Sunday, February 18, 2018

Put yourself where Tiger can find you

Hunting Power

You say you are hunting your power
But your power is hunting you.
I’ll go up to the mountain, you say.
I’ll fast and live on seaweed
I’ll hang myself on a meat-hook
Under the hot sun. I’ll give up sex
And wine and my sense of humor.
What are you thinking of?
For you to go hunting your power
Is as smart as the mouse hunting the cat.

Go out in the garden any night
Step one inch outside the tame land
And you are near what you seek.
Open the window of your soul
Any night and your guide may come in.
The issue is whether you’ll run away
When you see what it is. To make sure
You succeed, tether yourself like a goat
At the edge of the tiger wood that breathes
Right beside your bed. He’ll come.

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

Drawing by Robert Moss

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Conversations with a Free Self on a terrace above the world

Higher Self, Greater Self. These are very big words. I want something smaller for him. There may be many levels to the Higher Self, ten that I know, others beyond counting. He lives on a level just above the level I am on.
    When I set out to meet him, I follow the road of dreams to a terrace above the world. Sometimes it is the rooftop of a tall building, twenty stories up, or more. Often the terrace has the air of a civilized café, operating just for us. I find him seated at a table, perhaps with a glass of wine the color of moonlight. He is usually impeccably dressed, in a perfectly tailored white suit or a dinner jacket. Occasionally I have the impression that he has a female companion; once she seemed to be an opera singer. But she is never part of our conversation.
    He is impossibly beautiful. He looks like a man in the prime of life, maybe thirty years old, yet carrying the knowledge of millennia. He does not judge me. He is my witness. He knows all of my life. It is as open to him as the contents of a doll house when you remove the back and the roof. More than this, he remembers my other lives.
    I should say, rather, our other lives. Something I have remembered, through our conversations, is that we have a twining relationship across time. When I am in the body, in a life on Earth, he is up here, on his balcony above the world. He still enjoys pleasures and creature comforts, but he is not enmeshed in the confusion and clutter of the physical world. He can sample delights that we associate with a physical body without being confined to one. The babalawo in me, the African diviner he calls my witchdoctor, says it has always been like this. While one of us is down in the marketplace of the world, the other observes as a “double in heaven”.
     I like that phrase, but his is a near heaven, rather than a remote one. So how shall I describe him? I have decided I will call him my Free Self. He is not bound by the conditions of physical life. From his terrace, he can see the big picture. When I join him up there, I can see the crossroads and forking paths of my life from an aerial perspective.
    He shows me some navigational challenges that lie ahead. There’s a spaghetti junction with whirling stands of traffic going off in all direction like an exploding bowl of pasta. It’s dizzying to look at. Inspecting this with his mildly humorous detachment, I see the scene lift to reveal a manageable locale, the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Now I can survey, one by one, the possible roads I can take from that place of decision. He reminds me that when life on the ground poses difficult choices – when I run into blockages or risk making a turn without reflecting on where that direction will take me – I should come up here, look at things from the higher perspective, and freeze the action while I observe myself traveling more than one of the possible roads in order to clarify and compare the probable outcomes.
    From such encounters comes daily practice, one I can share with others. I picture myself in the thick of a situation where I am facing a choice or conflict or dilemma. I see myself pausing from acting or worrying, placing myself in a quiet mental space whatever is going on around me. I feel light coming down around me, until I am within a column or pillar of light. This brings the sense of blessing and protection. I sense benign energies and intelligence reaching down to me within the pillar of light. Then there is the sense of traction, of being carried up within the pillar. I could be carried up many levels, as if on an elevator. But it is sufficient, for everyday navigation, to go up just one level, to that terrace above the world.
     Here I find again the Free Self, my wiser twin. From his table, I can see a relief map of my life, and of other lives and situations that will concern me. When the traffic patterns are hard to read, I can have everything slow down or stop so I can study it at my leisure.

Graphic: "The Art of Conversation" by René Magritte (1963)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The romance of dreaming

On Valentine Day, romance your dreams. The romance of dreaming is played out beyond your present life and your present world. Through dreaming, as the Irish poet-painter AE (George Russell) promised, "Your own will find you". Someone you loved and lost five thousand years ago may call you to remember that romance, and look for its fulfillment in new bodies that have ancient eyes.
    Yes, I am a romantic about these things. But I am also a practical romantic. I know that we can dream the way to manifest the kind of love that transcends time, and also that dreaming will show us how to do what we love and let the world support us. However, this requires us to develop the practice of active dreaming, which involves not only growing our dream recall and keeping our journals, but learning to clarify the content of dreams and above all taking action to bring energy and guidance from the dream worlds into the physical world.
    One of my favorite teaching stories about this comes from India. It is sometimes called "The Sketcher of Pictures". It goes like this:

The princess (and all women may be princesses, or queens) is dreaming. She dreams of the perfect lover, who satisfies her in every way. The dream streams like silk. It smells like jasmine and honeysuckle.
   She opens her eyes and howls with pain and loss, because although her surroundings are opulent she knows no one like the man of her dreams.
   Her father sees that she is very sad and asks what is wrong. When she tells him it has something to do with a dream, the king summons his wise men to listen to the dream and tell her what it means. They gather in a council chamber, ready to give their interpretations.
    As the princess recounts her dream, a wild man rushes into the room, his hair a white storm about his shoulders. He is a rishi who lives in the woods and cares nothing for the rules of the court. He grabs a piece of paper, makes a quick sketch, and hands it to the girl.
    When she looks at the picture, the princess is stunned. The rishi has captured the very essence of her dream lover.
     Abandoning the conclave of dream interpreters, she runs after the wold man from the woods. When she catches up to him, she begs him to tell her the identity or her dream lover. "Who is he? Where can I find him?" Clearly the rishi knows the man of her dreams.
     Good teachers don't give you everything all at once. The rishi says only, "The map is in your dream." Then he takes off into the woods.
     The princess thinks about it. What does it mean, that a dream contains a map? When she thinks about it some more, she realizes that she was not with her lover among the clouds. She was in a bed in a room in a house in a city in a certain landscape. Though she recognizes none of these places, she has vivid memories of them and feels she would know them again.
     So she sets out on the quest. In an Indian village, they may take hours to tell this part. There will be tigers, of course, and bandits, and deserts and snakes and all manner of perils. There will probably be elephants.
     But let's catch up with the princess at the moment when her quest is almost over, because there on the horizon, after long travels and many ordeals, she sees the city from her dreams. And now she is rushing through those streets the house from her dream, and up the stairs to the bedroom from her dream, where she finds her lover rising from his dream of her.

It sounds like a fairy story, but there are no fairies in it, or any of the gods, demons and others from the rich forests of Hindu mythology. There are only humans, and what humans can do when they learn to make maps from their dreams and have the will and stamina to follow their maps.
    Through the perfume of romance, we receive a lesson in practical romanticism. Do the work in dreamwork. Recognize that dreams require action. Learn - why has it taken you so long? - that a dream is a place. Because you have been there, you can go there again. This can bring you, in this physical world, to place of your dream lover. More often, it will bring you to places in a more spacious universe where you can rejoin the beloved company of your soul, those who love you across time and space, even when you make each other crazy.
   Give a hug to someone you love on Valentine Day. Bring flowers or chocolates if you must. But don't let the day pass without sharing dreams.

Art: Mughal painting of a prince giving wine to his lover

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thirteen Levels of Shamanic Dreaming

Ruby Modesto grew up on the Martinez reservation in Southern California. Her dreams called her to become a pul, or shaman, introducing her to the eagle that became her ally, giving her wings for flight. She did not need the medicine plants used by some shamans among her people, the Cahuilla, because, she said, she had her dreams.
    The medicine plants were very strong. However, not all puls used power plants. That should be clear from the start. I am a pul myself but the “ally” as Castaneda calls it, the spiritual helper which distinguishes a pul from ordinary people, came to me through Dreaming not from the effects of a plant.
    Ruby learned that there are successive levels of dreaming, and that you achieve increasing clarity and get closer to the really good stuff when you go to level 3 or beyond. Her uncle was a dream shaman, and he taught her about “setting up dreaming” in order to get to those interesting levels. She explained the practice to anthropologist Guy Mount like this:

The way you do that is by remembering to tell yourself to go to sleep in your 1st level ordinary dream. You consciously tell yourself [inside the first dream] to lay down and go to sleep. Then you dream a second dream. This is the 2nd level and the prerequisite for real Dreaming. Uncle Charlie called this process “setting up dreaming.” You can tell yourself ahead of time where you want to go or what you want to see, or what you want to learn.
On the 3rd level you learn and see unusual things, not of this world. The hills and terrain are different. On both the 2nd and the 3rd dream levels you can talk to people and ask questions about what you want to know.

    She adds that “during Dreaming the soul goes out of the body, so you have to be careful.” When she was young, she dreamed to the thirteenth level but did not know how to come back. “I kept having different dreams and falling asleep [inside each level of dreaming] and going to another level.” In the course of this immense, multitiered experience, she met her shamanic ally, Ahswit, the eagle. But her spirit was lost in the dreamlands. For days she was semicomatose, in a sleep from which no one could rouse her. Her father tried to bring her back to her body, but couldn’t.
     Finally Uncle Charlie, a specialist in soul retrieval, was able to find her spirit and put it back in her body. “When I woke up they made me promise not to Dream like that again, not until I knew how to get back by myself.”
   To do that, you must learn “how to dream and think simultaneously,” so that you don’t forget where you left your body, and you remember, whatever level of dreaming you are on, to give yourself a clear direction to go back.
    We see that traveling from an outer dream to an inner dream, and doing this again and again in a single sequence, may be an experience of traveling to many levels of reality. We are also reminded that dreaming is a discipline. To get to the different levels, and to return with gifts for this world, requires practice and attention to flight safety and navigation. While we all dream and can all gain from doing far more in dreaming, dreaming to the thirteenth level is not for the “innocent” and is not recommended as nightly practice for anyone!

Text adapted from Dreaming the Soul Back Home by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo: Cahuilla Woman (1924) from Native American Encyclopedia

Birth of Athena

If you devour a mother goddess
make sure you have loyal friend nearby
armed with the ax of the crescent moon.
It’s like this: the feminine power
you thought you could master
is going to stir and swell in you
until your whole being is a trembling womb
that can only open at the top
like a volcano rising from the ocean floor.
It will blow out your brains
unless your head is opened.
So keep a helper with the right tool handy
and be ready for the bright fury
with owl eyes and blazing mind
who will burst from your head fully armed
and love you to death, setting her spear
at the throat of your certainties.

Image: Attic black figure vase c.560 bce, in British Museum. Hephaestus splits the skull of Zeus with a two-headed mallet or ax to birth the goddess Athena from his head. Zeus is seated on a swan-backed chair and holds a lightning bolt in his hand. Athena springs from his head, shield in hand, ready for action. Hephaestus waves his hand in the style of an Eileithyia, a birth-goddess.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Hold the vision in your mind so you do not become lost

Long before Columbus, the Polynesians discovered and settled virtually every island group in the Pacific, creating a single sphere of cultural life that covered nearly 10 million square miles of the earth's surface. Polynesian sailors crossed the sea in open catamarans, made with tools of stone, bone and coral, their sails woven from pandanus. They sailed without maps, compasses or instruments.    According to Polynesian tradition, the first human to see Easter Island was a dream traveler and the island was settled because a young king trusted the traveler’s story and acted upon it.     In a time of savage warfare among the Polynesian islanders, a priest named Hau Maka, who was also the royal tattooist, went scouting for a new home for his people. He flew across the ocean in a dream and saw Rapa Nui (Easter Island). On returning from his dream journey, he described the island and its location in great detail to his young chief, Hotu Matu’a.    The king trusted Hau Maka’s dream. He gathered all of his people and ordered them to prepare for a long sea journey to a new land. The people set sail with everything they had. After two months, they reached Anakena Bay on Easter Island, and found it just as the king’s tattooist had described.     Polynesians crossed more than 2,000 miles of the Pacific to find and settle Hawaii in the same way.     Captain Cook saw the skills of the wayfinder when he took the Polynesian navigator Tupaia with him on a voyage of more than 13,000 km from Tahiti to New Zealand. Cook noted that at all times the wayfinder knew the exact direction of Tahiti.    It was hard for the outside world to understand or credit their extraordinary prowess as navigators until the Polynesian Voyaging Society launched a double-hulled catamaran, dubbed the Hokule'a (the Hawaiian name for Arcturus, the sacred star of Hawaii) in 1975, and Hawaiians crossed the seas the old-fashioned way.     Nainoa Thompson and the organizers brought a master navigator, a wayfinder or waymaker, from Micronesia to train the crew. His name was Mau Piailug. He was born on a coral islet smaller than one square mile, in the Caroline islands. His father and his grandfather were wayfinders. They began his training by keeping him in a tidal pool for hours when he was an infant. When he became seasick on his first sea voyage, aged eight, they tide him to the back of the canoe by a rope and dragged him through open waters until the nausea passed. When he was fourteen, he tied his own testicles to the rigging of a canoe to become fully sensitive to the movements.    He learned to read the coming of a storm in a halo round the moon and in the movement of dolphins heading for sheltered waters.    In preparing the crew of the Hokule'a for the voyage to Tahiti, he trained them to read wind and water, stars and birds, as he did. The master class took them deeper. On a point of land on Oahu, he had them spin until their senses were blurred and then tasked them to turn, eyes closed, in the direction of the island that was their destination.     When satisfied they were pointing the right way, he told them: "Go there. Be there with all of your senses." He wanted them to grow the destination so strong, in their minds and their inner senses, that they would bring the island towards them, Finally, he instructed them, "Hold the vision in your mind so you do not become lost."

Image: Hokule'a

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Your dreams give you myths to live by

I sense the iron inside my body, and I know that it is the dust of an exploding star. The iron in my body connects me with the supernova that created my galaxy, and as I move and stretch I feel the whole cosmology is alive in me. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe is leaving us. I see her starting to rise up off the sun-parched earth where her children in Mexico have been savagely abused. I am saddened to think that the cruelty and ignorance of humans may be losing us the support of higher powers.

I go to my special place in nature, by the white pines along the creek. For the first time ever,I find no solace here. I feel separate from nature, after separating myself from the hurry of people at the office. I try to imagine myself going deep inside the earth and finding refuge there, but today I can't manage that either. What has happened to divorce me from nature? Is it me, or is it all of us?

I am at a train station. I encounter an old woman with her daughter. Their heads are those of ravens. The old woman turns to me and her feathers turn white. The white-capped Raven Woman says to me, "Things are all happening too fast in your world. It's time to lift off. We'll come back at the right time." With this, she flutters up into the air. I realize that from her perspective it's possible to see far across time and space, beyond our present confusion.

I come to a living tree, There is the living face of a woman in the bark of the tree. The tendrils of her hair are like the serpents of Medusa. Now a great bull comes, stamping and snorting, magnificent and scary in his virile strength. As he stamps down, his hooves take root in the earth and little by little, he becomes part of the tree. I am amazed that the bull energy can be rooted and grounded like this. I want to plant this strength around me, in my life.

I am on the track of a part of myself that has been long buried in the ground. I feel the presence of a being that loves me, holding me by the shoulders, gently supporting me. The name of the woman that has been buried sounds like Michelle but is actually My-Shell, the part of me that had to hide and make itself small. I will dig as long and deep as it takes to bring her back to me.

These are summaries, in exact sequence, of dreams and visions that were shared one evening by members of an active dreaming circle that I lead in my home neighborhood. Not only does each report have mythic power; it is possible to read the whole sequence as a single mythic narrative.
     It starts (where else?) with the creation of our world. It dramatizes the perennial danger of the Dark Times that come when human behavior forfeits the support of higher powers and estranges us from the Earth. It introduces uncanny guides and living symbols: the woman who becomes White Raven, the bull (primal power of the ancients, consort of the goddess and preferred form of the gods) who becomes a tree. It brings the story home to us in the invitation to a personal quest for soul recovery, to bring out of the Earth what has been kept safe there through a time of trouble and trauma.
    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 see from the reports I have quoted above that our dreams provide that place, if we show up and remember.

Image by French artist and dream teacher Véronique Barek-Deligny