Friday, June 30, 2017

Soul Piñata: Creative joy in a circle of Active Dreamers

 love the spontaneous creative play that develops in a circle of Active Dreamers. Last night, in my local monthly circle, a dream inspired me to invent a new Coincidence Art Game. The juice and joy that came with playing that game are still with me, as is some very practical and helpful guidance.

    We began, as we always do, by drumming to call in the dreams and stories that wanted to play with us in the circle that evening. When her turn came, Sara gave us the dream title "Robert's Clues" and shared the folowing report:

Robert is leading a workshop, giving us assignments for artistic expression from dreams. I walk around looking at paintings people have been making. One of these pictures is on a bench in a park where I spent a lot time as a child. Robert painted this himself. I'm intrigued by his picture but this doesn't stop me from painting over it. When Robert comes around, I'm worried that I will now be in trouble. But he's humorous and relaxed. Not only does he not seem to mind that I just painted over his picture; it feels like he set me up for this as part of his game.

Sara came out of this dream excited, and she was fizzing with excitement as she recounted it. I was intrigued by the behavior of Dream Robert. Under normal circumstances, I would not be thrilled if someone painted over a picture I had made. But it seemed that Dream Robert was playing a deeper game. I felt, as I often do, that I wanted to catch up with my dream self. I liked his laid-back, humorous approach. I also felt, as the dreamer did, that he had set up a game that was about more than simply doing expressive art with personal imagery. The game seemed to involve bringing two images together, from two imaginations, to generate something rich and wonderful and entirely fresh.
    We spent a little time discussing Sara's dream. Someone observed that if it were he dream, she would notice the significance of the locale, a place the dreamer associated with happy scenes from early childhood. Was the dream an invitation to reclaim more of the energy and imagination of the child who had played in that park? This resonated with all of us.

    "Colors!" I cried out. "Sketch paper!" The little boy in me wanted to get down on the floor and play with colors. I asked our host what she had available. She left the room and returned with a big trolley stacked with paints and pencils, crayons and art paper. Whooping, we grabbed our supplies.
    With the story of Dream Robert vivid in my mind, I improvised the rules for a new game. We would start by taking a few minutes to draw freely - kicking any inner critic or editor who was with us out for the room - from the dominant dream or life story that was with us. Hands flew across papers with crayons, watercolor brushes, markers and pencils.
   I was a little disappointed to find that the crayons I had grabbed were mostly dried up. They yielded little color, compared to the wild efflorescence of what others were creating with markers and brushes. Still, the scene I was trying to draw was mostly nocturnal, so I made do with pencil and the faint smear of pastels.
    "Okay," I drew a pause to our crafting "Now we will make our deck." A volunteer gathered up the drawings and shuffled them as best he was able, making a kind of deck.
    "Now, let's be clear about a theme we would like to explore, maybe an issue on which you need help or guidance. Have that absolutely clear in your mind." We took a moment or everyone to record that theme in their journals, so there would be no delay or confusion later on. Mine was: "energy and discipline to complete a major writing project".
     We now had themes for guidance, and a kind of oracle deck. In the game we were about to play, we would draw images at random from the deck, then receive them as possible responses or contributions to our theme. Thus far, the game was familiar to many of us. I had led this version of my Coincidence Card Game - played with pictures rather than words - over many years.
     However, I was inspired by Dream Robert to bring in some new twists. "It will go like this," I proposed. "When you receive your picture, you'll study it and write three phrases on the back that come to mind in the presence of this images. If you are so inspired, you can also add to the picture. You can draw on it or around it. You can even overlay a whole new picture if you like."  This was shocking and exciting to the group. I was secretly hoping that whoever received my faint pencil sketch would bring in some bold colors, even a whole new drawing.
     "When your turn comes to speak to the group," I continued to outline the rules, "you'll hold up the picture, read your three phrases. Tell us about any changes you made to your picture. Tell us your theme. We'll explore the ways in which the picture you received may help with that theme. Then we'll ask the person who drew your picture to stand up and tell us what she can about the story behind the picture."

    The novel elements in the game - writing the three phrases, acting on permission to fool around with the image received - played beautifully. A rather shy newcomer to the group received and image that the artist described as a Fountain of Light. She drew people around the fountain, showing its light and energy helping to build and grown s community. Someone looking for guidance on "clarity of vision" received an image that included stones and water. She added to the drawing until it showed a line of stepping stones, and received clarity from the composite image that she would find the clarity she was seeking by taking things one step at a time.
    I was delighted to receive an image seething with color. The first phrase I wrote on the back was "Soul P
iñata, ready to burst." I wrote two more phrases: "All the colors of the imagination" and "Christmas every day". I didn't want to mess up the raw beauty of the image, so I just added the visual suggestion of hands holding this bundle of juice and joy, ready to release the contents. What I had received certainly felt like a direct response to my theme. I needed to bring in the energy of color, perhaps by starting my writing stints by making a quick drawing, using something other than dried-up crayons.
   Sara revealed that she was the artist, which seemed wonderfully appropriate since it was her dream of Dream Robert's unusual art game that inspired what we were now doing. She spoke of "fire flowers" inside the container, and pointed out that there is a key - which I had seem differently, as an antenna. We all felt that we found a key to manifestation last evening. That key is to play new games that bring the magical child closer and entertain our creative spirits,

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Far Memory: Lessons in Time Travel, Bilocation and Seership from Joan Grant

She is conceived in the Blue Grotto on Capri, with Carabinieri standing guard over the site. This is because her parents, traveling in royal style, are mistaken for British Royals visiting Italy incognito. So Joan Grant begins the story of her life in her memoir Far Memory.
    I discovered her through her novel Winged Pharaoh which takes us vividly into a life lived in early dynastic Egypt by a girl who is trained as a dream seer in a temple of Anubis and grows to become a warrior-queen defending her country against invaders. This remains my favorite book on the practice of dreaming in ancient Egypt, though academic Egyptologists may cavil at some of its contents. It was a bestseller in its day, and the author initially kept mum about the fact that her novel, for her, was not fiction, but “far memory” of a past life in Egypt, triggered when she was allowed to handle a blue scarab. Much of the content came through in channeling sessions recorded by her then husband.
    I first picked up her memoir Far Memory to clarify how Joan Grant received her knowledge of ancient Egypt, and of other lives in other cultures. I recently re-read it, for the sheer pleasure of its bouncy narrative and to follow, in closer detail, how central the author’s own practice of dreaming became to her gifts as a writer, a psychic and a time traveler.
    As a young child, she remembered other lives. She dreamed of a French girl who died in Paris under the guillotine, and knew – through dreaming that experience – that “beheading does not hurt at all.” She received visitations from her deceased grandmother. 
    When her father took her to  a subway station on a family visit to New York, she glimpsed the remains of a man who had thrown himself in front of a train. She dreamed that she met this man, and took the form of the daughter he loved to comfort him, washing  him clean from blood and whiskey fog, and reattached his severed feet. She did this, not as the child Joan, but as a personality that was living as a girl born in 1906, with the knowledge of many other lives and a sense of identity that transcended any single body or life situation.
      During World War I, she traveled in dreams to a battlefield, where she took on the body of a Red Cross nurse, carrying out orders to deal with casualties in one of two ways: to explain to soldiers who had just been killed that they were “safely dead”, or to encourage the wounded to return to bodies that were not yet due to die.  “I had to get close, so close to the person I was trying to help that I became part of him: feeling, seeing, fearing as he did, until I could slowly instill my own faith in him.”
     And she wakes from these dreams in the body of a girl who is now eleven and can’t get the adults around her, apart from the occasional servant, to take her dreams seriously. The disconnect is so great that for a time she seeks to cut herself off from her dreams. But this plan can’t prosper because dreaming is a vital part of her calling. She starts getting confirmation of things she has dreamed but could not otherwise know about. Finding a young man in uniform alone at the breakfast table, she dares to tell him the dream from which she has just awakened in which she was with a soldier named McAndrew when he was killed. She describes his regimental badge and the slang name his unit gave to their trench. The officer at the table identifies the regiment as Canadian, and after checking is able to confirm all the details of the dream, the name of the soldier who was killed, even the slang name of the trench.
    She makes dream excursions, and she receives visitations. Jennie, her deceased grandmother, gives her music lessons and plays through her hands – an obscure piece that a Cambridge professor recognizes because Jennie played it for him. The sheet music no longer exists, and Joan could not know the piece in any ordinary way. “Quite extraordinary but completely evidential,” pronounces C.G.Lamb, the professor of engineering and amateur psychical researcher, giving her encouragement both to grow her clairvoyant gifts and to pursue academic studies.
    Another mentor was H.G. Wells, a house guest at Seacourt, her father’s immense estate on Hayling Island. Wells urged her to write – which she had not considered – while insisting that “you must live in order to write about living”.
    She dreams of places before she goes there, and of events unfolding at a distance in space or time. The night before Esmond, the lover she plans to marry, is due to return to her, she dreams he is staring at something on the floor, puzzled and angry. In the morning the news comes that he killed himself, apparently accidentally, cleaning his revolver. Later, she dreams of a kind of honeymoon with him in a beautiful environment he says is another planet, and delights in the kind of body she can enjoy here. “It was a material body, obeying a less stringent law of gravity, able to run faster, to leap higher, to swim farther under water, but still in its own place equally solid as the one I re-entered on waking.” She is startled when Esmond tells her that dream visitors aren’t especially welcome here. The residents call them ghosts, ‘earth-ghosts”.
    She develops the discipline of a real dreamer. She wakes herself several times during the night in order to record her dreams. She learns to distinguish “true dreams” from “the fustian and tinsel so dear to psychoanalysis”. In “true dreams”, she travels across time and space. She is with people at a distance . She visits the future. She enters or reenters life experiences of other personalities.
    In her development of “far memory” of those other lives, psychometry – the art of receiving impressions while handling a physical object – becomes increasingly important, after she first establishes that she can do it. But first and last, in the education of Joan Grant, is the dreaming. Reading her, we are reminded of just how important and just how practical this is. We urgently need many more people who can do pyschopomp work of the kind Joan narrates, helping the dead to find their way, and the best training for this is in dreaming, as I explain in my own "manual for the psychopomp" (Part III of Dreamgates) and in my Dreamer's Book of the Dead.

She was quite Egyptian in her insistence on the survival of a "supra-physical" body as well as the soul, and the possibility that a living individual can have more than one of these vehicles. A true pharaoh of Egypt, as I recall, was credited with having as many as 14 kas. It is "fun" to change your energy template, Grant informs us.
    "Another advantage of having more than one active, current supra-physical [body] is that it makes it easier to appear in two places at once." She gives a personal example. She was worried about a woman who was scheduled to undergo a C-section, an operation considered highly dangerous at the time. Although she could not be with her, she thought of her intently just before the procedure. Later the woman's husband thanked Joan profusely for the visit his wife said she had made, slipping in through the french doors from the hospital garden so as to be unobserved by the nurses, comforting her to the point that her fears dissolved and she slipped gently into a state of natural sedation.
    Joan waited some time after the birth before telling the mother that her visit was not an ordinary physical event. The woman responded, "Thank goodness I didn't know you weren't solid! I should have been simply terrified if I'd known I was seeing a ghost."
    We find this story in a recent collection of her occasional writings titled Speaking from the Heart. 
There are indications in the essays and memoirs here that Joan Grant experimented at least a little with what I find to be two of the most rewarding lines of exploration of our relations with a family of counterpart personalities, living in different times and dimensions. "Two personalities in the same series communicate with each other through their Integral - the Spirit." 
    This suggests that at the hub of many lives, playing out in different worlds, is a higher self that may operate outside time and may facilitate contact between personalities living in different times. We want to try to ascend to the perspective of that higher self, with its view over many times. And we want not only to understand how the legacy of past lives may work in our present lives - and may be healed, when seen for what it is - but how we can reach back across time to heal something in the life of a previous self. 

Far Memory in the Dreamer's School of Soul

In my new advanced online training for The Shift Network, The Dreamer's School of Soul, we will develop the art of far memory and study the nature and destiny of the "supra-physical bodies", using Joan Grant as one of our exemplars. We will also make a group shamanic journey to the Dream School of Anubis.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The pause that refreshes and alluvial dream recall

You wake in bed and think you don't remember any dreams? Wait a moment. Allow for the pause that refreshes. It can reopen the curtain and take you from the stage set of regular life into the deeper theater of dreams.
   It happened again for me this morning. When I opened my eyes, my memory of the night was blank. I lost my dreams, I sighed, because writing my dreams in my journal and then walking with them for a while - seeing how the world illuminates them and how they illuminate the world - is my favorite way to start the day.
   I closed my eyes and lingered in bed. It didn't take more than two minutes before the dreams I thought I had lost came streaming back. There's nothing major going on in the dream travelogue I was able to record, but I had fun writing it down and reflecting on the behavior of my dream self and certain recurring themes that I recognized.
   I am sometimes in awe of my dream self. He has skills I haven't developed, he speaks languages I don't know, he jumps across time and between worlds with utter assurance, while fully conscious that he is operating in several realities simultaneously. Dream Robert last night, was no superhero. He gets lost trying to find the room where he is leading a workshop. His confusion grows as the city around him shifts from New York - specifically, Columbia University - to Paris and back again. One moment, he is asking French gendarmes for directions to "La Grande Salle des Conférences"; the next, he approaches a man in Manhattan for similar help and accepts an invitation to go up to a strange apartment where television interviews in Arabic are about to be recorded.
   Last night's Dream Robert
 has supernormal powers but does not seem to recognize that he can do something useful with them. Walking down a city street, he starts to levitate. The feeling - I now remember it so vividly - is of being carried up by rapidly rising floodwaters. However, there is no water on the street. Other people on the sidewalk are not affected and appear not to notice that my dream double is floating thirty feet above their heads. He decides that he doesn't want to float away like a balloon so he wills himself to come down slowly - and finds himself squatting on a ledge fifteen feet above a high terrace. It does not occur to him that he can fly and he can't imagine any other way to get down than to risk the jump. He lets himself drop from the ledge. The different physics of his reality allow him to slide gently down, back against the wall, to make a safe and soft landing.
    I am drawn to compare the attitudes and behavior of my dream self with my waking self. Certainly, I can be lost and confused and torn between different places and situations. My dream self doesn't wake up to the fact that he is dreaming, in the sense that he could use his supernormal powers more consciously and effectively; he could fly (for example) to the venue he is trying to locate. My waking self sometimes fails to remember that waking life is also a dream and that reality may be far more malleable than most people allow for.

   Since I know that in dreams we travel into the possible future, scouting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, I will hold certain elements - Columbia University, that splendid conference building in Paris, the Arabic television interviews - in mind as possible previews, and use them for navigation if they begin to manifest in ordinary reality.

Let me pursue my main theme: the pause that refreshes.

On another recent morning I woke up suddenly at 5:00 a.m. without dream recall. I moved gently around in the bed, possibly resuming sleep postures from the night, no less suddenly, that I had five vivid scenes from the dreams that had previously eluded me..
     I got up to write them down. I found I needed to pay close attention to the scene shifts. Sometimes we are too hasty in turning a series of dream experiences into a linear narrative. Transitions we can't explain may reflect that fact that we have moved from one reality to another. There are many levels of dreaming, and they may correspond to different orders of reality as well as different levels of consciousness.
     I wrote up the five scenes and gave them titles. I noted that they did not play out in a simple linear sequence. There were at least three distinct event tracks, converging and diverging, and that in my dream awareness I was sometimes in three different places at once. 
     Satisfied with my journaling, I went to take a shower. As  I reached for the shampoo, I recalled a further scene -  number 6 - from the dreams that I thought were gone when I first woke that day. In this scene, I decided to wash my hair because it felt gritty when I ran my hand through it under the shower. In the dream, my hair was black and curly, cut fairly short.
     In regular life, my hair has never been black and curly. It has been white for many years and before that it was brown. I seemed to be fully at home, in the dream, in the well-muscled body of the man with black curly hair. I wonder whether Curly has been thinking about dreams of his own in which he is in the body of an older guy with longish white hair. It's possible that I have been in Curly’s body and situation over many years, in what for me are dreams but for him is ordinary reality.

These notes lead me to make a few suggestions about improving dream recall and coming awake to the many levels of dreaming that may be relevant to you:

1. Make time for the pause that refreshes

If you think you have no dream recall, wait a bit. Maybe moving your body into positions it was in during sleep will bring back dreams you thought were gone. Dreams may come back in the shower, or the course of the day. Allowing for a pause before recall is especially important if you have awakened suddenly.

2. Pay attention to scene shifts in your dream reports

Don’t be too quick to turn a series of scenes into a linear narrative, especially when you don’t know how you got from one place to another. You may have stepped from one dream into another, which is to say, you may have changed worlds. In last night's dream (at least as I remember it) my dream self was blurry about scene shifts. More often, he is quite alert to their possible significance. When he is transported from one scene to another in an inexplicable way, he sometimes asks, "How did I get here?"

3. Be ready to ask "Who am I in this dream?"

You can find yourself in the situation and seemingly the body of another person, in your dreams. The reasons are varied. Maybe you have been drawn to share something of another person's experience and perspective, which can expand your humanity. Maybe you have entered the adventures of a parallel self or a counterpart personality in another time or another world. Whatever is going on, it's worth remembering to ask "Who am I in this dream?" and "Whose body am I in?"

4. Reach for the shampoo

Yesterday, as I stepped under the shower and reached for the shampoo, another dream I had lost came back.  I saw again, clearly, the face of a younger man with fine wavy hair cut in a distinctive fashion, fairly short up to the top of his ears, long and luxuriant above, fluttering in the breeze. He was in a fairly good three-piece suit, cut in the style of an earlier era, perhaps Edwardian. He had the style of a poet, but also of a member of the landed gentry. I think I can travel through that mental portrait, if so inclined, and meet him again, perhaps in the Ireland of an earlier time than mine.

Perhaps I can call this kind of thing alluvial dream recall. Alluvial gold comes from sifting through sediment left by rivers and streams. There is pure gold in the dreams that may come when you turn on the water, reach for the shampoo and sift through your hair.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When we become a dreaming society

I have a dream: that we will again become a society of dreamers. In a dreaming culture, dreams are valued and celebrated. The first business of the day, for most people, is to share dreams – dreams from the night, and dreams of life - and seek to harvest their guidance. The community joins in manifesting the energy and insight of dreams in waking life. In a dreaming culture, nobody says, “It’s only a dream" or “In your dreams, mister.” It is understood that dreams are both wishes (“I have a dream”) and experiences of the soul.
    If dreams were honored throughout our society, our world would be different, and magical. Let me count the ways:

1. Dream Partners.
Personal relations will be richer, more intimate and creative. There will be less room for pretense and denial. Sharing dreams, we overcome the taboos that prevent us from expressing our real needs and feelings and open ourselves to those of others.

2. Family life and home entertainment.
“What did you dream?” is the first question asked around the table in a family of dreamers. In our dreaming culture, families everywhere will share dreams and harvest their gifts of story, mutual understanding and healing. Parents will listen to their children’s dreams and help them to confront and overcome nightmare terrors. Best of all, they will learn from their children, because kids are wonderful dreamers. This might be bad for TV ratings but it would bring back the precious arts of storytelling, helping us learn to tell our own story (a gift with almost limitless applications) and to recognize the larger story of our lives.

3. Dream Healing.
In our dreaming culture, dream groups will be a vital part of every clinic, hospital and treatment center and doctors will begin their patient interviews by asking about dreams as well as physical symptoms. Health costs will plummet, because when we listen to our dreams, we receive keys to self-healing. Dreams often alert us to possible health problems long before physical symptoms develop; by heeding those messages, we can sometimes avoid manifesting those symptoms. Dreams give us an impeccable nightly readout on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. When we do get ill, dreams are a factory of images that can help us to heal on every level.

4. The Care of Souls.
As a dreaming culture, we will remember that the causes of disease are spiritual as well as physical. We will use dreams to facilitate soul recovery. In dreams where we encounter a younger version of ourselves, or are drawn back to a scene from childhood, we are brought to recognize a deeper kind of energy loss, that shamans call soul loss. Through trauma or abuse, through addiction or great sadness, we can lose a part of our vital soul energy. So long as it is missing, we are not whole and the gap may be filled by sickness or addiction. Dreams show us what has become of our missing parts and when it is timely to call them home.

5. Dream Incubation.
In a dreaming culture, we will remember to “sleep on it,” asking dreams for creative guidance on school assignments, work projects, relationships and whatever challenges are looming in waking life. When we seek dream guidance, we must be ready for answers that go beyond our questions, because the dream source is infinitely deeper and wiser than what Yeats called the “daily trivial mind.”

6. Using Dream Radar.
Dreaming, we routinely fold time and space and scout far into the future. As a dreaming culture, we will work with dream precognition on a daily basis -- and develop strategies to revise the possible futures foreseen in dreams for the benefit of ourselves and others.

7. Building Communities.
When we share dreams with others, we recognize something of ourselves in their experiences. This helps us to move beyond prejudice and build heart-centered communities.

8. The Art of Dying.
The path of the soul after death, say the Plains Indians, is the same as the path of the soul in dreams -- except that after physical death, we won’t come back to the same body. Dreamwork is a vital tool in helping the dying to prepare for the conditions of the afterlife.

9. Walking the Path of Soul.
The greatest gift of dreaming is that it facilitates an encounter between the little self and the big Self. Active dreaming is a vital form of soul remembering: of reclaiming knowledge that belonged to us, on the levels of soul and spirit, before we entered this life experience. So much of the harm we do to ourselves and others stems from the fact that we have forgotten who we are and what we are meant to become. Dreaming, we remember, and encounter authentic spiritual guides who will help us on our paths.

The Dreamer's School of Soul

In the cause of assisting the rebirth of a dreaming society, I am launching a new online training called The Dreamer's School of SoulOver seven months, you'll be traveling in the company of spirited and creative dreamers from all over the world map who will support your soul odysseys. Take a look at what's waiting for you in the Dream Clinic, Flight School, the Faculties of Divination and Kairomancy, of Co-Creation and Dream Archaeology, the House of Healing and more

Photo: Active dreamers in a workshop in Romania led by dream teacher Ana Maria Stefanescu.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Mirror for the Sun Goddess

At the solstice, a story from Japan about the sun goddess. In Japan, as in many world cultures, the sun is feminine. The tale is a profound teaching story about soul loss and soul recovery comes from Japan. It is a mythic tale of Amaterasu Omikami, the Japanese sun goddess, and it offers a wonderful script for soul healing. Perhaps you can find yourself - and more of your soul - inside it.
     The beloved sun goddess Amaterasu is shamed and abused by a raging male, her stormy brother/consort Susanowo, who is a hero when is comes to fighting monsters but is no hero in the family home. They have had children together, born magically from gifts they have given each other – three girls from Susanowo’s sword and five boys from the jewels of Amaterasu.
     But Susanowo plays spoiler, smearing excrement where Amaterasu made fertile fields and crops, throwing a horse that is sacred to the goddess into the midst of her intimate weaving circle, and so on. The storm god’s violence reaches the point where Amaterasu takes refuge in a rock cave. And the light goes from the world.
      In her dark cavern the once radiant goddess sits brooding on the past, sinking deeper and deeper into feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe she starts telling herself that what has happened is somehow her fault, that she failed her consort in some important way, that she failed to give what was needed. In the depths, she has lost her inner light, while the world has lost her radiance. The myriad gods and goddesses are desperate to call the sun back.
     They try many ruses to lure Amaterasu out of the dark cave. They call on a wise god, whose name means Keeper of Thoughts, to advise them. He usually keeps his best ideas to himself, but the cold and darkness in the world have got him worried too. So he counsels the gods to gather all the roosters than can be relied to crow at dawn. He tells the gods to hang a mirror with strands of jewels on the branches of a Sakaki tree at the entrance of Amaterasu’s cave. The gods do this, decorating the tree with bright cloth banners, without fully understanding the plan. The cocks crow, the gods whoop and howl. And Amaterasu stays in her cave.
      Now one of her sister goddesses, Uzume, comes up with a plan of her own. Uzume is the goddess of mirth and revelry. She is also called the Great Persuader and the Heavenly Alarming Woman. Now we see why. Uzume overturns a tub near the mouth of the rock cave, strips off her clothes like a professional, and moves into a wild, sexy dance that has the gods laughing and bellowing with delight. Amaterasu is curious. Why is everyone having so much fun? She approaches the mouth of her cave and demands to know what is going on. Uzume calls back to her, “We’ve found you the perfect lover. Come and see.”
     Suspicious, Amaterasu peeks around the edge of the boulder she placed at the cave mouth to shut out the world. And she is awed and fascinated to see a figure of radiant beauty looking back at her. She is drawn, irresistibly, to this beauty, and comes up out of the darkness – to discover that the radiant being is her own beautiful self, reflected in the mirror the gods have hung in a tree near the cave. Now the god of Strength rushes out and holds Amaterasu, gently but firmly, to restrain her from going back into the dark. Another god places a magic rope across the entrance to the cave.
    Gods of passion and delight lead Amaterasu back into the assembly of the gods, and her light returns to the world. This is a marvelous collective dream of how soul recovery and soul healing become possible when we help each other to look in the mirror of the greater Self.
     Mirrors hang in the temples of Amaterasu today, to remind us to look for the goddess or god in ourselves. When we locate the drama of Amaterasu in our own lives, we begin to make a mirror for the radiance of the larger Self that can help to bring us, and those we love, up from the dark places.
     In some of my workshops, we have taken the story of Amaterasu's descent to the Underworld and turned it into a shamanic theater of soul recovery, with amazing results. However, the unfortunate cast as Susanowo must be depossessed of his role, and then welcomed back into the circle as a "new man", healed and enlightened. This can be profoundly healing too.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When reading changes the way we see

My in-flight reading on a trip to California included Dreaming by the Book by Elaine Scarry, a professor of aesthetics at Harvard. It’s an inquiry into the magic of narrative and poetry that draws the reader into a vivid multisensory experience through the agency of little black marks on a white page. For example, she analyzes how certain writers conjure belief in the solidity of a wall by streaming fleeting or filmy shapes across it. Locke says that in the everyday operations of perception, the notion of solidity “hinders our further sinking downward” – so we are confident of the floor or sidewalk we are walking on.
   Some kinds of reading alter the way we see. I looked out the window of my taxiing plane and saw the sun hammer the window of a control tower into a shaman's bronze mirror, flashing light. As the plane came down, its shadow ran beneath us on the tarmac far below, tiny at first but growing fast as we dropped. We flew into our shadow, like lovers rushing into each other's embrace. When we paused for breath, the shadow of our wing erased the yellow line on the landing strip. Beyond the shadow, there were no boundaries.
    On the edge of San Francisco Bay that Saturday morning, the legacy of the storm erased solid ground and constructed buildings in the sky. Great puddles of water, shallow but wide and silver-bright, lay on the cement of the Fort Mason docks. They opened windows into a mirror world. Brick by brick, the buildings were meticulously reconstructed, rising towards scudding clouds in a blue sky far below. I was walking at the edge of a limitless drop. One inch to the right, and I would be falling into the sky.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stories are hunting us

I hear them at night, sometimes, east of the Well of Memory, west of the Mountains of Desire. They talk like herons after dark, like bears rousted from sleep, like wind tunnels, like alien phone sex, like broken gutters, but mostly like a storytelling of crows. When the Moon gets old, I send my shadow to listen.
    “Back off!” says a story that might be a griffin to one of the hungry ones. “He’s mine!”
    “But I’m starving.” The smaller, snaggle-toothed story is drooling.
    “Go snack on something your own size,” says the bigger story. “This is my ride.”
    There is pushing and scuffling, and bad talk from tall tales.
    Stories are hunting the people who will tell them. Do you hear them? If you are lucky, the one that gets you will have some real teeth.

Drawing by Robert Moss

The mingling of minds and the creative daimon

When we are passionately engaged in a creative venture - love, art or something else that is really worthwhile - we draw support from other minds and other beings, seen and unseen.
    According to the direction of our will and desire, and the depth of our work, those minds may include masters from other times and other beings
   We draw greater support the greater the challenges involved in our venture. Great spirits love great challenges.
   Whether we are aware of it or not, all our life choices are witnessed by the larger self that Yeats called the daimon. The daimon lends or withholds its immense energy from our lives according to whether we choose the big agenda or the little one. The daimon is bored by our everyday vacillations and compromises and detests us when we choose against the grand passion and the Life Work, the soul's purpose.
    The daimon loves us best, Yeats observed, when we choose to attempt “the hardest thing among those not impossible.” Jung put it even more bluntly in Memories, Dreams, Reflections“A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon.”
     In an important and difficult essay, Yeats suggests that we can develop a co-creative relationships with minds operating in other times or other dimensions. He gave this essay a Latin title borrowed from Virgil, Per Amica Silentia Lunae ("Through the Friendly Silence of the Moon"). Here he describes how, when he was passionately engaged in certain esoteric studies - of alchemy, of Kabbalah - previously unknown resources were given to him as if by hidden hands. When he speaks of "fellow-scholars" (in the first line of the excerpt) he is talking about minds he felt reaching to him across time, from other dimensions, called by mutual affinity.

I had fellow-scholars, and now it was I and now they who made some discovery. Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a Great Memory passing on from generation to generation.
   But that was not enough, for these images showed intention and choice. They had a relation to what one knew and yet were an extension of one’s knowledge. If no mind was there, why should I suddenly come upon salt and antimony, upon the liquefaction of gold, as they were understood by the alchemists, or upon some detail of cabbalistic symbolism verified at last by a learned scholar from his never-published manuscripts, and who can have put it together so ingeniously?...
   The thought was again and again before me that this study had created a contact or mingling with minds who had followed a like study in some other age, and that these minds still saw and thought and chose. 

– W.B.Yeats, Per Amica Silentia Lunae in Mythologies (New York: Macmillan, 1959) 345-6.

Picture: "Yeats in the Magic Cottage" by Robert Moss

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How to know when the god is present

I am explaining to a large group of students how to read the signs that announce the advent of the god Apollo at his oracle, and confirm that true messages will be delivered by his priestess.
    We are inside the scene. We feel the coming of the god right now. The sacrificial goat starts shaking from the hooves up when the holy water is poured over it. Everything in the environment begins to tremble as if stirred by an unseen wind.
    The priestess called Pythia, who has been drinking from the sacred spring, sees movement in the bowl of spring water she holds in her lap as she sits on the tripod among the fumes rising from the deep chasm.

Inside the dream, I feel educated pleasure. Some awe, but no fear. When I leave the dream, I have a deep sense of satisfaction. Also the strong feeling I have been in an entirely real situation, in another time and/or a separate reality.

Dreams set us assignments. It is agreeable for the ancient history professor in me to reopen books about the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. I am reminded that in preparing to become the oracle, the Pythia bathes in the sacred spring. She inhales pungent incense. She invokes all the deities associated with Delphi by name, starting with Themis and Phoebe, daughters of the Earth goddess Gaia, and continuing through Zeus, Poseidon, Dionysus and Apollo, who she hopes will speak through her.
   She makes burned offering of laurel leaves and barley meal on an altar of the temple. She enters the adyton (sacred chamber) and mounts the golden tripod that serves as her throne. In one hand she holds a laurel branch, in the other a shallow bowl.
   She sits quietly until the laurel leaves start to quiver. The trembling seizes her hand, moves up her arm to her shoulders and chest. Her whole body starts shaking violently as if it has been seized by giant hands. This is confirmation that the god is present and that his speaker is in the necessary state of enthousiasmos to deliver true messages. 

    The philosopher-historian Plutarch, also a priest of Apollo, wrote that at Delphi the god makes his thoughts known “through the associated medium of a mortal body and a soul that is unable to keep quiet, or, as it yields itself to the One that moves it, to remain of itself unmoved and tranquil, but, as though tossed amid billows and enmeshed in the stirrings and emotions within itself, it makes itself more and more restless.” [Plutarch, de pythiae oraculis in Moralia V]

    So the saying that truth comes with goosebumps comes with a mythic pedigree. I may have forgotten that, but my dream self clearly did not. Once again, I find myself racing to catch up with him.

Art: John William Waterhouse

Six games to play with your journal

When you write in your journal, you are keeping a date with your Self. I'm giving "self" a big S because I'm talking about something bigger than the everyday mind, so often prone to distraction, or mixed-up agendas, so driven by routines and other people's requirements.

A date with the Self should be fun. Here are six everyday games to play with your journal:

1. Write Your Way Through

Whatever ails you of bugs you or blocks you, write about it. Getting it out is immediate therapy. If you keep your journal strictly private (which is essential, by the way) what you put down in these pages can be your everyday confessional, with the cleansing and release that can bring. It's funny how when you start by recording your woes, something else comes into play that brings you up instead of down and can actually restore your sense of humor.
   When you see and state things as they are, you already begin to change them. Keep your hand moving, and you may manifest the power to re-name and re-vision symptoms, challenges and difficult situations in the direction of resolution and healing.

2. Catch Your Dreams

Every time you remember a dream, record it. Date your entry and give the dream a title. By giving a name to a dream, you are recognizing that there's a story to be told, and you are now in process of becoming a storyteller. Also jot down your feelings around the dream; your first feelings on waking are the best guidance on what it is telling you.

3. Make a Book of Clues

The world is speaking to us through coincidence and chance encounters and symbolic pop-ups, giving us clues to the hidden logic of events. Once we start paying attention, we'll find that synchronicity is a fabulous source of navigational guidance. Write down in your journal anything unusual or unexpected that you notice during the day. Suggestion: note in your journal, what appears on the first vanity plate you spot each day..

4. Collect Pick-Me-Up Lines

No, I did not say "pick-up lines"! One of the things I treasure in my own journals, and in those of famous dead people that I read, is the collection of interesting and inspiring quotes that grows once we get into the habit of jotting down one-liners that catch our attention.
    The very best-one liners, of course, are ones you make up yourself. I make a practice of coming up with a personal “bumper sticker” – which may be what Mark Twain called a “snapper” and an “astonisher” – at the end of my dream reports. Others just bubble up from life, any day or any night. Recent entries include:

We must create meaning for our own lives.

You are most alive in the presence of your death.

Every day is a holiday when you do what you love.

5. Make Your Own Dictionary of Symbols

Your journal will become the best dictionary of symbols you will ever read. Most humans dream of snakes, or of being pursued, and this is part of our common humanity and our our connection with what Jung came to call the objective psyche. But the snake in your dreams is not necessarily the snake in my dreams, and what is pursuing you in the dreamspace may be very different from what is chasing me.
   As we journal dreams and symbolic pop-ups in the world,we'll notice that the symbols that appear to us take us beyond what we ordinarily know, and that they are never still, but constantly evolving. Thus the wild animal that scared you in one dream may become your ally when you brave up in a later dream. Or what seemed to be your childhood home turns out to have many more levels than you remember, opening a sense of expanding life possibilities.

6. Write until you're a writer

Sit down with your journal every day and keep your hand moving, and before you think about it, you'll find you have become a writer. Whether the world knows that, or whether you choose to share your writing with the world is secondary. You are writing for your Self, and without fear of the consequences. You are giving your writing muscles a workout, and you'll find that tones up your whole system.

Write in your journal every day, and you will eventually find that this is the most important book you will ever read. Make sure it is a secret book. Nobody should be allowed to read it without your explicit permission. As you keep your secret book, you'll discover more, and more will discover you. There are deeper games you'll now be able to play. You'll find yourself straying off the tame and settled territory of the everyday mind, into the wilder borders of imagination, where the Big story of your life can find you.

For more on the art of creative journaling, and deeper games to play, please read chapter 4, "Keeping Your Books of Night and Day" in my book Active Dreaming 

The only expert on your dreams is you

You are the final authority on your dreams, and you should never give the power of your dreams away by handing them over to other people to interpret. Yes, our dreams can be confusing and opaque, and we gain greatly from other people's insights, especially when those other people are "frequent fliers" who work closely with their own dreams and have developed a fine intuition about what may be going on in dreaming. So it's okay to ask for help. More than that, we often need help because we are too close to our own issues, or too inhibited by self-limiting to see what may be obvious to a complete outsider.
    However, we need to learn some simple rules about how to share and comment on dreams. I suggest the following guidelines for starters:

* Tell the dream as clearly and exactly as possible. Dreams are real experiences, and the meaning of the dream is often inside the dream experience itself. Give your dream report a title.

* Consider your feelings, inside the dream and on waking. Your first feelings after a dream are a quick and usually reliable guide to the importance, urgency and quality (e.g. positive/negative) of the dream.

* Always ask: Is it remotely possible the events in this dream could be played out in waking life? I have never seen more time wasted in dream analysis -- and more life-supporting messages lost -- than when we fail to recognize that our dreams are constantly rehearsing us for challenges that lie around the corner. In our dreams, we are all psychic.

* If you are going to comment on someone else's dream, always begin by saying (in these words or similar words), "If this were my dream, I would think about..." This way, you are not leaning on other people and presuming to tell them the meaning of their dreams or their lives. When we follow this vitally important etiquette, we create a safe space to share dreams and life stories in everyday contexts - at the breakfast table, at work, in the family, in school.

* Try to go back inside the dream and recover more information. A dream fully remembered is often its own interpretation.

* Try to come up with a one-liner to summarize what happens in the dream (or encourage the dreamer to do that). This will often turn out to be a personal dream motto that will orient you towards appropriate action -- to act on the dream guidance and honor the dream.

* Always do something with the dream! We need to do far more than interpret dreams;we need to bring their energy and insight into manifestation in waking life.

The simple guidelines above are central to my Active Dreaming approach. You can learn more about fun, everyday techniques for working and playing with dreams and using them as portals for adventure and healing in a larger reality in my books; ConsciousDreaming, The Three "Only" Things and Active Dreaming are good places to jump in.

Graphic by French artist and dream teacher Véronique Barek-Deligny

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mad love, found objects, objective chance

Coincidence multiplies when we pay attention, above all when we are charged with certain energies and moving outside the grooves of familiar routines and mindsets. André Breton, the French Surrealist, called coincidence “objective chance”. In his amazing narrative Amour fou (“Mad Love”) Breton shows us the state of mind, and the pattern of behavior, that turns us into walking synchronicity magnets.
     What required is the kind of openness to the unexpected the French call disponibilité and, beyond this the choice of “lyric behavior”: the willingness to give oneself to the “dazzling revenge” of the imagination on a world of stubborn facts.
      Breton describes how two people joined by passion or strong interest become a powerful double attractor for coincidence. "I would be tempted to say that two people walking near each other constitute a single influencing body, primed." He compares this phenomenon to "those sudden atmospheric condensations which make conductors out of regions that were not before, producing flashes of lightning." The “single influencing body” is formed when he is traveling with his lover, but also when he is walking around the flea market with the sculptor Giacometti.
     The sculptor is thinking about the undefined face of a woman in his current piece, and finds a strange mask that speaks to his need. Breton has harbored an odd desire to possess an ashtray shaped like a woman's high-heeled shoe, and finds a curious spoon in the same shape. In the chance discovery of these trouvailles (found objects) we sense the hand of an unseen player behind the scenes.
      Breton writes about how, if we pay attention, we may notice not only that life rhymes but that it can follow a poetic mode of composition. He describes how all the elements in a poem he write in 1923 manifested on a "Night of the Sunflower" in Les Halles eleven years later, as if the poem was taking root in the world.
      Mad Love is a paean to the magic that comes when we go about the world charged with love and desire, magnetically drawing people and events to us in novel ways. Breton does pause to reflect on what happens when passion is thwarted by worldly circumstances; “Indeed passion, with its magnificent wild eyes, must suffer at having to mix in the human struggle”.

It is always with surprise and fright that I have seen...harmless complaints...grow more acute. They hone themselves on the stone of silence, abrupt and unbreakable by anything at all, quite like absence and death. Overhead, between the lovers, flies a rain of poisoned arrows, soon so thick as to prevent any exchange of glances. Then, hastily, hateful egotism walls itself into a windowless tower. The attraction is broken; even the loveliness of the beloved face goes into hiding; a wind of ashes sweeps everything away; the pursuit of life is compromised.

And if objective chance is still operating, its operations will be chancy, for we attract or repel different things according to the emotions and attitudes that live in us.

Photo: André Breton in his Paris apartment, crammed with found objects.

Lit Sync with Wolfgang Pauli's Chinese Woman

In the category of Lit Sync, a story from this writer's road:

When I was on tour in California for my book, The Secret History of Dreaming. I again observed that coincidence multiplies when we are in motion and focused on a theme that exercises its own magnetism. By "coincidence", I mean the intersection of an external event - or series of events - with an inner sense of meaning.
    I richly enjoyed an hour-long conversation on KQED public radio in San Francisco with Michael Krasny, host of the popular radio show "The Forum". It is a great pleasure to talk with a highly literate, intelligent interviewer who has read your book and engaged with it deeply. Michael spoke as a skeptical agnostic, yet ten minutes into the show he was willing to share a personal dream of his departed father, which immediately carried us to a greater human depth.
    He asked me to explain how I had "cracked the code" of the Chinese Woman in the dreams of Wolfgang Pauli, the quantum physicist, as described in my Secret History. I recounted how Pauli had been both attracted an repelled by dreams of a Chinese Woman who was sometimes sexually alluring, moving like a snake dancer, but led him to places where he felt his world was being shaken to its core. In one of Pauli's dreams, the Chinese Woman gave birth to a child that was not acknowledged by the world.
    When he shared these dreams with Jung, the great psychologist sought to identify the Chinese Woman as an anima figure in Pauli's psyche. Yet, as I discovered with the help of a physicist friend, the Chinese Woman may have been a figure in the external world of physics. A very attractive Chinese-American physicist, Dr Chien Shiung Wu, arranged the experiment that overthrew the "parity principle" - to which Pauli was fiercely wedded - in the early 1950s, shaking Pauli's intellectual world. When the Nobel committee awarded the physics prize for this breakthrough, it acknowledged the two male theoretical physicists involved, but not the experimental physicist, Dr Wu, thus fulfilling Pauli's dream of the Chinese Woman whose baby was not acknowledged by the world.
    As soon as the radio show was over, I received a stream of email from interested listeners. The very first email came from a woman who reported that she had known Pauli's Chinese Woman. Her husband had been a graduate student under Dr Wu. She recalled, delightfully, that Dr Wu "used to pull my ponytail."

Hakone Gardens

    At the end of that week, I led an Active Dreaming workshop at a lodge in Hakone Gardens, a dreamscape of Japanese formal gardens with winding paths and fish ponds and hump-backed bridges. During the break, a woman touring the gardens separated from her family to greet me. She identified herself as one of the callers who had managed to speak to me on the air on "The Forum". She had no idea that I would be at Hakone - fifty miles from the KQED studios - that day, and found the synchronicity remarkable, as indeed it was.
    The Friday evening before that encounter, I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at East-West bookstore in Mountain View. At the end of my talk I suggested the following homeplay assignment: "Pretend that the first unusual or striking thing that happens to you after you leave the bookstore tonight will be a message to you from the world, a kind of in-your-face dream symbol."
     A woman rushed back into the store while I was still signing books to report how she had gotten an immediate message from the world.
    "Look what I got!" She held out her palm to show me a Buffalo nickel (one of the old "Indian Head" nickels retired from circulation in 1938). "I got it in the change at a Chinese take-out place. Do you know how RARE this is?"
    I said, "My one liner-would be, change is valuable."
    She clapped her hands, delighted. "Yes! Change is worth a lot."
    It was deliciously appropriate that this takeaway, valuable in a couple of ways. manifested in a Chinese take-out place. The spirit of the Chinese Woman who tempted and terrified Pauli in his dreams - and who I was able to identify in The Secret History of Dreaming - seemed to be at play throughout my tour for that book in California.

Photo: Wolfgang Pauli with Dr Chien Shiung Wu, who constructed an experiment in 1957 involving the beta decay of cobalt that demonstrated that parity is not conserved in "weak" interactions, overthrowing what Pauli had regarded as a fundamental law of physics.