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]


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

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


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


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
    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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Stronger the Imagination, the Less Imaginary the Results


The greatest crisis of our lives is a crisis of imagination. We come to a dead stop because there is a barrier in front of us and we can’t imagine a way to get around or over it. Our work space feels like it is walled with cement blocks that are closing in tighter every day, but we can’t imagine where we would go if we quit. We can’t breathe in an airless relationship but can’t imagine how to take off.  We look in the mirror, when we dare, and see the age lines, the skin blemishes, maybe the thinning hair, not the beauty that we may carry inside. 
    We go on repeating to ourselves the tired old stories, strapped on to us by family or past histories of defeat and disappointment. Or we cling to past memories of brighter days, or that win on the high school sports field, or that sweet summer romance, or that medal for valor or that early success that was never repeated. Either way, by nursing grief or guilt or nostalgia, we manage to go through life looking in the rear vision mirror, stuck in the past, never fully available to the present moment.
     Or we miss the moment by carrying anxiety about the future, playing scenarios for what could go wrong. We give ourselves a hundred reasons not to take the risk of doing something new, something that would take us beyond the gated communities of the mind into the wilds of creative adventure.
    Conscious of it or not, we go around playing our negative mantras. I’m too old. I’m not pretty enough. I don’t have the money. People always let you down. People don’t change. I’m so tired. You don’t think you do this? Pause for a moment. Take off the headphones. Listen to what’s playing on your inner soundtrack. It may be a song. Am I blue?
     I confess there are days, especially between snowstorms in a Northeastern winter, when my mood can slump and go the color of the dirty grey ramparts of ice on the curb in my small gritty city. And more days like these in the shut-up times of pandemic I don’t want to get out of bed even to walk the dog, who is waiting for me patiently. I may be stirred back to life by a dream or a cheering message from a loved one or a plan for an ocean beach vacation or a foreign adventure. But when I find it is still hard to rise above a low, lethargic mood and dump those negative mantras – My legs hurt, I’m played out, I can’t walk on the ice – I call in one of the greatest life coaches I know.
      I know him from his most famous book. Maybe you do too. His book is titled Man’s Search for Meaning. His name is Viktor Frankl. He was an Existentialist – which is to say, someone who believes that we must be authors of meaning for our own lives – and a successful psychiatrist in Vienna before Nazi Germany swallowed Austria in 1938. He was a Jew and a free-thinking intellectual, two reasons for the Nazis to send him to a concentration camp. For several years he was in Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps.
      In the camp, every vestige of humanity was taken from him, except what he could sustain in his mind and his heart. He was in constant pain, reduced to a near-skeleton with a tattooed number on his arm, liable to be beaten or killed at any moment on the whim of a guard. He was there to be worked to death. He watched those around him shot or beaten or carted off to the gas chambers every day.
     He made an astonishing choice. He decided that, utterly deprived of freedom in the nightmare world around him, he would tend one precious candle of light within. He would exercise the freedom to choose his attitude. It sounds preposterous, if you don’t know the story of what unfolded. When people tell us we have a bad attitude in ordinary circumstances, we are usually not grateful. The suggestion that we can choose our attitude when the world around us seems cold and bleak, or we have suffered a major setback, even heartbreak, sounds cruel, and maybe preposterous. But let’s stay with Viktor Frankl.
     When the light went out in his world, he managed to light that inner candle of vision. Despite the pain in his body and the screams and groans around him, he made an inner movie, a film of a possible life in a world where the Nazis had been defeated and Hitler was a memory. It was an impossible vision of course, an escapist fantasy. There was no way he was going to survive Auschwitz.
     But he kept working on his inner movie, night after night, as director, scriptwriter, and star. He produced a scene in which he was giving a lecture in a well-filled auditorium.. His body had filled out, and he was wearing a good suit. The people in the audience were intelligent and enthusiastic. The theme of his lecture was “The Psychology of the Concentration Camps.” In his movie, not only were the death camps a thing of the past; he had retained the sanity and academic objectivity to speak about what went on during the Holocaust from a professional psychiatric perspective.
    This exercise in inner vision, conducted under almost unimaginably difficult circumstances, got Viktor Frankl through. One year after the war, in a good suit, he gave that lecture as he had seen himself doing in his inner movies.

What do we take away from this?
     First, that however tough our situation may seem to be, we always have the freedom to choose our attitude, and this can change everything.  Let’s allow William James to chime in: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
     Second, that our problems, however bad, are unlikely to be quite as bad as the situation of someone who has been sent to a Nazi death camp. That thought may help us to gain perspective, and to stand back from a welter of grief and self-pity and rise to a place where we can start to dream up something better.
     Third, we can make inner movies, and if they are good enough it is possible that they will play in the theater of the world.
     Would you like to make your own life movies, in which you enjoy the satisfaction of your deepest desires? Are you willing to grow a vision of bright possibility so rich and alive that it wants to take root in the world?
      Here are some secrets of the imagination that will get you on your way.


Dreams Show You the Secret Wishes of Your Soul

Every night, if you make the effort to catch some of what is going on, you will find that your dreams take you beyond what you already know. You already have a personal film production company, behind the curtain of the world, that is making dreams exclusively for you. That comedy or horror flick, that romance or action adventure, may be screened in the night to help you see where you are and how you are, or to give you a glimpse of other life possibilities. In other dreams, you get out and about, you socialize, you make visits and receive visitations.
      Dreaming, you travel without leaving home and can be as social as you like. You are also a time traveler. You travel to past times, parallel times and into the possible future. You scout out challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Beyond seeing the future, it is possible that, dreaming, the observer effect noted in physics comes into play and you take part in the selection of events that will manifest from a quantum soup of possibilities.
     There is even more going on in your nights. Indigenous wisdom teaches that through dreams we learn the secret wishes of the soul.. We are called to follow our heart’s desires, as opposed to the calculations of the ego and other people’s agendas and expectations. We are recalled to our deeper life purpose, and given sources and resources in a deeper reality that will help us to follow our path with heart.


Your Great Imagineer Is Your Magical Child

Don’t doubt for a moment that you have the imagination required to grow a vision of manifesting your heart’s desires that can carry you beyond the stuck places and the dark dreary times. Your inner child is a master of dreams and imagination. She knows the magic of making things up. She engages effortlessly in the deep play that generates creative ideas without regard for consequences. Maybe you lost contact with her as you started to grow up and the adult world trod on her dreams. Maybe there was a time when her world seemed so cold and cruel that she wanted to run away, and may actually have succeeded in running away, so a safe space in Granma’s house or a garden behind the Moon. Maybe this is why you have been in a dream drought for so long; when she went away, you lost the beautiful bright dreamer in you. In chapter 2, you are going to learn how to reclaim that Magical Child, how to convince her that you are safe and you are fun so that you can bring her energy and joy and imagination into your current life.

What Is in Your Way May Be Your Way


The philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius came to accept, as a rule for his own life, that the obstacle may be the way. When you find yourself blocked or challenged on your life road, that may be a prompt for you to look for a better way, or develop needed skill or the pluck and perseverance to see something through. you’ll want to look again at what you feel is blocking or opposing you on your life road. Sometimes a block is a pause button, indicating, Not right now. Try later. You may discover that a block has been placed in your way to induce you to find a better way. For every door that won’t open or slams shut in your face, look for one that maybe opening. For every setback, search for opportunity. Look for a gift in every wound or challenge though this can be hard and may require hindsight from some distance away. 


Your Big story is hunting you

Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them, like predators stalking in the bush. The trick is to put ourselves in a place where the Big stories can find us. We do that when we attend to our dreams and the dreamlike play of symbols and synchronicity in the world around us. We want to learn to step out of the tired old stories we have inherited from family, from other people telling us who we are, from personal histories of failure and defeat. When we are seized by the Big story, we step beyond limiting definitions and beliefs. Great healing becomes available because we can now draw on the immense energy that is generated by the sense of serving a larger purpose and living a mythic life. The muse, or creative genius, and the intelligences of the world-behind-the-world come to support our life projects, because we are following a deeper call.

Your world is as rich or poor, as alluring or dull, as you can imagine. Listen to your dreams, let your inner child out to play, put yourself in a place where you bigger story can grab you. When you move in the energy field of ta big dream of life, the world responds to you, because you are magnetic. You generate events and encounters that open new doors, and your days sparkle with a champagne fizz of magic. Your dreams speak louder and brighter and the extraordinary comes to meet you on any street corner.

      On days when you feel down and defeated, remember Viktor Frankl, dreaming his way out of the nightmare of the death camps. On any day, you have the freedom to choose your attitude, and this is an exercise in creative imagination that can change everything.


Adapted from Growing Big Dreams: Manifesting Your Heart’s Desires through Twelve Secrets of the Imagination by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.