Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Breaking news from the Other Side

Anna dreamed she visited a friend who had recently died. He handed her a mobile phone with just two keys, green and red and told her she could call anytime. Nothing simpler – hit green to call, red to disconnect. Anna was delighted to discover that the departed now have speed dial.
     It seems that the communications technology of the departed keeps pace with innovations down here. Since the invention of the telephone, phone calls from the dead have been a familiar feature of many dreamers’ nights. One woman got a call from her mother, who had recently passed, in which her mother said, “I can’t talk for long since I just got here. I’ll have more phone privileges later on.” The dead send email and texts and their voices come through in podcasts in contemporary dreams.
    This all helps to facilitate contact since it indulges everyday expectations about how people keep in touch with each other. Back in the Victorian era, contact methods were different. The newspaperman and psychic investigator W.T. Stead, reporting back to his daughter after he died in the wreck of the Titanic, described a communications center on the Other Side where “travelers” were trained in hand-carrying messages to the living, where necessary by focusing their energy in order to produce the clear impression of a face during séances. Stead dictated a wonderful little book, The Blue Island, through a male medium that is one of my favorite sources on the Western afterlife.
     By my observation, contact with the departed, especially in dreams, is entirely natural (and would be quite commonplace, if we were more awake to levels of reality beyond the physical) for three reasons. Our dead may still be with us. Our dead come visiting. And in dreams, we go traveling in realms where the dead are at home.
     I’m using the word “dead” here the way the Irish do. Our dead are usually alive in our dreams, because indeed they are still living, "dead" only in the sense that they have left their physical bodies behind (though sometimes they are not aware of that). Interaction with our dead – again, especially in dreams – has been, in all cultures and all times, the principal source for the human belief that consciousness survives death.  
     Our dead are a constant source of breaking news, whenever we are tuned in. They give us news flashes, ranging from personal health alerts to next year’s headlines. The departed are not trapped by the illusion of linear time. If they have cleared old business and have an interest in helping survivors to do better, they can be very helpful guides in pointing out possible future events, and what we need to do to shape those events for our health and well-being. One of my personal markers that there may be unusually important information in a dream, especially relating to the future, to health, and to life-and-death issues, is the appearance of a departed person I trust, including beloved dogs who once shared my life.
    There is breaking news from the Other Side that may be even more crucial for a fully-realized life. Through our encounters with our departed over time, we learn about transitions and alternate living situations in the afterlife, the nature of reincarnation, and realities of the soul.
    A breakthrough moment on the roads of the afterlife is when a departed person discovers that he or she does not have to retain the same appearance they had when they checked out, which is often a broken and elderly body. Dreamer after dreamer reports the joyful surprise of encountering Mom or Grandpa in the body of a good-looking, energetic young person of about thirty. Such encounters are already an important education in the nature and malleability of one of the subtle bodies, or vehicles of consciousness, that survive physical death.
     I asked my friend Wanda Burch, the author of She Who Dreams, who tracks these things as closely as I do, to report on what she has learned through successive visits with her departed parents in their changing living environments on the Other Side. Here is part of the narrative she generously contributed for this piece:
     “My dreams of my father and mother's evolution have been entertaining and confirming of a great new life. In my favorite, I visit my parents in their new house. My mom looks younger, wearing smart little outfits from the days when she was dating my dad. She leads me to a beautiful pool that looks like a natural lake lined with stones, with lily pads in the water. I praise the beautiful house, and my mom says that my dad always liked my house and wanted one like mine. ‘But I don't have a house like this,’ I tell her. ‘You will,’ she says smiling. Then my mom drives off in a junky old car like the one they had in my youth. ‘Does she really need a car?’ I ask my dad. He tells me ‘No, but she enjoys it and there’s no harm in it.’
     “A few months later, I dreamed my dad was checking in on me to tell me he was moving on. I see a charming farmhouse set among pastures and fields of crops. I know this is one of many residences for my parents. I find them and join them in a car. My father shows me that he now has his own driver and then invites me to come with him inside a lodge where he has been receiving instruction, some of it – he says – involving ‘my things.’ These include early religions, dreaming, and exploration into spiritual matters.
    "He shows me charts of the heavens and points out stars and constellations, giving me lengthy and exciting explanations about the influence of the movements of the heavens on our lives and on our dreaming. I see a jumble of stars which he says he has just discovered. Humans have not been able to see them yet because they are too many light years away; but he is working with someone – I have the feeling this is an astronomer on earth - who will soon develop the technology to see them.

     “On the way back to the farm he shows me shops, including book shops filled with new books, not yet written, on wellness and spiritual development. We continue on to the farm where my mother settles into a comfortable routine. I turn and see my father coming toward me with arms wide open, ready to hug me. My father was not a hugger, but he is now. He tells me he is going away for awhile but I can still get in touch with him if it is important. He leaves. My mom, after an initial feeling of panic, settles down and seems fine. She loves her farm and farmhouse and tells me she needs to do some tidying. We say good-bye and I awake seeing her waving to me and smiling.”
     Over the years, the number one reason why people have shared dreams with me is that they have had an encounter with a departed friend or loved one that has touched them deeply. The most important thing we can do for each other in this respect is to offer confirmation and validation that these experiences are real - and then to reassure each other about a great truth that often goes unspoken in our counseling rooms and even our churches: healing and resolution and mutual support are possible, across the apparent barrier of death.
     So dying definitely need not mean hanging up on those near and dear. It seems an increasing number of people in contemporary society are taking that notion a bit too literally. Funeral homes report a steady increase in the number of clients who are being buried with their cell phones. When Manhattan criminal defense attorney John Jacobs died in 2005, his widow buried him in a Paramus NJ cemetery with his cell phone and continued to pay the monthly phone bill. She had his cell phone number carved on his headstone so others could keep in touch too. W
hen she and others called, they got his voicemail, promising to get in touch as soon as possible. Dream phones offer live conversation, and you don't get a monthly bill.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Seeking the sacred guide and healer through dream incubation

Dream incubation has been a preferred way of seeking life direction in most human cultures as far back as we can trace. If you believe that, in seeking dream guidance, you are approaching a sacred source, then you will probably use some form of prayer or ritual as you seek help from that power. 
     In the Greek Magical Papyri we read this invocation:

Sender of true oracles
while I sleep send me your unerring skill
to read what is and and will be

     If we have a big request, it is important to ask nicely. Aelius Aristides, an ancient Greek orator who walked very close to his god – Asklepios, the patron of dream healing – used to phrase his requests as follows: “Lord, I ask for the guidance (or health, or resources) my body requires to serve the purposes of the soul.” A human who asks that way might hope to engage the support of a power behind the scenes.
     The journey to a special place – the shrine of a saint, the tomb of an ancestor, a sacred mountain, an ancient tree – has often been part of a full-dress dream incubation. 
     But in our hurried everyday lives, we can make all of this simple. Are you in need of life direction or a solution to a problem? Are you willing to turn to a source beyond the obvious ones? Then approach the night as a place of possible encounter with a power that can answer your questions and help to heal your life. If you are a person of faith, you may start by praying for guidance of healing.
     You may find it helpful to do something to make your sleeping area more of a sacred place; for example, by foregoing sugar and alcohol for a few hours before sleep, by lighting a candle, and/or by using a special fragrance or placing a little mugwort sachet under your pillow.
     Now you want to set your intention for the night. Make it as simple and clear as possible, and avoid composing a laundry-list of needs and wishes. You can make your request large and spacious:

I ask for guidance on my life path
I open myself to my creative source
I ask for healing

Or you can make it quite specific:

I would like guidance on my job interview.
I ask for healing for my friend in hospital.
I would like to see what will happen during my trip.
I want to prep for the exam.
Should I date the guy I met yesterday?

You will want to be ready to catch whatever your dreams give you whenever you wake. This may involve lingering in the half-dream state after you surface from deeper sleep; this in-between state is one in which important messages often come through.
     If you remember only a small piece from a dream, but your feelings are strong and your sense of direction is clear, you are in luck. Sometimes it is easier to read a plain answer from a short, uncomplicated dream vignette than from a rambling epic, and the energy that comes with a dream is often more important than the specific information it contains.
     If you can’t initially see any connection between the dream your record and the intention that preceded it, be patient and learn to use some detective skills. It’s possible that your dream producers decided to give you something they think you should see rather than what you asked for. All the same, it is always worth playing the game of trying to find a link between the dream and the intention.
     For example, I once sought dream guidance on a personal health issue. In my dream, I was racing a car at high speed up through one of those multi-tiered indoor parking lots, slowing to a stop at a fancy penthouse restaurant where a famous publisher was waiting to host me for lunch. I woke feeling marvelous. The dream might seem to have little or no obvious connection with my intention, but I could see a health advisory in my wild ride up through the vertical parking lot, and an Rx in my meeting with the publisher, since for me creative writing that results in publication has always been healing.
    Here is my account of a bigger personal experience, which came when I set the intention of opening myself to a source of sacred healing during the night.

A night of Asklepian dream healing

I set the clear and simple intention: “I wish to be healed.” I add a second statement: “I ask for the health of body and mind required to serve my spiritual purpose.”
I stretch out of the bed. Immediately, I see an enormous serpent. It is gray-blue, and could be twenty feet long. I see the dark slits of its pupils, quite close to me, in a head larger than my own. I do not feel fear, but there is a strong sense of the uncanny, the presence of a transpersonal other. I feel this is the Asklepian serpent, a power mastered for healing. The form of the god appears less distinctly, like a living statue. Also the form of a large dog with tall pointy ears.
-     I resolve to let the snake enter my energy field and do anything required for healing. I begin to experience movements of the serpent energy through my chakras, starting at the root center and moving upwards. There are moments of gentle physical pressure or constriction as it passes through some of my energy centers – of slight pressure in the heart, of a little constriction at the throat. The movement ceases to flow smoothly at the vision center, where I had been experiencing pressure and blurring. An experimental probe, not pushing too hard.
     The movement loops down and back, returning to try again. I invoke Light as well, and feel the presence and blessing of a being of Light I know well. I feel a process of healing has been initiated, and will be played out over time, if I allow it to be.
-    All of this has been enacted in the liminal state of wake-dream the French used to call dorveille, which is where much of the work of Asklepian healing (I believe) took place, Now I let myself drift towards sleep, hoping for the gift of further healing in the dreamspace. That gift came in the form of an amazing and energizing sleep dream that connected my personal healing to new creative endeavors, writing new books and bringing them to the world.
You don’t want to ask for big messages, let alone big favors, every night. That becomes wearisome to everyone engaged, and can end by trivializing and cheapening the process. On the other hand, I see no objection to putting a simple request like the following one to the dream oracle fairly frequently:

Show me what I need to see 

If you try that, be ready for some shocks! Our dream producers see our needs and issues from a different angle than we do. 


Please see chapter 4 of my book The Secret History of Dreaming for a full account of Asklepian dream incubation.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The education of a dream teacher

The dream world is my home world, and has been from very early childhood.
    I first died in this lifetime when I was three years old. My great aunt the opera singer saw this in the tea leaves but didn’t talk about it until long after. What she did not see was that – as a doctor at the hospital in Hobart, Tasmania told my parents – I “died and came back”. That is still the term I prefer to use of these experiences. I don’t remember much of what happened when I left my body at age three, only that it was very hard to live in a body in this world after I came back, and that I felt that my home reality was somewhere else.
     At nine, I died again during emergency appendectomy in a Melbourne hospital. This time I seemed to live a whole life somewhere else, among a beautiful people who raised me as their own. I came back remembering that other life and that other world. It still wasn’t easy for me to live in the ordinary world, and I was nostalgic for that other world. The gift of these experiences,  and my persisting illness (I had double pneumonia twelve times between the ages of three and eleven) was an inner life that was rich and prolific, and an ability to move between states of consciousness and reality at will.
     At age eleven, I had the vision of a great staff of burning bronze with a serpent wrapped around it that seemed to fill half the sky. Right after that, I came very near death for a third time, back in hospital with pneumonia. But this time, I came back healed, and was able to live a relatively normal life – except that in my mind, the dream world was my “normal”. I later realized that my vision in the sky resembled a giant version of the serpent staff of Asklepios, the Greek god who heals through dreams.

I can’t remember a time when I did not understand that our personal dreams can take us into the Dreamtime, which is about more than the bargain basement of the personal subconscious; it is the place where we find our spiritual kin on a higher level and remember the origins and purpose of life. That’s the way the First Peoples of my native Australia, the Aborigines, see it, and one of the few people I met in childhood who could confirm and validate my experiences of dreaming was an Aboriginal boy. He said of my near-death experiences, “Oh yeah, we do that. When we get very sick, we go and live with the spirits. When we get well, we come back.” He did not think it was extraordinary to dream future events, or to meet the dead in dreams, as I did all the time.
    I had to be fairly quiet about these things, growing up in a conservative time in Australia, in a military family. But as I grew older, I was able to do more and more with the gifts of dreaming. My dreams of ancient cultures led me to my first job, as lecturer in ancient history at the Australian National University. My dreams of possible future events enabled me to avoid death on the road, quite literally, on three occasions.
   Then, in mid-life, on a farm in the Upper Hudson Valley of New York, I was called in a lucid dream – also an out-of-body experience – into a meeting with an ancient Native American shaman, a Mother of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk people, who insisted on speaking her own language. When I learned enough of her language to understand her, she taught me that dreams reveal the secret wishes of the soul, and the the task of decent people in a decent society is to gather round a dreamer and help her recognize those wishes and take action to honor them, so that more of soul comes into life.
    As I struggled to understand our connection, I grew to realize that we were joined in a trans-temporal drama. The other key player was a colorful Irishman who entered her world in the 1700s and came to rule the Mohawk frontier like a tribal king. She had tried to influence him; she succeeded better with me, though that meant reaching seven generations into her future.
     My initial encounters with these personalities of an earlier time coincided with the death of my father, who returned to me in dreams as guide and counselor for the family. The convergence of these events, and the resurgence of dreams and visions that came with them, led me deep and far in my studies and exploration of the deeper reality. In the liminal space between sleep and awake, a guide who spoke to me in a voice I had learned to trust instructed me that it was time for me to teach what I had learned. I embarked on the path of a dream teacher, for which there is no career track in Western society.

For a full version, please see The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Serpent Staff in the Sky" by Robert Moss

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Soul Is

Soul Is

The soul is something that is always trying to leave,
like a caged bird longing for the sky.
To keep it in my heart
I must spread the wings of life
and let the sun rise within me every day
and fly from the skeleton beach over the whitecaps
drinking wind, and let my body love what it loves
and remember what I forget
when my nights are filled by your absence:
this world is my playground, not my prison.

“Soul Is” was inspired by a lovely, triste young woman in one of my workshops who said, when I asked people to say what the word “soul” means to them, “Soul is something that is always trying to leave.” That ache of longing for a home somewhere else moved all of us.

This poem is in the collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories by Robert Moss. Published by Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press.

Photo by Louise Docker

Wake up and dream

A dream is a wake-up call. It takes us beyond what we already know. In ancient Egypt, the word for "dream" was rswt, which also means an "awakening". There are “big” dreams and “little” dreams, of course. In big dreams, we go traveling and we may receive visitations. We travel across time – into the future and the past – and we travel to other dimensions of reality. This is reflected in the words for “dream” that are used by indigenous people who have retained strong dreaming traditions and respect for dreamers. Among the Makiritare, a shamanic dreaming people of Venezuela, for example, the word for dream is “adekato,” which means “a journey of the soul”.
    Most societies, across most of human history, have valued dreams and dreamers for three main reasons. First, they have looked to dreams for contact with a wiser source than the everyday mind – call that God, or Nature, or the Self with a great big Jungian S. Second, they have looked to dreams as part of our survival kit, giving us clues to possible future events we may want to avoid or enact. Third, they have known that dreaming is medicine, in several important senses. Dreams show us what is going on inside the body, often before physical symptoms present. When we do get sick, dreams are a factory of images we can use for self-healing.
    How do we become more active dreamers?
     Let’s start with baby steps. Many of us in the contemporary world have been suffering a prolonged dream drought. You want to end the drought and renew your connection with your dreams. So you set a juicy intention for the night – “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember” or “I open myself to healing” – and make sure you are ready to record something whenever you wake. Be kind to fragments. Even a wisp from a dream, a sense of color, a snatch of a song, can be a great beginning.
    Next, recognize that you don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream. Through the play of synchronicity and pop-up symbols, the world around you will speak to you in the manner of dreams if you pay attention. And there are treasures in in-between states of consciousness, especially in the hypnagogic zone, “the Place Between Sleep and Awake” as Tinkerbell calls it in the Disney version of Peter Pan.
   To get active with your dreams, you need to keep a journal and you need to develop the practice of sharing your dreams with others in the right way, and of taking action to bring energy and guidance from the dream world into everyday life. I have invented a powerful technique for dream sharing that we call Lightning Dreamwork. It’s quick, it’s safe and it’s fun. It provides a way for us to hear each other’s stories, provided helpful feedback and guide each other to take action to honor our dreams. We can learn to do it in minutes with a complete stranger or the intimate stranger who shares our bed and may be the hardest person to talk to about sensitive things. We learn to talk to each other in a really interesting, lively way that helps us to open a safe space to share dreams and other intimate material where we’re not going to be intruded upon or told what things mean. We can offer each other non-authoritarian feedback and guide each other to action to embody the healing, guidance and energy from our dreams and life stories. Dreams require action.
     Next, we want to develop the practice of conscious or lucid dreaming. The easiest way to become a lucid dreamer is to start out conscious and stay that way. I teach people to travel, wide awake and conscious, through the doorway of a remembered dream to explore the dreamscape more fully, resolve terrors, solve mysteries and follow roads of adventure in the multiverse. Dream reentry, as I call this, is another of the core techniques of Active Dreaming, my original synthesis of shamanism and dreamwork. 
    It's important to understand that our memory of a dream is not the full experience of the dream. A dream experience, fully remembered, is its own interpretation. But even a very detailed report is missing many things that went on. By learning to go back into the space of a dream, we can recover more, and we can continue the dream story, sometimes overcoming a dread, solving a mystery, or bringing things to a happy resolution.
    Dream reentry is not that hard. In dreams, we are usually in a certain space, or a series of settings. We could say (as the Egyptians did) that a dream is also a place. If you have been to a place, you can go there again. You can talk to a character inside that space, or try to brave up to a dragon, or open a sealed door, or find out whether the car accident you dreamed is symbolic - maybe something to do with your job or your marriage - or maybe a literal accident you may be able to avoid by harvesting details and acting on that information.
    In the workshops, we use shamanic drumming to fuel and focus the journeys, and we learn that dreaming does not have to be a solitary activity. We can travel with one or more partners and our shared experiences become first-hand data on the reality of other dimensions.
     Let's wake up to the fact that the world around us will speak to us in the manner of dreams if we learn to play more attention. As Baudelaire said, we are walking in a forest of living symbols. In dreams we step through the curtains of our ordinary understanding and enter a deeper reality. Through synchronicity, the forces of a deeper reality come poking through those veils to bring us awake.

     Dreaming is a discipline. It’s fun and you get to do a lot of the work in your sleep but to get good at it – as with anything else – requires practice, practice.

For much more on the practice of Active Dreaming, and what a future dreaming society will be like, please see Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dreaming into the Dreamtime

Aboriginal Australians believe that we dream our way into this world, and dream our way out of it.
     "We talk to the spirit-child before a baby is born," naturopath and traditional healer Burnum Burnum explained it to me. If the father-to-be is a dreamer, he is frequently the one who first meets the spirit-child in dreams. These dream encounters often unfold at places of water that exist in the natural world - a billabong, the shallows of a river, a waterfall - where the spirit-child plays with its own kind and is not confined to a single form. It can appear as a kingfisher or a platypus, as a fish or a crocodile. The dreamer may have to negotiate with the spirit-child, giving it reasons for coming into a human body. Finally, the dreamer plays soul-guide, escorting the incoming spirit to the mother's womb.
    On the way to death, the soul-guide appears from the other side. Departed loved ones and ancestral beings who are at home in the Dreamtime come calling, in dreams, to prepare a dying person for his or her journey. When the spirit leaves the body in death, these guides from the Dreamtime escort it along the roads to the afterlife, which may involve a sea crossing, descent through a cave, and/or the ascent of a magical tree whose roots are in the World Up Top.
    Aboriginal dreaming is an antidote to Freud, who wrote that the dream "has nothing to communicate to anyone else". The first Australians know that dreaming means everything and is a highly social activity. We meet other people and other beings when we go dreaming, and sharing dreams is not a matter of puzzling over obscure "texts" but a source of wisdom, community guidance and grand entertainment. Among nomad communities, listening to a dream by the camp fire, or over a morning cup of tea, is better fun than going to the movies, and may run the whole gamut from romance to horror, from Star Trek to soaps.
     The 500-plus Aboriginal tribes of Australia share this understanding: a dream is a journey. When we dream, "the spirit goes on walkabout", says Nungurrayi, a wise woman of the Kukatja, a people of the Western Desert. A powerful dreamer, she explains, is a person who knows how to travel in spirit to interesting places, and bring back a "good story".
     If you know that your dream is a journey, or a visitation by another dream traveler, then you are unlikely to be interested in the kind of analysis that reduces dream experiences to a list of symbols and then interprets what the symbols mean. When traditional Aborigines share dreams, they want to know who, when and where. Who was that sorcerer I saw pointing the bone at me? Who was that person who came to my camp and wanted sex with me? Where is the cave where the dream ceremony took place? When will the car break down?
     When you know that a dream is a real experience, then you want to get the information clear in order to figure out what to do with it. Maybe you'll want to tell that dream of the sorcerer all over the camp to scare away the actual sorcerer, as anthropologist Sylvie Poirier saw done in the Western Desert.[1] Maybe you'll get together with your dream lover (if the experience was pleasant) or find a way to prevent that person from intruding on your psychic space (if it was not). Perhaps you'll travel to the dream cave, and celebrate a ritual to confirm and honor what has already taken place, in the Dreaming. Maybe you'll get your car fixed before it breaks down.
    Aborigines look to dreams as the place of encounter with spiritual guides and sacred healers, who often appear as totem animals but may come in many other forms.
    Aboriginal Australians are well aware that dreaming can be active; you can decide where you are going to go, and you can go consciously. You can travel across time and space, or into other dimensions. You can rendezvous with other dreamers, and embark on shared journeys. Shamans receive their calling and much of their training in this way.
    The first Australians do not live under the illusion that it is necessary to go to sleep in order to dream. They dream with a living landscape in a way that baffles urbanized, deracinated people. Everything in that landscape is alive and conscious, every place has its Dreaming.
    "Nothing is nothing," as they say in the Cape York peninsula; everything means something.
     Let's be clear: there is The Dreaming, or the Dreamtime, the realm of gods and ancestral beings, and then there is everyday dreaming. The two interweave, but are not the same. The Kukatja, in common with many other Western Desert tribes, use the word Tjukurrpa for the ancestral Dreaming, but a different term - kapukurri - for personal dream experiences. Dreamtime is creation time, and stories of the Dreamtime often tell us about the origin of things. But Dreamtime is not long ago; in Dreamtime it is always now. [2]
     Aborigines call Dreamtime the "All-at-Once". Dreamtime is the seedbed of life, the origin of everything that is manifested in the world. It is not separate from the physical world; it is the inner pulse of the land. Our personal dreams may open portals to the All-at-Once.
      The science of the 21st century may help us to grasp the Paleolithic science of the Earth's oldest ongoing tradition. Dreamtime may encompass the six (or seven) hidden dimensions of the physical universe posited by superstring theory. Dreamtime is the multidimensional matrix in which 3D reality floats. By entering Dreamtime, we may be able to reach into the quantum soup of possibilities from which the events of the 3D world bubble up.


1. See Sylvie Poirier's excellent essay "This Is Good Country, We Are Good Dreamers" in Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Culture in the Western Pacific ed. Roger Ivar Lohmann (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) 107-126.
2. Sylvie Poirier writes that Jukurrpa is “a cosmology, an ancestral order and a mytho-ritual  structure. As a generative force, Tjukurrpa breathes life into the universe by giving it form and vital substance. Knowledge of the world emanates from Tjukurrpa and is at the same time grounded in it and its multiple expressions are embodied in the land and are intrinsic to an Aborigine’s sense of self and experience of the world.” Sylvie Poirier, A World of Relationships A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams, and Events in the Australian Western Desert  (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005) 52.

Parts of this article are adapted from my book The Secret History of Dreaming, published by New World Library.

Art: "Making Songlines" by Robert Moss

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dreaming beyond the body we find worlds beyond the body

The excellent new sci-fantasy film "Dr Strange" gives us memorable images of adventures in the astral body. Actually, we go traveling in our astral bodies in dreams almost every night, whether or not we are remotely aware of what we are doing or where we are doing it.
   When we become conscious that we can travel beyond the body in this way, we are poised to recognize that if consciousness can travel beyond the body during life, it will also survive physical death. With this awakening, we are ready to practice the everyday dream yoga of becoming lucid in dreams and embarking on conscious dream journeys. This approach is central to Active Dreaming. It is the most important and most accessible source of direct knowledge of the survival of consciousness after death and conditions in the afterlife.
   Wherever spirituality is truly alive, this is is understood. In the language of the Makiritare, an indigenous dreaming people of Venezuela, the word for "dream" is adekato, literally a "journey of the soul". Even St. Augustine – who had problems with dreams when he abandoned his lover for the church and decided that sex was disgusting – recommended paying the closest attention to dreams in which the dreamer is conscious he is outside his body. In a letter he wrote when he was working on The City of God, Augustine quoted the experience of one Gennadius, “a physician of Carthage”. 
   In a dream, Gennadius encountered a radiant young man who led him to an otherworldly city where he heard singing “so exquisitely sweet as to surpass anything he had ever heard”. Waking, the doctor dismissed his experience as “only a dream”. His radiant visitor returned the following night and asked Gennadius whether he had been asleep or awake when they had met before. 
   At this point, the doctor became aware that he was dreaming. When his guide asked him, “Where is your body now?” he became aware that he was also having an out-of-body experience. This was the preliminary to a teaching session in which he learned that the soul’s condition after death is similar to its condition in dreams, and he lost his doubts about life after life.
    The story of Gennadius finds echoes in the experiences of conscious dreamers today. In the wake of Raymond Moody's Life after Life (1975), there have been a flock of accounts of visionary journeys reported during "near-death experience" (NDE). It is not necessary to suffer life-threatening illness to make a conscious journey to explore the conditions of the soul after death.
    In a dream that was the gateway to many further explorations, I found myself in a large room where people in a circle were waiting for me. An electric blue fire burned in an alcove. A radiant guide indicated that I was to lead them through it. As we danced into the fire, my guide asked, "Where is your body?"
    Now aware that I was dreaming and out of the body, I was briefly tempted to rush back to check on the inert form on the bed. But I managed to stay with the dream and was shown a number of places of teaching for people who seemed to have passed on. At one of these teaching facilities, students of all ages joined their voices in songs of extraordinary beauty. The chorus of one of these songs stirs in me now:

What cannot be seen in the dream
cannot be seen in its glory

Behind the singers rose the buildings of a beautiful university. I have been able to visit this wonderful place of higher learning, meet some of its faculty, and audit some of its classes. For me it is the true Alma Mater, the school of Mother Soul.

Text adapted from Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss

Photo: Dr Strange is knocked into his astral body by the Ancient One in the Marvel film "Dr Strange". 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The science of mirrors

Did you look last night in the mirror of dreams
or did you flinch and turn away?

I know: you may not want to see yourself
as others see you or worse,

without masks or disguises
in a light that reveals every blemish.

You may not be ready to see who is with you
that you don't see on ordinary days:
the spider, the red boar, the whore,
the dead drunk, the priestess with purple eyes.

So you rush past the mirror and shut the door,
wishing for no more dreams. Wish strong enough
and you may turn the mirror to the wall
or crack it from side to side.

Breaking the dream mirror is worse luck
than breaking the other kind. Do this, and you break
your connection to a wiser self. You exile part of your soul
and forfeit your power to know yourself.

You lose your inner compass. You no longer hear
the ancestors who are calling, calling.
You still the voice of conscience.

Soon you are lost in the delusions of the day.

There may be dragons in your dreams
but when you face them you find
that they guard your deepest treasures.
It is the denial of dreams that breeds monsters.

Keep your dream mirror clean and bright,
look in it every night and you'll keep soul in the body,
fly in a starry robe, and discover you can
step through the looking glass into worlds of wonder.

- Robert Moss
Esalen, Big Sur, November 11, 2016

Art: Titian, "Woman with Mirror"

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Drawing down our most potent muse, the magical child

“The creative mind plays with the objects it loves,” said Carl Jung. An earnest man at one of my lectures once asked me to summarize what I consider essential practice. I said, “Remember to play.” He carefully wrote down those three words as if he was marking a schedule. I don't think he quite got the message.
      The child inside him
and in each of us knows. Like puppies or lion cubs or dolphins spinning silver lariats of bubbles, children play for the joy of playing. Young children are masters of imagination, since they know the magic of making things up. Our first and best teacher of conscious living is our inner child.
       But that inner child may have gone into hiding, under a glass dome or in a room in Grandma’s house, because of shame or abuse, ridicule or loneliness, because the world wasn’t safe or it wasn’t fun. If we have lost our dreams, if our imaginations are stuck in a groove, it’s because we have lost our inner child. To live as active dreamers in everyday life, we have to bring that child home. This requires a quest, a negotiation, and fulfillment of a promise.
       The quest will lead us down halls of memory to a place and time where our wonder-child went missing. We can embark on the quest as a journey to a real place in the imaginal realm. 
Sometimes I ask workshop members to picture a path that winds back to the place where they can find their magical child. Maybe the path has been blocked by the rubble of adult life, by thickets of doubt. I suggest taking a broom, or a brush-hog, to clear all obstructions away..
       The negotiation requires us to convince our child selves that we are safe and we are fun to be around. Fulfilling the promises we make will require us to remember to play without scheduling it.
       Play first, work later, the child that is with us will insist.
In the courses and playshops I lead, I often invite participants to get down on the floor and draw their dreams with crayons, and to get up and turn them into spontaneous theater and performance. Our inner children come closer when we play like this.
       Play first, work later. T
he cautious, dutiful adult self will protest. But if we are to keep our inner child at home in our bodies and our lives, we’ll need to fulfill our promise to be fun as well as safe. If we play well enough, then before we quite know it we’ll fall in love with our work, because it will be our play.

Stephen Nachmanovitch reminds us in his book Free Play that "our inner child is our most potent muse." Here's a scene from my life as ally of this kind of muse: 

In a room overlooking Spring Street in New York's colorful SoHo district, I am drumming to help twenty-four dreamers call up the right dream to play with — or play with them — on a wintry Saturday morning. Everyone has sketch paper and crayons, because the first thing we'll do is to turn the dream that comes up into an instant drawing. Adult kindergarten is great. It brings out the child in each of us who is a natural creator.    
     At the end of the drumming, I rough out my own picture. It shows a figure whose head and upper body are those of a giant salmon, and whose lower body is that of a woman. She is the Salmon Speaker. She has stepped through a holo-screen to lecture a council of world leaders on their responsibilities to Water, and all that lives in Water. She is a being from Dreamland, the future society of my deeper dreaming, in which dreamers speak for the planet.    
     Other pictures are bursting to life all around me. It's time for introductions. I ask people to introduce themselves briefly by stating their name, their intention in coming to the workshop (“Writing from Dreams”) and the title — just the title — of their dream pictures. I spin the drumstick to show us where to begin, inviting the play of coincidence. When coincidence is in play, a woman in the circle said to me earlier, “you feel the fingers of the universe are on you.”    
      Some of the dream titles are so juicy and inviting that I pause the introductions more than once to have people meditate on a phrase or simply write a few lines from it, jotting down the first things that it releases in their minds. One of those irresistible titles is, “The Child's Other World”.  
      The phrase transports all of us into places of memory and imagination, into an enchanted apple orchard or through a green door no one else can see. In the child's other world, one of our participants wrote, there is “the joy of touching, smelling, feeling, playing with, hiding in the sun-hot dark dirt between the strawberry plants of our big backyard, alone and breathing in the tangy grass.”    
      In that other world, one writer found herself “floating on the clouds, very light, dissolving, feeling lifted into the sky.” Another found herself stepping through a dream door, “exiting a spaceship onto a planet where it is night, there are trees and hills on the horizon but in front of me only a cleared space. To my left I can turn to a swingset, as yet motionless, and to my right is a stationary park bench. Everything is blue, including the light.”    
     In the child's other world, one woman played  “imaginary chess in the park”. Another found the other world of children “is seen through the kaleidoscope of their eyes. The patterns and colors transfix them to the magical possibilities of the coming day. Flights of fancy, rainbows and dreamscapes interweave seamlessly into the sidewalks, trees and buildings around them.”    
     For me, the Child’s Other World is a world within this one. Its cloudy skies are the sheets I have pulled over my head as I lie in bed, aged nine or so. Grown-ups can't understand that the world inside the sheets is bigger than the one outside.

Text adapted from Active Dreaming by Robert Moss, Published by New World Library.

Art: AE (George Russell) "The Bathers"

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Death is lonely in company

Death is lonely in company.
He is always the unwanted guest.
The party stops when he comes in.
Bubbles go flat, petals drop from the flowers,
pink leaves the cheeks under any amount of rouge.
People don't see his good side.
They see the skull without the skin.
They see teeth and tusks and sickles.
They taste metal and smell decay.
So he dresses up to meet awful expectations.

Death needs a friend who sees beyond the masks.
I think his friend is the shaman.

Samhain, 2016

Art: Alberto Martini, "Morte"