Thursday, June 22, 2017

When we become a dreaming society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dreamer's School of Soul

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

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Mirror for the Sun Goddess

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When reading changes the way we see

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stories are hunting us

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

Drawing by Robert Moss

The mingling of minds and the creative daimon

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

How to know when the god is present

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

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

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

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

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

Art: John William Waterhouse

Six games to play with your journal

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

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

1. Write Your Way Through

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

2. Catch Your Dreams

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

3. Make a Book of Clues

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

4. Collect Pick-Me-Up Lines

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

We must create meaning for our own lives.

You are most alive in the presence of your death.

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

5. Make Your Own Dictionary of Symbols

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

6. Write until you're a writer

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

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

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

The only expert on your dreams is you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by French artist and dream teacher Véronique Barek-Deligny

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mad love, found objects, objective chance

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

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

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

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

Lit Sync with Wolfgang Pauli's Chinese Woman

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

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

Hakone Gardens

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Through the blue fire

Picture this: You are in a pleasant classroom, with people you enjoy. This isn’t like regular school. You are presented with amazing books. When you open one, you enter a different world. You are instructed to swim with mermaids, or to sing with an ancient tree. You are guided down into a Cave of the Ancestors where you place your hands on a wall and great painted beasts come alive and you take their forms. 
     You’ve been in this school since you were very small, though your adult self may have skipped or forgotten most of the classes.
     Now you are waking up to what dreaming can be. You’re eager to make up for all the dreams you lost, and get to graduate school. The way forward leads through blue fire. You hesitate, watching the electric blue of the leaping flames. You are encouraged by a teacher with a twinkle in his eye, and by the presence of those lovely classmates who feel like family. You go dancing through the blue fire.
     Now you are in a different landscape, green as the first day. You are welcomed by music, achingly beautiful songs. A scholar city rises before you. Its learned name is Anamnesis, which means Soul Remembering. You can call it simply the School of Soul. You come here to remember what soul is, and what soul knows, and how to bring more of vital soul into every aspect of life.
    Distinctions made in the ordinary world don’t count for anything here. Great teachers and creators and beloved ancestors who were said to be dead are very much alive. The only time is Now.
    Oh look! Beyond the main building, with its strange clock, students of all ages are learning to fly. Some are choosing their rides – a dragon, a flying tiger, a winged horse. Some are turning into bird people or flying Superman style. You know they’ll be safe. Everything is closely watched by the head of security, who appears to be a lovely little girl about five years old. But you know she has been around for longer than the Moon.

This is my invitation to join The Dreamer's School of Soul, my new online course for The Shift Network. Classes begin on July 12 and run for six months, during which you'll find yourself in the company of gifted and questing spirits from all over the world map, supporting each other's soul journeys.  
    What's that? You're going through a dream drought? And you don't notice much magic in the round of your days? Don't worry: you have a world-class dreamer inside you who is ready to help you reopen your dream gates. This is the child in you who is the beautiful dreamer and knows the magic of making things up. She is going to come out to play with you. And she will be accompanied by the Wise One, a timeless aspect of the Greater Self.
    We’ll share in cutting-edge new work involving parallel worlds, time travel, reality creation and exploration of the multiverse and the multidimensional self.  You may awaken to the fact that some of your dreams are glimpses of continuous lives you are living in parallel worlds, where you made different choices. You may then find it possible to reach into those parallel lives and bring gifts and lessons for your current life.
    You will be able to meet members of your soul family who are living in other times and other dimensions. You’ll be aroused to understand that all times – past, future and parallel – are accessible to you Now, and may be revisioned and reshaped for the better. You’ll learn how to travel, hyper-awake and conscious, to connect with other aspects of your multidimensional self, and with a Higher Self at the hub of these many lives.
    You are being called to a path of real magic, which is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this one. Follow this road, and you will find that there is a champagne fizz of magic in the air every day.

You can listen to a free one-hour introduction to the new course, "Dream Journey to Your Soul" on Wednesday, June 21. Please invite friends who may be ready to join you!

Art: "He Sees" by Reet Kalamees

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Seven Directions

I am floating in the hair of the goddess
I am the hammer in the forge of creation
I am the sea eagle riding the whitecaps
I am the oak tunnel to the heart of Ancient Mother
I am the dragon raised in the cause of light
I rise on shining wings to rejoin my soul company
I guard the birth of the divine child, in all times

- Howth, Ireland, June 9, 2017

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I am in my story

I am in my story.
I am wearing my hula girl socks
so I don’t forget my life is a vacation.
Blue smoke from a French cigarette
reassures me that this is a writing retreat.
Birds talk, trees whisper,
a garter snake writes letters on the path.
everything speaks to me here,
even a spam email inviting me
to become a collector of delinquent debts.

Overnight I was in other stories.
I cut a porthole between worlds.
I rode a sea monster with my fish spear in its neck.
I escaped being sprayed with samsara perfume.
I played hopscotch on a Paris street.
My new baby was born in a delivery room
full of printouts. The mother, flirting,
won’t show me my beautiful child yet;
she doesn’t want to spoil the surprise
when I see it whole and lovely, in gurgling delight.

I am in my story.
Every day is a holiday when you do what you love.

-         -  Mosswood Hollow, May 23, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"I come from inside you," says the Goddess

Our true spiritual teachers come looking for us in dreams, and they assume many guises. I thought this account of how a goddess with a famous name introduced herself to one woman dreamer would be a good story for Mother's Day.
    I'll call the dreamer Lin. She set an intention for the night: "I want to meet my spiritual teacher." Here is the dream that followed, as she reported it to me:

I go to the cemetery where my brother is buried. We meet and hug each other. It's very loving. He wants to come with me but I tell him I can't take him where I am going. 
     A great bear appears. Bear has been my friend, and I feel safe and protected., even when something weird happens.
      Something like smoke is coming out of my solar plexus. I look at it, trying to figure out what's going on. It takes the form of a woman, a kind of misty ghost. "Who are you?" I want to know. "Tell me your name."
      She says, "My name is Athena."
     "Get out of here. You can't be Athena. You can't be my guide, anyway. My guide can't come from inside me. You have to be separate."
     She corrects me. She says firmly, "I can come from inside you." I'm still disbelieving until she tells me to look down. I see my brother's tombstone. The inscription reads: To thine own self be true.

Asked how she felt afterwards, Lin said, "I was shocked awake." True spiritual teachers like to do that: to shock us awake. Asked to describe Athena, Lin said, "She is a goddess of wisdom."  She decided that the dream message was: "I can birth wisdom from inside myself, and I don't need to look outside myself for my guide."
     Lin's dream encounter was fresh and personal. She also felt grounded in family and ancestral traditions, blessed to have met both her deceased brother, and an animal guardian, and a goddess with a great name who was yet no stranger, given form by her own energy and imagination. Athena isn't known as a mother goddess but here she plays mother to a dreamer's understanding of where the truest spiritual teacher is to be found.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Whatever you think or feel, the universe says Yes

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The call of Inanna and the first named author in history

daughter of the Moon
silken bud unfolding

riding out on your wild blue bull
through the Gate of Wonder.

I am riffing on a version of "Inanna and Ebih",  written by the high priestess of the Moon God at Ur around 2300 bce. The literal translation is in Betty De Shong Meador's brilliant Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart.
    I was excited to learn that Meador was called to the great Sumerian goddess Inanna by a dream . She dreamed she saw two fellow Jungian analysts – conservative, by-the-book types - being buried. Strange sticks with loops at the top were planted in the earth around their graves.
      At the time, Inanna was unknown to her and she made no association between the dream and the goddess.  Long after, in one of Erich Neumann’s books, she found a picture of the looped poles like the ones in her dream. She read that they are symbols of Inanna and the earliest way of writing her name in pictographs. They are reed posts. They may represent door posts, or the props for a curtain. In pictographs (see photo), reed pieces hanging down from the rings, sometimes look like women's hair, or ribbons.
     Why would doorposts made from reeds be a symbol for the Queen of Earth and Heaven? Doorposts of this kind could denote the passage to the storehouse,the place of fertility and abundance that are the gifts of the goddess in her beneficent mode. Doorposts could also denote the passage between the worlds. Inanna herself passed through a series of doorways in her famous Descent to the Underworld. So the reed doorposts - in a country with little timber or stone - could be the Mesopotamian version of the pylon gate in Egypt or the dolmen arch in Celtic lands.
     There is further significance in the reeds. In ancient Mesopotamia, dream incubation took place in reed huts.You would step between reed doorposts to dream with intention, maybe to dream yourself into a close encounter with the goddess herself. The marshes of southern Mesopotamia, full of reeds, offered a liminal dreamy landscape. Legend has it that Sargon of Akkad, the father of the priestess who wrote poems and hymns of Inanna was abandoned in a reed basket, sealed with pitch, on a river,  to be found by the gardener who raised him.  A baby from the reeds, long before Moses.
      Meador waxes poetic about the reed posts of Inanna as “insurgent flags”. In her words, “Inanna’s symbol standing tall on the graves was an image of strength and courage from a culture outside of and alien to patriarchal thinking... Inanna’s tall reed standards stand like insurgent flags amid the bastion of traditional beliefs that restrict women.” The meet-up between the old dream and new research into the mythic cycle of Inanna led the Jungian analyst to make a huge new leap in her work and understanding, into Goddess realms. "This new perspective propelled me onto my future path.” 
       As Meador studied the texts, she found Inanna's wild call for her chosen lover to plow her field. The goddess calls for Dumuzi, who is both the "wild bull" and the plowman:

My field needs hoeing
Dumuzi, I call you
It is you I want for prince. 

     Inanna is many, a great goddess who refuses all boundaries and limitations. For Meador, she is the Sumerian “personification of the whole of reality”. 

You wear the robes
of the old, old gods. 

     Meador discovered a soul friend in ancient Mesopotamia. She happens to be the first named author in all of human history. Her name is Enheduanna. The "en" in her name means "high priestess". She was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god Nanna. She was also a poet of the first rank, and the most passionate of her poems were devoted to presenting Inanna in all her faces. She composed 42 temple hymns that have survived  and the "Exaltation of Inanna"(Nin-Me-Sar-Ra) infused with her passion for the goddess.
     It is really absurd that Enheduanna is relatively unknown. She is the first named author in world literature. She is a great poet. She is advancing a whole theology and philosophy that promotes the great Goddess as the one beyond the many. She writes with searing passion and eloquence about the many aspects of the self. The goddess she praises – in all her dark and light – is within her, and within the whole of nature and the whole cosmic order. Both contain multitudes.
     Meador writes that “in Enheduanna’s writing, we witness that moment when an individual is selected out of the mass of humanity into a new consciousness of self-definition and self-worth...Enheduanna begins to understand emotion as the graze of the goddess’ hand across a person’s soul. Image and emotion become the language of the goddess to the particular individual.”
    Called to the goddess and the ancient poet through the doorway of a dream. Goddesses and dead poets can make that happen. I know about this.

Quotes here are from Betty De Shong Meador, Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. Published by University of Texas Press.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Good story this one" : Listening to Aboriginal dreamers

They say in the South Pacific that when the anthropologists arrive, the spirits leave.
    A notable recent exception is Sylvie Poirier, a social anthropology professor from the Universite Laval in Quebec, who has been tracking the dreaming of the Kukatja, a people of the Gibson desert in Western Australia, for many years. She won the confidence of a Kukatja grandmother, Nungurrayi, and was helped by her to understand not only what traditional Aborigines believe is going on in dreams, but how they share and honor dreams in their communities.   
    Sylvie Poirier writes that "in Aboriginal Australia, dreams are the privileged space-time of communication between humans and ancestral beings, as between humans and spirits of the dead.” 
     Dreaming is a way of tending the land. A fertile country is a country of good dreamers.
 Dreaming is active, not merely passive. It is a form of engagement. You can decide where you are going to go, and you can go consciously.
     Dreaming is soul travel. A dream is what happens when an aspect of soul leaves the body and has encounters and adventures. “The spirit goes on walkabout," the Kukatja grandmother explains. In the understanding of her people, “a dream occurs when, while a person is asleep, his or her kurunnpa [an aspect of soul or spirit]related to the abdominal (or umbilical) area (tjurni) leaves the body to pursue various encounters and experiences.” A good dreamer is one who knows how to “open” their tjurni.
     Dreams can be shared experiences. People can enter each other’s dreams.
     When dreams are shared in community, it is often in the morning, over a mug of tea. Yet Sylvie Poirier found that the Kukatja are far from promiscuous in their dream sharing. They know that dreams are powerful, and that it is necessary to handle this power carefully. They also recognize that dreams can provide clues to situations that require discreet investigation. Like detectives on a case, they may be unwilling to share such clues until the case is solved.
     Nonetheless, Poirier heard Kukatja people open up and tell their dream narratives fluently and spontaneously in relaxed social circumstances. This is appreciated as a chance to share and enjoy some good stories. You might here someone tell a terrifying dream and get the response, "G
ood story (palya wangka) this one”. Dreams of any kind, told well, are appreciated for their story value, as entertainment, as well as for information.
     When Kukatja discuss the meaning of dreams, they ask questions like "where, who, what, when?" Tracking routes and locations in a dream is of high importance. Where were you, exactly? What landmarks do you recognize? Who else was there? Everyone is conscious that they are tracking where the dream soul, the kurunnpa, went in its nocturnal excursions.
     While dreamers make visits, they also receive visitations. So the questions may center on who came calling last night, invited or not.
     Dreams reveal malfeasance, especially sorcery, and a dream of sorcery may put an end to psychic attack. In such cases it may be judged highly desirable to tell everyone about a dream. A young Kukatja woman dreamed of sorcerers who are pointing the bone at her. The elder told her to tell the dream to everyone at the camp. "Outing” the sorcerer in this way was intended to scare him off.
     Dreams are valued as sources of creative inspiration. A Kukatja man is chased by a snake in his dream. As he tells it, he dwells on the snake’s vivid colors – and decides to use them in an acrylic painting.
     Kukatja dream sharing is directed at getting all the facts from the dream and taking appropriate action, for example, to deflect a coming danger revealed in the dream or to harness its creative energy. In contributing to discussion, others may tell dreams, stories and life experiences evoked by the first dream report. Through emerging patterns of resemblance and connection, the fuller meaning of a dream - and the appropriate action - may be revealed. 
    Poirier reports that this desert people, who appear so "poor" in terms of material culture, are far more advanced in their approach to dreams than cultures that rely on dream dictionary or dogmatic modes of analysis:  “I have not found any dream that has a fixed meaning; depending on context, any dream can be read as a good or bad omen.” 
   Aboriginal dreamwork is an antidote to Freud, who wrote that the dream “has nothing to communicate to anyone else”, meaning that dreams are entirely products of the personal subconscious and even so, unintelligible until interpreted. Aborigines know that dreams are social and transpersonal, connecting us to other people, both dead and alive, and to the animate universe of spirits and Ancestors. 

Source: Quotes are from Sylvie Poirier, “This Is Good Country. We Are Good Dreamers: Dreams and Dreaming in the Australian Western Desert,” in Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Culture in the Western Pacific, ed. Roger Ivar Lohmann (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 107–126. Sylvie has also published an excellent book based on her years with the Kukatja: A World of Relationships: Itineraries, Dreams and Events in the Australian Western Desert (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

Art: "Canning Stock Route" by Kukatja artist Rover Thomas. National Museum Australia.