Monday, August 31, 2009

What to do when you're eaten by T-Rex

"I was eaten by T-Rex." Brian, aged seven, was rocking in his seat with excitement, but his voice was very soft. The fifteen kids in the circle, plus parents and grandparents, leaned forward to hear him.
"Did T-Rex swallow you in one gulp?" Brian's grandmother asked, making her Adam's apple bobble as she mimicked something very big taking a big gulp. "Or did he kind of munch on you?"

"It was a big gulp." Brian's eyes shone. "Then I was falling down, down into T-Rex's belly. I found two eggs. I cut them open and there were two baby T-Rexes inside. They came out and they killed the big T-Rex and I was fine."
"How did you feel?" I asked.
You don't analyze a dream like this, whatever the age of the dreamer - at least not until you do something to grab the vital energy of the dream and embody it and bring it through. This wasn't a hard study with Brian's dream. We had a room full of excited kids and kids are naturals for dream theatre.
"Hey Brian, would you like to play-act your dream?"
He couldn't wait. He chose the two youngest children in the group, an angelic four-year old named Abby who had just created a picture with crayons and sketch paper from one of her own dreams - a picture of a wild thing she had given her own name - and a toddler who had proved a virtuouso with maracas and other noisemakers from our communal music box.
"Aunt" Carol, our host at the retreat center and a gifted counselor and dream teacher, was picked to play the snapping head of T-Rex, a tricky role since she couldn't stop beaming and laughing. There were plenty of dreamers, kids of all ages, to make up the body and tail of the beast. Soon we had the monster roaring and thumping around the room. Brian, playing himself, darted around the room, trying to hide behind the furniture, bis fate was preordained. He was swallowed by T-Rex, rolling over and over until, way down in the belly of the beast, he found the eggs and freed the baby monsters that saved him.
This was wild and happy and just-so, and everybody wanted more.
We play-acted other kids' dreams that reflected other strategies for dealing with deam monsters. A ten-year old girl dreamed that she was at school, on the way to lunch, when a "short monster" appeared that was "slimy and hairy" and started eating all of her classmates. "He couldn't eat me because I kicked him in the face." Play-acting that one produced a miniature stampede, as a very small boy, delighted to play the monster, rushed after the girl's classmates until he was hurled to the ground by a mimed kick in the face. Everyone laughed as the girl dabbed at the slime that was left on her foot.

A thirteen-year old girl in the group was pursued in her dream by people behaving like monsters. She put on bat wings and flew off to a special place. Here the adults weren't menacing but they were strangely frozen, as if they had been encased in blocks of ice. Thee was wild ocean in the scene, and when she slipped into it she became a killer whale and swam, with delight, with another orca that came to join her. When she returned to human form, the grown-ups were no longer threatening, as if she had brought power back from that special place of the killer whales.

These are scenes from my Sunday afternoon, from a playshop titled "Dreaming with Kids and Families". We had started out right, by drumming and making cheerful music to call up the dreams that wanted to play with us. Then everyone grabbed art supplies from the center of a the circle to make a drawing of a dream.
Also at the center of the room, we had placed a huge toy box, full of stuffed animals and puppets and plastic lizards. I invited the kids to grab any animal they liked. Then, since we were on traditional Mohawk Indian land, I had them join hands and voices in singing a simple Mohawk song that calls in the Bear - and with it, all of the animals - as helpers and protectors.

We discussed how, if you have a scary dream, it's good to know you have a friend who can help you out and take care of you. Little Abby came over to me and whispered confidentially, "I have a Bear. And I have lots of dream friends."

We broke every half hour for snacks of orange slices and chocolate chip cookies.
Towards the end, I opened my dream journal to a page where I had drawn a picture of Champie - the cousin of the Loch Ness monster who reputedly lives in Lake Champlain - swimming in the East River in front of the island of Manhattan, with delighted kids riding on his back. This was an image that had come to me, spontaneously, in a recent drumming circle.
"A journal like this where you draw your dreams and wite down your stories is a treasure book. I hope everyone here will now start keeping a treasure book. Ask the grown-ups who brought you to help you find the right ones. They can help you write down the words if you like. But there's one thng about a dream journal everyone should know. It's your special book, and if you don't want Mommy or Daddy to read it, you should tell them, 'This is my secret book' and they must respect that."
I asked it there were any questions.

Hands went up all around the room.

"Can we do this again?"

"Can we do it every month?"

"Can we do it every WEEK?"

"Hey," I responded, "You can do it every DAY now you and your families know how much fun it is."


Nancy said...

Thank you. What wondrous gifts you bring to the child in all of us!

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

This is so awesome. I love children, and it is so reassuring to know you're showing them this wonderful power - and their adults, too! ( I have a box o' dreams - dreams written on index cards and filler paper in a rainbow of neon colors, filed by month. It's always fun to open that box and see my rainbow. ) Anyway, as an aside, I thought you might be interested in a feature in the New York Times Home section from last Thursday, 8/27, front and center, above the fold. They could have done more with the article, but it was there ...

Unknown said...

I remember attending a workshop on soul retrival lead by Sandra Ingerman.

One of the exercises was to select a rock from a box of rocks. Meditate on the images found in the surface of the rock. It was truly amazing what came out of this exercise.

A psychologist was attending the workshop was well, he said that he uses this technique a lot with this clients. It was the quickest way to get beyond the resistance of the ego to what was really needed for healing.

Unknown said...

I forgot to add, what a joyous experience for you and that family. These practices will serve these children well as they go through life not to mention the parents and grandparents.

Robert Moss said...

Thanks, Nancy and Barbara!

Naomi, the "rock-reading" exercise is something all kids can do without adult prompting, which may be the point you are making. I did this as a boy not only with rocks but with clouds and tree bark and marks on a wall and - my favorites - with images glimpsed in hearthfires and in rushing water.

Katrina said...

Oh, how I loved reading this post. Doing dreamwork with children is a dream of mine (no pun intended) and here I see it is not only possible, it is welcomed with open arms by the children and their families. What an inspiration!

Carol said...

To The Young Dream Team, From the picture posted , you all look like you are having a very good time. More power to you and your creative spirits. Carol

Grace said...

Robert, it sounds like dreams you've had about working with children are coming true, no surprise! Fun and what a gift to give kids!
Also, I saw and saved that article form the NY times last Sunday as Barbara mentioned, it's about people dreaming and using their dreams as guidance....

michele said...

This is fantastic and it sounds like everyone had so much fun. I can imagine dream theatre is natural for kids and I love that they're clamoring for more! Thanks for sharing the process of this exciting workshop!

Robin O’Neal said...

Gifts, gifts and more gifts! I love this post and learning the lessons you're learning with children's dreams. I must say, I'm most especially fond of this photo - the nametags, costumes and smiles.
Thank you for offering one of the most encouraging and inspirational bits of my day -

Robert Moss said...

Dear Katrina, Carol, Grace, Michele and Robin - Thank you for your enthusiasm! It really is a joy helping kids to release the creative energy of their dreams - and to be heard and seen by the adults in their world - through spontaneous art and storytelling and theatre. And it brings out the "wonder child" in all of us!

Jane Carleton said...

Hi Robert,

What a fabulous post, and so timely! I was just on the phone with my friend in Bali, making plans for the dream workshops I will be leading with her students at the "Green School" there, as well as an evening session for the community, as a benefit for the school. You have again inspired me, and I can't wait to get there and have dreamplay with the kids!

Great photo!


Robert Moss said...

Hi JaneE - Do please report back to us on dreaming with the kids at the Green School in Balim which certainly sounds like a dream location! A teaching point: with young children, we generally want to avoid analysis or interpretation and go at once where the energy needs to move - into performance, theatre and expressive art (as in Sunday's playshop) or (when there are bad things in the dream) to chase away nasty energy and give the kid an ally who can help see her through the challenges,

Wanda Burch said...

Thank you Robert for providing space and time for children and families to share dreams together in such a fun way.

I spent a fabulous workshop with Women Vets returning from war - the thing that first broke the ice with them was sitting a large tub of instruments and stuffed animals in the center of the room. They all grabbed rattles, drums, and toys - just like children - so some things never change! Then I listened to an NPR radio interview, and the first woman interviewed was shouting - ...and then we had these rattles and we began shouting out words...and I LOVED it!

There is a child in all of us - how marvelous that you are providing a space where the child can be honored from the beginning of his/her dreaming.

Robert Moss said...

Hi Wanda - Thank you for doing that wonderful healing work with the vets; this is so profoundly needed. And thanks for reminding us that we want to requicken the magical child in our "grown-up" selves, and that the best way to do this is through the kind of play that child enjoys!

Unknown said...


Love all your posts! I look forward to reading them each day.

What would come to mind having a dream where bears were trying to get in every opening of a house? In fact I couldn't keep them out! Although they didn't harm me, they did claw their way through window screens and pushed open doors.

Robert Moss said...

Ah well, J, if bears are coming into my house I want to dance with them and claim the gifts of healing and protection they may be bringing. I would try to go back inside the dream - wide awake and super-conscious - with that intention. My life was changed, profoundly, when I went inside a dream in which a bear had come inside my bedroom - and found that the bear and I were joined at the heart. When I talk about this kind of thing to kids, by the way, they get it immediately.

Grace said...

I saw many of my dream characters in my room when I was a child. I would open my eyes wide and blink and stare, and they would still be there. Kids are so smart! I'm playing at getting back there!

Robert Moss said...

Hi Grace - When adults complain to me that they don't have much imagination, I reassure you that the child inside every one of us has all the imagination we will ever need.

Savannah said...

That looked like so much wondrous fun. Since I am coming to this post on September first I can't help thinking how stupendously amazing it would be if school might start off with dream theatre too. One fine day perhaps it will, and I do thank you for your inspiration Robert!

Robert Moss said...

Yes indeed, Savannah! In my dream society, kindergarten and elementary school would start with quick, spontaneous dream theatre. In higher grades, school would start with Lightning Dreamwork, to be followed up by performance and other creative expression, where appropriate. The energy lift would more than compensate for the time required. I'm not only talking about "Back to School" day but the start of any day or at least the start of every week.

Patricia said...

Orange slices and chocolate chip cookies, now there's a snack blend I haven't tried. This was delightful and quit inspiring to read. I like calling a journal a treasure book. My kiddos would like that. I think I'll look for a treasure chest looking box to keep their "treasure books" in until they are ready to take home. Awesome stuff!

Robert Moss said...

Patty, I love the idea of a treasure box to hold all those treasure books until it's time to take them home. Especially since one of the most magical characters in the world of my imagination is a very young boy - Dream Boy - who has what looks like a pretend pirate's chest, full of dreams.

Lynne said...

Robert, was the song you sang the one "Don't cry little one, the Bear is coming to dance with you?"--just wondering what song you used to call in that wondrous energy and sense of protection.

Robert Moss said...

Yes, absolutely - we sang that song (originally Mohawk) to call in the Bear. The kids loved it, and it was so appropriate since it is sung in traditional Native families to comfort children and is also a shaman-song, used to call in the great medicine animal of North America.

Carol Davis said...

Here's an update on the after-effects of the workshop: One of the girls has asked her mom to help her make a dream journal. Another mom who works with kids recommended that I think about leading a program for 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls. The mom will help market it. In a flash I saw how it could be done. I'm going to do it, probably in the Spring 2010. We'll have dress up stuff for dream theatre. They would be old enough to learn the Lightning Dreamwork. We can decorate dream journals. It will probably be a 4 hour program on a Sunday afternoon. What I love about all of this is the way things build. A conversation on a mountain leads to progam for families led by Robert, leads to program for girls led by me.... more to unfold!

Robert Moss said...

Excellent! Don't fail to keep us posted on how all of this develops, dear Carol. Encouraging kids to keep a journal is a wonderful gift for everyone. Of course, since we best lead by example, one of the best ways to encourage kids to keep journals is for one of the adults in the family to do this - and be seen to be doing this - herself.

Patricia said...

Hello Robert,
This is wonderful news. It reminds me of a dream reentry we did in Stroud UK a few years ago now. We were invited into the NY State Library where you were to meep up with Tolstoy and Lewis. There was a group of adults in the foyer making a terrible din because they wanted you to pay more attention to teaching them how to work with their children's dream. It was a wonderful experience and I was honoured to journey with you in this one. Hoping always to do more.

Robert Moss said...

You have a wonderful memory, Patricia. Good to hear your voice, across the Big Pond!

Jeni Hogenson said...

Hi Robert, I agree with all the commenters, it sounds like so much fun. It makes me wonder what might happen if we brought a treasure box/toy chest for our Big Kid gatherings at Mosswood. Would it inspire more inner kids to come out to play?

Robert Moss said...

Great idea, Jeni. Let's do it!