Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Morning at the Elvin Oak

Kensington Gardens, London

Shhh. It's early enough for them not to be expecting visitors from the mortal world. If you step very lightly, and look sidelong, or between your legs, or just let your eyes slip a little out of focus, you may see them as they live and play, even without fairy dew on your eyelids.
    There is so much going on! There is romance in full bloom but - wait - there is something foxy here too, an alert that nothing is straightforward in this realm, at least not by human reckoning.

  There are beautiful young ladies with streaming hair, in flowing gowns of white and blue. They look like princesses who have been drawn to the magic of this elvin world.

    But - wait - they are behind bars and there are strange beings doing strange things around them.

Are they captive souls, lured here by fairy wiles, and replaced in their home world by changelings? Or are they souls that fled here, to this realm of magic, because the world where they were growing up was too cold and too cruel to bear? Or are they dream travelers?

 Perhaps that little dog could let me know the answer. Dogs have always been reliable guides, for me, in world-hopping.

But on second glance that may not be a dog and his owner may not be friendly.

I could ask the lords of the Elvin Oak, but they look haughty and are nearing the end of their long night revels.

    I don't think I'll ask the witch lady. She looks like she belongs behind bars.

    Stepping back, with ordinary focus, I read the explanation for the bars. It makes perfect sense, if you live outside the world of the Elvin Oak. On the inside, it looks like humans are the ones who are living behind bars they have created to protect themselves against a direct encounter with the old ones of Faerie.

Photos of the Elvin Oak in Kensington Gardens (c) Robert Moss

Monday, June 24, 2013

Entering the afterlife sword in hand


Our relationship with the ancestors is a two-edged sword. We are required to separate from those elements in our multi-generational stories that can bind us to repetitive stories of feuding and addiction, hatred and abuse. Then we are free to claim our connection with wisdom-keepers of earlier times who can help us to bring about cultural soul recovery, reclaiming traditions and elemental connections that support life. We may even find, embarked on this purpose, that we are in direct contact, mind to mind, with ancestors and counterpart personalities across time and space.
   I was thinking of these things as I rode a train from Glasgow into the Western Highlands. This must be one of the lovelies train rides on the planet. We passed Loch Lomond on the right, later Loch Awe on the left. Near the stations great walls of wild rhododendrons rose high. The foxgloves were out everywhere. From time to time I caught a glimpse of red deer. The antlers of the bucks were still fairly new, trailing velvet. The red deer appeared and disappeared so quickly it was easy to understand why the old ones called them Fairy cattle.
     We crossed Mull from Craignure to Finnphort, where the main traffic hazard is sheep droppings. We took a little boat to Staffa, the strange island of basalt columns, and walked a high narrow ledge to the mouth of Fingal's Cave, that fascinated poets and musicians since Joseph Banks noticed it in the 18th century, and inspired a work of Mendelsohn named after it. On to Iona, which Fiona MacLeod, in a moment of rhapsody, called "the metropolis of dreams". He ("Fiona" was a pen name) suggested that to find the true Iona we must be willing to enter into a dream in which pagan and Christian found a place together, for a time.  Columba, who founded the monastery here as a missionary from Ireland, knew things in the way of a Celtic seer, and worked magic in the way of a high druid, to judge by the biography penned by his devout coarb ("heir"), Adomnan, the ninth abbot, which was among my travel companions.
    When I walked the hill to the Abbey, I found a church service going on. In the final prayer, the priest called for the intercession of the sainted Columba in our lives today, and that the spirit of the holy man work in us. I contemplated the signs of old wonder-working in front of the Abbey. A stone trough of water where the pious washed their soles, but where, also, by contributing three cups of water a mariner might hope to secure a favorable wind. A stone by the well, hollowed by pilgrims who turned a white stone ball inside it as they made their wishes; it was said that when a hole opened all through the stone, the world would end. The moody weather reminded me that Columba was renowned as a weather shaman, who would always have a following in these islands.
    What seized me most strongly on this return visit to the Abbey of Iona was the ferocity of

the burial images of the men in iron - Lords of the Isles and their armored followers -  formerly interred in the Rèilig Odhrain (Oran's burial ground), now gathered in the fine little museum behind the abbey itself. On his grave slab, one of these lords had himself represented drawing his sword as he prepares to enter the afterlife. This made me wonder what kind of afterlife he expected. Other knightly figures look hardly less relaxed. Far from quietly reposing with their hands folded over the hilts of their swords, they look ready for battle, still full of wrath and ready for revenge on their enemies.
    This is not the aspect of the ancestors I am eager to reclaim in my present life! Yet I have been called into the times of these men in iron. Once it was the red fox that brought me back. Another time it was a red deer, standing in goodly Monarch of the Glen pose above a waterfall, who drew me. Behind the waterfall, I found a Cave of the Ancestors, and inside it, the glowing figure of an ancient tribal king, wounded and bloodied and exhausted, who was desperately calling for my help. I accepted that I had to go back, in one of the most powerful and challenging shamanic journeys of my life, to aid him in his own time, calling in forces I did not know were available until I made the appeal. Chief among them was a giant Bear. The rest of that story is for another time, but I learned from it that we never need to be prisoners of the past, once we awaken to the fact that we can reenter the past and change things for the better,

   Photos of grave images from Iona (c) Robert Moss

Mr. Tickle, Mr. Fish and Things That Resemble Each Other


My daughter spotted him on a suitcase on the baggage rack of a train bound for the Western Highlands. Mr. Tickle, a beloved character created by Roger Hargreaves. What fun we had when she was very small, chorusing phrases about his very long arms and trying to wind our own arms around chairs and cushions to tickle each other.
    Last night, after my birthday dinner, Mr Tickle - or at any rate some of his attributes - appeared in my dreams. I met a character who called himself Mr Fish. His repeated injunction, echoing another favorite game from childhood, was "Go Fish." He demonstrated what he meant by this by extending incredibly long and flexible arms.
    He showed me how to go fishing across time and space for things that resemble each other. I understood that this was a very lively and animated approach to one of my favorite endeavors: stalking synchronicity. When we notice things that resemble each other, in a series of symbolic popups in the world around us, we begin to awaken to a hidden order of events.
    Such patterns of resemblance can involve far more than a one-off conjunction of an inner sense of meaning and an outer event. They can can play over days, weeks, years, centuries. So the hunt for resemblances can take the seeker far and wide. I think of Plutarch, writing biographies in pairs, noting similarities between Greeks and Romans who changed history. In my dreams, my favorite professor - a famous Australian historian long departed from this earth - is working on "Parallel Lives" of his own, noting how events in one life can shape the progress of another life being enacted in a completely different time period. I know Mr. Fish is inviting me to extend my inquiry into the interplay of choices that are being made, and dramas that are being enacted, in the lives of many personalities in many places and times in the multiverse.
    I was not able to see the Super Moon on my birthday, since the sky over Glasgow (and over Oban earlier in the day) was overcast. But I am tickled by Mr Fish and the expedition he invited me to continue, seeking resemblances over larger periods of time and space than we generally bring into focus. That's a stretch I'll enjoy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Cafe Rouge ascension technique

Berkeley, California

We need to learn to grow visions of bright possibility so strong that they want to manifest in the physical world. And we want to learn to use locales in ordinary reality as gateways to other worlds. Here's a small example, involving a theme that is anything but small: how an idea for a portal to a higher self became a physical locale on Fourth Street in Berkeley at lunchtime on Sunday.
    Spiritual guides and teachers can take many forms. For me, over many years, one of the most important teachers has been a being on a level above my present self that I think of as the Double on the Balcony. He is no stranger. He observes my present life and can see many things that are veiled from me when I am caught up in the hurry and distraction of my world. When I go looking for him, I often find him on a kind of observation deck that often resembles a roof garden or a terrace cafe with sweeping views. Sometimes he is sipping a drink the color of moonlight. Hence my pet name for him, the Double on the Balcony.

    He is a witness self. He is able to remind me of things that I forget. When I am in danger of making serious mistakes, he sometimes intervenes to offer course correction. I wrote a poem about him, "The Double on the Balcony" that is  in my new collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming:

You are not my shadow.
You stand closer to the sun.
Of all my doubles, you are the most interesting.
You are watching when I forget you.
You are with me when I don’t notice.
You are not my judge, or my guardian angel.
You are the one who remembers.
You are my witness on the balcony above the world.

I wanted to give the very lively and creative group that gathered for my weekend workshop in Berkeley an opportunity to encounter a second self of this kind, on an accessible level, and to rev-vision their life issues from his perspective. I am always experimenting with new portals for group adventures and shamanic journeys. After walking Fourth Street in Berkeley a few times, and having meals and coffee at a couple of pleasant cafes, I thought it might be fun to suggest to the group that during my drumming, they would enjoy themselves walking that street - in their second bodies - and picking a building, perhaps a restaurant, that could offer a gateway to the Double on the Balcony. Once inside the building, they would make their way to a level above the street, perhaps an upper floor in a restaurant that they had not previously known to be there. From here, they would discover means of ascent to higher levels - stairs (regular or spiral), an elevator, or a skylight. I was having fun rehearsing the way I would introduce this colloquial script for a journey of ascent to a (slightly) higher self before we took our lunch break.
    I had already decided to go to the Cafe Rouge, where I had enjoyed an excellent dinner the evening before, roasted salmon drenched in olive oil, and burrata on a bed of white nectarines, basil and toasted almonds. When I reached the cafe with several of my workshop participants, I was escorted up a staircase to an upper level of the restaurant I had not known was there. "You are taking us to a higher level," I joked with the hostess.
When I sat down, I enjoyed the soft play of sunlight through a skylight overhead. I looked up, and saw that the skylight was framed by stars, inviting an excellent journey to a much higher level.
    The cafe had become the portal I had imagined. The worlds were joined. I had no doubt but that we would have excellent experiences in the group journey I had planned, to meet our personal versions of the Double on the Balcony and receive life guidance from his or her perspective. And so we did.

Photos of Cafe Rouge in Berkeley (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Theater of soul recovery

Berkeley, California

Dream theater has long been one of my favorite things in the playshops I lead. We turn dream stories into performance very quickly, encouraging the dreamer to be director, scriptwriter and star. I will help her to pick members of the workshop to play all the key roles in the dream, human, animal and other. She can interact with her dream characters and ask them to tell her what they can say from the roles they are playing. Sometimes a dream is really asking to be dreamed onward, to continue an adventure, move beyond a fear, claim a power or resolve a mystery. In dream theater, it is remarkable how quickly we can facilitate this process. This is the pinnacle of improv, is profoundly energizing and bonding for a whole group, and often both wildly funny and deeply healing.
    I was awed by how fast and deep we were able to go, through spontaneous dream theater, on the first morning of the workshop I am currently leading in Berkeley, California. A woman narrated a dream in which she was shocked to see that her ex-husband was pregnant. She became distracted by the busy-ness of life, work, schedules, cleaning routines. Then in a moment of revelation she realized, inside the dream, that he ex was pregnant because he had stolen her egg,. Tremendous emotions were surging as she narrated the dream.   I suggested that she might want to cast people to play the key roles, starting with her ex and the egg, and the moment of revelation.
     As the drama unfolded, completely alive in the room, I proposed that she also cast people to play sources of inner guidance for both herself and her ex. Watched her confront her ex, reclaim something precious that she felt had been taken from her, and then come together with him, inside the embrace of the guides available to them both, for the well-being of the family. She told us she would be able to take this emotional healing and carry it through life, and the depth of the shared experience left us in no doubt this would happen.
     A second dream narrative also called for immediate performance. In her dream, another woman met a young girl, maybe four years old, she recognized as a very young version of herself who had gone missing at that age through bad things in the family. She tried to approach the child, but the girl would not engage with her, curling up in a corner and sucking her thumb. We quickly cast all the key elements in the dream, including the strange house and the rising flood waters in the landscape. The player who embodied the lost child brilliantly presented the challenge of reclaiming a part of our vital soul that may have gone missing in early life: we have to convince her that we are safe and we are fun. 

    The player in the role of the lost child refused to accept the assurances from the adult dreamer that she would be protected and would enjoy life with her grown-up self. It took intervention of a shamanic kind to clear this. I approached the child and asked her whether she would trust the Bear or the Tiger. "Tiger," she said without hesitation. So I entered the second theater. Tigers are beautiful and fierce and young children usually love them. The lost child came home to the adult, riding the tiger. They embraced, and were joined, We were all delighted by the fine visual synchronicity that the woman portraying the lost child was wearing a beautiful scarf featuring huge, brightly colored butterflies. The butterfly is a near-universal symbol for soul; in Greek the same word (psyche) means "soul" and "butterfly".
    The third dream shared on Saturday morning also invited immediate dream theater. In his dream, a man was scared by a huge standing bear that stood in his way. The bear had a chain attached to one of its legs. He avoided the bear, got distracted by a party scene, and then encountered two more bears. He lay down, trying to make himself small and invisible. The bears lay down on either side of him and went to sleep, leaving him unable to move or relax until eventually he left the dream, feeling that something vitally important had been left unresolved. In the dream theater, he was able to separate from the distractions of the party scene, and eventually to free the bear from the leg iron. In the conversation with the dream characters that ensued, the bear told the dreamer, "I am your own power" and the chain was especially eloquent. "I enabled you to contain that power until you were ready to claim it."
     It is extraordinary how this kind of performance can bring all the elements of a dream - far beyond the initial dream report - richly alive in a space and at the same time offer a path to closure and healing, all within minutes. The play-acting can become a true theater of soul recovery, as a spirited and intentional family emerges to support the recovery of vital energy that went missing in cruel passages of life, and to bring in more of the bright spirit of a larger Self. The child in us loves all this performance and creativity, and the child selves we may have lost are drawn to us because we are fun.

Bear cub fountain on The Circle in Berkeley (c) Robert Moss

Friday, June 14, 2013

Swimmer's soul and the Emperor's New Swim Trunks

Walnut Creek, California

"Where is the rest of me?"
    This is a question I like to ask myself, to check what aspects of my energy and identity may be lacking at a given time in my life, and which are abundantly present. It's a question I often ask people to journey on in my soul recovery workshops. What comes up often guides them - and me - to a younger self, or a greater self, or a parallel self, or a creative or animal spirit that we can now seek to lure back into our lives to provide more juice and more joy,
   It was no surprise to notice, recently, that the swimmer in me has been disaffected, because I have not been making enough time to get myself in the water where my body loves to be. I need my swimmer with me, because he can really go the distance. I can still swim 3 miles without pausing, doing the kind of freestyle we called the Australian crawl when I was a boy, staying very close to the water, minimizing resistance, turning the head no more than is necessary to take in air, loving the water and streaming with it. The poet William Stafford wrote a pretty good essay titled "Writing the Australian Crawl" and I most enjoy writing when it is like this way of moving with the element of water, which I have always known to be my primary element.
   So this morning, staying in a pleasant place in Walnut Creek CA where there are two pools bordered by palms, I got up early to swim. I was amazed and dismayed to find that I had not packed my swim trunks. I went through my suitcase three times. This was incomprehensible. I had taken my swim trunks everywhere all year long, to many, many places where I did not have the chance to swim or failed to make that happen - to Frankfurt and Barcelona, to Wisconsin and Lithuania, to Seattle and Ann Arbor. How could I have left my swim trunks at home, coming to sunny California?
    No worries. I had a pair of ocean-blue boxers that might pass for swim trunks if not inspected too closely by others. They even had a button in a strategic place to stop me flapping around, visibly, getting in or out of the pool.
    I chose the smaller and quieter of the two pools and swam for an hour before other people appeared in the enclosure. I stretched out on a recliner to catch some California sun. The pool lady moved closer and closer, hosing plants along the edges of the pool area. I noticed, to my horror, that I had failed to button my boxers at that strategic point. Any move to close the gap now might merely succeed in drawing attention to my aberrant swimwear.
    What to do? I chose the Emperor's New Swim Trunks approach, willing that nobody should notice there was anything amiss, not the lady with the toy dog who now appeared, not the building janitor, not the pool lady with the menacing hose. In due course, I wrapped a towel around my middle and made a dignified exit. I did not miss the metaphor. My missing swim trunks flagged the fact that I let a rather important soul part - that swimmer in me - go missing for far too long. Action plan: buy a new swim suit today so I don't have to cringe or clutch myself when getting my swimmer back into the water.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Return of the ancient deer

I know I am dreaming. I decide to rest my dream body in a high place overlooking a vast rolling landscape of rivers and wooded hills. People may look in on me, but only if they are able to ascend to this level.
    I close my dream eyes for sleep, and at once the landscape comes alive in a new way. Ancient deer are everywhere. Their spreading antlers are immense. They are like a walking forest.
    From my vantage point, I can see that the ancient deer are returning, all over the world. They are even in the cities, though few people are remotely aware that they have come again. This gives me tremendous hope. I am awed by the return of ancient and primal powers of the Earth. They are needed.

I am thinking now about the resemblance between antlers and the branches of trees. In French, the word for antlers is bois; they speak of the "wood" of the deer. As I follow the troubling news from Turkey, I notice that the protests began as a campaign to save the trees of Gezi Park, and I recall that the symbol of Ankara features a deer with tremendous antlers, dominating two bulls.
    May the wisdom of the ancient antlered ones, connected to the trees and to the power of regeneration, prevail over the bull-headed ones today.

P.S. In sketches for my personal tarot deck, I have drawn the Empress as Ancient Mother, seated under a tree whose branches rise like antlers, and the Emperor as a Deer King whose antlered crown resembles the tree and confirms his dedication to the Great Mother.

Tarot card drawings (c) Robert Moss. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's birthing in Berkeley Square

I am in an elegant Georgian square in London. The garden area at the center of the square has been covered by an immense tarp. It is rising as whatever is beneath it swells and steams. What is this? An immense heap of manure?
    The smell is loamy and rich. This may be the mother of all piles of crap, but I am sure that something wonderful is about to happen. It feels like the Earth herself is in process of giving birth, within this defined and mannerly space. I picture a natural spring that becomes a jetting fountain, surrounded by lush beds of flowers and flowering trees.

Feelings on waking before dawn today: cheerful, positive. Sure I can get my new book together.

Reality check: I think the location was Berkeley Square. I am going to another Berkeley, in California, this week. The book I am currently completing includes an account of my adventures and misadventures when I was engaged in researching and writing historical novels set in the Georgian era. Fictional characters who were given homes on Berkeley Square include Bertie Wooster and Flashman (a distant model for the narrator of my novel Fire Along the Sky). 

Defining the space: As I think about what is birthing in my dream, my eye falls on a quote from Reshad Feild, sent to me in an old letter: "In alchemy it is stated that whenever we define the space for which we are responsible, everything is given us within that space. It is as if the whole universe comes down and sits at our feet...ready to be used for God's plan on earth."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Catching the Blue Butterfly

"There's a blue butterfly!" someone yells. It is enormous and beautiful, with pale blue wings. It flits around our space, which is a greenhouse or glass-enclosed porch with many green plants.
    I run to catch it, and find there is a cord trailing from its body. When I clasp the cord, gently, not wanting to harm the butterfly, there is an upwards tug. I amazed to find this butterfly may be strong enough to lift my body off the ground.
    Later, I manage to catch it inside an upturned basket. What a find!

Feelings on waking: happy

Reality check: (1) I dreamed this while my suitcase - with a huge light blue name tag - was still missing after my return from my last trip to Europe. I woke to find my bag had been delivered overnight. (2) The butterfly is a favorite symbol for the soul, and is on the cover of my recent book Dreaming the Soul Back Home. (3) When I sat down to dinner on the deck of the dining hall at the Omega Institute during my workshop this past week, one of the participants was eager to show me a (dark) blue butterfly she had in a paper cup. Alas, that butterfly was dead and I said gently that I would rather not have it on the table. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Where to meet Tinker Bell

"You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you. That's where I'll be waiting."
    This is Tinker Bell's advice to Peter Pan in a movie version of J.M.Barrie's beloved story. [1] I recommend following these fairy directions.
    The liminal state of hypnagogia, when you are drifting between sleep and awake, or between waking and sleep, is a marvelous launch-pad for conscious dreaming. I am surprised it is not featured more in all those books on "lucid" dreaming, because the easiest way to become a lucid or conscious dreamer is to start out conscious and stay that way.
    If you can train yourself to maintain a state of relaxed attention in this in-between state, you will notice that you may be receiving a whole menu of possibilities for lucid dream adventures. Imaged, faces, landscapes rise and fall. When you learn to hold one of them in focus, it may become the portal for a conscious journey.
    The Parade of Faces is a frequent phenomenon in this state. You may feel you are among a crowd of people, with faces and figures rushing by. Sometimes one may turn to look at you, which can be an interesting opportunity to enter a shared experience with another dream traveler you may or may not know in ordinary reality.
    Sometimes the images rising and falling before you look like a child's sketches, or cartoons.
    A frequent sighting for me, in this in-between state, is of what initially looks like the weave of a carpet or the mesh of a net. I have come to recognize this as a kind of border between states of reality and consciousness. With intention, I can part the strands and find myself in another order or reality.
    The liminal state of hypnagogia, which I call the Twilight Zone in my book Dreamgates, is a good place to become aware of your ability to travel beyond the body. I often find myself lifting out of the body quite effortlessly in this state, without bumps and grinds. Sometimes, when tired, I simply rest half in, half out, of my physical form. Sometimes I float up to the ceiling. Quite often I go flying, like a bird, over my sleeping city and to places far away.
    As Tinker Bell counseled, the Place Between Sleep and Awake is, above all, a wonderful place to rendezvous with other beings and other intelligences. It is a state in which we often become aware of the psychic activity around us. We may receive visitors, and we will want to learn to screen and discern who we are letting into our space, because to be open to all comers is like opening your doors and windows in a night city, hanging out signs saying, "Party! Come On In! Everyone Welcome!"
     I frequently have inner dialogues in the Place Between Sleep and Awake, with sources of knowledge I have come to trust. This is a time when I can often receive streams of counsel and information from inner guides. In Dreamgates, I record some of my conversations with the intelligence I decided to call "G2". He carried the vocabulary and knowledge of a great Western Mystery order. I felt he was a transpersonal figure, though in no way alien to me. Many others have come to me in this liminal state. The most important of these inner guides is certainly no stranger; he is a self who observes and operates on a level of reality above the one I inhabit while living on this Earth in a physical body.
    In  the history of creative breakthroughs in every field, including science and technology, the hypnagogic state has been of vital importance. In this liminal zone it is easy to make creative connections, which often involves linking things that seem to the routine mind to be unconnected. Many inventions and discoveries attributed to dreams by over-hasty writers - like Kekule's discovery of the benzene ring - are actually gifts brought through from hypnagogia, to such an extent that I call this zone of consciousness "the solution state" in my Secret History of Dreaming.
    The Place Between Sleep and Wake can also be the very best place to go on with a dream or go back inside one. You may want to practice dream reentry to clarify information from a dream, or get to its full meaning, or continue a conversation with a dream character. You may need to reenter a dream because there are terrors to be overcome, or a mystery to be explored, or simply because you were having fun and adventure and would like to have more. Or because Tinker Bell is waiting for you. 

1. These lovely words are spoken by Tinker Bell (played by Julia Roberts) to the grown-up Peter Pan (played by Robin Williams) in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie “Hook”, written by James V. Hart. Alas, they are not in J.M.Barrie’s novel, Peter and Wendy, or in his play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

Illustration by Roy Best from the 1931 edition of Peter Pan.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing as enfleurage

Today trying to compress thousands of pages of journals, sketches and notes into one 50-page section of my new book feels a bit like trying to pack the contents of a house, or perhaps a whole forest, in a carry-on bag.  
    It helps me to shift the simile to the making of perfume or essential oils. I see myself putting the petals of many flowers in the alembic that will produce the fragrance. The most delicate blossoms, like jasmine, require the the older, slower way of cold enfleurage, developed in southern France in the nineteenth century.
    I bring the plants and flowers I have gathered to the chassis, a framed sheet of glass. There is a layer of wax or tallow inside the frame. I gently press my blossoms into this medium. When all of their essence has been absorbed, I replace them with fresh flowers, and repeat this process until I am satisfied that the medium is saturated with the aromatic essence, which will now be released by alcohol. Yes, this can work...