Saturday, October 31, 2020

If it were my dream

 


Don’t let anyone tell you what your dreams mean. And never do that to anyone else. This is the golden rule of dream-sharing.

None of us have the right to tell another person what his or her dream means, based on any certification or presumed authority.  We don’t need to be doctors or shrinks, gurus or experts to offer helpful comments on someone else’s dreams. In commenting on each other’s dreams, we should begin by saying, “If it were my dream,” making it clear that we are offering our personal associations and projections, not presuming to tell the dreamer the definitive meaning of his or her dream.

If you are commenting on someone else’s dream, you can do little wrong as long as you follow the simple rule that you will preface your opinions and associations by saying “if it were my dream.” You will not presume to interpret another person’s dream. You are absolutely free to give your own ideas on the meaning of the dream, but you will do that by pretending that the dream is your own. You will own your own projections instead of foisting them on the other person. You will not only help to guide the dreamer towards grasping the meaning of a dream; you will help her to claim her power to determine the meaning of her dreams, and her life, for herself.

You listen to a dream, you ask for the dreamer’s feelings on waking (which are always the first and best clues to what is going on in the dream) and you run a quick reality check, asking the dreamer what she recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life and whether any of it could manifest in the future, literally or symbolically.

Then you offer your comments, starting with the phrase, “if it were my dream”. As long as you follow this protocol, you are free to bring in any associations, feelings or memories the dream arouses in you, including dreams of your own that may come to mind. Often we understand other people’s dreams best when we can relate them to our own dream experiences.

For example: If the dreamer has told you a dream in which he/she is running away from a bear, you may recall a dream of your own in which you hid from a bear – before you discovered that the bear was an ally. Your own experience may lead you to say, “If it were my dream, I would like to go back into the dream and meet the bear again and see whether it might be an ally”. You are now doing something more useful than merely interpreting the dream; you are gently guiding the dreamer to take action on the dream.

It is very rewarding to receive a totally different perspective on a dream, so sharing in this way with strangers can be amazingly rewarding – as long as the rules of the game are respected.

The fact that we may be highly intuitive, and highly skilled as dream interpreters, does not give us the right to take people’s power away by telling them what their dreams mean – even (and perhaps especially) when we are convinced we are “right” in our reading of what is going on in the dream.

As dreamers, we also want to be open to what other people can contribute to our understanding of our own dreams. We don’t want to adopt a “know-it-all” attitude, because even if we think we have a pretty fair idea of what is going on in a dream, more than likely someone else’s take will offer fresh perspectives. Even if feedback we receive seems remote from our own feelings about a dream,  that can help us to home in on what matters for us. 

Because dreams are multi-layered, it is also possible that a different perspective can help us open up aspects of the dream we may have missed. I find it very helpful to hear from people who have a very different perspective than my own. For example, because I tend to see dreams as transpersonal experiences in which we encounter other beings, in one order of reality or another, it can be very useful for me to be prompted to ask “what part of me” are the different characters and elements in a dream.


RM journal drawing: "Lady of Colors"

With the air of a magician, the young woman artist shows me the pigment powders she has laid out in metal dishes. We agree they could be used as a benign arsenal to paint visions of healing and possibility in place of hatred and despair. I have my own set of paints but I need to learn her techniques.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

the Night When the Veil Thins




Back in the day,I used to give a talk on the meaning of Halloween, on the night, at the New York Open Center, when it was still downtown in SoHo. We always had standing room only in the lecture room, which was partly filled by witches, ghouls and vampires dressed for the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade that would unfold just down the street right after. 

I notice, looking through old journals, that on the night of October 30, 1998, prior to taking the train to Manhattan the next day, I asked for some Halloween dreams. This is what came as soon as I closed my eyes:

I watch a beautiful woman in a flowing, gauzy white dress like a wedding dress rise from a coffin and begin to float around a dark, undefined space (like an artists' background, defined by brushstrokes rather than finished shapes). The eyes are dead. All that is there is blind appetite. She is the living dead, a hungry ghost. I avoid her.

As we approach All Hallows' Eve, a shiverish, magical, crazy night in a more than usually crazy year, I am thinking of its many meanings. It is the topsy-turvy, inside-out, upside-down time, when the past lies ahead of you and the future walks behind you, breathing on your neck. It is a night when the doors between the worlds swing open, when the dead walk among the living and the living move among the dead. As my dream of the beauty from the coffin dramatized, it is a night when you want to be able to discern who is who and what is what. And this year it coincides with a full blue moon...

The last night of October is the start of Samhain (which is pronounced "sow-in"), the great Celtic festival when the dead walk among the living, the fires are extinguished and rekindled, the god and the goddess come together in sacred union, and as the year turns from light to dark, the seeded earth prepares to give birth again. It's a time, when the Celts knew what they were doing, to watch yourself and watch comings and goings from the barrows and mounds that are peopled by ghosts and faeries. It's a time to honor the friendly dead, and the lordly ones of the Sidhe, and to propitiate the restless dead and remember to send them off and to set or re-set very clear boundaries between the living and the hungry ghosts. It's a time to look into the future, if you dare, because linear time is stopped when the hollow hills are opened. 

As Celtic scholar Marie-Louise Sjoestedt wrote, "This night belongs neither to one year or the other and is, as it were, free from temporal restraint. It seems that the whole supernatural force is attracted by the seam thus left at the point where the two years join, and gathers to invade the world of men." 

If you have never learned to dream or see visions or to feel the presence of the spirits who are always about - if you have never traveled beyond the gates of death or looked into the many realms of the Otherworld - this is the time when you'll see beyond the veil all the same, because the Otherworld is going to break down the walls of the little box you call a world, and its residents are coming to call on you. 

It's a time for dressing up, especially if you are going out at night, although there is likely to be much less of that in this time of pandemic. The Celts put on fright masks not to extort candy but to scare away restless spirits before they scared them. Out and about ,they carried torches to light the way, and especially to guide the dead back to where they came from when the party is over. Before Europeans discovered pumpkins in America, they carried lit candles in hollowed-out niches in turnips. 

All of this was so important, and such wild, sexy, shiverish fun that the church had to do something about it. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III decided to steal the old magic by making November 1 All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day; so the night of Samhain became All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween for short. A century before, an earlier pope had borrowed the date of the old Roman festival to propitiate the dead - the Festival of the Lemures, or Lemuralia - and renamed that All Saints' Day. But since Roman paganism had been largely suppressed, the church fathers decided to grab the glamour of the Celts, among whom the old ways are forever smoldering, like fire under peat. 

Few people who celebrate or suffer Halloween today seem to know much about its history. For storekeepers and the greetings card business, it's a commercial opportunity. For TV programmers, it's a cue to schedule horror movie marathons. For kids, it's time to dress up as vampires or witches and extort candy from neighbors. My preferred way to spend Halloween is to rest quietly at home, sometimes with candles lit for my dead loved ones, and a basket of apples and hazelnuts beside them, tokens of the old festival that renews the world and cleanses the relations between the living and the dead. 


This Halloween, you can join my free online mini-workshop "Dream Journey beyond the Veil", introducing my next video course for The Shift Network.



Text partially adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss (Destiny Books)


Photo: Greenwich Village Halloween Parade masker by Wendy R. Williams 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Growing Dream Bubbles in the Many Worlds


 I learn so much from my parallel selves, in dreams, in shamanic journeys,and in encounters in the liminal space between sleep and awake. I admire the writer Roberts who are highly accomplished in different genres, and the artist Robert who does great work in oils. I follow in the footsteps of the Roberts who are ahead of me on my present path, teaching things I have just started to master. I draw comfort from observing the plight of parallel Roberts who made choices that led to blighted relationships, illness or creative sterility.
    The parallel Roberts who intrigue me most are ones who are living full-time in the imaginal realm. It is likely they are Roberts who left the physical world before me. There is nothing surprising in that idea. If the Many Worlds hypothesis in physics is correct, and we are living right now in one of innumerable parallel worlds, then numberless versions of ourselves died before us, at birth or in childhood, through a heart attack or the virus or self-destruction, in easy or difficult ways.
     I love to check on the lifestyles, living arrangements and activities of my Roberts on the Other Side. I admire the residence of the Penthouse Robert who swims in an infinity pool in his rooftop terrace and then dives twenty stories down, like a sea bird, to swim in a turquoise bay. I am thrilled by the access of the scholar Roberts to a Total Library where they bring together knowledge from many realms. I am humbled by the service of the psychopomp Roberts who are devoted to helping people on both sides of death to find and follow their rightful soul paths. 
     I enjoy Robert the Literary Angel who loves to play muse to writers in the physical world, beaming them material that leaps effortlessly on to their pages. He enjoys seeing his ideas take form without having to tap them out on a keyboard and - amazingly - seems to take not pride in the assertion of authorship. Being in his mind gives me an inkling of why guardian angels do what they do. I try not to talk about him in my creative writing retreats because participants start looking at me hungrily, as if willing me to check out soon and start beaming new books to them. 
     I made a shamanic journey to visit a parallel Roberts who is one of the full-time residents of a School of Soul on the Other Side. I was delighted by his studies and his books, include many I have not yet written or published here below. It struck me that I had never consciously visited his bedroom. Does he even have one? After all, he has no need of sleep in this reality. He obliged me by showing me a bed in a pleasant room, with French doors opening onto a little terrace with flowering vines. So what goes on here?
     He invited me to lie down and dream as he does. I found that thoughts and images from inside me instantly took form around me, quickly composing a complete hologram that seemed entirely real, utterly alive. I played with floating in the waters of a wonderful sea cave, enjoying the scene with all of my senses. And then of enjoying the vibrant life of a great city where the arts are cherished. The scene grew until it became a whole world.
     I was reminded by this visit that there is a way of dreaming that is the inverse of receiving images from without and also quite different from making an excursion.. It is a way of projecting a dream reality from within and floating within it, inside a 360 degree bubble that can expand until it is as big as a world.



RM journal drawing: "Dream Box"

   


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Dreaming with Swans



Among the Dane-zaa of northern British Columbia,  respected spiritual elders or shamans are called Naachin, Dreamers. When young members of the People (Dane-zaa simply means The People) are sent into the wilderness on a vision quest, a Dreamer will watch over them, traveling in his astral body. The Dreamers are the givers of the songs that bring the People together in sacred ceremony in alignment with the spirits of the natural world. A song may be a bridge between worlds. It may confer the gift of understanding the language of birds and animals. 
    As in the Upanishads [1], the Dane-zaa say that a powerful dreamer travels like a swan from and back to the nest of the body. ”The Dreamers are like swans in their ability to fly from one season to another. Like the swans that fly south in the winter, Dreamers fly to a land beyond the sky and bring back songs for the people on Earth.” [2]

I have been looking through my journals for my dreams of swans. Here are a few:

Swan Prince

The great white bird lowers itself, wings outstretched, until it is suspended over the waters, whose currents stream purple and vermilion and royal blue. I hurry to meet it, swimming in air. Now the giant swan transforms into the semblance of a beautiful man. The beak becomes the golden noseguard of a helmet. Is this how the god appeared to Leda?  [February 5, 2012]


Swan Flies from My Third Eye

Drifting in bed between sleep and awake in a hotel in Prague, I feel the start of a headache. It is in the center of my forehead. There is a rush of wings. The pain is forgotten as the great white bird emerges from the area of my third eye. I leave my human body on the bed and fly with it over the Vltava river. [November 8, 2019]


Swan Inlet

I stand in the woods near water's edge. The light over the bay is rosy gold, as are the waves. They move slowly. The water looks heavy and oleaginous. My guide explains that only swans are at home here. Other water birds avoid this inlet and don't swim in it. We watch a swan gliding into the swell, rocking with it, dipping its head and body after fish. 
     Everything is suffused with that golden and rosy light. There is healing and magic here and the secret is with the swans.
    Waking, I put myself back in the scene. I pick my way through roots and vines to stand at the edge of the bay. I take from it and the water in my cupped palm looks like olive oil in a spoon. It is lightly scented, a pleasing aroma. On my tongue it is warm and salted just right, like virgin dipping oil in an Italian restaurant. A swan is watching me closely. Will it share the secret? Can I rise on its wings as I did before?
    I hope that the guide who was instructing me before will answer. But the only voice I hear now is my own. Swans fly over the oily waters in arrowhead formation toward the pink sun on the horizon. [September 21, 2020]


Swan Rising 

As I stir from sleep, I see with inner sight an old stone arched bridge over a green river. Not sure where. I am startled when I see a white swan standing, to my left, on the river bank. He is fierce and strong and definitely male. I think of Zeus and Aengus. He rises on beating wings and we fly together into a seascape of rosy light that reminds me of the light at Swan Inlet. Only Turner could do this scene justice in paint.[September 23,2020]





Notes


1. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, or Great Forest Book, the dreamer moves between worlds and in and out of the nest of the body "like the lonely swan". The dreamer is godlike in the ability to create in the dream state. "In the state of dream, going up and down, the god makes many forms for himself." S. Radhakrishnan (ed) The Principal Upanishads (New Delhi: Indus, 1991) 259. A swan is the vehicle of Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and music. The Sanskrit title paramahamsa, "supreme swan", is reserved for the supremely enlightened.

2. Robin Ridington, “They Dream about Everything: The Last Dreamers of the Dane-zaa” in Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley (eds) Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2014) vol. 2,174.


Journal drawings by Robert Moss


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Story for Samhain: The dream god and the swan maiden

 


We find beauty or terror in our contacts with the Otherworld - or our flight from it - according to our courage and the colors of our imaginations. 

How people respond to the banshee is an excellent example. The banshee is well-known in Celtic folk memory as a death messenger, whose appearance and weird cries are feared as the sign that death is near. The banshee is often depicted as a hag, or a crow, or a crow-woman.  

 But the banshee is actually the bean sidhe, which means "she-faery". She can appear as a being of amazing beauty. She can come as a personal or family guardian in tight situations - as a family banshee appeared to members of the royal house of Munster on the eve of the battle of Clontarf.  

Above all, the banshee comes to invite us or escort us on the Otherworld journey: not only the journey that follows physical death, but on journeys beyond the physical world from which we may return to the body with magic and power.  

Banshees are much abroad at Samhain, or Halloween.  

The story of Aislinge Ă“enguso, The Dream of Aengus,  turns the traditional fear of the banshee on its head. Instead of being scared of being caught by a banshee, the hero of this story is out to catch one, because night after night, she has been visiting him as his dream lover. This wild love story haunted Yeats all of his life and inspired him to write some of his most haunting verse. We'll call the hero Aengus, as the poet did.  

 Aengus is a lover and a friend of lovers. He is a trickster, a shaman and a soul healer. He is described as "mac Oc", the Young Son, forever young. He lives in the Brugh na Boinne, a palace beneath a Mound of Wonder that recent travelers know as Newgrange. Women everywhere dream of Aengus; his butterfly kisses graze their lips and their secret places.  

 But Aengus is no longer master of his own dreams. His dreams have a mistress. She first appeared by his bedside in a glory of red-gold hair, her long white body dancing through the veils to music that played him like a harp and shook him like a tambourine. Carried by the music and his surge of passionate desire, Aengus flies with her, like a wild swan, into a different landscape.

In the morning, exhausted, he can barely fall out of bed. He is listless, lethargic, not even interested in sex, his speciality. This goes on night after night, day after day. His mother is troubled. She sends for a famous doctor, so skilled he can diagnose what is wrong in a house before he walks through the door, by reading shapes in the smoke from the fire.  

The doctor sees at once that Aengus is away: a part of his soul has left his body to live with his dream lover. The cure is to put body and soul together again. This involves finding the girl, and putting the lovers together in their physical as well as their astral bodies.

Will Aengus please describe his dream mistress as exactly as possible? He aches for her as he speaks of the red-gold hair, the pearly skin.  

Very well, Aengus' mother has resources. She is a queen and a goddess of the Tuatha de Danaan. She will send out searchers to look for a girl who fits Aengus's description.

This is not such an easy assignment, however, because the dream lover is of the Sidhe, and is hidden in the faery mists. A year passes, and she is not found.  

Now Aengus' father is called in. He is the Big Guy among the old gods, the Dagda, one end of whose outrageously huge eight-pronged club delivers instant death, while the other brings the dead back to life. But he can't or won't help with finding the dream lover, except to recommend the far-sighted Bodb the king of the Sidhe in Munster, as the faery for the job.  

 Bodb tracks the girl to yet another of the Mounds of Wonder. The girl is a bean sidhe, and she has the right kind of name for a banshee. Her name is Caer Ibormeith, which means Yew Berry. Of all trees in her landscape, the yew is most intimately associated with death.

It is agreed that Aengus must rally himself and go to Yew Berry's mound to spy on the banshee and make sure she is the one he has dreamed. She is. Her beauty shines beyond that of the "three times fifty" noble ladies about her, all wearing silver at their throats while Yew Berry wears gold.  

 At this point, in a different kind of story, we might expect the dream lovers to fall into each other's arms and elope. After all, they have been doing it every night for two years. But there are complications.

First off, Yew Berry's mound  is in the realm of the notorious Queen Maeve and her jealous husband Aillil, and they must not be scorned. They agree to help bring the lovers together, but Yew Berry's father won't hear of it. Even after the joined forces of the Dagda and King Aillil have stormed his faery fort, he clings to his daughter.  

 There are many tests and battles before the secret is learned. Yew Berry is under an enchantment, sometimes represented as a curse, sometimes - in the deeper tellings - as a gift. She does not stay in one form. She is a beautiful woman for one year. Then for the next year she is a white swan. Then the cycle repeats.  

The day of shapechanging is Samhain. If Aengus would win her, he must find her on the liminal day, on a lake whose name is The Dragon's Mouth. At Samhain, Aengus goes to the Dragon's Mouth. He finds "three times fifty" white swans with silver chains around their necks, and one swan with a gold chain. He recognizes his love in the shape of the beautiful white bird, and calls to Yew Berry to fly to him. No, she tells him. You must change into my form.

Aengus changes, becoming the long-necked bird. They mate, in beating splendor, above the deeps of the Dragon's Mouth. They fly together back to the palace of Brugh na Boinne - Newgrange - and the love music they make in flight is so lovely and lulling that all the land is at peace and people drift into pleasant dreams and stay there for three days.  

 It is an amazing story, a love god smitten by love, and seizing a moment of opportunity - at Samhain - to bring his lover from one realm into another.

In the best-known tellings of the Dream of Aengus, death is not mentioned. But the whole story is a dance with death, in several guises. It involves the death-in-life that we suffer when a part of our soul goes away, because of pain or abuse or heartbreak or - in this case - a longing for something beyond the familiar world. It involves the rescue of someone or something from the Land of the Dead. Yew Berry's name is a dead giveway. Her mound  is actually a piece of the Underworld, her father one of the princes of the dead.  

Terror or beauty, banshee or faery lover. On the Night When the Veil Thins, we are especially reminded that we can never claim the treasures of the Otherworld - and a love bigger than the familiar world - unless we can brave up. 

 

Text adapted from The Dreamer's Book of the Dead by Robert Moss published by Destiny Books.



 Image: Swans, Rush and Iris. Design by Walter Crane (1875)

Friday, October 16, 2020

The gift of "boring" dreams


 I often hear from dreamers who complain that their night dreams are boring or mundane. They feel they are missing the movies. “I’m forever dreaming of arguing with my mother,” writes one dreamer. “I’m fed up with having long-winded conversations with my boss,” writes another. “I get enough of him from nine to five. Why can’t I enjoy a dream romance in a tropical paradise, or go on an epic adventure?”

Of course we want the romance and adventure. But we also want to keep body and soul together on the roads of everyday life. Here’s another of my personal D.I.Y. mantras about dreamwork:

Ho-hum dreams are the most likely to offer help in navigating the future.

Why? Because much of waking life can be ho-hum too – until we start using the skills of dreaming and imagination to bring it more alive. So instead of complaining because you keep dreaming of arguments with your mother, you want to ask: how can I avoid getting into this situation again in the future? And perhaps also: how can I make peace with the part of myself that is like my mother?

Here’s one of my favorite examples of the need to examine a ho-hum dream as a preview of a possible future, and harvest information from the dream in order to navigate better in a developing situation and avoid an unwanted event in waking life.

A woman friend complained to me that she had a boring and irritating dream in which she was in her cubie at the office when her boss threw a temper tantrum. “He banged his fist down on  my desk, spilling my coffee over my work papers.” “What happened then?” “I called him a bad name and walked out.” She thought this over. “S–t. I think this may have cost me my job, in the dream.”

Suddenly the ho-hum dream sounded less boring than urgent. I asked the dreamer to run a reality check. Could her boss throw a two-year old temper tantrum? “He does that all the time.” Was there anything in the dream to indicate what he was mad about this time? “All I know is he wasn’t mad at me. He was just taking his rage out on me.”

If it were my dream, I now suggested, I would remember that next time my boss threw a hissy fit, his anger will probably not be directed at me, and I should keep my cool. The dreamer readily made this her action plan. “I’ll lay Miss Zen,” was her one-liner.

Not long after this conversation, the dream scene started to play out in exact detail. The boss came into the dreamer’s cubicle and banged his fist down on her work surface, spilling her coffee. Instead of swearing at him, she played Miss Zen.He exited later in some confusion. The boss returned later to apologize. “Sorry about how I behaved. It wasn’t about you.” Instead of saying, “I know,” the dreamer remained Miss Zen, sitting silent with a distant tight-lipped smile.

The boss came back with flowers. “I’m really sorry.” Miss Zen accepted the offering without comment, holding out a vase for the boss to fill.

At the end of the workday, the boss returned for the third time. “hey, I feel real bad. I want to invite you to come down to Cancun with the group I’m leading for the sales conference. You won’t have to do any work. You can just work on your tan and drink stuff that comes with little umbrellas.”

Because the dreamer did not discard a “boring” dream and worked with its information, she not only avoided an unpleasant scene and possible job loss but also collected an apology, flowers, and a free vacation.


RM journal drawing

I looked through my journals for a picture of a "boring"dream and this is about as close as I got. Here's a summary of my journal report: 

May 28, 2019

dream

Doing the Tarantella in line

I am in a vast space like the passport and customs control at an airport, in the fourth or fifth line from the front. The lines stretch across the whole space and as far back as I can see. Word comes that they are dancing the Tarantella somewhere behind us. There is a move to follow suit in the front rows.

Feelings: curious

Reality: I have been in airport lines almost as big as this,but I think this is the kind of airport where people take off for the Other Side.

Today's commentRecorded pre-pandemic, this dream may have some resonance at a time when some people in reckless superspreader events sometimes seem to be doing a dance of Death. The tarantella originated in Italy, where wild dancing was regarded as a cure for the deadly bite oi a spider. I am not likely to be getting in a line at an airport any time soon.


"I can't remember my dreams"

You may hear this a lot. We are living in an era in which many people are suffering from a protracted dream drought.This is a serious malaise because if you have lost touch with your dreams, you have lost access to many gifts, including your power to tap into a wiser source than the everyday mind, to rehearse the possible future, to hear the voice of conscience and to find energy and direction to carry you through the day.
     "I can't remember my dreams." This statement is still a big step up from saying,"I don't dream", which really just means "I don't (or won't) remember", but is often freighted with a hardhead denial of the reality and importance of dreaming
     What do you say to someone who says they can't remember their dreams? I sometimes start like this:



1. I would drop that statement altogether, because every time I repeat "I can't remember my dreams" I am programming myself to make that the case.

2. I would wake myself up to the fact that I don't need to go to sleep in order to dream.The world around me will speak to me in the manner of dreams, through signs and symbols and synchronicity, if I pay attention.

3. I would try to call up a dream or memory from early childhood and put myself back into that scene. My inner child is a world-class dreamer and if I can only get more in touch with her my dreams will come back.


If I am called to offer more extensive guidance, I might offer any or all of the following



WAYS TO BRING BACK DREAMS


1.Set an intention for the night

Before sleep, write down an intention for the hours of dream and twilight that lie ahead. This can be a travel plan (“I would like to go to Hawaii” or “I would like to visit my girlfriend/boyfriend”). It might be a specific request for guidance (“I want to know what will happen if I change my job”).
     It could be a more general setting of direction (“I ask for healing” or “I open myself to my creative
source”).
    You might simply say, “I want to have fun in my dreams and remember.”
     Make sure your intention has some juice. Don’t make dream recall one more chore to fit in with all the others.
     If you like, you can make a little ritual of dream incubation, a simple version of what ancient seekers did when they traveled to temples of dream healing like those of Asklepios in hopes of a night encounter with a sacred guide. You can take a special bath or shower, play a recording of the sounds of nature or running water, and meditate for a while on an object or picture that relates to your intention. You might want to avoid eating heavily or drinking alcohol within a couple of hours of sleep. You could get yourself a little mugwort pillow – in folk tradition, mugwort is an excellent dreambringer – and place it under or near your regular pillow.

2. Be ready to receive

Having set your intention, make sure you have the means to honor it. Keep pen and paper (or a voice recorder) next to your bed so you are ready to record when you wake up. Record something whenever you wake up, even if it’s at 3 a.m. If you have to go to the bathroom, take your notebook with you and practice doing two things at once. Sometimes the dreams we most need to hear come visiting at rather anti-social hours, from the viewpoint of the little everyday mind.

3. Be kind to fragments.

Don’t give up on fragments from your night dreams. The wispiest trace of a dream can be exciting to play with, and as you play with it you may find you are pulling back more of the previously forgotten dream.The odd word or phrase left over from a dream may be an intriguing clue, if you are willing to do a little detective work.
    Suppose you wake with nothing more than the sense of a certain color. It could be quite interesting to notice that today is a Red Day, or  a Green Day, to dress accordingly, to allow the energy of that color to travel with you, and to meditate on the qualities of red or green and see what life memories that evokes..

4. Still no dream recall? No worries.

If you don’t remember a dream when you first wake up, laze in bed for a few minutes and see if something comes back. Wiggle around in the bed. Sometimes returning to the body posture we were in earlier in the night helps to bring back what we were dreaming when our bodies were arranged that way.
     If you still don’t have a dream, write something down anyway: whatever is in your awareness,
including feelings and physical sensations. You are catching the residue of a dream even if the dream itself is gone. As you do this, you are saying to the source of your dreams, “I’m listening. Talk to me.”
     You may find that, though your dreams have flown, you have a sense of clarity and direction that is the legacy of the night. We solve problems in our sleep even when we don’t remember the problem-solving process that went on in our dreaming minds.     

5.Remember you don’t need to go to sleep in order to dream.

The incidents of everyday life will speak to us like dream symbols if we will are willing to pay attention. Keep a lookout for the first unusual or striking thing that enters your field of perception in the course of the day and ask whether there could be a message there. Sometimes it’s in your face, as happened to a woman I know who was mourning the end of a romance but had to laugh when she noticed that the bumper sticker of the red convertible in front of her said, “I use ex-lovers as speed bumps.”
     When we make it our game to pay attention to coincidence and symbolic pop-ups in everyday life, we oil the dream gates so they let more through from the night.




Part of this article is adapted from Active Dreaming: Journeying beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Drawing: "Dream that Got Away" by Robert Moss




Sunday, October 11, 2020

"How does one learn to tell stories that please kings?"



Dreams set us research assignments.My dream last night of the Rawi and the Evil Queen might find its place in a collection of nested stories like A Thousand and One Nights, the proper title of the book we often call the Arabian Nights. So I am about to immerse myself again that immense book of wonders. On the way to sticking my head under this tent of visions, I found a note I wrote on a luminous memoir by Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi. It seems that the engine of her best creative work was a question that welled up when she was first told, as a young girl, about Scheherazade, who had to come up with a new story every night on pain of death: 

  “How does one learn to tell stories which please kings?” 

In her account of a harem girlhood in Morocco, Fatima Mernissi gives us a stunning example of how storytelling can facilitate soul healing. Her text is  A Thousand and One Nights. As Fatima explains what these stories meant to her, and what they mean for Muslim women in general, we become aware that in the West, we have almost no inkling of what they mean.  

Scheherazade, the young bride of a savage tyrant who has killed her many predecessors, must spin a captivating tale every night to make the king postpone his plan to have her beheaded at dawn. Her husband, King Schariar, is possessed by the spirit of revenge. He discovered his first wife in bed with another man – a slave – and killing her was not enough to dissipate his raging hatred and distrust of women. He ordered his vizier to fetch, one by one, every virgin girl in the kingdom. He spent one night with each, then killed her. Now there are only two virgins left: the vizier’s own daughter, Scheherazade, and her little sister. Though her father wants her to escape, Scheherazade is willing to do her duty. She has a plan that will change everything. 

As Fatima Mernissi tells it: “She would cure the troubled King’s soul simply by talking to him about things that had happened to others. She would take him to faraway lands to observe foreign ways, so he could get closer to the strangeness within himself. She would help him to see his prison, his obsessive hatred of women. Scheherazade was sure that if she could bring the King to see himself, he would want to change and to love more.” 

Scheherazade keeps the King spellbound through a thousand one nights, and at the end he is changed. He gives up his habit of murdering women.

Fatima first heard of Scheherazade from her mother, in the closed world of a harem in Fez. The word “harem” here does not mean a stable of concubines and slave girls, but a closed male-dominated world in which women of all ages are kept under lock and key, forced at every turning to think about the hudud, the boundary enforced by religion, law and custom. When little Fatima  learns about Scheherazade, her first and eager question to her mother is: “How does one learn to tell stories which please kings?”

This, of course, is the question we all need to answer, to heal our relationships – with ourselves as well as others – and our world. 

Mernissi notes: “I was amazed to realize that for many Westerners, Scheherazade was considered a lovely but simple-minded entertainer, someone who relates innocuous tales and dresses fabulously. In our part of the world, Scheherazade is perceived as a courageous heroine and is one of our rare female mythological figures. Scheherazade is a strategist and a powerful thinker, who uses her psychological knowledge of human beings to get them to walk faster and leap higher. Like Saladin and Sindbad, she makes us bolder and more sure of ourselves and of our capacity to transform the world and its people.”

 



Quotations from Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood.  (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison Wesley, 1995)


Pictures: Sani ol Molk. "Scheherazade and the Sultan"(top); illustration for a Persian edition of the Thousand and One Nights (bottom).

The Rawi and the Evil Queen

 October 11, 2020

dream
The Rawi and the Evil Queen
In the dream from which I returned at 3:30 a.m., I am in the body and situation of a scholarly prince in a Muslim country. I am working on a new version of a text and tear up several drafts before I have the following:
The rawi came to the sultan with a composition he had forged. His recitation was false but once heard it became true.
In my dream, I do not get further because I have to deal with a plot being hatched by the evil queen, who wants to hold me captive. I need to reclaim a key from her. She has really scary war paint. The whorls of color around her dark eyes in her whitened face give the impression that you could fall into a black hole. I feel no fear in her presence. My dark-skinned, black-bearded cousins are on my side in this palace intrigue.
~

I come back from my dream excursion excited and intrigued. Good story, this one! No analysis required or appropriate. As is my habit, I write and email my full report to myself on my phone before getting out of bed.

Then I look for the meaning of rawi. I discover that in Arabic a rawi is a "reciter"or "announcer'. The rawis preserved great pre-Islamic literature through oral transmission. They might have the ear of sultans or of large audiences. They were often accused of fabrication.
I so love my dream-directed research assignments!



A Note on Practice: The Stories from Second Sleep

Much of my best night dreaming. as in this example, is done in or around a second phase of sleep, which used to be called simply, "second sleep". When I lie down at night, I am usually ready to have some industrial sleep for a couple of hours, with or without significant recall. Then, after waking and maybe reading for a couple of hours, I am ready for the adventures to begin.

My discipline is to record as much as possible when I return to where I parked my body, whether that is at 3:30 a.m. or 5:00 a.m., or whenever. I may linger in the dream locale for quite a while in the fertile hypnopompic state. I want a fresh story to write in my essential book, my journal. I agree with the ancient dreamer, Aelius Aristides, when he says in his Sacred Tales, “Each of our days, as well as our nights, has a story.”


Illustrations for Firdausi's Shahnama (Book of Kings) by Muhammad Zaman (top) and Mu'in Muhsavvir (bottom). What is going on around the eyes of the div (demon) in Muhsavvir's picture from the story of Rustam somewhat resembles the getup of the evil queen in my dream.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Man in the Moon

 


Do you believe in the man in the Moon?

   No, not the face people imagine in the shadows of the craters, which is really the Great Rabbit, or Lunar Hare. Nor do I refer to those artful pictures, ever popular on greetings cards and in children’s stories, that add a nose and a grin and a wink to the crescent moon.

   I am speaking of something altogether different. I am inquiring whether you know anything (for worthwhile beliefs can only stem from knowledge) of the beings who live in the Moon. I am well aware that since humans in clumsy space suits first walked on the Moon, it has been commonly believed that the Moon is an astral desert, empty of organic life. This is merely a modern superstition, founded in the confusion of different orders of reality. Beyond appearances, the Moon is thickly settled. Its inhabitants do not live on the Moon in the way you live on the Earth. They cannot be found on the lunar surface from which astronauts and robots pick rock samples. The lunar population lives in the Moon, which is to say, in the Sphere of Luna, a frequency domain located a little – just a little – beyond the realm you can touch and smell and taste with your ordinary senses.

   I know what I am talking about, because the Moon is my home. If you happen to meet me tonight, because you happen to be looking up at the bright face of the Moon from under just the right tree at just the right time, or because you travel to my world on the wings of a dream, it’s quite likely you might see me as the man in the Moon, or at any rate a man in the Moon. I find it generally convenient, in my dealings with humans, to show myself as a human male, taller than average, with what I conceive to be a commanding – though not overbearing – presence, exquisitely tailored in a mode that is rarely encountered on Earth outside Jermyn Street and one or two most particular establishments in Buenos Aires. Yet I must disclose, at the beginning of my tale, that “man in the Moon” is a misnomer.

    I live in the Moon, but I am not a man. I am a daimon. I have lived very close to men, so close that I have sometimes forgotten my true identity. But I belong to a different and more ancient order of beings. When you turn to books, you will find the word daimon has several spellings. I prefer the oldest version, an accurate transliteration from the Greeks, who were close observers of traffic to and from my realm. Their witches – especially in the wild northern reaches – were adept at the dangerous art of drawing down spirits from the Moon. The most excellent shaman-philosopher, Plutarch, studied deep in our academies before he took up permanent residence and joined the faculty of one of our finest schools. Plutarch’s essay on the Sphere of Luna, De facie quae in orbe lunae apparet remains the best travel guide to our realm outside the closed stacks of the Magic Library.   

We know Plutarch well. It is a pity, for you, that his works are no longer taught in your schools, though he was read too often for what he wrote about tyrants and kings, instead of his essential work, which was all about us. He understood that the Moon and the Earth are as close as a man and his shadow. He knew that souls come and go constantly through our realm. He observed the descent of mind into the astral body in our dressing rooms, and the return of these energy suits to the suppliers when a traveler was given permission to return to the realm of mind. He watched all the souls that try to ascend to Luna after death and are rebuffed because they are dirty or confused. He saw souls that made it here, but reneged on their commitments, hurled from our ramparts through the black hole of Hecate. Do you know that great goddess’ scary sister, Melinoe. No? Well, be thankful if she does not visit you in the night with her train of spooks and nightmares.



Do please be careful with the word “daimon” now it is in the air, darting around you on dragonfly wings. Words have the power to call things into manifestation, and bring creatures from one world into another. You don’t want to say “daimon” out loud the wrong way; this can produce unpleasant effects, and sometimes unwanted visitors. I prefer to hear it pronounced “die-mon”, so it almost sounds like “diamond”, an elegant homonym. “Day-mon” is an acceptable alternative version.  To call me a “demon”, on the other hand, would be extremely rude, as thoughtless as calling a man whose chosen name is Robert “Bob”, and likely to produce more adverse effects than a frown and a growl. I did not mind being called a “demon” in demotic Greek in the age of Cleopatra, but since then a fog of fear and confusion spread by the morbid imaginations of the Dark Ages has made that version quite unusable. 



Excerpt from "Conversation with a Daimon of Luna" in Mysterious Realities by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.



Journal drawings by Robert Moss.

 

 


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Time of the Dragon


 

Through the mist, there they were,

The sturdy ghosts, waiting for us

On the snow in their blanket coats. 

"Bring tobacco," they got to the point 

"We ride to the sky on a cloud of tobacco."

So we burned sweet and spicy tobacco 

Dried and cured in warmer lands 

And they said, when they drank the smoke,

"We will place a tree in your path

So you will stay with us till we are done."

 

The wind heard them and dropped pines

And birches across our trails

And took us off-grid and cut power lines

So we were in the big house of another time

In a world lit only by fire

Rubbing at smoke-seared eyes.

The old ones said, "To open the strong eye

You must close your everyday sight."

In the firepit cave I heard the heartbeat of the Mother. 

I closed my eyes and saw what I had come to see:



 

Earth begins in the womb of Ocean Mother, 

terrible to men but not to the man-boy

In his time of the Dragon. 

He follows the intent of minds

That have yearned for him,

Called for him, from many times

And many worlds. From the swirling deep

He raises the Shining One,

Silver-bright, in its winged glory.

He must gentle it to the purpose 

Of the Sisters who have called him

To ride a field of stars to the earth mountain 

Where they will make him

What they need him to be:

The bright warrior who can wield

Dragon fire without incinerating the world 


- from a work in progress


Journal drawings by Robert Moss