Monday, March 28, 2016

Anubis in the backyard

Thirty years ago, because of a white oak and a red-tailed hawk, I moved to a farm in upstate New York on the edge of traditional Mohawk country. I brought with me my two beloved black dogs, "Sag Harbor mutts" - part Labrador, part German shepherd, larger than either breed. When Kipling's ears stood up, I joked that he looked like Anubis.
     On the night before Halloween that year, he got out on the road and was killed by a passing car. Shaking with grief, I wrapped his huge body in an old blanket, got him in the back of the battered Jeep - where he loved to ride - and drove, with a spade and mattock, up to the top of the hill on the north side of the house. I had often come here with Kipling to watch the rising of the moon. Sobbing, I dug a grave for my boy dog just outside the bounds of the human burial ground where the headstones of the first white settlers leaned at crazy angles.
   I felt that something had been cut out of my heart.
   However, I soon noticed that though Kipling's body was in the ground, he was very much still with us. Driving in the Jeep he loved, I once looked in the rearview mirror and saw him standing up, eager to see where we were. "Sit down, Kipling," I growled, before I realized that, in physical terms, my dog could not be there.
    Others saw him too. His presence was so palpable that when my elderly mother-in-law moved to a downtown street-level apartment, I asked Kipling to watch over her for the first few days, until we were able to get her a watchdog of her own. Late the first night, she heard people she considered to be ne'er-do-wells on the sidewalk in front of her door. Then she heard a dog's deep-chested growl, rising to booming barks. Someone outside said, "Forget it, there's a dog." The curious thing, according to Mary, was that the barking seemed to come from inside her apartment.
    My black dog's energy was with me in other ways, too, long after his death. I finally realized I needed to tell him it was okay to move on. I did this with an impromptu ceremony, barbecuing a steak for him on the deck, near the old loganberry tree. When I spoke words of love and releasing, the wind turned as quick as a kid on Rollerblades, and it sent the smoke skirring straight up the hill to Kipling's burial place.
    Then my black dog started coming in my dreams. He appeared to me, running and hunting as he loved to do, on a mysterious island across a river, When I called to him, he turned but appeared not to be able to see me, as if he and his world were covered by some kind of shrink-wrap that was translucent only from my side.
    Things moved along. His role in my dreams became one of a guide and ally, showing me things I needed to see but might not have noticed without his keen senses. Sometime he came out of a hollow tree, slicked with something sticky, like honey or amniotic fluid or liquid amber. He escorted me on journeys across perilous country, sometimes into realms of the human dead.
   I began to understand why the Egyptians chose a black dog or jackal as a psychopomp, or guide of the soul on the roads between the worlds. Garbed in black, he moves easily through the dark places. His keen senses make him an excellent tracker and enable him to sniff out, and dispose of, dead meat and dead energy that the spirit is meant to leave behind. And of all animals the canids are those that are friendliest to humans.

    After Kipling's sister Brandy died peacefully several years later, I dreamed that they were reunited in their spirit bodies and became one. When a black dog appears in my dreams and shamanic journeys now, I always pay very close attention, because I know I am dealing with Anubis in the Backyard. In the ordinary world, the appearance of a friendly back dog, especially under unusual circumstances, is a very good omen for me, road-tested over decades.

Text adapted from Dreamways of the Iroquois: Honoring the Secret Wishes of the Soul by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books. 

Photo: with Kipling and his sister Brandy at the farm in 1986.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pumping Gas with Catherine Deneuve on the road to Conscious Dreaming

It's twenty years since the publication of Conscious Dreaming. I am moved to retell the story of the dream that brought it into the world, and how, through the magic of synchronicity, I saw that dream played out on a movie screen.

We can ask for a dream of guidance on any issue that is facing us, and when we're lucky the dream can take us out of the boxes of the everyday mind's approach to that theme. A big example in my life as both writer and dream teacher was when I was in a quandary about how to move towards publication of Conscious Dreaming, the first of my books on Active Dreaming. 
       My literary agent at that time found a great editor for that book, and she was eager to publish. However, my agent had also asked a great deal of money for the book - startlingly more than is usually paid for anything on the field of dreams. He had asked my opinion about the number he had in mind. The question had made me queasy, because I had gone off on my own to write this book with no commercial expectations; I was simply doing the Work I was called to do.
      Still, authors use agents to advise them on practical things like money, and I felt I could hardly ask my agent to ask for less money from a publisher than he thought he could get. The editor was shocked by the figure proposed; did we have any idea of the sales numbers for even the most popular books on dreams? She suggested a much lower number as the most her house would pay.
       What to do now? Go touting my love-child around the town in hopes of big bucks? Troubled, I asked for dream guidance. I wrote down my intention:

Show me the best way to publish my book on dreaming.

I dreamed I was driving my regular car. I pulled up at a Esso gas station. It looked like something from an earlier time because of the name (Esso, not Exxon) and the vintage pumps and general look of the place.
     I had some trouble filling up at this gas station. First, I overshot the pumps because my engine was overcharging. I had to back up. Next, I had a hard time getting the nozzle in the tank. It took time and patience to insert the nozzle and establish a good flow. The numbers on the gauge went up very slowly. At the end of this procedure, however, I had all the fuel I needed and took to the road in fine good spirits.
    I woke up chuckling over the Freudian content some people would see in this dream. However, I did not feel that there was any sexual reference. Track your dream symbols over time, and you develop a sense of their personal meaning. In my previous dreams, what was going on at gas stations - when not a glimpse of a literal event - had usually spoken of issues concerning money and resources, energy for the life journey.
    My practice is to write myself a one-liner, harvesting the central message of a dream report. This time my dream motto was a two-line summary along the following lines:

We are at the right place, but we are overcharging. We need to back up and use some finesse to get what we need. The numbers won't look good but we'll have all we need.

I called my agent and told him the dream. He chuckled, as I had done, over its possible Freudian implications. Then I read him my summary, as an action plan. I requested him to follow the exact guidance of the dream: to go back to the original editor, use diplomacy and make a deal even if the numbers did not look good at all.
    He called me back to tell me the editor was now offering less than she had been willing to pay before, because we had turned down her original offer and talked of holding an auction. Did I really want to settle for an even smaller number? Absolutely. The dream counsel was clear.
    So the deal was done. After nine months - the average period of a pregnancy - I had a beautiful fresh edition of Conscious Dreaming in my hands and was on my way to San Francisco as part of a book tour arranged by my new publisher. My publicity schedule showed me that I had a date with a columnist for the Contra Costa Times at the Embarcadero cinema. The columnist's signature ploy was to take interesting people to the movies and then use the film as a conversation starter over drinks or dinner at a restaurant. According to the schedule, we were going to watch a film titled I Shot Andy Warhol. I wasn't much interested in the movie selection, but was happy to follow the plan.
    The night before the movie date, in a hotel near Chinatown,  I dreamed I was in a damp northern landscape where a willowy blonde resembling Catherine Deneuve was coming on to me, while people moved about under a forest of umbrellas. I was gallant to the Catherijne Deneuve character, but not especially attracted to her. I had no strong feelings about the dream. It felt a bit like watching a movie. I jotted down a quick report; that is daily practice.
    When I got to the Embarcadero cinema, the columnist told me the schedule had changed. We were now going to watch the re-release of a classic French film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, starring Catherine Deneuve. It seemed I had previewed the movie the night before. But this was not the most interesting thing that unfolded in the cinema.
       The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is outrageously Freudian. Every time an umbrella goes up or down, or a wine cork is popped, that's about you-know-what. I chuckled at alll the elbow-in-your ribs insinuations.
       In the shaky plot line, the hero of the story, whose name is Guy, or Everyman, has a life dream. He wants to own an Esso gas station. When his life dream is realized, I found myself looking at the circa 1964 Esso gas station from the dream I had incubated many months before. This was  amazing confirmation that I had made the right choice. The dream I incubated led me to make a deal with the publisher who had now sent me to San Francisco to witness my dream played out on the big screen.
      Had I been a Freudian, I might have missed the message of my dream of problems at the gas station. Yet Dr Freud got his moment, through the minds of the script writers of the film in which my dream was played out, nine months after the dream and more than three decades after The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was first released.

An Easter dream: The Millet Seed Sermon

In the very early hours of Easter Sunday, I woke with delight from a dream in which I was lecturing and demonstrating a simple ritual centered on millet seed. It seemed like I was giving a sermon in a light-filled space with honey-colored wood, standing at a very simple pulpit. I spoke of this tiny seed as a symbol of creation, of death and rebirth, and of the growth of the very big from the very small.
   Later that day, at our Easter dinner, I told my Millet Sermon dreamlet to a dear friend who, as a Dominican sister, is quite accustomed to giving as well as hearing sermons. 
   When I said. "I dreamed I gave a sermon on millet seed" she thought I meant that in the dream I gave a sermon while standing on top of a millet seed. Laughing, she described the vivid mental image of me as a tiny figure in a micro-world using a millet seed as my pulpit.
    I loved this mental painting, which transported us into one of my favorite themes involving the multiverse: how we may be living in one of many nested worlds, and that the universe we think is so large may be one in which the furnishings of our lives are the size of millet seeds (or vastly smaller) in proportion to universes that contain ours.

This Easter, I looked over my records of dreams on this special day, and found this report from 2009.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Dreaming Back: Yeats on how the dead get their stories straight

To understand the important things and live that knowledge, we need poetic clarity. When I was writing my Dreamer's Book of the Dead, I turned for that often to one of my favorite dead poets, W.B. Yeats.
     Yeats’s fullest account of sleep and dream experience is in the 1925 edition of A Vision; unfortunately he dropped much of this in the greatly revised edition of 1937, where he substitutes an interesting but second-hand description of states of consciousness borrowed from an exposition of the Upanishads: “In the waking state the man uses all his faculties and is confronted by a real world, but the waking state is in reality a dream condition.” Beyond waking and dream, in this view, is dreamless sleep, in which the sleeper “desires no desires and sees no dream”, losing contact with desire. “Man passes from waking through dreaming to dreamless sleep every night and when he dies.”
     The living and the dead inhabit all three worlds, and meet in the intermediate dream state. The dreams of the living are also the work of the dead, who use the living person to complete their life reviews – and, we might add, as vehicles to deal with unfinished business, satisfy appetites and desires and agendas they have not released, and for continuing enjoyment of the life of the senses.
     Yeats describes an early phase in the after-death transitions that he calls Dreaming Back.

In the Dreaming Back the Spirit is compelled to live over and over again all the events that had most moved it; there can be nothing new, but the old events stand forth in a light which is dim or bright according to the intensity of the passion which accompanied them. 

During this phase the “Husk” may or may not be discarded. His use of this term is blurry; sometimes he appears to be describing the dense energy body the Hawaiians call the “sticky self”, at other times an astral vehicle. Despite the confusions, Yeats is very clear on one point: "If the Husk…persist, the Spirit still continues to feel pleasure and pain, remains a fading distortion of living man, perhaps a dangerous succuba or incubus, living through the senses or nerves of others.This may be intentional persistence, which some have called avoidance of the “second death”

If there has been great animal egotism, heightened by some moment of tragedy, the Husk may persist for centuries, recalled into a sort of life, and united to its Spirit, at some anniversary, or by some unusually susceptible person or persons connected with its past life…    If death has been violent or tragic the Spirit may cling to the Passionate Body for generations. A gambler killed in a brawl may demand his money, a man who believed that death ends all may see himself as a decaying corpse. 

     "Where the soul has great intensity and where those consequences affected great numbers”, the Dreaming Back may last, with diminishing pain and joy, for centuries. Yeats pictures souls in this state tapping into the minds of the living, and reading letters and books through their eyes. With the help of “teaching spirits” a soul in this phase “may not merely dream through the consequences of its acts but amend them, bringing this or that to the attention of the living”
    During this phase the dead often appear to the living in dreams. “It is from the Dreaming Back of the dead…that we get the imagery of ordinary sleep. Much of a dream’s confusion comes from the fact that the image belongs to some unknown person, whereas emotion, names, language belong to us alone.”
     Following Eastern thought, Yeats sometimes seems to suggest in his later work that the dead we encounter in dreams are those who are still undergoing purification or re-education. But he accepts that the living also have contact with those who are on higher level, as his own life experiences amply confirmed. The idea of the Fourth State, turiya comes in (from the Mandukya Upanishad). In the state, reached through contemplation and wakefulness, “the soul is united with the blessed dead”.

Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

Art: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" by RM.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Victorian Ghost Hunter Reports from the Other Side

I love the Victorian ghost hunters, especially F.W.H. Myers, W.T. Stead, William James and other founders and luminaries of the Society for Psychical Research. They were passionately dedicated to producing evidence of the survival of consciousness after physical death that would meet the scientific standards of their day. They attended séances and tested mediums, bringing their inner skeptics with them while keeping their eyes on the prize: evidence that the soul has a life beyond the body. In that cause, the ghosts they tracked were not only spirits of the deceased but “phantasms of the living”, a phrase that became the title of a hefty study of the mobility of consciousness and paranormal phenomena including poltergeist activity and sightings of doppelgangers.
    Stead was also a social reformer and a very active editor and reporter, dubbed “the first investigative journalist” because of his role in exposing scandals that lifted the tablecloths from the dirty legs of Victorian society.
 He developed considerable personal psychic powers of the kind that Myers called "supernormal". He claimed to communicate with his assistant by telepathy. For five years he practiced channeled writing in front of invited groups at his home in Wimbledon, bringing through a description of life on the Other Side by a young woman friend, Julia Ames, after her early death.

Stead was among the passengers on the Titanic, and drowned when the supposedly unsinkable luxury cruise ship hit an iceberg in 1912. One of the curious facts of his life is that twenty years earlier, Stead had published a short story in which a ship called the Majestic hits an iceberg. Stead called the captain of the Majestic Smith; the Titanic was commanded by a Captain Smith. This seems to have been a case of precognitive fiction, though Stead evidently failed to make the connection when he boarded the doomed ship.
Stead promised family and friends that after he died, he would endeavor to communicate 
from the other side with first-hand information about what life is like there. Stead – or an intelligence operating in his name – succeeded brilliantly in a beautiful little book called The Blue Island: Experiences of a New Arrival Beyond the Veil. It was channeled by male mediums in the presence of Stead’s daughter, who provided the psychic link to her father.
      Stead begins his account, in a brisk, no-nonsense way, by describing what it’s like to be a new arrival on the other side. The beginning was choppy – first hundreds of bodies in the water, then hundreds of souls being carried through the air, some very reluctantly, still fighting and struggling to hold onto their physical possessions.  “We seemed to rise vertically into the air at terrific speed.”  They travel for an uncertain length of time and come to a place of “brightness” where they are received by old friends and relations. At first everything appears as “physical and quite as material” as on earth. 
     Stead’s father and an old friend welcome him and show him around. “It was like nothing else so much as merely arriving in a foreign country and having a chum to go around with.”
    The life just passed now seems very different, as if fifty years have whizzed by. No sense of grief at this stage.
    There are a couple of anomalies. One is that Stead’s father looks much younger than he did at the time of his death. Another is the quality of the light that suffuses everything. It is “a light shade of a deep blue.” 
    Stead and his companions walk along a beautiful deserted beach to a huge domed building whose interior is a lovely shade of blue. And Stead is seized with the desire to write again. His father explains over a delicious lunch that Stead realizes he does not actually need that this building is a way station, “a temporary rest house” – one of many – constructed to resemble earth conditions and cushion the adjustment to the other side. In this phase, individuals are able to engage or indulge in whatever activities please them, since “the chief work on this island is to get rid of unhappiness at parting from earth”. You can swim or read or ride. After a while, activities that are rooted in physical rather than mental or creative experience will begin to pall, but creative individuals and thinkers will find tremendous opportunities opening to them.
    In this phase, life is amazingly similar to life on earth. “We are only a very little way from earth, and consequently up to this time we have not thrown off earth ideas.”  For example, people lie down to “sleep” out of habit, even though sleep is no longer required in this permanent dream state. And they continue to dress and occupy bodily forms resembling those on earth. It’s a phase of gradually shedding old habits and addictions and yearnings for physical life.
    When an individual has reached the point of actively desiring new learning and growth, “he will be drawn like a piece of steel to a magnet, into contact with this or that house or organization dealing with the subject on which he desires knowledge.” Now the departed person is going to school – perhaps a whole succession of schools.
   One of the things you get to learn here your thoughts are actions and “accomplished things” here. You’ll do far better if you arrived with some prior experience of monitoring the contents of your mind and choosing the thoughts to which you gave energy and attention. “There are so many thoughts possible, and all of them are registered here.” 
    Not surprisingly, given Stead’s vigorous interest in communication between the living and the dead while he was among the living, it does not take him long to start checking out communications options on the other side. This produces one of the most interesting sections of his afterlife tour. He cautions that there is no sense of time as it is experienced on earth, so the departed may not understand that they have been on the other side for years or decades – or alternatively only for hours or days – when they start communicating with survivors.
    Stead describes a communications center, “an amazingly well organized and businesslike place” constantly filled with ex-physicals. “Those who had on earth believed and those who had not, came to try and wire a message home.” The ones who feel a “heart call” always get priority. When Stead’s turn came, he was surprised that there was no gee-whiz equipment, “all and only the human element”. A “man of some importance” explains the system to him.

They had a system of travelers, whose work was very close to physical earth. They had the power of sensing people who could and would be used for this work at the other end. 

    Stead, ever the intrepid correspondent, tries various ways to get his messages back to survivors and file his stories. In his first efforts to get through, he has a helper. They enter a room that seems to have walls made of muslin. With the aid of the “official”, Stead discovered he can see and move through these curtain walls. Stead sees and hears several people gathered for a séance. The official teaches him that he can make his presence known by visualizing himself among these people in a physical form, and then imagine that a strong light is cast over him. He fails on his first try. But he practices and practices until he makes an impression, and some of the sitters see him. Then he practices repeating a message until one of the sensitives picks it up and says it out loud.
    He discusses how the living can reach to the departed in a similar way. You concentrate on an individual in the spirit world, and if you put enough energy into that thought, the individual you have in mind will feel you and you may be able to open a communications channel. “We are practically always able to come in close contact with the person who is thinking of us.”

Anyone who sits for a moment and allows his mind to dwell on some dear one who has “died” will actually draw the spirit of that person to himself. He may be conscious or unconscious of the presence, but the presence is there.

    The unknowing receiver may pick up a tremendous flow of inspiration and information he may think is his own, even while dazzled by the quantity and quality of what is streaming in.
    He describes the sadness of the departed who find that their survivors refuse to understand that they are alive. They will break off efforts to communicate if their survivors persist in regarding them only as dead – and wait for their loved ones to join them.
     There are lands beyond the Blue Island – travel to them is like traveling among the stars. These are the Real World; the Blue Island is a transient environment, a place of acclimatization. In the world beyond it, people create homes or palaces for themselves according to taste – but can lose them if they don’t progress.
      One stage that cannot be avoided is the life review. “Each one is interviewed by one of the Advanced Spirit Instructors and the whole record of earth is discussed and analyzed”. An individual may now be required to live for a time in renewed contact with people on the earth plane “in order, by influence, to make good for our past misdoings” 
    In a later progression, the spirit enters what Stead calls the Return Or Stay Sphere where reincarnation may become an option. We have greater or lesser degrees of choice in such matters according to how successful (or otherwise) we have been in cleansing ourselves of guilt and fear and in developing into a deeper understanding of what all of this is about – which is love and courage and growth and creation.

Part of this article is adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss. Published by Destiny Books.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What the bleep the body knows before the mind does

A phenomenon that has long intrigued me is how the body sometimes seems to “know” about a future event and responds as if that event has already taken place. This is sometimes called presentiment. In my last post here, I described how I seemed to experience presentiment in relation to the horrific terror attacks in Brussels while changing planes at Brussels airport a month earlier.
     Here I will start with a more benign example, one for which there is also solid evidence, as recorded during a visit to my doctor's office. Here presentiment amounts to experiencing anticipatory symptoms.
     I went to my doctor’s office for an annual physical. A new medical assistant took my blood pressure to get us started. Though she did not faint, but my blood pressure was much higher than normal in the initial reading, much higher even than it had been when I had hobbled into that office two months before with a serious knee injury that had not yet been diagnosed.
    I was startled by the blood pressure reading, since I was in excellent spirits and feeling no anxiety about this visit to the doctor.
    “What do you want to do next?” the assistant asked. “The bloodwork or the EKG?”
“Let’s go for the blood and get a little color.” We briefly discussed how people react to having blood drawn. Personally, I have never minded the needle or the sight of the blood.
     The assistant found the right place and stuck a needle in my left arm. As she extracted the needle after filling the syringe, she started a gusher. I had never seen anything like it in all my years of giving blood or blood specimens. In an instant, my whole left arm was covered in blood, and blood was spattered all over my freshly laundered linen pants.
     The assistant squealed and rushed about, trying to stop the blood flow at the same time as she attempted to treat my pants with hydrogen peroxide.
     “You’re upset!” she panted. The odd thing was that I really wasn't upset at all. I responded quite philosophically, as if the incident had taken place in the past, even as the blood was still spurting and spattering.
     When things were under control, and she calmed down, I asked her to check my blood pressure again. “I want to test a hypothesis,” I told her. “There’s hard laboratory research that suggests that subjects can exhibit physical responses to events before the actual events take place. I want to check whether the spike in my blood pressure came about because - in some way - my body knew what was going to happen and had an anticipatory response.”
     She gaped at me, her eyebrows climbing her forehead, but she obliged.
     She gasped when she gave me the new reading after releasing the pressure cuff. The first number had dropped by fifteen points; the second number had dropped by thirty points. She was amazed because she thought that after the crazy turmoil of the blood gusher, my readings should have gone up, not down.
    “Not if my body knew and reacted to what was going to happen ahead of time,” I suggested quietly.
     When the doctor - a careful, conservative practitioner - came in and heard the data, he was quite impressed. “Maybe there's something in that theory,” he allowed. He decided to check my blood pressure himself. The numbers dropped even lower.
     To my mind, this is pretty persuasive first-hand evidence of the possibility that the body, through its own ways of knowing, may anticipate and respond to an event that has not yet taken place.
     In my book Dreaming True I call this “The White Queen Gambit.” As you may remember, in Through the Looking-Glass the White Queen screams before she pricks her finger. When her brooch-pin subsequently flies open and she does prick her finger, she doesn’t need to scream. “I’ve done all the screaming already,” says the Queen. “What would be the good of having it all over again?”
     It seems that the body, or the energy field around it, has intricate antennae that are constantly scanning for changes that will affect it. Most of us know about this from everyday experience. You have a “gut feeling” about something. You feet a sense of dread or elation, a lifting of the heart or a churning in the stomach that has no evident explanation until a subsequent event takes place that would cause such physical reactions. When the event catches up with the anticipatory symptoms, you and your body may be quite calm and detached – because you’ve done the screaming or the hyperventilating already.
     Scientific research into this phenomenon, sometimes described as “time-reversed interference”, has been going on since the 1990s. Dean Radin ran tests in a University of Nevada lab at Las Vegas that involved showing subjects a series of photographs on a screen that were calculated to produce vividly contrasting somatic reactions, read by scanning heartbeat, perspiration, and so on. A photo of a peaceful rustic scene might be followed by hard porno or a picture of a gruesome crime scene. The very interesting finding was that many times subjects had the physical reactions a certain picture would be expected to produce moments before the image came up on the screen.
    I told the story of my gusher in the doctor’s office to Larry Dossey MD, one of the trailblazers for mind-body medicine in America, and asked him what he thought of my theory that the spike in my blood pressure was an anticipatory symptom. Dossey commented, “I think your interpretation is right on target.  People need to know that these ‘presentiment’ effects are not just laboratory curiosities but are phenomena that get played out in real life zillions of times, under our very noses, quietly, often without our realizing they’re happening.”
    Maybe we can all do a little better if we let our bodies tell us what’s going down. This is a case of “what the bleep we know” that we don’t usually recognize that we know. In my book Sidewalk Oracles I suggest rules for playing the White Queen Gambit. Here they are:


1.Pay attention to any sudden change in what you feel in your body.
2.Self-scan to check the source of the shift. If it does not seem to reflect the current state of your body or your feelings, ask whether it is possible that your body’s sensors are picking up something that is happening at a distance, in space or time. You may be experiencing presentiment. Alternatively, you could be experiencing telepathy, which literally means “fellow-feeling at a distance.”
3. Check for subsequent events or discoveries that may reflect that shift in your body.
4. Develop a personal code for signals of this kind. For example, you may find that a certain kind of sudden, sharp and brief pain in the head is a message that someone is trying to contact you. Or you may notice when you smell a certain aroma that is not emanating from your immediate environment, that is a signal that someone at a distance who is connected to you has opened a link. Notice exactly how your body acts in anticipation of a subsequent physical event.

5. Log your findings in your journal. 

Game rules adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Feeling for Brussels: presentiment and prayer

I've been hearing from people who seem to have dreamed the horror in Brussels at the time of the tragedy, or before it. F.W.H. Myers, the Victorian researcher who coined the word "telepathy", defined it as "fellow-feeling at a distance". As humans, we are connected to all things human and it is natural that some of us will dream and sense what others are suffering, even half a world away, especially if we have a personal connection to the places and people involved. Mass events throw a shadow before them that touches many, in dreams and in other ways.   
      Since the news of the terrible events in Brussels, I have been reflecting on my own strange experiences at Brussels airport last month, when I was changing planes. I was overwhelmed by horrible feelings of dread. As I walked to my departure gate, I started sweating more violently than ever before in my life. I told a friend afterwards that I was "sweating bullets". I slumped into a seat feeling that the world was about to end.I found my imagination lurching into a vivid fantasy of what it would mean to die here, in transit and in a state of confusion, and what it might take to make the right connection after death.
     I am not a nervous flyer, and I catch many planes every month, generally relaxed and open to what the adventures may bring. I am now inclined to think that my terrible feelings and sensations at Brussels airport were an example of presentiment - of knowing something in the body before the event takes place that might cause those somatic conditions. And that my fantasy may have been advance knowledge of the immediate after-death condition of some of those who suffered untimely deaths. I will pray for them to find the right guides and the right paths on the Other Side.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Let's reward each other for remembering and sharing dreams

One of the reasons so many are dream-bereft in our society is that we no longer make it a general practice to encourage people to share dreams and reward them for doing so. In many ancient and indigenous dreaming traditions, it is understood that dreams may contain advisories for the whole community that need to be heard and heeded. It is known that dreams are fields of interaction between humans and the more-than-human. Certain dreams may reveal the secret wishes of the soul, and then, in a dreaming culture, it is the obligation of decent people to gather round the dreamer and assist in discerning what the soul wants and how to manifest that. Dreaming peoples also recognize dreams as rich sources of entertainment, theater, performance, expressive art and community fun.. "Good story, that one," is the way a traditional Aborigines may end their dream narrative,s or be congratulated by their audience.
     Look at it this way: if you know that your friends and associates are eager to hear your reports and able to give you helpful, non-authoritarian feedback and guide you towards action to embody creative and healing energy and guidance in your everyday life, then you have a huge incentive to bring something fresh to the breakfast table or the coffee break. This is why the Lightning Dreamwork Game, a core technique of Active Dreaming is central to the cause of rebirthing a dreaming society in our time. It's fun, it's fast and it delivers wonderful things.
     The Lightning Dreamwork Game. It’s like lightning in two senses — it’s very quick (you can do it in five minutes), and it focuses and brings through terrific energy. It’s a game you can play just about anywhere, with just about anyone – with the stranger in the line at the supermarket checkout, or with the intimate stranger who shares your bed. The rules are simple, and they open a safe space to share even the most sensitive material.

You can play this game with two or more people. We’ll call the principal players the Dreamer and the Partner. There are four moves in the Lightning Dreamwork Game.

First Move
The Dreamer tells the dream as simply and clearly as possible, as a story. Just the facts of the dream, no background or autobiography. In telling a dream this way, the Dreamer claims the power of the story. The Partner should ask the Dreamer to give the dream report a title, like a story or a movie.

Second Move
The Partner asks the Three Essential Questions. (1) How did you feel? (2) Reality check: What do you recognize from this dream in the rest of your life, and could any part of this dream be played out in the future? (3) What do you want to know about this now?

The Dreamer answers all three questions.

Third Move
The Partner now shares whatever thoughts and associations the dream has triggered for him or her. The Partner begins by saying, “If it were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” The etiquette is very important. By saying “if it were my dream,” we make it clear that we are not setting out to tell the Dreamer what his or her dream — or life — means. We are not posing as experts of any kind. The Partner is just sharing whatever strikes him or her about the dream, which may include personal memories, other dreams, or things that just pop up. (Those seemingly random pop-ups are often the best.)

Fourth Move
Following the discussion, the Partner asks the Dreamer: What are you going to do now? What action will you take to honor this dream or work with its guidance? If the Dreamer is clueless about what action to take, the Partner will offer his or her own suggestions, which may range from calling the guy up or buying the pink shoes to doing historical or linguistic research to decode odd references. Or, the Dreamer may want to go back inside the dream (see below) to get more information or move beyond a fear. One thing we can do with any dream is to write a personal motto, like a bumper sticker or something that could go on a refrigerator magnet. 

After road-testing Lightning Dreamwork in some of my advanced groups, I introduced the process to general audiences in 2000. Since then I have noticed that 90 percent of the people who mention it in writing misspell the name, making it "Lightening". I used to play spelling cop, but I have tired of than, and also notice that there is something interesting that is showing through the slip. Learning to tell our stories to each other by this method does "lighten" the day, and sometimes brings enlightenment, and encourages us to lighten up. he term One of our dream teachers reminds me that the term "lightening" also refers to a stage of delivery just before birth in which the fetus descends farther down the birth canal. So Lightning or Lightening, it's all good. 

You'll find much more about the Lightning Game in my books The Three "Only" Things and Active Dreaming, which contains a vision of what a future dreaming society will be like. In my book Sidewalk Oracles, I explain how to play the game with life experiences and synchronicity.

Photo: Path of magic at Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall WA, where I lead many depth workshops and trainings, including The Royal Road of Dreams from March 31-April 3.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Fairy of the Copper Beech Keeps the Lost Girl Safe

A tall, elegant woman from Vienna traveled to Prague to take part in one of my workshops. Her name was Elisabeth. She said she had come because she wanted to find and follow the paths of her soul. I introduced a series of shamanic journeys, and she embarked on all of them with courage and high enthusiasm. She learned how dreams reveal the paths of soul, and how we can use a dream we remember as a portal to realms of soul healing and soul remembering. She traveled with the group on joint expeditions to very special places in nonordinary reality. These included the Magic Library.
     The Magic Library is a real place in another order of reality, one I often call the Imaginal Realm. It is a realm of true imagination. Palaces and temples and schools and pleasure gardens are constructed here through creative interaction, and they may be visited by prepared and invited travelers over centuries or millennia of human time.
     In the Magic Library, access to any form of knowledge is possible. So is contact with master teachers in any field. In introductory workshops, I often invite participants to use their life memories to open the portal. Think of a favorite library or bookshop, museum or gallery where your imagination came alive in the presence of fresh images and ideas. Picture yourself at the threshold. When the drumming begins, step through the door. You'll find yourself in a deepening space. Its contents and possibilities go far beyond the memories you used to come here. Information may be stored here in many forms.
     Elisabeth picked a used bookstore that she loves, in her native city . When she went inside the bookshop (as she told me) she found that a wall of books "peeled back", revealing a garden behind.
     She stepped out, with delight, into the garden, and then into the wood behind it. She paused at a certain tree because someone up in its branches was throwing sticks down at her. When she examined the sticks, she recognized Celtic designs that had been carved on them. Maybe they were Ogham sticks.
     She looked up, and saw a druid perched in the tree.
     She remembered one of the assignments I had suggested for this group journey. She told him, "I am looking for the story I am now living. Can you help me?"
    "Your story is about a Lost Girl," he responded. "When you were young, a tree  fairy took part of your spirit because your world was not safe and it lacked joy. Ever since then, the tree  fairy has kept that girl safe, inside a tree you know." The druid proceeded to identify the tree, and the park where it stands in her native city. Elisabeth remembered the tree, and the park, very clearly from childhood. The tree was a copper beech.
    "You must go to that tree and find your Lost Girl," the druid instructed.
     She promised she would do that, as soon as possible after she goes home. We discussed how, in Celtic folklore, people often sing to bring a soul back home, sometimes from a tree where it has been sheltered and is nesting like a bird. She agreed she would find the right song to sing for her Lost Girl, under the copper beech, to entertain the tree fairy and prove that she was ready to be a lively companion for her child self.
    Elisabeth did what she had promised.  She decided to visit the copper beech on her birthday, a month after the workshop in Prague. In preparation, she journeyed again to the wood behind the Magic Library, with the aid of my shamanic drumming CD, to talk to the druid some more.  She found him waiting for her. He gave her his name. He told her that to meet the tree fairy she must bathe and then smudge herself thoroughly and dress beautifully – taking special care to put on elegant high-heeled shoes. “Go to the tree with innocence and expect nothing. Take some small presents. Carry the song you will find in your heart.”
     She did not yet have her song. She felt it would be sad and wistful. After her return journey to the druid, she dreamed in the night that she was running from her childhood home to the park. She was carrying many carved wooden sticks, like the one the druid had thrown at her.  She came to a playground with a big heap of sand. She remembered playing here as a child, and that there was a kind of cave under the sand. She jumped in the sand and was disappointed to find the cave was not there anymore. She dove deeper, hollowing out a new space with her hands. A little boy appeared, but did not seem to be able to see her. He checked out her cave, and announced it was stable.  Elisabeth felt the presence of another companion, a child friend invisible to her. She knew, in the dream, that it was vitally important to “stabilize” the cave, so she could play with her friend – perhaps her Lost Girl – inside. To accomplish this, she needed “the soul of a tree”.
     She still lacked her song. But a sleep dream the following night gave her a clue. She found herself walking and talking with a charming, creative man. She was surprised to find they were on a train together. Waking, she realized the artist reminded her of George Harrison. She proceeded to take a Beatles song she loved ("Something in the way she moved") and had used for meditation as the tune for the song she would carry to the copper beech, fitting fresh words of her own to the music.
    On the eve of her birthday, she stayed at a family house  near the park. She followed the druid’s instructions. She took a hot bath with lavender oil and smudged her body with Palo Santo wood. She wrote the text of her song on pink paper, decorated it with drawings and folded it as a gift. She rehearsed the song.  Shortly before midnight – which she thought would be a good time for fairy encounters – she dressed in a glamorous sexy dress with high heels.
     It was a very cold night and she found herself alone in the park, except for the jackdaws wheeling and screaming over the nearby monastery. She remembered how the bells of the church had seemed cruelly oppressive to her when she shared her first kiss, aged fourteen, under the copper beech. She placed the little gifts she had brought near the roots of the copper beech. She sat down under the tree, leaning her back against the trunk, and reflected on her purpose: to find a lost part of her soul the now thought might be the scared teen who had kissed her first boyfriend in this place. She started singing her song, over and over. Sadness welled up in her . She sat in the cold for a long time, waiting for something to happen. She heard odd clicking sounds in the tree branches and hen a loud hissing sound behind her left shoulder. She asked the tree fairy to contact her in her dreams and walked back to the house.
     She returned to the tree before dawn. She did not have a new dream but immediately she had a new sign. As the sun rose, she noted the initial E and H inside a heart carved in the bark of the tree. H was the first initial of her boyfriend’s first name. She circled the tree three times, singing her song, feeling rising confidence.
     She went back to the house for a nap and returned to the park in the afternoon. The park was now alive with families and children, running and playing. She remembered what the druid had told her: Come with innocence and expect nothing.
    It was her birthday and she needed to celebrate. She went to her favorite pastry shop and ordered a pot of coffee and angel’s kisses. She made new  friends and walked on the bank of the Danube with them before she returned to the park, singing and inventing new rhymes spontaneously, snapping pictures with her camera, feeling good.
     At sunset, the squalling of the jackdaws was with her again. But the part was still crowded with children. Their laughter reverberated from the playground, and she remembered her dream of the cave under the sand. She sat down on a bench opposite the copper beech, relaxed and in good spirits.
     She closed her eyes. Immediately she was back inside the dream where she learned that she needed the soul of a tree to make a safe space to be with her younger self. The happy noise of the kids in the playground was having the same effect as shamanic drumming, powering her deepening journey into another world. Here is Elisabeth’s account of what followed:

I enter the cave under the hill of sand, which is kept hollow by the soul of a tree. I find the path to another cave under the roots of the copper beech. There I see a beautiful young girl sitting with blond, shoulder-length hair, a miniskirt, silk stockings and black high heeled shoes. She seems to be tied to the tree roots. Then I recognize the real situation. The fine, pink wings of a fairy are wrapped around this girl. I feel good. I embrace the girl. I feel a surge of hope for a freer life, for the power to follow my heart’s desires.
     I ask the girl whether she wants to come with me. She tells me she would like to go dancing with me and that she would love to sing along with me when I play the guitar. And she wants to go to the bakery with me and eat those cookies.
    The fairy is standing very close to the girl. When I greet her, the fairy says that I can take the young Elisabeth with me for dancing and music and visits to the bakery. However, she says firmly, young Elisabeth will be best protected if she continues to live with her. That way, she can keep her power intact and believe in herself fully. The problem seems to be that there are still disturbances and confusion in my life.
     The fairy assures me that I will be welcome whenever I come to visit their hill and their cave. She tells me my own roots are here, under the copper beech, and that this is more my home than the family place where I stayed overnight. Here, under the tree, is where my soul can always  and recover. I chose this tree in this park as my refuge and soul shelter when I was a child. Here I will always find home.
     The fairy tells me to find a beautiful red leather book and write the stories of my life in it, starting with this one. In German, “red book” (rotes Buch) is basically the same as “copper beech” (Rotebuche).
     Then I danced with her and the young Elisabeth. As we moved together, the fairy draped magical garments around us. We rose up into the air, dancing. The wind carried us higher and higher. We floated and wheeled over the park, the forest, the city, the river. I enjoyed the cold winter wind streaming over my skin, lifting my hair, as we fluttered like butterflies in widening circles.
     Rain started to fall, and the drops helped bring us down again, to the fairy hill and the cave beneath the tree roots. We embraced and said farewell, for now..
     Finding myself back in my body on the bench, I kissed the bark of the copper beech, gently, where the initials were carved inside a heart. I walked from the park humming the song I had made for the fairy. I went back to the bakery and bought a lot of angel kisses, for the Lost Girl who is now found, and for me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

God makes the dreamer fruitful with his own courage

It is the most extraordinary statement in the most remarkable book about dreams written before our own times: "God makes the dreamer fruitful with his own courage."
    The author is Synesius of Cyrene, a Greek philosopher, nobleman and student of Hypatia who was made bishop of Ptolemais in North Africa around 400. The source is his little treatise On Dreams. The translation is by Augustine Fitzgerald and was published in 1930. We owe a great debt to Fitzgerald because his translation is still (as far as I know) the only one in the English language. It can sound a little old and patriarchal in contemporary ears. We could say, "Spirit" or "the divine source" or "the Creator" or "the gods" in place of the masculine "God", but we don't want to dilute the power of that astonishing affirmation with a paraphrase. Let me stay with Fitzgerald's version for now.
    Here it is, in its context:

It is written, "Others even in their dreams He made fruitful with his courage." Do you see? One man learns while awake, another while asleep. But in the waking state man is the teacher, while it is God who makes the dreamer fruitful with His own courage, so that learning and attaining are one and the same. Now to make fruitful is even more than to teach. 

    This passage was on my mind this morning after I rose from a dream that left me filled with courage, confidence and a deep sense of blessing. The setting and action in the dream were very like my ordinary life. I was opening a workshop, preparing the group to make a journey, powered by shamanic drumming, to the Tree Gate, a portal I often use for excursions to the three tiers of the shaman's cosmos, the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds. There were a few distractions and minor issues of the kind that come up when new people are finding their place and their way in a circle.
    Then I started drumming, and the power of the drumming carried everyone, immediately, beyond the distractions into a powerful journey. I saw them meeting and reconnecting with the animal spirits and with benign energies of Earth, even with the Earth Mother. I felt the beating of great wings as the bird tribes and higher powers came to support us. I noticed, as I circled the group, that I was no longer playing my frame drum the usual way. I was whirling it in mid-air, like a bullroarer. This made the sound of rushing winds, and drove the journey deeper and higher.
    I returned to my place in the circle. As our dreamers came back from their excursions, stretched and moved their bodies, their faces were glowing and bright. We agreed to make an impromptu fire ceremony to do some releasing that people now understood to be required, and this was very effective. I was able to assist in some personal healing.
    Through most of this, I was in two places at once, fully aware of my body lying in the bed, and of morning light filtering through the blinds, while super-engaged in whirling the drum and tending the fire and assisting in healing. I suspect that bilocation of this kind is quite common for lucid dreamers as well as for shamanic voyagers.  I have experienced it for as long as I can remember.
     Fully lucid, still in the dream scene, I arranged with some of the people in the circle to do follow-up work and made a mental note of who, where, when and how on the assumption that elements of the dream may manifest in a future workshop in the physical world. However, the enduring
 gift of the dream, quite simply, was that, as my traveling consciousness rejoined my body as it rose from the bed, I felt "fruitful with courage" for the day, even blessed.

Quotations from Synesius of Cyrene,  “On Dreams,” in The Essays and Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene, trans. Augustine Fitzgerald (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930). For more on Synesius of Cyrene, please see Robert Moss, The Secret History of Dreaming  (Novato CA: New world Library, 2008) 67-70. 

Image: Lion of Cyrene

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hawaiian traditions of dreaming

How much a culture understands of the practice of dreaming is reflected in the variety and specificity of the terms it uses for different types of dream experience. The Hawaiian language contains a rich vocabulary for dreaming that makes a delightful study.
     A general word for dreams in Hawaiian is moe'uhane, generally translated as "soul sleep" but better understood as "night experiences of the soul", since for traditional Hawaiians, dreaming is very much about traveling. The soul makes excursions during sleep. It slips out of the regular body, often through the tear duct, described as the "soul pit" and travels in a "body of wind". During sleep the dreamer also receives visitations from gods (akua) and ancestral guardian spirits (aumakua) who may take the form of a bird or a fish or a plant.
     Like all practical dreamers, the Hawaiians recognize that there are big dreams and little dreams. You don't want to pay too much attention to a "wild goatfish dream" (moe weke pahulu), which is caused by something you ate or how fast you ate it. The colorful term is derived from popular belief that eating the heads of goatfish - at other times a delicacy - in the wrong season, when bad winds are blowing, causes sickness and troubling but meaningless dreams.
     On the other hand, you want to recognize that a dream may contain the memory of a trip into the future that can give you information of the highest practical importance. Especially helpful is the "straight-up" dream (moe pi'i pololei) that is clear and requires no interpretation. There are "wishing" dreams (moemoea) that show you something you are pining for, which may or may not be attainable in ordinary reality. There are "revelations of the night" (ho'ike na ka po) that carry the power of prophecy.
     A most interesting category of Hawaiian dreams are those - believed to be gifts of the guardian ancestral spirits - that are given to promote the healing of relations within a family or community. Dreams are also given by the aumakua to promote personal healing. The ancestral spirits deliver "night names" (inoa po) for babies that are on the way, and cautionary tales are told of misfortune that comes when the parents ignore a baby name delivered in a dream.
      The Hawaiians pay special attention to visions that come on the cusp between sleep and waking (hihi'o) believing that these are especially likely to contain clear communication from the spirits and "straight up" glimpses of things that will unfold.
      In our dream travels, we may be united with a "dream husband" (kane o ka po) or a "dream wife" (wahine o ka po). This can be pleasurable and even compelling, but Hawaiian lore teaches caution. Spend too much time outside your regular body in your "body of wind" and the physical organism may start to weaken and languish. You also want to be alert to deceivers who may take on the form of alluring sexual partners but are actually something else, like tricky mo'o, a kind of water imp. We want to bring energy from our juiciest dreams into embodied life and not leave it out there.
      A favorite Hawaiian legend tells how a goddess accomplished this. Pele, on her volcanic island, was stirred by rhythmic drumming from far off. She left her body in her lava bed, charging her attendants not to rouse her for three days on any account. She traveled far in her "body of wind" and finally found the source of the magical drumming is a luau being held by a handsome prince. The goddess and the prince fell for each other and spent three days making love before Pele returned to the body she had left in her lava bed. Being a goddess, she was then able to arrange for her prince to be transported to the Big Island to live with her as her consort. Humans may find this kind of transfer harder to effect, but it's always worth a try! 

     We have a wonderfully accessible introduction to these traditions by Caren Loebel-Fried: Hawaiian Legends of Dreams (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press). Illustrated with the author's own lively woodcuts and drawing on excellent research among the Beckwith and E.S. Craighill Handy papers in the Bishop Museum, this book takes us deeply and effortlessly into the language and lore of Hawaiian dreaming and is suitable for readers from middle school to sagehood..
    Loebel-Fried's retelling of Pele's dream journey to Lohi'au and of the dream that led to the discovery of the hidden spring of Punahou, under a hala (pandanus) tree are especially engaging and instructive. The famous Punahou school in Honolulu stands at the site of that secret spring, and the school seal includes the image of a hala tree with a spring of fresh water flowing beneath it.  
   Caren generously gave permission for me to use her woodcut of "The Dream of Pele" on the cover of my poetry collection, Here Everything Is Dreaming. One of my longer poems, "Moe'uhane: Island Dreaming" evokes the richness of Hawaiian traditions of dreaming. It begins:

Dreaming is when soul wakes up
and goes traveling.
You may fly across the water
in your body of wind
following the drumming of the waves
to spend the night with your dream lover.
Even goddesses do this.

Art: Carel Loebel-Fried, "The Dream of Pele"