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. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Warrior Chief of the Erils

Dreams educate me more than any history class ever has. My nightlife resurrects such specific bits of history in the living, breathing context of me. I had never heard the word gulag, for example, until years ago when my dream showed me as a little boy, slogging through the snow in a daily will to survive. Nor did I know that Phoenicians used the purple dye of the Murex shell as currency. Or that the Jews of 14th century Spain faced expulsion and massacre under Catholic rule. I experience these stories subjectively, living them in poignant and personal detail.

Last night my dream taught about the Erils. I'd never heard of them before, but there I was, confronted with their warrior chief, who came back from the dead to yell at me. Minutes before, I had reached into a bed of rocks to pull out a large iron dagger, one of many that looked as though they'd been forged by the same person. I held it in my hand, and gave it a joust, to see what it felt like. It felt like a child's curiosity, and nothing more.

But now here comes the Chief of the Erils, a hulking giant, who I see emerge from the same bed of rocks. In my audio dream journal, I portray him thusly: "Holy shit, he is a big motherfucker, with a deep, deep voice... Oh. My. God." In modern times, maybe he would be considered "genetically abnormal" for his size, but in his time, his size and power made him chief of the warriors. His deep, gravelly voice conveyed all his might: "You took something that wasn't yours."

"I'm so sorry," I say, gesturing to where I'd already put it back.

I wake up. I consult Google. It just seems like the kind of dream that will yield search engine results, and I find this page about Erils as Legionnaires:

Roman sources tell about the Heruli, but on our runic stones they name themselves Erils [...] That is why I use the Scandinavian word [...] It seems logical to think the Erils were heirs of the early Bronze Age traders and metallurgists since the metals and skill of working had to be imported. My other books tell about their ancient roots. For the Romans, the Heruli were only mercenaries, while in Scandinavia the Erils were the upper class that managed a normal society in the sparsely populated times. 

I should mention here that I am having an affair with the Northern Traditions right now. My Scandinavian ancestors and gods are extremely active and present. I have always held them (notice how I say "them"; notice how I say "affair") at arm's length because of the depth of the Nordic shadow, which of course, is my own shadow. I've had some shady dealings therein. (Yes, a pun.)

In the dream, the chief was also affiliated with the Celts. I suppose the terms we use (Eril, Celt, etc.) lack storyline and fluidity so that we can use words and pretend to know things, and then to organize these fictions in ways that nevertheless bestow meaning. 

I digress. 

Empowered artifacts were often put out of commission when their wielder died. You'll find that magical implements and musical instruments have been bent or broken. Drums have been smashed. Horns have been separated--the mouthpieces disappeared, and the body of the horns offered to the depths of the bog. Is it the same with weapons of war? I get the sense that there is no one answer, but that they can be inherited by others in future generations (i.e., now). In this case, though, certainly not by me. 

Monday, February 3, 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! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cynthia Greb Interviews Erin Langley: Ancestral, Prophetic, and Lucid Dreaming

artist unknown

1. Erin, I know from our work together in the Indigenous Mind program that you are a powerful dreamer. When did you first start remembering your dreams?

The first dream I remember happened in the apartment my family lived in until I was 18 months old. So, sometime when I was very young, I had a dream of three faceless figures sitting on a bench in a desert, in front of a building made of sand with swinging red doors. I guess it was a nightmare, because I screamed for my mom, “The folks are coming! The folks are coming!” It was very real. My dream life has always been vivid.

2. Have you noticed times in your life when your dreams were particularly powerful or sacred? What was going on in your waking life at that time?

Powerful dreams happen most often when I am traveling, or if I'm in a transition--situations that put me out of my comfort zone and make me feel alive. But they can come at any time. I treat all dreams alike. Whether they seem powerful or not, they all matter. I write them all down, and consider them as I make my decisions. Small, insignificant-seeming dreams can add up to motifs, which taken as a body of work, can be very powerful.

When I went to Ireland, and sat in the sacred sites of my ancestors, my dreams were very potent. I would often return to my room after a day at Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange), lie down, and simply leave my body. Sacred sites have a profound impact on my dreaming.

3. A. What is it like to dream as a woman? B. Have you noticed correlations between your dreaming and your menstrual cycle? C. How did your dreams change when you were pregnant?
My concept of gender has really changed over the years to be more open. I guess I can only speak for myself. As a woman, I feel very receptive to energy and information. I love to learn the symbols that have come to us as a dreaming people for millennia. It feels like a very old, natural art that connects us all.

I think of menstruation as a service, in which millions of women are processing grief, turmoil, and all kinds of stuff, on behalf of all of us. I prefer to relax and nourish myself, if I can. It's a great time for dreaming, letting go, and being recalibrated.

When I was pregnant, I had lots of prophetic dreams with animal symbolism, which I didn't understand until after the birth. They foretold my daughter's stroke, and also the medicine that could help stop her bleeding. My daughter spoke very loudly from the womb, to both me and her father. Her dad is a very practical computer guy, and he'd wake up from these clear, prophetic dreams that showed what she looked like. Before she was born she said, “Don't worry, Daddy. I'm smart and happy.” We were so grateful for this dream when she was in the hospital. She also told me her very unusual middle name in a dream, which I did not share with her dad, and then he “thought of it.” In a way, we were both pregnant with her.

4. Some indigenous women teach that women’s dreams are intimately connected with both their womb and the moon. Have you noticed your dreams changing in accordance with the phases of the moon?

For five years, I tracked thousands of my dreams against an astronomical ephemeris, including the phase of the moon. I noticed that I had the most dreams in a waning gibbous moon. I don't know why. I was born in a waning gibbous moon, so maybe there's an affinity there.

5. In the Indigenous Mind program, we are encouraged to actively research our ancestry.  Did you find ancestors visiting you in your dreams?  And did it occur more frequently after you began doing research and/or honoring them in some way?

Yes, I did have some visitation dreams. I still do. I don't know if they occur more frequently than they did before, but I understand them better now. I think I was always fated to work with my ancestors. We all are, since we inherited their histories, but often that continuity remains unconscious.

As a teenager, I had visions of ancestral homelands that I would later visit. One vision (a waking state of seeing clear, photographic images through closed eyelids) showed me a map, which I thought was France. It turned out to be a map of County Meath, Ireland, which I painted as a mural seven years later on my ancestral journey.

Around the same time, I had an out of body experience of being in the Black Sea. Later I learned my maternal great grandfather came over from Odessa. When I was 20, I made a waking life pilgrimage to the healing wells of Arles, France, and to Mt. Sainte-Baume, the resting place of Mary Magdalene. I had lots of dreams and visions on this trip. This was before I knew of my Frank heritage. If you're as mixed as I am, you can go almost anywhere and it will be an ancestral journey.

Actual ancestors came to me in dreams, too. One man told me his name and relationship to me, which I verified in waking life. Some unsettled ancestors have come in. Others have come to bless me. Ancestor dreams don't need to be so literal. I have been looking at my dreams closely for a long time, so I know some of the symbols that are associated with ancestors, and what they can mean.

6. I know that you are very interested in lucid dreaming. Can you tell us a bit about lucid dreaming and why you think it’s important?

Lucid dreaming is fun. It shows me a clear view of reality, and my impact on it. If I project love, the scene responds in kind. If I ask to see what's beyond dreaming, I can experience clear, fundamental, nameless quality that is so exhilarating that I can't tolerate the experience for very long without waking up. It's also the perfect place to face my fears because they can literally manifest before me. So, I get to practice courage. Once I sat down in a den of striking snakes to meditate, because why not? Then the dream dissolved, and the most scintillating energy rippled through me, as though I had integrated the power of the dream. I felt like I'd passed some kind of test I set up for myself.

Lucid dreams are a great place to experiment with ancient healing technologies. I can't do it very well by myself; I have not been initiated or trained except through my own experiences. I need the support of a tribe, and a contextual demand for the skill. Our ancestors practiced healing from the dream worlds. I have experimented a lot with bioremediation in lucid dreams, as well as healing people (with permission), as long as it doesn't get too strenuous. Or else, what's the point—healing one at the expense of another?

I have learned to watch for the egotistical, colonial mentality of "fixing" something I know nothing about and doesn't need fixing. The idea of curing in general maintains duality, but seeing my child suffer, or thinking about people who don't have enough food to eat or access to medicine makes this view seem like decadent abstraction. There are so many layers. It's a dance.

7. Aboriginal elders believe we dream the world into being, that we can dream a better world. What do you think of this idea and do you have a dream you would like to share that can inspire us and help us to imagine a world transformed? 

A teacher of mine tells about a man who came down from a mountain to bring a girl, his distant relative, out of a coma. He treated all information he encountered along the way as a dream. When he got to the girl's house, he simply said, “Sit her up.” And she did. She sat up and asked for a drink. He had to “work on” everything and everyone around him so the dream would turn out the way the girl's family wanted it to.

We get to practice the same thing in lucid dreams and in waking life. Some lucid dreaming teachings encourage us to “control the dream.” As Robert Waggoner says, “Does the sailor control the sea?” But still, we can practice walking through walls, flying, turning into animals, doing whatever we set our mind to. This strengthens our power in any facet of the world. I don't know if the man from the mountain dreamed a better world, but he dreamed a different outcome.

To me, hope of a better world is counterproductive. I just try to keep my heart open to what's in front of me, and then tolerate the discomfort. If I give up the hope the world can be a better place, then I can relax into my actual situation. When I'm present, I'm more sensitive to the cues life gives me. Then I can respond powerfully with simple economy of gesture. I am learning about abandoning hope and animating the story I want to inhabit. Hope takes away our power. Acceptance, intention, and sustained action toward that intention give our power back to us, especially when we work together. 

. . .

For full article and information about writer and artist Cynthia Greb, see All Things Healing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prophetic Dreams

photo by Katerina Plotnikova

Have you ever had a prophetic dream? If you record your dreams, then you probably have. Most often, they occur as "inconsequential" prophecies, or details of little import that bleed through the dream world into wake-world occurrences. Inconsequential prophecy (and commonplace clairvoyance) dreams happen for just about anyone who pays attention.

This morning, I had a dream in which I was turning my soaking wet purse inside-out to dry. Sure enough, when I arrived at work today, I found myself in this exact situation.

A couple weeks ago, I had a dream in which I was rooting for the decades-old rock band, Rush. I was telling a group of people how much they deserved to be in the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame, and how glad I was that they were finally being recognized. The very next day at the doctor's office, I opened Rolling Stone magazine to an article that said, "Rush Enters Hall of Fame." I couldn't believe it, except that I could. This happens all the time: BAM. Commonplace clairvoyance.

Have you heard of the crossword puzzle experiment to explore the notion of "collective consciousness"? In the movie Waking Life, a visionary exposition on lucid dreaming, two characters describe the idea behind the experiment: If the crossword puzzles were a day old, meaning that thousands of people had already completed them, then people found it easier to get the answers because the answers were already "out there" in the collective memory.

Thousands of screaming Rush fans at the inauguration, lots of press and hullabaloo: Seems likely that my cosmic radar could easily pick up on this, especially since--and here's an embarrassing admission--as a teenager in 1998, I used to wait in the long line at the University of Florida's library to use a computer just so I could solicit the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame bulletin board to plead for Rush's induction.

(I have since learned that there are more pressing issues to which I can lend my efforts.)

But what about prophetic dreams? Dreams that occur before a phenomena has occurred among the meat-suit participants of waking life? The best way I can explain this is to say that time is all oogly-boogly.

Waking life and dreaming life are really part of the same team, constantly informing each other. The two worlds are actually one. When we learn to read the symbols of our dreams, we simply find that they hold a million premonitions. They just do. If you're interested in learning about this for yourself, I recommend keeping a dream journal.

Write down everything that you remember about your dreams. Don't worry about any of the meanings of the dream symbols or events. Just listen and record, and keep those records accessible. I write my dreams down in a notebook, and then type them up into my computer so I can search by keyword later.

Then let life unfold! You will begin to notice that certain symbols predictably yield similar events. You will start to learn the language of dreaming, both personal and transpersonal. Here are two examples from my own life:

photographer unknown

Foxes. Foxes are wonderful animals. So beautiful. We have the red and the gray variety here in the Bay Area. But when I dream about foxes, I know I can expect a spot of trouble. There is nothing inherently negative about the animal, yet when they appear in dreams, they often foretell distress of some kind or other. I originally believed this was my own personal portent, but then I learned from two prominent dream teachers that foxes are actually a cross-cultural symbol for impending complication.

During the most difficult of times in my life, such as when my daughter had a stroke after her birth, a pair of foxes, a mom and a baby, literally walked into my midwife's home on two separate occasions in the weeks leading up to the birth. This occurred in waking life(!) The symbols can appear in either realm. (It's the same realm.)

And then there are weddings. I used to dream about weddings, beautiful dreams in which the bride, usually a family member, looked so lovely as she entered her marriage ceremony, surrounded by family and friends. Then, in waking life, the bride would pass away. So, I learned that weddings foretold profound transformation or "marrying" a strong fate. Sometimes this can be a literal death, sometimes not.

This made me very anxious about wedding dreams. I started having dreams with myself as the bride. This is an example of anxiety skewing a dream symbol. I had aversion to it, so my aversion created more wedding dreams.

Plenty of more positive-seeming foretellings can occur as well. Flying can mean freedom (or it can also mean you have gas). Ripe fruit signifies privilege and luxury. We can meet with teachers and guides whose positive impact on us requires no interpretation. Usually we don't need someone to explain to us if a dream is good. It just feels good.

But sometimes good dreams occur in a "crooked" form, or opposite of what you think the dream might mean. For example, seeing feces in a dream often heralds a time of great wealth. Seeing a coffin portends good health. Copious weeping can mean profound healing and resolution. No meaning is set in stone. The images are flexible, and can evolve over time. The feeling of the dreamer usually informs the auspice. Some dreams are not symbolic at all, but offer direct glimpses into things to come.

Often, prophetic dream hold a message for or about a larger community. Dream sharing with our friends can help us discern these larger messages, and recalibrate accordingly. Integrating our dreams (which is a good 30% of our lives, after all) keeps us healthy as individuals and as communities. For example, if a tribe wanted to avoid a traumatic event that they had seen in a dream, such as a raid, they would enact the dream (in a dramatic, but less lethal way) so the dream's reality and vitality would be "spent" and the disaster could be averted. We can get creative, too, to make adjustments in order to buffer unwanted outcomes, or simply prepare for things to come.

My point is this: All the information we ever wanted know about our dreams presents itself to us every day and night. All we have to do is pay attention.