Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Call of the Hawk


Many years ago, I spent a weekend driving around the upper Hudson valley of New York. I was profoundly dissatisfied with my life. From the outside, that life may have looked like a dream fulfilled. I was a bestselling thriller writer; publishers competed to offer me high six-figure advances, laid on stretch limos and made sure the Dom Perignon waiting for me in the hotel suites they paid for was perfectly chilled. And my life felt hollow. I knew I had to make a break with big cities and the fast track I had been on and get back in touch with the spirits of the land and my own deeper creative spirit.
      On that upstate weekend, a few miles from the village of Chatham NY, a Realtor showed me some land with a run-down farmhouse that might be available. The house would need a ton of work, but as I walked the land, half of it still primal woodlands where the deer drifted in great droves, I knew in my gut this was a place I needed to be. I sat under an old white oak behind the house, feeling the rightness of the place but also that I needed a further sign.
     A red-tailed hawk circled overhead, dipping lower and lower, screaming urgently at me in a language I felt I ought to be able to understand. I did not speak hawk, but I could not fail to get a message when she proceeded to drop a feather between my legs.  That visitation by the hawk was the clincher. I purchased the farm, moved to the country, and soon found myself changing worlds, which is what can happen when we radically change the way we inhabit the world.
     When we had restored the farmhouse and moved in, I was drifting one night in that in-between state of consciousness the French used to call dorveille, sleep-wake. I found myself gently rising from my dormant body on the bed, in a second body, a dreambody - not an exotic experience for me, as far back as I can remember. I floated out over the night landscape, and found that in my dreambody, I had wings - the wings of a red-tailed hawk, scaled to my size. I had a marvelous time enjoying a highly sensory experience of flight, riding thermals, swooping and soaring, seeing the world at different angles.
     I found myself flying north, over Lake George and then Lake Champlain. I noticed the Northway and modern towns were missing from the landscape below me. I felt the tug of someone else's intention, and followed it, out of curiosity, to a cabin  in the woods somewhere near Montreal, where I was received by a beautiful, ancient indigenous woman. She spoke to me for a long time in her own language, her words like lake water lapping, while she stroked a beaded belt that hung from her shoulder, with the design of a she-wolf and human figures. I was fascinated, but did not understand a single word, any more than I had understood the language of the hawk. I knew I had been in the presence of a woman of power, and I hoped that, since this felt urgently important, more would be revealed.


The design of the belt, in my night vision, proved to be the equivalent of the hawk's feather: a way I could receive and confirm a message even though I lacked a necessary language. My first Iroquois friend - met later through an interesting series of coincidences - was able to show me a wampum belt identical to the one in my vision. It was in the archives of the New York State Museum at that time; since then it has been returned to Onondaga, the traditional capital of the Confederacy of the Six Nations of the Iroquois, or Longhouse People, among whom the Mohawk are Keepers of the Eastern Door. He told me it was believed that the belt was the credentials of an ancient mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk People.
    I entered deeply into the study of the traditions of the ancient dream shaman who had called me, when I was flying on hawk's wings. This opened to me ways of dreaming and healing that were possibly shared by all our ancestors, but which have become atrophied, when not actively suppressed, in modern society. I came to call the ancient shaman Island Woman; this  reflects the fact, which I was able to confirm through historical research, that she was captured as a young girl from the Huron/Wendat, called by the Mohawk the Island People, to be raised as Mohawk. In order to receive her teachings fully, I had to study the Mohawk and Huron languages, and reclaim terms from early sacred vocabulary.
     New dreams eventually called me to leave the land to which the hawk had called me and teach what I had learned about dreaming the soul back home and dreaming for our communities. We sold the farm to a woman who promised to conserve the land.
    As we were leaving the house, after our final checks, I was inspired to go back inside for no reason I could express. I heard a scuffling in the family room we had built, overlooking the old white oak. I found the noise was coming from the hearth. When I removed the firescreen, I found a young red-tailed hawk - a fledgling - that had somehow managed to fall down the chimney between my last two visits. My last action, on the land I acquired because of the hawk, was to carry the young hawk outside, next to my heart, and release her. She flew straight into the branches of the while oak where the first hawk had delivered her message.

The red-tailed hawk has become my most important bringer of omens. A hawk in good shape, flying my way or grabbing a good meal, will give me a surge of confidence for the day that has yet to be disappointed. A dead hawk in power lines will make me batten down the hatches and watch out for challenges.
    I was once very late for a phone interview with a California journalist who was irritated and pressed for time. I wasn't sure the interview was going to go well. She asked me to give an example of how I navigate by synchronicity.
    I was standing on the balcony of a villa overlooking Long Island Sound. Right below me, three bunnies had been scampering about in the grass. As I considered my response to the journalist's question, a red-tailed hawk made a vertical ascent, talons outstretched. It grabbed a bunny and shot straight up with its dinner in its clutches.
    Given my affinity with the hawk, I took this as a good sign, indicating that despite our bumpy start the interview would turn out fine. I was about to recount what had just happened when some inner caution made me pause. I was talking to a journalist for a Californian holistic magazine; for all I knew, she was a vegan who might be horrified by the scene of the hawk taking the bunny rabbit, especially if I reported it with the relish I was feeling. So I told her a black dog story and she loved it and the interview came out just fine. The hawk sign was, once again, reliable.




For fuller versions of my encounters with the red-tailed hawk and Island Woman, please see my books Dreamways of the Iroquois and The Boy Who Died and Came Back.


Drawings by Robert Moss





Saturday, July 14, 2018

Masks


“Put off your mask,” she says.
I tell her, “I’m not wearing one.”
“That is the best disguise.”
In this city, when people are unmasked
you see the false face behind the false face.

I do not speak of magicians.
They put  on masks to step into
the energy of an old god or a wild shaman,
a force of chaos, of disease or whirlwind,
and must then master that power
to bend it to their purpose.  If they fail
or wear the mask too long, it becomes poison.

Don’t wear any mask for too long
or you may find you have no face left
except the one molded by the role you played
or you can’t find yourself in a mirror
because you have become a ghost of the living.

- Mosswood Hollow, July 12, 2018


Friday, July 13, 2018

Griffin Rider

Track the griffin you once rode
to the airport where it lies caged and bound
under the control tower that plays
the jingle from the music box
you were given when you were six.
Free the winged lion. Feed it the manna
your controllers stole from its core.
See your bright dreamer awaken in its eyes.
Ride it again to find the girl whose mother let her
fall out of the sky but has been kept safe
in a garden on the dark side of the Moon.
When she is back in your heart,
ride to the House of Stone and Guilt
where the hag turns in circles of self-loathing
and offer forgiveness, the heart of healing.


- Mosswood Hollow, July 13, 2018


Image: Apollo Riding a Griffin

Monday, July 2, 2018

Bringing a Child Soul from the Well of Memory


In her dream, a woman comes to the edge of a deep well. She is horrified to discover that a beautiful but very sad young girl is drowning in the depths of the well. She wants to help. To do this, she must lower herself into the well. She loses her grip and falls. Now she is underwater. Her lungs are filling with water, her senses are swirling, she knows that she, too, is drowning.
    She remembers her intent to rescue the girl. As the will to do this revives in her, she discovers something amazing. She can breathe underwater. She swims to the drowning girl, grabs her, and carries her to the top.
    She was eager to tell me the dream.
   "First feelings after waking?" I asked the first question I ask, of any dream.
   "Relief."
   "Is there anything in the dream you recognize in the rest of your life?"
   "The sadness. I have often felt I am drowning in sadness."
   "What do you most want to know about this dream?"
   "I want to know about the well. Why is this happening inside a well?"
   "If it were my dream," I said, "I would think of the well of memory, and the well of emotions. This well takes me deep into life memories, and emotions that are powerful enough to drown me if I fail to set very clear intentions in taking the plunge. The well is also a portal, a doorway. In my dream of your dream, the young person who is drowning in the well is my own younger self. This dream has given me a way to reach to her, to connect with her and help both of us to move beyond that overwhelming grief and sadness. I feel that I can use this connection to support my younger self in her own time. I also feel that the connection between us will allow me to bring the vital energy, joy and imagination of my younger self into my present life."
    The dreamer was nodding vigorously. Her face had been creased with worry or anticipation earlier; now a lovely smile flowered in her features.
    "Such a dream requires action," I went on. "I would do two essential things to honor the dream and to use the doorway that has opened between me and my younger self. First, whenever I find myself thinking about sad things that may have happened early in life, I would consciously project thoughts of encouragement to my younger self in her own time. For example, I can tell her, You'll survive. You'll make it through. I promise you this. I believe that you really can reach your younger self, in this way, folding time. In doing it, though, you must remember not to succumb to the raw emotions of that earlier time. Your mission is to be the rescuer, as you were in your dream."
    More eager nods and smiles.
    "Next, if this were my dream, I would want to be sure to do things in my present life that my younger self would enjoy. Eat something she likes. Play a game she enjoys. Go to a place she loves. I would want to encourage the child part of me to see that I am fun and I am safe, so that we can enjoy a creative life together in the present time."
     The dreamer eagerly agreed to follow both these suggested plans. As her features continued to soften and brighten, I felt sure that she had drawn her beautiful girl self back into her energy field. This sense was confirmed by the brightness of spirit in her eyes.
     I noted that in English there is another meaning for the word "well", as in wellness.
     Any night, and day,we may go fishing for soul in the dream well.


Art: "Soul of the Rose"by John William Waterhouse (1908)

The woman who sent me notes from the lecture I gave in her dream


It's hard to keep track of 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.
      I am talking about the Traveler, the self who is not confined to my body or brain in dreams and journeys. I track the Traveler by recording his exploits – the ones I manage to catch – in my journal. In one report 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. 
    Sightings by others give me clues to the range of his excursions. On any given day, it is not unusual for me to receive 20 quite specific reports over the internet from people who say the dreamed of me, in addition to dreams of me shared in person by members of my workshops. My default response is to suggest that the dreamer might want to ask what part of them resembles Dream Robert in some way (for example, as dreamer, teacher, writer, traveler, large person with white hair). Yet I also know that dreaming is social as well as individual, transpersonal as well as personal, and I am aware that the Traveler leads adventures in the dream lands as well as in the physical world. 
    Some weeks after leading one of my 5-day adventures at the Esalen Institute, I received a note from one of the participants, a highly intelligent, spirited lady, a person with two PhDs who had explored consciousness in many ways. "I want to thank you for that wonderful lecture you gave last night."
    I checked the date. I had not given a lecture that evening anywhere in consensus reality. I had already intuited what she was telling me. She had attended a lecture I gave in one of her dreams. The woman from Esalen reported that in my lecture, I had listed, "very clearly and elegantly", five reasons why we misinterpret dreams about the future. I had written them on a whiteboard in view of the group.
    This gave me shivers. On that very day, I was laboring over a chapter in a book that was later published as Dreaming True. The chapter was titled "When Dreams Seem False" and on the first page I was developing a list of the five most common reasons why we misinterpret dream messages about the future. I was satisfied with my statement about the first reason we get these messages wrong. But I was not yet content with my formulation of the other four reasons, or the order in which they should appear on the page.
     I emailed the woman from Esalen. I asked her, "Any chance you kept notes from my lecture, or could reconstruct what I wrote on the whiteboard?"
     She responded within a couple of hours, sending me her version of Dream Robert's five points. They were expressed with admirable brevity, very much in my own style. Borrowing from my dream student's notes, I was able to compose the opening section of that chapter with almost no editing. Here's how it reads:

The five most common reasons why we misinterpret dream message about the future are:

1. We mistake a literal event for a symbolic one, or vice versa.
2. We misidentify people and places.
3. We fail to figure out how far in the future the dreamed event might be.
4. We see future events from a certain angle, that may not reveal the whole picture.
5. We confuse realities, confounding a dream that relates to external reality with dreams that are real experiences in other orders of reality.


    I often play the role of teacher in my own dreams, with many different audiences: with people I recognize, with people I will meet in the future, with people in countries I have not yet visited, with people in other orders of reality, including the afterlife. I have preserved hundreds of reports from people who say they have attended a workshop, a lecture, a ritual or some other type of training with me in dreams. I have learned to pay close attention to reports about Dream Robert's teaching activities, because sometimes I find that he is more than a few steps ahead of me. It's a rare student of mine who brings detailed notes back from the dreaming, but I am open to more. So if the Traveler says something interesting in your dreams, leads a new ritual or demonstrates a new exercise, please send me detailed notes. He is often a few steps ahead of me, as in the case of his lecture about why we miss dream messages.
   Let me hasten to add that if you dream of me and enjoy the experience, I am happy to accept the credit; if the experience wasn’t great, don’t blame it on me!





Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.


Photo: Dream coast at Esalen by RM


Saturday, June 30, 2018

The myths we are living swing on hinges into other lives


As some people use the word, myth is synonymous with fake news, or superstition, or outmoded hand-me down beliefs. A myth may be a prevailing worldview – that the earth is flat or the still center of the turning universe, that humanity begins with Adam and Eve, that the world is enthralled by a dark Demiurge. A myth may be a sacred teaching story that explains how the world came into being – and what is beyond it – and why bad things, as well as good, things happen, and what it means to be human. A myth may justify the ways of gods to humans, or those of humans before their Creator.
    A myth may introduce you, like the major arcana of tarot, to essential members of your archetypal family: to personified forces at play in your life and your universe. A myth may invite you to consider who among the gods defends you, and who has it in for you. A myth may also be a living reality beyond the realm of facts, a source of truth that cannot be confirmed in a laboratory experiment but may be evidenced by the data of raw experience.
    Your dreams can be a nightly screening of gods and archetypes. A dream may be your place of encounter with a Big story that is looking for you. It may call you to a tradition about which you previously knew nothing. Psychologist Betty De Shong Meador, author of Inanna: Lady of Largest Heart was called to study Inanna and her poet-priestess after a dream that involved the prayer flags of the great Sumerian goddess, Queen of Heaven and Earth, that were previously unknown to her.
     I was seized by Kali in a terrifying night vision – beginning with sleep paralysis – when I was fourteen. I wrote a cycle of poems in her honor. Later Kala, better known as Yama, became one of my principal mentors, reminding me to consider every life choice in the presence of Death.
     A little-known Celtic deity came into my ken in a series of dreams in which I was defending my property with a long-handled hammer, like a weaponized croquet mallet. Some shelf elf produced then image of a Gallo-Roman statue of a god with a similar hammer, named in the inscription as Sucellos, which means the Good Striker. He seems to share some qualities with Thor. He is also the consort of a great goddess of abundance, called Rosmerta by the Gauls and Abundantia by the Romans. 
   
    We confirm our relationship with a mythic power when it comes to our aid. Athena came to me like this in Anatolia when I incurred the wrath of another ancient deity, a story told in my new book Mysterious Realities. The Bear has come to me like this many times since it claimed me when I found the courage to step back into the space of a dream where it had terrified me.
     Myths are a cauldron of stories and symbols that hold superabundant energy for life. You want to become conscious of the myth you are living. If you are unconscious about this, then the myth is living you and you may be driven into confusion and disaster, like Odysseus when his men lose control of the winds. In different phases of life, we may inhabit – and be inhabited by – different myths. We may find ourselves in the play of rival stories. We may be able to match and mix.
    The great scholar of religions Wendy Doniger writes about the “seed text”, bija mantra. In her book Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India, this is the story of the goddess Saranyu (later called Samjna). Her father is the great Maker. He compels her to marry a hot, misshapen lump (who happens to be the Sun) who sires twins on her, Yama and Yami.  She can’t stand the male or the marriage, so she abandons her family. She makes sure that her defection will go unnoticed by creating a double, called Shadow (Chhaya) or Look-Alike and gives her copy clear instructions that she is never to reveal the swap to her husband. 
      Beyond the Indian names and exotic trappings, many of us may find a mirror for certain life situations in this myth. You can't abide a soul-crushing situation. So the spirited part of you takes off to run free, leaving a compliant copy in the house. Maybe no one will notice that you are soul-gone unless you overdo the Stepford Wife performance or do something completely out of character with the earlier you they remember. Wendy Doniger says that this story has kept after her for decades, prompting her to reach deeper and deeper into its well. Whenever she hears it, she says “That’s the story of my life.” 
      The myths we are living now swing on hinges into other lives, whose myths swing back at us. Because our present life dramas are connected with those of other personalities, in other places and times, within our multidimensional family, it is not surprising that “old” gods and “dead” religions feature in our spontaneous mythology, as mediated by dreams and visions and by moments on the roads of this world when we experience a hidden hand, pushing us forward or holding us back, or rearranging the stage set.


Image: The goddess Yami (also called Yamuna) and attendants, red sandstone sculpture from Rajasthan c.800 in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I am leading a high-octane weekend adventure in "Living on the Mythic Edge" in Berkeley, California on October 27-28, 2018/


Monday, June 25, 2018

Night of the Blue Bird


Sometimes all we need from our dreams is one simple image, bringing clarity and direction. In the midst of leading a soul recovery training in France, I set the intention of dreaming on behalf of the group. 
     In the middle of the night, my upstairs room in an old stone house at the Hameau de l’Etoile was filled with blue light. In the spectrum of blues, I would say that the color was azure. Amazed, I found the source of this light in a great blue bird suspended in mid air. The light shone from within it, as if from the heart of a crystal. In that light, I knew that all would be well and that great gifts would come to those who had made the journey to this little village of hope, in the Midi.
    The quality of this blue light reminded me of figures who have appeared to me in other visions of the night, especially one I call simply the Blue Lady, who has attended and prepared me for grand adventures between the worlds. I thought, also, of the blue-skinned deities of Egypt and India. My bird visitor had a crest on its head, bringing an unassertive sense of royalty and grace.
    I carried the wonderful energy of this vision with me as I went down for coffee in the refectory in the morning. “Good morning to your waking soul,” a member of my training greeted me, with a line from Robbie Burns. I shared my simple dream image by the hearth, and we fanned the ashes from the fire ceremony we had shared the previous night into new life. 

Art: Marc Chagall, "The Blue Bird" (1952)