Monday, October 5, 2015

Mutual Dreaming in the Hall of Night Choreography

Elena, sciencing
I have this friend, Elena. She's a scientist, which you can see here from this photo, which she has captioned, "This is how we science." Elena is a brilliant woman who does many things well with seeming ease. When I met her nearly years ago, we bonded over the Irish polka and penny whistle. I marveled at her drawings, etc.

She reluctantly participated in a laboratory worldview, having worked with monkeys and mice in biology research settings. When we spoke of dreams or magical things, she kept a dismissive distance, firmly abiding plate-glass conditions. Over time, I watched her change. Dance, movement, embodiment became her. And with this, a full-sensory participation with life, a newfound value of the subjective. It’s really all we have.

Then she started to dream. Vivid dreams, lucid dreams, psi-dreams. She began asking questions of the dream, performing experiments, interacting with four-dimensional geometries, shape-shifting into dolphins. Her love of dance had found traction in the hall of night choreography, where possibilities are endless.

Here is me, like, totally dreaming, but my heart's not in it

Meanwhile, I’d been rotely applying the science of dreaming — having dreams, writing them down, sharing them with my daughter, noting portent, responding appropriately in the waking world. Oneiromancy had become like brushing my teeth. In some ways, this is great. I’d established basic hygiene. But now I was behind the plate glass, lacking the curiosity that wells up in wonder.

My sizable well had been tapped by motherhood, work, and Twitter. My religious devotion to one-liners sipped at my spring constantly, leaving just enough seep to enliven some dreams, but not enough for a wave that rears up to look at itself before breaking. I was cool to just let the Moon do its thing, and roll with the tides. Unconsciousness is underrated. (Why do we fear death so much if we love sleep?)

Elena kept pestering me with her lucid dreams. “How do you do this?”, “What do I do next?”, “Give me a task!” , “Let’s meet up in a dream!” Her excitement became a little like a virus. Though exhaustion is the perfect antidote for adventure, I nevertheless found myself saying, “What the hell. Let’s do it.”

unattributed image depicting Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime

So, what is a mutual dream? It’s where two or more people agree to meet up in a lucid dream. And what’s a lucid dream? It’s when you’re awake while you’re dreaming. Having a specific plan can focus mutual dreaming efforts. In our case, we decided to dream-meet at Tuk Tuk Thai. We planned what we would order, and agreed to exchange code words, which we would report back to each other upon waking. This is a good way to verify the experiment.

We agreed that we would not share our dream data until each of us had successfully become lucid, even if this occurred on different nights. A mutual dream can occur at the same time, even if the two parties dream it on two different nights. Dreamtime is a locus, like a sun, with rays emanating in lots of directions throughout space and time. People from the past, or people from parallel "nows" (including our many selves) can access the same fluid nexus. This is also why we can affect all times from the dreamworld, including the past.

Sharing our attempts is good because that's what most of coordinated dream tasks amount to. And it's fun. Right now, the strongest societal framework for dreamwork is modern psychology. Most of us stuff dreams into a psychology-shaped backpack, so when we unpack the dreams, it doesn't occur to us that they are anything other than psychology.  (I like psychology as a friend, but I would not make out with psychology.) For some of us, dreaming is different, but our assumptions do not have as much gravity as the assumptions of 7 million other people; thus, we are pulled into pop culture's janky orbit.

still from Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams

We're not going to "maximize" the dreamways using modern psychology.  That's like saying we'll grok the universe through a pinhole viewer. Nevermind that the eye itself is a pinhole viewer. Dreaming today has a confused and spread-out framework, like a trip to IKEA. Many things can happen in IKEA, such as getting lost, but certain things are less likely to happen. We are less likely to receive a shamanic transmission from our ancestral lineage, the exchange of which can transpire only in a hidden dream locale that a prior initiate knows how to access on a certain night once a year, while our genealogical tribe, who shares a deep, mutual reality, holds ritual space.


The short version of this story is that we accomplished some things, but not everything. The rest of this post will be for people who give a shit about other people's dreams. Also continue reading if you would like to see a horse rotate through four-dimensional space. Here I'm including my dreams on the nights that Elena became lucid, though as I mentioned, this data isn't necessarily relevant.

Attempt Number One (8/25/2015):

Elena: I see Erin nearby, also attending the festival. I have a recollection that I am supposed to meet with her, but at a later time and in a different place. Nevertheless, I call out to her and ask if she has time to talk for a bit. We take our food plates and pennywhistles and move away from the crowd at the tables. I want to go sit on the edge of the grassy green cliff overlooking the sea, and am disappointed when Erin leads the way to a spot where some bushes block the view. I resign myself, thinking that she must want to sit somewhere that is sheltered from the wind. As we sit down to eat and play whistles, I become captivated and distracted by the giant spinning pinwheels. When I comment to my companion how interesting it is that they become transient from spinning so fast in the wind, she is no longer Erin but my mother, and the place we are sitting is the grassy top step of some sandstone stairs that lead down towards the water, the view of which is no longer blocked by bushes[...]

Erin: something something Neil Gaiman

More of an epic fail on my part. Also, just kidding. You can't fail at dreams, kids. Follow them. Just kidding, don't. Go into tech. Trust me. Being a dreamer is hard.

Attempt Number Two (9/1/2015):

Elena: I joyfully realize that I am now lucid dreaming. Quickly I try to think of what to do. I want to go explore my subconscious, but I remember that I have a plan to dream-meet Erin at Tuk Tuk Thai, which must take precedence. So I quickly tell the dream, "Dream, take me to Erin." Instantly I find myself in a dark room that has the air of an empty theater, library, or museum - the floors are dark mahogany and there are dark red velvet hangings around. It feels old and slightly dusty, disused - a faded grandeur. Lined up on the floor along one wall is a series of leatherbound books and old wooden picture frames. 

There is a place near the middle of the row where a book and a picture frame are leaning in opposite directions, and I can see the picture within the frame: it is Erin's portrait looking up at me. I come up and try to engage her in conversation, but she only looks at me with a vague smile. I realize this probably means she is not lucid, but decide to quickly tell her my code word, "dodecahedron". Then I hesitate and think, maybe I should use "bivariate contour ellipse area" instead, since "dodecahedron" is too similar to "amplituhedron", and we had been talking about those in the waking world recently.  

I thumb through the books to see if I can find another picture of her in which she might be lucid, but I'm unsuccessful. I ask the dream to take me to the real Erin, but feel a general feeling of hostility and annoyance build up until suddenly the book line explodes and books go flying in all directions. To me, this feels like an indication that I'm wasting my time, and should go take advantage of the dream, while I'm still in it, to try some other things. (I subsequently go flying through space and learn a lesson on spatial nonlocality and the arbitrary nature of "up" and "down" in a place where gravity is insignificant, after which I find out what it is like to be a dolphin.)

Erin: Lucid. I wake up in a dream and remember we are supposed to have a mutual dream. I basically wipe the scene clean in an act of will. I recreate/create TukTuk, our agreed meeting place, and conjure Elena. She is here. I try to remember what we agreed she would order, but I can only remember something with pumpkin curry. [When I wake up, I asked her and she reminded me it was octopus pumpkin curry.] I forgot that we were going to exchange code words. The code word I am going to give her is Zebra.

Partial success, meta-evidenced by this unpaid-for stock photo that is relevant, but not quite successful.

Attempt Number Three (9/21/2015):

Elena: The floor is covered in ugly brown tile and some toilets are outside their stalls, as well as really disgusting, and mismatched -- all different shapes and sizes. I realize my dream toilets are often like this, which prompts me that this is a dream. I [...] feel elated as I walk down the hallway away from the bathroom, reminding myself to stay calm and focus on my dream tasks. I come to a door and realize I can just walk through it so I do. I find myself in a dark room with dark wood floors. It feels like an old museum or theater. I remember that I wanted to experience the Aurora Borealis, so I ask to see the northern lights and "let go", letting the dream current take me. I can feel myself spinning and floating in an invisible vortex, but all I can see is darkness. I ask again but the image doesn't change. 

I clarify with "Aurora Borealis," but still see mostly darkness with an emerging pattern of swirling, slightly lighter colors, but nothing intense... I give up for now and request to see an amplituhedron. [An amplituhedron is a fluid geometry that underpins phenomena.I spin into a place of white light and vastness, which feels a bit like being above the clouds. At first I see a faint structure, transparent and crystalline with many facets, some of which have rounded edges, some of which have straight edges. As I think, "Ooh, it worked!" the image gets more intense. It is growing and morphing as more crystals constantly come into being and disappear, accompanied by crackling and electric flashes of bluish light. It's like a giant ever-changing multidimensional snowflake combined with metallic electricity[...] 

The amplituhedron reminds me that I need to find Erin, so I tell the dream I want to see her, but she doesn't appear. Then I realize I've been saying the requests discreetly in my head, and maybe that's why the answers are appearing discreetly in my head, too. I'm in a dream and I can shout if I want to, no need to be shy, so I do. There is a dream character nearby in front of a door, dancing or making out with some sort of doll or mannequin. They ignore me so I continue talking loudly. I say, "I want to see Erin Langley!" 

I keep repeating it but the dream is becoming unstable. I can feel myself waking up. I know that I am waking into another dream, a false awakening, as the scene in the room into which I awaken is dark with burgundy velvet curtains and someone is nearby, both of which I know aren't true of my waking world sleeping situation. I tell myself to go back to sleep, and emerge into another dream in which I'm still vaguely aware that I was recently lucid, but am not lucid any longer. Finally I wake myself up because I don't want to forget the dream.

Erin: Tending a giant palomino. Reminiscing about barrel racing. [I was up most of the night with my sick daughter.]

Let us not focus on failure, but instead upon this video which shows us a horse rotating through four dimensions.

Elena's dreams clearly show that I have become a dream curmudgeon. Yet, I am delighted to have read today that she chose "dodecahedron" as the code word. It's my favorite solid. "Bivariate contour ellipse area" is a fantastic auxiliary. I went with something striking and easy--something short, with a 'z'. Still I forgot. 

The "successful" mutual dreams I've experienced have been unplanned and non-lucid. One visceral night in 2006, my skeptical ex-husband and I had the same bizarre, highly-detailed dream, non-sequitur to our waking conditions. Not even he could dismiss that. And interestingly, on the night of 9/20/2015, four people shared with me that they dreamed of mice and rats. In fact, Elena and I were both in a rodent sanctuary: 

Elena: I rescued a bookshelf full of mice and was contemplating what to do with them. I adopted them from a mouse sanctuary. They were different colors, and a bunch of drowned pinkies. I worried about how they drowned.

Erin: An old babushka woman is after me. I escape to the place next door. I have a brown rat in my pocket. There are nets and nets of white rats in this building. It's like a white rat sanctuary. I put the brown rat there. I am safe here. The rat is safe. 

despite all of this

The parallels between Elena's lab work with mice, and our dream laboratory strike me now. In dreams, we are the mice, the researcher, the experiment, and the lab. 

Maybe this is the closest we came to a mutual dream, and maybe it's the closest we will ever come. Elena and I love our laboratories so much that I'm sure the experiments will continue. I am thankful to her for making dreaming new again, or at least refreshing the work conditions. I'm looking forward to our date at Tuk Tuk, regardless. Perhaps after we order, we can figure out if we're dreaming. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kid Dreams and Prophecy

by Isadora Duncan
One of the most rewarding aspects of longterm dream study is a greater understanding of my child's dreams. My six-year-old daughter inherited my dreaming tendencies. We share our dreams every morning, then record them into the phone, and then I type them all up. I've been doing this for myself since 2004, and for Bella since she started reporting her dreams at age 3.

One recent fascinating detail I noticed is that her prophetic dreams translate extremely quickly into waking reality, whereas mine take more time to occur. I do not know why this would be, but I wonder if adult dream bodies can venture "farther" in time and circumstances to receive the portent. Or maybe the distance I travel in dreams roughly approximates my waking life flights from the here and now.

Here are two examples that happened this month with Bella. First, Bella woke up and said, "Mom, I was just at a wedding. I couldn't see who was getting married, though." I know that in my dreaming history, weddings usually portend a death in the family. This is not a strictly personal portent, either. It's a transpersonal phenomena for people to dream about weddings when someone is going to "marry" a strong fate, which can often be death.

Later that day, a family member died.

I received the heads-up regarding the death of this family member back in April. The dream was extremely clear. I woke up and notified my family right away that this would happen, and then I wrote my dear relative a letter, knowing it would be our last correspondence. Inside the dream, I explained to someone that the dream usually manifests within 3-7 months. In this case, it was 4 months later.

I hate sounding so clinical right now. I feel great sadness and loss at the passing of my dear great aunt. A subsequent dream showed me how happy she was after she passed, so I like to think about that. She glowed with joy, and said that she was finally getting to discover what she loved to do. "I didn't tell her she was dead," I reported in the dream. "There was no need."

The second example happened just yesterday. My daughter dreamed of a fox. As soon as I heard this, I thought, "Uh-oh." She said, "A fox pushed me down an entire staircase. It was trying to catch a mouse, but it missed and pushed me down the stairs instead."

I had just awoken from a dream about delivering a mouse to a mouse sanctuary. Already the woo is strong with us. We'd discussed the night before about meeting up in a dream.

Foxes carry a lot of charge for me, but again, it's not personal. Foxes are a very tricky auspice, and often indicate major discomfort and complication in the waking world. So, I was on relaxed vigil for whatever came next for my daughter. Sure enough, last night was the worst night we'd had in a long time. A chronic health issue flared up for her, and she spent the night crying. We finally fell asleep around 2:00 am.

I am learning to consult the oracle (including dreams) without anxiety. When the reading is negative, inhabit love, practice "no preferences," and make dynamic use of the auspice.

I do not share the known meanings of my daughter's dream symbology with her so her dreams won't arise out of anxiety; I do not want anxiety to alter the dream content. Without knowledge of a personal dream dictionary, the auspices can shine through unfettered by scientific tracking and its attendant emotions. She can just be a little girl dreaming, but mom has a heads-up, which helps her, too.

I explained some of this to my daughter's dad, and he gave me an utterly dismissive look. I said, "You don't believe me." "Not at all," he said. We laughed. It's ok; I do not require anyone's belief, and neither do the lesser-known laws of physics.


(Beware of anyone who declares her own sanity, she declared sanely.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Old Ways, New Days: Shamanizing for the Non-Initiate

by Charles Wilder Mann Fréger
I cringe when I use the word shaman. It has become generic and meaningless, heartily misapplied. Even the shamans of Siberia weren't called shamans. They were called kam. So, when I use this vague gesture of a word, it is to allure you into an exploration of our innate power and magic, and into a deeper journey of dreaming and decolonization. Incidentally, I am not a shaman. When I say "shamanizing," I mean interfacing reality as an animist--as though everything is gloriously alive.

Speaking of terminology, I was recently talking to dreamer-extraordinaire Jenniffer ClarOscura. We agreed that the term "lucid dreaming" does not feel native to us, either. I wonder what my people would have called it; maybe it required no special term. People try to create distinctions between waking and dreaming, between dreams and lucid dreams, between lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences, between vision and visions, between life and death. But it's all life. Lucidity is an inherent condition. There is nothing to escape and nowhere to go.

Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona
I have been reflecting lately on how context affects our capacity as dreamers. While our traditional cultures had an embedded demand for our skill set, as well as an established protocol for empowerment and initiation, now we make our own way. It is less distinct, more open.

For some, maybe this is fun and feels like freedom. For others, perhaps like loss, or like being lost, or like skimming the surface of our dreaming capacity. I see fewer people engaging old-school dream curing techniques or psychopomp(ery?), and more entering fields of education, complementary medicine, psychology, and the arts. Now people come together from all parts of the world on the internet. God, I love the internet. An elder recently reminded me that people used to come together with the inner-net. How nice that we have both. The inner-net does not have to atrophy just because we have the internet.

by Charles Freger

The land plays a very strong role in our dreams. Each place has a different "dreaming." Perhaps we cannot be initiated by the land, but we can be animated by the land in a way that alters our expression in a very inclusive/expansive yet culturally-specific way. Homeland journeys are the perfect way to experience this.

Certain places are loci of lore, whose very vantages invoke eons of ceremonial use. Words fail me here, but these sites enable something like a partial retrieval of an initiatory current. Here in America (Turtle Island), I am interested in the chaotic quality that comes from so many different cultural currents crossing, which are different even from the land, which was and is so fundamental to the dreaming traditions of our ancestors. America (such a broad, political stroke–the concept of a nation) has this schizophrenic dissonance which is just part of our substrate. It is different to dream in a land that knows who it is.

by Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona 
"Lucid dreaming" is a way of life. (By the way, we're dreaming.) It's fun to plumb the depths, and to have big plans and questions on the horizon. That way, we won't end up wondering what to do with our next limited window of endless possibility. (And we won't default to flying, having sex with hapless dream figures, or trying to convince people that we're dreaming.) We can do so much more. Remembering this re-establishes the wild dreamways of our ancestors. It doesn't require huge effort, just awareness of an intergenerational group endeavor. When more of us inquire about the old/timeless dreamways, or use dreaming as cultural excavation, we're making these established pathways easier for each other to access and navigate.

by Charles Freger
I like to keep a short-list of agendas for my next lucid dream so I'm not overwhelmed by possibilities. Here's my current top three:

1. Picking up pieces of me. I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from when my daughter had a stroke. It surfaced with a vengeance during a recent trip to the Emergency Room (for a minor injury). I want to go meet, greet, and literally collect myself from the time of the incident. Dissociation is common during trauma. "Lucid dreaming" has always been the perfect venue for soul retrieval.

2. Visiting my dead friend. Our departed loved ones are close at hand during this season, which makes ancestral dreaming more available. I miss my dear friend and want to give her a hug.

3. Experiencing tetrachromacy. Some women have four cones (color receptors) instead of three, which means they can see around 100 million more colors than we three-coned people can. What's that like? I love to be reminded of my limitations. Is there a way to go beyond them? I don't know, but I love exploring the loophole clauses of the universe.

by Thomas Rousset and Raphaël Verona
In waking life, read your people's lore (folk and fairy tales, epic poems, etc.) to get a sense of your native stories and idea-structures. If you have no sense of your indigenous history or cosmology, ancestral dreaming won't hold much meaning. Build a strong container to hold the depths of your dreaming. Here are some more exhilarating prompts for unearthing ancient dreamways:
  • Practice non-conceptual meditation to absorb the energy and illusion of the dreamscape
  • Call upon your inner energy to heal [whatever is going on in your body, mind, spirit]
  • Go inside the fairy mounds of Ireland [or visit important cultural sites of your heritage]
  • Face your fear or ask your dream antagonist a question
  • Ask what's beyond the dream
  • Practice tolerating tremendous catalytic energies to prepare for the transformation of death
  • Meet influential [literary, scientific, artistic, or spiritual figures]
  • Meet with a god(dess) [and be prepared for anything; know your lore first!]
  • Let that animal eat you
  • Practice shape-shifting; pick an animal
  • Ask for initiation, empowerment, and protection from your benevolent dreaming-ancestors
  • Experiment with different protective energies to see how they function [violet flame, white light, energetic invisibility, amulets]
  • Receive a symbol or amulet
  • Swap contact information with other dream figures
  • Chant a mantra to experience its function and impact
  • Give your patients remedies in dreams, or ask them what they need, or ask how to proceed with difficult cases [with their waking life permission]
  • Check in on grandma
  • Go assure the future generations that we the ancestors love them
  • Ask to see, have, or hold your next [book, painting, musical score, scientific breakthrough]
  • Ask for a name
  • Be love
  • Become sound
  • Experiment with different emotions to feel their impact on your surroundings; generalize this to waking life]
  • Arrange a meet-up with a friend for some mutual lucid dreaming
  • Walk through walls [and other exercises to strengthen will]
  • Ask to feel the depth of your lineage
  • Visit another time [past or future]
  • Visit yourself in a parallel world/universe
  • Go to the Moon
  • Be projected into space as energy by a satellite dish
  • Visit your favorite star systems
  • Ask how bugs metabolize time/space
  • Ask where the living traditions of your people are kept
  • Fly over the Earth like a comet, blessing all sentient beings
  • Ask to bear witness to "lost" ceremonies
  • Meet the fairies [but don't eat the food]
What would you add, modern person? How are you paving the ancient and inherited dreamways?

artist unknown

Friday, October 10, 2014

Remembering Our Ceremonies with Respect to the Elders

Erin Langley
What an interesting time to be alive. Most of us are post-diaspora ancestral mosaics, lumped together under national politics, our tribes and homelands forgotten, colors replacing heritages, compartmentalized into tiny boxes. (I will not check "white," the box that ignores Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Frank, Ashkenazi Jew, Norse, and Cherokee, not to mention the unending backbone that connects me with all of life.) 

It is also a wondrous time to be alive. Google exists. Self-selected families can create beauty on staggering scales. We have relative freedom to choose our paths, as long as we aren't upsetting the NSA, as long as we have privilege, etc. We live among people from all over the world.

We still have so much in common with our ancestors. We are born, we die, we breathe in, we breath out, we dream, we mate, we eat, we eliminate, we emote, we think, we observe. We create ceremony. 

After a weekend of attending the powwow in Berkeley, California, and the Gathering of the Ohlone Peoples in Coyote Hills, I feel strong in my commitment to remember the ceremonies of ancient Europe. In October of 2011, before Mexica-Toltec elder, Sundance chief, and timekeeper Tlakaelel became an ancestor, I told him that we had lost our ceremonies, and asked for his advice. He said, "You must must do a lot of research, keep looking with your heart. If you still do not find any ceremony, then you must create it. You must create it from your heart, with respect to the elders." He held my hand while saying this, and emanated pure love. 

me with Tlakaelel in 2011

I have done my best to take his advice. I have kept an open heart and mind as I move through life. I have read the Celtic sagas, folktales, and books on the alignments of our sacred sites. I have been recording my dreams every single day for 9 years so that I can contribute my waking and dreaming records as a body of work when I meet other people working toward the same end. I know you are out there. 

I look at the European people around me who create ceremony, and I have trouble connecting. In respect and kinship with the participants, I see a lot of substance abuse, and I wonder about the origins of their practices. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a purist. I know we can't make things the way they once were, and I wouldn't want to anyway. I'm just trying to find my place. Tlakaelel said to create new ceremonies only after we have looked, within and without, with respect to the elders. Where are the European tribal elders? They must be in Europe. I am looking here in America, and I am finding only the passage of time, and I am wondering if we are the elders, slowly growing up together.

I look to my friends who are immersed in Lakota ceremony, or Maya healing traditions, or curanderisma, or Hopi, or Hindu, or Chinese cosmology. I am happy for them, especially when they are fortunate enough to have access to their own unbroken ancestral traditions. I do not deny that we can be called to another tradition or that we all share common ancestry, because we can and we do, but it is always good to know who we are first. 

At one time, I would have eagerly attended any ceremony, with a nose-to-the-glass desire to become whatever I witnessed before me. Now I attend strong in myself, as a guest, and thank God for those who are able to have continuity with their homelands and ancestors. It is beautiful.

I am a person of many European clans, a fluid embodiment of bygone tribal eras. What do we do when we are a beautiful, confusing patchwork quilt of cultural expressions? When we are not born on ancient inherited land that stores millennia of ancestral memories? What would a ceremony even look like today? 

Ceremonies were given to the people by the land, the ancestors, and the spirits to create reciprocity between the worlds. They are like a set of instructions that keep communities healthy, that keep our relationships good. We can gauge our relative health by what happens during the ceremony. If things don't go well, that says something. It's a form of divination. If they do go well, that bodes well for the tribe, for the world. 

Ceremonies accumulate power and momentum over thousands of years, especially on our sacred sites, where people would gather. This is why when we go to the special places on our homelands, we can still feel the power there, and can experience awakening quickly. We are basking in the ceremonial residue of harmonious intent. 

I look around and wonder, "Am I the only one who misses them?" I can't be. This is why thousands of European-descended people flock to powwows, identify so thoroughly with their 1/28th Cherokee heritage, become initiates in other traditions, create new ceremonies the best we can together after generations of colonization, disconnection from our lands, and painful forgetting of our own stories. 

So what do we do? For me, it started with a prayer. My teacher and elder Apela Colorado instructed me to make a traditional offering of mead (honey wine, a common European offering) and say a simple prayer to connect with my ancestors. It worked. This prayer opened a door that a thousand ancestors wanted to step through simultaneously (which can happen if no one in the family is consciously listening to those who have come before us). 

Dr. Apela Colorado (center) with Roger Marty, traditional Occitan Healer, and Voodouin healer and M.D. Erick Gbdossou in the South of France
Our ancestors speak to us in waking life synchronicities and through our dreams. Apela taught me to pay attention and record the things that happen after I made my prayer. I also continued with traditional genealogical research. It all works together. Ancestral remembrance is much easier when we rely on the support and momentum of a circle whose focus is remembering. (But don't let that stop you. You can start out working with just yourself and some guidelines [email me]. And, you'll always have unseen help. Do have a stable support system in place to help you through the transformative path of ancestral remembrance.)

Apela was among the first to reawaken to our European indigeny and offer her revelation as a gift for the Earth and we who are walking on it. She grew up identifying with her Native American (Oneida) heritage, but then one day she realized that her Frank ancestors (from France) were just as important as her Oneida ancestors. Luckily for us, she opened a school to help people from any background to reconnect with our native traditions. 

I entered this ceremony of remembrance with a group of people from nearly every continent. We have worked together over many years to remember who we are, our global tribe. We're creating a new way with respect to the old ways. We have seen remembrance become easier for each successive group of students. Our efforts pave the way for each other, like our ancestors paved the way for us. We have also noticed, as the motley crew that we are, that when we keep clear boundaries with our prayers, our lineages speak in turns, very manageably. I learned how to tell the thousand ancestors who wanted to speak all at once, "I'm here. I'm listening. But you gotta form a line."

The ancestors who speak most clearly to me and through me are the Celtic people of Ireland. I am at home in the stone circles. There, I can breathe. The pre-Celtic Neolithic people really understood the relationship between land and sky. They made their observations available to us by building sophisticated stone monuments, which also functioned as ritual centers. 

This weekend at the powwow, the Aztec people (Tlakaelel says their ancient name is the Atlan) explained that their ancestors were sky watchers, too, who embedded their observations in dance. The dancers were not spinning and bouncing at random; each move embodies a relationship between the Heavens and Earth.

I thought about Irish dancing. Although far younger than the Atlan dances, surely the Irish dances I know and love didn't appear out of thin air. I wonder about their stylistic precedent, or if the content reflected the heavenly motions. In Ireland, star charts are everywhere. Each mound is a precise archive of our heavenly dance. The petroglyphs, too, record lunar, solar, and stellar patterns. The River Boyne is said to be a reflection of the Milky Way.

Ann Marie Sayers, photo by

Yesterday at the Gathering of the Ohlone, I saw elder, Tribal Chair of Indian Canyon, and storyteller Ann Marie Sayers, who I have admired for years. I walked up to her and told her so, and also mentioned that I was working toward the recovery of my people's native ceremonies. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye, and said, "They're coming back!" 

This was one of the first times I'd heard this from an elder. It was music to my ears, and I know it's true. In fact, Apela just returned from a ceremony in the caves of Dordogne, France, conducted by an indigenous elder of the (European) Occitan culture. She offers this picture and words about her experience:

photo courtesy of Apela Colorado
"In the presence of shamans from around the world, Jean Paul Amanieu, member of the ancient Occitan indigenous people of southern France, calls to Ancestors and for their help in renewing the indigenous spirituality and traditions of his people. The Occitan culture has survived a thousand years of oppression from the Romans and Catholic Church Inquisitions, and in modern times, French government policies aimed at destroying the language and any vestiges of culture. This moment marks a renaissance and is a beacon of hope for the entire western world."

I dream of participating in such an event. I already am, in my own way. Every effort counts, and before we know it, our lifetimes of effort have contributed to something really beautiful. Bringing authentic European ceremonies into a modern context might sound like a lot of work, and it is. But it's also fun. I'm living my dream. It is an honor to help pave the way for the growing movement of remembrance. 

. . .

A huge thank you to Apela for all you do and have done, for my circle of friends who are walking the path with me, and to my ancestors, who make all of this possible. 

Go raibh maith agaibh! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Transforming Nightmares and Recurring Dreams

John Bauer

I just woke up from a nightmare. Nightmares are a trip. Sometimes they can unwind bouts of complexity in one massive discharge of fright. Sometimes they play unexamined or suppressed energies on repeat, i.e., recurring nightmares. Sometimes they help us digest trauma over many years. Nightmares are very clever in that they demand our attention, if even for a moment. Ultimately, they demonstrate and serve our wholeness.

Working directly with nightmares can be extremely difficult for people who have experienced torture, war, abuse, and any other major trauma. Support is essential, whether through guided dreamwork or under the care of an experienced counselor. I recommend working with someone who deals with dreams, simply because PTSD has a strong correlation with nightmares.

Here are some tips I've compiled to help us transform nightmares and recurring dreams:

John Holmes

1. Train yourself to recognize when you're dreaming. 

While you're awake, remind yourself that powerful, intolerable fear happens most often in nightmares. So, next time you're feeling that way, check to see if it's a dream. You can say, "The next time I feel extreme fear, I will recognize I am having a nightmare."

With recurring dreams, you can replay the scene while you're awake, and remind yourself that the next time this happens, you will be dreaming.

artist unknown

2. Change your response to fear. 

My friend Ilarion Merculieff, Aleut elder and medicine person, told me a story of facing a dream figure who had been stalking him in nightmares. He trained himself to recognize when he was dreaming. Eventually, he was able to become lucid and ask the dream figure who it was and what it wanted. After his pursuer was able to deliver a very specific message, the dream resolved.

My typical response to fear is to flee, which is what I did this morning, until I realized I was dreaming. Then I changed my response by facing the terrifying man. I turned to him and said, "Who are you?" He looked away. I demanded, "You are bound to tell me who you are!" He said, "I am an ancient magician." I could have asked why he was here or what he was doing. I could have left him alone, but I chose to put my hands on him and sing him a Bible song. I watched as he turned into a small, plastic cherub. (Sometimes in dreams, I default to my southern, Christian upbringing.)

artist unknown

3. Take small steps to change your nightmares or recurring dreams.

Once, I was talking with a woman who had been gang raped and physically abused for many years. She often relived this in nightmares. I asked if she ever tried healing with lucid dreams. Surprisingly, she had. She said that she could wake up in her dreams sometimes, but even then she felt helpless. So, she began to see what she could change about the scene. Even though she was still being raped, she could change certain elements of the dreamscape, like the weather, or to a small degree, her own response to being raped. She said that over time, these small changed amounted to enormous healing.

Another teacher taught me to scan the dreamscape during recurring dreams, and look for something different. Anything at all. Is there a crocodile in the corner? A picture hanging on the wall you've never seen before? These observations can yield large shifts to release ingrained dream patterns. You can also track small, natural shifts in recurring dreams by writing them down, and noting any developments, however subtle.

artist unknown

4. Enlist nightmares in your spiritual practice.

Once, I found myself in a den of snakes. The mortal danger I felt as they struck all around me incited lucidity. I noted the situation, and decided to walk through a wall. Then a man, who was also a bear, told me, "This nightmare is not just for you. We are all connected." I remembered I don't have to take nightmares personally, or even feel that I am facing the fear alone. I can respond in solidarity with all beings, and enlist our shared capacity for both courage and equanimity. I thanked him and returned to the den of snakes. I sat down and meditated. Why not here? As soon as I entered the grace of no-preferences, the scene dissolved, and I simply slept.

source unknown
5. Understand you're not alone.

No matter what you're going through, you are not alone. By virtue of our connectedness, I got your back and so does everything else (despite how it might feel). Invite yourself to heal, and don't forget to ask for help. Know that there are people who devote their entire lives to praying for all beings. That means you (and me)! So, soak it up. As we deal with the inherent difficulty of humanness, let's also receive the love that is the fabric of our being. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are We Dreaming? Adventures in Meta-Lucid Dreaming

artist unknown
As commonly occurs, a woman recently came to me for advice about becoming more lucid in dreams. We sat down together, and I said, "Okay, let's start by determining whether we're dreaming right now. Is this a dream? Let's keep asking ourselves until we're uncertain."

1. Cultivate uncertainty.

We thought of ways to ascertain whether we might be inhabiting the waking world or the dreaming world. We looked at our hands to see if they appeared familiar. I showed her the trick about jumping: "If you jump and hover, chances are you're dreaming." Gravity appeared to do its thing. "Now let's look at our surroundings."

2. Check out your body. Does it look familiar?
3. Jump! Is the semblance of gravity intact?
4. Notice your surroundings.

I noticed for the first time that we appeared to be in Peru. "Hmm," I thought. "This seems improbable."

I happily exclaim to my new friend, "Oh, snap! We are dreaming!" [Embarrassingly, that is actually what I said.] I try the jumping trick again, and show her how I hover. "See?" Sometimes I become invested in proving to the other dream figures that we're all sharing this miraculous dream body together. I don't know why this seems important.

5. Fly. (Or whatever.)

Everyone is surprised and happy. I float past the other participants, waking them up to the dream. Who's being awakened? I have no idea.

And now I ask you this: Are you dreaming? How can you tell? Is it difficult for you to read text in dreams? Are you having difficulty doing so now? If yes, maybe you are dreaming. Ask until you are uncertain. This makes us lucid no matter where we find ourselves, dreaming or waking, living or dead.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Normalizing Seership

Last night, my daughter Weens woke me up for the hundredth time around midnight. I was kind of grumpy, but nevertheless interested in recording a batch of dreams from early in the night, which would have otherwise been lost. One dream went like this:

Weens and I are walking inches from an ostrich who's guarding a bunch of her eggs.

Today, we got up and decided to go to the zoo, where we hopped on the first train ride of the day, and immediately found ourselves faced with this guy:

The only thing the conductor shared about the emu (not an ostrich, but I honestly don't know the difference) is that they lay 15-20 eggs at a time. 

This kind of dream-to-wake-world bleed-through happens all the time. Nothing major in and of itself, except that it illustrates the continuity between waking and dreaming, and the simultaneity of existence. 

A few minutes later, while riding the Sky Train (a great metaphor for dreaming, and in this case also denoting cars suspended by cables that overlook the zoo), we passed a woman who had recently been referred to me for instruction on dream yoga, or ways to cultivate and practice awareness while dreaming. We waved. I laughed. 

I think about the notion of continuity a lot, about corroding the distinction between day and night with awareness. Don't get me wrong; I love to be unconscious, too, and value the restorative function  of the deep black void. The punctuation of sleep. (Or of death.) Right after I spoke the ostrich dream, I whispered into my recorder, "I feel better now, like a heart remembering how to beat after a day of wraith-like fluttering. In this case, sleep was my defibrillator." 

I practice dreaming as a way to navigate the bardo, after death, so everything I encounter in dreams I consider fair game for future arising in some or other transitory state. I figure the more I face without (or in spite of) fear, the more likely I am to make a graceful transition between incarnations. And, you know, the more likely I am to manoeuvre gracefully while I'm awake, which I haven't really been doing lately. So, that's clearly just a theory.

Usually my dreams are good/benign/ illustrative, but sometimes in lucid dreams, which can feel even more "real" than waking life, mortal danger and death present themselves. It is fun (ok, terrifying) to practice facing them, always unsure of whether I'll wake up. Dying sometimes is good.

Then this other thing happened this morning while I was awake and tidying up. I "saw" Weens fall down and get a bloody knee. So, I told her. I said, "I just got a pretty strong hit of you falling down and getting a bloody knee today, so I recommend putting pants on under your dress." She said, "No, thank you." I said, "Okay, but just know that if you do wear pants, your knee will be more protected, and if you don't wear pants, there could be blood." She declined pants a second time. So, I put Neosporin and bandaids in my purse.

Of course, the bloody knee happened at the end of our visit to the zoo. I brought my screaming girl into the bathroom, blood dripping down her little leg. It happened when she was dismounting the ostrich (of all things) on the carousel. I cleaned her up, spoke soothing words, and set her to the task of opening her dinosaur bandaid. 

I bring up both these instances of precognition to normalize seership. One of my mentors Bob Levine calls it "awareness." "Psychic," he says, can lead you off on some weird tangent. But awareness is natural. You can just notice, accept, and let go (and of course, navigate life more easily from all the heads-ups). 

When I was a wee lass I felt (and at times acted) like a lunatic (I do love the moon) because I didn't know what to do with all the unbidden "mystical" experiences. Neither did the church or the people around me. I have since learned that there is nothing I need to do, but that keeping good records helps, and service is good. 

As a teen, I wanted to be a "particle physicist." It's all I wanted to read about and think about. I spent lunches with my physics teacher, Mr. Klein. That obviously didn't happen, but I have developed a science out of marginalized experiences. The first step is to move them out of the margin and into the median. I make note of what I see, dream, or feel. I track symbolism, matching it against wake-world counterparts (sometimes only in hindsight), and note repetition. 

Eventually, a dictionary of awareness arises. For me, it's taken about ten years. I might court the fringe, but I feel like a scientist in my approach, acknowledging and partnering up with inevitable subjectivity. I'm playing the ball where it lands, which is in the laboratory of oneironautics rather than at CERN.

Another reason I'm also sharing this is because I frequently see people a) freak out or b) get a very inflated ego when something "out of the ordinary" happens, when the truth is, awareness is ordinary. If you can see, you're not special--or rather, you're exactly as special as everyone else. 

When I was a girl, I assumed I was special. But I'm here to tell you that anything in the diverse, yet relatively minuscule realm of human experience is absolutely normal. And I just thought you should know because maybe some of you don't, and I wish someone had told me sooner.