Sunday, December 13, 2009

Red-Tailed Hawk

art by Daniel McQuestion

Would you like to hear a magical story that shows the oneness of dreaming and waking? We're at the point in the plot where things look bleak, and we're wondering how life, under these conditions, could possibly turn out all right, even though we have faith that it will.

On December 11, I had this lucid dream, which starts out non-lucid:

I am driving down a stretch of road in the East Bay hills. I see a van beside my vehicle. I am looking up into the sky watching a red-tailed hawk soar overhead. The van next to me does not see the hawk, so I point it out to them, and they, too, begin tracking the movements of the raptor.

I'm on foot now, walking through the golden grass. The hawk circles us curiously. It comes closer and closer, and eventually swoops right over me. I feel such awe toward this bird. The next thing I know, it flies up behind me and lands on my shoulder. I see the hawk perched there in the shadow we cast in front of us. It is beautiful.

Then I wake up and realize I'd been dreaming. I really want to get back to this scene, so I do a sort of forward roll of consciousness back into the dream. It works, and now I am lucid. The landscape is the same, but the van next to me has changed:

It is now bright orange, and the man inside looks strange to me. Something about him is off. He's slightly pudgy with dark hair and pasty, olive skin. He wears round, wire-rimmed glasses. I ask, "Who do you represent?" He says, "I am the nuclear waste that can destroy everything." I say, "Who does the hawk represent?" He comes back with a nonsense answer, "a doo-hicky mixed with a bag of hammers." I understand from this that he knows only about himself and not about any of the life around him. Therefore, he can answer questions only about himself. [I want to ask him more questions, like "what does your spirit need for healing?"] But the dream transitions into something else.

Then last night, in waking life, I attended a party where I met a lovely young couple, Scott and Kenda. I overheard Scott explaining some of the details of being an environmental lawyer. I felt grateful for his hard work and devotion to caring for our land, and I suddenly felt compelled to share the Lucid Dream Conservation Project with him and Kenda. Both expressed interest, and Scott wanted to tell me about his specific work so that I can include it in the dreaming.

Scott, it turns out, works at an office called Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment). He went on to tell me that nuclear weapons are manufactured either at Lawrence Livermore Lab here in the East Bay, California, or at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. Scott says the Lawrence Livermore Lab recruits bright young scientists who don't always understand the implications of their research. Meanwhile, Livermore's groundwater has high levels of Tritium and other radioactive materials (the wineries here do not test their grapes for these isotopes), its population has high incidences of brain cancer (think Erin Brockovich), and a biohazard clean-up crew had to come remove trees from Livermore because they had such profound levels of radioactivity. Yes, radioactive trees, right here in Livermore.

Then, he handed me his business card. And guess what the logo is. Yep, it's a red-tailed hawk.

Scott and I went on to talk about how the place we call Livermore today was once an important trading center for the Ohlone. Twenty miles north of the lab (walking distance for these migratory tribes), stands Brushy Peak, a burial ground for the ancestors of this land. Just a stone's throw away, we can see another of the area's sacred places--Vasco Caves, which contain 9,000 year-old human remains and the cave paintings of its ancient inhabitants. Mt. Diablo lies just west of Lawrence Livermore Lab, as do Black Diamond Mines, where we have relatively recently pillaged the Earth's coal for profit. I feel it's no coincidence that this important center for Native ritual and trade now houses one of the most toxic laboratories on the planet. Such places of concentrated energy reflect the prevailing values of a given era. Lawrence Livermore Lab speaks of how far we've swung away from nature. We are leaving nuclear waste for our progeny to deal with. So we, the forebears, must start dreaming up some solutions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Creating My Own Punchline

image from

Here is a lucid dream I had a couple nights ago, called Creating My Own Punchline:

I know I'm dreaming because a voiceover says, "This next lucid dream takes place in a hotel." (If only it were always that easy.) I find myself in a room with an Indian man (from India). I say, "Now what?" He says, "Tell me your favorite punchline of a joke." I say, "My favorite punchline... Hmm... I can't really think of any right now." He waits expectantly. I ask, "Can you just tell me some jokes and I'll pick my favorite one?" He says no. I explain that I'm not really a joke sort of person. But he won't relent.

The tone of the dream turns sinister now. Everything darkens, literally and figuratively. I can barely see anything. Summoning my courage, I say, "Let there be humor, let there be light!" Slowly the room becomes brighter. I keep singing these two lines, "let there be humor, let there be light" over and over while dancing around the apartment. The dream turns into a Broadway number, and horns accompany me. The whole atmosphere changes. I am sliding down banisters and marching around, having a great time. I realize I've created my own punchline that I can call upon to dispel the phantoms of darkness.

I have been practicing this in waking life ever since. I think I chose to write about this dream because of its practical value. Creating humor brings balance to the waking and dreaming worlds when stuff gets too dark or heavy. I learned this lesson from an Aleut healer when my Indigenous Mind cohort was inadvertently courting shadows one day. We were really wallowing in our ancestral wounds. He brought this to our attention by aiming his rear end at us and pretending to fart as loud as he could. In that moment, he healed about a thousand years of oppression.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Calling on My Inner Energy

image from

I got the idea to ask for a doctor inside a lucid dream from Robert Waggoner's Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. However, I didn't read far enough along to discover that this method does not usually work! Before going to sleep last night, I happened to open his book to the page that outlines lucid dream healing techniques that tend to succeed and those that tend not to. I'd like to share them here. (And his book is full of these gems.)

He explains on page 172 that people who are most likely to succeed in lucid dream healing display the following attitudes and behaviors:

1. a positive expectation or positive belief about possible success
2. greater "surrendering" to the lucid dream and acceptance of its flow and intuited information
3. the use of healing techniques they can perform with their own actions
4. a willingness to call on inner energy

Conversely, those less likely to succeed exhibit these attitudes and behaviors:

1. a neutral expectation or belief about their success; a possible expectation of failure
2. greater rigidity to the lucid dream and its flow (for example, they refused advice, symbols, or items offered them in the dream seemingly because it conflicted with waking assumptions and beliefs)
3. use of healing techniques they could not perform personally (they needed to "find" the healing place, the doctor, or the healing liquid); the healing seemed more external to them and could not be performed by their own action

So last night, when I went to sleep and found myself in a lucid dream, I decided to call upon my own inner energy, as well as that of the dreamscape to heal my back. Immediately, I felt a rush of vitality, like a spring of light bubbling into the affected areas. Pictures of my life that I believe directly relate to the ailments also arose in my field of vision. My second attempt at physical healing felt much more effective. My back pain is gone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Is There a Doctor in the House?

image from

Yesterday I had a lucid dream in which I encounter more stumbling blocks:

I am in a large, busy restaurant with booths lining the walls. I realize I'm dreaming and yell out, "Is there a doctor in the house?" because my mission for this dream is to get some healing for my own body. I wait a few moments while the talking dies down. Yes, there is a doctor, at the far end of the restaurant. He comes around the corner, red-faced and energetic, his blue eyes bulging. I say, "Excuse me sir, but can you heal my back?" He perfunctorily starts rubbing the muscles of my upper back really hard. This is not exactly what I am expecting, and it hurts.

When he finishes, I ask if he can please look at my lower back, too. By this time, people have started to line up for healing. He says no, he can't help. There's not time. I say, "yes there is time. Can you please look at the lump in my back?" He repeats that he cannot. Then I ask the doctor if he can send a healing angel, and he says, "No, because you have cancer and you are supposed to write a book, so go live your life and make it book-readable!" The dream shifts into a false awakening. I am no longer lucid. A lengthy dream ensues.

I want to highlight many aspects of this dream that make it a successful learning experience, but not a successful healing dream for my back. First, I ask for a doctor, who presumably is eating dinner when I call on him. Therefore, it's no surprise I end up with a guy who doesn't want to be bothered by my minor back issues at that time. He may also be a stereotype of a western doctor that I carry around--one who lacks time, patience, and the curiosity needed to correctly diagnose. (I have a very high opinion of my own doctor, however.)

Second, rather than asking this doctor if he could send a healing angel, I could have asked the dream itself to send an angel. Looking back, it seems out of character for this dream figure to have complied with such a request. Or, I could have skipped the intermediary altogether and simply asked the dream to heal my body. More assertively, I could have sent my back healing energy myself.

Third, when I realized I probably would not receive healing from the doctor, I could have asked who he represents.

Lastly, when the doctor told me I have cancer, I could have asked for all of my fears to fall away from the dreamscape to see if the information still held true.

One reason I want to heal my body in a lucid dream is so I can experience a measurable effect of the power of dreaming. My own body seems more manageable as an individual endeavor. I expect that creating health on a smaller scale will teach me about large-scale ecological restoration. I also realize that my body is the Earth, and so healing it is as worthwhile a practice as any.

Lucid dreaming is an exercise in sharpening the mind. It requires an ongoing, accurate reading of the environment. When we can focus our intent while reacting precisely, immediately, and creatively to the maneuvers of our dreamscape, then we can manage our realities with the ease of a martial artist. I am learning to be careful what I ask for, and to mean exactly what I say. This, too, is a lesson I can generalize to the waking world.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Healing Russia

Last night's lucid dream:

I find myself at a bar in Russia. I say to people sitting at the bar counter that some object (a matchbook? a candle holder?) is Russia, and we must pour our love and healing energy into it. The people in the bar oblige. I say I know we are just a few people, but this is how we do it. This is how we heal Russia. And the people agree. Healing energy comes out of our hands into the object. We sing and make sounds to assist, and very slowly bring our outpouring to a close.

People begin finding the contours of Russia in the woodgrain of the bar, tracing their fingers along a range of mountains. I keep focusing my eyes on different parts of the bar so I can remain in the dream. [Many lucid dreamers find that if you stare at something for too long, the dream will dissolve.] Some people feel resentful of my presumption that Russia needs healing. I talk to them. Others tell me about a history of tension between Russia and China, about police corruption, about the backlash of communism as a reactionary movement to what preceded it, about poor living conditions. A very tall woman who works at the bar seems particularly keen on avoiding me. She is resentful and wants to leave right away. She is as tall as a telephone pole, and I think that she may be Russia herself. She leaves the bar to go home to sleep.

After we finish our healing session, I try lighting a Tibetan candle with a match. A man at the bar says he will help. He blows on the candle with great vigor, trying to act as a bellows, when really he is just blowing out the flame. He says the candle is broken, and asks if I want him to throw it out. I say, "No, I can light it!" And I do, even though the wick is below the wax. I light it and it burns. I cleanse the space. Outside the bar, I see a police officer chasing someone. I contemplate ending the dream because it has already gone on for so long and I want to be able to remember it all. I do not want to ask the corrupt police officer how to heal Russia, but behind him, I see a man I feel I can trust. He's wearing a light blue shirt and a copper or bronze badge. I say, "How do we heal Russia?" He says, "I like that, hon. Just like that." He means that we can heal Russia by asking the question.

Recovering the Indigenous Mind

art by Erin Langley

Here I will attempt to illustrate what indigenous mind recovery looks like for many people. A whole new batch of ancestors has recently been making itself known to me. They show up in many ways, repeatedly, so that I start taking notice. Dr. Apela Colorado, founder of the Indigenous Mind program, requires the principle of triangulation to verify information coming to us. That is, information must come once and be confirmed twice to legitimize the content. Triangulation provides a practical way to stay grounded in the midst of the deep process of indigenous mind recovery. Often, once we're aware that the process is underway, we see that its first tendrils extend back many years, sometimes to childhood.

As a teenager, I had an out-of-body experience (OBE), in which I'm in a boat in a vast sea. All I can see is water and fog, except for one other boat carrying a lone man. I shout to the man, "Where are we?" He says, "Look around you! This is the Black Sea!" At that time, I had no idea I was on an ancestral journey. In 2006, I completed a painting, pictured above, entitled "Black Sea" in honor of this dream. I hadn't planned to make the Black Sea. It just appeared in the chaotic forms I happened to lay down as I experimented with the paint. I only elicited what was already there. Around this same time, I was having dreams of being in a gulag, a term I did not recognize until I looked it up. I also dreamed of caves and mountains in the Caucasus region. These dreams came back to me when I read a book that Ryan Hurd of the Dream Studies Portal recommended called Entering the Circle, about a Russian psychiatrist learning from Siberian kams (shamans) who teach about some of the topics that appeared in my dreams about the region.

Then, when my daughter was born this summer, a nurse took us on as her special case for some reason. She really rallied for us in the hospital when we had trouble checking out and going home. As we were finally leaving, she told me about the charity work her foundation does along the Black Sea each year. Within the past month, I decided to revisit this theme of the Black Sea by using a satellite shot of it as my computer wallpaper. The next week, a relative gave me a piece of granite whose shape is reminiscent of the Black Sea. Etc., etc. This is what triangulation looks like.

I bring up ways of knowing that supplement Western research methods that we also rely on in the Indigenous Mind program, such as the genealogical sections of our libraries, the Mormon temple, Cyndi's List, or living relatives who may have done ancestral research. Eventually it occurred to me that I could incorporate lucid dreaming into this process, and that is just what I attempted to do last night. I don't know very much about my ancestors from Russia, except that some are Jewish, and lived in Odessa. In last night's lucid dream, I got to visit Russia and learn a bit about its history. I will report on its content in my next post.

Ancestral Remembrance

art by Jen Delyth

I have been discovering the rich, complex world of lucid dreaming. I've engaged dream figures in conversations, received messages for others, and just plain explored this new-to-me terrain. I find myself backpeddling a bit, noticing my tendency to charge into something new with great gusto, and naïveté. I've begun to see new (read: old) applications of lucid dreaming, such as ancestral remembrance, or reconnecting with the ancient ways of our respective tribes. Some of these ways have been lost, sometimes on purpose. What a great way to retrieve and restore the dreamways of our indigenous people. Since all of our indigenous ancestors lived closely with the Earth, reconnecting with these ways absolutely falls into the realm of lucid dreaming for the Earth.

In a recent correspondence, Robert Waggoner, author of the amazing book Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, asked me what I meant when I mentioned integrating ancestral ways through lucid dreaming. Here's an excerpt from my response:

I'll start with a lucid dream featuring the Mo'o, or the giant black lizard/goddess who's the guardian of the Indigenous Mind program I did under the tutelage of Dr. Apela Colorado, and various traditional elders from around the globe. The Mo'o is also the protector of all the Polynesian islands. As we did our residencies in Maui, the Mo'o figured in to a lot of our tribe's initiation dreams. We, the students, come from various tribes around the globe as well, and we explored and reconnected with our ancestral ways and homelands while having the opportunity to sit in circle with elders who came from relatively intact indigenous cultures. The Mo'o was always there to guide us as we "lost our Western minds" and began to experience our indigenous minds, or our Whole minds.

This dream occurred in June of 2006:

Ravens are flying by. The formations they make are amazing! They are doing it just for fun. One is sitting on another's back. One is flying with wings down, one with wings outstretched, there's a group of about nine of them flying. I tell my housemate, who says he is familiar with ravens flying just for fun. I tell him he's not seen anything like this, though. Then I am outside again on the deck. There is one big Raven, and I say, "It was YOU!" because I recognize it as the one who gave me medicine in a previous dream. It gets bigger and bigger and lands on the deck with a thud. Then it transforms into a giant raven chick and falls to a lower story of the deck. Then it transforms yet again into a giant black crocodile (the Mo'o), HUGE, at least 30 feet long. It is going to eat me. I get very afraid. Then I remind myself that I am dreaming, and if I were awake, I'd scold myself for not having the courage to be eaten. I muster what bravery I can, and allow the crocodile to eat me. But because I have brought my fears into the dream, I can no longer see the lizard. I can only feel as it chomps down on my arm, then stomach, then leg, and then I know I must be completely inside it.

That dream happened right before I left for my ancestral journey in Ireland. It was about walking the talk and becoming a whole person, connected to my history and heritage in ways beyond knowing the names of my dead relatives listed with dates on a piece of paper. And, Ireland was truly initiatory. To say the initiation started with the dream would be wrong; it is more like the occurrences are so bound up in each other that they are one. It is difficult to separate parts out from the process, which is alive and whole.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Something Beautiful

photos by John Slaymaker

My partner-in-dreaming recently informed me that hateful graffiti began appearing at the clean-up site of my very first restoration project. (I will often cross-reference my own dreams, since I am documenting a process.) We felt as though we were challenging an energy that required a dirty, littered condition in order to survive in this particular place. So, when we pushed, it pushed back. I feel the spirit is a juvenile one. Middle school kids are the perpetrators of the graffiti, and other dreams have informed me that they do not actually feel this way, that they are just misdirecting their anger. Still, my partner-in-dreaming brought it to my attention that we would need to demonstrate grace and subtlety to have a long-term positive impact on this place. He continues to do just this by visiting the site regularly to check up on it, pick up whatever new trash people have discarded on the ground, and play a few tunes on his flute.

He noticed that other people must be helping to pick up the trash, since it looked "a little too clean." Some people even started using the trashcan I hauled up to the site. Unfortunately, new hateful graffiti also kept appearing. Then something amazing happened. On Thanksgiving, he excitedly informed me that others were indeed participating in the healing work! The graffiti had mostly been replaced by brightly-colored hearts, peace signs, and handprints! He documented this through these wonderful pictures, which are so important to a process that can seem rather abstract. I feel so honored that we get to participate in healing a small chunk of this great Earth. The hill was asking for health, and some of us are listening!