Thursday, February 11, 2016

In the place between sleep and awake


How I love to lie, after sleep, in a state of horizontal meditation. Sometimes my thoughts and images stream from a dream I remember or that now slips through the curtain between the worlds. Often I am simply attending, in a relaxes way, to the forms and pictures that surface, fresh and unexpected, from a creative matrix that now becomes available.
     On my first morning back in Prague, I was startled, but not altogether surprised, to observe a large number of people advancing towards me from bank of the Vltava River. They were well dressed in middle-class winter clothes, dark topcoats and hats, male and female, mostly adults. I indicated that they should choose one to speak.
     The man who came forward had a German name I will not make public here.  He told me that had been try to cross N
ový Most, but there was a problem. I walked with him to the bridge, try to understand. He demonstrated by stepping out onto the bridge. He got only so far - perhaps to the middle - when he was bounced back, as if he had run into an invisible rubber wall. I understood now that he and the others were dead but had not yet been able to make their crossing. They seemed like decent people, but I wondered about the history here. For example, what had this German been doing in World War II?
     I stirred from this scene, not feeling an obligation to stay with this group.
     Later, a scene opened like the cover of a children's book with a scene of a bright starry sky above rooftops, framed by a colored border that made the whole thing look like a stage. Big words floated in the sky: FRUTA DE DESCANSO. I knew this menat "Fruit of Rest" and thought it might be a delightful invitation. I entered into the spirit. I was drawn into enjoyable sideshows and spectacles. The whole thing had the quality of a mild and gentle version of Carnaval.
     After a bathroom break and some time online, I lay down again and heard an inner voice. The in-between space between sleep and awake is a good place to entertain inner and transpersonal guides, but when the contact seems new, you want to check its reliability. This voice told me encouraging things about myself and my possible accomplishments as teacher and healer, but I felt the need to follow it into its home realm.
    I willed myself to rise above the body and seek face-to-face contact. I did not lose contact with my physical body; some pains resulting from recent wear and tear helped to ensure that. I succeeded in finding a place that reminded me of a school of advanced studies on the other side. The entrance was quite different, though. It became something like the portal of huge, immensely elongated rocket ship. I was given to understand that beings here do not need to retain human form and that knowledge here can be stored in forms other than my beloved books.
    I asked for a name for the guiding intelligence that was with me. He said I could think of him as the Rememberer, or the Memorialist, within my larger Self. To demonstrate what he remembers, he surprised me by putting me on a bus full of radiant beings. They all looked like children between ten and twelve years old. Around them, I saw luminous "shadows" - shapes in their energy fields - that provided hints of who and what they are, as adults, even very old ones, in other places and times.
    Why did we all appear as children? It was indicated that this was because I had been brought to a place of despatch, from which all us - related personalities with related missions - were sent out across time 

There was much, much more. I let many of the images and openings come and go without involvement or attachment. This part is no doubt familiar to meditators. More familiar to active dreamers is the choice to follow a certain encounter or portal that is offered into a lucid dream adventure - as with the group of the dead trying to cross the New Bridge, or the invitation to enjoy the Fruits of Rest in a latino funfair environment.
    I drifted into sleep dream before ending the adventures. I thought I was at home, engaged in a fascinating online conference with vibrant African music in the background. The layout of my house was inverted. My study was at the top instead of the bottom. I did not notice this anomaly in the dream. I was interrupted by the early arrival of the mailman downstairs. I padded down to collect the mail. It was voluminous, filling twice the normal space. I gathered it up, but woke before I had the chance to go through it. Opening my dream mail is clearly an assignment for another period between sleep and awake.

Note: Sleep researchers call the state of consciousness I describe here the hypnopompic zone. I like the phrase used by Tinker Bell in the movie Peter Pan, when she tells Peter, "Look for me in the place between sleep and awake. There you will always find me."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Soul growing and the courage to create

It’s not just about keeping soul in the body. It’s about growing soul, becoming more than we ever were, embodying more of the Higher Self. This requires courage. French architect and author Fernand Pouillon speaks beautifully about what this involves in his book The Stones of the Abbey:

Courage lies in being oneself, in showing complete independence, in loving what one loves, in discovering the deep roots of one's feelings....A real work is truth, direct and honest...You have to take the greatest possible risks; even recklessness seems a bit halfhearted. The best works are those that are at the limits of real life; they stand out among a thousand others when they prompt the remark: 'What courage that must have taken!' Enduring work follows from a leap into the void, into unknown territory, icy water or murderous rock.

    Now that’s a plan that will call in your boldest and juiciest self, and entertain the liveliest spirits!
    It requires the willingness to take the creator’s leap and bring something new into our lives and our worlds. If I want to encourage people to move gently in this direction, I might instruct them along the following lines:

Go deep into yourself and ask: What is something new that I want to bring into the world?
    When you have the answer to that, ask: What definite action will I take to bring that new thing into the world?

     But if I am in a hurry to see soul grow – and why wouldn’t we be eager to hurry this process along? – I might say:

Picture this: Your whole life has been preparing you to take a creative leap. Now you are at the edge of an abyss. You can’t bear to look down. The drop is immense – you can’t see how far it goes down, through the swirling mists.
    It’s your time to jump, but you’re paralyzed with fear. You shrink back from the edge, grasping after something solid and familiar. But there’s nothing worth holding onto. Everything smells stale behind you, and crumbles away under your clutching hands.
    So you jump…
    And you find that the abyss is no more and no less terrifying than the drop from the nest of a baby bird before its first flight.
    And you’ll work. You’ll work as you have never worked before. But this work is not the drudgery of offices and routines. This is the work - “the hardest among those not impossible” (as Yeats said) – that your creative spirit demands of you, and your growing soul requires. If you give yourself to this work, you will not only find that it is the very best kind of play. You will know rapture. Truly.

Painting by AE, the Irish mystic, poet and artist George Russell.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The shimmer effect of gods among us

I observe powers of the deeper world moving among humans. Some of these powers are called gods in certain cultures. A Jungian might call them archetypes. Most humans are utterly unaware of their presence.
   When they are in the field - noticed or invisible, invoked or uninvoked - their simple presence effects a radical change in the ordinary world. It creates a "shimmer effect". The fabric of physical reality in their vicinity becomes fluid and unstable. It produces changes that may be experiences by humans as coincidences or anomalies.
    I realize the importance of being alert for the presence of these powers. If we can learn to make the right move during the period of "shimmer", we can help manifest extraordinary things.

I note in my journal: I woke from this dream in my second sleep thrilled with excitement

Reality check: I think this may be an entirely accurate glimpse of how things work when beings from multidimensional reality move close to the human sphere.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The universe is created when illusion binds itself with the thread of a dream

Listen up. Leave your chores and worries. You need to know where we are.
    First there is Nainema. He is illusion. He is called “Father with an Illusion”. He is all there is.
    The illusion that is Nainema affects itself deeply.
    Nainema takes the illusion that is himself into himself. He holds the illusion by the thread of a dream and looks into it. He is searching, but finds nothing.
    He looks again. He breathes. He holds the phantasm and binds it to the dream thread with a magical glue that comes from inside himself.. Then he takes the phantasm and tramples the bottom of it, He goes on stamping until he has made an earth that is big enough for him to sit on.
    Seated on the earth he has made, holding onto the dream, he spits out a stream of saliva. The forests are born from  this and begin to grow.
    He stretches himself out on the earth and dreams a sky above it. He pulls blue and white out of the earth. Now there is sky.
    Gazing at himself, he – the one who is the story itself – creates this story to tell us how it is.
    Now do you understand? 

This is the creation story as told by the Huitoto (or Uitoto) a people of the Colombian rainforest who live by slash-and-burn agriculture, fishing, and their deep connection with the life of the jungle around them. They move through the forest at night using luminous fungi as flashlights.

    Their cosmogony is no more strange than the discovery, in quantum physics, that the act of observation plucks events into manifestation from a cosmic noodle soup of potentialities. Reality begins with illusion. A cosmic illusion becomes self-aware, looks into itself. The act of observation begins to collapse a formless wave into form. But nothing is definite until the process is tied down with the thread of a dream, and juiced by divine acts of emission.
    As in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the place of creation is a state of conscious dreaming. In this Upanishad, whose title means The Great Forest Book, the
state of conscious dreaming is described as a state of "emitting" [srj], a word that can also mean the ejaculation of semen. The dreamer "emits" [srjate] or projects from himself "joys, happinesses and delights...ponds, lotus pools and flowing streams, for he is the Maker." The word srj is also used to describe the way a turtle projects its head and paws from under its shell.
     In both stories from the forest, we learn that ancient wisdom traditions have taught for millennia that quantum effects observed at the smallest levels of the universe may be at work in the largest: that microcosm is macrocosm. Nainema's story tells us that reality starts with illusion. Quantum physics suggests that the universe is made of dream stuff. Go dream on it.

Note: I have based my retelling of the Huitoto creation story on two texts. The older is in Paul Radin, Monotheism among Primitive Peoples (Basel: Ethnographical Museum 1954) pp 13-14; paraphrasing and summarizing K. T.Preuss, Religion und Mythologie der Uitoto (Gottingen, 1921). The more recent is in David  Leeming and Jake Page, God: Myths of the Male Divine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) 157-158

Top image: I found this photo from Huitoto country, showing the largest water lilies in the Amazon region, in a fascinating blog "Wandering Philosophies"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arouse your mind to invention like Leonardo da Vinci

He noticed how mountains become bluer the further away they are, asked why, and came up with a theory far ahead of his time. He looked at the crescent moon in the night sky, and wondered why a ghost disk floated above it — and grasped that he was looking at Earthshine, the reflected light from the Earth, and described this effect in a way that NASA found quite exact more than five centuries later.    
     In 1502, he designed a single-span bridge, like a pressed bow, to span the
Golden Horn — the estuary that once divided the European part of Constantinople — but his plan was rejected because everyone else agreed it was impossible to build. In 2001, when technology had caught up with his vision, a bridge that exactly followed his specifications was constructed at Aas in Norway. In May 2006, the Turkish government ordered the construction of his bridge, following his original plans, over the Golden Horn.   
     Before 1500, and shortly after, he designed prototypes for the helicopter, the tank, the hang glider, scuba diving equipment, a submarine, a calculator, a mobile robot, and something akin to a programmable analog computer. IBM put up the money to build forty working models of his inventions, which are on display at the Chateau of Clos Luce at
Amboise, where he spent the last three years of his life as the guest of King Francis I of France. He was also an anatomist, an astronomer, and one of the greatest — if not the greatest — painter and sculptor of the Renaissance, an age of titanic artists.   
     He was, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. The secret of this polymath’s immense imagination is of endless fascination. We won’t understand him unless we grasp that his power was, quite simply, the practice of
     Leonardo has left us clues as to how we can exercise imagination as he did, and these clues are more thrilling — and vastly more practical — than anything you will find in a conspiracy thriller. In his
Treatise on Painting, he gives us “a way of arousing the mind to various inventions".   
      The preferred method, he suggests, is to
stare at a blank wall.   
      He specifies that the wall must not be literally blank. The ideal wall will have stains and cracks and discolorations. You stare at these until images begin to form in your mind, and then change and quicken. You may see many different landscapes, “graced with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, great valleys, and hills in many combinations.”
     Or you can exercise your director’s power and let the scenes evolve into battles or great dramas, with “figures darting about, strange-looking faces and costumes, and an endless number of things which you can distill into finely rendered forms.”
     He does not spell out that the things “you can distill into finely rendered forms” may include a new invention that goes centuries beyond current technology.
     Leonardo tells us we can read patterns on a stone as easily as on a wall and get similarly fabulous results.
     We can also take a break from visual thinking and see what comes when we devote our fullest attention to another sense: hearing. To switch from visual mode to auditory mode, he advises listening with undivided focus to the sound of bells or the sound of running water. As you let your imagination stream with the sounds, words and music will come to you, and if you let it flow, you will soon be in creative flow yourself, bringing through fresh words and new ideas.
    The greatest secret of the
true Da Vinci Code is hidden in plain view, and audible to anyone — as soon as we adjust our senses.

Adapted from
The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination. Published by New World Library.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Brigid's day

Imbolc is the day of the High One, the Exalted One. That is the meaning of Brig, from which the name Brigid (also Brigit, Brighid, Brigantia of England and Brigindo of eastern Gaul) derives. The church made the goddess a saint, one of the most beloved saints of Ireland, with various biographies, the best of which is recollected in Kildare, where the flame of Brigid burned constantly until Henry VIII, and burns again today. She is a power of the land, and of the deeper world, that the church and the people can agree on. In Ireland and in Scotland, you feel her presence in stones and trees, in high places and in deep wells.
    In the stories told at Kildare, the woman Brigid is born at sunrise, as her mother stands straddling a threshold, one foot out and one foot in. When Brigid’s head comes out, the sun’s rays crown her with flame. We can see why she is the patron of people who open doors between the worlds – of shamans, seers and poets – and of all who work with fire, in the peat, in the forge, in the cauldron of imbas, the fire of inspiration.
     Marija Gimbutas wrote of her (in The Living Goddesses): “Brigid is an Old European goddess consigned to the guise of a Christian saint. Remove the guise and you will see the mistress of nature, an incarnation of cosmic life-giving energy, the owner of life water in wells and springs, the bestower of human, animal and plant life.” She is “Mary of the Gael”, and she is the Triple Goddess and Robert Graves’ Three-fold Muse. She is patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft. In Scotland she is Bride, and the White Swan and the Bride of the White Hills. In the Hebrides she is the protector of childbirth.
    Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats’s friend, described Brigid in Gods and Fighting Men as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshiped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night." We are now entering the prime time of this High One, when nature awakens around February 1.
     She may appear as a snake from beneath the earth, even in Ireland, the country without snakes:

This is the day of Bride the Queen will come from the mound

This is the time of Brigid’s feast of Imbolc which coincides with the lactation of the ewes and the first signs of spring. You know the lambs are coming soon. You see snowdrops pressing up from the hard earth, perhaps through its white mantle. You offer the gifts of the goddess to the goddess: you pour milk on the ground, you bake and leave out special cakes. To she who spins and weaves life itself, you offer woven fabrics or offer a cloth – a handkerchief, a scarf, a pillowcase – to be blessed as it rests on the earth overnight. To this bringer of fire, you light a candle and offer your heart's flame.
    In the old country, in the old way, young girls carry her images - straw dolls or brideogs - in procession from house to house, and the goddess is welcomed and decked with finery. The dolls are laid on in “bride beds”, with a staff or wand of power resting beside them. At Imbolc, as on other days, you may raise the High One’s energy with poetic speech. Best to do this by a stream or a spring, or (if you know one) a sacred well. She does have a fine love of poets and those who bring fresh words into the world.
    There is a legend that, in one of her womanly forms, Brigid married the great poet Senchan Torpeist,  foremost among the learned fili (bards) of Ireland. It was this same Senchan, it is said, who recovered the great poem known as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) when it was feared lost forever, by raising the shade of the druid poet Fergus to recite all of the verses.
    Among the bevy of Celtic blessings in the great repository known as the Carmina Gadelica, collected by Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland around 1900, some of the sweetest call on Brigid. In “Womanhood of Brigit” (#263 in the Carmina Gadelica)

Brigit of the mantles
Brigit of the peat-heap
Brigit of the twining hair
Brigit of the augury.
Brigit of the white feet
Brigit of calmness
Brigit of the white hands
Brigit of the kine.

Many kinds of protection are then asked of Brigid – safety from death or injury or mishap in many forms. Next comes a verse that makes it plain that Brigid is regarded, among all else, as a guardian of sleep and dreams:

Nightmare shall not lie on me
Black-sleep shall not lie on me
Spell-sleep shall not lie on me
Luaths-luis shall not lie on me.

I need someone more learned in Scots Gaelic than myself to translate Luaths-luis. Its literal meaning seems to be something like “fast-moving lice” for which our modern phrase might be “creepy-crawlies.” In the “Blessing of Brigit” (numbered #264 in the Carmina Gadelica) we have words that might please the Lady on her feast day, or any day:

I am under the shielding
Of good Brigit each day;
I am under the shielding
Of good Brigit each night.
Brigit is my comrade woman,
Brigit is my maker of song,
Brigit is my helping woman
My choicest of women, my guide

Brigid's Day is also a fine time for courting, and a time to dream, and seek guidance from dreams.
Art: "St Brigid's Path" by Carlos A. Smith.

Dreaming like an Egyptian

The ancient Egyptians understood that in dreams, our eyes are opened. Their word for dream, rswt, is etymologically connected to the root meaning “to be awake”. It was written with a determinative symbol representing an open eye.
     The Egyptians believed that the gods speak to us in dreams. As the Bible story of Joseph and Pharaoh reminds us, they paid close attention to dream messages about the possible future. They practiced dream incubation for guidance and healing at temples and sacred sites. They understood that by recalling and working with dreams, we develop the art of memory, tapping into knowledge that belonged to us before we entered this life journey, and awakening to our connection with other life experiences.

     The Egyptians also developed an advanced practice of conscious dream travel. Trained dreamers operated as seers, remote viewers and telepaths, advising on affairs of state and military strategy and providing a mental communications network between far-flung temples and administrative centers. They practiced shapeshifting, crossing time and space in the dreambodies of birds and animals.
     Through conscious dream travel, ancient Egypt’s “frequent flyers” explored the roads of the afterlife and the multidimensional universe. It was understood that true initiation and transformation takes place in a deeper reality accessible through the dream journey beyond the body. A rightful king must be able to travel between the worlds.
     It seems that in early times, in the heb sed festival, conducted in pharaoh’s thirtieth year, the king was required to journey beyond the body, and beyond death, to prove his worthiness to continue on the throne. Led by Anubis, pharaoh descended to the Underworld. He was directed to enter death, “touch the four sides of the land”, become Osiris, and return in new garments – the robe and the spiritual body of transformation.
     Jeremy Naydler’s Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts makes a convincing case that the palace tombs and pyramid texts of Egypt are about much, much more than funerary arrangements; that the Egyptians traveled beyond the gates of death while very much alive, not only to bring back first-hand knowledge of the afterlife, but to enter into sacred union with the gods and enthrone their power in the body, and so acquire the spiritual and sexual potency to marry the worlds.
      The dream guides of ancient Egypt knew that the dream journey may take the traveler to the stars – specifically to Sothis or Sirius, the “moist land” believed by Egyptian initiates to be the source of higher consciousness, the destination of advanced souls after death, and the home of higher beings who take a close interest in Earth matters.
      When we look for ancient sources on all of this, we are challenged to decode fragmentary texts, some collated over many centuries by pious scribes who jumbled together material from different traditions and rival pantheons.  Wallis Budge complained (in Osiris) that “the Egyptian appears never to have relinquished any belief which he once had”. We won’t find what we need on the practice of ancient Egyptian dreaming in the fragmentary “dream books” that survive, any more than we’ll grasp what dreaming can be from the kind of dream dictionary you can buy in drugstores today.
      We gaze in wonder at the Egyptian picture-books displaying the soul’s journeys and ordeals after death – and the many different aspects of soul energy that survive death – and quickly realize that to understand the source of such visions, and the accuracy of such maps, we must go into a deeper space. We must go to the Magic Library.
      In Hellenistic times – the age of Cleopatra – dream schools flourished in the temples of Serapis, a god who melds the qualities of Osiris and Apis, the divine bull. From the 2nd century BCE we have papyri recording the dream diaries of Ptolemaios, who lived for many years in katoche, or sacred retreat, in the temple of Serapis at Memphis. A short biography of the dreamer has been published by the French scholar Michel Chauveau in his book Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra. Ptolemaios was the son of Macedonian colonists, but like ancient Egyptians he was called to the temple by a dream in which the god appeared to him. He seems to have lived for years as a full-time dreamer, whose dreams guided him not only in his spiritual practice but in handling family and business matters beyond the temple walls.
     In this later period, the Egyptian priests who specialized in dreaming were called the Learned Ones of the Magic Library. What marvelous promise is in that phrase! What profound recognition of the magic and wisdom that is available to us through dreaming!

Adapted from The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.