Friday, July 28, 2017

Nine Keys to Helping Kids with Their Dreams

Here's what we need to know about listening to children's dreams and supporting their imaginations: 

1. Listen up!
When a child wants to tell a dream, make room for that. Make some daily space for dream sharing. Listen to the stories and cherish them for their own sake. 

2. Invite good dreams

Pick the right bedtime reading or better still, tell stories. Help your child to weave a web of good dream intentions for the night — for example, by asking “What would you most like to do tonight?” Encourage children to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal (whether teddy bear or T-Rex) and make this a dream guardian. 

3. Provide immediate help with the scary stuff

If your child was scared by something in the night, recognize
you are the ally the child needs right now. Do something right away to move out that negative energy. Hugs usually help. Get a frightened child to spit it the yucky stuff (literally) or draw a picture of what scared her and tear it up as violently as possible. Help her choose the right stuffed animal or toy to be a guardian for the night. When things are calm, you can suggest facing what was scary and dealing with it on its own ground - with a Riddikulus spell (as used in the Harry Potter stories to banish boggarts), or befriending it or by scaring it back.

4. Ask good questions.

When the child has told her story, ask good questions. Ask about feelings, about the color of the sky, and about exactly what T-Rex was doing. See if there's something about the future. Say what you would think about this if this were your dream. Always come up with something fun or helpful to do with this story. Open up the crayon box, call grandma, etc. 

5. Help the child to keep a dream journal

Get this started as early as possible. With a very young child, you can help with the words while they do the pictures. When your child reaches the point where she closes the journal and says, “This is my secret book and you can't read it any more”
do not peek. Give her privacy, and let her choose when she'll let you look in that magic book. 

6. Provide tools for creative expression.

Encourage the child to bring dreams come alive through art, dance, theater and games, and to draw or paint dreams. Gather friends and family for dream-inspired games and performance. Puppets and stuffed animals can be great for acting out dreams. This can also be dress-up time. It's such a release for kids to portray mom or dad or other grown-ups in their lives — be ready to be shocked! 

7. Help construct effective action plans

Dreams can show us things that require further action — for example, to avoid an unhappy future event that was previewed in the dream, or to put something right in a family situation. A child will probably need adult help with such things, starting with
your help. This will require you to learn more about dreaming and dreamwork, as you are doing now.

 8. Let your own inner child out to play

As you listen to children's dreams, let the wonderful child dreamer inside you come out and join in the play. 

9. Keep it fun!
When you get the hang of this, you'll find it's about the best home entertainment you can enjoy.

Notice two things that are not on this list, but would be at the very top of a list of what not to do with a child’s dreams: 

Never say to a child “It's only a dream”. Children know that dreams are for real and that scary stuff that comes out in dreams needs to be resolved, not dismissed.

Do NOT interpret a child's dreams. You’re not the expert here; the child is.

Adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library. © Robert Moss. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bear Sightings

You stood in the middle of a country road
to make me stop and listen.
I got round you and said, when my heart slowed,
that a bear in the road is just coincidence.

So you came over in the middle of the night
and stood between me and the moonlight
and scared me so bad with your size and the surprise
I jumped out of my skin.

A fox barked in the woods and snickered,
“What are you thinking of?
In your body or out of it,
you are now in the dream of the Bear.”

So when you came again, taller than my ceiling,
I made myself enter your embrace.
I thought I would die in your arms;
instead, I grew to your size, and we danced.

You showed me we are joined at the heart
as an unborn child is joined to its mother
by a thick umbilical pumping life juice.
You told me to call on you for healing.

There are days when I still forget you.
One night, from a hilltop, I saw you on the road
like a walking mountain, dwarfing the cars.
I feared you would crush them like matchbox toys.

Fox barked again, and I saw you were the shadow
thrown by the moonlight from my shoulders.
I had not known your power with me had grown so big,
and that I must choose whether it will harm or heal.

I am still remembering you. I remember now
that I knew you when I was a soldier in leather armor
fighting under the banner of the Bear Goddess.
Weary, I went to die in wild country, but you healed me.

I remember that when the Real People laid my body
in the blanket of mother Earth, I found rest
in the heartwood of an oak until, stirring from my long nap,
I sought life in a newborn cub that could fit in a pink palm.

You are healing. I have seen you open yourself
as a medicine chest, offering all you contain.
You are protection. I have seen you gather your kind
to form an unbreakable circle of defense against the dark.

Behind all your forms, you are the Mother.
You made me find the right song
to open a door in the roots of the Life Tree
and receive your blessing in a world beneath the world.

I bring others here, to be nursed and healed
in your generous lap, and be joined to their dream selves,
their wonder-children, their powers of healing and creation –
that fled from them when they fled from you.

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

Drawing by RM

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Red Bull and the Morrigan

I see a huge red bull, with long silky hair. I know that he is the focus of an ancient battle.
    I see the warriors of two rival armies clashing together - kilted men swinging killing irons.
    Riding through the field of battle comes an immense dark figure, standing proudly erect in a chariot. She is three women in one. Their bodies are joined. Her chariot is not drawn by horses but races forward, powered by the intention of the War Goddess. Its great wheels are armed with scything blades, that mow down the fighting men like tall grass.
     As the bodies of the slain lie in heaps on the ground, the Morrigan divides into three huge black birds. They soar into the air, then swoop down on the fallen, picking out the eyes, stripping the flesh from the bones. They are separating what rots from what endures.
    When their work is done, they come together and the Goddess shows herself as a single being - a ripe, naked woman wearing deer antlers.
     In this form, she rises above the earth. She glides at tremendous speed from the site of the battle to a mountain whose name is Slievnamun. She shows herself here in yet another form - as a lovely young woman who sits above a natural cauldron, a bubbling spring among the rocks. Here and only here (I am informed) can the dread Morrigan be approached in beneficent human form.

This dawn vision, arising spontaneously in the liminal space between sleep and awake, has been with me since I led a retreat on a sacred mountain twelve years ago. I am posting it now because of my dream of the Scáthach last night. Here is the new report:

Sound of the Scáthach
SCAW-thach. The pronunciation is insistent, and the word is repeated. I know what it means. The Scáthach is the fierce warrior woman who trains the Irish hero Cúchulainn in the arts of war. I have heard her name said differently by contemporary Gaelic speakers (more like "Scath-ath"). Is my dream putting me on the trail of ancient usage, or simply incorporating the accent of whoever was urging me to think about a woman who was deadlier than most of the men around her?    Either way, I've been given a fresh research assignment, the kind that my dreams often give me. I go back to the Red Branch of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology and learn that her name means "Shadowy" and that her home on the Isle of Skye was known as the Fortress of Shadows. Her father may have come from Scythia. She becomes a Celtic goddess of the dead, guiding the way for those killed in battle to the desirable Otherworld of Tír na nÓg.

Graphic: Louis le Brocquy, The Morrígan, 1969, lithograph. Illustration for Thomas Kinsella's translation of The Táin.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says yes

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says yes. Perhaps you have noticed this. Yes, we are talking about the law of attraction. It is indeed an ancient law, never a secret to those who live consciously. “All things which are similar and therefore connected, are drawn to each other’s power,” according to the medieval magus Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. It is a rule of reality that we attract or repel different things according to the emotions, the attitudes, the feelings, the agendas that we carry.
     Before you walk into a room or turn a corner, your attitude is there already. It is engaged in creating the situation you are about to encounter. Whether you are remotely conscious of this or not, you are constantly setting yourself up for what the world is going to give you. If you go about your day filled with doom and gloom, the world will give you plenty of reasons to support that attitude. You’ll start looking like that cartoon character who goes about with a personal black cloud over his head that rains only on his parade. Conversely, if your attitude is bright and open to happy surprises, you may be rewarded by a bright day, even when the sky is leaden overhead, and by surprisingly happy encounters.
     Through energetic magnetism, we attract or repel people, events, and even physical circumstances according to the attitudes we embody. This process begins before we speak or act because thoughts and feelings are already actions and our attitudes are out there ahead of us. This requires us to do a regular attitude check, asking, What attitude am I carrying? What am I projecting?
     It is not sufficient to do this on a head level. We want to check what we are carrying in our body and our energy field. If you go around carrying a repertoire of doom and gloom, you may not say what’s on your mind, but the universe will hear you and support you. Attitude adjustment requires more than reciting the kind of New Age affirmation you see in cute boxes with flowers and sunsets on Facebook. It requires deeper self-examination and self-mobilization.
     What are you doing? A woman in one of my workshops told me she hears this question, put by an inner voice, many times a day. Sometimes it rattles her and saps her confidence. But she is grateful for the inner questioner that provokes her to look at herself. It’s a question worth putting to yourself any day. As you do that, remember that thinking and feeling are also doing.
    “The passions of the soul work magic.” I borrowed that from a medieval alchemist also beloved by Jung. It conveys something fundamental about our experience of how things manifest in the world around us. High emotions, high passions generate results. When raw energy is loose, it has effects in the world. It can blow things up or bring them together.           There is an art in learning to operate when your passions are riding high and to recognize that is a moment when you can make magic. Even when you are in the throes of what people would call negative emotions — rage, anger, pain, grief, even fear — if you can take the force of such emotions and choose to harness and direct them in a certain creative or healing way, you can work wonders, and you can change the world around you.
     How? Because there is no impermeable barrier between mind and matter. Jung and Pauli in concert, the great psychologist and the great physicist, came around to the idea that the old medieval phrase applies: unus mundus, “one world.” Psyche and physis, mind and matter, are one reality. They interweave at every level of the universe. They are not separate. As Pauli wrote, “Mind and body could be interpreted as complementary aspects of the same reality.” I think this is fundamental truth, and it becomes part of fundamental life operation when you wake up to it.
     The stronger our emotions, the stronger their effects on our psychic and physical environment. And the effects of our emotions may reach much further than we can initially understand. They can generate a convergence of incidents and energies, for good or bad, in ways that change everything in our lives and can affect the lives of many others.
     When we think or feel strongly about another person, we will touch that person and affect his or her mind and body — even across great distances — unless that person has found a way to block that transmission. The great French novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote that “ideas are projected as a direct result of the force by which they are conceived and they strike wherever the brain sends them by a mathematical law comparable to that which directs the firing of shells from their mortars.” 
     Scientific experiments have shown the ability of the human mind and emotions to change physical matter: studies by Masaru Emoto have shown that human emotions can change the nature and composition of water, and the Findhorn experiments have taught us that good thoughts positively affect the growth of plants. Conversely, rage or grief can produce disturbing and sometimes terrifying effects in the physical environment.
     “We are magnets in an iron globe,” declared Emerson. If we are upbeat and positive, “we have keys to all doors....The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.” Conversely, “A low, hopeless spirit puts out the eyes; skepticism is slow suicide. A philosophy which sees only the worst ...dispirits us; the sky shuts down before us.”
Whatever our circumstances, we always have the power to choose our attitude, and that this can change everything.

Adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Art: "Puddle". Woodcut by M.C.Escher

Friday, July 21, 2017

Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine: Jung heals with a lullaby

Jung agreed to see a woman who had “incurable” insomnia that had resisted all previous treatment. In her presence, he found himself remembering a lullaby his mother had crooned to him in childhood. He started humming it aloud.
      The song was about a girl on a little boat on a  river, full of gleaming fish. It evokes the rhythms of wind and water. Jung’s patient was enchanted. From that night on, her insomnia was gone. Her regular doctor wanted to know Jung’s secret.
     “How was I to explain to him that I had simply listened to something within myself?," Jung reminisced, late in life, in the presence of his assistant Aniela Jaffe. "I had been quite at sea. How was I to tell him that I had sung her a lullaby with my mother’s voice? Enchantment like that is the oldest form of medicine.”
     Once again, we see that Jung's practice was that of a true shaman of the west.


A new weekend adventure at magical Mosswood Hollow, near Duvall, Washington, on December 9-10

Jung labored to bring together the best of Western science and scholarship with ancient ways of soul travel and soul remembering. Throughout his life, he was guided by dreams and synchronicity, and in this class, we will learn from his practice rather than his theories. 
     We’ll journey, like Jung, through the many-tiered House of the Soul. We’ll walk with the Sacred Guide, as Jung walked with his Philemon. We’ll meet the Shadow. We’ll discover that dreams unlock the limitless field of nonlocal mind he called the collective unconscious.
    We’ll develop learn to navigate by synchronicity and practice field perception as Jung did when he watched the movements of wind and water, of a fox or a beetle, as he counseled his clients by Lake Zurich. Details here.

Art: Child and Boat by Edmund Tarbell (1899)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Scarab and the Fox: How Jung Navigated by Synchronicity

Jung’s life practice of paying attention to coincidence and symbolic popups in the world around us is a model of how to navigate by synchronicity.
    In his work with patients, he paid close attention to the interplay of dreams and signs from the world. He was encouraged to do this by his celebrated breakthrough work with a female patient who had been seriously blocked until she dreamed of a scarab, the dung beetle of the Nile Valley. Despite its lowly origins, the scarab was one of the most important Egyptian symbols of rebirth and transformation; it had been deified as Khepri and was placed over the heart of the soul traveler to guide journeys beyond the body and beyond death.
    As the woman discussed her dream with Jung, a flying beetle known as a rose chafer appeared at the window. It was the nearest match for the Egyptian scarab you could hope to find in Europe, and as the patient’s eyes widened in recognition, she experienced a sense of confirmation of her dream and the work she was doing with Jung that carried her to deep healing.
     When he saw patients in his house at Küsnacht, on Lake Zurich,, he liked to sit so that they both faced the garden, the poplars at the edge of the lake, and the water beyond, noticing what the world was saying.  He found significance in every shift in the environment — a sudden wind whipping up the lake water, the shape of a cloud, the cry of a bird.
     He was especially intrigued by how animals or birds sometimes seemed to participate in a human exchange.  On one occasion, he walked in his garden with a woman patient. As they wandered beyond the garden into light woods, she was talking about the first dream of her life that had major impact on her; she said it made an “everlasting” impression. “I am in my childhood home,” she recalled, “and a spectral fox is coming down the stairs.” She paused and put her hand on Jung’s arm, because at this moment a real fox trotted out of the trees, less than forty yards in front of them. The fox padded softly along the path in front of them for several minutes.  Jung noted that "the animal behaved as if it were a partner in the human situation.”
     Jung’s willingness to trust an unexpected incident — and accept it immediately as guidance for action — was evident in a meeting he had with Henry Fierz, who visited him in hopes of persuading him to support the publication of a manuscript by a recently deceased scientist. Jung had reservations about the book and opposed publication. The conversation became increasingly strained, and Jung looked at his watch, evidently getting ready to tell his guest he was out of time. Jung frowned when he saw the time.
     “What time did you come?” he demanded of his visitor.
     “At five o’clock, as agreed.”
     Jung’s frown deepened. He explained that his watch had just been repaired, and should be keeping impeccable time. But it showed 5:05, and surely Fierz had been with him for much longer. “What time do you have?”
    “Five thirty-five,” his visitor told him.
    “Since you have the right time and I have the wrong time,” Jung allowed, “I must think again.”
     He then changed his mind and supported publication of the book.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Don't let me sleep too long

Don’t let me sleep too long.
If I leave my bed for more than a few hours
I come back jet-lagged
and sometimes with bruises and bite marks
I didn’t get in the world where I left my body.

When the body sleeps the soul travels
and it does not go naked.
It makes its excursions in a subtle form
whose adventures and misadventures
can leave astral stigmata.

In a cold land near the Northern Lights
women preparing corpses for the funeral pyre
place moss on their tongues and caw like ravens
to scare away hungry ghosts
that gobble spirit bodies like chitlins.

If you are drinking pour a little for the thirsty dead
because the subtle body is also a body of desire.
If you’re out there, you’ll learn that to go beyond the Moon
you must leave your astral body behind. Make sure
you put it in a locker where thieves can’t take it.

It’s late and my double is eager to go wandering.
It could come out through my toes
or through my groin, or my core.
It could fly from my mouth or rise from the fontanel -
the right way, says the yogi, to go out at death.

Leaving my body tonight, I don’t plan
more than a temporary death.
I might go to the mermaid cove
or the island of apples or a tower in the clouds
but I’ll be back unless you let me sleep too long.

-        -   Mosswood Hollow, July 14, 2017

Art: Willliam Blake, illustration for "The Grave", a poem by Robert Blair

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lick the sky and rule China

The future of an empress of ancient China was foreshadowed by a dream in which she rose to the sky and drank from it. The crucial role of dreams and shamanic experience in imperial China is another chapter in the history we weren't taught in school.
   Deng Sui (81-121) ruled China as dowager empress in the Later Han Dynasty. As a young girl, she dreams that she rises up to the sky. It is beautiful, flawlessly blue. She touches it, moving her hand lightly across the smooth, rounded surface. Her exploring fingers find something shaped like “the nipple on a bronze bell”. She puts this in her mouth and sucks on it like a baby, feeling herself fed and nourished. 
    When she tells the dream to her parents, her father, a high official and royal tutor, calls in a dream interpreter. The professional draws on precedents. He recalls that two of the legendary “sage kings” of ancient China dreamed of rising to the sky before they rose to take the throne. Yao dreamed that he climbed up to the sky. Tang dreamed he rose to the sky and licked it. Both dreamers became emperors, ranked among the “sage kings” because of their wisdom and innovation. The dream interpreter declared that Deng Sui’s dream was “unspeakably auspicious.”
    For a second opinion, a face reader was called. He studied Deng Sui’s physiognomy and pronounced that her features closely resembled those of the sage king Cheng Tang. Therefore her destiny would be tremendous, as the dream seemed to promise.
    Still in her teens, Deng Sui was selected as a consort of the young Emperor He. A slightly older consort, Yin, was raised to the status of empress. Jealous and scheming, Yin hired sorcerers to attack Deng Sui with black magic. When this was discovered, Yin was deposed and Deng Sui took her place on the throne. When the emperor died, she became the regent for his child successor, and ruled China as dowager empress for several years, fulfilling the dream  prophecy.
     My source for Deng Sui's dream is an excellent scholarly study of shamanism, religion and poetry in early China: Gopal Sukhu, The Shaman and the Heresiarch: A New Interpretation of the Li sao. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012). This is the first book-length study in English of the Chinese poetic classic, the Li sao, attributed to Qu Yuan, a high official of the kingdom of Chu in the 3rd century BCE who lost his position thanks to the jealous intrigues of rivals.
    The title is translated here as Encountering Sorrow”. It might also be rendered as "Departing from Sorrow". In his sorrow, the poet contemplates suicide; according to tradition Qu Yuan drowned himself in a river in 278 BCE, an event memorialized by the Duanwu or Dragon Boat festival. Yet the force of the poet's violent emotions is also the departure lobby for vividly described shamanic journeys between the worlds. He rides on dragons and phoenix-like birds, summons elemental powers, talks with gatekeepers of heaven worlds.

I sent Wangshu, the moon's charioteer, ahead as my herald,
And Feilian, the wind god, to the back as rear guard.
Male huan birds were my fore-runners,

And the Lord of Thunder would warn me of the unforeseen.

    The long poem is full of challenges for modern readers, especially in its elaborate floral codes (have as many flowers and herbs ever been named in another poem?) and in the gender-twisting narrative voice; Gopal Sukhu deftly traces the rival paths of interpretation and contributes a new translation with detailed notes.

Graphic: Chinese postcard depicting Deng Sui in Han dynasty hairdo.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Journal bricolage: We are far from perfection in the sphere of Luna

Looking over a forest of antlers under a downy sky
I make the sign of the Enterer
I come from an Order of the Western Way
A Hasid offers to lend me his sidelocks
I bring home a bear cub on my shoulder
I dive through jaguar’s jaws to play doctor
Time has no secrets from the blue-white mirror
I am making a spiral labyrinth with a silk slip
A scorpion astrologer stabs a paper napkin with hexes
I am docking at Broceliande in outer space
There is a treasure chest at the door of my house
Jung gives me the Book of Heaven, his posthumous master work
A pregnant red fox is clinging to me
Demons are roosting in the cliffs but can be distracted by raw meat
She says she had a hard time staying asleep after she died in 1630
I defend the deer with a long-handled wooden mallet
We are far from perfection in the sphere of Luna

Just for fun, I played a game with my journals over the past half hour. I plucked one report, at random, from journals I had kept over one year. I took one line from that report, with no editing, and made it a line in an emerging poem. I repeated this, year by year, until my mind and my belly told me I had enough. Above you can read the result. The lines appear in chronological order from my journals from 1988 to 2005. Seventeen years, seventeen lines. I did not count as I was plucking, but seventeen is perfect because in tarot it is the Star, for me the card of dreaming with the greater Self. I did not change the order of the lines except for putting Luna (from 2000) at the end.
     This is a poetic version of what I have called journal bricolage. 
I've given up trying to translate this marvelous French word, sometimes rendered as "tinkering". It's about putting together bits and pieces on a whim, rather than approaching a project as a solid, stolid work of engineering. It's about following oneiric logic rather than plans and structures.
     Claude Lévi-Strauss,who made the word at home in French, found that this approach is central to the making of myths and the workings of "the savage mind". In his celebrated book La pensée sauvage he observed that the bricoleur employs "devious means". His game is "always to make do with whatever is at hand, that is to say with a set of tools and materials which is always finite and is also heterogeneous because what it contains bears no relation to the current project, or indeed to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions."
     Found objects, junk shops, storage basements, words overheard from strangers...these are materials for bricolage. So are your journals.
     As I look over my instant poem, I am fired up to play games of memory and investigation. Has Jung in the afterlife really written the Book of Heaven with a purple cover that he showed me in a corner bookshop? Do I need to examine what was going on in my life when that pregnant red fox started clinging to me? Why do I find myself in dream after dream, defending the vulnerable with the weapon of Sucellos, the Good Striker, a Celtic boundary guardian? What more does the daimon of Luna want to share with me and through me?

Sketch of Sucellos in RM journal, July 1996

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Alphabet of Blocks

If we can picture our blocks, we can move beyond them. Three examples, from different gatherings I have led over the years.

Granma’s collar is too tight

Mandy was terrified of speaking in public, even in front of two or three people. When she seized up in one of my workshops, I asked her if she could feel what was blocking her. She said, "It feels like a choke collar."
     I asked if she could
 see that collar.  After a moment, she nodded and said, "I can see it now. It's a collar of  antique lace. It's buttoned too tight."
    "Does that lace collar remind you of anyone?"
    "My grandmother used to wear that kind of lace collar."
     Memories started spilling out, of the grandmother who sternly upheld a family tradition that girls - and grown women - were not permitted to speak truth to power, that a woman's lot was to mute her emotions and never challenge the man of the house.
      Once Mandy had the image of what was stealing her voice, and the family history that came flooding back, she was able to work successfully to release herself from the choke-hold of a tradition that held that it is the role of women to suffer in silence. When she found an image of her block, Mandy moved beyond it and claimed her voice.

Releasing Dad

I was leading a short evening program for a large audience. I drummed for a while to help people call up dreams or images from any part of their life that they might want to play with.
     A woman I'll call Norma put her hand up and said, "I got nothing during the drumming.
    “So what are you feeling right now?” I asked her.
     “Where do you feel this frustration in your body?”
     She indicated her torso.
     “Put your hand on that place. Now I want you to follow your feelings
 into that place. Can you pretend you are moving into that place in your body?”
      “There is someone or something there. Do you see it?”
      “Yes. It’s my father.”
      “What do you need to do in relation to your father?”
       “I have to find out whether I can forgive him.”
       “What would you need in order to do that?”
       “I’d need to get my little girl back.”
       “I think she’s right there. Can you see her?”
       “Can you welcome her back into your life, and release your father?”
       “I’ll try.”
       There were tears now, and a fierce hope shining through the tears. In that moment of revelation, and self-expression, we all felt the potential for deep healing. Later, Norma agreed to write a letter to her father (now deceased) expressing what she needed to say to him, and wishing him healing and forgiveness in his journey. And she readily agreed to do certain things in her regular life - eating a certain sugary snack would be one of them - that would convince her inner child she would now be fun to be around.

The Alphabet of Blocks

At the start of another gathering, I again drummed for a few minutes, inviting invited everyone to allow a dream, an image or a memory from their lives to come to them. A man in the group told us he got nothing, even though he had been doing inner work for a long time, journaling dreams for twenty years.
    I asked, “What are you feeling?”
   “I’m blocked.”
   “Where do you feel the block?”
    He indicated his heart area.
   “Can you describe the block?”
    It’s huge. It’s a cube.”
    “Is it like stone, or metal, or maybe wood?”
    “It’s wood.”
    “Could it be an alphabet block, like kids play with?”
    “That’s what it is. It’s an alphabet block.”
    “How old are you when you get close to this block?”
    “I’m four years old.”
    “Can you see yourself, helping your four year old self to make a word?”
    “Yes. We’re making the word D R E A M.”
     He readily agreed he would buy a set of wooden alphabet blocks later that day and that he and his four-year-old would play with them.

The Art of Heronry

I am studying the art of heronry.

You are a master of patience.
You can wait on one leg,
A spearman poised an immobile,
Longer than I can wait on two (or three).
Your standing stillness cons the fish
Into disregarding you, as a dead branch
Or a boring relic from an old shipwreck.

You don’t need anyone to tell you
When the time is GO.
In that instant, you strike without delay,
Your purpose straight and swift and clean
As a stabbing spear, taking your prey.

I am relieved that even you
Have to work to get airborne,
Flapping and beating your great gray-blue wings.
When you are up, and stretch out your body,
You exhibit the whole history of flight.
You show yourself as the Feathered Serpent,
The one that grew wise enough
To make a home in another dimension.

I love the way you practice love.
You put on a gaudy show for your intended
Sprouting twin mating plumes.
When your gallantry prospers,
You are willing to work in intimate partnership.
I have seen you, ferrying twigs in your beak
To your mate in the frame of your nest in the trees.

High-flying bird of the heart,
I like your business arrangement
With the busy engineer of canals and dams;
Where the beaver builds, you build too.

Humans, who fly only in dreams and machines,
Know you as an ancient ally and exemplar.
You bright First Woman from the Earth in the Sky
Breaking her fall on wings spread like magic carpets
To dance a new Earth into being.

Egypt knows you, and the mystery of your rise
From the sexy serpent of Earth
To the master of air and of water.
Egypt calls you the ever living, the phoenix bird
Born again and again from the ashes of the old life,
Endlessly birthing your winged and shining self.

- from my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming: Poems and Stories. Published by Excelsior Editions.

photo credit: Meredith Eastwood

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Into the boggart wardrobe: My dream self organizes a journey through fear

A woman in one of my workshops is resolved to confront her worst fear. She will do this in a conscious shamanic journey, aided by my drumming, with a small group of people accompanying her as her family support. I suggest that they take all the room they need in the space beyond our main circle.
I realize it's time for all of us to make this journey to overcome fear. I direct the rest of our people to form small groups of four, in which everything will center on one person - the one who is resolved to face his or her worst fear - in the next journey.
    While people generally sit or lie down for journeying with the drum, a man remains standing, feeling that he needs to confront his fear on his feet. The people in his group stand with him. There are a few individuals who don't partner up. It seems they are nervous and want to stay on the sidelines to see how this goes.
    The first woman has an image of her fear. It's come up again and again in recurring dream scenarios. Not everyone is quite so sure of what form their fear will take. I suggest to these others, "You can approach the journey as a Reverse Boggart. In third-year Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin gives Harry's class the assignment of confronting a boggart. This is a nasty , shapeshifting creature that takes on the form of your worst fear. In Harry's class, the boggart comes out of a wardrobe. In our exercise, in contrast, we are going to step into the space in which we will encounter our very worst fear.
    "Remember that the charm for dealing with a boggart is a Riddikulus spell, which transforms the fear into something funny or preposterous. The most important weapon you'll need to take into the closet is your sense of humor.

     "Now picture a huge dark wardrobe rising in front of you. When the drumming begins, you will open the door and step inside. The space within may seem very cramped, or larger than you might have dreamed possible, defying any laws of proportion. The door closes behind you. For a moment, you are in the dark. Now, obscurely, a shape is starting to form. It is assuming the shape of your worst fear. Ready?"

This is an unedited dream report from my journal. I spend far more time leading workshops in my dreams than in regular life.  It seemed the boggart exercise was a big success. I described my first feelings after he dream as "charmed and satisfied." I noted my pleasure at catching another glimpse of how my dream self often seems to go ahead of me, developing techniques I have not yet invented or used.
   Why not follow his lead in coming workshops in ordinary reality? Stepping into the wardrobe to find the boggart might require more guts than simply opening the door to let it out. I would need to make sure that whoever was asked to undertake this exercise had the necessary grounding and support. As in the dream, they would want a partner or small intentional family to flank them and help them travel and return safely. Probably I would not want to introduce this test until people had met and confirmed their relationships with helping spirits, especially the power animals.
    I checked Professor Lupin's instructions to his class. "Nobody knows what a boggart looks like he he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become what each of us most fears.". The boggart might turn out to be something scarier than one of those hairy, stinky, mud-loving critters in English folklore from which J.K.Rowling borrowed the word, or even a spider the size of an elephant.  Humor, I agreed with the werewolf professor and my dream self, was likely to prove the sovereign remedy. I smiled, noting that among his other distinctions, my dream self has clearly studied the magic of Harry Potter more deeply than I have.

The report of constructing a Reverse Boggart in a dream is from a 2010 journal. I chanced upon it just now. Since then, following the lead of Dream Robert, I have led a version of this exercise at a number of workshops with excellent results. Participants have been amazed to discover the true lineaments of their fears, and that humor and imagination can transform those fears as effectively as a Riddikulus spell.
    In the dreams we run away from, leaving them as broken shards of nightmare, we see forms our boggarts have assumed in the past: as spider or tsunami, as the walking dead, a dark double, a possessed elevator. Dream reentry - going back consciously into the dream space, with the clear intention of carrying the action forward to resolution - is my preferred treatment.
    Doing a Reverse Boggart requires us to take more of a leap into the dark. We must be prepared to encounter forms of our fears we may never have seen, because we kept our eyes shut tight or because the boggart is wily, trying on successive fright masks.

Image: David Thewlis plays Remus Lupin in "The Prisoner of Azkaban"

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The dream that is a song that is a road

The Temiar people of the Malaysian rainforest live very close to their land. Their stilt houses are walled with bamboo poles, laid horizontally so there are gaps between them. There are also gaps between the bamboo slats of the floors. Earth and trees are always visible. No solid boundary is set between human settlement and the natural world.
It is not surprising that people who live this way have an intimacy with the Earth that colors and informs their dreams. They believe that everything is alive and conscious, and that in dreams human spirits, traveling outside the body, encounter spirits of plants and animals and mountains and rivers. There is great power in these encounters, especially when a tiger or a tree gifts the dreamer with a song that can later call in its energy for healing.
A song of this kind, received in a dream and freighted with the power to summon an animal guardian, or wake a mountain, is called a norng, which literally means a "road", or pathway. The kind of path that can get your body safely through the forest, or guide a soul to where it belongs.
American musicologist and anthropologist Marina Roseman, the author of Healing Sounds from the Malaysian Rainforest has recorded Temiar dream songs. Roseman is one of those anthropologists who break the glass; she won the right to sing in a Temiar women's chorus when healers sang over the sick. I have listened to her recording of a tiger dream song. It is thrilling. Above the tapping of bamboo sticks, you hear the gravelly voice of the tiger as he rises from a nap to become an ally in healing, by driving away a disease spirit, or lending his ownfierce vitality to a sick person.
One of the songs Roseman translated reveals the process of acquiring a healing song from a plant spirit.  A man had been seeding and tending keralad plants, patting and shaping the earth around the roots. In the time when the keralad came into flower, he smelled its
fragrance strongly inside a dream. After releasing its odor, the plant took human form and announced a spiritual connection with the dreamer.  "It is you that I want." As a human, the plant now began to sing, giving the dreamer a new song for healing.
 Notice the stages in this process, which proceeds like the natural growth of fruit and flower. You make a connection in the natural world, by getting your hands in the earth, seeding and weeding. The plant releases its odor. Then its spirit morphs into human form, initiates conversation and finally produces the song.
There is great healing in sound, and the right song can open the gates between worlds. The best songs, as the Temiar and other indigenous people know, come fresh and personal from our dreaming, as the flower spirit came in the night.

Text adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.