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 privileged and abstract. 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. 

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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 abundance 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 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) 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 could enact the dream (in a dramatic, but non-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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cross Quarter Dreaming: Imbolc

I am a calendar-loving dream detective. The cycles of the Sun, Moon, and Earth have cued our cyclical celebrations for millennia. Seasonal dreams can describe rituals performed at a given time of year, or our ancestors' associations with the calendar itself.  These dreams can occur on cross quarter days, which have been informed and empowered by rhythmic ritual. This land- and culture-based impulse still arises, and finds an outlet through our dreams. 

I have noticed several associations around the time of Imbolc/Candlemas, which I will describe here to organize my own records, to show a way I work with dreams (or a way they work with me), and to share findings with other dream archeologists and cultural practitioners.  
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple by Hans Holbein
For many years, I have had dreams about different aspects of the cross quarter day Imbolc. Usually, the dreams describe Imbolc as a gateway to other seasonal pivots. This reminds me of the careful alignment of megalithic monuments. A circle of stones archives a complete template for the cyclical progression of time, with the entrance oriented toward a certain day (or short range of days) on the wheel of the year. The stones rely upon and refer to one another throughout the year, much like how our dreams change with and inform each other throughout the seasons.

The first recorded dream I had about Imbolc occurred on Febraury 2, 2006:

"A black dragon chases me through the water in a cathedral. It is simultaneously Easter and Christmas. A man is using a shell as a pendulum; it is important that I get it back from him, and I do. I am at a Christmas revival, but it is also Easter. I go into a trance and am sweating and nearly hyperventilating. When I open my eyes, I am standing against the wall crucifying myself in the light. There is an Easter egg with money in it."

The dream had an urgency that caused me to research "Easter and Christmas," which sent me to an article about Candlemas, a Christian holiday that commemorates the presentation of Jesus, 40 days after his birth. The celebration takes place on February 2, the same day I had the dream. The article states, "Traditionally, Candlemas had been the last feast day in the Christian year that was dated by reference to Christmas. Subsequent moveable feasts are calculated with reference to Easter."

Six years later, on January 31, 2012, I dreamed:

"A woman has two sons, one born on 'the Christmas Equinox,' and one born on 'the Easter Equinox.' The boys have another brother, too, who was born somewhere between these two special dates. A Celtic cross, they called it, to have two sons, one born on the first Equinox, the other on the second." 

Both dreams involve the image of a cross, in the form of a crucifix and a Celtic cross. (I am thinking of the quadrant of the year, among other associations.) Both use a blend of Christian and pre-Christian symbolism and language to illustrate this time of year. Both suggest the simultaneity, or at least the conjoined nature, of these significant cyclical nodes: Christmas/Winter Soltice, Candlemas/Imbolc, Easter/Vernal Equinox.
image from

On February 2, 2013, I recorded another dream that merges seasonal nodes. This time, the dream connects Imbolc (February 2-ish) and Samhain (October 31-ish), which sit opposite each other on the wheel of the year:

"It is Halloween! I am getting ready, setting out decorations so people know to trick-or-treat at my house. I am buying candy." 

I have also had many visitation dreams at this time. Encounters with the deceased are usually associated with Samhain, when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. In my experience, a similar window exists around Imbolc. Or perhaps more precisely, a portal exists between Imbolc and Samhain. The Mound of Hostages at the Hill of Tara is aligned to receive the sunrise on both Imbolc and Samhain. The rising Sun's identical position in the sky (from our vantage point) naturally links these two days.

artist unknown
Imbolc has the double meaning of "in the belly," or "ewe's milk." Fertility, reproduction, milk, and the young--all overseen by the goddess Brigid--govern this time of year. Brigid is the goddess/saint opoetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle, and Spring. I love her. She holds the balance of fire and water with her hearth fires and holy wells. On February 5, 2013, I had a clear and simple dream of how many women of Celtic descent are emanations of the goddess Brigid herself. She knows herself through their actions, and vice versa.  

A few days "early," on January 25, 2013, I had a dream that spoke of how megalithic monument Newgrange, in my ancestral homeland of Ireland, may be used on Imbolc. Elders from various traditions have taught me to share these types of dreams with discretion. It is my great desire to collaborate with a circle of tribally-rooted dreamers and historians so that we can corroborate dream archeology with known records and traditions.

Dreams are a natural way to recover "lost" or interrupted ceremonies. Together we can piece together a mosaic of our people's traditions. No matter where we're from on the globe, our ancestors kept ritual time. Cross quarter days are dictated not by culture, but by the motions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. These cycles unite us as much as dreaming does. 

Lastly, Imbolc is an important time of divination. We can receive omens of the coming year in waking life and in dreams. Even for those who don't keep consistent records, this holiday offers a special occasion to write down our dreams. 

What have your dreams told you about the coming year? Do you know any of your ancestral rituals for this cross quarter day? Have dreams helped inform you?