Sunday, March 24, 2019

The only dream expert is you

You are the final authority on your dreams, and you should never give the power of your dreams away by handing them over to other people to interpret. Yes, our dreams can be confusing and opaque, and we gain greatly from other people's insights, especially when those other people are "frequent fliers" who work closely with their own dreams and have developed a fine intuition about what may be going on in dreaming. So it's okay to ask for help. More than that, we often need help because we are too close to our own issues, or too inhibited by self-limiting attitudes to see what may be obvious to a complete outsider.
     But we need to learn some simple rules about how to share and comment on dreams. I suggest the following ways of sharing and playing with dreams:

1. Tell the story of your dream as clearly and exactly as possible. Dreams are real experiences, and the meaning of the dream is often inside the dream experience itself. Give your dream report a title. So much jumps out when you choose the key element, and you are developing the power of naming.

2. Consider your feelings, inside the dream and on waking. These are a quick and usually reliable guide to the importance, urgency and quality (e.g. positive/negative) of the dream.

3. Always run a reality check by asking what you recognize from the dream in the rest of your life. If you are running away from something in the dream, are there situations in waking life where you may be running away from a certain issue? 

4. Check whether your dream may contain clues to the future. Ask whether it is remotely possible the events in this dream could be played out in waking life, literally or symbolically. If you dream of an earthquake check whether you or someone connected with you may find themselves in earthquake territory - or whether something may erupt in your personal life with the force of the ground moving from under you. I have never seen more time wasted in dream analysis -- and more life-supporting messages lost -- than when we fail to recognize that our dreams are constantly rehearsing us for challenges that lie around the corner.

5. If you are going to comment on someone else's dream, always begin by saying (in these words or similar words), "If it were my dream, I would think about..." This way, you are not leaning on other people and presuming to tell them the meaning of their dreams or their lives. If we can only encourage more people to follow this vitally important etiquette for dream-sharing, we'll create a safe space for many people to share dreams and work with them in everyday contexts -- at work, in the family, in schools -- and we'll be on our way to becoming a dreaming culture again.

6. Learn the art of dream reentry. Try to go back inside the dream and recover more information. A dream fully remembered is often its own interpretation.

7. Make a bumper sticker. Try to come up with a one-liner to summarize what happens in the dream (or encourage the dreamer to do that). This will often turn out to be a personal dream motto that will orient you towards appropriate action -- to act on the dream guidance and honor the dream.

8. Come up with an action plan. Always do something with the dream! We need to do far more than interpret dreams;we need to bring their energy and insight into manifestation in waking life.

The simple guidelines above are central to my Active Dreaming approach. You may want to join me for a new 12-week online course, Active Dreaming: The Essential Training in which you will learn to master and apply the core techniques in a wonderful international community of creative spirits.

Photo: Dream Sharing on Gore Mountain by RM

Saturday, March 23, 2019

How dreaming gets us through

Dreaming helps get us through life. It can save us from a fall, and even get us to the top. It puts us back in touch with our soul purpose and gives us everyday tools to thrive and survive. I was made vividly aware of this when I did an interview with Wisconsin public radio and a series of callers phoned in, eager to share their dreams.
     A songwriter described how he wakes in the middle of the night with new songs playing in his mind. Sometimes they are complete, with words and music. Sometimes he has to work on them for a bit. He is in a long tradition of songwriters and composers who have plucked new pieces from their dreams. I was reminded on John Lennon's statement that "the best songs are the ones that come to you in the middle of the night and you have to get up and write them down so you can go back to sleep."
     As we discussed diagnostic dreams, the host recalled the case of a man who dreamed a rat was gnawing on his throat. Shaken by the dream, he sought medical assistance, and went from one physician to another until his throat cancer was detected and treatment began that he credited with saving his life.
      An IT professional recounted a situation in which his office was preparing to install a new system. The day before, his supervisor told him to go home and get some sleep. He took a nap and saw himself in a workaday situation. He saw and recognized the code he would be applying. Suddenly the screen in his dream went fuzzy and a voice said firmly, "NO. It should be like 
this." The code changed.
     When he went into the office the next day, he checked and found that the code they were working with was wrong. He made the necessary changes, as had been done in the dream. "Good thing you caught that," his supervisor told him. At this point, David explained that he had dreamed the correction. "Never heard of anything like that," the supervisor shook his head. "Maybe I should have my analysts do a lot more sleeping."
     A woman caller spoke of a recurring dream theme whose full significance became clear to her only at the end of a long relationship. She dreamed again and again that her partner was missing. She couldn't find him or couldn't get through to him on the phone. Sometimes she felt he was hiding from her. By the time of the break-up, she had been compelled to recognize a long pattern of deception, and that in fundamental ways, her partner had been "missing" for much of the time they had been together.
     We discussed what is going on when a dream theme repeats over and over. I suggested that it's either because we need to get the message or because we need to take 
action on that message. We may have a notion what a recurring dream is about, but can't bring ourselves to do what is necessary - which would be very understandable if we dream our partner is missing. Like a helpful (and well-informed) friend who is looking out for us, the dream theme will come again and again until we do something about it.

Towards the end of the show, the host asked me to share a "big" dream of my own. How to pick one, out of so many? Yet I knew at once which dream I would tell, because earlier in the program - when asked to explain how dreaming can help to move us beyond hatred and war - I had quoted a phrase in the Mohawk Indian language. The phrase is tohsa sasa nikon'hren. It literally means, "Do not let your mind fall".
    We fall into Dark Times, in the traditional Mohawk cosmology, when we forget the higher world - the Earth-in-the-Sky - from which we come. Our ability to heal our enmities and grow as a life form depend on not-forgetting a higher source of wisdom and a higher order of reality. Dreaming is the main link between our ordinary minds and that higher spiritual plane, a way of not letting our minds fall.
    So I told a watershed dream from my life decades before, in which I entered a space where a circle of people who lived very close to the earth were singing and drumming. I hesitated at the entrance of their longhouse, fearing I was intruding. But they welcomed me into a place they had waiting for me.
    At a certain point, I lay by the firepit, at the center of the circle. One by one, the dream people came to me. They took red-hot coals from the fire and placed them over my ears and my eyes, and on my tongue, and over my heart. They sang in their own language, which I could now understand: "We do this to open your ears, that you may hear clearly. We do this to open your eyes, that you may see clearly. We do this to open your mouth, so you will speak only truth. And we do this -" placing the coal over the heart "- so that henceforth you will speak and act only from the heart."
     I did no analysis with that dream. Vitally energized, I jumped in my car and drove to a lake in a state park east of my home. I promised to the lake and the trees and the red-tailed hawk that came knifing through the clouds, "Henceforth I will speak and act only from the heart."
     On the darkest days, a dream like this can be a hearthfire and a homing beacon. Charging us with the power of a deeper drama, inciting us not to let our minds fall - these may be the biggest ways that dreaming helps us through.

On the subject of Wisconsin dreaming, I am leading a new playshop on the Arts of Magical Dreaming at a lovely spacious studio in rolling horse country outside Madison WI over the weekend of May 4-5. Artist and dream teacher Karen Nell McKean was inspired by her dreams to design this nurturing creative space and have it constructed. "WomanEye" is one of her dream-infused paintings.

Graphic at top:''L'Alpiniste Emballée'' by Henry Gerbault (1916)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dr Freud's slips and others

I am leafing again through the book in which Freud gave the most complete account of the phenomenon known (after him) as the Freudian slip. First published in 1901 as The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, it's a collection of essays that was probably better-known and more widely read in Freud's lifetime than any of his other works.
    In my favorite local used bookstore, a shelf elf placed a copy of an elderly Macmillan edition, with A.A.Brill's translation, in my line of sight. The paper label on the spine had rubbed nearly away, like the label on a well-soaked bottle of wine, so I had to pull the book off the shelf to see what was facing me, which begins to sound like a Freudian joke in itself.
    The merits of Freud's study of slips of the tongue and memory lapses are threefold. First, he assigns meaning to incidents that many of us tend to overlook. Forgetting the name of a town where you once stayed, or giving the wrong name to someone you know perfectly well, isn't simply a memory lapse or passing confusion; it speaks of something in you and your life situation which merits close attention, because you can learn from it. Second, Freud does dreamwork with these incidents, applying the same principles of analysis to episodes in waking life as he applies to dream symbols. Third, his prime lab rat, first and last, is himself. Like Jung (and unlike lesser scientific minds that fail to realize that knowledge is state-specific) he knows that understanding begins with self-knowledge, and that the most important data on inner events (and their interplay with outer events) must be gathered from first-hand experience.
    We follow Freud down some interesting trails as he studies such phenomena as forgetting names and otherwise well-known phrases and word substitution. He recounts a chance encounter with a fellow-traveler on a train who begins to quote the famous line, in Latin, in which Queen Dido of Carthage issues a terrible curse against Aeneas, the hero who loved her and left her. Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor (Aeneid, IV 625). "Let someone arise from my bones as an avenger."
    In the days where a good education still required Latin, Freud's educated companion would be expected to get the quotation right. But he cannot recollect the harmless indefinite pronoun aliquis. By the end of a long conversation in which Freud guides his travel companion through the free association process he also applies to patients' dreams, they understand that there may be deep significance to the suppression of a seemingly harmless pronoun. In aliquis the speaker now recognizes the echo of "liquid" and "liquefaction" in the Latin word. This reminds him that he's alarmed that his girlfriend may have missed her period. He's scared that he is the "someone" who will be cursed if he abandons his girl and a baby he doesn't want.
    Now we come to the defect in Freud's approach to Freudian slips, which he called Fehlleistungen, which means "faulty actions" or "misperformances.". He wants to insist that word-amnesia and name substitution are related to "disturbing complexes" that prompt the psyche to seek to repress memories and information that may cause us pain. We hear of a man who simply cannot remember the name of a business partner who stole his girlfriend and married her; he just doesn't want to know. Freud can't remember the name of a town he knows well (Nervi) when treating a neurotic at a time when he himself is feeling nervous and may be heading for a migraine.
    While Freud's theory of repression may apply to some of his examples, there's both more and less going on with our slips and memory lapses than he allows for. Common sense tells us that memory gaps can be the result of all sorts of life factors, from fatigue to drug or alcohol abuse to migraine to information overload. Einstein once made people laugh because, asked for his phone number, he had to look it up in the book. He declared that he had so much on his mind that he didn't need to burden it by adding the need to remember things he could easily look up.
    I am generally pretty good with names, so when I call someone I know by a name that isn't their own I pay attention to what may be showing through my slip, In one of my workshops, I kept calling a man "Michael" though I was perfectly well aware that his name was "Don." Finally I asked, "Who's Michael?" Through tears, he explained that Michael had been his partner for many years; Michael had died but Don felt him close and was actually wearing his sweater that day.
     One of my rules for life navigation is: Notice what's showing through your slip. To which I will now add: And don't tag it a Freudian slip until you've explored what else may be going on. 

Text partly adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life, where you will find more on the game of noticing what's showing through a slip.

Image at top: Freud in Madame Tussaud's, Vienna

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Consecutive dreams and parallel lives in H.G. Wells

"Isn't there something called consecutive dreaming, that goes on night after night?"
    This is one of the most interesting questions that can be asked about dreams. Here it is posed in the voice of a character of H.G.Wells, in his remarkable short story "A Dream of Armageddon," first published in 1901.
   The story starts on a train with a sick-looking "man with a white face" striking up a conversation with the narrator because he is reading a book about dreams. The white-faced man has no patience with dream analysis because - as he says - his dreams are killing him.
   He describes how he has been dreaming a life in a future century, in which he is a great man - the leader of a great party - who gives up his power to live his consuming love with a younger woman on the island of Capri, which is now one gigantic resort hotel. The descriptions of Capri are wonderfully beautiful and vivid, the slope of Monte Solaro, the natural arch in the rock called Faraglione that the sea washes through. The dreamer has never been to Capri, in his present life, but the narrator has, and can confirm many of   the details. In this way, we are led to believe the reality of the extraordinary story that is unfolding.
    In his current life, the dreamer is a solicitor in Liverpool. He wonders, as he works on the details of a building lease, what his clients and colleagues would make of his second life, which often seems more vivid and real to him than the life he is living now. He remembers awakening to that second life when he felt the warmth in the air because a lovely woman had stopped fanning him. He admired her as she leaned over their balcony.  "Her white shoulders were in the sun, and all the grace of her body was in the cool blue shadow."
    Each time he wakes in this future Capri, he forgets his life in England at the end of the nineteenth century. The idyll of love and beauty is fast falling apart, however. After dancing in the pleasure palace, he is approached by a grim envoy from his own Northern country who beseeches him to go back and take charge before the brute who succeeded him brings about a world war. To do this would involve leaving the woman he loves, and he chooses his heart over his duty to the multitude.
   For three weeks, night after night, the solicitor is thrown into scenes in which his future self is present at the collapse of an island paradise and of a future world. War is threatened, and Wells describes squadrons of fighter planes wheeling over the Bay of Naples. World war breaks out, and the future life ends in global disaster and personal tragedy; the dreamer sees his lover shot through the heart and experiences his own death. 
   As he tells this story, he seems at the end of his tether.
   "It could have been only a dream," Wells' alter ego tries to comfort him.    
    "A dream!" he cried, flaming upon me, "a dream--when, even now--"
      For the first time he became animated..."One thing is real and certain, one thing is no dream- stuff, but eternal and enduring. It is the center of my life, and all other things about it are subordinate or altogether vain. I loved her, that woman of a dream. And she and I are dead together!

The story ends when the train stops at Euston station. No moral, no reflection, no analysis. Just so.
     I find this one of the very best of H.G.Wells' stories. The framing device is familiar from other "scientific romances" he wrote, including The Time Machine. Events and scenes that many readers might consider fantastic are told by a traveler who claims to have visited other times or other worlds. Wells again demonstrates his ability to envision the shape of things to come. He describes "flying boats" and warplanes shaped like spearheads without the shafts, years before Kitty Hawk, and almost a century before Stealth aircraft. He has his characters travel comfortably around a building complex on a "passage with a moving floor", a preview of our moving walkways.
    Yet the prophetic elements in the tale are burdened by pessimism and fatalism. In his tremendously active life as novelist, journalist, educator and social reformer, Wells worked tirelessly to promote a "happy turning" for human evolution. He sometimes said that he published dark visions of the possible future in order to goad humans to prevent them from playing out, and escape the future Earth described towards the end of The Time Machine, where monstrous crab-like giants have inherited the planet from a human species that split in two and lost any semblance of humanity. Yet he was sometimes unable to roll back a black tide of despair; we see that coming in, unstoppable, in his very last work, Mind At the End of Its Tether.

Back to the question of "consecutive dreams". A dream sequence of this kind may awaken us to the fact that we are living more than one life, in the multiverse.
      For Wells' white-faced solicitor, this means serial dreams that carry him forward, night by night, in the events of a life being lived in another time and place. Time seems to run differently in Liverpool and the future Capri. For four nights, he does not remember dreaming of Capri, but when he returns it seems that months have elapsed since he was last there. In a few hours of sleep in his regular body, it seems that he can live days, possibly weeks, in his second body. Otherwise, time in the dream Capri moves as it does in Liverpool, linear and unidirectional. It's worth noting that in Capri, Wells' character does not remember his life in Liverpool, though in England, he can think of little else.

In my own dream life, as in the dream lives that others share with me, we may not only have "consecutive" or serial dreams, but may enjoy much more room for maneuver. In "consecutive" dreams, we may have the experience of returning, again and again, to a life being lived somewhere else. We may find, like Wells' dream traveler, that events in that second life have moved along since our previous dream visit. The second life may be remote from the present one, for example, in a past or future historical period, or in a different world altogether.
     Or the second life may be quite similar to the current one. It may be a life, for example, in which events are playing out as if we had made a different choice and are now living with a different partner, or living in a different country, or doing different work. Such dreams can give us first-hand, experiential knowledge of how we may be living parallel lives in parallel universes, which leading physicists say is likely bit can't demonstrate as lived experience. While you are doing what you are doing today, a second self is still living with the partner you left, in the old place, and doing - for good or bad - what you might be doing under those circumstances.
     We are all time travelers and interdimensional voyagers in our dreams. We travel to past and future, as well as to parallel worlds, and it is likely that we do this on any night of the week, even if we fail to remember our dream travels. It may be that, while our body here is asleep, a second - or a fortieth - self in another time or another world wakes up, with memories of our present existence, fast fading, when he remembers his dreams.
    Wells' white-faced dream traveler is the captive of an evil future he believes is dead and done and cannot be changed. But conscious dreamers know that the multiverse is more flexible. Any future we can perceive, for starters, is a possible future; the odds on the manifestation of any event can be changed.
    When we wake up to the fact that the only time is Now, we may discover that the events of "past" lives are also far from dead and done. In the mind and body of a personality in another time, we may be able to do some good, suggest some other moves, sow some new ideas - and also return with gifts of knowledge and energy from that other self. I suspect that one of the keys to success in this fascinating arena is for us to retain the memory of both lives (and perhaps a perspective above and beyond both of them) as we step in and out of different worlds.
    I've had some consecutive dreams of being in dark and dangerous places, in parallel realities and in other times, but typically I don't find myself bound to a set course of events in these situations, and usually I retain some memory of who I am in my 21st century world. Nor do I feel oppressed after these adventures, though sometimes I return with the  sense that my presence is still needed, urgently, in a drama unfolding in another world. So I have chosen to go back, of my free will but also with some sense of obligation, to try to fight the good fight or correct things.
    As Active Dreamers, we learn to interact consciously with our counterparts in other times, retaining memory of our current lives and the awareness that Now is always the point of power. That changes everything.

A shelf elf throws The Dream of H.G.Wells at me

Just before I sat down to write this morning a shelf elf flung H.G.Wells’ novel The Dream at me from the top of a tall bookcase holding fiction in the room where I do much of my horizontal meditation. Of course I had to interrupt what I thought I was doing and explore the themes I had just been given. In the last pages on Wells' novel I read:
    "It was a life," said Sarnac, "and it was a dream, a dream within this life; and this life too is a dream. Dreams within dreams, dreams containing dreams, until we come at last, maybe, to the Dreamer of dreams, the Being who is all beings."
     In the novel a man living 2000 years in the future falls asleep in a ruined city and dreams he is in the body and life of a man in London in the early 20th century. The dream is presented as an entirely real experience of another life.
     Another character in the novel reports a dream of a shorter, wilder life experienced in a very different body.
    "I dreamed the other day that I was a panther that haunted a village of huts in which lived naked children and some very toothsome dogs. And how I was hunted for three years and shot at five times before I was killed. I can remember how I killed an old woman gathering sticks and hid part of her body under a tree to finish it on the morrow. It was a very vivid dream. And as I dreamed it by no means horrible. But it was not a clear and continuous dream like yours. A panther's mind is not clear and continuous, but passes from flashes of interest to interludes of apathy and utter forgetfulness."
    The theme that personal evolution involves relations between past, present and future personalities - alternate and other selves - was of consuming interest to Wells, though many of his readers have missed this aspect of his work. After The Dream, he wrote Christina Alberta's Father, a novel in which a man of modest circumstances thinks he is simultaneously, across time, King Sargon of Akkad.
    The framing device of the dream was used repeatedly by Wells (see A Dream of Armageddon). He also makes us aware that a dream of this kind is more than a literary device; it is a portal to real experiences in other times and other worlds. I have heard that Wells himself dreamed of life as Sargon, who gets a glowing report in his Outline of History.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The man who invented telepathy

Frederic Myers, poet, classical scholar and psychic researcher of the Victorian era, knew the power of naming things. He valued words so highly that he chose to start, rather than merely end, his magnum opus Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death with a glossary, which is studded with his own coinages. This essential work sits on a shelf at my right hand, its home for many years.
    Every time I open these pages, another word jumps out that was invented by Myers. Some are part of our common vocabulary, like telepathy. Myers defined telepathy as the communication of impressions of any kind from one mind to another, independently of the recognized channels of sense.” The term literally means “feeling at a distance”; he chose to emphasize the emotional tone, the importance of feelings in telling you that a message is coming through. This takes us to the wisdom of the body and the emotional charge between people who are connected and/or in crisis.
     Many of Myers’coinages have not entered common English or even the technical lexicons of parapsychology; many will almost certainly never do so. Yet there is inspiration here for whole books:

            Psychorragy – a bursting through of psychic phenomena. 

Cosmopathic – Open to the access of supernormal knowledge or emotion, apparently from the transcendental world, but whose precise source we have no way of knowing.

Methectic – of communications between one stratum of a man’s intelligence and another; as when he writes message whose origin is in his own subliminal self.

Sometimes his verbal brilliance consists in repointing or combining more familiar words to give us a way to discuss things we could not easily express before.

Subliminal – Of thoughts, feelings, &c, lying beneath the ordinary threshold (limen) of consciousness, as opposed to supraliminal, lying above the threshold.
Supernormal – Of a faculty or phenomenon which goes beyond the level of ordinary experience, in the direction of evolution, or as pertaining to a transcendental world.

Myers goes on to explain that the word “supernatural” is often misapplied to phenomena which are part of nature though beyond the norms of common observation or experience:

The word supernatural is subject to grave objections; it assumes that there is something outside nature, and it has become associated with arbitrary interference with law. Now there is no reason to suppose that the psychical phenomena with which we deal are less a part of nature, or less subject to fixed and definite law, than any other phenomena. Some of them appear to indicate a higher evolutionary level than the mass of men have yet attained, and some of them appear to be governed by laws of such a kind that they may hold good in a transcendental world as fully as in the world of sense. In either case they are above the norm of man rather than outside his nature.

I confess to a great sense of affinity with Frederic William Henry Myers (1843-1901) and his lifelong quest to demonstrate that human consciousness can operate outside the body and survives it. In his privately printed Fragments of Inner Life (1893) he declared that “It has been my lot to be concerned in a work more important and more successful than anything in my own capacity or character could have led me to expect. I have been one of the central group concerned in a great endeavor; the endeavor to pierce, by scientific methods, the world-old, never-penetrated veil.” He is referring to his work with the Society for Psychical Research, of his he was a founder and remained a moving spirit throughout his life.
    His quest to find evidence that consciousness survives the body deepened after the suicide of a woman he loved but could never have. He carried it with him to the Other Side. Before his death he promised that he would seek ways to send back reports of his experiences in the afterlife. He appears to have kept that promise in remarkable narratives recorded in sessions with the remarkable medium Geraldine Cummins.
     I dreamed in March 2012 that I discovered a rich trove of materials from Myers. The materials were both manuscripts and recordings. Some of the transcriptions were faulty and needed to be revised; some of the recordings sounded as if the speaker had a cleft palate. But there were riches here quite unknown to the public. Walking and talking with a friend about how I would honor the dream, I played with the idea that I could reenter the dream space, bring back materials and produce corrected and finished versions. I sensed a stir of supernormal activity around me as I talked, of spirits fluttering like birds or bats. There was nothing sinister about these lively shades; their presence added to my enthusiasm for my project. However, this is one of many ventures that are still in my pending box.
     I do honor Myers by trying to come up with new words to describe interesting supernormal phenomena One of my recent coinages is kairomancy, the art of divination by special moments, or navigating by synchronicity.

Dream Telepathy on Running a Writing Retreat

Here’s example of long-range telepathy at work between a dreaming and a waking mind that involves the writing process.
   I kept vampire hours that night, mining old journals for material for new writing. I paused from time to time to look at plans for my writing retreat, “Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming”.
    I was ready to go to bed when I received an email from my friend Ana Maria Stefanescu, who hosts my workshops in the mountains of Romania. She reported that she had just awakened from a dream in which I gave her ideas and exercises she could use in a creative writing workshop she was planning to lead in Romania the following month. She woke up very excited, but still tired. Certain that she would be able to remember what she had learned, she allowed herself to drift back to sleep, then woke again to find that most of the content was gone.
     She requested me to show up in her dreams again and repeat the instructions!
     I countered with the following suggestion: "Maybe you can go back inside your dream and get Dream Robert to give you those ideas and exercises again!"
     Ana Maria agreed to try. An hour later, she reported her conversation with Dream Robert. “You gave me a wonderful exercise. You told me to take participants in my writing workshop on a journey to the place from which their truest words come.”
     Unknown to Ana Maria, I had actually led an exercise along these lines in my own writing retreats and had been looking over notes about that while she was dreaming. Such exploration inspired my poem, “A Place to Write From (Red Ink)”.

Write from the place that is raw
from the night when you lost your skin.

The episode reminded me of Mark Twain's experience of what he called "mental telegraphy" in the case The Great Bonanza book.
One afternoon, he was seized with the passionate conviction that a great book could be written about the silver bonanza in Nevada. He felt his old newspaper colleague William Wright (better known under his pen-name “Dan De Quille”) was the man to do it. But Mark Twain was so possessed by the idea that he roughed out a book outline and sample chapters to get his old friend started, in a blue haze of cigar smoke in the billiard room of his Hartford house. He was preparing to mail all this material to Wright when he received a package in the mail. Before opening the package, Mark Twain told the people with him that he was going to deliver a "prophecy"; he declared that the package contained a letter from his old friend Dan De Quille, with his drafts for a book on the Great Bonanza. And so it did.
This incident convinced Mark Twain not only that mental telegraphy is real, but that it can be strong enough to transport the complete content of a book across a continent. When he studied the exact chronology of the crossed letters, Mark Twain concluded that “mesmeric currents” had streamed from west to east. “It was your mesmeric current that flowed across the mountains & deserts three thousand miles & acted upon me.”
     Minds resonate with each other, and in doing this transfer ideas and messages, back and forth. When we send out our best thoughts,the results can be wonderfully creative, whichever way the currents are blowing. 


Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming is one of my favorite workshops, I am leading this five-day residential adventure at two locations this year: at magical Mosswood Hollow,in a red cedar forest 45 minutes from Seattle in May, and on a beautiful country estate at Ryzmburk near Česká Skalice in northern Bohemia, where I took the photo above, in August. Ana Maria is hosting a new four day workshop for me on magical dreaming and kairomancy at a lovely villa near Bran in Romania.

For a full account of Mark Twain's experiments in mental telegraphy, please see The Secret History of Dreaming.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Choose the Day

Carpe diem, goes the old Latin tag. “Seize the day.”  The sole commandment of conscious living is no less proactive, but more conscious: choose the day.
What we encounter on any day has a great deal to do with what we bring to that day. We draw or repel different events and encounters according to our attitudes and the basic energy we are carrying. We find doors open or closed according to our willingness or refusal to change our expectations and our plans as circumstances change.
We choose every day, whether we are aware of this or not. If we tell ourselves we have no choice, that is a choice we are making. If we tell ourselves that we have no choice because a situation is beyond our control, we forget that we can still choose our response to the world, and that can change everything. Whenever I hear someone — perhaps a voice within myself — bleating or protesting that the world is cruel and can't be changed, I think of Viktor Frankl in the nightmare of Auschwitz.
At the close of a beautiful week of soul healing and shared dreaming in one of my Active Dreaming workshops, I asked the members of our circle to choose the day, in a personal statement. Here's a sampling of what they said:
“I choose to be present today with all of my senses.”
“I choose to have Tiger in my heart.”
“I choose to follow my soul's purpose.”
“I choose to see my waking life as a dream.”
“I choose to travel with the energy of the group.”
“I choose to be compassionate.”
“I choose to be a survivor.”
“I choose to soar with the bird and see my roads from a higher perspective.”
“I choose the fire.”
My own statement, on that day: “I choose to live as if everything matters.”
Truth, in our lives, is what we remember and act upon. Lists of rules or intentions can become like grocery lists; we are forever in danger of forgetting items or getting what matters mixed up.  So my list of personal commandments reduces to this: Choose the day. The content of that choice is less important than the consciousness that we have a choice and need to approach life, on any day, as choosers, not spectators, victims, or consumers.

Text adapted from Active Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: Path of Magic at Mosswood Hollow by RM. This is where I lead extraordinary adventures and trainings, including my five-day residential retreat "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming", one of the most unusual creative writing workshops on the planet.

Why we are losing our dreams

Too many of us have lost touch with our dreams. It's no exaggeration to state that our society is suffering a severe and protracted dream drought. 
   From the viewpoint of many spiritual traditions, this is a very serious condition. It's through dreams, say the Navajo, that humans keep in touch with the spirit realm. If you have lost your dreams, say the Iroquois, you've lost part of your soul. "It is an age-old fact," declared the great psychologist C.G.Jung in his last major essay, "that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions." 
    There are three main reasons for the dream drought in many modern lives:

1. Bad habits. 

The rhythms and routines of a typical urban life simply don't support dream recall. Too often, we are jolted awake by alarm clocks - or bed mates, or kids who need to get to school - and stumble out into the world, fueled with caffeine, to try to get through our rounds of deadlines and obligations. In many situations, we have nothing that supports and rewards the habit of taking time to collect our dreams. Most of us also lack a practice for creating a safe space where we can share our dreams, receive helpful feedback, and be supported in devising creative action to embody the guidance and energy of our dreams. If we don't do something with our dreams, we will not dream well.

2. Fear and regret. 

We run away from our dreams because we think they might be telling us something we don't want to hear - about the dark side of ourselves, or trouble or illness ahead. We slam the door and say "it's only a dream." This is a poor strategy. Issues we leave unresolved in the night are likely to come round and bite us in the rear end in the everyday world. 
    Alternatively, we dream of something wonderful - of joy and delight with Mr or Ms Right, of a dream home, a dream job, a world of peace and beauty. But when we wake up we tell ourselves there's no one like Mr Right in our life, or we don't have the looks or the money or the ability to manifest what we enjoyed in our dreams. So we kiss off the dreams, telling ourselves they are "only" dreams. Again, this is a foolish reflex. If we can dream it, we may just be able to do it.

3. Artificial sleep cycles. 

Very often our concept of a good night's sleep is at odds with our dreams. Many of us believe - supported by any number of sleep doctors and pharmaceutical companies - that we need to spend seven or eight hours each night in uninterrupted sleep. This idea would have amazed our ancestors. Before the advent of artificial lighting (gas and then electricity) most humans experienced "segmented sleep" divided into at least two distinct cycles, a "first sleep" and a "second sleep" as they used to be called in England. 
    Experiments by a team led by Dr Thomas Wehr for the National Institutes of Mental Health suggest that, deprived of artificial lighting, people revert to the ancient sleep plan, with an interval of several hours between the two sleeps.One of the most interesting findings of Wehr's research was that during this interval subjects typically register elevated levels of prolactin, a pituitary hormone that helps hens to brood peacefully on their eggs for prolonged periods, and assists humans to lay eggs of a different kind, but putting them into a benign altered state of consciousness not unlike meditation. Sleep historian A.Roger Ekirch says flatly, "Consolidated sleep, as we experience it today, is unnatural." 
    The French had a charming word for the liminal state between two sleeps: dorveille, which literally means wake-sleep. Among indigenous and early peoples, it's a time when you might stir and share dreams with whoever is available. It's a highly creative state, so much so that in my Secret History of Dreaming I have called it the "solution state", based on the many scientific discoveries, and other breakthoughs, have come in this zone. While we are primed or medicated to give ourselves just one longish sleep period,we are limiting our chances of recalling and sharing dreams, and depriving ourselves of easy access to the fertile field of hypnagogia - the images that come and the connections that are made - between sleep and waking.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Your dreams are doorways for lucid adventure travel and healing

Dreams are real experiences and a fully remembered dream is its own interpretation. The meaning of a dream is inside the dream itself. We release it by learning to go back inside our dreams in a relaxed state. By learning how to reenter dreams, you will develop the ability to clarify messages about future events, resume contact with inner teachers, and resolve unfinished business. Through this method, you will place yourself in closer attunement with the creative source from which dream images flow.     
      As a natural side benefit, you will probably also find that you are increasingly able to embark on conscious dream journeys from a waking state, and retain awareness that you are dreaming as you move deeper into the dreamscape. You may indeed discover that dream reentry is a royal road to lucid dreaming: you start out lucid and stay that way.

      To understand this process, we need to get one thing clear: the dream you remember is not the dream itself. By the time you are fully awake, you have forgotten 90 percent, if not more, of your nocturnal adventures. A partner's love bite, a ruckus in the street, a child tickling your toes, the need to get to the office, can shoo away most of your remaining memories.By the time the editor in your waking mind has finished processing and tagging the scraps that are left, your dream memories may be quite remote from the dreams themselves. At best, they are souvenirs from a journey.
    Suppose you fly down to Rio and bring home a few snapshots of Sugarloaf Mountain and bathers in string bikinis on Copacabana beach. How much of your adventure is contained in the photos? Do they carry the smell of palm oil, the bittersweet tang of batida de limão, the slap of a tropical rainshower? Or the drama at Customs, the rippling laughter of the girls in the samba school, the dance of your nerve endings when you entered (or renewed) a romance that woke up all your senses? Of course not. However, as you study the pictures, you may find yourself sliding back into the fuller experience.
    Dream memories are like this. Even as snapshots, they are often unsatisfactory: out of focus, with key characters missing their faces, subject to multiple exposures and mess-ups in the dark room. But with practice, you can learn to use these blurred images as windows through which you can reenter your dreams, continue the adventure and bring back valuable gifts.
    Dream reentry requires two things: your ability to focus clearly on a remembered scene from your dream, and your ability to relax, screen out distractions, and allow your consciousness to flow back inside that scene.If there are scary things inside the dream you are nervous about confronting, or if you have difficulty relaxing into a flow of imagery, you may find dream reentry easier if you have a partner to talk you through the process, or the support of a whole circle.
    Shamanic drumming is an especially powerful tool for dream reentry, providing fuel and focus for the journey. Drumming enhances the possibility that you can invite a partner to enter your dream space with you to act as your ally and search for information you may have missed. I have made my own recording of shamanic drumming for dream reentry, "Wings for the Journey", now available for download.


  • You want to have more fun
  • You need to move beyond fear and nightmare terrors
  • You need to clarify the meaning of the dream – for example, to determine whether it is literal, symbolic or the experience of a separate reality
  • You need specific information from the dream – for example, the exact time and place of a possible future event, or the full text of something you saw in a book or an inscription.
  • You want to talk to someone inside the dream.
  • You want to claim a relationship with a spiritual ally who appeared in the dream
  • You want to try to change something in the dream.
  • You want to bring through healing
  • You want to get in touch with a part of yourself you encountered in the dream
  • You want to enter creative flow and create with dream energy
  • You want to use your dreams as portals to the larger reality.


The Realtor's familiar slogan applies to the technique of dream reentry as well as to the property game. The easiest way for you to go back inside a dream is to hold your focus on the dream location. Your initial memories may be fuzzy but a single landmark - even a single shape or color - may be sufficient to enable you to shift your consciousness into a vivid and complex scene.
    Be open to possibility! The geography of the dreamworld is not that of MapQuest. In dreams, you may find yourself in familiar locales, including places from your past - Grandma's house, or your childhood home - that may or may not have changed. You may visit unfamiliar but realistic locations, often clues that your dream contains precognitive or other psychic material.
    Your dream location may prove to be in a parallel world where one of your parallel selves is leading a continuous life.  You may find yourself in scenes from a different historical epoch (past or future), in a mermaid cove or in lands where the dead are alive. You may fall into an astral slum or rise to cities or schools or palaces in the Imaginal Realm, where human imagination, in concert with higher intelligence, generates worlds.
    One of the purposes of dream reentry is establish where in the worlds you are. The typical dreamer, after waking, has no more idea where he spent the night than an amnesiac drunk.


The best time to reenter a dream is often immediately after you have come out of it. By snuggling down in bed and rehearsing the postures of sleep, you may be able to slid back inside the dream space in a gentle and natural way. But you work schedule may not allow you to do this. And if your dream contains deeply disturbing material, you may need to wait until you have the resolution and resources to face that challenge on its own ground - which you will probably find is the sovereign remedy for nightmare terrors and frustrating dreams.
    There is no such thing as an "old" dream when it comes to choosing the portal for dream reentry. What matters is that the image that you choose should have real energy for you. I have seen people who had been missing their dreams for thirty years take the last dream they remembered - sometimes from childhood - and use it as the portal for a lucid shamanic journey, powered by drumming, with stunning results. The gifts sometimes extend to soul recovery, to bringing home the beautiful young dreamer who checked out of a life when the world got too cold and cruel, leaving the adult bereft of dreams.

Part of this text is adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by Three Rivers Press.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Soul's Homecoming

In the journey of the hero (or heroine) of a thousand faces, the homecoming is often the most difficult passage. A large part of the Odyssey is devoted to the trials and battles of the hero after he makes it back to his homeland. I wrote a poem about this at the end of leading a deep adventure into soul recovery and soul remembering.

The Return Journey

You found the courage
to turn on the tiger who pursued you
to fight with him hand to claw
to be swallowed and spat out
and to win through your losing
reforged in a shining body
worthy now to take his heart
and call him as your unswerving ally.
It is not enough.

Out of your yearning
you danced into worlds of enchantment
you drank from the breasts of the Goddess
where kisses flower into hyacinths
caresses stream into rivers of milk
every nerve ending is a partner in love
and hearts are never broken.
You discovered that dreaming is magic.
But it’s not enough.

As a confident traveler, you learned
to shrug off your bodyshirt
and ride the World Tree
as your private elevator
to soar through the face of the moon
dance with the Bear among the stars
to enter the sun behind the sun
and fly on wings of paradise over a fresh world.
You’re out there, but it’s not enough

Out of your calling
you braved the gates of the Underworld
and crossed the borderless river on your heartbeat
and tricked the Dark Angel in his own realm.
When you stood, defeated, before the impregnable walls
of Death itself, you raised a song from your heart and belly
that called help from the highest heaven
to pluck a soul from the cold recreation yard
where nobody plays new games.
But you must make the return journey.

The way back is full of diversions.
Some will detain you with pink kisses;
some will drag on you as drowning men
You’ll find the markers have been moved, or stolen.
Maybe you’ll have gone so deep, or so high
you can’t remember which world you left your body in.
Or you’ll rebel against returning to a world
where hearts are broken, and the earth defiled.
You will return. This is your soul’s agreement.

Now you have danced with the Bear
you will bring healing to the world of pain.
Now you have traveled the roads of soul
you will help the soul-lost to bring their children home.
Now you have flown as Apollo on a shining arrow
you will bring light into the shadow world.
Now you know the gates and paths of the Real World
you will make bridges for others.
You will bring it all home.

Returning, you will remember your mission:
To serve the soul’s remembering;
to go among people as dream ambassador
opening ways for soul to be heard and honored.
Let the world be your playground, not your prison.
Starchild, plunge with delight into the warm, loamy Earth,
Renew the marriage of Earth and Sky,
Follow your heart-light, dance your dreams,
Commit poetry every day, in every way.
Now you are home.

This poem is in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming published by Excelsior Edition

Art: Odysseus and Calypso by Arnold Bocklin