Monday, December 31, 2012

Place of Leaping

The dead tree quickens. Its leaves unfold
And become a pillar of gentle fire
That bursts into butterfly wings
And blood oranges over the tide pool
Where fresh and falling water joins the main.

Here, at the Place of Leaping,
Things turn into their opposites and turn again
Faster than the Monarch’s metamorphoses –
Larva into caterpillar, shell into winged soul –
Death into life, this side into the Other Side.

You listen to the Speaker in the tree
Who dares you to come to the edge
Telling you, “Leap now, or forever regret.”
You take off everything except your body
On the high cliff, and plunge like a diver.

The rocks call you and claim your flesh.
You are light as a white crane over the waves
But lose your direction until your old friends,
The dolphins, come to guide and carry you.
You stand on their backs like Aphrodite in the foam.

Your soul’s compass brings you across the churning sea
To welcoming faces, and places of rest and recollection
And the scholar-city, and the path of the Blue Star
Until you are called to dream your way back to us
With blue fire in your heart, singing a mermaid song.

Where sweet water meets salt, at Esalen. Photo by R.M.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sun in a bowl

Crowning the forest
the sun in a bowl,
a river drunk with love.

Welled in hard earth,
a bubbling spring.

Tall fire from water;
it claims the sky.
Red as pipestone,
yellow as healing,
radiant as the King.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lick the sky and rule China: dreams and shamans in imperial Chinese history

The imperial future of a dowager empress of ancient China was foreshadowed by a dream in which she rose to the sky and drank from it. The crucial role of dreams and shamanic experience in imperial China is another chapter in the history we weren't taught in school, the.Secret History of Dreaming
   Deng Sui(81-121) who ruled China as dowager empress in the Later Han Dynasty. As a young girl, she dreams that she rises up to the sky. It is beautiful, flawlessly blue. She touches it, moving her hand lightly across the smooth, rounded surface. Her exploring fingers find something shaped like “the nipple on a bronze bell”. She puts this in her mouth and sucks on it like a baby, feeling herself fed and nourished. 
    When she tells the dream to her parents, her father, a high official and royal tutor, calls in a dream interpreter. The professional draws on precedents. He recalls that two of the legendary “sage kings” of ancient China dreamed of rising to the sky before they rose to take the throne. Yao dreamed that he climbed up to the sky. Tang dreamed he rose to the sky and licked it. Both dreamers became emperors, ranked among the “sage kings” because of their wisdom and innovation. The dream interpreter declared that Deng Sui’s dream was “unspeakably auspicious.”
    For a second opinion, a face reader was called. He studied Deng Sui’s physiognomy and pronounced that her features closely resembled those of the sage king Cheng Tang. Therefore her destiny would be tremendous, as the dream seemed to promise.
    Still in her teens, Deng Sui was selected as a consort of the young Emperor He. A slightly older consort, Yin, was raised to the status of empress. Jealous and scheming, Yin hired sorcerers to attack Deng Sui with black magic. When this was discovered, Yin was deposed and Deng Sui took her place on the throne. When the emperor died, she became the regent for his child successor, and ruled China as dowager empress for several years, fulfilling the dream prophecy.

My source for Deng Sui's dream is an excellent new scholarly study of shamanism, religion and poetry in early China: Gopal Sukhu, The Shaman and the Heresiarch: A New Interpretation of the Li sao. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012). This is the first book-length study in English of the Chinese poetic classic, the Li sao, attributed to Qu Yuan, a high official of the kingdom of Chu in the 3rd century BCE who lost his position thanks to the jealous intrigues of rivals.
    The title is translated here as Encountering Sorrow”. It might also be rendered as "Departing from Sorrow". In his sorrow, the poet contemplates suicide; according to tradition Qu Yuan drowned himself in a river in 278BCE, an event memorialized by the Duanwu or Dragon Boat festival. Yet the force of the poet's violent emotions is also the departure lobby for vividly described shamanic journeys between the worlds. He rides on dragons and phoenix-like birds, summons elemental powers, talks with gatekeepers of heaven worlds. 

I sent Wangshu, the moon's charioteer, ahead as my herald,
And Feilian, the wind god, to the back as rear guard.
Male huan birds were my fore-runners,

And the Lord of Thunder would warn me of the unforeseen.

    The long poem is full of challenges for modern readers, especially in its elaborate floral codes (have as many flowers and herbs ever been named in another poem?) and in the gender-twisting narrative voice; Gopal Sukhu deftly traces the rival paths of interpretation and contributes a new translation with detailed notes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Back to Seth

There is one God, but within that God are many. There is one self, but within that self are many. There is one body, in one time, but the self has other bodies in other times. All “times” exist at once.

The voice is that of Seth, the "energy personality essence" channeled by Jane Roberts. We are near the beginning of the third of the Seth books, titled The "Unknown" Reality. I see from my note on the flyleaf that I purchased this book on 8.8.88.
    I came to the Seth materials reluctantly, even after I moved to upstate New York, not so far from where Jane Roberts had lived and practiced (in the Saratoga area and later in Elmira). I was wary around psychic mediums, perhaps because my great-aunt, the opera singer, had foreseen my death in the tea leaves when I was three years old. She was entirely accurate, by the way; in the words of a doctor in a hospital in the winter that followed, I was a boy who died and came back.
    Then, too, I winced at the slovenly or overly portentous verbiage of much of the channeled material that had come to my attention. Much of it seemed quite lacking in humor or wordcraft.
    It took an intervention to get me to start reading the Seth books. The intervention came embodied by a lively, intelligent woman from Caracas named Romelia. I had met her the previous year in Brazil, where we had investigated the mixology of caipirinhas. On a visit to New York, she called me at the farm to which I had recently moved. Naturally, I invited her to visit. At the end of the long drive to the farm house, she could not wait to cross my threshold before she shouted, "Robert, you must read Jane Roberts!"
    And I did, and I did. 
I started with Seth Speaks. I was stunned. Here was the clearest model I had so far found for the nature of the self and the conditions for reality creation in the multiverse. I could have done without all the interruptions to the text (as we are told that Jane paused to smoke a cigarette, for example) but nonetheless the voice came through, bold and clear.
    Before long I was dreaming my own version of Seth. He looked like a knobby Dutch or Scandinavian publican, who might have spent time at sea, and I drew him looking like that. Years later, when I saw a picture of Seth by Jane Roberts’ husband Rob Butts, I was struck by the strong resemblance.

     I became content to respond to the Seth material channeled by Jane Roberts according to its inherent quality, without asking many questions about the source.
     As I listen to Seth again, I am again thrilled by the simplicity and vital importance of his key statements. Re-read the one that opens this post. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a conscious citizen of the multiverse.
     I was interested to find a detailed account by Jane Roberts in a 1976 essay of what it was like to be speaker for The "Unknown" Reality. She described t
he book as the product of “an inner psychic ‘combustion’ – the spark that is lit in our world, as Seth’s reality strikes mine – or vice versa." She said that in her trance of transmission she entered "a higher state of wakefulness rather than the sleep usually associated with trance – but a different kind of wakefulness, in which the usual world seems to be sleeping.” This type of trance brought "a feeling of inexhaustible energy, emotional wholeness, and subjective freedom.” In a striking attempt to define her relationship with Seth, she added, “I think I’m alive in Seth’s subjective ‘body’ in the same way that one of my cells is alive in my physical body.” 

Photo collage; Jane Robert with portrait of Seth by her husband Robert Butts

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Time travel with Ben Franklin in France

I spent the night with Ben Franklin during his nine-year mission to France, traveling back and forth from his home in Passy, charming the French ladies and intellos, warding off the jealousies and surviving the tedium of rival American envoys, constantly improvising to seduce a monarchy to support a revolution whose success would inspire its own subjects to rise against it. This is the second night running that my dream self has been with Ben in France, and each night seemed to encompass years of his amazing mission. 

Feelings: Just so, that I traveled in time and was actually there. 
Reality: I read a little about Ben Franklin in France when I was writing my historical novel Fire Along the Sky, which contains a funny scene of Franklin investigating Herr Mesmer and being praised for his "electric wand". And I am now teaching and traveling in Paris. 
Action: read Stacy Schiff's book about Franklin in France, A Great Improvisation, which I bought when it came out but did not read at the time. I have already pulled down from my shelves.
Madame Helvétius

First discoveries: I open Schiff's book at random and find myself reading about Ben Franklin's ardent pursuit of his beautiful and gusting neighbor, Anne-Catherine de Ligniville, Madame Helvétius, nicknamed Minette. The widow of the wealthy and controversial philosopher Helvétius, she kept one of the most renowned salons in France and counted Voltaire among her regulars. At her country villa in Auteuil, down the road from Ben's house in Passy,  visitors contended for space with 18 very spoiled cats, assorted lapdogs, and canaries. Abigail Adams was appalled by Madame Helvétius; she thought she showed too much ankle and flaunted herself like a tart.
     Come 1780, when Franklin was a mere 74 years old, he pressed his suit for Madame 
Helvétius with even more than his customary ardor, apparently eager to live one of the deceased philosopher's maxims: "It is worth being wise only so long as one can also be foolhardy." Franklin declared to Minette that since he and her dead husband had so much in common, they ought to share her as well. He invited her to become the second Mrs Franklin. Madame Helvétius responded that she intended to remain faithful to her great husband's memories, denying the American envoy more than the customary bisous.   
     Franklin's response was to dash off one of the comic pieces he called his Bagatelles. In this one, titled "The Elysian Fields", he reports to Madame 
Helvétius that

Saddened by your barbarous resolution, stated so positively last night, to remain single the rest of your life, in honor of your dear husband, I went home, fell on my bed, believing myself dead, and found myself in the Elysian Fields.

In the afterworld of his dream, he seeks out Helvétius. The dead philosopher wants an update on how things were going in the mortal world - the war, the French government, whose books were selling - but at no point mentions his widow.    
     Franklin tells Helvétius he was with Minette "not an hour before". Isn't the philosopher interested in news of her? Not a bit. Helvétius explains that he has a new woman, full of spirit, engaged at that moment in gathering the finest nectar and ambrosia for his table. Ben complains that the widow was more faithful than the dead husband, batting away a long line of suitors. The story becomes very French. The dead philosopher suggests a ruse by which Franklin may turn the head of the widow. Then Helvétius' new wife appears, and she is Ben's dead common-law wife Debbie, who makes it plain - when he tries to claim her - that she has had quite enough of him.

I was entertained by this account of Ben Franklin's variable amours among the ladies of France, and the literary romp inspired by his rejection. The passage to which I had opened the book at random had deeper meaning for me.  There was fine foxy synchronicity at play with a man the French called the American Fox. A  book on which I am currently working describes what happens after we die, so I was delighted to have been conducted right after my dream into Ben Franklin's dream of an afterlife encounter. And to be reminded that some themes are too serious to be tackled without humor.

Charles Brothers "The Reception of Benjamin Franklin in France".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dreaming of the Tiger

This marvelous sculpture, titled "Dreaming of the Tiger", is located at Hupao (Tiger) Spring, in the mountains of Hangzhou, China. The wonderful photograph is from Sh1019 on Wikimedia Commons.
     When a friend sent me the link just now, I recalled how, especially in the early days of my public teaching of dreamwork and shamanism, many people who came to my workshops told me that they had been inspired by dreams of tigers. One woman reported a recurring dream theme, of roaming in a forest of tigers searching for a white tiger. When at last she found the white tiger, it had the face of a man. "Your face, Robert," she insisted when she met me for the first time.
    The tiger is the great ally of shamans in Central and East Asia, and for as far back as I can remember, tiger has stalked through my dreams. I lost the connection once, when I decided to live on a vegetarian diet for a few weeks. I can say with absolute certainty that the tiger is not a vegetarian!
     Some 20 years ago, a Colorado artist started carving a whimsical face of a tiger with cat's eyes and open jaws. He told me, when he met me for the first time at a dream research conference in Santa Fe, that he had not known why he was making this sculpture until he met me. "I know this tiger is for you, but now I must dream how to finish it." He incubated a dream of guidance, and the dream tiger showed him how to place the head (which you can see in the happy snap here) on top of a shaman's rattle staff.
     I placed it at the center of one of my workshops. A man froze in the doorway, staring into the open jaws. "I've come to the right place," he announced. He explained, in introducing himself to the circle, that he had dreamed again and again of a tiger that was trying to force him along a scary forest path. He did not want to go because of all the danger he sensed in the shadows. But in the climactic dream, the tiger tore at his flesh, as well as his clothes, obliging him to stagger, bleeding, all the way along the trail to a clearing.
     When the tiger had driven him to the place where it wanted him to be, it licked his wounds, which were instantly healed. The dreamer discovered that he had been brought to a place of training. He was to be trained as a jet fighter pilot who would know how to use his new skills to defend those in need of protection. In the elastic time of the dreamspace, he completed his training and earned his wings in that single night.
      "I am here now to manifest the dream," he told us. "I have come to earn my wings as a dream pilot." And so he did.
       In that dream story, we see something else about dream tigers. They are fierce, but they are good. 

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright 
In the forests of the night, 
What immortal hand or eye 
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Yes, William Blake said it right. Yet Tiger is also a wonderful ally in healing, especially soul recovery healing. Our lost boys and girls, who may not trust our adult selves to keep them safe and make life fun, readily embrace Tiger, and I have seen it bring many of them home.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On the trail of a Baltic dream shaman

The beautiful old city of Kernave was the medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the last great fortress of the Old religion in Europe, defended by five hill forts overlooking the Neris river. It has been described as the Troy of Lithuania because so much of the past, from prehistoric times, is buried here, and rising again. Kernave was burned by the Teutonic Knights in 1390, and this savage act resulted in the preservation of layer upon layer of archaeological strata under soil and ash that became wet peat.
     Myth and legend swirl around the green conical hills, the deep forest, the burial mounds and river islands. When I came to Kernave for the first time, I was shown the hill that is the reputed birthplace of Lizdeika, a great medieval shaman-priest and dream seer. Legend has it that Lizdeika was born in an eagle's nest on that hill, and could take flight in the form of an eagle.. Under cold rain, I paused to take a photograph of the shaman's hill.
     Lizdeika lived close to wolves, and was reputed to be able to shapeshift into the form of a wolf. He plays a central role in the unfoldment of the most famous dream in Baltic history. Grand Duke Gediminas dreamed of an iron wolf that howled. He consulted Lizdeika - by now the krivu krivaitis, or high priest of the old religion - on the meaning of the dream. Lizdeika told the grand duke he should build a fortified city on the hill where he had been sleeping. That city is Vilnius, where you can see a statue of Gediminas' iron wolf in front of the cathedral. There is a second version of the Iron Wolf statue in Kernave.
     I dreamed two years ago that I discovered a Baltic hero, a dreamer and warrior, and wove a mythic story around him. I don't know whether the dream figure was Lizdeika, but I will soon have the chance to find out. I have been invited to teach in Lithuania again in May 2013. This will be my fifth visit to the land of Marija Gimbutas, the gerat Lithuanian archaeologist of the Goddess, and of Lizdeika, the dream shaman. This time my workshop will take place in and around Kernave, and we will be able to practice dream archaeology and shamanic dreaming, and celebrate sacred rituals, at the ancient sites. 

I have written about practicing dream archaeology in Lithuania in two of my books, The Dreamer's Book of the Dead and Dreaming the Soul Back Home (which will soon be published in Lithuanian).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The grim runner

Pounding, pounding. The grim runner is pounding the cement sidewalks around a school building, running joylessly and relentlessly, round and round. His clothes are the color of sackcloth, or damp dead leaves. His straight, longish hair flaps against his neck. He is young, late teens or early twenties.
    Behind him runs a fair-haired older woman in a lacy white dress. She seems to be trying to catch up with him, to get his attention. But he is locked in his own repetitive purpose. Pounding, pounding.
    I notice that his thighs and legs have grown amazingly wide. Is this muscle, from all this running? It’s wrong, not natural, ugly. Round and round the school, he is running still.

I woke from this dream at dawn with a sense of cool distance and detachment from the runner. But beyond this, of a world of pain and grieving.
    I immediately thought of the Newtown horror. Did I glimpse the shooter, as he is after killing himself? And perhaps his mother, running behind him? The woman in white lace had a tired, homely face, one the runner would probably know. If not his mother, is she a guide?
    I knew nothing of the shooter when I went to bed. I am told now that he was a geeky guy who even wore a pocket protector. Are those crazy leg muscles part of an attempt to transform himself into an avatar from a computer game, and live in that kind of reality? Or is the ballooning weight of his limbs part of his punishment, as he trudges round and round the place of his crime, on and on?

The school of Mother Soul

There is a sudden stillness in the classroom. One by one, those who are ready rise from their bodies and gather in the corner where a hearth fire is now burning.
    The fire is extraordinary. It is electric blue. The flames stream and dance like shimmering blue silk. It is lovely and beckoning. Yet it is fire, and what is beyond it is unknown. So there is hesitation, and some fear.
    One who has passed this way before enters the fire like a dancer, becomes a figure of bright flame, and is gone. The others join the dance, and move through the blue fire. There is no pain. The pain was on the other side.
    Loving arms receive them. The angels have familiar faces. They are going to a new school, a pleasant place on a green hill, among beds of flowers and flowering trees. The course selection is amazing. Whatever they have learned already will be put to use, and their classes and assignments will be built around their curiosity, passion and imagination.
    They will want to communicate with those they left behind, to try to ease their grief by letting them know that there truly is a better place, beyond the pain of the world, where learning and growth continue, and where fun and adventure are encouraged, and where the most important skill is the ability to make things up.
    Every experience is different, here even more than in the previous world. They are cheered by watching a graduating class, gathered on the green hill in front of an ivy-wrapped, warm brick building. They are dressed in simple white smocks. Their voices are achingly beautiful. Their songs are not hymns from church, or what used to play on headphones.

Sunrise, sunset, evening star
What cannot be seen in the dream
cannot be seen in its glory

     I walk and talk with some of the faculty. A donnish, tweedy man with a mustache reminds me of my favorite teacher in high school, eons ago, a British professor of ancient history who decided to come out of retirement to share his passion with hormonal boys in a burned landscape in Australia. What is the name of this school? Alma Mater, of course, Mother Soul.

I discovered this school of Mother Soul when I started teaching public dream classes, more than 20 years ago. I asked, in the night, to see what I most needed to teach and found myself leading a class through that blue fire. Since then, I have visited this Alma Mater many times, and have found that its offerings are ever-growing. Some students study communications, learning and inventing techniques to facilitate helpful contact between people on this side and those left behind in the physical world. There is great compassion, among the faculty, for the grief of the survivors, and great eagerness, among the students, to alleviate that pain by reaching back to offer love and direct knowledge of life beyond life.
     I do not know where the victims of the Newtown horror are going, but I know that there are beautiful schools, for students on all levels, on the Other Side, and guides to show the way, and I am certain that the souls of the innocent are held in the arms of angels.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The science of mirrors

Mirrors are talismans, soul catchers, psychic shields, places of encounter with beings from other worlds, and sometimes portals for crossings between the worlds.
    The great Turkish poet 
Asaf Halet Çelebi (1907-1958), who was at home in the mirror worlds, gives us a shiverish lesson in how this works. What follows is my own free translation; Çelebi awaits an adequate translator and little of his work is available in any version in English.

by Asaf Halet Çelebi.

An image rose before me in a mirror
something other than myself
I don’t know where she came from
this beautiful stranger,
maybe from China or beyond

I asked her, “Who are you?”
and she laughed at me.
“I am the daughter
of the Emperor of China
and I have loved you for a long time.”

I said, “Come, come from the mirror
beautiful thief of my reflection.
I don’t care if I have no image
as long as my hands can touch you
and prove you are real.”

The Emperor’s daughter said,
“I can’t come. But one day
I will swim your image
into the depths of this mirror
and we will vanish together.”

-          - Free translation by Robert Moss

     Ottoman intarsia hand mirror 17th century

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"I went to the graveyard to check that my father is dead"

The big man is rattling the French doors to my library, where I am engaged. before breakfast, in unpacking books from the movers' boxes and placing them on my shelves. I go to him with some apprehension, because he is the size of a tall refrigerator.
    "I just came from the graveyard," he announces hoarsely. I can smell beer on his breath.
    "And you are?"
    "Oh." He hastens to apologize. He introduces himself as my neighbor, pointing to a white colonial house with gray shutters beyond the creek at the edge of our property. He has heard something about my work, and thinks I can help him.
    I invite him inside, and his bulk fills my reading chair.
    He explains that his father came to visit him during the night. "For real," he insists. "Dad was there, in the bedroom, shaking me to make me wake up. But Dad died years ago. I had to go to the graveyard to check that my father is dead. I needed to make sure that he's still in the ground."

    I am tender with the big man now. So few of us, in our society, receive any guidance on communication with the dead. Yet our dead are often with us, because they stay around, close to the living, or because they come visiting. Or because we journey, in dreams or astral journeys, into their realm.
    We talk about what the big man's father may want to share with him. Maybe just a beer and a sense of continuing connection. Maybe he wants an update on the family. Maybe he has some counsel for his son, or needs help from the living because he is lost or confused, and has found that the afterlife is nothing like what he may have heard in his church.
    I suggest a simple ritual by which he can open conversation with his dead father. He agrees he'll light a candle, pull out some old photos, pour a second glass for his dad. He'll assume his father is present, seen or unseen, and say the things he needs to say, hopefully offering love and forgiveness. He'll be open to hearing what his father needs him to hear.
    He came to me later, tears in his eyes, to tell me that he had had a great talk with his father. "He put me straight on some things, and he had some information on a business situation that may have saved my ass. Funny how it's easier to talk to him now he's dead than when he was alive."
    I have been working for more than twenty years to help people understand that there is nothing weird about contact with the dead, who are alive in a world next door to us, whose borders are highly permeable. I have written books to facilitate timely and helpful communication with the deceased, including Dreamgates and my Dreamer's Book of the Dead.
    Recently I had the pleasure of reading and lending my blessing to a wonderful new book on this theme, The Last Frontier by Julia Assante, who melds a scholar's mind and extensive research with the first-hand experience of a practical mystic. I remembered the scene of the big man at the door of my library, from my first days at my previous home, as I re-read Julia's book, which explains - passionately and eloquently - why we need to "normalize" relations with those who are living in the afterworld, for mutual benefit.

Julia Assante will be my guest on my Way of the Dreamer radio show today. You can listen to the show live from 9:00-10:00 a.m. Pacific (12:00-1:00 p.m. EST) or download from the archive at

Photo by the great Czech photographer Václav Chochola (1923-2005)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

From the Field of Dreams

I often ask members of my playshops and trainings to bring a creative offering to our final session, in any genre that they choose - a story, a poem, an artwork, a script for a playlet or script, a song or a dance. The only condition is that what is shared should come fresh from our adventures together.
    At the close of the five-day adventure I led at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur in November, Karen Muller gifted us with a wonderful poem evoking the experiences of the whole group, including the evening when we shared close encounters with Death. She has given me permission to share it here:

From The Field of Dreams
by Karen Muller

From the field of dreams to a treehouse built with Dad
From herding cats to spider woman's web
We explored other worlds and re-imagined this one.

Weaving our own webs and admiring one another's
We traveled from our humble village, flying
east of the sun and west of the moon
On the wings of a tiger to a beautiful distant star
Only to find it a cold, soulless land of robot people.
If only we can get to the great Oz, maybe he can help us
Because now we understand that
More answers than we imagined are back in Kansas.

Then came the great reckoning
We each carried Death on our left shoulders,
Then found ourselves at death's door
But Cerberus the three headed gatekeeper
Told us about our many errors and the need for reparations
None of us has even come close to using our talents.
Like Icarus, our wax wings melted and we fell into the sea.
We have more to do here in the valley of the shadow of death
Before we meet our rewards.

And now away we go, back from the worlds behind the world
Back to Kansas
Holding fast to the visions of what we need to be and do
We face a new day
Hoping that next time we meet Death
We can say that yes, we had more courage,
Repaired some damage, forgave
Accomplished more of what we came here to do.

Photo: My Esalen balcony by R.M.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"When I am dreaming, it's being written inside"

I am savoring some recollections of the role of dreaming in a writer's life in the last long interview that Julio Cortazar, an Argentine master of magical realism and the short story form, gave before his death. He describes how an early story that earned him fame was inspired by a nightmare. "One of my first and most popular stories, “House Taken Over” [Casa Tomada], is a nightmare I had. I got up immediately and wrote it."
    More usually, before he began to write, Cortazar would have felt a story "turning around in me a long time, sometimes for weeks...During this gestation period my dreams are full of references and allusions to what is going to be in the story. Sometimes the whole story is in a dream... But in general, what comes out of the dreams are fragments of references. That is, my subconscious is in the process of working through a story—when I am dreaming, it’s being written inside there." 

Quotations are from an interview by Jason Weiss in The Paris Review (Fall 1984, No. 93)

Picture: Julio Cortazar, Casa Tomada

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Practicing Death under a Double Rainbow

Hameau de l'Etoile, St Martin de Londres, Languedoc

All night long, one of the moody winds of the Midi played with me, rattling all the doors and windows in my room, stirring the drawers in the cabinets, like an ardent lover who would not allow me to sleep.  I felt happy and regenerated as I watched the light rise above the mountains from the balcony of the Pigionnier, my room at the top of a stone farmhouse.
     On my way to coffee and baguettes in the restaurant below, I met a sweest black labrador on the cobbled path, an excellent sign for the day, since one of my personal superstitions is that a friendly black dog is a good omen. The black lab sat at my feet, invited me to pet, and as I scratched his ears I reflected that in many traditions the black dog is a guide of souls, and a guardian of the gates to the afterlife.
    As we gathered in the Bergerie, the restored farm building that was our workshop space, a double rainbow made a complete arch over the mountains. It was in plain few through the great rounded windows opposite my own place in our circle of forty dreamers who had come from near and far - from Arizona and Hanover, from Bucharest and Hanover - to practice death in one of my favorite workshops, Making Death Your Ally.
    "Three times makes the charm," I recalled. I felt we had all received a triple blessing, from the animate and amorous wind, the friendly black dog, the double rainbow. This proved to be simple truth. We shared a rich and remarkable long day's journey to Death.
    We practiced crossing to the Other Side - for our own eventual journeys, and for passages we might guide for others. In our initial round of dream sharing, a lovely man whose wife was in hospital, considered to be terminal, shared a dream from the previous night. He had asked to see how he could companion his wife on her tremendous journey into the afterlife. In his dream, he found himself at the edge of a river. To cross it, he was required to wade deep into the water,
until he submerged himself, and to keep walking until he reached a pleasant house on the far shore where a couple were waiting for him. There was a quality of light and beauty and agelessness about that couple, unknown to him in ordinary reality. He felt they were the owners of a safe house where he and his wife could be welcomed on the Other Side, and where they could meet when one or both took up residence there. He wondered if the beautiful couple could be himself and his wife as they might be when they leave sickness and the weight of years behind, in life after life. This powerful and moving dream prompted me to make a crossing by water the map for the first group journey to practice the transition to the next world.
     Later we made another group journey with a modern script. I instructed the group to journey to an airport. This might at first resemble an airport that was familiar to them, Charles de Gaulle or JFK or Heathrow. But it would soon prove to be a nonordinary location. They would become vividly aware of that when they noticed what happened to their luggage. Instead of being carried on board the plane, their bags - which might represent their physical bodies after death - would be destroyed. They would choose their own airlines, and they would find that the choice was very different from Air France or United or Lufthansa. Some of these airlines operated according to collective belief systems and flew to destinations promised by different religions. Thus Shambhala Air, or Paradise, or Valhalla. Some flew into a realm where travelers learn to construct their own afterlife environments, according to their imagination, their knowledge and their passions.
     Both these group journeys were wonderfully successful. I suggested to our voyagers that they would want to check out various locations on the Other Side, such as a welcoming center, a place of higher education, a place of life review, or a communications center where the deceased come to try to get through to the living. The detailed travelers' reports that were shared grew our geography of the afterlife. While drumming for the group, I was able to tour the many options for communication between the departed and people on Earth offered by an Interworld Cafe. I was able to audit a class in Reality Creation in a college where students are taught how to work with subtle stuff known as "ideoplastics" to build whole environments.
     As the light fell, late in the afternoon session, we prepared for the close-up encounter with Death. This was an indelible experience, in which the members of circle were required - as they rose from their shrouds after submitting to a soul-wrenching interrogarion by a personal Death - to write the terms of a contract for a life extension, and have these contracts formally witnessed by others. This was a new twist I was inspired to make in this workshop, long one of my favorites. Acting as his agent, I felt that Death was very satisfied with the contracts he extracted.

For more on Making Death Your Ally, please read Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination and Life Beyond Death. For opportunities to take this depth training in North America and other locations, please visit my website.

View from the window of our workshop space on December 4, 2012. Photo by R.M.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Cinema of Lost Dreams

What happens to the dreams we don't remember? I've asked myself that question on several mornings, when I've awoken with little or no dream recall, while feeling that the night had been active.
     On one such morning, I decided to linger in bed and see whether I could find a place where I could recover lost dreams. I found myself approaching an old-time cinema, that reminded me of a movie theater where I used to go, as a boy, to watch Saturday matinees. I was amazed and delighted to find that, this time, the movie titles on the marquee and the images on the posters in the lobby all throbbed with significance in my present life.
     Waking the Sleeping King was blazoned in lights.
     One of the posters showed a boy riding a monster of the deep through a stormy ocean. Another depicted a steamy romance.
     The girl at the ticket kiosk smiled and gestured for me to go through. Soon I was settled in a comfy padded velvet seat in a private screening room. As dream images filled the screen, I realized I had a choice. I could remain a comfortable observer, or I could enter the fray.
      On another morning, after coffee, I decided to try the same method again. This time, instead of going back to the movie house, I found myself drawn to the kind of video store that is almost defunct, thanks to our new instant delivery systems. This video store was vast, with its products arranged on many levels, On the first floor, dreams were arranged like DVDs on shelves, according to familiar categories - Drama, Comedy, Family, and so on, There was a large Adult section most of whose content was quite unfamiliar to me. I realized that a block had been placed on some of this material, so that it did not reach my conscious mind, or - in cases where the film had been rated I (for Intrusion) was not allowed through during the night.
     I discovered sections devoted to my dreams of individual people. I had only to focus on a name or title,and the movie began to play all around me, so I could enter it at will.
On a lower level of the dream video store, I discovered that I could explore dream adventures I may have shared with other people, but had not remembered. I found an immense archive of shared dreams involving each of these people. One was as large as a Gothic cathedral, with shelves rising to the high roof many stories above.
     I watched several dream movies in each location.They took me deeply and vividly into scenes of other lives and other times - of leopard people in Africa, of Celtic voyagers in a coracle on a cold northern sea, of a turning castle in a high desert landscape where everything is the color of sand except for the pretty star-shaped flowers, blue and purple, on a terrace. The dream movies revealed a hidden order of connection in all these relationships, transcending our present lives.
     On yet another day, when I felt impelled to go searching for lost dreams, I was drawn to a building like an old-fashioned post office. It resembled the post office in the rust-belt city of Troy, New York, where I once lived. When I arrived in front of it, in my conscious dream, the sky turned dark. I mounted the high steps, and walked past the mail boxes towards the counters. Most of the steel shutters were down and locked for the night, but one was still half-open. Behind it, I saw letters spilling from pigeon holes and heaps of giant mail bags and packages. A little black women in  a blue uniform hurried to the desk and handed me a letter. I was moved to tears when I opened it and found a message from a beloved family member, long deceased.
    When I turned to thank the postal clerk, I realized that I knew her. I had glimpsed her, in half-forgotten dreams, slipping mail through a letter drop in the door of my house, a letter drop that is not in the physical door. She strongly resembles a figure from history I was called to study by dreams I did remember - Harriet Tubman, a world-class dreamer who used her visions as maps to guide escaping slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War.
     I suspect there are back rooms in my dream post office where there is more to discover. Maybe one of them is like the Cabinet Noir in the old French post offices, where mail judged suspect by the authorities was held for inspection, and often never delivered to the addressee.
     All of which leads to this suggestion: if you are missing your dreams (and your dreams are missing you) try taking a little quiet time, when you won't be disturbed, and announce this as your intention:

I would like to go to a place where I can find my lost dreams

Maybe this will take you to a movie theater, a video store, or a post office, or another place entirely, constructed from your own life memories and suited to your imagination. In whatever form it appears, you will be entering the Cinema of Lost Dreams.

Screenshot from Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tarot card for Grace and abbondanza of dreams

It begins at night on a strange, wild beach. The waves are dark and strong, dark trees bow in the wind from the sea. I am reminded of the mysterious Island of the Dead in the famous painting by Arnold Böcklin. I have companions, but on waking I am not sure who they are, or which side of the waters I am on.
    The dream was eerie, but left me thrilled with excitement. I was eager to go back inside the scene and discover more. I rolled my head on the pillow, ignoring the gray light of morning, and willed myself back. I smelled the salt air, and plunged into the waves.
     Now I was moving at fantastic speed through great sentinel rocks that came alive at my approach and became giants and monsters. Some resembled the creatures Odysseus had to survive, others seemed to come from Northern imagination. There was a storybook, cinematic quality to these stone monsters. Uneasy to begin with, I soon found myself delighted by them, because I realized that I was now traveling in the imaginal realm of a child self, or of several of my Boy Roberts.
     A slightly older Robert, old enough to be avidly curious about girls, took charge, and now I was in a kind of harem dream, in which women of every type were flirting with me. This was fun, for a while, but some instinct took me to breakfast at the most elegant hotel buffet. I did not linger too long over coffee and croissants, because I felt the tug of another mind.
     I followed it into the presence of a true priestess, the leader of a great Western order of initiates who died around the time I was born. I had met her many times, in encounters between the worlds, and felt I had known her, in a different body, during her own time on Earth. I felt blessed by this renewed contact. She was a gentle teacher, in this encounter. She wanted to remind me of my connections with  certain personalities in other times and other dimensions, and how our actions in any one of these lives change the patterns of the others.
    She gave me an image to bring back from this lucid dream. It looked like a Tarot card, hand drawn in ink with washes of color, from a marvelous draftsmen. Through the open flaps of a medieval tent, a city appears on the horizon, and at the heart of the city is a pavilion arranged for a special event, perhaps a marriage.
    The Roman numerals VI appear at the top of the card. In most decks, the VI trump is called The Lovers. But here, the word written on the card was Grace.

There was more, much more - at least a dozen separate episodes, including ones in which I was inspecting books I haven't written yet and contributing to the translations of ones I do know. The gifts of this night were tremendous. A sense of grace (good word!) and bounty, which I want to name with that boisterous Italian word, abbondanza! Synesius of Cyrene, that great dreamer of the Greco-Roman world, wrote that the crowning gift of dreams may be simply that the Creator "infuses us with his own courage." Something like that. I have no desire to analyze experiences of this kind, simply to live and create with the energy and sense of grace they bring.

"Island of the Dead" by Swiss symbolist Arnold Böcklin. Freud had this on his wall, so did Lenin. The artist described his painting as “a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Letting the world give you a dream

I woke up around 4:00 a.m. this morning, without even a wisp of a dream after four hours in bed. While I recognized that my body had been demanding some down time, pure regeneration, I was still a little frustrated that I had no clue as to what the rest of me had been doing during those night hours. This led me to write an earlier piece about how it sometimes feels, on waking, as if the door of a bank vault has swung shut, closing off the treasures and terrors and adventures of the night.
    I counseled in the earlier piece that one of the things to do, if you don't have even a wisp of a dream is to "be alert for how the logic of the dreams you missed may now be playing out in the world around you."
    This became a no-brainer for me today. As soon as I went out my door to take my dog for his first walk, a neighbor on his way to the office hailed me from across the street. We are on friendly terms, but had not spoken for weeks.
    "May I tell you a dream?" he began as soon as I had crossed the road.
     In his dream, he is on a train with his friends, who include a very warm and friendly bear. They are happy playing with the bear and giving him snacks. Then the train divides. The part of the train with food for the bear rushes away on a different track.
     The dreamer and his friends are alarmed, because they want to feed the bear the food he wants, but now all they have are things he doesn't much care for, especially green bell peppers. They keep offering peppers to the bear, who is now very hungry, and the bear consent to munch what they are giving him, but clearly this is not the diet that he's used to and he's not happy.
     Walking together on the sidewalk, we did some Lightning Dreamwork.
      Title? "Which Track Has Food for the Bear?"
      Feelings? Happy to have been with Bear. Concerned that Bear isn't getting enough to eat.
     "If it were my dream," I suggested, "I'd think about all the Bear means to me as a spiritual ally and guardian, especially as an ally in healing. For me, the Bear is the great medicine animal. I'd be quite concerned that what feeds the Bear in me is on a different track than the one I'm on. I'd think about where in life I may have gotten on to the wrong track, in terms of what the Bear in me wants and needs."
      The dreamer readily confided that he felt he might be on the wrong track in his job.
      "I would want to see if I can find out where the two train lines lead. Maybe that would give me clues to the direction I need to follow now."
       He agreed to do this.
      As our ways diverged at a street corner, I thanked him for giving me a dream this morning, just when I needed one. As he walked away, I called after him, "And I would make sure to feed the Bear, quite literally, what the Bear wants to eat. For me, that would include salmon, berries and honeys. Bears do like to eat!"
       So I will take the Lightning Dreamwork a step further than we usually do, by accepting this Bear dream as my own dream, on a morning when my night dreams were missing. I'll do what I encourage my neighbor to do. I'll think about switching-points in life where ways diverge,and the need to clarify the itinerary and destination on alternative life tracks. I'll make sure I am feeding my animal spirits, in every sense!
      I am smiling over this prompt and simple demonstration that the world will give us a dream if we'll let it.

Gund railroad bear

Monday, November 26, 2012

From a Writer's Dream Journal: Mix It Up!

From my morning dreams. Very much in the style of dreams I have when moving towards new book projects.

The Meal That Needs To Be Assembled

In a Mexican restaurant. It is a modest place, where most of the action is at the takeout counter. I want something that is not on the regular menu, and they say that can make it for me. The waiter has little or no English, so I communicate with him in Spanish. I order a margarita con sel y con hielo.
     I don’t understand what he brings. There is a little glass with slices of lime and a small amount of what looks like sweet syrup. And a second glass filled with a light yellowish liquid, and another with water. I sample each glass and realize that the second glass contains neat tequila. He has given me the fixings for a margarita, not the finished drink. I’ll need to mix it according to my own taste. Not such a bad idea, though it’s strange that a Mexican restaurant can’t deliver a finished margarita.
    The food delivery is equally strange. I am given some small plates with different ingredients that are not yet a finished dish. I poke around, wondering what’s going on, looking rather hungrily at other customers who are picking up regular specials (including chicken and fries). I don’t understand that I am supposed to make my own dish until the waiter starts to remove plates of meat and peppers that I have barely touched, while delivered rice and beans and tortillas on separate plates. I bark at him to leave my food on the table!

Feelings: Cheerful, laughing at myself
Reality: It’s certainly possible I could go to a disorganized or bad Mexican restaurant in the future! But it’s the symbolism of the meal and the drink that need to be assembled that strikes me here.
    We get to recognize our personal styles of dreaming, and this dream in very much in the mode of those I often have when starting to move forward with new book projects. The state of the kitchen or the restaurant in my dreams often reflects, rather exactly, the state of my progress and organization in relation to a new book. When the scene is a restaurant, the theme can extend to relations with publishers and the marketing and commercial aspects of a book project.
    I’ve ordered something beyond the regular menu, as well as a drink that is very popular and familiar. For both to be completed and fixed according to my taste, I have some mixing and assembling to do. The good news is that the ingredients are all there! And also that, while I need to speak a different language in this place, I am competent in that language.    

One-liner (also my Action Statement): You have all the ingredients. Mix it up! (And don't let anyone take anything off the table until you're done.)

Fajitas photo by Eric T. Gunther

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dream telepathy and writing assignments

I'm chuckling over a fresh example of long-range telepathy at work between a dreaming and a waking mind. Not the first, in my experience, that involves the writing process.
   I kept vampire hours tonight, mining old journals for material for new writing. I paused from time to time to look at ideas and exercises for creative writing that I have sketched out over the years, both for my personal use and as plans for one of my favorite workshops, "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming."
    Just as I was thinking of continuing my dreaming in bed, I received an email message from my friend Ana Maria Stefanescu n Romania, who hosted a marvelous workshop for me in the Bucegi mountains last month. She reported that - while I was reading and making notes - she dreamed that I gave her a series of ideas and exercises for a creative writing workshop she is planning to lead in Romania in December. She commented that she woke up very excited, but still tired. Certain that she would be able to remember what she had learned, she allowed herself to drift back to sleep, then woke again to find that most of the content was gone.
     She requested me to show up in her dreams again and repeat the instructions!
     I recalled that on a previous occasion, someone who dreamed they received tuition from me was not only able to recall the whole session in exact detail, but to help me fill a page in a book I was writing. Back in the period when I was working on my book Dreaming True, I received a message from a woman in California who had attended one of my programs. She wanted to thank me for the lecture I had given overnight, in her dream, in which (she said) I had summarized part of my argument very cogently in five points that I wrote on a whiteboard.
     Unknown to her, except for her dream, I had reached a stage in my book draft when I wanted to sum up part of my thesis in five points, but had only formulated the first to my satisfaction. I shot back a message to the California dreamer asking if she could retrieve her lecture notes and send them to me.  
     Right away, she sent me the five points Dream Robert had made in his lecture. They filled in, exactly, the missing bits in my book draft.  And I put them in the book with almost no editing!
     My response to my friend who lost the details of what Dream Robert was telling her about crafting a creative writing workshop?
 "Maybe you can go back inside your dream and get Dream Robert to give you those ideas and exercises again!"
     Ana Maria said she will try this. It took her only an hour or so to came back to me that she now recalls that Dream Robert's first exercise was to encourage writers to go to the place from which their truest words come. This was further good telepathy, and dream tracking, since (unknown to Ana Maria) I have led an exercise along these lines. I wrote a poem of my own ("A Place to Write From") on this very theme, on where I find my truest and most passionate words:

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

The poem is in my collection, Here, Everything Is Dreaming that will be published in April 2013.
     I couldn't help joking that this fine flow of telepathy may have been aided by the fact that my friend is in Romania, while I was keeping vampire hours!       

I will be leading my five-day creative writing adventure, "Writing as a State of Conscious Dreaming" at magical Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall, Washington, from May 6-10, 1013.