Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Play's the Thing

Hello all -- been gone a little while. Had a loverly MemDay Weekend -- birthday barbeque for my wife, and a lumberjack afternoon on Monday with my friend Eric and three chainsaws, making firewood for this coming winter. As you can see I am still typing nicely, and therefore rest assured Eric and I didn't lose any fingers while chopping down an old juniper or two.

One of the richest dreamcrafting techniques taught by Robert Moss is Dream Theater. In dream theater, a dreamer invites the gathered circle to enact one of her dreams. She chooses a director, who helps her choose members of the circle to play roles from the dream. The dreamer casts someone to play herself, and then the other persons/characters in the dream. Any element of the dream that might be significant can be portrayed by an actor, if you have a large group to draw upon. I've seen people play eagles, walls, fires, and the Great Storm Wind (the latter was played by a group of five, whirling and dancing around the room). Once all the roles have been cast, the dreamer -- with the help of the director -- describes the action of the dream and slowly the actors walk through the events as they're told. This continues until the end of the dream is reached. Often, the portrayers are encouraged to improvise if they feel moved to do so (without derailing the overall arc of the dream). Once the first enactment of the dream is complete, the director asks the dreamer for feedback for the players, to sharpen the overall resonance of the play. Then, the dreamer takes their place in their own dream and plays themselves in a second enactment. If the dream ended inconclusively or in an unsatisfying way for the dreamer, we then resolve to "dream it forward" during the second portrayal, continuing the enactment until a conclusion is reached or improvising a new ending entirely. Once the second enactment is finished, the director then helps the dreamer engage the players in a Q&A session, allowing the actors to give feedback to the dreamer ("As I was playing the Great Storm Wind, I realized I wasn't here to destroy anything really, but only to sweep the slate clean to make for a new beginning.").

Being cast to play a role in someone else's dream means stepping out of our own skins to play any number of delightful characters -- and often during dream theater the most amazing serendipitous moments of healing and understanding occur. Certainly it is therapeutic for the dreamer, but it is also juicy for the actors as well.

During my first excursion into dream theater I was cast to play the role of the father of the dreamer -- a man who had only recently passed away. In the dream, I was hidden from my son by the veil of death, although he was haunted by the sound of my dead heart beating. In the hushed, darkened room, as other participants drummed on the floor with their hands to portray the heartbeats, my "son" gathered his courage and opened the veil of death to speak with me. In the ensuing conversation, he learned that the heartbeats were mine and his -- as I figuratively lived on in my descendant. More was discussed but in the interest of privacy I musn't divulge all (after all, part of the magic of a dream circle is its familial confidentiality -- what happens in Dream Vegas, stays in Dream Vegas, if you will). I can say that by the time he and I embraced and the enactment came to a close there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

As part of me recovered from the experience, another part of me marveled "whoa, this is *strong* stuff!"

I have played Orpheus in a re-enactment of the journey of the Argo (improvising a soundtrack for the dream as I went), played a hunter feared by a village whose deepest wish is to leave the forest and rejoin civilization, a cantankerous bus driver busily throwing everyone off his bus, and was also one of the dervishes blowing about the room as the Great Storm Wind.

In the circles I lead, we nearly always make time for dream theater. In gets energy flowing and provides it with a meaningful path of action. And isn't that a pretty good description of time well spent? And if we, as a group, can help a dreamer reach understanding or find healing, then we have honored the dream itself...and each other. To mangle Willy S: "The play's the thing / where we'll catch the essence of the dream!"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Testing, Testing...1, 2, 3...

Our lives are filled with tests and trials. Some are mundane and relatively unremarkable: can you juggle a busy schedule? Can you pass the notary public exam? Can you keep your temper when 5 different annoyances are stomping all over your last vestige of cool? Others are far more challenging: can you maintain an even keel in your overall life when a relationship is falling apart? Can you stick up for what you believe in? Can you face a longstanding fear that's choking your spirit?

Our dreams are full of inspiration, reassurance, guidance and good ol' motivational kicks in the derriere.

Sometimes a tutelary spirit shows up with wisdom or a push in the right direction. I have had a number of visits from a
Sidhe ("shee") woman -- each time in a different guise, but always the same individual. Most recently, she urged me on by saying "you must find your voice." (Well, here I am!)

When I feel the yearning to be a part of a vibrant community of progressive, spiritually active, action-oriented people, I often have dreams wherein I am welcomed by such a community on the other side. These visits are helping me create a model for the community I am actively seeking to manifest in my life. It's beginning to happen, in slow if steady increments. Being in contact with the folks in dreaming helps convince me that not only is it possible, but it is inevitable.

Back in 1998, I had a dream of my old life on Maui that was so juicy, so hellaciously intense that I awoke with the clear taste of fresh mango in my mouth. That evening, when I returned from work still inspired, I started typing the dream up on my Mac. About four months later I had a 400-page novel. It was loosely based on actual events from the time I lived on Maui (ua mau / ke ea o ka aina / i ka pono!) and full of spiritual awakening, initiation, shamanic consciousness and the deep magic of earthairfirewater that is Hawai`i. When I wrote the story, I didn't know what the word "shamanic" meant, much less any of the spiritual practices I would come to study starting in 2000. Re-reading the book later, it was amazing to see the echoes of my future on pages I wrote before I knew consciously what I was talking about. Inspiration, indeed. (Think for a moment about that word "inspire" -- combining as it does "breath", "in", and "spirit.")

These are just a few examples of the ways in which dreamcrafting stokes my mojo and energizes my mind/heart/soul when I'm facing an obstacle or daunting situation. We are here to embrace these trials, to "brave up" as Robert Moss says -- to face our fears. In transcending them we are transformed. We become more of who we were born to be.

In Mark Helprin's novel "Winter's Tale," the protagonist Peter Lake speaks of his arch-nemeses (a deadly, amoral gang known as the Short Tails) in this way: "They're always everywhere, though at times they do seem to disappear [for a while]. I'm glad they exist. When they chase me, they make me do things I never thought I could do." (p. 619 of the paperback edition) (by the by, I most heartily recommend the book).

And that's exactly how we should approach that which frightens, intimidates or awes us. Honor that which vexes us, for it gives us the opportunity to grow. It also provides us with a chance to reach across the veil into the dreaming to see what allies and guides await us...and what gifts and wisdom they have for us. I will write more of allies and guides anon -- but for now: Get to it!

Tonight, as you lay in bed with the lights out, visualize some situation, question or person that is bothering you. Imagine it in as much detail as you can muster. And then, ask for help/guidance/inspiration or that aforementioned kick in the pants. And then tell yourself you will remember your dream when you awaken. And then -- act on it!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dream Journal: May 20, 2006 -- "Don't Get Sold"

I had this dream this past Saturday night:

"Don't Get Sold"

In the first section of the dream, I am in a small hill town in the Himalayas, maybe Nepal. What is remarkable about this part of the dream is not what I do -- travel around the town socializing with some of the friendly locals, chat with some Western tourists that are passing through, go to the market, etc. -- but rather how I do it. To get from one spot to the next, I "ski" across the snowy ground on my feet. It's something like rollerblading (digression: I was once an expert 'blader, regularly playing "kill me if you can" with the street traffic in New York City [I had a full-on Taliban-style beard then and my hair was halfway down my back...I'd be wearing wraparound sunglasses as I'd bomb down 7th Ave from Times Square to the Village, hair-a-flyin'...the look on the faces of cab passengers as they watched me passing their taxi {which itself was traveling at 20-25 mph} was always priceless -- somewhere between awestruck consternation and outright stuttering panic]) in the way I'd move my legs to control my velocity and direction. It was an intoxicating feeling of power and grace, especially in the offhand way I did it.

As there often is for me, there was a brief break or *shift* and then the dream continued.

In the second section, I was at a ski resort in some American town. It felt and looked like the Rockies -- maybe Park City. The resort was brand new and having its grand opening gala. A friend of mine (let's call him B) -- a guy I was once close to but our life paths have diverged in a yuge way in the last 10-12 years -- was on the local board that was responsible for the grand opening. And as is usually the case, when somebody's throwing a big to-do, they're selling something. In this case, B was selling ski equipment. I ran into him outside one of the resort's lodges and we chatted a bit to catch up with each other. Then he told me he had skiing gear inside the lodge for sale and wouldn't I want to take a look? He insisted I'd be *crazy* not to, since it was such amazing equipment and discounted for their Grand Opening Gala Sale! I wasn't really in the market to buy, but he was persistent and I eventually decided to go have a look. Once inside, he led me to the display area, which was mobbed by a crowd in a Ski-Gear-Buying Frenzy. "Omygawd Norman lookit these!" one middle-aged woman was yelling at her husband as she brandished a pair of cross-country skis that were flopping around like they were made out of soft rubber. I picked up another pair of skis that were, to my surprise, made from laminated brown banana peels. All the equipment was bizarrely defective or ludicrously designed in one way or another (one pair of skis were curved such that they would make an 'O' on the ground underneath you when you put them on). Even so, I was gamely sifting through all the stuff on sale to see what I could find when I woke up.

When I told my wife about the dream, it took her all of three seconds to point out: who needs to buy B's crummy stuff when you "ski" just fine on your own two feet?*

Who indeed?

In terms of honoring this dream -- putting its juice to work here in the waking world -- I have my antennae out for snake oil salesmen/women: who's gonna try and sell me something (whether a material thing or an idea) that's a shabby, useless replacement for something I already have? Stay tuned...

* (insert joke about my size 13 feet here)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Practical Dreaming #4: Part II -- Enriching Our Relationships -or- "Move Over, Dr. Phil"

In part I of this post (see below), I talked about how sharing dreams can help us make deep and interesting connections with people we might otherwise not "get". In dreaming, we can also find guidance about how to proceed with relationships we already have; our dreams can show us how to handle interpersonal challenges that we might otherwise blunder our way through, with negative outcomes.

On November 11, 2002, I had the following dream ("A" is the woman I had then been dating for about 6 weeks):

"Shape the Words, Shape the Worlds"

A and I are stretched out luxuriously on a sofa in a black room. We're talking as we touch each other and snuggle. Our energies are expanded and mutually harmonious. At one point in our conversation, a piece of interpersonal conflict comes up and our energies contract and cool. We then simultaneously speak aloud words describing the point of conflict. The word-concept takes physical form in the air in front of us. As we discuss and chew it over together, it changes shape accordingly. When we reach a point of understanding and resolution, the shape takes on a harmonious form and we release it out into the world, where it will become a part of our common reality. This process is repeated as we discover other places of contraction and/or misunderstanding. The entire dream is immensely satisfying.

There are areas of difficulty and conflict in any relationship, no matter how felicitous and juicy your connection with that other person. Too many people approach relationship as if the paramount issue is to avoid conflict. I believe that it is crucial to acknowledge the areas of disagreement, even to expect them. What is paramount is *how* we approach the places of disconnect. In "Shape the Words" I am given a gift which affirms that belief -- "Be ready for you and A to knock heads, but when you do, hold your heart open, talk and feel your way into the conflict. Hold the conflict up to the light, turn it over and delve into it together, examine it and then speak from your heart. If you keep at it in a caring way, you and she can transform and release it instead of holding on to your separate positions and letting it fester and remain a catching-point that prevents the deepening of the relationship."

Such nuggets o'wisdom are laced through our dreaming all the time. Sometimes they're specific to one person or situation, sometimes they're more general (say, a reminder to hold your own against people in your life that tend to try and roll right over you). But we cannot make use of this help and support unless we're paying attention. Keep listening always.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Practical Dreaming #5: Who's Driving? And Where Are We Headed?

We live complicated lives in a staggeringly noisy world full of difficult choices. So much effort is expended in simply getting through Monday that it isn't easy taking time and energy to evaluate where we will be Tuesday and beyond. The blaring media overwhelm that in the last few decades has crept into nearly every crevice of public space (both physical and mindspace) screams/wheedles for our conscious attention and diddles away at the edge of our unconscious mind as well. Reflective time is nearly annihilated unless we make a deliberate effort to clear space for it. And as Socrates said, "an unexamined life is not worth living."

Our dreams are one of the last places our mind and spirit are able to range out unmolested by the physical world and its stentorian babble. And even then, the ravenous culture of consuming can bleed in from time to time -- indicative of its omnipresence in waking life. However, when we make time to quiet ourselves and listen for the clear voice of our authentic self -- its needs, hopes and aspirations -- that voice helps us steer a true path through the neon and chrome haze of the Shiny Materialist World. I find dreamcrafting to be a potent practice for living a good life true to myself -- and not some Good Life concocted by the corporate shamans of Madison Avenue.

"Hephaestus Rides the Rails" (4/5/05)

I am riding in an old-style railroad carriage. The interior of the car is dark but lit faintly by the sunrise outside the windows. Out of the window of the car I catch sight of a second set of rails running parallel to the ones my train is on. A flatcar comes up next to me on the other rails. A solitary burly man stands astride the center of it. He's clad in a heavy leather blacksmith's apron and leather gauntlets and boots. Worn welder's goggles hide the upper half of his face. Chains run from each corner of the flatcar, coming up over his shoulders and then twisting down around his hugely-muscled arms. He pulls and twists them to control the car. When the speed of his flatcar begins to wane, he pulls a shotgun out of his apron and aims it at the sky. He fires it and a metal harpoon trailing a chain flies up into the overhanging clouds, attracting a lightning bolt. With a clap of thunder the bolt runs down the chain from the harpoon, through his body and into the flatcar, powering it forward with a burst of speed. The screechh of the flatcar's wheels is deafening and sparks fly up from the tracks. After a few minutes of observing this (at one point he turns, grins fiercely and nods at me), the tracks on which his car is travelling diverge from mine, upward and to the left and he rolls out of sight behind a copse of trees. Shortly after that, my car arrives at its destination -- a terminal with shiny plastic floors and sculpted metal walls. It's all very New and Modern and as phoney and sterile a hell as I could imagine. The latest muzak wafts quietly yet insistently out of hidden speakers. The walls are plastered with suave advertising come-ons. In the center of the terminal space three bored teenagers man a kiosk selling grotty junk snacks that are as far from actual body-nourishing food as can be and still be labelled "food."

When I awoke I had two feelings: the first was exhiliration/envy at the flatcar rider's display of raw power. The second was dismay and annoyance at the flat, fakey place I ended up. In this dream I was a passive rider. Someone else was driving the train. Someone else laid the rails. Someone else designed my carriage. Whatever happens to me, wherever I end up, I'm about as far from being in control as is possible. My burly friend (clearly a visitation from Hephaestus-- the Greco-Roman god of blacksmithing/the arts [and husband of Venus/Aphrodite]), on the other hand, not only controls his car, but draws on bolts from the sky for a power source. This dream was a clarion call to get off of the train somebody else is controlling and onto my own tracks -- and to call down the power of heaven to make it so.

To practice active dreaming is to listen to your soul. To dream actively is to return to the boundless well of true inspiration which spirit offers us, and to drink its mind-clearing waters, and remember why we came to be here. To honor our dreams is to call spirit's strength into our mind, body and soul as we walk the path of this life. Once we remember our true nature, our life is enriched and deepens with meaning beyond anything offered by the cheap counterfeit of material having. In dreaming we find the courage to become who we were born to be.

And courage we need. To walk a different path is not simple. Far easier it is to follow the superhighway so many others travel than to seek out one's own way. The creating soul of the universe did not bring me into being to eat mass-produced burgers and drive a Hummer. Nor did it gift you with the divine spark that you might do the same. Without sincere effort, our liferoad slides closer to -- and eventually becomes -- the path of least resistance. And that path is lined with megamalls and fast food joints. Dream something better for yourself -- and the world. Dream true. Dream strong.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dream Journal: February 25, 2003 -- "The Lightcrafter / Opening"

Most of the time, I have to work and/or play with a dream to assimilate its gifts of information or energy. But sometimes, a dream arrives without any gift-wrap. Fr'instance:

"The Lightcrafter / Opening" (2/25/03)

I'm in a subterranean interior landscape. It is fairly dark in the space, which is perhaps 40' across, although the light is so dim it's difficult to make out the room's dimensions. In the center of the room (in front of me) is a raised dais/altar about 6' square. There are grooves or tracks about 3" wide carved into the material of the dais. In the tracks, moving up and down the grooves are small white objects about the size of a checker piece. They are of 2 types. Although they are visually indistinguishable, I'm easily able to tell the two varieties apart. As they slide back and forth in the tracks, two of them will occasionally come into contact. When they do, there is an exchange of energy and information which is clearly visible as currents of cobalt-blue light. I watch this process awhile...


I'm seated on a dark-colored divan or couch in the same interior space, opposite an identical divan on which a faery-woman is seated. This is a small, low black table between us. She is dressed in a beautiful white gown and her dark hair is long and loose. She introduces herself as a "Lightcrafter" and then gives me an involved explanation of the purpose and use of the altar from the first segment of this dream. After speaking, she crosses her legs, placing her hands on her knee. She raises her eyebrows and waits silently -- an invitation for me to explain what I'm doing in her domain.

I tell her my name -- a name I use in dreaming -- and that I am a walker between worlds. I speak of how I'm in fear/despair about the state of Earth and when I dream I travel to dreamworlds looking for a way to help my own world. She reminds me that there's no force anywhere that is higher or more powerful than love. I admit that I know this, but I'm not able to surrender/release into the truth of it so that my knowing can become *action*.

The faery woman's eyes deepen and become starry pools as she flashes me a smile full of her glamour and says, "Well, then -- there's your task."

Practical Dreaming #4: Part I -- Enriching Our Relationships -- or -- "Houston, We Have a Connection"

Rich, deep relationships with the people in our lives are the difference between Existing and Living. Becoming an active dreamer gives us a number of different ways we can invite others into our inner life (and in turn be invited into other's inner lives) and thereby be more deeply seen and understood for who and what we truly are (and see and understand others).

It is too easy for daily conversations to become desultory recitations of our Lists: job this, spouse/S.O. that, dang that weather, didja see American Idol (24, Lost, Sopranos), and so forth. For most people, the question "How are you?" is answered with the perfunctory "fine" or another habitual response bearing little relation to how we really *are*. But put two dreamers together, and "catchup" conversation is more along the lines of --

"How am I? Well I dreamt a few weeks ago that I was in the garden with my mother -- we used to spend afternoons together out in her vegetable patch -- and I remembered how much I loved watching things grow and having those veggies on the dinner table. So I've been out in the backyard clearing space and preparing the soil, y'know, getting dirt under my fingernails. And it's been great calling my Mom for advice 'cause we have something to talk about besides how old age stinks!"

"So you and your Moms are reconnecting?"

"Yeah, and I'm working on getting *my* daughter to come out and plant things with me."

When we open to the information, wisdom and juice that's just waiting for us in dreaming, we deepen into our own selves. We reconnect with an authentic part of our own energy that yearns to be alive in this world, and as this process of self-knowing occurs, we start to seek out others with whom we can deeply connect. Many times, people we already know respond to our opening by opening up themselves. Their soul's yen for juicy life responds to the humming energy we're putting out and bang! before you know it, you and shy Maria from accounting have become dreaming friends and are giggling madly away at the first meeting of a belly dancing class -- or you've found out Ted from the PTA board does hospice volunteer work sitting with a person with a terminal illness so the family can have a few hours to get out and see a movie...and you're thinking maybe you'd find that satisfying, too. Nearly everyone out there has untapped depth in them; it's not always easy to get to it -- but being out in the world as an active dreamer tends to melt the social facades that folks wear as a matter of habit.

As a Pilates instructor, I spend a lot of time with people one on one. Certainly, the bulk of our time together is spent focused on their bodies and the work we're doing, but there is always simple chat as well. And if I had to spend 25 hours a week in small talk with my people, I'd have been lobotomized by the boredom a long time ago (I teach well over a thousand sessions a year). There's only so many different ways to say "I'm *so* tired of Tom Cruise! And egad -- poor, poor Katie!" But start talking about a dream I had, and pretty soon they're telling me about a dream *they* had, and we're quickly off to much more fertile conversational ground.

In the same way that an initial connection with a person can open up an entire relationship with them over time, making an initial connection to your own dreaming can open an entire world waiting for you on the other side of the veil of sleep. Get a paper and a pen and put it on your nightstand. Before going to sleep set two intents for yourself: 1) "I will dream tonight", and 2) "I will remember my dream, and write it down when I wake up." It's about that simple to get started. Go find out: the adventure starts anew every night!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Practical Dreaming #3: The Proleptic Faculty, or: "Stay Tuned for The Coming Attractions!"

There are many different sorts of dreams. Dreams of contact with spirit entities and/or mentors, contact with those that are passed on, or contact with those that are distant time- or geography-wise. Fun dreams that are essentially opportunities for our souls or unconscious minds to play or create (or both!). Dreams wherein we explore a number of possible solutions to a problem or issue that is vexing us in waking life. And related to this last category is the proleptic dream, or dream of the future.

Quantum mechanics (the appallingly complex and gratifyingly nonlinear physics of subatomic phenomena) tells us that not only can subatomic particles and information move backwards in time, they do. Routinely. Even pre-quantum physics (early Einstein-era) understood that although our six bodily senses experience time flowing in only one direction, time flows backwards too. And in dreaming we can sense the waves made by future events flowing "back" to us -- ripples in time. If we pay attention, we can collect information invaluable to navigating the currents of our days.

In my experience it is rare to have a dream wherein a particular friend telephones me with a particular piece of news, and then within a day or two that scenario is enacted in waking life (although I *have* had astonishingly literal and exact dreams of an imminent event). Most usually a dream of the future speaks to me metaphorically. Sometimes the symbolism is so oblique that it is only in retrospect that I understand that I dreamt an event prior to it occurring in my waking hours. And sometimes the symbolism is not only apt but direct enough that when an otherwise shocking event occurs, I'm ready for it. To wit:

In the winter of 2002-2003, I had been making my living in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. Although by nature not the corporate type, I had marketable skills and corporate was where the best money was. I was ready for something new and had been for some time. But I hadn't the courage and inspiration to make the shift. It was always -- "just another six months and I'll have enough money in the bank to take the leap," or "dang the economy's been sucking wind since 9/11 and now's just a good time to hunker down with this secure, well-paying job [need I mention full medical and dental coverage? ] until conditions get better." Spirit figured I needed a clue -- and a rude shove.

"Bon Voyage!" (2/10/03)
I am riding on a sailboat in a violent thunderstorm. It is night. The pilot sends me forward to adjust a sail as the boat heaves & leaps. Lightning-strikes are nearly constant. I get to the bow and a huge wave washes me overboard. The hull of the boat slides by me in the dark although phosphorescent sparks in the water clearly show its outline. I wait calmly, knowing I can grab a rope that hangs down from the stern (for just this purpose) and haul myself back on. After a few moments, the stern glides by and I grab the rope. But I hesitate -- unsure if I should haul myself up -- and then let the rope loose and watch the boat disappear into the darkness.

Eight days after I had this dream, my "secure, well-paying" job advised me my services were no longer required. I had been with a startup for 7 years and it had gone from a ragtag us-against-the-world group of 7 employees to a much more structured and straitlaced environment of nearly 60. The company and myself no longer fit -- a mirror reflection of the larger me-in-the-corporate-world picture. I had about four months of severance and at first assumed I'd use that time to find my next corporate gig. Then, recalling this dream, I decided against it. It meant I had no idea what exactly I would do -- other than "watch the boat disappear into the darkness"...leaving me treading water alone in a thunderstorm who knows how far from shore. But I took the cue and aimed my search in the opposite direction. In about four weeks I'd been offered a business opportunity with some longtime friends (running a Pilates studio -- body healing to go with the spirit-healing work I do) and I'm coming up on three satisfying years.

Spirit figured I needed a clue and a rude shove. I didn't have a choice about the push I got, but I had to choose to make use of the dream cue I got. As I noted in an earlier post: all the spiritual wisdom and energy we have is of no use until it's in action in practical ways.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Practical Dreaming #2: Walking The Path Ain't Complex -- or -- Don't Mistake the Path for the Journey

One of the things we humans do well is perceive patterns in complexity. Even thousands of years ago many cultures had nutted out the mechanics around solar/lunar eclipses to the point where they could predict them with great accuracy. Think about that: without the aid of computers, or maps of the solar system showing orbits and planets and ol' Sol, humanity had the ability to know when the hurtling orbs of the Moon or the Earth would pass in front of the sun and throw a shadow across the other. I take no points off their achievement if they thought the shadow was cast by some celestial dragon eating the sun or moon. When we look down our nose at the "superstitions" of ancient "primitives," we're maybe forgetting that even in this modern day great swathes of the general public think evolution is some atheist scam.

Back to complexity: we clearly have a great intellectual capacity to perceive and manage complicated things. Whether it's the science of managing traffic patterns in urban areas or a soccer mom's lively juggling act on a Tuesday afternoon (John's piano lesson, William's football practice and Kathy's dance class [wrapped around a trip to the market for groceries], including making sure the minivan contains all the necessary equipment for the kids, and the complicated calculations as to whether or not Maple Ave or North State Road are quicker ways to get across town at 3:22 p.m.) we humans do complicated well.

Since we're so good at navigating the busy flow of our lives, we sometimes tend to see complexity where it doesn't exist -- or unconsciously act or think in ways which impose a bogus complexity on things that are otherwise relatively simple. Our spiritual lives are no exception.

The essential message of Jesus was "love one another as you love yourself." Think about the 2000 years of extrapolation that have led to the many various branches of the Christianity Tree (Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Mormons, and so forth) and then the thousands of dogmatic beliefs that differentiate one branch from the next. Does all this complexity serve the Christ's truth? Answer me this: when you're on the coffee aisle at the supermarket, how important is having 99 different types of bean to choose from? Is your essential Coffee Experience at 7:12 a.m. different because you're brewing Kenyan Morning Roast as opposed to Chiapas Breakfast Blend?

Navigating this life is hard to do well. Our energies are too-often fractured and spinning off in wildly divergent directions. The spiritual path we choose to walk should help us integrate ourselves and our vision of how to live. It should bring in energy -- not sap it. So when we allow our complex minds to complicate what is essentially a simple yearning -- "I want to live my life in a way that honors the Divine within me" -- we are undermining our own best wish for ourselves. When we focus too deeply on the minutiae our progress slows and eventually ceases altogether. Don't mistake the path for the journey. Here's a dream I had that helped me realize this:

"Mistaking the Road for the Journey" February 17, 2002

I am back on Maui [where I once lived] and am riding my motorcycle up Mount Haleakala. I want to get up to the summit in time to catch the sunrise. Just as in waking life, the road leading up the volcano is full of endless turns and switchbacks. I'm getting impatient to get to the top -- sunrise is coming! -- and yet I'm enjoying the humming of the engine beneath me and navigating all the twists in the road. Yet as I climb the mountain -- unlike the Haleakala road in waking life -- the turns get closer and closer together, until the very mountain itself becomes obscured by all the blacktop. I realize that I'm making no appreciable progress towards the summit. In my increasing anxiety and frustration it seems as if all the switchbacks of the road have turned in upon themselves, mazelike. "This kind of defeats the purpose," I think in annoyance, and awaken.

I had this dream after I'd been working actively with my dreams for almost a year. After a rather heady rush of initial awakening and spiritual breakthroughs (a period of several months) followed by a gratifying consolidation of my new skill and understanding of dreamcrafting, I had begun to encounter some frustration and a sense of diminishing returns. My then-girlfriend and I were doing a lot of spiritual work together and in the initial phases (6-9 months prior to this dream) hit upon several approaches that worked really well for us as a couple and individually. However, we made the mistake that we had discovered The Tools for Enlightenment, instead of some tools that cast some light. We had begun to identify the approach with the path -- so it was little surprise our progress had slowed to a crawl. Just as an aside, our approach to our relationship had also largely become our relationship, which was suffering a slow tapering that would lead to our parting ways at the end of the summer. But that's another post altogether.

It took some time, but I came to understand this dream and what it portended for my spiritual journey. And with some thought and more time, discovered other ways to engage the divine that brought the juice pouring back with renewed vigor. And let's face it: once you've lived your life in synch with the divine mojo, living without it is, well, dispiriting -- and unnecessary.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Memorial in Light

Memorial in Light (broadband)

Memorial in Light (quicker)

MEMORIAL IN LIGHT March 12, 2002

It is still spooky going down to ground zero. Maybe it'll always be that way for me, having watched the towers go down; I'll certainly never forget the day -- walking home to my sweetheart's place in Brooklyn as the sun sank down in a brownorange sky with the nauseating sweet stench of ozone and burnt plastic (and flesh?) in our nostrils, large flakes of ash falling like lazy snow in the dead still air -- was I wearing cremated remains in my hair when I got home? Had I breathed them in? Likely.

Sunday night's documentary was as sweet as it was sad for me. There was none of the Rah-Rah America of recent months -- it was just a group of brothers thrust into an unthinkable situation, beyond comprehension and certainly beyond their ability to affect or change - their only option was simply enduring it and then going back down to The Pile (as they call it) to move it bucket by bucket and search (almost entirely in vain) for survivors. As Edmund Rosstand wrote (in "Cyrano de Bergerac"), there is greater honor in the utterly futile fight -- you're not fighting because you have a chance at victory, but simply because it is right. I speak here not of any war against the "bad guys" but rather the fight for hope when you know deep down there isn't any. The buildings fell, thousands died. But if they couldn't put out the fires, or evacuate everyone, they could dig through the millions upon millions of tons of rubble with their hands, a five-gallon bucket at a time, if only to pull out a foot that might be ID'd by DNA so a family somewhere would have something, anything, to weep over and then put into the ground.

After six months, after listening to the war drums and cheerleading drown out any sort of informed debate regarding my nation's actions -- indeed, in an environment where even the merest hint of dissent is met with cries of "treason!" -- all the noise is silenced when I once again emerge from the subway at Church and Fulton streets. For now, the gigantic pit where once the rubble rose stories high is still hallowed ground. People are overawed even now, when visually it cannot compare to the mind-warping carnage that remained back in September.

I purposely did not go out to the memorial until after the politicians and functionaries had moved on. I didn't need them to put anything into perspective for me. I approached the platforms on which the lights had been set up. The area was awash with people, and as I melted into the crowd I had the thought that this would be a perfect time and place for an Al Qaeda bomber to make a statement. Such an idea, once unthinkable, was only too plausible. But in the world as it is, especially here in the City and most especially in the shadow of the WTC (and although the towers are gone, their shadow remains, believe me), it was an utterly mundane moment. And sad as it is, to actually live one's life in these sorts of times and situations, one has to countenance the possibility of its extinguishment (no matter how unlikely a bomb might be in any given moment).

It was chilly out, but not uncomfortable as I'd dressed for it. I found a space beyond the edge of the crowd and leaned up against a temporary fence (temporary for how many of the coming years until the reconstruction is done?) and, tilting my head back, took in the squared columns of light shining up at the sky. Dust and moisture in the light wind marked the beams' passage, and occasionally a plume of diesel exhaust from a generator or one of the many trucks rumbling back and forth (after all, this is maybe the world's largest 24/7 [de]construction site, no?) passed through a beam and made me think of souls, and the transient nature of things, of how flimsy and inconsequential even the greatest of our edifices are in the immense design of things. Many in the crowd held up cameras or video recorders to capture the sight (while missing the moment entirely, in my book), and a number of people wept openly and unconsoled. A woman near me repeatedly looked up for a few seconds, then doubled over like she'd been punched in the gut. Tears trailed down her face and the wind blew her blow-dried moussed coiffure about. She teetered on her (uncomfortable looking) black high heels, then she straightened to gaze up once more. A muffled sob, hand going up to her mouth, glancing around stricken like she was looking for somebody, or to see if she was being watched, then bending over as the sobs tied her insides up and shortened her. It went on for some time like that. I watched several cycles of this, wondering why she wore heels into the middle of this mess, my eyes getting wet but not dropping tears.

The memorial was fitting and elegant and true, in a way that didn't surprise me (there has been talk of something like this since only days after 9/11) but which pleased me nonetheless. Two blocks away, earthmovers and backhoes plied the lowest levels of the wreckage under the glare of arc lights. Directly in front of me, a crowd of gawkers, mourners, cops, visitors from across the world, the curious and the thoughtful mingled, quiet conversation and sorrow passing between. It was beautiful and angry-making, tragic and exalted and utterly insufficient. Nothing really, to my mind, could ever make right 9/11 and what happened here, or make right what happened elsewhere on this little blue-green orb that encouraged a gang of bitter, wicked and desperate men to do what they did on that day. The longer I live, though, I begin to understand better and better that it isn't really about fixing things or evening everything out. But for a quarter of an hour on a chilly March night, two pillars of light marked a place of immense sorrow and shame, despair and failure, and shined upward at hope, hinted at joy hidden beyond the lower edge of the clouds which even these blinding beams could not penetrate. They were two columns standing next to each other, and when they reached high enough, they seemed to finally come together into one - in a place far above where we stood watching below.

An Invocation and Invitation to Dream

"A Community of the Spirit"

There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and *being* the noise.

Drink *all* your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd's love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.
Don't accept consolations.

Close your mouth against food.
Taste the lover's mouth in yours.

You moan, "She left me." "He left me."
Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.


Practical Dreaming #1: Your Mojo Ain't Nuthin' Til You Put It to Use

Working with my dreams leads me into many different parts of myself, and helps me explore myself, my world and the people in it in ways I otherwise never would. Keeping a dream journal (writing my night dreams down as soon as I wake up -- or as soon as possible thereafter) allows me to remember dreams I would usually forget -- and there is so much information and juice in all our dreams that it is a shame not to draw on this resource.

Sometimes dreams are just for fun. Sometimes dreams are clearly about an issue or person I'm concurrently struggling with in waking life. Some of the eeriest dreams (at least when I was first working with active dreaming) were the ones that gave me information I had no logical, linear way of knowing and which only checked out later (such as the dream I had that a girlfriend was seeing someone else in addition to me). And sometimes dreams are trying to tell me something that only becomes obvious once time has passed. Here's an example of the latter (I have obscured unnecessary detail to prevent identification of my relative):

"Two [Relatives]" (March 6, 2003)

I am wandering around outside a multi-building apartment complex. I stop walking and stand in a spot where I have sight lines that allow me to see all the buildings in the complex (and the spaces inbetween) at once. Nothing much is going on. It is early morning, or perhaps late afternoon. No one else seems to be around, although I feel as if I'm looking for someone. Every so often, on the periphery of my vision I see [one of my blood relatives] walking out from behind one of the buildings in the distance. I run over to where [s/he] is, but when I get there, [s/he] has passed behind the edge of a building and is gone. This happens several times. Eventually, I turn around and there [s/he] is. We begin having a conversation which goes on for quite some time, catching up on news of our lives. [S/he] is doing well. Then out of the corner of my eye I see [my relative] walking out from behind one of the buildings in the distance, as before, and I know that this is the real [relative] and the person I've been talking to is simply their shade, or a double (in Celtic culture, it was called the "coimimeadh," or co-walker). And in that moment I know that the double is offering up "happy talk" in conversation with me, but the reality is that my relative is sick, sad and alone. And staying deliberately out of reach.

I woke up and wrote the dream down, meaning to discuss the dream with the relative in question. I was actually staying overnight at their house at the time. However, at this time in my life I would leave for work before 6 a.m. and so I was gone before they woke. In the hustle at work and the flow of my life (chaotic at that time) I never did discuss it with them.

To see someone's co-walker (in dreaming or waking life) or "fetch" as the Irish call it portends a death for that person -- most usually a figurative one although stories abound with regard to capital-D Death. And sure enough, this relative -- while outwardly together and thriving -- was spiraling down into addiction, soul-sickness and despair. Eventually it consumed their life as it was then constituted. They are only now reclaiming it.

The point? #1: There is invaluable information in our dreams. If I had been more conscientious about bringing it up with them, I might have helped them steer clear of the worst of their trouble. Then again, my family are a stubborn and independent bunch. Regardless of whether or not I could have helped them avoid the "bottom" of addiction, this dream was offering me understanding about my relative that I otherwise didn't have. #2: If we honor our dreams by acting on them (in this case by having a conversation about the dream with my relative), we can change our waking lives for the better. In this case I might have broken through the social facade my relative was putting up and reached the person in them that was in dire need. As it was, months passed before I got to it, and things were already into the end phase. Which leads me to point #3: We must use all our gifts, often and well. Spirit blesses us so that we might share the blessing, not hoard or forget. I'm still learning...