Friday, September 3, 2010

Dream Gatekeeper and Antlered Blessings

Hollyhock, Cortes Island, British Columbia

"What is the purpose of your visit to Canada?" asked the immigration officer at Toronto's Pearson airport when I arrived very early on Tuesday morning, from a noisy puddlejumper that seemed to be part of the early history of aviation.

"I'm leading a seminar on Cortes Island."

"What's the subject of the seminar."

I take a risk and say "Dreamwork," preparing to explain of asked what this means.

The face of the lady immigration officer is illuminated. She is positively beaming pleasure.

I can't resist asking, "Do you remember your dreams?"

"YES!" she exclaims. "I dreamed of an earthquake."

"If that were my dream, I'd wonder whether the dream is literal or symbolic. Maybe I'll find myself in a place where an earthquake could happened. Or maybe the dream is about a future event that will shake up my life in some way."

"We had an earthquake here in Toronto," she told me. "People were surprised. I had the dream before that, so I guess it could have been a preview. But it seemed that I was in Los Angeles in the dream."

"Have you been to Los Angeles?"

"No, but I've been to Mexico."

"Then if it were my dream I'd wonder if it contains something about the future that has not yet been revealed, maybe involving a trip to L.A. I don't know about yet, or something that could shake my world involving someone with an L.A. connection."

The line behind me was growing, so the passport control officer and I bid each other a pleasant good-day, and I moved on towards Baggage Claim. I was in celebratory mood. An immigration officer seems like the ultimate archetype of Gatekeeper, and this morning the Gatekeeper was not only in friendly mood; she was eager to explore dreams.

Outside the airport, the city of Toronto was being turned into a swimming pool by the heaviest rains on record. Later I sloshed through three inches of water on the sidewalk to get on the Canada Line to my interview on a CBS afternoon show. The rain stopped right after I chatted with the host, on live radio, about the significance of her dreams of finding herself in bed with various colleagues she would never think of sleeping with under regular circumstances. I observed that, while for Freud nearly everything in dreams was about sex, sex in dreams is very often a metaphor - in this case (if it were my dream) for getting closer to someone in other ways.

200 people turned out for my talk at the Vancouver Public Library that night, and I was moved by the depth of passionate engagement in that audience as I explained why we need to rebirth a dreaming society now and how dreamwork, for me, is all soul - helping each other to identify, through dreams, what the soul (as opposed to the ego) wants of our lives, and to locate where vital soul energy we may have lost through life's pain and disappointment can be found and brought home to our bodies.

On Wednesday morning, I embarked at Vancouver's South Terminal on the new journey that brought me to Hollyhock, a beautiful retreat center on Cortes Island. A 40-minute plane ride, then a joincing ride on a shuttle bus to a fast water taxi, where I sat in the back in the fierce blow off the Sound, and finally a van from Manson's Landing to Hollyhock. I met a participant in my "Way of the Dreamer" retreat at the shuttle bus. Her lovely name was "Celeste", which got me talking about the significance of names and the need to be sure that we claim the name we want.

When we arrived at the landing for the water taxi, the shuttle driver said, "I was listening to your talk about names and I'd like to tell you about my granddaughter's name. Her paernts naled her Ocean. She loves the sea and can tell you things about it that old salts don't know, though she's only seventeen. Last week she fell off a boat and there was an orca in the water right next to her. They swam together like they were best buddies." We agreed Ocean had been given the right name.

The naturalist who drove us from Manson's Landing to Hollyhock told me that, while there are gray wolves and cougars on Cortes Island, there are no bears. I informed him, "That has just changed."

I walked the stony beach in the afternoon, and a doe walked before me, slowing to look back at me, with no sign of fear. At the dinner table that night, we got into talk about indigenous ways of dreaming and Celeste - who was traveling with a copy of Dreamways of the Iroquois - asked me about how I had met an ancient Mohawk woman shaman in my dreaming, and that had changed my life. As I spoke about the Iroquoian practice of honoring secret wishes of the soul, as revealed in dreams, some young women were spinning hula hoops near an old apple tree, in my line of sight. A young buck stepped across the grass behind them. This inspired me to speak about the spiritual significance of antlers - the "living bones" - to the Iroquois. A second buck stepped into my field of vision, then a third, an older stag with a serious rack. He looked at the hula girls, then at me. I felt the tingle of confirmation that good things were afoot. I spoke of how the antlers, for the Iroquois and many other ancient and indigenous people, represent spiritual connection because they rise above the physical head into the spirit world. And they represent the power of regeneration, because they die and fall and grow back.

That night, in a meeting house deep in the woods, I offered tobacco to the ancestors of the land, and we sang and danced the Bear back to Cortes Island.

Photo by Steve Case, my neighbor at dinner on the night of the deer and the hula girls


Savannah said...

Such a magical blessing, to start out the week communing with the deer... Hollyhock is where I had my first close-up encounter with a doe earlier this summer, on the night of the Perseid showers, and I was awed. I'm smiling over the bear on Cortes Island...
Tuesday's biblical rains were certainly no deterrent for the crowds that filled the lecture theatre at VPL for your talk (maybe Dr. Moses, as I remember a previous CBC interviewer mistakenly called you once, had a hand in parting the seas :-). Still full up... the talk was amazing, and wonderful to see so many faces stirred by the passion for building a dreaming society! Thank you for sharing your magic in our rain-drenched city... new seeds planted that will keep on growing.

Worldbridger said...

I heard your interview on the radio, interesting how once you get people talking about dreaming, the closet doors seem to fall open ...

cobweb said...

Dear Robert, No matter what, I love reading your entries and learning more and more about being relaxed and being sure all will be well if only we could all learn to 'know' the way of the dreamer....may you never die....

Irène said...

I'm in the process of creating an association to do my life's work which is a blend of dancing & dreaming. I decided the first thing to do was to give this new space a name which came to me through a dream in August: "Dancing Bear." In the dream I also danced with a blond man in an Irish pub that I recognized (as Irish & not British) because of a four leaf clover on the keystone above the door. The next day, while checking my workshop plans, I clicked three times on my dance site to find a man who is giving a workshop that I've wanted to attend for quite some time but coundn't for these workshops "Tribal Mirrors" are few and given a far away places. This time I found a workshop given in Ireland and the organizer's name is Irene. I enrolled and when I did, Irene saw the name of my Association and said "Funny. That's the American Indian name that was given to the animater" (the blond man in my dream). I knew you were a Dancing Bear, Robert.

Unknown said...

I was blessed to meet the Ursa Major in the hollyhock dreamtime. The great bear dipped into the waters of my body and soul on a journey of release. As I read Robert's account of the revelation of the 3 stags, I remember a sacred ritual honouring the stag that was gifted to us by a hollyhock dreamtime sister at the end of the workshop. This ritual filled my heart with wonder, and now, upon writing, Appalachian music is flooding in. I hear my mother gifting me a heavenly voice.."I wonder as I wander"...

Anonymous said...

Finding your site via synchronicty, and being in LA I have been feeling like there is something brewing here to do with emerging consciousness beyond the earthquakes.

This post reminded me of a stag experience I had in LA just about a year ago:

It's nice to find you here, and also made me think you'd find kindredness in my dreamlike view of things, particularly as both a former filmmaker and now psychologist trying to interpret the lucid dream we call our lives (

I mostly wanted to simply say namaste