Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Dreaming, Healing, and Indigeny: Part Two

A continuation of the interview between dream educator Ryan Hurd and host of Lucid Dreaming for the Earth, Erin Langley:

3b. You say the earth does not need saving so much as listening. can you explain what you mean and how lucidity is part of your view?

I recently had the honor of seeing an Ivory-billed woodpecker in my parents' backyard in Florida. This bird is thought by many to be extinct. Ivory-billeds share many physical characteristics with Pileated woodpeckers, but this was no Pileated. I happened to be with dear friend who knows birds very well, including an intimate familiarity with Pileated woodpeckers. At the time, I did not know what kind of bird I was seeing, but I know what I saw. Its large, white bill and distinct white-black-white underwing design stood out unmistakably. It flew right over our heads in a straight, narrow clearing and landed in a nearby yellow pine. 

I could barely sleep that night because I was trying to figure out how to document this beautiful, black-crested female. I brought my camera to the same place the next day, in case it came back. I talked with my friend about the importance this sighting could have for the ecology of Middleburg. In my early 20s, I left Middleburg because the deforestation and culture that lends itself to such practices broke my heart. I wanted to return when I could do something to help. Excitedly, I told my friend, "We've got to tell someone! We have to tell Cornell, we have to let birders know, we have to halt deforestation!" 

Then it hit me that my emotional agenda was superseding a natural order. Yes, this was important, and yes, we would tell people. But, the best way I could "help out" in that moment was to slow down, take a deep breath, and appreciate the magic. I question whether anything truly needs helping in an I'm-your-savior kind of way. Actions inspired by deep presence ripple out and invoke the natural renewal of the world at large. 

The woodpecker arose in a confluence of wonder. We'd gone outside to be with the land because my friend and I were feeling the presence of the native Creek people so strongly. We did not go out there with our cameras to document an Ivory-billed woodpecker. We did not go out to save the world. If we'd done that, the bird wouldn't have come. The Ivory-billed woodpecker came because we were listening, and responding naturally. This is a good way to "save the world," and it requires lucidity. 


4. How do you honor your lucid dreaming in waking life? Do you have any practical advice or tips for others who want to open to the world of ancestral/world-honoring lucid dreaming?

The first, most practical way I honor my dreams of any kind is to write them down every morning (and often during the night). Then, I type them up so I can search for themes by keyword more easily. Often, I dream of foods and herbs that are beneficial for me, so I make an effort to eat the foods that show up in a positive context. This reinforces a positive feedback loop. With a simple gesture to anchor the dream in the waking world, I am also letting my dreams recalibrate me toward health. (I can do this with anything that comes to me in a dream. If I want to honor a Raven, for example, I can acknowledge it by making it my desktop background.)

One easy way I honor my dreams is to simply say, "thank you for the dreams." I also consult a reference of dream symbols compiled by a trusted teacher, Liu Ming, for symbols that I want to learn more about. Then, at night before I go to bed, I recall my dreams from the previous night. All this may seem like a lot of work, but it gives me continuity between realms of consciousness. By spending time with my dreams, I can recognize when dream elements show up in waking life, which happens all the time for nearly everyone who pays attention.

To honor my lucid dreams, I sporadically keep a blog with entries that build upon each other to create a narrative of learning. Blogging also lets me honor the dreams by sharing them. The elders I've worked with have taught me to trust my instinct regarding what to share and when to share it. Lastly, I honor my lucid dreams with sincerity. I just really enjoy learning from them, and I have great respect for the dream world, which is really no different from the waking world.

For people who want to open to the world of ancestral/world-honoring lucid dreaming, I would suggest embarking on the highly personal process of decolonization. A simple prayer to your ancestors, even if you are adopted, even if you don't know who they are, yields potent results. You can make an offering of fruit, spirits, honey, food, or herbs along with the prayer. (Yes, you can do this as a Christian, too. Simply state the prayer in the name of Jesus. Christianity is an integral part to many of our heritages in the Western world.) Then, be prepared to listen in dreams and in waking life. It does not matter if your heritage seems overwhelmingly diverse, as mine did to me. Our lineages will speak to us in a way that we can manage if we request this clearly. 

Also, for those of European heritage, we can examine the notion of "whiteness" and remember that we descend from a myriad of diverse tribes and cultural lands. We can look for our traditions, and notice how they are already a part of us--surnames, linguistic remnants, taste in food or clothing, attraction to particular symbols, stories, or lands, etc. We can recognize and be proud of who we are. In this way, we also honor our ancestors and the world. Ancestral remembrance can cause big changes in our lives, including a lot of emotional and situational upheaval, so having a support system (a solid community or a counselor) is imperative. It is best to work in a circle of people with the same intention of remembrance. The circle holds, amplifies, and informs everyone's process.

Lastly, if lucidity isn't happening for us while we're asleep, then let's start doing it while we're awake. As Liu Ming says, "Play the ball where it lands." Letting things come in their own time still allows for limitless proactive creativity and volition. It's just that if we're relaxed and patient, everything will go more smoothly, and we won't be overextended. These behaviors, while rarely modeled in our society, hold enormous benefit for the world. They also happen to lay a foundation for lucid dreams to occur organically.

5. Can you share one of your lucid dreams that illustrates your process?

Yes, I have a lucid dream that combines many of the elements I've been talking about. In this particular dream, I did not attempt to modify the scene in any way. I simply engaged with the dream figure and circumstances presented to me as I would have in waking life:

I visit the home of a traditional doctor of Germanic descent. He welcomes me into his kitchen as he chops a variety of medicinal roots and herbs. The sights and scents enchant me. His kitchen contains the herbal wonders of his land. He tells me he'd been expecting me, and has me lie down on his table right away. I reveal my reluctance to take up his time, since I am not showing any signs of serious illness. He gives me a look as though I should know better.

His admonishing glance helps me understand that being a doctor is not about merely treating illness once it has manifested in a way that can no longer be ignored. I've always known this in theory, but his authority drives it home. This man is an artist at maintaining balance. I see that being a doctor means cultivating health continuously, not just restoring it. He diagnoses me by examining the skin of my abdomen, and looking for any protrusions, indentations, or temperature changes. I feel very happy to be in the curative presence of a doctor from an ancestral land, whose methodologies feel so folkishly familiar.

As a student of acupuncture and herbalism, I often look to dream imagery to help diagnose and treat physical illness. The old Daoist doctors used their patients' dream content as well as their own to inform diagnosis, as did the Greeks and Tibetans. I imagine that many people around the world used dreaming diagnostically, since this seems to be a technology that human beings share. In this dream, however, I did not need to interpret any diagnostic imagery. The doctor simply told me, "you're exhausted."

He also showed me how to have a healing presence by keeping a common-sense eye on balance. I felt better just by standing near him, and woke up wanting to emulate that. I honored the dream by heeding his advice ("rest"), sharing the dream, and integrating the lessons of the dream to become a more balanced practitioner and human being.

This dream also contains information about how my ancestors may have practiced medicine. So, it exemplifies how we can dream back our fokways. Information comes in bits and pieces. When a group of people shares dreams together over time, we gather a mosaic of traditional imagery that many people consider "lost." Dreaming on sacred sites is very important because the land can directly transmit our cultural memories back to us through our dreams. We can pair our dream data with existing historical evidence to help bring back our native traditions in a new way. 

6. What’s next for you in regards to lucid dreaming as a way of knowing? Where’s your focus now?

In addition to my love of regenerating our bodies and the Earth body, I am also interested in exploring states of egolessness and fearlessness in lucid dreams. Recently I had a lucid dream in which I asked to meet a guide. What I found was that my sense of self expanded in an exhilarating sort of love. Maybe now I am starting to experience how we really do live in a non-dual world, where no illusion of "other" is required. I like to practice sitting (nonconceptual) meditation in lucid dreams, too. I would like to continue with that. 

Lately I have also been exploring how humor, innocence, and vulnerability see me through the unknown worlds of lucid dreaming (and waking, too). This can be challenging for me, as I never know what I'll encounter, and I can default to terror quite easily. The tendency to run away or change the scene can be strong, so I would like to continue working on observing and facing what is in front of me without a desire to run away or  change it. In the longterm, my intention is to embody a stable understanding of reality in which I cultivate no preferences. Of course, that is the work of a very long (series of) lifetime(s). There is a natural confidence that arises from an undefended inclusion of all life, and I would like to put this to the test, for all of us. 


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