Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frankfurt journal: Starry dreams every night

Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

My flight from Newark to Frankfurt was mostly empty, so I could stretch out, between chapters of the engrossing novel of interlocking lives across time, Cloud Atlas. This also meant I did not have a rowmate to contribute a fresh story. A lively flight attendant made up for this when I went to the galley to ask for fresh coffee. When she elicited what I do, she started telling me dreams from different phases of her life. At one point, she said, she dreamed over and over that she had gum stuck in her teeth that she couldn't get out. I remarked that if this were my recurring dream, it would lead me to think about what I needed to get out, how I needed to claim my voice, and where in life I was stuck. "Right on," she told me. "I was stuck in a bad marriage where I couldn't speak my truth. I got out of it after a dozen of those dreams."
     I was met at Frankfurt airport and escorted to my hotel by a man who had  been hung on the cross and kissed by Leonard Bernstein. No kidding. A volunteer for my hosts, the Frankfurter Ring, and a world-class raconteur, he had been hung on the cross while playing Tristan onstage, and kissed by Bernstein when they shared their musical passions in the First class cabin of a Lufthansa flight. This seemed like an auspicious start to myadventure in teaching Active Dreaming in Germany, confirmed by the slogan on the wall above the reception desk of the Lindner Congress Hotel in the Höchst district: "Starry Dreams Any Time".
     After a little downtime, I walk the Bolongarostrasse under light snow and encounter a recurring theme in my everyday life.
 I am walking on a street I have never walked before, in an unfamiliar city, and a native comes up and asks me for directions in the local language. No, sorry, I could not direct the respectful German man to the post office and barely had enough German to make this plain. I glance across the street and see a fantastic sight: a huge metal hand, gripping a pen, projecting from a building. It feels like a personal message: Write on. It is in fact a celebrated sculpture by George K. Glaser called Die denkende Hand, "The Thinking Hand."

      It's 3:00 p.m. local time, and I am now thinking mostly about where to have lunch, and the relative merits of  
 döner kebab and wurst with beer. I am in a section of the city that has become Little Turkey, Turkei-am-Main. I like Turkish food, but I would also like a beer, which I am not going to get in a hallal restaurant, so I turn left towards the river. I immediately come to the sign of two bears over the blue door of the Restaurant Zum Bären. Perfect. But - oh uh - the Bear restaurant doesn't open until 17:00, and the Bear inside me won't wait any longer to be fed. Back to one of the döner kebab places on the main drag, where I order in Turkish and end up by getting something a little different from what I thought I had asked for, slathered in more yogurt that I can normally be persuaded to eat. Not so bad. The lively young womenn at the next table are from Uganda and Japan but speak fluent Bulgarian to a staffer. Language is becoming quite a theme today. I strike up conversation but my enthusiasm falters when they reveal they are Jehovah's Witnesses and were in Bulgaria as missionaries. Oh, dear.

    I go back to my hotel for more quiet time before my evening lecture, and again notice that slogan "Starry Dreams Any Night." There is no German translation, which surprises me. I check some online dictionaries and come up with what might we a workable version, "Sternenklar Träume jeder Zeit", but I'm not confident. So I go back to the reception desk and ask the girls for the "official" translation. There isn't one. They're not sure how they would render the words in German. "There must be a way to say it in German," I observe. "It's such a lovely promise, and I am going to lead a dream workshop right here, at this hotel, over the weekend." Should they consult a manager, they wonder. I try my lumpy version. Sternenklar Träume jeder Zeit. They taste it and try it, correcting my pronunciation. "It's good," they pronounce, though I'm not sure the magic has survived the switch.
     I recount this incident at the start of my lecture to a full house in a beautiful octagonal room at the Saalbau Gutleit. I speculate that its meaning, in relation to my first teaching in Germany, could be that I am here to help translate ancient and essential ideas about dreaming into the contemporary German mindset. This draws vigorous sign of approval from many in the audience, as does my suggestion that the loss of connection with dreaming can indicate soul loss in an individual and cultural soul loss in a whole society. 
     When I speak of ancestral healing and our need to connect with our animal spirits, I feel surges of approving power in my energy field. There are friendly spirits here who wish to support this work. When I tap the drum, inviting the people in the room to invite the right dreams and memories and fresh images to come and play with them, the Bear claims center stage in my own perception. I see Great Mother Bear, bring the Bear tribe together for healing, cooling the rage of the old battered warriors, licking and cleansing and healing old wounds. Once, under Charlemagne, a crusade was launched at the behest of the Church to kill all the bears, because the Church feared the ancient cult of the Bear spirit. In the killing frenzy of the berserkers ("bear-shirts") the Bear energy was distorted and called up for battle. Here and now, in Germany, I feel the Bear spirit is very much alive, and available for soul healing.
     My very creative hosts at the Frankfurter Ring organized a lucky draw for book prizes in the break during my lecture to a packed house tonight. When the lucky fellow who won a copy of Traum-Heiler (the German edition of Dreaming the Soul Back Home) announced that his name was Rainer, I disclosed that I took a German course as an undergrad because I wanted to read Rainer Maria Rilke in the original. "My parents named me for Rainer Maria Rilke!" he exclaimed, beaming. Life rhymes. And everyday life will speak to us in the manner of a dream if we will pay attention.


Sal Ruiz said...

There are skulls of bears and short nose bears in some of the "rediscovered" / uncovered caves that dot the south-eastern German-French mountain ranges all along the Alps where the skulls are sometimes fixed upon an "altar" where a carved stone is draped with the skin of that ancient "cave" dweller.

In some parts of the world, bears were seen as equal in every way to humans, and respected as such.

"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, even put that passage into his dialog.

Carol Davis said...

What a wonder-filled first day! I so enjoyed this post! Ah, "The Thinking Hand" ...thank you for that! And Bear...I am touched to hear of the presence of healing bear.

Last night I was reading an excerpt from "Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer" by David Steindl-Rast. I opened to a reference to Rilke from his "Hours".

Whoever reconciles the many contradictions of his life,
gratefully gathering them into one symbol,
expels the noisy crowd from his abode
and in a different kind of festive mood
receives you as his guest on gentle evenings.

You are the Other in his solitude,
a silent center for his conversations with himself,
and every circle drawn around you
makes his compass span beyond the rim of time.

Steindl-Rast comments "When our heart rests in the Source of all meaning, it can encompass all meaning."

Thank you for the great, heart-filled work you are doing Robert. I send you blessings and wishes for bright dreams!

Barbara Butler McCoy said...

That "Thinking Hand" is going to resonate with me for a very long time, I think. Lovely to 'see' the Bear again. Thank you and best wishes in your work there.

Anonymous said...

Shared with a friend in Munich, eliciting this response:
Wow, what a beautiful blog. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!
Bears, he?!?!!
Guess what: one of my healer power animals is a big wise she-bear....
So to read how the bear spirit is coming back gave me shivers....
In our shaman learning group of 8 there are 3or 4 of us who were chosen by the bear...
Now even more appropriate...

Thanks, once again, Robert. Love to you!