Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Living as if everything matters

posted by Robert Moss

_Device Memory_home_user_pictures_IMG00452.jpgWhen I was last in London, I walked down a quiet road off Kensington High Street where I once lived and noticed that there is now a blue plaque marking the apartment building opposite my former home as a place where the poet T.S.Eliot once had a flat. This took me back to even older memories, of listening to Eliot read his own poems on a scratchy old 78 rpm record in my room when I was in my early teens. Eliot read very well, and I can still recite long passages from “The Waste Land”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and above all, his luminous Four Quartets from memory.

In “Little Gidding”, Eliot reminds us that any action we take, at any moment, may be 
a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

I choose to live in this spirit, as if everything matters, as if the Big Story is playing through the small diurnal dramas, and as if Death stands, always at my left shoulder, lending me his sharp-edged clarity that comes through the knowledge that any day may be our last and that we are accountable to a world beyond this one.
Eliot was as good in prose as in verse, and he offers a precept for living that I find exceptionally helpful: “If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you.” This requires us to withhold our consent when anyone offers us a version of reality that is less than generous and open to fresh possibilities.
I had to think about that this week in a rather genial context, when I ran into one of my favorite used book dealers opening his store very early while I was out walking my dogs. I asked, hopefully, if he had a new consignment of books. No, he explained, his building had sprung some leaks and he was there to wait for the plumbers. “Everything wears out,” he declared, “including the brain.”
I did not feel obliged to quarrel with this statement. As the owner of an old house, I know that certainly old plumbing wears out and old roofs spring leaks. Yet I was not going to endorse the notion that everything wears out, even if this appears to conform to the second law of thermodynamics as well as much of our everyday experience. Neuroscience instructs us that brain cells can grow back and that the neuroplasticity of the brain is so extraordinary that survivors of serious strokes can actually transfer functions from damaged areas to other parts. Of course, if you don’t want your brain to wear out you’d better use it!
I didn’t endorse the statement that everything, including the brain, wears out, and I didn’t deny it. I simply withheld my consent and adopted the agnostic position on the matter. There are many occasions when it’s rather more important to take this stance – for example, when someone asks us to agree to the proposition that “you can’t trust people”, or “there’ll never be enough to go round”, or pushes the bumper sticker philosophy that “shit happens”. 
We are not required to argue or to preach when we withhold our consent from opinions and mindsets that turn our inhabited world into a box. We simply decline to join others inside their mind-made boxes, while we proceed to develop and impose our own terms on the world we inhabit. 
To succeed in that, we’ll need not only to go around other people’s mind traps but to drop our own negative mantras. I’m fierce about that, as a teacher. When I hear anyone in one of my workshops committing a negative mantra (which may begin “I’m no good at -” or “I’ve never been able to -“) I ask them to go outside and spit that thought out on the ground. Fair’s fair. I tell my groups that if they ever catch me committing a negative mantra of my own, they can send me out of the room to do the same thing.

Dream mirrors of the Self

posted by Robert Moss

Mirror.jpgOne of the most important gifts of our dreams is that they put us in touch with more aspects of ourselves than we have recognized in what Yeats called our “daily trivial minds.” Among these aspects is the famous Shadow, composed of parts of our selves we have repressed or denied (and tend to project on to others in regular life, till we awaken). But we encounter much more than the Shadow. We encounter a whole family of aspects of ourselves, and as we recognize them and bring them together we become much more than we were. 

We are given the opportunity to claim the imagination and energy of our inner children, the nature-knowing of the ancient shaman within us, the wisdom of the elder, the artist, poet, creator, entrepreneur, hero, dancer, athlete, astronaut inside.
We also meet our conscience. We are introduced to parts of ourselves that have been broken and are in need of repair. We are given clues to parts of our selves that fled from this body and this life because the pain or shame was too great – or because our dominant personality wimped out on a big dream, settled for a little story and ceased to be any fun for a bright spirit to be around. When we discover such things, we are on the road to healing through soul recovery.
There is more. As we follow these roads, we may rise to a closer acquaintance with the Self beyond all the smaller selves. Call it the Higher Self. Perhaps we are the mirrors in which some part of it is reflected, when our lenses are clear enough.
I remember a dream that mirrored the relationship between the little self and the Big Self. Here is a brief version: 
I read in the local paper that an artist is working on a portrait of the Higher Self. Greatly excited, I lead a group to see it. The path spirals up to a studio like an open tower, guarded by magnificent sculpted beasts; great carnelians flash on the back of the stone lion.
The artist is at work on a tremendous canvas. It rises as high as the tower, perhaps even above the table. 
At the bottom, he has painted a self-portrait. The figure stands within glowing bands of color. He is as small as a votive candle in proportion to the immensity of the Higher Self that rises above him, visible only as bands of energy that become subtler and subtler as I look up, until there seems to be nothing except a pristine and unblemished expanse of pearly light.
It seems unlikely that this immense work can ever be finished. But I know, as I merge with the artist and take up the brush, that this is my life’s work.

In praise of snappers

posted by Robert Moss

Mark Twain - from Dave Thomson, The Unabridged Mark Twain.jpg“Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company,” counseled Mark Twain. I’ve quoted this more than once in front of church audiences, when I have judged them genial enough to take it in good heart, or in need of genial-izing. It’s an example of the type of one-liner Mark Twain called a “snapper”, or sometimes an “astonisher”. It was his practice never to leave a lecture platform without committing one at the very end, and often it brought the house down.

When we are sharing dreams by my Lightning Dreamwork process, the last step is to come up with a snapper, a personal catch-phrase that captures the essence of the dream and the insights that have come through in discussion. This is a neat way to retain a message and it orients us to do something about it.
Once when I was leading a weekend Active Dreaming playshop at a ranch in the Texas hill country, a woman in the group approached me for guidance on her marriage. “Ask your dreams for guidance tonight,” I told her, “and bring me a dream in the morning.” This she did.
In her dream, as she told it before Sunday breakfast, she was in her favorite Mexican restaurant. She was waiting for takeout, and had already paid for her meal. People kept coming and going, picking up their orders, while she stood at the counter. A “cute guy” came in, collected his food, and winked at her as he left. Later, another “cute guy” – a musician – picked up his meal and paused to murmur in her ear, as he headed for the door, “You know, this place sucks.” At the end of the dream, the dreamer was still waiting.
We did our Lightning Dreamwork process. When I asked the dreamer how she felt on waking, she said, “hungry and frustrated.” Reality check? Well, it was unlikely that the people in her favorite restaurant would treat her like that, but the situation felt familiar in a more important sense. The heart of our conversation was to make the link between the dream and the intention, which she had recorded simply as: I would like guidance on my marriage.
If it were my dream, I suggested, I would notice that I’m in a place where things look good, but I’m not being fed. She thought about this and came up with the following snapper: I am in a place where I’ll never be fed or nourished, even though I’ve paid up front.

Dreams require action. Her action plan? “I’m going to call a divorce attorney on Monday.” The follow-up? A year later, the dreamer wrote to me to report that she was now happily remarried to a “cute musician” who strongly resembles the guy who spoke to her in the sad cafe.
Come up with the right snapper, and it may lead you to the right snap decision.
For the rules of the Lightning Dreamwork game, please read my book The Three “Only” Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence and Imagination (New World Library)
Illustration from The Unabridged Mark Twain, edited by Dave Thompson (Running Press)

The Books of Night and Day

posted by Robert Moss

Ptolemais_2.jpgWe have direct access to sacred knowledge, in our dreams. Our dreams are a personal oracle that reveals the future and helps us prepare for it. We must not let anyone tell us what our dreams mean or stand between us and the direct experience of the sacred that is available in dreaming. We want to pay attention to signs from the world around us in the knowledge that everything in the universe is interconnected and constantly interweaving. We need to journal both our dreams and our waking experiences in our Books of Night and Day.

These insights come from a fifth-century bishop of Ptolemais (in what is now Libya), Synesius of Cyrene. His treatise On Dreams is one of the wisest books ever written on how to work with dreams and synchronicity. He wrote that “Dream divination is available to all, the good genius to everyone” and that is no wonder that dreams show us the future, because dreams are experiences of soul and “the soul holds the forms of things that come into being”.
Synesius used dreams for practical navigation; he describes how dreams alerted him to plots by his enemies, counseled him on his literary style and (as a young man) on the hunt, and helped him win the ear of a Roman emperor with the right oration. He also observed, correctly, that the energy derived from dreams can be more valuable than their content; through dreams God “makes us fruitful with his own courage.”
 “It is written, ‘Others even in their dreams He made fruitful with his courage.’ Do you see? One man learns while awake, another while asleep. But in the waking state man is the teacher, while it is God who makes the dreamer fruitful with His own courage, so that learning and attaining are one and the same. Now to make fruitful is even more than to teach.” 

He despised dream dictionaries, as popular in his time as in ours: “I laugh at all those books and think them of little use.” He strongly counseled that we must not assign the interpretation of dreams to “experts” other than the dreamer: “It would be shameful for those who have lived ten years beyond adolescence to stand in need of any other diviner.”
He wrote of how dreams carry us into higher worlds, and put us in direct contact with the God we can talk to. He hinted that the road of dreams is the road of the soul, on both sides of death, noting that “the soul’s way of life in another world is similar to the imaginings of the dream condition.”
The wisest of humans are those who navigate life by reading the sign language of the world. We should keep a “day book” for our observations of signs and synchronicities as well as a “night book” for dreams.

“All things are signs appearing through all things…they are brothers in a single living creature, the cosmos…they are written in characters of every kind”. 
The deepest scholarship lies in reading the sign language of the world; the true sage is a person “who understands the relationship of the parts of the universe”.
We can learn from Synesius how to practice dreamwork as real church, and track coincidence as “God’s way of remaining anonymous”. He deserves to be much better remembered, as a great dream teacher from the world of the early Church, one who spoke eloquently against those who seek to stand between people and the direct experience of the sacred. He wrote about dreams not on the authority of his excellent education (he studied under Hypatia in Alexandria), nor his contacts with the great, nor any high office that he held. Synesius speaks to us across the centuries with the authority of experience, understanding – as do all true dreamers – that the best guides to dreaming are frequent flyers who do a lot of it.
Ptolemais gate from the Polish Archeological Mission in Ptolemais
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