encounter a human being who is immune to any of these.

Loss of vital energy
You suffer from chronic fatigue. You find yourself torpid and listless, reluctant to get out of bed. Your days seem drab and gray and joyless. Your immune system in blown and you seem to pick up every passing bug. There is something missing in you and you try to stuff the whole with sugar or booze.

Loss of younger selves
You have lost younger versions of yourself – the young child with abounding energy and that beautiful imagination, that fine romantic who was hurt or betrayed as a teen, that inner poet or businessman who wanted to make different life choices from the ones you made. These younger selves have gifts and energy you can use in your life today if only you can find out where they are and discover how to bring them back.
Loss of animal spirits
Indigenous and ancestral shamans know that we are all connected to the world of the animal powers, and that by recognizing and nurturing our relation with animal spirits, we find and follow ther natural path four eneries. Yet many of us have lost this primal connection, or know it only as a superficial wannabe symbolic thing that we look up in books and medicine cards without feeding and living every day.

Loss of ancestral soul
This is a two-edged affair. When we live oblivious to the fact that we are always in the presence of the ancestors – those of our bloodlines, those of the land where we live, and those of our spiritual kin in a broader sense – we are likely to be the plaything and even the tenement for entities we don’t necessarily want to have near us. When we awaken to ancestral soul, we become ready to claim the connection with wisdom-keepers and protectors who can help us to re-establish heathy psychic boundaries and clear out what does not belong with us.

Loss of connection with the Greater Self
Ultimately we can only make peace between the many aspects of our selves, and follow a path of true spiritual evolution by opening or re-opening a direct and conscious connection with the Self on a higher level – the Self that is no stranger. When we clear the right space within our embodied selves, we may be ready for the deep and beautiful act of soul growing that I call spiritual enthronement, bringing a part of the Higher Self to live in our bodies and infuse our lives and our life choices with its radiance.

I have learned that dreams often show us where soul had gone, and offer paths by which it can be reached and encouraged to come home. Through the techniques of Active Dreaming, we can learn to help each other to become the shamans of our own souls and the healers of our own lives.


I wrote this article early in 2011 and then expanded it into key chapters of my book Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole (New World Library). The original article elicited a tremendous response; this feels like the right time to share it again.

Art: Edvard Munch, "Lady from the
Sea" (1896)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dreaming the biggest oil discovery in history

He lived with his large and imposing wife Violet in a blue and white house overlooking the Gulf, with a verandah on the upper level to catch the sea breezes. Under the fierce desert sun, he went shooting in gaiters and country tweeds, and may have looked, in his florid bulk, the model of the type of colonial Englishman who does not go native.

But Colonel H.R.P. (Harold) Dickson was very far from a stereotype. Born in what is now Syria, he was Bedouin as well as British – in the eyes of that desert people – from the time he suckled at the breast of a Bedouin wet nurse. As he rose high in the ranks of the colonial civil service, becoming British Political Agent in Kuwait from 1929 to 1936, he hunted with the Bedouin, and counseled with them over innumerable cups of cardamom-flavored coffee, and dreamed like them.

On at least two occasions before his retirement, he brought the Sheikh of Kuwait prophetic dreams. One forewarned of a natural disaster that would destroy much of the capital but result in abundance. It was fulfilled when storm and flood washed away thousands of mudbrick houses, and then made the desert bloom. In the second dream, Dickson foresaw an attempt on the life of the king of Saudi Arabia. When the assassination attempt took place, his prowess as a prophetic dreamer was confirmed. “The Sheikh of Kuwait marveled still more, and told my story to many of his friends,” he recalled in his book The Arab of the Desert.. “The story got about and my stock went up quite appreciably in Kuwait. My dreams are still given proper weight, but I am careful not to give too much away.”

The Sheikh urged him to stay on in Kuwait after he retired from the colonial service, and he continued to live and to dream in his blue and white house as Chief Local Representative of the Kuwait Oil Company.
In September 1937, the Kuwait Oil Company was drilling at a lonely place called Bahra, and work was not going well. They had probed far deeper than they had intended, and fond no trace of oil.
That month, Dickson dreamed that he and his wife were living in a bungalow in an oil camp in the heart of the desert. Nothing was growing in the scene except an immense ancient sidr tree, standing near the house. A wild wind blew up a sand storm of unusual violence. It shook the house and the grains in the air made it hard to breathe. When the storm abated, Dickson went out and saw that the storm had opened a great cavity under the tree. He looked down into what appeared to be an ancient tomb. A prone figure, shrouded in rotted yellow cotton cloth, lay on a stone slab.

When Dickson and his wife began to peel the ruined cloth away from the mummy’s head, they were surprised by the beauty of the young woman’s face that was revealed. Her skin was like parchment. Dickson called for his servants to dig a fresh grave, but to his amazement the mummy came alive. The parchment skin grew soft and smooth, and a lovely woman stepped free from her shrouds. She told the Dicksons she was cold, after sleeping for thousands of years, and needed food and warm clothes. She gave them a very ancient copper coin. They led her by the hand into the house, where their Arab maid washed her and dressed her while they prepared food.

After eating, the woman from the tomb sat under the sidr tree. She warned that “wicked men” would try to bury her again, and that Dickson must seek the aid of the Sheikh and the British government. As she spoke, a mob of angry men, brandishing weapons, appeared. They were led by a white-bearded man armed with a long knife “who looked like a Persian”. Colonel Dickson flew to the defense, killing the leader with a blow, and driving off the men who were digging a fresh grave. He took the girl back inside his bungalow.
Waking in high excitement, Dickson roused his wife Violet and she carefully recorded all the details of his dream. This was a regular procedure in the Dickson household; he felt this one augured immense good fortune.

But it was necessary to find out exactly what was going on in the dream. For this, Dickson sought counsel from a local expert, a Bedouin woman called Umm Mubarak, who was much respected as a diviner and reader of dreams. The sand devil that opened the mummy’s tomb might be a djinn – a desert demon. It might also be a drilling rig. Umm Mubarak sifted the elements of the dream, and gave Dickson her judgment. The mummy that came alive and gave him treasure from the earth was showing the way to a fabulous oil field that had not yet been discovered. The ancient tree, growing alone in the desert, gave away the location. Umm Mubarak had seen this tree; it had survived alone in a waste of sand in the Burqan hills. The angry mob consisted of people in the region who would oppose Western oil operations.

Dickson told his dream to the Sheikh of Kuwait, who heard him with great respect. He told the managers f the Kuwait Oil Company that they should move their drilling operations to Burqan.  The oil company followed Dickson’s advice, and early in 1938 they hit a gusher. The find – known as Burqan Number One – was one of the richest oil discoveries in history. It was a great coup for the British in those edgy months on the eve of World War II. It turned Kuwait into a fabulously wealthy country, tempting Saddam Hussein, more than half a century later, to launch the invasion that triggered the first Gulf War.

Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: Colonel Dickson under his dreaming tree

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dreaming with Yoko and John

Kai Altair is a wonderfully creative singer-songwriter, dancer and film maker who is also a teacher of Active Dreaming. Dreams and shamanic journeys have powered and inspired some of her songs and you can listen to them on her heart-stirring CD Dreamwalker. I have been privileged to witness the genesis of one of her songs in one of my depth workshops.
    Here Kai recounts a powerful dream in which Yoko Ono gives her an avocado sandwich and John Lennon advises her on how to set up a music album while Yoko cooks dinner. In the dream, John is the one who is aware that he is dead.

Advice from The Walrus

by Kai Altair 

Inside a spontaneous night dream I step into the world-behind-the world of a small Caribbean island I lived on as a little girl.  I find myself in the back of a car being driven by Yoko Ono with John Lennon in the passenger seat.  I sit behind him while nibbling an avocado sandwich Yoko packed for me. 
     I feel happy, and content, as though the two of them are family members--almost like parents--who are taking care of me and want me to be happy.  Also in the car are a few very magical cats who add to the sweet energies that pass between all of us as we travel to John and Yoko's house. 
    When we arrive, Yoko begins to cook as John and I talk about music in the kitchen.  Everything feels very relaxed as we talk and exchange ideas, and I am in awe of John's incredible mind and musical intuition.  We come to the topic of how to begin an album, and the best way to introduce a body of work to the listener.  
     You need an epic opening," John says, and tells me about the importance of making a statement through sound from the very start.  I love the idea, and feel blessed to be able to receive advice from someone like him. 
     "I love to talk to you like this John," I say, "You always have such great advice.  We really have to find a way for us to still be able to talk about music after you're dead."  To this he gives a hearty belly laugh while nodding his head, "HaHa!! I AM dead!"
I woke from the dream feeling deeply moved, with the distinct feeling that this could indeed have been an encounter with an aspect of John Lennon.  The next thought that came to me however, was one of doubt.  I felt silly and a bit delusional to think that the spirit of a legendary rock star would take the time to visit me in a dream. 
     I knew that I'd gotten some very good advice though, and decided not to worry about if it was 'real' or not.  My action plan was to do just what the dream told me to do, and create a powerful and 'epic' opening for my first full length album.  Today when I listen to it I feel grateful for the dream advice.  It serves to thin the veil and honor the source by announcing the songs that will follow with a direct order from a dream.  

Photo: Kai Altair in the video of her song "The Calling". Visit her website.  

So you're having a baby, in your dreams

I am cradling a new-born baby. She is beautiful and her breath is soooo sweet. I place the baby carefully on a lambskin I have stuffed between books on a high shelf, making a kind of hutch. I arrange things so she can’t roll off the shelf.

This was my dream from an afternoon nap. I woke with a sense of joy, tenderness and wonder. In ordinary reality, it’s most unlikely that I’ll have another child. It’s also most improbable that, if entrusted with someone else’s baby, I’d think it was appropriate to treat her this way, When  I went down to my office, after my nap, I found that contracts had arrived for a book I was planning to deliver that spring. This book would be my next literary baby, and the birth announcement came in the dream.
       Baby dreams, like dreams on any theme, can be literal or symbolic. Expectant mothers dream of babies before they know they are expecting. During a pregnancy, baby dreams can rehearse both mother and child for the delivery. They can also be part of a process of “getting to know you” during which a new personality introduces itself and checks out the family it will be joining.
     It’s not unusual for pregnant mothers to dream of giving birth to animals. Indigenous peoples are quick to recognize that such dreams can bring knowledge not only of the character of the incoming soul, but of its spiritual connections. A television host in St.Louis told me on her show that when she was pregnant, she dreamed of giving birth to a lizard. “It just slid right out.” Though startling, the dream was very auspicious. The delivery was smooth and quick. We also discussed qualities of the lizard that might belong to the new child, including the ability to grow back.
      Baby dreams can be birth announcements from others in the family, advance word of a coming grandchild, for example. A dream announcing a literal birth may also be one that invites spiritual parenting. The First Peoples of my native Australia say that every soul on the way to birth needs a spiritual parent to help it find its way safely to its home in our world. The spiritual parent – a godparent in a deeper sense than that word has come to mean in English – may or may not be one of the birth parents. The connection between the incoming soul and the spiritual parent will be made in dreams.
     As in my dream of the baby on the bookshelf,  baby dreams are often about something other than a literal baby. If you dream of having a baby and you are unlikely or unable to give birth in a literal sense, ask yourself: what new thing am I getting ready to bring through in my life? What will I create? The creative act is always a process of birthing something new into the world.
      A mother dreamed she grown a huge pregnant belly. Probing gingerly, she found she was carrying twins, but there was something really strange about their anatomies. They had hard, sharp edges. She was not enthusiastic about bearing twins at her stage in life. When we discussed the dream, I asked he to explain what was “strange” about the shapes she felt inside her dream self’s swollen belly. “It was like they had hard, sharp edges.” I asked her, “Hard and sharp like what?” She responded, “Like books!” She decided she was pregnant with two books she hoped to write. Several years after the dream, she has completed the first of those books and is writing the second.
     Baby dreams can be more than birth announcements; they can suggest a care and nurturing plan we need to follow to support an initially vulnerable new life venture. A woman embarking on a new career dreamed she gave birth to a tiny, very fragile baby. She found it hard to hold the baby. It was very slippery and kept slipping from her grasp, so we would find herself struggling to maintain a safe grip or to catch it when it started to fall. This dream seemed to mirror, rather exactly, the challenges of birthing that new career.
     Another dreamer was horrified when she let a newborn baby fall because she was overloaded with a huge crate full of stuff she associated with her work situation. Studying the dream, she realized she needed to let go of a job that was interfering with a creative project she wanted to bring through; better to lose the work load than the baby.
     A birth announcement in our dreams may be about the beginning of new life in a spiritual sense. I was moved when a friend recently shared a dream in which she received a birth announcement from a deceased relative, announcing that he had been reborn on the Other Side.
     Let’s not forget that Gabriel, the archangel of the annunciation – who brings the most celebrated of all advance birth announcements – is also the angel of dreams and the patron of travel on the astral plane.

Image: Salvador Dali, "Baby Map of the World"