Friday, October 26, 2018

Woolly Yarn from the Bardo of Air Travel

"I have a story for you," says the lady next to me on the plane, before I have asked for one. I am on the first leg of a trip to California and open, as always, to receiving stories from strangers.
   "Last Saturday was my birthday," he tells me. "I was at the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival, where I volunteer to sell fleeces. A lady at a food stand had ordered her coffee and bagels and had her card ready to pay when she was told they only take cash. She was going to leave her breakfast when I told her I was going to pay for it. It's my birthday and I'll do what I want to."
    "What a lovely thing to do."
    "There's a follow up. Later I was admiring an extraordinary necklace a woman was wearing. I told her it might be the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen. She told me she is a jewelry designer and made it herself. I asked what she would charge if it were for sale. She whipped off the necklace and handed it to me. No charge, she said. Just like that."
     "Wow. You are a poster girl for the old adage that what goes around comes around. "

I am hopeful about any trip that starts with a fresh story from a previous stranger in the Bardo of Air Travel. This was an especially lovely one. I was not disappointed by how the day unfolded.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Dreaming with the deceased

I am often among the dead in my dreams. They are always alive. Sometimes I remember that they died on an event track we shared, other times I don't. Sometimes they come calling. My father has come many times since his death with helpful advisories for me and the family. 
    Sometimes my dream travels take me to new environments on the Other Side were the dead are enjoying new lives. They show me around and I learn first-hand in this way about lifestyle and real estate options available after death. Then there are the dream encounters in which I am with someone who died on the event track we shared in in this world but seems to be alive in a physical body on an alternate event track, in a parallel world.
     Contact with the deceased, especially in dreams, isn’t weird or unusual or even truly supernatural. It comes about for three reasons: the dead are still with us, or they come visiting, or we travel to the realms where they are now living. The number one reason why people who are not accustomed to sharing dreams decide to tell one is that they have dreamed of a close friend or family member who died but is very much alive in the dream.
    One of the most interesting things I have learned is that the living may be called upon to play guides and counselors for the dead. “The Silent Lovers”, in my new book Mysterious Realities, is a just-so story – shocking to me as it unfolded – about how I was called to play advocate for a dead man, otherwise a stranger, going through his life review on the Other Side. I can confirm that Yeats was absolutely right when he said, with poetic clarity, that the living have the ability to assist the imaginations of the dead.

Image by Claire Perkins

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Under the Wings of Pegasus

Synchronicity guided the publication of my new book, Mysterious Realities. Being open and available to the play of signs and symbols around us - and ready to act in the special moments when the universe gets personal - not only brings a champagne fizz of magic into everyday life but delivers practical results.
At the close of one of my workshops in Berkeley – in which synchronicity was a major theme – I walked with my coordinator to a restaurant. I talked about three things along the way. The first was Pegasus, the winged horse, born from the blood of nightmare, capable of opening the springs of the Muses – the surge of creative inspiration – under his stamping hooves. Second, I spoke of how I had many folders of “almost complete stories” that probably wanted to be put in the hands of the right publisher. I had given the collection a title long ago, "Mysterious Realities". They were essentially just-so stories, tales from my adventures as a dreamer in many worlds. I remarked that a theme in many of these tales is that we may be living more than one life right now.
“While I am walking with you to dinner,” I said to Jane by way of example, “there is another Robert who is not going out to dinner, and another who never started leading dream workshops, and another who never moved to the United States, and who knows how many Roberts who died before now.”
I started talking about the Many Worlds theory in physics, which holds that we are living in one of numberless parallel universe that can interact with each other. I stopped in mid-sentence when I saw a winged horse, white and magnificent, on the other side of the street. It was on the sign of a used bookstore, Pegasus Books.
“Excuse me,” I said to Jane, “I just have to run in there.”

I darted across the street, dodging cars. Fortunately Berkeley drivers are generally kind to pedestrians.
From the threshold of Pegasus Books, at eye level, I saw my surname in upper case letters on the spine of a book. MOSS. The title of the book was Almost Complete Poems. I assumed the author was Howard Moss but no, it was Stanley Moss. His poetry, previously unknown to me, was of some interest but it was his title that seized me. I had been talking about almost complete stories and here was an author with my surname who had actually published a collection of almost complete poems.
I looked at the book next to Almost Complete Poems. The title was I Must Be Living Twice.

Pegasus, almost complete literary productions, living parallel lives. Three times makes the charm. I sensed laughter behind the curtain of the world, as if those who make these things come together were snickering, “Do you think he gets it? Is three times enough?”
The dinner was mediocre, but it was the story on the way to dinner that counted. I had a lunch date the next day with my favorite editor, Georgia Hughes, who had published, most recently, my book Sidewalk Oracles, which is all about playing with signs and synchronicity in everyday life. I had a fresh story on this theme, and I was eager to share it with her.
Synchronicity had brought Georgia and me together a decade before, and the friendship we developed had turned me, for the first time in my life, into a constant author, producing book after book on dreaming and imagination which Georgia received with great warmth and edited with great professional insight. She is highly intuitive, and may well have picked up the fact that the creator inside me was pushing for me to deliver something different from my previous books in several genres.
We met at an Italian restaurant in Walnut Creek, exchanged hugs, and ordered wine. Before the wine was delivered – and before I had a chance to tell my tale of Pegasus and the almost complete stories – Georgia looked me in the eye and said, “You know what book of yours I’d like to publish next? A collection of your stories, all these amazing adventures in travel that you have in this world and the worlds where you go in your dreams.”
“That’s exactly what I want to do next.”
I told her about my bookstore experience.
By the time our wine arrived, we had reached an agreement. We clinked glasses to celebrate the future publication of Mysterious Realities, with a nod to the shelf elves who were surely at play in that bookstore, under the wings of Pegasus.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Ambush

Down there in the root cellar of my life,
in the breathing dark, is a beast
that would terrify others but I know
to be a vital ally capable of taking on
the world. Not this time.
When I part the darkness
I find the sweetest of dinosaurs,
a confirmed vegetarian, 
willing to bend his neck to the children 
who are riding him with happy smiles. 
The kids are taking over my energy map.
I am amazed but not altogether surprised
because they have been setting ambushes for many years.

I go up one level and am on more adult ground
in the juicy space of my sex creative center.
There is the lovely insatiable leopard
admiring her beauty in the flowing stream.
The tiger comes through the lush undergrowth to join her.
I start to suspect that though we are old allies
 he has come this time in the children's cause.
The bright young girl has a tiger who lives in a striped sofa
 when he wants to stay unobserved
 and likes to sing songs in French.
Wait. There is more going on. A magnificent salmon
rears from the waters arching his gleaming back.
I revel in his potency but shed no tears
when a no less magnificent eagle drops from the skies,
talons outstretched, and claims him for dinner. 

I go higher, to the place of the animal powers in my solar plexus.
A great savannah opens before me, teeming with wild things.
The lion comes at once, tolerating no confusion
about who is boss in this energy domain.
But he comes to direct me to further discoveries.
I must know the elephants. I watch them move
with the precision of ballet dancers under their heavy majesty.
The leader carries a howdah in his back.
Under its bright fluttering canopy are children again,
delighted by their high adventure. They wave to me
and I know I must join with them to receive an incalculable gift.
It is the most magical of all tools for writing.
I see it now, Ganesha’s tusk, in the hand of the green-coated
elephant king the children invite to their tea parties.
I can’t miss the message: if you want the strength of a deity to write
a big story, you must bring the kids with you and in you. 

- Barcelona, October 13, 2018

A band of adventurous children,  among whom I recognize several of my Boy Roberts. have been pursuing me for many years. wanting me to write books for them and with them. While I was drumming for a group shamanic journey through the energy centers in my Barcelona training, they succeeded in taking over my own energy map. I think they have made their case. We'll see what stories we bring through together.

Journal drawing by RM

Monday, October 1, 2018

A brush with the Brushwood Boy

I woke early from a dream in which I needed to make up a story for eager children in an ancient or indigenous village. I told them a story of a chief's son who went through various adventures and ordeals of initiation and came back with a new name: "Brushy".
    I was excited about my storymaking assignment and curious about the name that Dream Robert gave the boy. The primary meaning of "brushy" in English is related to "brushwood", a pile of dry sticks often used for kindling.   This reminded me of a story by Rudyard Kipling titled "The Brushwood Boy" that made a big impression when I first read it many years ago. It is about two people who meet in dreams over many years before they meet in the physical world.
    Georgie Cottar dreamed stories in bed at an early age, “A child of six was telling himself stories as he lay in bed. It was a new power, and he kept it a secret… his tales faded gradually into dreamland, where adventures were so many that he could not recall the half of them. They all began in the same way, or, as Georgie explained to the shadows of the night-light, there was ‘the same starting-off place’—a pile of brushwood stacked somewhere near a beach.”    His dream adventures were interrupted by school (“ten years in a public school is not good for dreaming”). Hiss dreaming revived when he was deployed in India as a subaltern.
He would find himself sliding into dreamland by the same road—a road that ran along a beach near a pile of brushwood. To the right lay the sea, sometimes at full tide, sometimes withdrawn to the very horizon; but he knew it for the same sea. By that road he would travel over a swell of rising ground covered with short, withered grass, into valleys of wonder and unreason. Beyond the ridge, which was crowned with some sort of streetlamp, anything was possible…First, shadowy under closing eyelids, would come the outline of the brushwood-pile; next the white sand of the beach road, almost overhanging the black, changeful sea; then the turn inland and uphill to the single light.

In one of the dreams that “filled him with an incommunicable delight” “he found a small clockwork steamer (he had noticed it many nights before) lying by the sea-road, and stepped into it, whereupon it moved with surpassing swiftness over an absolutely level sea” and he is carried into trans-global adventures with the girl who reminds him of a picture in an illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes she is his rescuer. "Sometimes he was trapped in mines of vast depth hollowed out of the heart of the world, where men in torment chanted echoing songs; and he heard this person coming along through the galleries, and everything was made safe and delightful. They met again in low-roofed Indian railway carriages that halted in a garden surrounded by gilt and green railings."
   A stable geography develops, always anchored by the brushwood pile, a starting point, rendezvous and place of safety. There is the white beach and the black ocean, the thirty-mile ride along the coast that goes to tropical uplands, the Indian railway that goes to a garden where people sit at tables covered by roses, the purple down. Sometimes there is Policeman Day who walks him away from the City of Sleep. 

So thoroughly had he come to know the place of his dreams that even waking he accepted it as a real country, and made a rough sketch of it. He kept his own counsel, of course; but the permanence of the land puzzled him. His ordinary dreams were as formless and as fleeting as any healthy dreams could be, but once at the brushwood-pile he moved within known limits and could see where he was going. There were months at a time when nothing notable crossed his sleep. Then the dreams would come in a batch of five or six, and next morning the map that he kept in his writing-case would be written up to date, for Georgie was a most methodical person. 

The Brushwood Boy and his dream girl grow up together, in the dreamlands. She becomes a woman and kisses him under the lamp while he is sailing back to England on furlough.
    At the family’s country estate his mother tells him she has invited neighbors – the invalid Mrs Lacy and her daughter, Miriam, described as good with music (a composer) and horses – to dinner.
    He comes back from trout fishing very late and through the window he hears the girl singing her own composition, naming places from his dreams:

Over the edge of the purple down,
    Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
    That is hard by the Sea of Dreams—

He tells himself it can’t be the girl from his dreams. But at breakfast he sees her full face He gapes, knowing her and seeing that she does not know him. Later when they go riding they share more of the geography of their dreams and realize that since childhood they have been dreaming not only of each other but with each other.

"What does it all mean? Why should you and I of the millions of people in the world have this - this thing between us? What does it mean? "

There’s a happy ending. He tells her her how they kissed under the lamp above the brushwood pile, and the dream spills fully into the world. We understand that they will marry.

I am sure that Kipling drew heavily on his own dreams in composing "The Brushwood Boy". In a letter to Richard Gilder dated September 25,1895, Kipling wrote that “I’ve drawn the map of the dream-country several times.” He added, “It grieves me much that you call my yarn a romance for what I prided myself on most was my grey and unflinching realism.” He implied he was writing about real experiences in an alternate reality, a concept that is quite familiar to other dream travelers.
    His story may encourage us to think more about shared and social dreaming - when we find ourselves together with other dreamers - and about mapping the geography of our own adventures in the dreamlands.

Top photo: Kipling in the library of the shingled house near Brattleboro, Vermont where he wrote The Brushwood Boy – and The Jungle Book .He had married a Vermonter and loved his four years in Vermont (1892-1896) writing in a room where the snow came up to his windowsill all winter. 

Bottom photo: One of Kipling's maps of the geography of The Brushwood Boy.