Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dream tigers

In the drifty state before sleep, I became aware that there was a tiger in my bedroom. He was longer than the bed, magnificent in his beautiful striped suit, staring at me with golden eyes, whiskers a-quiver. I felt a shiver of wild excitement edged with a little fear. This tiger was real, and he was dangerous. Yes, he is "my" tiger - it's no secret that I have a long connection with Tiger, who has been a marvelous ally, not least in soul recovery work - yet he is also his own being. He is hunting me, and who knows where that will lead tonight? I accepted the invitation to travel with him, into the night. With the morning light, most of our adventures slipped back into the night forest, except for the delicious sensations of stretching and swimming in warm waters in the long, well-muscled body of the big cat that most loves to swim.
-    The little tingle of fear in the hypnagogic zone was a reminder of what is required to entertain a genuine relationship with a BIG spiritual ally. "Every angel is terrifying," said Rilke. Whether the ally shows itself as the angel or the tiger, we are required to brave up to claim and work our connection. When I first started living in the United States, it was the Bear - the great medicine animal of North America - who required me to brave up: to step into the embrace of something much bigger than me, to recognize that we have a heart connection, and to call in its power for healing for myself and others.
-    Animal guardians are not cute symbols to be looked up in books or flaunted as New Age decals. They are living energies, both personal and transpersonal, that need to be celebrated and fed in our bodies and our lives. We know they are true allies when they turn up when we need them and lend us their instincts and sensorium, which operates beyond the merely human range. Shamanic types may have connections with many animal guardians and may work temporary connections with the guardians - active or potential - of those they help. Like shamans, we can encourage animal spirits to take up residence in certain centers of our energy bodies, but they have their own characters and agendas. You can gentle the ferocity of the tiger, but you cannot ignore that it can rip out your throat.
-    If we cease to nourish and entertain our animal spirits, they go away, and we may experience their loss as fatigue or depression or blurred vision, drugged senses or a failing immune system. I once experimented with going vegetarian for six weeks. In that period, I visited a zoo with my family. I am usually very restive around the big cat enclosures even when - as in this case - the space is fairly generous, because big cats don't belong in captivity. We came to an enclosure where a family of tigers were lazing in the sun. My daughter clutched my arm. "Daddy, he's looking at you." The male tiger was now sitting up, staring at me in intently. He loped to the bars and examined me at close range. I had the keen sensation that he was trying to figure out whether I was family. He sniffed me then gave the tiger version of a shrug, and padded back to his pride, rolled over and went back to sleep. I was obviously not a member of the tribe of tiger that day. Tigers are not vegetarians. If you think you have a tiger connection and dine on tofu, forget it.
-     When I reverted to meat-eating, Tiger returned. His reappearance then was as startling and just-so as his manifestation in my bedroom last night. But that time he required me to brave up all the way to resume our relationship. I had to fight him, hand to paw, for what seemed like hours. I had to let him tear me limb from limb. When I was magically reassembled, I had to follow his instructions to tear out and consume his bleeding heart. This did not feel like a symbolic event. In the morning, I had to wash crusted blood from around my mouth.
-    I will say for the tiger what the children say of Aslan: "He is terrible and he is good." Children love the tiger, who may jump from their stories as Tigger or Shia Khan, the maneater. They know that Tiger can protect them when adults do not. Our own lost children - the child selves lost to pain and abuse and grief and shame - sometimes return to us when Tiger appears to let them know it's safe.
-   On a certain night, I embarked on many dream adventures in exotic landscapes. In the last scene, I was lazing on a chaise-longue in an upstairs room, enjoying a gentle breeze wafting through the slats of wooden shutters. I jumped down and prowled the spacious room, among rattan furniture and Eastern bronzes. I heard the clatter of hurrying footsteps on the stairs, and saw men in strange wooden armor, with spiky protrusions. They entered the room with caution, fanning out, long poles in their hands. After waking, I recalled that I had seen a photo of park rangers in Bengal wearing wooden armor of this kind when endeavoring to drive tigers back within prescribed boundaries. I wondered what form my dream self had taken that night.

Tiger mask by RM.

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