Friday, April 29, 2016

Praise and Serve the Mother and Re-enchant the World

I am walking in deep, springy grass, humming a little hum, a bit like Winnie-the-Pooh.. Ahead of me, near a fine lake, is a great tree, and I know that important things are waiting for me if only I can open a door among the roots of this tree. In fact, I need to do this very much, because people are looking to me for direction I can only find if I go down to a world below the great tree. I can see their faces - the faces of decent family people in ordinary situations, all over. They are doing their best, but they need something more. 
     I understand that I can only gain access to the place where the guidance they need can be found by putting words to my hum. By finding the song that will be the key.
I wake from this dream with the hum in my mind, but not much more, beyond a sense of urgency. 
     I call a dear friend, Carol, who has companioned me in many adventures in dream travel and dream teaching. I ask her to come over and drum for me while I attempt to reenter my dream and find the song key.
     Soon we are together. I am stretched out on the rug, eyes closed, humming the hum I recall. As Carol gently taps the drum, words begin to come:

I am walking on the Mother
I am sailing on her skin

"Sailing" on her skin? A critical, editing part of my mind natters that this can hardly be correct. I ask that part of me to wait outside while I go on with this. Let me have this adventure and I'll talk to you later. (This, in my experience, is the best way to deal with the skeptic in the left brain, who has his place but must be reminded where that its.) As Carol  continues to drum, the first stanza becomes whole:

I am walking on the Mother
I am sailing on her skin
I become her child and lover
from the outside enter in

Now the flow is coming stronger, unstoppable:
I will praise the sky above her
I will praise her in the deep
I am dreaming of the Mother
she awakens me from sleep

Walk lightly on the Mother
and let her grace unfold
Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world

Oh, I need to hear those last lines again:

Praise and serve the Mother
and re-enchant the world

Now, in my lucid wide-awake dream, I am approaching the roots of the great tree. An opening appears, like a door, and I go through it without hesitation. I go down into a velvety, breathing dark. Then a great shape, formed of the Earth itself, takes form and embraces me. I am enfolded within the body of the Great Mother. She holds me and nurses me like a baby, and I feel love and healing coursing through every part of my body.
     Now I am allowed to go deeper, into a kind of Creative Cave in a world below our world of appearances. Here I find powerful guidance and direction, to be shared with those who have been waiting.
     When I signal for Carol to end the drumming, I have the song, and the directions. I recall that in the Mohawk language (which I was obliged to learn because of my dreams) the word for "song" - ka'renna - literally means, "I am putting forth my power."

I have shared the song of the Mother gathering of active dreamers in special places. When we sing the chorus together, we know we are on our way, to "re-enchant the world." I shared it in my last class for my current online"Quantum Dreaming" course for The Shift Network, and saw the doors to the deeper world opening again.

 Art: "Tree Crossroads of Worlds" by Annick Bougerolle

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The worlds behind the dream door

The best way to grasp the meaning of a dream, and to determine what action the dream requires, is to go back inside the dream and recover more of the story. We should never confuse a dream report - what we remember and can say about a dream - with the full experience of the dream itself. Even a very copious and detailed dream report is missing much of what went on during the night, including deeper levels of dreaming in which the dream self may have traveled not only through different locations, but through different orders of reality.
     Why would we want to go back inside a dream? Our motive might be simply to have more fun and adventure. We were with a dream lover in a tropical paradise, but were roused by the alarm clock or the kids jumping on the bed. We'd like to revisit that delicious scene, and enjoy it for longer.
     We may want to talk more with a dream visitor. A deceased grandparent, or a friend on the other side of the world, or a famous writer of the past we admire turned up in a dream, as if they sat down in the living room or leaned over the bed, and we'd like to know why they came and what we need to share. By putting ourselves back inside the dream scene, we can initiate a conversation.
     Maybe we've been running away from something in dreams, or trying to hide from it. This is an urgent reason for learning to reenter a dream. When a fear or a challenge arises in dreams, we want to learn to confront it on its own ground. If we keep running away from something in our dreams, chances are that the underlying issue will pursue us in waking life.
What we are hiding from in dreams may be our own power. I learned this early in my time in North America, when I dreamed, repeatedly, that an enormous bear was in my space. I made it my intention to go back inside the most recent version of the dream, confront the bear, and understand why it was showing up in my house. I closed the blinds, turned off the phone, slouched back in an easy chair and used the edge of fear as power to take me back inside the dream scene.
    I was there right away: the bear was in front of me, huge and wild, showing its claws. It took a real effort of will to brave up and approach it as it towered over me on its hind legs. When the bear wrapped its great arms around me, I feared it would crush my ribs. Instead, I found myself inside a warm and loving hug. Later the bear wanted me to look at my heart. I looked, and was amazed to see their was a thick cord between my heart and that of the bear, something like a thick umbilical, pumping life juice. I understood, in that moment, that the bear and I were joined at the heart. Bear's message, moving through my senses and slowly translating into human speech, was Call on me, and I will show you what people need to be healed. Since then, whenever I open a healing circle, we call in the Bear through song and dance.
    You may find, as I do, that an aspect of your own power and healing is waiting for you behind a dream door, if you will reopen it. There are further reasons for learning the technique of dream reentry, which is explained in depth in several of my books, including Active Dreaming and The Three "Only" Things. I have become convinced, through long experience, that any image that belongs to us - even the most terrifying - can be worked with in the direction of healing and resolution. Our dreams, if we will use them, are factories of fresh and spontaneous images that the body believes because it belongs to us and comes hand-crafted from our personal dream producers.
     Then, too, a dream may be an invitation to become whole by reclaiming aspects of ourselves that went missing when life became too cruel or too complex. Dreams show us parts of ourselves that go unrecognized by the daily mind, and may have been absent for years or decades through the conditions that shamans call soul-loss. When we learn to go back inside a certain kind of dream - the dream of the childhood place, for example, or of a childhood self - we are on our way to a soul reunion with a younger self that can bring fresh vitality, joy and imagination into our present lives.
- Wings for the Journey     Dream reentry is the royal road to becoming a conscious or lucid dreamer. In my workshops, we use shamanic drumming to fuel and focus our adventures in dream reentry and tracking - which means entering someone else's dream space, with permission, to get information for them or support them. For home use,  Wings for the Journey, my recording of shamanic drumming for dream travelers, is available from Psyche Productions.

Art: "Dancing with the Bear" by RM.

Release your inner winds

In the sacred psychology of the Malay bomoh (shamanic healer), the natural path of our energies is determined by inner winds (angin). We are born with these. They are part of our basic character and identity. They also connect us to larger forces, to the world of living myths and archetypes. Our power to create or destroy is conditioned by these inner winds. When they are blocked, we are in trouble.
     As anthropologist Carol Laderman explains it in a remarkable book, Taming the Wind of Desire, if people cannot express their inner winds, "their angin is trapped inside them, when it accumulates and produces sakit berangin, or sickness due to blockage of the inner winds. We recognize this problem in artists and writers whose creativity is blocked, or whose art is insufficiently appreciated, and would not find it difficult to understand why Malays say that musicians, actors and puppeteers are attracted to their professions because of angin and could not succeed without it." 
     Releasing and directing the inner winds into productive channels is the aim of dramatic rituals of healing. These involve drumming, fiddling, dancing, play-acting, theater with shadow puppets and calling in beneficent spirits.
    In our Western nosology (the science of classifying diseases) we might gain by borrowing from this shamanic diagnosis of types of sickness that result from "blockage of the inner winds". In our approach to healing, we have even more to learn from the shaman's prescription. Release the inner winds through movement, drama, dance, ritual, group energy, laughter. Then "farm" the inner winds through creative action, supported by the community.

Art: John William Waterhouse, "Boreas" (1903)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Forever Jung

I devoured Jung’s Collected Works as an undergraduate. What fired me up most – as it did so many others – was the version of his life in the larger reality as he gave in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Two statements from that work have lived with me, from my late teens, as precepts for living. The first is: “All day long I have exciting ideas and thoughts. But I take up in my work only those to which my dreams direct me.” I have lived most of my own life in precisely this way.
    Jung also wrote: “Dreams are the facts from which we must proceed.” Exactly! Dreams are not texts, nor delusions caused by random neuronal firings, nor merely day processing, nor subterfuges of the guilty psyche to protect sleep: they are the facts of experience in a larger reality, and to work with them and let them play with use, we must seek to get those facts as clear and complete as possible, if necessary by going back inside the space where we encountered them, through conscious or shamanic dreaming.
     Jung’s practice has inspired me more than his theories. For example, his way of consulting what was going on in the field – the wind on the lake, the fox in the woods, the scarab-like beetle at the window – in counseling clients. His famous essay on synchronicity is much less interesting than his personal practice of monitoring coincidence and symbolic popups from the world around him.
     Jung, for me, is the model of what a real shaman of the West would be like. In indigenous cultures, the master shaman is a scholar and scientist, a poet and dramatist, whose vocabulary may be many times that of the average person. He or she is someone who can change a body, or an experienced world, by telling a better story about it, and entertains the lively spirits with “fresh words”, as the Inuit say. And the true shaman is a dreamer, one who dreams strong, one who can dream for others. So, if you want to see what a dream shaman of the West is like, look at Jung, who went to the Underworld and died and came back as true shamans are obliged to do.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Active Dreaming is a path of real magic

Dreams require action! If we do not do something with our dreams in waking life, we miss out on the magic. Real magic consists of bringing something through from a deeper reality into our physical lives, which is why active dreaming is a way of natural magic – but only if we take the necessary action to bring the magic through.
    My term Active Dreaming is my preferred name for my whole approach, which is an original synthesis of modern dreamwork and ancient shamanic techniques for shifting consciousness and traveling in other realities. One of the most important and helpful practices I have created is what I call the Lightining Dreamwork game. It is a simple method that enables us to create a safe space where we can share dreams of the night or dreams of life with a partner, encourage each other to tell our stories well, give helpful feedback, and help each other to take action to bring energy and guidance from the dream into regular life. We do not “interpret” each other’s dreams. Instead, we help each other to become authors of meaning for our own dreams and our own lives. When we offer our thoughts and associations on a dream, we always begin by saying, “If it were my dream”, owning our projections and leaving the dreamer free to settle on their own understanding of the dream.
     Becoming an active dreamer means learning to enter the dreamspace with intention, whenever you choose; in the workshops we do this the shaman’s way, using drumming to fuel and focus journeys through the doorway of a remembered dream or into a new space we wish to explore. Active dreamers are also active with their dreams in regular life. By sharing dreams the right way, we build and deepen relationships and community. No Active Dreaming process is complete until the dreamer has come up with an action plan. Among the possibilities

  • create from a dream: turn the dream into a story or poem. Draw from it, paint from it, turn it into a comic strip
  • take a physical action to celebrate an element in the dream, such as wearing the color that was featured in the dream, traveling to a place from the dream, making a phone call to an old friend who showed up in the dream
  • use an object or create a dream talisman to hold the energy of the dream: A stone or crystal may be a good place to hold the energy of a dream, and return to it.
  • use the dream as a travel advisory: If the dream appears to contain guidance on a future situation, carry it with you as a personal travel advisory. Summarize the dream information on a cue card or hold it in an image you can physically carry.
  • go back into the dream to clarify details, dialogue with a dream character, explore  the larger reality – and have marvelous fun!
How do you get really good at this? The answer is the same, in any field: practice, practice. Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the idea that it requires 10,000 hours of practice to get really good in any chosen field. If this is true, then dreamers have a long head start. All of us are dreaming every night, not only in sleep but in the twilight state of hypnanogia. And if we learn to read the world around us as a book of symbols and to navigate by synchronicity, we can put in our hours in this fun and magical way too, quite effortlessly.
    I’ll admit, there will be some effort involved to become a true master of the dreamways. I can teach you to swim, but you’ll need to grow your own courage and accumulate your own experience of riptides and what lives in the deep before you are ready for the ocean where shamans and mystics swim while madmen drown.

Photo: Deck at magical Mosswood Hollow by Jakob Bentsen

A dream is a place

Most of our dreams don’t play out in a formless void, or some Cloud 9. We were with our dream lover in a certain house, the tiger chased us (or licked our face) in a certain landscape, we lost or found our luggage at a certain airport or train station.
    In regular life, we understand fairly well that if we have been to a place, we can probably go their again, even if we have lost the exact directions and may need to turn to GPS or an old-fashioned maps. It is the same with dreams. If you were in a certain place in a dream, you may be able to go there again, by the technique I call dream reentry, which means taking a remembered dream and using it as the portal for a journey in which you will travel, wide awake and lucid, into the space where the dream action unfolded.
    Why would you want to do this? For all sorts of excellent reasons. To understand your dream from the inside, by gaining access to the full experience of the dream, which is likely to go far beyond your initial memory of the dream. To dialogue with someone in the dream. To solve a mystery or brave up to a fear. To carry the dream onward to a place of healing, beauty or resolution. To go to the place where a part of your vital energy that has been missing can be found and reclaimed, so you can be whole and live a fuller, juicier life.
    We dream of an old place – grandma’s house from childhood, perhaps, or the home we shared with a former partner – and those dreams may give us a way to connect with a younger self, or a series of younger selves, who parted company at the time we were living in that old place, maybe because of pain or trauma or disappointment or bitter frustration over life choices we made.  When we make that connection with a younger self, quite wonderful things become possible. We can bring vital energy and joy and imagination back into our life, with that “wonder-child” or that beautiful teen self we have discovered again. We can reach back across time and be the mentor and cheer leader for a younger self that person may have desperately needed in that time, speaking mind to mind across the years.

Photo: Bench overlooking Thirteenth Lake by RM

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The currency of Harriet Tubman

What wonderful news: that Harriet Tubman will be honored where most Americans will see her every day, on the face of a new $20 bill.
    Harriet Tubman is a heroine in American history, the most successful “conductor” on the Underground Railroad that helped escaping slaves to gain freedom before the Civil War. Yet the secret of her achievement has rarely been told. She was a dreamer and a seer. In her dreams and visions, she could fly like a bird, over landscapes she had never seen with her physical eyes. From her aerial maps, she was able to find the right roads and the river fords and the safe houses to get escaping slaves out.
   Her gift was related to a terrible wound: a blow from an angry overseer that nearly killed her. Surviving her near-death experience, she came fully into the power of the Ashanti dream shamans in her ancestry.
   Her life story is a model of how dreamers can contribute to the liberation and progress of a whole community.
   I wrote a chapter about Harriet Tubman's dreaming in my book The Secret History of Dreaming. I was also inspired to write this poem for her:

Glory Falls: On Harriet Tubman

Because you could fly
you made us stand up and walk
and become self-liberators
even when fear tore at our souls
rougher than the spikes of the gum nuts,
winter’s nail bed of pain.

You rode the wind on hawk wings
and saw roads out of the shadow lands
and made maps for us from your flights.
When we were too scared to trust you,
you sang courage back into our hearts.

You guided us through the night woods
on leopard feet, vanishing and reappearing,
never bound to one form. Through your pain
and sudden sleeps and the terrible wound
that branded you, you taught us
that gifts of greatness are in our wounds.

You led us into the province of wonder.
The engine of your fierce intent carried us
to where glory falls on every thing.

   People are dreaming of Harriet Tubman today. Sometimes she appears as a messenger. I dreamed I found her on duty in the window of a very special post office: a place where you can go to pick up your lost or undelivered dreams. In these troubled times, we need to go to that window, collect our lost dreams, and learn two great and essential things: that we can claim a gift from our deepest wound, and that we can dream the way to a brighter future, for ourselves and our communities.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Studying French with the Bear, Tapped by the Hoopoe

St Martin de Londres, Hérault. 
Notes from my travel journal in southern France.

Highway tarot
My friend was telling a wild and complex story very fast on the road from Montpellier to Nîmes. I asked her to slow down; anyone who talks faster than me is talking too fast. At that instant an illuminated highway sign appeared right in front of us:

I had to interrupt her verbal stream and insist that she looked at the sigin ahead before she could actually see it. She slowed down a bit, but pretty soon the velocity of her narration, and of the car, was back to hyperspeed.
    Maybe this is why, on the outskirts of Nîmes, we ran into a police roadblock that forced traffic to take a detour. Still aiming for the city center, we came to another roadblock and another detour. It took us an extra half hour, most of it spent stationary in a "stopper" (bouchon, or traffic jam). Ignore the signs, and there can be consequences.

The Empire Never Ended

The Roman temple in Nîmes that they call the Maison Carrée, white and very clean under a gray sky, looks today like it was just transported from another dimension. I think of Philip K. Dick's private fantasy that "the empire never ended".    
    I stand under a statue of the goddess of Nîmes. She towers over a fountain under a sky of high scudding clouds. She is crowned with a miniature version of the Maison Carrée. I recall great Artemis of Ephesus, she of the many breasts (or figs or - most likely - bull's testicles) who wears a whole city on her head, and I am sobered by the memory of what can happen to a man when he offends a goddess. I am very careful around the pagan Lady of Nîmes.
    I circumambulate the Roman arena, where bull fights still take place, but I do not go in, even though they have an exhibition on Cleopatra. Last time I went into the arena, I was saddened and oppressed by deep empathy with the bulls who fought and died here, originally to enact a sacred cosmology, later as entertainment for sanguinary fans. My feelings do not prevent me from eating an excellent steak de taureau at a charming restaurant with yellow chairs on a little square near the arena

The George Yeats Plan for Learning French

My friend the dead Irish poet W.B.Yeats was not a great linguist, but his wife "George" most certainly was. She explained that her secret was that as a teen she immersed herself in French novels without looking at a dictionary, grasping unknown words through their context. I resolved to try this to improve my own faulty French but did not get round to that until a friend presented me with a copy of L'Ours est un Ecrivain comme les Autres. the French translation of William Kotzwinkle's "The Bear Went Over the Mountain".    
     The novel is about a bear who becomes a bestselling novelist by peddling a purloined manuscript. Dressed in stolen clothers, he is taken seriously by big-time NYC publishers and agents though his vocabulary is confined to words like "cake"(which they take to mean money) and "I smell you" (which they take to mean sex). The book is hilarious, and on the first day, with some free time, I couldn't put it down until I had read 80 pages in French, without a dictionary.
     I noticed that after this literary immersion, I was far more confident in French conversation on the first day of my current workshop in southern France than is often the case. My grammar may still be awful, but my pleasure in making my mistakes is running high. Thank you, George, thank you, Mr Kotzwinkle, and especially, thank you, Bear.

Tapped by the Hoopoe
Half the members of my workshop at the Hameau de l'Etoile are men.This is extraordinary, and encouraging.
     Furthermore, we had a hoopoe bird tapping on the window five times this morning. In The Conference of the Birds, a great Persian tale of mystical ascent by the poet Farid ud-din Attar, it is the hoopoe that calls the birds together to embark on the quest for the King. In the quest, the birds who survive the journey fuse together as the Simorgh, the bird of heaven. I have the sense of walking on the mythic edge.
    My workshop is about becoming a kairomancer, a master of special moments, an everyday magician forever poised to recognize special moments of synchronicity and celebrate than and act on the opportunities they present. In such moments, we sometimes feel that powers from a deeper reality are tapping on the windows of our ordinary perception to encourage us to open to a larger life and the play of forces beyond our consensual hallucinations. I feel this as the hoopoe taps, and taps again and again, as I tell the group about its role in bringing the birds together to make the heaven bird.
    Chansons, I conclude. Let's sing.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gabriel has a sister

Never judge the depth of a dream by the length of the dream report. From my first cycle of sleep dreams last Sunday night, I harvested just one line, spoken to me by an unseen voice:

The Archangel Gabriel has a sister.

I was surprised, not least because in my first conscious visions of Gabriel, more than thirty years ago, I encountered a being of such feminine beauty that I was inclined to call him/her "Gabrielle".
     One of those visions is indelible. Under bright sunlight, in front of an old white oak on the farm in upstate New York where I was living at the time, a being formed from condensed light, radiant and beautiful and winged. In the presence of this luminous being, I felt cleansed and renewed. My heart swelled in my chest. I fell to my knees on the dirt road by the cornfield, weeping with joy. A poem burst from me. I chanted it aloud, half-singing. When I returned to the house, I wrote it down, like this:

Song for Gabriel

My heart is a song that rises
It is a rainbow bridge
spanning abysses
of place and time

My heart is a song that rises
to walk in the One Light
to heal the wound
between earth and sky

My heart is a song that rises
It is the crystal fire
that wakens the sleeper
into the dream

My heart is a song that rises
It is the pure waterfall
that cleanses my path
with tears of joy

   I knew something of Gabriel, All three peoples of the Book - Jews, Christians and Muslims - know this great angel. In all three traditions, Gabriel is the patron of dreams and of astral travel. Gabriel is the angel of annunciation. In Rumi's powerful vision of the annunciation, Mary is seized with terror by the coming of an immense power into her space. Fearful of violation, she flees from her body. The angel smiles on her and says (in my paraphrase): "You flee from me, from the seen to the unseen, where I am lord and master. What are you thinking of?"
   Coptic Christians, I have heard, identify Gabriel with Anubis, who is also a patron of dreams and of travel between worlds.
   I have met Gabriel many times since the vision under the white oak. In troubled times, the archangel has sometimes appeared armored for battle. In some visions, I have seen Gabriel as both male and female, light and dark - and as something before the opposites held in dynamic balance in this winged form. 

    But what did it mean to be told, in this recent dream, that "Gabriel has a sister"?

    I posted the one-line dream report on my personal Facebook page and received a bevy of suggestions from other dreamers, some of whom are steeped in angelology. The general view was that angels are neither male nor female but will exhibit forms adapted to the character and perception of the beholder. I recalled a remarkable and wildly funny story by Stephen Mitchell, the distinguished translator, in which Gabriel appears to him in such an alluring feminine form that he is possessed by lust.
    My mind moved, like a long-legged dragonfly upon a pond, over all the associations.
    Then I decided to share my one-line dream report with a dear friend who had been expecting a baby. She has very strong angel connections, and I have often joked that in her presence I find angels unavoidable.
     Here is an excerpt from our email exchange:

RM (April 5): You may have seen this on my Facebook page, from a dream over the weekend:

The Archangel Gabriel has a sister. I was surprised to learn this in a dream last night, especially since in some of my visions Gabriel appears feminine 

As I think about this today, I am wondering whether you have news of the bright angel who is coming into the world through you.

Friend (April 7): This is amazing. 

First - yes, my beautiful daughter landed on the 5th of April, the day you wrote to me. She is wonderful - and we are enchanted by her presence. 

Second - a few days before birth, I had this dream: 

I was in a long line, in front, waiting to enter a beautiful, white church. As I am almost at the entrance, I am wondering what I am doing there. I see then that I have in my right hand a piece of paper. A single word is written on it: Gabriel. 


Yes angels are. And I see that my dream of Gabriel may have been a dream of annunciation. Gabriel ("the seer of the Virgin" in an old Irish blessings) is good at that.

Images (1) Icon of the Archangel Gabriel from the royal gates of the central iconostasis of the Kazan Cathedral in St.Petersburg (2) RM drawing from a vision of Gabriel as male and female, light and dark.