Friday, April 27, 2012

Memories of double lives

Waking, we remember (and more often forget) scenes from a life lived somewhere else. Dreaming, we do the same.
    The other night, I attended a board meeting of a society devoted to the study of parallel worlds. We were joined by members of the Baltic Section. I had to use all of my charm to warm up a dour, austere Estonian.
    Leaving the building, I ran into the local chief of police. He was wearing a bowler and a camel-colored overcoat and sported an elegant moustache. He looked rather like Hercule Poirot. I was eager to recruit his support, because I wanted information from him I could use in a book. He was reserved at the start of our conversation, but my charm worked again, and he decided to change his plan for the evening and accompany me to a coffee house or bar.
    My attention drifted for a moment, because I was receiving a call from home. It was as distinct as a telephone call, but there was no ring and no equipment. I explained to my wife that a classmate from school had died that day, after a stroke.
    This mental conversation, in which I had clear memory of events in regular life, made me aware that I was traveling in a dream. I scrutinized my surroundings with keen interest, wanting to understand exactly when and where I was, and to retain this information when I returned to default (or physical) reality. Riga. There was no doubt in my mind. I was in Riga at the end of World War I, in the time of the Bolsheviks and the famous Latvian riflemen who saved Lenin. There was cordite in the air. Tremendous forces were stirring; games of nations and cloak-and-dagger intrigues were the order of the day.
    I did not linger over my glass with the Riga police chief. I needed to return to the business of the present day, and get ready to start a workshop session. But first, I would note all the names and details I could bring back, for follow-up research; it would be wearisome to share them here, without a much fuller narrative. They could provide plot and characters for an entertainment by Eric Ambler or Graham Greene, or perhaps Alan Furst. I am not planning to write in this vein again myself, though one of my dream doubles may have different ideas.
    Let me return to the general theme. Dreaming may be traveling, and our travels can take us across a rich geography - in this world and in other worlds - and across time as well as space. We may lead continuous lives in dreams, as we seem to do for much of the time in our physical world, except when the continuity is broken by a dire event. When we awaken to all that is going on in our dream lives we will discover, as Jean Cocteau did, that life can be more than "twice as huge and twice as long" as it is for those who live in the illusion that they inhabit only one world.
    Of course, even the most active dreamer can be amnesiac in one reality about what is going on, or recently went on, in the other. It is intriguing to study how memory returns. In waking life, we may remember a forgotten dream episode under the shower, or walking the dog, or in a moment of deja vu. Dreaming, the prompt to remember details of waking life comes in many ways. One of my favorite examples: you are getting ready to have sex with a dream partner, but then remember that (in the ordinary world) you are married or in a relationship. In Riga, in a time of war and revolution around 1918, I remembered something I had learned in April, 2012 and wanted to tell my wife: I had received an email informing me that a classmate from high school had just died, the first of my classmates (to my knowledge) to cross over.
    Riga in 1918 may not be on your list of travel destinations, but you may find that your dream self is traveling to places and times you never considered, and leading a rich life in a world quite different from the one in which you are reading this post.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

My double, the falcon-man and dream detective

I am deliciously sleepy, and roll on my side under the covers, in the gray pre-dawn light. As I do this, I become aware that I am not alone in the bed. I am startled, but have no sense of an intruder. I am so very sleepy that I barely manage to stir to see what is going on. I have the distinct impression of a male form on the other side of the bed, turning the other way. Now he is rising from the bed. 
     I know him by the broad shoulders and shaggy mane of white hair, though he is leaner and fitter than my regular self, toned and golden. He is my dream double, and as I let my physical body relax into dormancy, he is getting ready for adventures.
     I am curious to see where he will go this early morning. I follow him, in a state of lucid dreaming, to Snoqualmie Falls, which I visited - in my physical body - a few days before. He does not stop at the viewing platform. He dives into the spray of the falls, then spins and soars. He is flying among the peregrine falcons that nest among the cliffs, and I fly with him, reveling in the pure joy of being airborne.
     I stay with him as he skims the waterfall, plunging straight down to the boiling waters below, and then streams with the course of the channel, gathering water-power. I feel the tremendous charge.
    Now he is following a smaller stream, a tributary, up into dry country. He flies across across dusty plains until he comes down somewhere far to the East, and changes into a detective in a detective's hat. He is on a case, and he has a squad of efficient cops at his command. He moves with speed and precision to investigate a crime, clean up the crime scene, and place those responsible under restraint. The details are another story, for a longer narrative.
    The performance of my double as dream detective fills me with satisfaction. I fly back now, over the mountain pass, over the falls, to my resting body.

- Mosswood Hollow, April 21, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Snoqualmie Falls, photo by R.M.

She says, "I am here because
I got stuck in a garden hose."
He says, "I am here to free my ancestors
from the stories that bind them."
She says, "I am here to find my home star."
He says, "I am here because you showed me paradise
and then told me I could not stay with you forever."
I am here because peregrine falcons
love to live on the edge in the spray of the falls.

There are dreams you should not follow;
there are pictures you should let slip from your wall.
There are memories of the future you can change.
There is one dream you must follow
so you can say to your Death, next time he calls,
"I did not leave that undone.
I did not let my courage fail me.
I did not obstruct water when it should flow."

Time rushes towards you from the future
through the teeth of a savage god.
Don't freeze in the pie-shaped office,
don't leave your body in the pizza oven.
Jump down the hole to the secret of life
before the lion comes. Find an answering flame,
play with the young girls on the pier,
keep the lively dead on speed dial,
carry Midwest mermaids to water.
Mail love apples, juggle the twelve lights,
smell the burning when rain falls through red cedars.

- Mosswood Hollow, April 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dreamers build cities without engineers

Marge Nelk, "Possible Worlds"

I am interested in how worlds are made. Dreaming, we are constantly present at the creation of cities, pleasure palaces and freak shows. Consciously or unconsciously, our dreams may become the building blocks of worlds that will outlive what made them.  We design our homes in the afterlife from these materials.
     To grasp the mechanics of this kind of reality construction, we need poetic consciousness. Let's start with an excerpt from a poem titled "Dreams" by the great Polish poet Wisława Szymborska. 


Despite the geologists’ knowledge and craft,
mocking magnets, graphs, and maps—
in a split second the dream
piles before us mountains as stony
as real life.

And since mountains, then valleys, plains
with perfect infrastructures.
Without engineers, contractors, workers,
bulldozers, diggers, or supplies—
raging highways, instant bridges,
thickly populated pop-up cities.

Without directors, megaphones, and cameramen—
crowds knowing exactly when to frighten us
and when to vanish.

Without architects deft in their craft,
without carpenters, bricklayers, concrete pourers—
on the path a sudden house just like a toy,
and in it vast halls that echo with our steps
and walls constructed out of solid air.

Not just the scale, it’s also the precision—
a specific watch, an entire fly,
on the table a cloth with cross-stitched flowers,
a bitten apple with teeth marks.

-  The complete version of this poem by the Polish poet and Nobel laureate, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, appeared in the September 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dialogue between the Sleeper and the Awakened

René Magritte, "The Eye"

Your mind on my purpose
my purpose on your mind

I am with you everywhere
I see when you are in darkness
I am awake when you are asleep

When our energies are harmonized
everything is possible

I am the mountain you seek to ascend

- from an inner dialogue in my 1988 journals

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wait, my dog isn't a girl & I can turn cartwheels (& other clues to alternate realities)

Oskar in the morning. RM sketch
I am snuggling with my little black dog. She is so silky and soft and sweet. I make a comment about how her puppies would be adorable if she were able to be a mother.
    Then I return to two projects in which I am engaged. One is a house move; we have stripped the rooms in our home to a few sticks of furniture and a lot of books and papers that I will need to sort out, because we can't take all of them. At the same time, I have taken delivery of a crate of investigative reports on corruption and intrigue in the corporate world. I read through these reports at high speed, absorbing the information.
    Next, I am watching a TV series or documentary in which the corporate drama is brought to life. The story line centers on rivalry between two men who knew each other as boys. I am impressed by how strongly the boy actors on the screen resemble the adult versions. Perhaps they are not actors; this could be documentary footage of the corporate players themselves.
   Now I have stepped right inside the world of corporate intrigue. I am perhaps in my mid-thirties, in a beautifully fitted summer-weight suit, moving easily in a world of powerful men. I have adversaries here, rivals for room at the top and a man I have publicly scolded for bullying his juniors and harassing women. As I exit the building with a bunch of suits, I trip on a step. Instead of falling, I turn a perfect cartwheel. I feel this in every part of my body; it is quite thrilling. However, when I land on my feet I am a bit wobbly. I would like someone to give me some support. Since no one does, I turn another cartwheel, then another, until I find solid footing.

This is a summary of some of my dream activity last night. I'm sharing it because it leads me to reflect on dream transits in which we shift from one reality - and sometimes from one body or identity - to another, and on clues to these shifts that may be a trigger for dream lucidity.
    In the first scene, I have a female black Schnauzer. In ordinary reality, I have her brother. When I met the litter, I fell in love with Oskar's sister, but did not bring her home because I had insisted that the next dog would be a boy and also that we could not accommodate two puppies in our house. So the fact that my dream dog is a girl is a clue that I am in a separate reality. My home in this scene is not my present home, and although a future house move is always a possibility, the particular move we are making here is quite unlikely. Yes, I could (with groans) thin out my books and papers. No, I am not likely to pursue detailed research into corporate crime, though when I think about it I am quite angry about how financial criminals have undermined the economy and wrecked lives of ordinary people.
    Then we shift to a drama observed on a screen like a TV series.
    Then it seems my dream self has stepped through the screen, and entered the situation - and seemingly, the body - of another person, a younger corporate American male who can turn cartwheels, something I have never managed to do, and operates in a kind of "Mad Men" environment (though not necessarily in the 1950s).
    He could of course be a part of me, but I don't think so. There could be an element of what Jung called the "compensation" factor. My life choices are very remote from business calculations; I live in a world of women much more than men; and worldly power and money don't rank anywhere in my personal scale of values. The dream - like dreams in which I am leading warriors or engaged in secret operations in various times - may "compensate" for what is absent from the gentler way I have chosen as a dream teacher and healer.
     Yet I have the strong feeling that when I went through the screen, I entered another man's world. Why was I drawn to his life? To clarify that, I tried to reenter the dream to get more information, and succeeded in gathering certain names and details I can now research. I will track whether the dream may relate to other people connected with me, now or in the past or (especially) the future, and I will be alert to future discoveries that may provide more of a context.
    I'll add this report to my bulging file of cases of dream entry into alternate realities, and other lives.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ancient Mother and the Deer King

In one of my Tarot for Dreamers workshops, I asked the group to journey into the twinned images of the Empress and the Emperor, trumps III and IV.  I had powerful visions, which I sketched.
    I saw the Empress as Ancient Mother, a deep-bosomed Earth Goddess seated with or within the World Tree. From her womb she is birthing a world. From her flows a gentle inundation that feeds and nourishes a vast population - tiny in proportion to her - that is gathered around her. Above her, the branches of the World Tree form the exact shape of a tremendous rack of antlers. At the same time, they are taproots reaching into the Sky World. One-liner for her: "Praise and serve the Mother and re-enchant the world."
    I saw the Emperor as the Deer King, wearing an antlered crown that exactly reproduces the shape of the branches or sky roots of the World Tree. In a total re-visioning of the classic male-domineering Red Emperor of conventional Tarot, this is the sacred king whose power is the gift of the goddess and who joins with her in sacred union. One-liner for him: "The power of the true king is the gift of the Goddess."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The cherry trees are disconsolate lovers

The cherry trees are disconsolate lovers
they can’t hold their pink smiles
after the unkindness of that night.
The wind here is straight from Chicago
it will snap you unless you bend.
The news from far-off money towns
is the clamor of falling towers.

Yet my woolly dog is happy chasing
a well-chewed stick and a wet spaniel,
a green-headed duck is talking quarks
with a brown-headed duck on the lake shore
and my friend is reading poems of spring
in a language she knows only in dreams.
The wild cherries will bloom again.

-       -   Lines in the Park, April 9, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shamanism & Healing on the Dream Show April 10

Can we look to ancient shamanic practice to reduce health costs, promote healing, restore soul to medicine and balance to our lives and our relations with the Earth? Bonnie Horrigan's answer is forthright: "Tens of thousands of years of shamanism says that we can."
Bonnie Horrigan
    Bonnie is my guest on the my next "Way of the Dreamer" radio show on, LIVE on Tuesday April 10th. Our theme is Shamanism, Dreaming and Healing and I look forward to a very lively conversation.
    Bonnie J. Horrigan, co-founder and former publisher of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a breakthrough medical journal examining alternative and cross-cultural healing practices and the relationship of the human spirit to health and healing.  She is currently editorial director for EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, a new medical journal that examines the healing arts, spirituality and consciousness. Bonnie co-founded and serves on the board of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, a non-profit organization dedicated to the assisting the re-emergence of spiritual healing in our culture. She is the author of
 Red Moon Passage and Voices of Integrative Medicine.
    You can listen in to the show live on from 9-10 AM Pacific time, which is 12 noon-1 PM Eastern, on April 10th; or access the archive and download or listen to previous shows here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Soul Theft and After: The Butterfly Return

A few days ago, I was saddened to see this sign tacked to a tree on my street. I remembered when those vividly colored solar butterflies appeared on the block, ready to flutter their wings in a shaft of sunlight. I thought it was very sweet that a young woman renting a street-level apartment had decided to brighten the sidewalk in front of her building, and hoped that passers-by would respect her gift.   
    The theft of the solar butterflies made me think about theft of soul. In Greek, the word psyche means both "butterfly" and "soul". In many cultures, butterflies are a metaphor for soul, and for growing soul, because of their amazing life cycle of metamorphosis. They go through four stages, in each of which they appear entirely different. They are born inside eggs. They emerge as caterpillars (or larvae) shedding their skins several times as they get bigger. Then they produce their own crucible of transforming: the chrysalis, inside which their tissues break down and they liquefy, on the way to emerging in a new form, ready to fly. Talk about earning your wings!
     This morning, the J'accuse was gone from the tree. It seems to have done the trick; the solar butterflies are back on their posts.
    The homecoming of the solar butterflies is a happy reminder that while pieces of soul can be lost or stolen in any life on the planet, soul can also be returned. Sometimes that requires us to recognize what we have lost, and speak our truth. Sometimes it requires us to take inventory of the souls we may have taken; for example, by holding on to a part of someone with whom we once shared a relationship.
    The sun is coming out from behind the clouds. I want to see those wings flutter and shine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dream Islands

Marge Nelk, "Island Monster"
There is a lovely younger woman whose skin glows like pearls, and a stocky little man with frizzy red hair and beard who has been watching me for some time, possibly the whole time I have been on the island.
    I have something I must do, and I leave them in their beds in a communal space we are sharing with others, to tiptoe out into the night. The air is charged with excitement and intrigue.
    Now I am off the island, back in my bed at home, where it's nearly 4:00 a.m. according to the digital clock. I could go to the bathroom, but I don't want to lose my way back to the island, so I lie on my back and make it my intention to return to the moon pearl woman and a mystery I don't yet understand.
    Time runs differently on the island. It is now broad daylight. I swim and go through a busy morning schedule on the other side of the island. The people I was with before are in East End. To get to them, I choose to hike across the middle of the island. Leaving the coast road, I follow a winding trail through forest up into the highlands. There are thrilling views across land and sea, and waterfalls and long-tailed birds in flashing colors, but the going is getting hard. There is a resort hotel up on the mountain ahead of me; maybe I can get some wheels there. But the final ascent is very steep.
    I notice a man in khakis, perhaps one of the hotel staff, slip through a door in a cliff beside the path. The door was invisible until he opened it. I follow him through. Going this route, I get to the hotel up a short flight of steps, avoiding the long hard climb. Distance is not a constant on the island; how you approach things determines how near or far you are. I am noticing now that the surface of things here is a facade. Backstage is a different reality.
    I enter the hotel lobby. There is a great hubbub, people checking our or waiting with their bags for an airport shuttle. They are leaving a conference. I recognize one woman, and several of her colleagues recognize me. They are all members of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. Did I get a message from a new committee chairperson? They are eager to recruit me for a new project. I'm non-committal, since I am not a committee person.
    I ask at the desk about getting a taxi or shuttle to East End. It seems this is a busy season; no taxis are available, and they warn me that the bus service is notoriously unreliable. Someone may be able to rent me a VW bug, which I am assured is the best vehicle for travel to East End, but this will take time to arrange.
    "Backstage!" I bark at the people at the desk. My volume is the product of excitement, rather than frustration, because I have just realized that what happened with the stairs under the cliff may be possible anywhere on the island. Step behind the facade, fold time and space. "Show me the way to Backstage!"
    Some of the people look at me as if I’m crazy. But someone at the back with a jacket and badge seems to understand, and speaks into a radio phone. Maybe I don’t need anybody’s help to find the entrance I am seeking. Maybe it will simply open with my realization that this whole island environment is a constructed reality. Maybe this is the real point of lucid dreaming. To wake ourselves up to the nature of reality construction, and our ability to change things by recognizing that no world may be as solid as it seems.

     I’m getting excited now, fully lucid inside my dream. The fact that I am on an island may be a clue to the nature of “I-lands”, locales or worlds created – generally unconsciously – from our dreams and memories and desires. Let’s see. I’ve brought in extras from dream conferences I’ve attended. I have melded Disneyland and memories of both Hawaii and Bermuda for the geography and resort setting. What about the stocky, bullet-headed guy who’s been watching me? Is he a character from previous dreams?  And who is the pearly white woman?
    Backstage. No one at the hotel desk seems willing or able to show me, so I will myself there. Backstage. Surely my desire for the moon pearl woman will get me to East End.
     The sound, in a high male voice, comes like a clap of wind in front of my face, slightly to the right. I feel quite sure this is coming from outside myself, and also that it is a deliberate intrusion or interruption. There is the same transpersonal feeling that came when a woman’s voice said BA in my “Egyptian” vision earlier this week. But while the woman’s voice seemed to be giving an explanation and a direction, the male voice seems bent on interrupting my presence in the lucid dream. Whether or not this is also the purpose, it shakes any assumption that the dreamscape is solely mine.
    I’m off-island now, thinking things over. I am not convinced that all the characters and features of the dream are projections. While I have been in a constructed reality, other minds may have taken part in the building, and it may be shared with others, both residents and visitors, and fellow-travelers. To know more, I really need to go Backstage and find my way to East End. But this will now require a new trip.
As for BRU: Can it be that what I heard was Brugh, which in Ireland is the name for a domain or palace of the Sidhe, the Faery Folk? The moon pearl woman and the stocky little man would certainly not look out of place in their territory.

- from last night's dreaming

Marge Nelk is a wonderful Estonian artist and "illusionista"; for more of her work, journey here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Meeting my boy authors in the Dead Poets' Library

One of the places I love to go for creative inspiration is a Secret Library. The books are alive; open any one and you are magically transported into the realm for which it is a record and a key. Some of the books fly around on their own when not leashed to a long table or placed inside the fine mesh of bird cages of exquisite design.
     This is a place of dead poets who are very much alive. I have had many encounters with W.B.Yeats in the Secret Library. I was reckless enough to describe some of these in detail in my Dreamers' Book of the Dead on the principle well stated by Mark Twain (who is also no stranger to these premises) that "I don't want to hear about the Moon from someone who hasn't been there."
     The doors to the Secret Library open in dream, and through memory, and are oiled by the practice of going there and bringing back gifts and doing something creative with those gifts. I wrote the last phrase a little nervously, because I am aware I have yet to fulfill assignments given to me by the fiercest of the mentors I have ever encountered in my Secret Library.

I go up the stones steps and through the glass doors on a fine spring day when the fruit trees are in flower and the street is full of cheerful bicyclists in bright colors. I nod to the Librarian. I notice an unusual stir of activity in the lobby and the main reading room. These spaces are crowded with people, some familiar. I see Yeats in the distance, and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis with their pipes and pots of beer, and RLS romantically attired in Scottish dress. I see Jung, with a flash of kingfisher blue in the field around his three-piece woolen suit; and the bard with the silver brooch; and Borges in the corner, with a jeweler’s glass.
    I would love to consult with all of them. I'm not going to waste a second questioning whether they are real figures or figments of my imagination, as long as they can give me some good stuff, maybe the makings of a new book.
    But three boys block my way, clamoring for my attention. I would guess their ages as six, nine and twelve. They are very familiar. I have seen them in family photo albums, and in dreams.
    "What do you want?"
    "We've been telling you," says the six-year-old.
    "We've told you again and again, in dream after dream," says the twelve-year-old.
    "And you wouldn't listen," says nine-year-old Robert. Did I really have that many freckles when I was nine?

 "I’m listening now," I tell them. "What do you want?"
“I want a train,” says Six.
“I want toy soldiers,” says Nine
“I want girls, but not the yucky kind, and Nazis to fight,” says Twelve.
“I want a Bear,” says Six.
“I want a Lion,” says Nine.
“I want an Eagle,” says Twelve.
“I want my father,” says Six.
“I want my sister,” says Nine.
“I want the Mage of the Purple Mountain,” says Twelve.
They tell me, as a chorus: “You should listen to us much more than you do. We are the ones who can help you write the best book you have ever written, the one that everyone will want to read."
     I'm listening now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Walking with dreams

A simple everyday practice I enjoy is to walk with a dream (my own or someone else's) and see what comes to me, gently and spontaneously, as its memory lingers.
     Sometimes the dream comes alive again, and I find myself slipping back inside, noticing things I forgot when I woke up. Letting my mind as well as my feet ramble, I can make creative connections. The world may give me a second opinion on the dream through the play of synchronicity. I may enter into a mental dialogue with a dream character, which can help to illuminate whether that dream figure is an aspect of myself, or another person, or both.
     That was my theme on my dream walk this morning. In the scene from last night's dreams that most intrigued me, I am with an older male friend I have not seen in many years in ordinary reality. I need to obtain an important certificate or identity document, perhaps a visa. There will be several checks, and I will be asked various questions, in a large official building where lots of people are standing in line. This process could take quite a while, and I'm always a little edgy when I have to go through situations like this.
    My friend makes everything amazingly easy. He drives me to the official building. Then, instead of joining the lines, my friend drives right inside, through a private entrance and ferries me from desk to desk, still in the car. I show my papers to a series of officials, leaning out the passenger window, and their questions are easily dealt with. All is well.
     On my walk with this dream, I thought about how life offers us a series of tests and checks, and we may be called on repeatedly to claim our identity both literally and metaphorically. My main question about the dream was: who is the man at the wheel who gets me through this process so smoothly? I am going to check in with the friend I haven't seen in years, but - though dreams are often literal and transpersonal - I have a strong hunch that on this occasion, the man at the wheel is an aspect of myself.
     So, as I walk in the park, I am making a mental inventory of phrases I would use to describe my friend to another person. 

- he is a big, strong man, a former college linebacker who likes sports
- he is a thinking/sensory type, rather than a feeling/intuitive type
- if I were to choose a tarot card to represent him, it would probably be the King of Disks
- he is a hard-nosed realist about people and situations
- he owns (or did own when I last saw him) a miniature Schnauzer

    Now I am ready to ask "What part of me?" resembles this description. Well, I am fairly big (though not as big as my friend); I am no sports fan but I did watch the NCAA semi-finals (and saw Kentucky, the team I picked to win the series, beat Louisville). I inhabit the world in a different way from my friend. I live by intuition and trust my feelings. I am a King of Cups or of Wands rather than a King of Disks. I tend to look for the best in people and situations. I do have a miniature Schnauzer, actually two of them (one very old and doddery, one young and charged with boundless energy).
    For now, my action plan, guided by my dream walk, will be simply to remember to let the part of me that is the King of Disks take charge, with pragmatism and everyday driving skills, when I face any checks or tests resembling those in the scene where my friend was at the wheel.