Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sidewalk Tarot: Gotta Try for the Big One

The experience of meaningful coincidence can come like a slap in the face or a passionate embrace. It can leave you gasping, knowing that the universe has become very personal and is speaking directly to you. Such big encounters with the deeper order, in which there is really no separation between mind and matter, can leave you stunned, or aroused.
    However, I love the smaller encounters with synchronicity that may do no more than give a little fizz or tickle to the day. When I am home, I start my morning by walking my little dog up a street of brownstones in a small city to the park where we take a path around a lake. Coming and going, I'm mildly alert - in a relaxed, undemanding way - for signs and symbols from the world about us.
   I will note the first kledon of the day. "Kledon" is the Greek word for speech or sounds coming out of silence. I wrote here recently about how deeply I was aroused by a man whistling for his dog who made what sounded to me like the call of a rainbird.
    Today's little story starts with a kledon from the path around the lake.
 "Gotta to try for the big one!" the cheery mother of a large family greets me. They have set up a veritable fishing camp on the path round the lake: canvas fold-out chairs, hampers, rods and reels, jars of bait, drinks and snacks. I've never seen anything big that has gills and fins caught in this lake, but then there are many kinds of "big ones" in life.

    Walking my dog back from the park, I'm open to playing what I call Sidewalk Tarot. This means noticing things that pop up on the street - a kid's chalk drawing on the sidewalk, the logo on a van, a dropped coin or earring or an abandoned shoe - and seeing whether they are offering a message or image for the day, or at least the moment.
     I notice the huge fish banner flapping from a brownstone near my home. It's been here for a couple of weeks, but today, as it blows back and forth, it seems to reinforce the theme that we want to try for the Big One. At the least, there is something fishy going on.
    Just down the block, a young man is strumming a guitar on one side of a car, singing what sounds like an original - but imperfect - composition. His girlfriend watches and listens from the other side of the car, which is full of stuff. They are moving in, or moving out. Could be a big one.

    A few paces further, and I come to the Reject Books of the day. In my neighborhood, where there are quite a few transient college kids, unwanted books are frequently left out on stoops or steps or on the sidewalk, So I have made Reject Books a subcategory of my Sidewalk Tarot.
    Today's spread is pretty interesting. It takes no imagination to see the books laid on on a neighbor's steps as a five-card spread. What do we have here? A princess card, surely (lower left). The suit of Jewels is dominant.  Is that Children's Bible the Hierophant, or High Priest? Is "I Do" the Lovers card?
    I love outrageous correspondence, when we know we are dancing or teetering on the mythic edge, and that the powers of the world-behind-the-world are poking or thrusting through the curtain walls of our limited everyday understanding. I love it when I walk into a bookstore in Boulder to read from some of mythic poems and am greeted by a young woman named Athena who introduces me to Odysseus. I am thrilled and chilled when a fox-cursed demon driver takes me half-way over a cliff in the Carpathian mountains. I can never forget what it meant to me when I had written down a theme for guidance that included the name "Indiana Jones" and a man dressed as Indiana Jones sat down next to me on a plane, a story I tell in full detail in my book The Three "Only" Things.
    Yet I also love the little patterns of resemblance and connection, the way life rhymes in smaller ways. Noticing these things is essential to poetic health, and we need poetic consciousness to come fully alive to the rhyming universe.
    It's enough for me, for now, that I have my bumper sticker for the day: Gotta Try for the Big One. Yes, ma'am.

Sequel: Landing the Big One

The next morning, I come upon another fisherman, casting his line from a gap in the bull rushes at the western end of the lake. "Have you ever caught anything in this lake?" I ask him.
   "Oh yeah. I just caught a bass as big as my tackle box. The biggest fish I ever caught in my life."
   The tackle box is large and chunky. A bass that size would certainly be a Big fish. My inner skeptic tells me I'm listening to a wannabe fisherman's wishful tale. I have never seen anyone catch anything big in these waters.
   I am rounding the end of the lake when I hear shouts, "Hey! Hey! I got one!"
   I can't see clearly through the rushes, but when I walk a little further on I see the fisherman hoisting his rod high in the air, for me to see what he's hooked. That fish really is as long as his tackle box. He unhooks the fish and lets it drop back in the water.
    Has he got a bass trained to appear on command? Is this the Law of Eternal Return (in two senses)?
    Whatever. I'll carry yesterday's catch phrase with me today. "Gotta Try for the Big One."
    A snatch of Ovid returns to me. 

   Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nine Keys to Living Consciously in the Multiverse

1. The only time is Now. All other times - past, present and parallel - can be accessed in this moment of Now, and may be changed for the better.

2. We dream to wake up. Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep. It is about waking up to a deeper order of reality. Dreaming is a discipline; to get really good at it requires practice, practice, practice.

3. Treasures are waiting for us in the Place Between Sleep and Awake. The easiest way to become a lucid or conscious dreamer is to spend more time in the twilight zone between waking and sleep, or between sleep and waking.  This liminal state is a place of encounter with inner guides and of heightened psychic perception and creative breakthroughs.

4. We live in the Speaking Land, as the First Peoples of my native Australia say. Everything in the world around us is alive and conscious and will speak to us if we are paying attention. Navigating by synchronicity becomes very simple, even irresistible, when we stream into this mode of understanding.

5. To live well, we must practice death. We bring courage and clarity to life choices when we are aware that death is always with us, and that we should be ready to meet it any day.

6. We must feed and honor our animal spirits. A working connection with them gives us immense resources for self-healing.

7. We have a guide for our lives who is no stranger. He is always with us and does not judge us. This is the Self on a higher level. When we rise to the perspective of the Greater Self, we are able to make peace between different personality aspects, including our counterparts in other times and parallel realities.

8. We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues. We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons. We can dialog with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.

9. We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own – the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits, the creative daimon.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "World Tree" by Annick Bougerolle

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Call of the rainbird

There it is again, the call of the rainbird. But it can't be. I have never heard this bird in any part of North America, let alone this urban park in the Northeast. It has to be someone whistling for his dog. The whistle changes, a happy dog with flapping ears materializes through the maples, and my guess is confirmed.
    But for a moment, I am transported, back to a another park, in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, where my parents retired. I walked a path there, slowly, with my father when I visited him before his death. He loved to hear the call of the rainbird and would imitate it perfectly. even after his stroke. The Pacific koel - as ornithologists and bird-watchers call this kind of cuckoo - derives its familiar name from the fact that it is often heard before rain and storm. The males are black with red eyes, and their calls in mating season are very demanding.
    Strange and welcome, this vivid reminder of a scene from the other side of the world in the whistle of a dog walker. When I heard the rainbird, I was thinking about the content of a class I leading this evening in a teleseminar for The Shift Network. The theme tonight is "Partnering with Spiritual Guides." I was reminded that our spiritual guides include loved ones who have gone to the Other Side before us, and that they can become extraordinary life counselors.
    My father played a very direct role in healing old family wounds within days of his death. After the funeral, I sat out on a balcony with my mother. Emotions were raw, we were drinking rather heavily, and my mother started voicing an old list of complaints. When I responded curtly, she rushed inside the apartment.  I was deeply sad, and ashamed. In desperation, I spoke to my father. I begged him to forgive me for getting drawn into old, petty family disputes. “Dad, if you can, please speak to Mum. Please lift the burden and the bitterness from her.”
     The next instant, my mother flew through the door to the balcony like a leaf being blown by a strong wind. She stood behind me, placing her right arm over my shoulder, and her left hand over my heart. She spoke to me of love and forgiveness. She spoke of the deep love she had always felt for me, and apologized that she had so often found it impossible to demonstrate that love, and had been so prone to get distracted by things that really weren’t important.
     All the while, she had her left hand on my heart. When I mentioned this later, she was stunned. She found it hard to believe what I was telling her. She was never one for physical contact and had no idea that her hand was on my heart. This gust of emotion, this tremendous release, had come from someone who had been emotionally bottled up since I was very young, who avoided showing her feelings and did not hold me like a mother. She said, “I came back out on the balcony because something grabbed me and pushed me outside.”
    I was certain it was my father who had blown her back to me, and held her hand over my heart, to make peace between us, and bring us back to the heart center. I felt the depth of my father’s blessing, and deep gratitude for what becomes possible when we recognize that our dead are alive, and that we can help each other to live better and remember what matters.
    In the year that followed, my father visited me, and another family member, repeatedly. He confirmed the reality of life beyond physical death. He delivered messages for the family that helped us to navigate life issues. For example, concerned that my mother needed to move to a more sheltered environment, he visited me and insisted that I tell her to get in touch with someone named "Rodriguez." I had no idea who this might be, but when I duly phoned my mother, she told me that she knew a Ron Rodriguez quite well. He was a real estate agent. She followed my father's advice and Rodriguez helped her to sell her apartment and move to a new home in a retirement community where she made new friends and was happy in her last years.
    My father showed me something of his transitions on the side, and his eventual choice of a new life situation where he would no longer be available for communication on a regular basis. I think of him now, with deep love and gratitude for playing the role of family angel in so many ways. Thank you, Dad. And I thank whatever inspired that other dog walker to make the call of the rainbird today.

Part of this article is adapted from The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo of Pacific koel by Aviceda

You can listen to the call of the rainbird here

Monday, August 25, 2014

You take the high road and I'll take the low road

You take the high road and I'll take the low road.
And I'll be in dreamland before you.

The way up is the way down.
Lower World, Middle World, Upper World. Go traveling like a shaman, and you might find the cosmos is not arranged like a layer cake.

Good morning, willow. I share your green yearnings.
Any tree may be the Tree of Life, whose roots are in heaven.

The young Rimbaud said that to prepare himself to write poetry, he would stare into a river until he could see a cathedral at the bottom. Sometimes this takes no time at all, because the world of living symbols is looking at you. This is what I found at the lake in my local park today.

photos (c) Robert Moss

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I had a dream

I had a dream, you say,
but maybe a dream had you.
A dream may slip through the keyhole
and stand over your head, whispering,
or creep under the covers with you.

You could say that you saw a dream
or you heard one. On juicy nights
you might taste a dream and wake
with the tang of raspberries
or runny cheese on your mouth.

Dreams may be visitors.
Dreams are also places you visit
where your experiences may be
realer than what you call real
on an ordinary day.

When you wake up to what’s going on
you know you don’t have to lie down
and let just any dream have you.
You don’t need to keep going
to bad neighborhoods in the dreamlands.

You can make better dreams.
You have a starship full of dream producers
waiting for your call. Dump your old scripts
and they’ll help you create worlds.
Then you’ll have a dream.

- August 24, 2014

Art: "Making Songlines" (c) Robert Moss

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where there's a Goddess there's a way


This is my catch phrase from my last dream of last night. In the dream:

I am on a road that becomes impassable, thanks to erosion and then construction that has left a gaping L-shaped hole (actually more like the Greek letter lambda)  through which I can see water below. Now fully lucid, I consider my options. I can fly over the obstruction, as I have done in dreams before. But that does not feel right.
    Whatever is going on here needs to be sorted out on the ground - or on the water. Different dream lands have different physics and requirements. It seems I am stopped on a bridge. Why not call up a boat to take me where I want to go? 

    Now I hear a tremendous feminine voice, saying, I will open the road from Halicarnassus to Sinope. 
   I sit up in bed with the words vibrating in my mind I am certain I have heard the words of a goddess, delivered by a priestess of her oracle. I am thrilled with excitement.
    Of course my dream has set me yet another research assignment, starting at the birth city of Herodotus, whose Histories were already in my current reading because of a dream from a few days ago, extending to a Black Sea port associated with the quest of the Golden Fleece. No doubt I will be called again into the realm of the Great Goddess of Anatolia....

Image: The Cyblele fountain in Madrid. Though it's at the other end of the Mediterranean, and was sculpted in the 18th century, this is one of my favorite images of the Great Goddess of Anatolia, Matar Kubileya to the Phrygians, Kumbaba to the Hittites, Kybele to the Greeks (syncretized with Artemis at Ephesus), Magna Mater or Cybele to the Romans, and often, quite simply, the Mountain Mother or Mother of the Gods.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Driving a Car with Brique Affinée.

I am driving fast on curving roads at night. This car is controlled by a white oval knob on top of the dashboard. I find it easiest to operate when I work it with a piece of French cheese. This is a very particular cheese, a creamy gourmand delight called brique affinée. It's shaped like a thin brick, and I use the edge on the knob, pressing hard when I want to work the brakes. 

Feelings: Amused. 

Reality: I usually eat brique affinée when I teach in southern France, where my wonderful translator introduced me to it. Made in very traditional style by Vieux Pané, it is nonetheless a fairly recent arrival on the immense French cheeseboard.

Intention: My intention for dreams last night was simple: "I want to have some fun in my dreams and then have more fun talking about them and creating from them." This tasty scene, one of many, seems to be a direct response. Not quite as much fun as other dreams from last night, of a new kitten tickling the back of my neck, and of swimming in the warm turquoise waters or a lagoon at a mermaid beach. However, I am always happy to talk about cheese!

Action: I shall certainly want to eat some brique affinée when I lead my dream teacher training near Montpellier in October.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Audience with the Rememberer

A woman traveler describes her experiences in an extraordinary land, to the astonishment of people who know this country only from a book. They learn from her that the land of legends is real. She learns from their book what the anomalous events and conditions she has experienced may mean.

This was the 50 word report of a dream, as I recorded it on waking on the morning of March 23, 2003. The legacy of the dream was a sense of wonder, and a keen desire to know more. However, the details were flown, and I had no time to try to journey back inside the dream, because I was catching an early plane and needed to get dressed, finish packing, and rush to the airport.
     A good friend named Carol had agreed to assist me in leading a workshop, and we were booked on the same flight to Chicago, en route to places West. After we had claimed our seats and survived the automated safety briefing, I told Carol what I remembered from my dream. "What do you want to know?" she asked, following our regular dream-sharing process. "I want to know more about everything. I want to know all about the land of legends."
     Gently, Carol started a line of questioning that brought the dream alive in my mind. As I responded, I started taking frantic notes. Soon they had filled a dozen pages of my journal, and were already more than notes. They were becoming the first draft of a story. When I got to my hotel, I typed it up.
    It recounts the adventure of a young woman named Constantina. On her way to her sister's baby shower, she slips into another reality, into a strange country known to her people only through "a book compiled by an itinerant schoolmaster who was charged with sacrilege and forced to flee into exile. It is a land that is hard to describe, because it has more angles.” 

     She meets the Rememberer, a prince of the city with a forked beard, half white and half black. Their audience takes place in a pool shaped like a figure 8 or lemniscate symbol of infinity. The Rememberer is submerged below the waist. He communicates through a tablet composed of lines and waves of some electric force. It crackles like a toaster or an old bar radiator about to explode. The flashes conform to an unknown but coherent alphabet of signs. 
     When she returns home, there is a great public gathering where people ply her with questions. 
They ask her for her feelings about the strange man. She tells them, “I felt his indifference, the indifference of one who has seen the birth and death of suns and has outlived everything he ever loved. What I mostly noticed was his smell. It was the smell of attar of roses, cut with turmeric. And his eyes. His eyes are bottomless wells.”
     And so on, and on. When I was finished typing, I had 4,000 words, raw and strange, organized by dream logic and poetic resemblance. 

This was a quite magical experience of dream retrieval. So much can come back to us, from the other side of the wall between the worlds, when we allow it to come. The process can be greatly assisted by a caring friend who knows how to tease us to bring back more. It truly prospers when we don't interrupt ourselves by asking, Am I making this up?
    All of this came back to me when I lunched with my friend Carol and recollected in conversation how she had helped me to bring through this story. Alas, I had left my story 
unfinished. I had meant to go back to the draft, after that trip, and see what it wanted to become. I did go back, in a break in my travels, and developed my journal notes into something closer to a publishable story. But I could not find that version when I was choosing and polishing some of my stories for my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming. Maybe it was time to complete it. 
    I went looking for the draft and found the journal version I have excerpted here, but not the more elaborate second draft. It seemed that the second draft had never made it to my electronic data base. I did find the drawing I made, which I titled "The Audience with the Rememberer".
    Then another friend recounted a dream that, while scary, had given her the gift of a terrific scene and a marvelously wicked villain for a novel she is writing. 
I felt an acute desire to get back to completing one of my own dream-driven stories. Yes, I could work from my journal entries with that raw first draft. But I would really like to resurrect the second draft and remember where I had taken the tale, or where the tale had taken me. Surely I had hard copy somewhere in my house.
    With some trepidation, I confronted the hundred documents boxes (no kidding) in a storeroom in my basement, many of them allowed to languish for years. Where to begin? On a whim, I pulled out a box that had unrelated materials on top. Brushing these aside, I found, in the second folder below, a typed draft of "The Rememberer". This gave me a little shiver of recognition; the shelf elves were in friendly mood.
    My second draft is the length of a novella, but (as I said) unfinished, containing many mysteries, not all of the kind that can ever be figured out by the reasoning mind. Yes, I remember: I have a significant dream-directed writing assignment to fulfill.

"Audience with the Rememberer" (c) Robert Moss

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My dream boat is good for a pleasure cruise

I am on board a motor yacht. It is beautifully appointed, with gleaming brass and wood panels. It can sleep twenty passengers, or more, in great comfort.
     The plan is to sail across the seas of the world, to Goa and other places along the Malabar coast. But I am starting to think that this plan is too ambitious. The boat is old, and its equipment has not been properly maintained. I fear it could spring some leaks, and I suspect that the control instruments are not reliable. In the wheelhouse, I inspect three knobs or buttons that are vital to navigation. One seems to be loose. I can picture it falling off.
    I say firmly that I am not willing to risk taking this tub to the other side of the world. However, it is surely still good for a pleasure cruise. I am willing to take it out for the day, on a jaunt around the bay. I look out with delight over sparkling blue waters.
    I am confident that even if we break down or spring a leak, we can get safely back to shore. Anchors away!

Feelings: I woke from this dream this morning feeling jolly and breezy.
Reality: The luxury boat reminds me of a private yacht in which I was fortunate enough to take a cruise, as an invited guest, from Rhodes along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey many years ago. I have not (yet) been to Goa or the Malabar coast, but I love spicy food and this region produces the spiciest food in the Indian subcontinent. Of course I notice that the state of the boat - classy but aging and in need of some maintenance - may also be an analog for the state of my body!
Intention: I had set an intention before sleep: I would like impetus for fresh writing.
Linking dream to intention: I think my dream producers gave me an elegant advisory on how to approach new creative writing in this period of my life: as a little pleasure cruise, or a succession of them. No need to go round the world on an immense agenda (though I might always get to Goa through a series of pleasure jaunts).

Action phrase (also my action plan): My writing life is a pleasure cruise.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bookish clues to creative life

In Manhattan, I enter a rare bookshop. It’s an unusual step; I know such places are likely to be blindingly expensive. On a large table, I see a book devoted to Yeats. It seems to be a handsome version of a scrapbook or album, with many pictures and excerpts, including sections of manuscript, on each of the heavy stock, creamy pages. I doubt that it has new content, but I’m attracted by its beauty. I look at the penciled price. $610. Too rich for my blood.
    A store assistant leans over and says, “It was last sold for $210.” I’m surprised he would confess to the huge markup. Then he says, “I could let you have it for $150.”
    “We get large consignments, usually from estates, and we have to keep the stock moving. Otherwise we have to let books go, and they just revert to paper.”
     I agree that I’ll buy the Yeats album for $150. I notice that there seems to be a second copy underneath.
    “Hold it for me for now.”
    “Are you looking for something else?”
    “Aubrey de Sélincourt.” I name the writer without hesitation.
    The store assistant makes a quick search and returns with a book with a yellow dust jacket without illustrations. It looks like an old scholarly edition. I glance at the list of contents. Each part of the book has a title involving a Greek word; part 3 or 4 is titled KTISIS, or KTHISIAS. The work seems rather rarefied, philosophy or theology. I’m not sure it’s what I want.
     I explain to the store assistant that I am interested in de Sélincourt as a writer who managed to enter the heart of the Ottoman empire, at its foundation.

Feelings: I woke from this dream this morning curious, intrigued
Reality check: I was in Manhattan yesterday. I know rare bookshops of this type in the city, and usually give them a wide berth. I love Yeats, and write in depth about our relationship in The Dreamer's Book of the Dead and The Boy Who Died and Came Back. I would probably buy a Yeats album like that, at the reduced price.
     I know Aubrey de Sélincourt as the translator of Herodotus, whose Histories describe the sweep of peoples across Anatolia, later the heartland of the Ottoman empire. I see that de Sélincourt wrote two dozen books. The son of the owner of the Swan & Edgar department store, he was an Oxford classics scholar, an athlete and yachtsman. He was an officer at Gallipoli, later a pilot for the Royal Air Force, shot down by the crack German aviator Voss and held as a POW for the last part of World War I.
    A little research suggests that ktisis means creation in the sense of founding from nothing, from Homer to the New Testament.
    I have read a little about Ottoman dreams, and have taught Active Dreaming in Turkey.
    As for books that "revert to paper" unless acquired - ah, well, I think of all my unfinished or abandoned drafts of books and stories from several decades, including a novella involving Yeats.

My intention last night was for insight into defining my present creative life purpose…

Action: Look again at de Sélincourt’s translation of Herodotus, and at his book The World of Herodotus. Venture in to one of those rare bookshops in Manhattan on a future visit. Accept the assignment of life creation. Stick my head back inside the dream, if I can, and bring back more of the book with the difficult Greek terms.

Bumper sticker: My creative purpose involves books of rare quality.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From the dentist's chair to a pink sand beach

"How are you today?" asks the dental assistant.
    "Fine," I respond. "Except that I'm on my way to a dentist's chair. Anyone who tells you only that they're fine on the way to an appointment with a drill is giving you less than a full response."
    I am going to see a new dentist, for the first stage of replacing a crown. I've been alerted that this will be a marathon session, at least 90 minutes. I adjust my body to the seat, taking in the decor of the room. Models in my line of sight demonstrate the progression of periodontal disease. The walls are empty, stark white, except for medicine cabinets. Nothing to inspire cheerful thoughts or stir the imagination, except maybe through sensory deprivation.
    The new dentist arrives. He announces, "First, I'm going to numb you up."
    "No you're not," I correct him. "I don't need anesthetics of any kind for this." I explain that over decades I have undergone multiple root canals, crown replacements and even oral surgery to extract the shards of a shattered tooth without numbing.
    "How do you do that?"
    "I let my mind carry me to another place."
    He's willing to trust me. He just says that if things get too much I should raise my left hand.
    The drilling begins, and goes on and on.
     I'm only distantly aware of it, because I am on a pink sand beach, enjoying the hard spray coming off the breakers. I run back and forth into the sea. Then I slip along the coast to bathe at leisure in the warm waters of a protected cove, worthy of a boyhood story of pirates, or a romantic tryst with a mermaid.
     I am distracted from this pleasant idyll only when dust from the drilling, or water from the jets being squirted intermittently into my mouth, threaten to go down my throat.
     Ninety minutes was a good estimate. It takes all of that for the whole procedure.
     The dentist asks me to say more about how I can get through this stuff without being numbed.
    "While you were working on my teeth," I tell him, "I was on a pink sand beach in Bermuda."
     He says, "When I was in dental school they told us that we can teach patients to put their mind somewhere else, by telling them to feel sand between the toes, stuff like that. I guess I'll have to remember that when you come in, I'll need to make that pink sand."
     "It's okay. I'm already there." I add, "I'd just like you to put some good pictures on the walls - of beaches, or lakes in the woods - so people who need outside stimuli can start taking themselves into those scenes, instead of the progress of gum disease."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cashew juju

Here's a tiny tale of synchronicity from today.
    Late last night I watched the film version of Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimananda Ngosi Adichie's marvelous and moving novel of the ordeals of a family and a people in the Biafran war. I had a book-lover's unease as I fired up my DVD player. Could the movie be even half as good as the novel? Actually, the film is first-rate, but I missed some pivotal scenes and character exploration, and some of the actors looked nothing like the characters who came alive in my mind as I journeyed in the world of the book.
    I was prompted to start reading Purple Hibiscus, Adichie's previous novel. In chapter one, I followed a deepening family drama, told in the voice of an Igbo girl. It led to the Sunday lunch table where her father, a businessman who owns a bottling company, is planning to bring a new beverage to market: cashew juice.
    His wife tells him, "They brought the cashew juice this afternoon. It tastes good. I'm sure it will sell."

    The father instructs the help, "Bring two bottles of the drink they brought from the factory."
    For a couple of pages, we follow what could be a taste test for cashew juice except that no one really knows what to say because the primary taste in their mouths is the ashes and vinegar of a family quarrel. "Just like white wine," says Mama, but in fact cashew juice tastes nothing like wine. The son, Jaja, in trouble for failing to go to church that day, says nothing at all. Kambili, the teen narrator, thinks it tastes like water and looks like urine, but doesn't dare to say these things.

     I stopped reading after this scene, though eager for more, because it was quite late and I had errands to run in the morning.
     In mid-morning, while waiting for my cats to complete their check-up at the vet, I glanced over the New York Times headlines online. Nothing good from Iraq or Gaza or Ukraine. Then I scrolled down to this headline: 

Cashew Juice, the Apple of Pepsi's Eye

With rising fascination, I reviewed a long report by Stephanie Strom on how Pepsi is contemplating a huge marketing and distribution campaign, under the Tropicana brand, to make cashew juice a beverage of choice across India and then bring it into Western markets as a premium drink. "Pepsi is betting that the tangy, sweet juice from cashew apples can be the next coconut water or açaí juice."    Cashew juice is produced from cashew "apples" - the red or yellow fruits that are usually thrown away after the nuts are removed. So, the basic ingredient could hardly be cheaper, though there is the slight problem of milking and treating the juice before it ferments, which it does very fast. You can't have alcohol in a Tropicana bottle.
    What are the odds on reading a chapter in a 2003 novel about taste testing cashew juice as a new item in the Nigeria of the 1960s - and then reading a few hours later that a major corporation, right now, is mounting a campaign to make cashew juice a world drink?
    Nothing big is going on here, in terms of a personal message. It's not one of those cases of meaningful coincidence when you feel the world has shaken your hand or slapped you in the face. This nutty little story just brings the sweet and poetic sense that everything is connected and that, truly, life rhymes.

Anacardium occidentale from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)

Friday, August 8, 2014

You don't give a haircut to a lion

I spent the whole night, while my body slept, helping people to find and shape stories. With some, this meant helping them to find their voice, to speak in front of others, free of text, and to release their stories from the clutter of biography and explanation. First the adventure, later the discussion. With others, it meant getting the right words to line up together on a page. So many pages! Some beautiful creamy art paper, others veined like parchment, some ruled in composition books, others quite unruly.
    Some of the stories came from dreams. Some grew from the slightest wisp, the merest snippet from the night. Some were necklace stories, strung like bright beads on a string of incidents from the speaking land: the caw of that crow, the fall of that card, the vanity plate that read Camelot. Some were the work of literary privateers, given permission to steal a little from others. Some were inspired by shelf elves who arranged for a certain book to turn up or vanish at a creative moment.
   The unstoppable stories were the ones that had been seeking the teller for years, even a whole lifetime. I helped people shape these wild ones too, but only a little. You don’t give a haircut to a lion.

When I left my bed to walk my dog in the morning sunlight, I felt deeply satisfied, with the kind of satisfaction that comes when you have done a job that you chose to do as well as you can. Helping people find their best stories, and tell them so well that others want to hear them, is one of my greatest pleasures. And one of the greatest gifts of the Active Dreaming methods I have created is that we are forever encouraging each other to become both storytellers and story makers.

Lion Man on brown bag (c) Robert Moss

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"He can't kill both of us, can he?"

Listening for the first kledon of the day is one of my favorite synchronicity games. The word "kledon" is Greek. It refers to the first sounds you hear coming from silence, maybe a snatch of conversation, or the cry of a bird, or the sigh of wind in the trees.
    Monitoring kledons was a favorite form of divination in the ancient world. At Pharai in the Peloponnese there was a marketplace oracle that delivered messages through sounds received in this way. If you were seeking guidance, you approached the statue of Hermes, the divine messenger, in the center of the walled market. You whispered your request for counsel in the rough-hewn ear of the god. Then you clapped your hands over your ears, shutting out the noise of the market, until you reached the outer gate. There you took your hands away from your ears, ready to receive the first sounds that came to you as the response of the divine messenger, "the friendliest of gods to men".

    In everyday life, the stir and bustle of a gritty city street may deliver a kledon as effectively as preceding silence, when a message becomes audible through undifferentiated white noise.
    I received a kledon this morning that is very much on my mind. It was not simply something overheard in the street. It was addressed to me, and inspired by my little dog Oskar.

   Oskar is a miniature Schnauzer who weighs all of 22 pounds. He has hosts of admirers. It is not unusual for him to draw three cries like "What a cutie!" in a single block. Today, he drew a different kind of remark.
    Walking Oskar towards the park around breakfast time, I had a question on my mind. I was debating with myself whether I can really manage to take on two big new projects this fall. They will both demand considerable time, energy and focus, and it is possible that they could prove to be mutually competing.
    I was not resolved to put my question to the world in the sense of asking for direct guidance. But I had the theme on my mind when a stranger got out of his car a few houses up the street from my home, He hoisted a huge carton of stuff out of his vehicle, raising it to shoulder height. As he approached me, he pointed his chin at my dog and said, 
"He can't kill us both at the same time, can he?"
    Could this odd, unsolicited little joke be a comment on my theme - the matter of whether I can handle both of those projects? If so, what is the guidance? "Can't kill both" could mean that I can't "execute" - in the sense of accomplish, bring to fruition - both projects. The remark could also mean that two are stronger than one. Then again, as a friend pointed out, the message may be that the dog (and his master) can't focus on more than one target at a time.
     Oracles are known to be ambiguous. That's how they stay in business long-term.
     But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that my friend's suggestion was wise. The dog has to focus on one person at a time. I need to focus on one project at this time. And I know which one that is.
    So: a couple of hours after the doggy encounter, I talk on the phone to the manager of the second project. He's disappointed when I tell him that I don't think I can go ahead with our plan this fall. Then I tell him the dog story. As soon as I quote the stranger who said, "He can't kill both of us at the same time," the manager roars with laughter and shouts, "I get it!" We are able to agree to defer our fall project for later discussion and a possible date next year.
    The doggy kledon not only gave me the guidance I needed to make a decision. It gave me an entertaining and effective way to communicate that decision, making what could have been a difficult conversation into a very cordial one.

Note: For a full account of the market oracle at Pharai, please see my book Conscious Dreaming.

photo (c) Robert Moss

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Don't run over my breakfast again"

I know that crows and ravens have a rich vocabulary. "Crows communicate their motivations, identities and report on local conditions each time they caw or croak," report John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell in their excellent book In the Company of Crows and Ravens. "But sounds made by crows are much more than simple signals that we occasionally intercept. Together they encode a complex language, steeped in cultural tradition."
    Alas, like most humans I am often tone-deaf to what the crows are saying, noting little more than the difference between a caw and a trill, or between a long caw and a short one, and the multiple cries of assembly and dispersal.
    This morning, I could not fail to notice the long, harsh caws of a lone crow perched in a linden tree across the street as I walked my dog back from the park. The crow sounded assertive, maybe territorial, but I did not know what he was saying until I started crossing the street. There, flattened next to the dotted yellow line, was a small gray-brown squirrel, freshly killed.
    Sometimes messages are simple. The crow was saying, "Don't anyone dare to run over my breakfast again."

Drawing (c) Robert Moss

Monday, August 4, 2014

Choose the day

Carpe diem, goes the old Latin tag. “Seize the day.”  The sole commandment of conscious living is no less proactive, but more conscious: choose the day.
    What we encounter on any day has a great deal to do with what we bring to that day. We draw or repel different events and encounters according to our attitudes and the basic energy we are carrying. We find doors open or closed according to our willingness or refusal to change our expectations and our plans as circumstances change.
     We choose every day, whether we are aware of this or not. If we tell ourselves we have no choice, that is a choice we are making. If we tell ourselves that we have no choice because a situation is beyond our control, we forget that we can still choose our response to the world, and that can change everything.
    Truth, in our lives, is what we remember and act upon. Lists of rules or intentions can become like grocery lists; we are forever in danger of forgetting items or getting what matters mixed up.
   So my list of personal commandments reduces to this: Choose the day. The content of that choice is less important than the consciousness that we have a choice and need to approach life, on any day, as choosers, not spectators, victims, or consumers. 

Text adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Sunflower photos (c) Robert Moss