Dream Gates

ipousteguy2.jpgFor many years after my divorce from my first wife, I found myself still with her in dreams, in situations that might have unfolded had we stayed married. My dream self aged at exactly the same rate as my waking self, and the circumstances of these dreams were entirely realistic. 

Similarly, for years after leaving my second job, I would find myself, in dreams, working at the old place, dealing with new situations as they might have arisen had I stayed there. Slowly, my dream self began to understand that, “I don’t work here any more.” In a dream near the end of the long sequence, my dream self arrives at the old office building, briefcase in hand, to find that the company is no longer there. (In my waking reality, the company had moved its offices to another part of the city.) Foggily, my dream self gropes for the understanding that he doesn’t have to show up for work at either building. 

As I recently discussed on this blog, dreaming can give us experiential knowledge of the reality of parallel worlds in which we may be leading parallel lives. Such knowledge, I believe, is vital to our understanding of the nature of multidimensional reality and to self-healing and personal growth.
Soul-loss and/or soul-splitting may be at issue here. When we make a wrenching life choice, part of us – in disagreement with the choice we made – may split away and follow the path not taken. Becoming aware of that separated aspect of self and reaching to reclaim its energy and gifts can amount to vital soul healing. 

There’s also encouragement in dreams of this kind to get our heads out of old mindsets and look at the world with fresh eyes. Long after I parted from my big-league literary agent, for example, I dreamed I was still visiting him at his office. I grew to understand that I needed fully to renounce the approach and priorities he represented – which included ranking the commercial valuation of projects above their intrinsic value.

One of the gifts of dream glimpses of alternate life paths is that they sometimes confirm that we’ve done well to make the choices that put us where we are, rather than on a different track. A woman who had never married dreamed she was stuck in a boring marriage, punctuated by endless domestic spats, and woke glad that she had stayed single.

There is more than psychology and personal soul work involved here. While quantum physicists speculate about Many Worlds theory and other hypotheses about the nature of the multiverse, active dreamers have the ability to bring back first-hand data.
Jean Ipoustéguy sculpture at his tomb in the cemetery of Montparnasse

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.