Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Learning the language of the birds, Australian syle

“Nothing is nothing”, they say in the Cape York peninsula. Everything speaks of something else, and to something else. The spirit world and the physical world are interfused. The distance between them is the width of an eyelid, and no distance at all if the strong eye is open.
     You know when it is the right time to do something by listening to the land, by recognizing those things that like to happen together. The Yolngu of the Northern Territory know when food is ready to be gathered in certain places because they notice things that like to happen at the same time. When flower blooms in one place you know it is time to harvest in another. When that tree blossoms you know the yams in another spot are ripe and ready to eat. You do not check the calendar for the date of that big initiation ceremony; you know it’s about time when a certain fish is jumping in the river, big and fat.

     You learn that the birds are a whole telephone system. Night hunting birds, like owls, are powerful spirits whose call can mean that someone close to you is about to die. Listen carefully to the kingfisher, who lent wings to Jung’s Philemon. Kingfisher can see ghosts. If it calls out ekwe, ekwe, ekwe, watch out for a ghost attack that could inflict illness or even death.
     Little willie wagtail is a shaman of shamans among the bird tribes, He dances like a made man in ceremony when he jitters sideways. Watch willie wagtail for any unusual behavior, because this means news is coming. “Him good telephone that fella,” a Ngarrindjeri woman of the Lower Murray told Philip Clarke, who has been helping to map the Aboriginal landscape. *
     Listen to water as well as earth, to the voices in a billabong, to the song of a river. Today the indigenous fishermen of the Torres Islands see and feel the “scars on the water” caused by boat propellers and pollutants. Their shaman, the zogo le, flies on the wings of sea eagle, and sees with his keen eyes.

*Philip Clarke, Where the Ancestors Walked: Australia as an Aboriginal Landscape. (Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2003) 23.

Photo: Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus). Australian Museum

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tracking the Traveler

I can only keep up with him by becoming him. When I come home from our travels, I am not quite myself and no longer him. When we part company, I am left to pore over scraps of memory like the things I find in my pockets and on my phone after a regular plane trip: a boarding pass, a bus ticket, a foreign banknote, a scribbled love note, random photos of far-away cities and beaches and train stations.

It is now one of my ongoing undertakings to track the Traveler through my journal reports. Here he seems to be very like my present self, just two days ahead of me, on my present probable event track. Sometimes he is much further ahead, or on a different – mildly or radically – event track, or he is in another body in another time or another world. Is the traveler sometimes in a different body in this world, like the kids in  the Japanese film “Your Name”? Perhaps. I think back to the body swapping dream of many years ago when the Traveler tries on at least three different bodies – of a black athlete, a rich Republican country club type, and finally an older, eccentric scholar much like my current self.

I think of the dream in which I am dressing up in a blue satin ballgown, excited by the prospect of turning on my boyfriend. I wake wondering whether I have been in a woman’s body. This doesn’t feel quite right. My excitement in the dream is surely male arousal, within a man’s anatomy. Confused, I look out the window and see a tall black transvestite, gorgeously attired in a long blue satin ballgown, teetering down the steps on stiletto heels on the arm of her boyfriend. 

I like to play with words in English. The Traveler plays with words in many languages. One morning I was left with an unlikely phrase in French, on acccable par les hochements. This could be a newly-minted saying with the sense of “yessing someone to death”, or a commentary on the storm surge of Hurricane Irma, or both. Now I remember the Traveler’s effort to find the right words to greet Stalin at lunch in Ufa in the midst of World War II. He sought an edge of humor while trying to avoid getting his throat cut. He managed, in the Georgian language.

I am beginning to think that the moment of lucidity, in a sleep dream, is often the moment when the self that has been dormant in bed – or somewhere else altogether – catches up with the Traveler. It may be a moment of self-possession, of taking control of a vehicle that has been traveling under the direction of an autonomous self, like the captain of a ship coming back on board and taking over from a junior officer or crew member. However, the person in the wheelhouse may decline to give over control, and a sudden rebuff may result in falling out of the dream (for the person who wakes in the bed) and the Traveler’s disappearance from radar. So it could be like a horse bucking a would-be rider.

Just as I now seek to track the Traveler, I now watch the person who is writing these lines. I see him fumbling with his nautical analogy. I like the bucking horse analogy better, though we lose the notion that there may be a second rider. I am not going to play editor or critic. The writer’s attempt to model and understand what is happening in his many lives is part of his story, the one on which I will put the name we use in the ordinary world.

When I am the Traveler. leaving my body consciously on astral excursions the journey often begins at a certain threshold, a gap between the worlds, in a twilight of the mind. I may find myself floating upwards. I roll over and as I do so I feel something pulling loose from my physical body. Lights flash at the top of my head and I find myself being drawn up into a cone of light, like a pyramid with an opening at the top. 

There are days when, flat on my back under a tree, I fall upwards into the bowl of the sky, like Rumi. There are nights when I feel I am about to blast off like a rocket, or be blown from the mouth of a cannon, through circles of red within black. Or I find myself stripping off, shedding the body like a snake skin, dropping it like an old overcoat. When the travels begin, I often find myself looking at geometric pattern. It may be a glowing energy grid. It may resemble the weave of a carpet, or the strands of a net.

I find it soothing to study parallels for my dream travels, and my relations with the Traveler, in reports of anthropologists and mythographers. I find again, in A.P.Elkin's Australian classic Aboriginal Men of High Degree, conformation that the projection of a dream double was a primary skill of indigenous shamans in my native country. 

Among the Aborigines of Walcott Inlet it was believed that the high god Ungudd summons potential shamans through dreams. Those who had the courage to answer their calling faced a terrifying trance initiation in which they saw themselves killed and dismembered. The potential “man of knowledge” is reborn from this ordeal with a new brain, filled with inner light, and a new body, filled with shining quartz crystals. He now has the ability to send his dream double, or ya-yari, outside his body to gather information. His shamanic powers are described by an interesting term, miriru. Elkin explains its meaning as follows: “Fundamentally it is the capacity bestowed on a medicine man to go into a dream state or trance with its possibilities.” 

In a book of paintings by Father Arsenie Boca, a celebrated Romanian Orthodox priest and mystic whose church I once visited and who rises from his grave to visit Romanian friends in their dreams, I find clear depictions of an astral double operating beyond the physical body. In the mythology of Egypt, I find the belief that the god Ra has no fewer than fourteeen Ka souls, or astral doubles. I must have further conversation with the Traveler about these matters. I am sure he has first-hand knowledge of how things are done in Egypt, and among the casuarina trees, and in the mountains of Transyvania.

For many related adventures, see my book Mysterious Realities: Tales of a Dream Traveler from the Imaginal Realm. 

Photo "Tracking the Traveler at RatiboĊ™ice" by RM

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ritual initiation inside the dream state: A story from India

Can a ritual performed in a dream be for real? In the sacred literature of India, there is no doubt. Mind you, the ritual conducted in the dream world may involve living a whole life in another reality. The remarkable story of King Lavana, as recounted in the Yogavasistha, is an example.

In the lush country of the northern Pandavas, a king called Lavana performed a complex religious ceremony in his mind. It was the sacrifice of royal consecration, which made him a true king. What he accomplished in his imagination was entirely real. But there were consequences.
   Lavana is sitting on his throne when a magician appears, bows and invites the king to watch a marvelous trick. When the magician waves his peacock-feather wand, a man enters leading a horse. The king stares at the horse, transfixed, and then begins to fall from his throne. The servants catch him, but he is completely disoriented; he does not know where he is.
   When he recovers himself, he explains that he believes he mounted the horse and galloped away hunting across a great desert and into a jungle until he was pulled out of his saddle by a creeper and left swinging in a tree. He was starving by the time he was discovered by an Untouchable girl who agreed to rescue and feed him on condition that he married her and lived with her in her village.
   He spent sixty years with her, and had children, and ate carrion in cremation grounds, and forgot he had ever been a king - until a terrible drought struck the land and, in desperation, he ordered his son to kill him and eat his flesh. He was about to throw himself on the pyre when a great shout restored him to his throne.
   As he finishes this speech, the magician vanishes. It now becomes plain that what the fellow with the wand effected was no mere conjuring trick but a "divine illusion" designed to demonstrate the nature of reality.
   Lavana sets out to revisit the landscapes of his adventure - and finds the desert and the jungle he crossed, and the tree where he hung, and the village of the Untouchables and the crone who was his mother-in-law and recalls the king who married her daughter and the drought that destroyed the rest of the family. 

We eventually learn that Lavana's sufferings as an Untouchable were not only real but were arranged by Indra, to fulfill the ritual requirement that a king who performs the sacrifice of royal consecration must endure twelve years of suffering. By effecting the whole complex ceremony of the royal consecration in his mind - through an act of imagination - Lavana had accomplished instant initiation.

Wendy O'Flaherty comments on this tale from the Yogavasistha in her excellent book Dreams, Illusion and Other Realities: "To this day, many Indian sects hold that anyone who dreams that he is initiated has in fact been initiated." This has ancient precedent. In Vedic sacrifice, one priest serves as the witness. He does nothing except think the sacrifice while others make the physical motions.

Image: Indian king (Maharaja of Patiala) in 19th century picture

What if the dream angel spoke to you tonight?

"Can you imagine a modern American man coming to his wife, who had just had a baby, and saying 'I had a dream last night, and I received a message that we need to move to Mexico because our baby is in danger here'?  Can you imagine her discussion with her parents, as they’re packing up the house?  The conversation at work when they quit their jobs?"
     The question was put to me by a Christian friend after he read an article I had written on the dreams that saved the life of the infant Jesus. My friend continued:
     "Somehow we seem to think that lives 2,000 years ago were simpler, and that these decisions weren’t as 'big' as they would be today, but in an era when the average person probably never traveled more than 50 miles from the spot they were born, this was a very large decision indeed.  They knew how to listen."
      A thought transference exercise of this kind is like stoking a fire, and bringing the glowing coals under the cold ashes alive. It carries a fierce and luminous story that may have grown cold and gray through mindless repetition into blazing relevance for how we live today.
      My friend had further questions. "Where, and when, did we lose the ability to listen to our dreams? How do we get it back?"
       Here's part of the answer I give in my book Conscious Dreaming:

For centuries, the church applied crushing weight to deny the validity of personal experience in the worlds of spirit. Personal revelation is always perceived as a threat by religious monopolies. To impose its control over bodies and souls, the medieval church not only demonized half the cosmos; it demonized the dream source and the personal unconscious - a poor name for what is also our channel to higher consciousness.
     Carl Jung, the son of a Protestant minister who had lost his faith, observed that organized religion exists to protect people from a personal experience of the divine. Hopefully, we and our churches will evolve beyond the need for such defenses. In these things, there is simply no substitute for personal experience.
     If fear of dreams breeds witchfinders, it also spawns reductionists, who are perhaps more deadly (or at least more deadening) because they invoke scientific jargon in a society where 'science' is widely presumed to have all the answers. Turn a certain kind of scientist loose on the dreaming mind and you will soon be informed that dreams are hallucinations spawned by the wash of chemicals, or nonsensical clutter generated by random neural firing. Such findings are usually reported without a single reference to the researcher's personal experience of dreaming, which speaks eloquently about their value.
     There is all the difference in the world between a genuinely scientific approach and scientism, the dull ideology that denies the authenticity of what cannot be quantified and replicated under laboratory conditions. It is scientism, not genuine science, that is the enemy of dreaming. True science is hungry for fresh data and new experiments, ready to jettison theories that our understanding has outgrown, ever alive to the possibility that the universe (like the dream source) is putting bigger questions to us than our best brains can put to it. It is no accident that the pathfinders of modern science - Einstein and Pauli, Kekule and Bohr, even Sir Isaac Newton in his day - have been dreamers and practical mystics.

"How do we get it back?"

I've spent nearly thirty years in that cause, and have founded my own school of Active Dreaming, training dream teachers from more that 20 countries. Part of what we help people to understand - to revert to my friend's initial questions - is the need for discernment. Working with dreams, as with any other source of information, we want to check the reliability of our sources and fact-check the details. Active dreamers learn to do this in a  number of ways, for example by (a)  identifying and trusting their true feelings and gut instincts about a dream; (by) getting feedback from others according to the quick, clear and action-oriented Lightning Dreamwork process and (c)  mastering the art of dream reentry, which means going back inside a significant dream, wide awake and conscious, to develop further information and dialogue with the source.

Image: Russian Orthodox icon of the archangel Gabriel

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dreaming humanity's path

I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.

If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.
Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.
“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.
In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

4. The Care of Souls.
As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our lost children and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.
In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.
Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.
When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.
The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.

9. Walking the Path of Soul.
The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.

Photo by RM: Dream sharing in one of the retreats I lead for Active Dreamers twice a year on a magic mountain in the New York Adirondacks. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

How a Physician Was Called to the Medicine Bear

A woman physician in Alaska dreamed that her two grandmothers, one Athapaskan Indian, the other Euro-American, paid her a visit in the same dream. They told her, “Go to Robert Moss. You need to meet the Bear. Until you meet the Bear, you will only be a doctor, not yet a healer.”
    At the time, the doctor had never heard of me. But she made a search and immediately pulled up the details of a workshop I was leading in Oregon a few weeks later. The title of this program was “Dancing with the Bear: Reclaiming the Arts of Dream Healing.” The physician did not hesitate. She booked a plane ticket, flew down the coast, drove in a rental car out to a small center near Bend, and was soon singing an indigenous song to call in the healing power of the Bear. On our first morning together, we journeyed together down into the Cave of the Bear to receive its gifts.
    After the drumming, the physician from Alaska came back with tears of joy in her eyes. She told us, “I now know what is required for me to be a true healer as well as a physician. When my patients come to me, they will get the best that modern medicine has to offer. At the same time, they will receive the healing power of the Bear because that is all around me.” She told me later that when she worked with patients in her office, she felt Bear paws over her hands, gently guiding her in diagnosis and healing. And that when she had to accompany a patient to an operating room, she would get everyone present - nurses, orderlies, even the occasional radiologist - to sing the song I had given her to call the Bear.

Art by Cristina Craciun. In RM private collection

Monday, June 17, 2019

Dreaming with Einstein

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.

- Albert Einstein

 While leading a workshop in Chicago, I recorded the following dream:

 Einstein tutors me on time travel

I enter a landscape that can be folded like a map, or crumpled so that points that would normally appear distant in time and space are next to each other. I see a beaming Einstein figure sailing across the vista. He seems to be gliding in midair, but may be traveling across the surface of an invisible screen.
      Einstein wants to talk to me, and begins to speak in a thick German accent. I am amazed, delighted and skeptical. Who would a great scientist wish to communicate with a scientific ignoramus like me?
      Einstein explains that there are two reasons. First, from his current vantage point he has an even greater appreciation of the value of dreams and the central role of dreaming in our future science. Second, he reminds me that he was always a dreamer, and that his greatest discoveries were the fruit of his dreaming. “Dreaming was central to my lifelong work, from my vision at sixteen of riding a beam of light.”
     Einstein tells me that dreaming will help to unlock the secrets of time travel – which could, however, be a mixed blessing. He continues to insist on the physical impossibility of human travel backwards through time. On the other hand, according to “my” Einstein, it is possible to enter the past and interact with beings and situations in the past in other ways – for example, by materializing a body at an earlier time or by occupying the body and awareness of a person living in that time.
    “Higher entities are capable of direct intervention in any time,” says my dream Einstein, who proceeds to tutor me on the existence and nature of five-dimensional (and higher-dimensional) beings who are not confined to the rules of the universe, even the relative universe. 

 This is one of a series of dreams and visions in which “Einstein” has appeared to mentor me on the structures of multidimensional reality. He gave me a very interesting working model of synchronicity described in my book Sidewalk Oracles. Some of his dream transmissions are extremely complex. I have shared some of my reports with scientist friends who can compare this material with their own explorations in string theory, particle physics and the nature of time. Sometimes we journey together, into a shared dreamscape – like the scene in which a landscape is folded like a map, or the courtyard beyond a Chinese gate where Einstein introduced me to Fu Tsi, the legendary creator of the I Ching, and explained why the I Ching is an accurate model of the universe and its patterns of manifestation.
    Whether “my” Einstein is an aspect of myself, or a fantasy figure, or a holographic legacy of a great mind, or the scientist himself, making a visit from his research center on the other side, this ongoing dream series is provocative and thrilling, and gets me thinking about what dreamers and scientists have to offer each other.

In the wake of the Einstein revolution of 1905, physics became a science of uncertainty, improvisation and wonder. It revealed that behind the seemingly solid surface of things is an incredible dance of energy, or pure consciousness. It showed us that time and space, as we experience them on the way to the office or to pick up the kids from school, are not conditions for any other kind of life in the universe, merely human conveniences (although they often seem more like inconveniences). 
   Today, popular hypotheses in physics suggest the following:

* Time travel into the future is possible.
* Time travel into the past may be possible. (Einstein, in his time and in my dreamtime, maintains that it is not a physical possibility for a human body – but allows, in the dream version, that it could be accomplished in other ways.)
* There is no firm separation between subject and object in the universe. The observer and the “outside world” he thinks he is observing are enmeshed together. Indeed, at subatomic levels, it is the act of observation that plucks events from a soup of possibilities.
* Humans have an innate ability to communicate and influence people and objects across a distance.
* The mind is nonlocal. Consciousness acts outside the brain and outside spacetime.
* Any event that occurs in the universe is immediately available anywhere as information.
* Our experience of reality, like our experience of linear time, is a mental construct. Change the construct, and we change our world.

The new physics shows us a universe that baffles common sense, a universe that operates along utterly different lines from one in which the commuter train   leaves at 6:05 (if we’re lucky). Yet the findings of leading-edge physics have brought us scientific confirmation of the worldview of shamans, mystics and dreamers, who have always known that there is a place beyond surface reality where all things are connected, a place beyond time where all times are accessible, and that consciousness generates worlds
    How do we bring all of this together with our lived experience, our human needs, and our hopes for world peace and a gentle upward evolution of our species?
    Through dreaming.
    Dreaming, we swim in the quantum soup of possibilities, where the act of looking brings things into being. Dreaming, we discover the existence of alternate realities and parallel worlds – including dimensions that escape human conceptions of form – and can actively explore them.
     Dreaming, we confirm that consciousness is never confined to the body and that we can reach people and objects at a distance. Dreaming, we are time jumpers, able to visit (and possibly influence) both past and future. Dreaming, we can experience the six (or seven) “hidden” dimensions of physical reality, separated from our everyday sensory perception at the time of the Big Bang, that are posited by string theory.
     As dreamers, we can achieve experiential understanding of the multidimensional universe that science is modeling.
     As active dreamers and researchers inside multidimensional reality, we can contribute in important ways to what will be – if we are lucky – the foremost contribution of the twenty-first century to science and evolution: the emergence of a true science of consciousness.

Part of this text is adapted from Dreaming True by Robert Moss. Published by Pocket Books.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

On the Three Broad Bands of Dreaming

In our contemporary society, when people (including analysts and “dream experts”) take dreams seriously, they usually approach them from just one perspective, as sets of symbols to be decoded.
     Certainly our dream life is rich in symbols. Etymologically, a symbol is something that “brings things together” (what is “diabolical”, by contrast, is what divides and separates). Symbols help bring together our workaday mind and the workings of a deeper multidimensional reality. We need symbols to take us beyond the little we know, or think we know, to a richer and deeper understanding of everything.
     So we dream in symbols. But we also experience dreams that need to be taken literally rather than symbolically, because they give us a clear perception of events that are unfolding or will unfold in physical reality or in another order of reality that is no less “real”. They are experiences that take place within two broad bands of dreaming that should not be confused with symbolic dreaming.
     One of those broad bands involves the ESP that works naturally during dreaming, and  is part of our human survival kit. In dreams, our intuitive radar sometimes functions better than it does amid the clutter of waking life; we scout across time and space and glimpse events at a distance. To borrow language from the East, these are “clear” dreams or “dreams of clarity” (although on waking, we may struggle to retain clear and complete information from them).
      The other broad band of dreaming involves the dreams and journeys that are experiences of a separate reality somewhere in the multiverse. For active dreamers, this is the richest treasury of dreaming. We travel, consciously or not, to the realm that a great Sufi philosopher (Ibn 'Arabi) called “the isthmus of imagination”, which lies between the realm of the senses and the realm of the eternal. We have adventures in many other locales in the mutiverse, including parallel worlds, bardo zones, far-flung galaxies, and places where gods, demons and faeries are at home.
     So, as we reflect on a dream, let's remember to ask: Which band was I dreaming on - symbolic, clear, or MV (multiverse)?

Drawing: "Three Bands of Dreaming"by Robert Moss

Churchill’s Art of Vision Transfer

It’s June 1940. England stands alone against the Nazi horde that has overrun Western Europe, and Hitler looks invincible. Churchill, Prime Minister for just one month, speaks to the people and warns them of the stakes. If the British people fail to resist Hitler, the world will be plunged “into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”
     But defeatism is everywhere. It has rotted the British establishment, and keeps America on the sidelines. How can Churchill transfer the vision of possible victory against terrible odds? He delivers his most famous sentence: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”
    These words seized the imagination of a people. They transferred moral courage and confidence. Let’s notice two distinctive elements in Churchill’s vision transfer that helped it to take root in the minds of many.
    The first is the time shift. He carries his listeners with him into the far future, beyond current dangers into a time where everything has long been resolved. He persuades his audience that victory over Hitler is not only inevitable, but was won long ago - so brilliantly that anything that has followed looks like an anti-climax.
      Then there is the shift to the witness perspective. He stirs us to do our duty now (‘brace ourselves to our duties”). But at the same time he lifts us, with his words, to a place above, a place of eagles. We look down on our current struggles from a higher level. The bigger self looks down on the smaller self, and says with admiration, “This was their finest hour.”
     Churchill brings his audience inside his tremendous imagination, where the war is already won.

We can learn from Churchill how to transfer a vision to someone in need of a vision.  Let’s review the two key elements.
First, we take ourselves – and then others – through the power of imagination to a future in which an issue or conflict has already been successfully resolved. We build a happy future we can believe in, and that imagined future gives us traction to get beyond current difficulties.
Second, we inspire those for whom we are spreading a vision to rise above the current worries, and look at everything from a bigger perspective. We invite them to inhabit the Big Story, not the old history and the thousand reasons why success is impossible.
We give them a bigger dream, and invite them to live that dream, and bring the world with them.

Adapted from Robert Moss, The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence andImagination published by New World Library.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Where's the rest of me?

Part of me is weeping against an ash tree beside a field of hay
Part of me checked out of this body at age three
Part of me never left London
Part of me is on an island of no-pain where I never have to grow up
Part of me never stopped fighting battles that cannot be won
Part of me never stopped winning battles that should not be fought
Part of me never left that marriage, or that early love
Part of me wears a lion robe lined with the night sky
Part of me remembers this as a fading dream
Part of me does not know he has more than one body

Part of me is teaching school in a dusty town in New South Wales
Part of me is painting with Kupka in a French garden
Part of me is an African witchdoctor dancing with spirits all night
Part of me is fighting the Magical Battle of Britain
Part of me is entertaining in a villa in the astral realm of Luna
Part of me is in the Cinema of Lost Dreams, lost in the movies

Part of me fights to leave my body whenever I suffer heartbreak
Part of me abandoned me when I gave up on a life dream
Part of me hanged himself from the World Tree but did not die
Part of me is swimming with manta rays in the South Pacific
Part of me is interrogating the ghosts of Egyptian sorcerers
Part of me keeps score by money and part of me flees from it
Part of me is the tiger and part of me is the sheep

Part of me stands at the center of all these selves
and reminds them of our family motto: Reviresco. I grow back
Part of me is weeping against an ash tree by a field of hay

-         - Ryzmburk, June 8, 2019

       Drawing: "Storm Bird Brings Me Back to Earth" by RM

Thursday, May 30, 2019

To converse with stars

He lives in a world lit mostly by fire. The Roman Empire has recently been split into two. Rome, the capital of the West, will soon fall to the Goths. The barbarians are inside the gates of Constantinople, the capital of the East. His home city of Cyrene, in what is now Libya, is under constant attack by marauding tribes; he is often up on the walls, standing sentinel, or training his neighbors and retainers to fight back.

He comes from a noble family that can trace its lineage back to the founders of Sparta. He has the best education of his day; he studied with Hypatia, the great woman philosopher and scientist of Alexandria. In brief seasons of peace, he enjoys riding around his estates, sampling the olive oil and the honey from his bees and the milk from his goats. His great loves are books - in an age where nearly everyone is illiterate - hunting and dreaming. His name is Synesius of Cyrene, and we should know it better, because around 404 he wrote a treatise On Dreams that is (in my opinion) the most helpful book on the practice of dreamwork to appear in the West until very recent times.

In an era when the great oracles of the ancient world are being overthrown, Synesius reminds us that dreams provide us with "a personal oracle" that goes with us everywhere. All we need do is pray for a dream, wash our hands, and set our heads on a pillow. Dreaming matters because it shows us the future, provides creative inspiration, reveals different aspects of who and what we are, offers guidance on all the business of life - and above all, because it "uplifts the soul", raising us from our everyday confusion towards the level of Mind.

As a writer and orator, Synesius reports on how dreams corrected his literary style and gave him ideas for speeches that allowed him to catch the ear of an emperor. He observes, correctly, that recording and telling dreams is great preparation for public speaking, because it gives us training in telling our stories well. Some of that story material is of course extraordinary and challenges us to expand our ways of expression: "It is no mean achievement to pass on to another something of a strange nature that has stirred in one's own soul."

As everyday practice, Synesius urges us to practice dream incubation (asking our dreams for guidance), to study personal markers or "forerunners" in dreams that clue us in to whether those dreams may reveal future events, and above all to journal our experiences. He advises us to keep both a "book of the night" for dreams and a "book of the day" for our observations of signs and symbols in the world around us. By the universal law of sympatheia "all things are signs appearing through all things" and "the sage is one who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe."

For active dreamers, the very best incitement to go dreaming that Synesius offers may be this soaring passage in which he encourages us to embark on an adventure that will take us far beyond the laws of our physical universe:

There is nothing that forbids the sleeper from rising from earth and soaring above eagles, to reach a point above the loftiest spheres themselves. He may look down on the earth from far above, and explore lands that are not visible even from the moon. It is in the power of the dreamer to converse with the stars and to meet the hidden powers of the universe. [my adaptation of the 1930 translation of On Dreams by Augustine Fitzgerald]

In 410, the formidable Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, persuaded Synesius to become bishop of Ptolemais. He was allowed to continue to live openly with his wife, to pursue his love of the poets who celebrated the old gods, and to practice and write about philosophy in the way of Plotinus. In the Hymns he wrote in his last years, we see Synesius making a marriage between the Christian revelation and Neoplatonist metaphysics, in verses that are sometimes very beautiful (but still await adequate translation). So we can call Synesius, at least retrospectively, the Bishop of Dreams. It is heartening to know that the early Church, in a time of violent contention, could make room for a philosopher who taught that we can become citizens of the deeper world by dreaming, and should allow no one to come between us and the sacred source that opens to us in dreams.

Image: Ruins of Ptolemais

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Dreaming to heal our lives

In our dreams, we have access to a personal doctor who makes house calls, provides an impeccable diagnosis of our physical, emotional and spiritual condition, and doesn’t charge a cent. If we are not in touch with our dreams, we are missing out on a tremendous resource for self-healing. Here’s why:

·         The body talks to us in dreams. It shows us what it needs to stay well and previews possible symptoms long before they manifest. If we recognize these messages from the body, and act on them, we may be able to avoid painful and costly medical intervention further down the trail.
·         Dreams are also experiences of the soul, and show us the spiritual sources of wellness and illness. The Iroquois say that dreams reveal the “secret wishes of the soul” – as opposed to the narrow agendas of the ego. If we honor the soul’s purpose, as revealed in dreams, we move towards health and balance. In traditional Iroquois practice, it is the duty of the community to listen to dreams in order to help the dreamer to identify and honor the wishes of the soul.
·         Our dreams provide us with fresh imagery and energy for self-healing.
·         By going back inside our dreams and consciously reshaping our inner dramas, we may be able to help shift the body in the direction of health.
·         Dreams invite us to reclaim vital soul energy lost through pain or grief or addiction. Absence of dream recall is sometimes a symptom of soul loss. Dreams in which we encounter a younger version of ourselves or return again and again to earlier scenes from our lives may be invitations to bring home parts of our energy and identity that went missing.
·         We can bring through dream guidance for others as well as ourselves.
·         Dreams give us a direct line to sacred sources of guidance and healing. In sacred sleep, the ancients not only sought diagnosis and healing images; they sought a direct encounter with the Divine Healer. We can ask for dream healing in the same way.

Here’s how to bring the energy and magic of dreams into daily life, in four easy steps:

1.       Make a date with your dreams

Before you go to sleep, write down an intention for your dreams. Make this a juicy intention – “I would like to be healed” or “I want to meet my soulmate” or simply “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.” Have pen and paper ready so you can record something whenever you wake up. Write your dream in a journal later, give it a title and see if you can come up with a personal motto or “bumper sticker” distilling the message or quality of the dream.

2.       Share dreams with a partner

Regular dream sharing is wonderful fun, builds heart-centered relationships, brings us fresh perspectives on our issues and helps to nudge us towards taking appropriate action to honor our dreams. You’ll want to begin by creating a safe space where you and your partner will give each other undivided attention. Whoever is sharing a dream should tell it as simply and clearly as possible, giving the dream a title. The partner then asks a few simple questions. Start by asking how the dreamer felt when she first woke up – the first feelings are usually an excellent guide to the general character and urgency of the dream. Ask the dreamer whether she recognizes any of the elements in the dream in waking life, and whether any parts of the dream might possibly be played out in the future.
   You are not going to tell each other what your dreams mean. You don’t want to steal the dreamer’s power, or to lose the energy of the dream in verbal analysis. You can offer helpful, non-intrusive feedback by saying to each other, “If it were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” Finally, you’ll want to ask the dreamer, “What are you going to do to honor this dream?”

3.       Act on your dreams

Dreams require action! If we do not do something with our dreams in waking life, we miss out on the magic. Real magic consists of bringing something through from a deeper reality into our physical lives, which is why active dreaming is a way of natural magic – but only if we take the necessary action to bring the magic through. Keeping a dream journal and sharing dreams on a regular basis are important ways of honoring dreams and the powers that speak through dreams. Here are some more suggestions:

·         create from a dream: turn the dream into a story or poem. Draw from it, paint from it, turn it into a comic strip
·         take a physical action to celebrate an element in the dream, such as wearing the color that was featured in the dream, traveling to a place from the dream, making a phone call to an old friend who showed up in the dream
·         use an object or create a dream talisman to hold the energy of the dream: A stone or crystal may be a good place to hold the energy of a dream, and return to it.
·         use the dream as a travel advisory: If the dream appears to contain guidance on a future situation, carry it with you as a personal travel advisory. Summarize the dream information on a cue card or hold it in an image you can physically carry.
·         go back into the dream to clarify details, dialogue with a dream character, explore  the larger reality – and have marvelous fun!

4.       Go back inside your dreams

When I started living in rural New York, I dreamed repeatedly of a huge standing bear. Though the bear never menaced me, it made me uneasy because it was several times my size. I realized that I needed to face the bear and find out why it kept appearing in my dreams. I made it my intention to go back inside my dream, and “brave up” to whatever I needed to confront. I stepped back into the dreamspace – as you might step back into a room you had left – and the bear was there, vividly real and tremendous.
    There was nothing cute or “made-up” about this encounter. I had to push myself to approach the bear. When I found the courage to step up to the bear, he embraced me and we became the same size. He showed me we were joined at the heart by something like a thick umbilical, pumping life energy. He told me he would show me what people need in order to be healed. I later discovered that the bear is the great medicine animal in Native American tradition, and that the most powerful healers of the Lakota are the members of the Bear Dreamers Society, composed of those who have been called by the Bear in dreams and visions.  Today, when I lead a healing circle, we call in the spirit bear.
    Our dreams may offer us gifts of power and healing that we can only claim by going back into the dreamspace and moving beyond fear or irresolution. We may need to go back inside a dream to overcome nightmare terrors, to clarify whether the dream is about a literal or symbolic car crash, to talk to someone who appeared in a dream, to reclaim our own lost children, to use a personal image as a portal to multidimensional reality – or simply to have more fun!
   Dream reentry is one of the core techniques that I teach and practice. If you would like to experiment, start by picking a dream that has some real energy for you. It doesn’t matter whether it is a dream from last night or from 20 years ago, as long as it has juice. Get yourself settled in a comfortable, relaxed position in a quiet space and minimize external light. Focus on a specific scene from your dream. Let it become vivid on your mental screen. See if you can let all your senses become engaged, so you can touch it, smell it, hear it, taste it. Ask yourself what you need to know, and what you intend to do inside the dream. And let yourself start flowing back into the dreamspace…
    In my Active Dreaming workshops, we use shamanic drumming - a steady beat on a simple frame drum, typically in the range of four to seven beats per second –to help shift consciousness and facilitate travel into the dreamspace. The steady beat helps to override mental clutter and focus energy and intention on the journey. If you are doing dream reentry at home, you may wish to experiment with a drumming tape or soft music. I have made a recording of shamanic drumming specifically for dream travelers.
    The applications of the dream reentry process for healing are inexhaustible. In this way, for example, we may be able to travel inside the body and help to shift its behaviors in the direction of health. In her wonderful novel for kids of all ages, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle describes a journey into a world inside one of the mitochondria of a sick boy; when things are brought into balance inside a particle of a cell, the whole body is healed. As we become active dreamers, we can develop the ability to journey in precisely this way. Our dreams will open the ways.

Illustration: "Serpent Staff in the Sky" by Robert Moss