Dream Gates

Thumbnail image for heron on Chito Beach.jpgA great blue heron flew parallel to me, for more than a mile, as I drove to the Connecticut shore to lead an adventure in exploring the multidimensional self over the past week. This felt like a promise that our work would be deep and rich – and on the right track – as indeed proved to be the case.

Bird-watching has been second only to dream reading as the most popular form of divination in human history. If we pay attention, the birds give us signs in our own lives. The great blue heron has strong mythic significance in two traditions that my dreams have called me to study deeply – those of ancient Egypt and of the Six Nations of the Longhouse, or Iroquois. The Egyptian phoenix (known in Egyptian as the benu bird) is depicted as a blue heron with the twin mating plumes. In Iroquoian cosmology, it is the great blue heron that carries Sky Woman down safely from the Earth-in-the-Sky to dance our world into being, on the turtle’s back. From the Egyptian angle, the appearance of the blue heron, especially in an unlikely way, may be an invitation to rebirth ourselves out of the ashes of the old life. From the Iroquois angle, the blue heron may remind us that when we find ourselves falling through a hole in our world (Sky Woman fell, or was pushed, through a hole in a world above) we may be offered the chance to make a new world.
I’ve been watching herons for a long time.The heron’s mode of fishing combines patience with the ability to strike in a flash when opportunity beckons from which we would do well to learn.  In mating season, they are a model of partnership, when the males bring twigs to the females waiting for building supplies to construct their great nests. Here’s a poem I wrote in tribute to the heron, and its many lessons:
I am studying the art of heronry.

You are a master of patience.
You can wait on one leg,
A spearman poised and immobile,
Longer than I can wait on two (or three).
Your standing stillness cons the fish
Into disregarding you, as a dead branch
Or a boring relic from an old shipwreck.

You don’t need anyone to tell you
When the time is GO.
In that instant, you strike without delay,
Your purpose straight and swift and clean
As a stabbing spear, taking your prey.

I am relieved that even you
Have to work to get airborne,
Flapping and beating your great gray-blue wings.
When you are up, and stretch out your body,
You exhibit the whole history of flight.
You show yourself as the Feathered Serpent,
The one that grew wise enough
To make a home in another dimension.

I love the way you practice love.
You put on a gaudy show for your intended
Sprouting twin mating plumes.
When your gallantry prospers,
You are willing to work in intimate partnership.
I have seen you, ferrying twigs in your beak
To your mate in the frame of your nest in the trees.

High-flying bird of the heart,
I like your business arrangement
With the busy engineer of canals and dams;
Where the beaver builds, you build too.

Humans, who fly only in dreams and machines,
Know you as an ancient ally and exemplar.
You brought First Woman from the Earth in the Sky
Breaking her fall on wings spread like magic carpets
To dance a new Earth into being.

Egypt knows you, and the mystery of your rise
From the sexy serpent of Earth
To the master of air and of water.
Egypt calls you the ever living, the phoenix bird
Born again and again from the ashes of the old life,
Endlessly birthing your winged and shining self. 

Heron on Chito Beach. Photo by Robyn Johnson

Tiger_in_South_India.jpgThe Guide can take many forms, in dreams and on the roads of waking life. Our true spiritual teachers often use shock or humor in their efforts to wake us up to the real nature of things, and they love to play dress-up.

An earnest woman in a church group once asked me, at the break, whether she could meet her guardian angel in her dreamsl. Absolutely, I told her. When I began to explain the process of dream incubation, she interrupted me. “I’ve done that three times, and each time I asked to meet my guardian angel, I got Garfield the Cat.” I asked her to explain to a visiting space alien, “Who is Garfield the Cat?” She explained that he’s greedy and always looking out for Number One. Angel means messenger, I pointed her. Could there be a message in Garfield’s approach to life? This earnest woman, who had clearly given a lot of her life to service to others, thought about this, then stole a quick look at the buffet and asked, with a mischievous glint in her eyes, “Would it be okay to jump the line and get some chocolate cake while it’s still left? I reassured her that Garfield, as guardian angel, would say “Absolutely.”

The angel can be terrifying as well as funny. Rumi evokes beautifully the terror Mary felt when the Archangel Gabriel apperared to her in the moment of annunciation. In the presence of a supremely greater power, she literally jumps out of her skin. Whereupon the angel who is patron of the astral realm and of dream travel says to her (in paraphrase): “You flee from me from the seen to the unseen, where I am lord and master? What are you thinking of?”

The truth of our dealings with higher sources of knowledge – and above all the Guide of our soul – is that we don’t need to go looking for them because they are forever looking for us. When Dante at last finds Beatrice (the Guide appearing in the form of a beautiful women he loved and lost) after the terrible journey through all the hells of the medieval imagination, she reproaches him that for many years she was seeking him in dreams, and he would not listen.

The Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them. It’s like that with the powers of the deeper world. Here’s a poem I wrote about this:


You say you are hunting your power
But your power is hunting you.
I’ll go up to the mountain, you say.
I’ll fast and live on seaweed
I’ll hang myself on a meat-hook
Under the hot sun. I’ll give up sex
And wine and my sense of humor.
What are you thinking of?
For you to go hunting your power
Is as smart as the mouse hunting the cat.

Go out in the garden any night
Step one inch outside the tame land
And you are near what you seek.
Open the window of your soul
Any night and your guide may come in.
The issue is whether you’ll run away
When you see what it is. To make sure
You succeed, tether yourself like a goat
At the edge of the tiger wood that breathes
Right beside your bed. He’ll come.

 Tiger in South India. Image via flickr

index.jpgOne of my favorite games in my workshops is the Index Card Oracle. I get everyone in the circle to write something – a summary of a dream, an incident from memory, a reflection or a favorite quote – one one side of a 3×5 index card, as legibly as possible. We gather the cards into a deck. I then ask everyone to write down an intention for guidance, expressing this as simply and clearly as possible. (“I would like guidance on….”) I then go around the circle, offering the deck. Everyone pulls a card at random. 

The game requires us to pretend that whatever is written on the card is a direct message from the universe in response to the intention for guidance. The message may be obscure or ambiguous but, hey, that’s how oracles stay in business long-term. 
As a divination deck, our Coincidence Cards can’t be beat. We come up with a one-time deck, exclusively for us, that will never be used in this form again. Of course, some of the messages are “keepers”. My journals are stuffed with index cards whose inscriptions remind me of big dreams and coincidence fugues, of wildly funny incidents and of moments of insight and epiphany when we punched a hole in the surface world and saw into a deeper order of reality. 
 I’ve been looking over my collection of Coincidence Cards and I’ll share some of the messages here, without attempting to recall the specific meanings that each of them assumed in the context of the intentions. Notes from the dreamworld included:
 I‘m in a wedding procession. As we walk down the aisle of the church and step up to the altar, I realize we have entered a diner. 

 Circus elephants circle around linked trunk to tail, lovingly, caringly giving each other a way to follow. Each is a leader as much as a follower.

I’m in a large room where we each have to fly up to the ceiling every 2 or 3 minutes to breathe, as if the room is under water.

The Moon goddess stands in her majesty above the Sea of Tranquillity. She is flanked by her armored Moon soldiers and carried on the back of a giant crab moving gently through the sea.  

The dragon sits on your shoulder. His fire breath drives back the dark. 

 Two men are taking me to my execution by beheading. I fight until my mother appears and tells me it will be okay. I submit myself to the execution and I am happy. 

A jaguar leaps out of the forest and into the driver’s seat of a pink Firebird convertible. It morphs into a cartoon version of itself, puts on sunglasses, and drives away, waving as it says, “Hasta la vista”. 
Some of the messages come from observations on the roads of everyday life: 
 My daughter hands me the feather of a blue heron and tells me I will need it this weekend.
A red passion flower lying in the roadway all alone. 

 A death’s head skull is floating in mid-air. I look for its origin and find that it is the reflection of a pattern on a woman’s purse.

 A salmon pink trumpet-like flower opens before my eyes, bursting with joyful life! 
 Some of the cards contain insights harvested from the workshops: 
 You do not need to hunt your power. Your power will hunt you. Find a sacred space where your power can find you. 

 Throw out your net and fish in the River of Dreams. 

 The child does not need to grow up to be complete. 
 In playing the Coincidence Card game, we sometimes draw our own card, which is statistically improbable and often very interesting. It suggests, for one thing, that you already have the answer. You don’t need to look outside yourself, only to go deeper within. 
For more on the Index Card Oracle, please read Robert’s book The Three “Only” Things.

Thumbnail image for dream houses 001.jpgWhat’s going on in your dream houses? I find that (to spin a famous Bible text) in my dream house, there are many mansions – extra stories and hidden rooms and basements, and wings of possibility.

The state of a dream house may reflect the state of the body. If the dream house is in need of repairs, or there’s a problem with the plumbing or the furnace, I’ll think about whether there are health advisories here.
The dream house may also be the house of the psyche. Different rooms may represent different functions, of body or soul. The kitchen may represent the digestive system, or the state of our family, or of our creativity (since the kitchen is the place where we cook things up and often the hub of family life).
When I’m living in an apartment in my dreams (which I have not done in waking life for 30 years) I ask myself “what am I a part of, or apart from?” 
I love the sense of expanding life possibility that comes when I am in a dream house that has levels or rooms beyond any physical house I know.
I’m intrigued by how life memories help design my dream houses, which are sometimes composites of several past places where I have lived. 
When I find myself moving to a new place in my dreams, I’ll ask myself whether this could be preview of a literal house move (maybe one I haven’t yet considered in ordinary life). I’ll also ask: what changes in my life situation are in store for me in a larger sense?
In dreams, we often find ourselves back in the old place, a childhood home or a home we shared with a former partner. Being back in the old place could be a journey back across time, or into a parallel reality in which a parallel self never left the old situation – and/or an invitation to reclaim vital soul energy and identity we left behind when we made a major life change. 
There are dream houses that are not of this world, places of learning and adventure and initiation in the Imaginal Realm. These may be places of encounter with a second self, an aspect of our multidimensional Self. Over many years, I have found myself traveling in dreams to an old house on a canal in Europe, the home of an eccentric scholar who is something of a magus, with an extraordinary library and collection of working tools of magic. It took me a couple of visits before I recognized that this dream house belongs to me,
Jung’s dream of a “many-storied house” led him for the first time to the concept of the “collective unconscious” (and also to his rift with Freud, who refused to accept the depth of this dream). Jung found in his multi-level dream house a “structural diagram of the human psyche.” In the dream, he became aware that there was a story below the respectable middle-class environment in which he was living. When he went downstairs, he found successive stories below his previous consciousness: a darkened floor with medieval furnishings, and below that a beautifully vaulted Roman cellar, and down below that – when he lifted a stone slab by a ring – a primal cave with scattered bones and pottery and the two skulls.
An artist and active dreamer named Valerie reports an interesting twist on this theme. She had often dreamed of a childhood home. When she returned to this place through conscious dream reentry, supported by a group of active dreamers who accompanied her into the dreamscape as trackers (aided by shamanic drumming) she was able to contact and reclaim the energy and gifts of a younger self, a moving exercise in soul recovery healing. Since then, she tells me, she’s been dreaming of a house that is situated somewhere near the old place but is unknown to her in ordinary reality. In successive dreams, she is looking out the front window at the road. There’s an anomaly. Sometimes the dream house is situated on top of a hill, so she is looking down on the road. Sometimes the dream house it located down the slope of the hill, so she is looking up. “I feel I’m looking at my life road, and the dream is reminding me that I can change my perspective.”
Valerie is continuing to explore this intriguing dream house, with her artist’s hand as well as her mind. The colored drawings are from a series in her journal.