Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Bringing story keys from childhood

posted by Robert Moss

labyrinth key - blueberry gardens.jpg

 

Memory is mother to the muses, and in my playshop on the Healing Power of Story in Maryland over the weekend we found, again and again, that the best stories sprang from life memories, often from early childhood.

One participant held us spellbound as she recalled how, when she was very small, she would climb into bed with her grandmother – by day a prim, impeccably coiffed matriarch – and Grandma would regale her with reminiscences from her own girlhood, of riding wild ponies and paddling a canoe on a northern lake.
An older lady in the group named Sharon told a strange story of how, aged seven, she cut her foot on a sickle on her father’s farm, standing up in the back of the truck, and did not notice until grandmother screamed at her and her father that both of them were bleeding – and her dad poured out a shoe-full of blood. Neither of them, though wounded deeply, had felt any pain or even noticed that they had been cut. I probed for whether the story teller found some meaning in the return of this memory some 70 years later. She said softly, “It doesn’t hurt.” In that moment, we felt the gentle presence of Death in the room. He is often depicted as carrying a sickle, ready for the harvest. Sharon smiled as she recognized that she was being prepared for the journey through Death said she would now be open to renewed communication with her father and grandmother, on the Other Side.
Leila remembered, eyes shining, the nights she would spend, aged ten, lying in the backyard looking up at the Milky War. A night came when she realized she had to sleep in the house, which she found hot and unpleasant and confining. She felt she had lost something vital of her ten-year-old stargazer, and longed to have it back. I suggested that she might want to make a journey with the drum, back to the place on the grass where she watched the stars, with a dual intention: to play mentor and big sister to her younger self at a time when she may have desperately needed someone to play that role; and to see whether she could bring vital energy and imagination from her child self to live with her in her adult body. The journey was brilliantly successful. It amounted to effortless soul recovery, as Leila met her ten-year-old self and embraced her, and their energies fused. Now she is going to paint the stars, as she saw them with unfiltered eyes.
Some favorite memories out of childhood that surfaced as we hunted up story material involved stories we remembered from our early years. I thought of “The Velveteen Rabbit” and its perennial message that if you love something strongly enough, you bring it alive, and of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, the imperfect and incomplete one who has the valor and steadfastness to accomplish what the regular guys cannot. Another person spoke of the enduring effect of “The Dark Crystal”, the marvelous Jim Henson movie that depicts the eternal battle of dark and light, and how it can be healed with the help of the child.
Alla spoke of a Czech story the rest of us did not know, a tale by Zden?k K. Slabý titled “The Three Bananas, or Peter on the Fairy Planet”. The lead character is given what sounds like an all -important assignment: to go on a quest to find three bananas that appear to have magic properties. He has grand and indelible adventures on his quest, and succeeds – braving fantastic dangers – in bringing home the bananas. The wizard who gave him his assignment shrugs when Peter asks what will become of the bananas now. “So eat them.” We get the message that what inspires us to set out on a quest may be insignificant compared to the quest itself. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters.

We live by stories. Our first and best teachers, in our lives and in the evolution of our kind, instruct and inspire by telling stories. Story is our shortest route to the meaning of things, and our easiest way to remember and carry the meaning we discover.  A good story lives inside and outside time, and gives us keys to a world of truth beyond the world of fact. If you have lost your story keys – if you have forgotten that you can choose the story you are living – then ask the child in you to help you find them again.

Labyrinth at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland, the site of the Story workshop

The key ring solution to honoring dreams

posted by Robert Moss

key ring amulet.jpgWhat’s on your key ring? Keys to house and car you use every day, and maybe a few whose exact use you’ve forgotten. A quick-scan card for the supermarket checkout, maybe one from your insurance company. Maybe a lucky charm or a souvenir a friend sent you from her vacation in Alaska. A miniature Eiffel tower, symbolic of your hopes of a spring romance in Paris.

Maybe more exotic or magical items .A hamsa hand to avert the evil eye that a gypsy persuaded you to buy in a street market…A  little Ganesh, who you hope will help you open the doors and the roads of life…A St Christopher medal, invoking a patron of travelers acknowledged by the church…A heart less fragile than the one in your chest…
A key ring is a great place to carry a personal amulet, something that connects you to an energy, a love, an intention. I carry a little silver stag, forged by a craftsman I know on a mountain where the Deer energy is strong and has brought through extraordinary healing. At its heart is a red garnet, from the garnet heart of that same mountain.
Here’s a thought. A key ring is a great place to carry a dream amulet, something that holds the energy of a powerful dream or vision. We want to do something with our dreams, or we do not dream well. In many cultures, objects are fashioned or found to embody the energy of a big dream, and of the powers that work through that kind of dream. I’m in favor of this practice. I’m also in favor of improvisation, of coming up with fresh ways to honor and celebrate the ever-expanding repertoire of our dream lives.
In every Active Dreaming circle that I lead or inspire, the last step is to ask a person who has shared a dream and received feedback from the group to come up with a one-liner that captures the dream message, and an action plan. We ask: what action will you take to honor the dream?
In the past week, two dreamers I know have come up with the same Key Ring Solution, independently. They have written their one-liners on tags and attached those tags to their key rings. In one case, the line on the tag was something spoken by a wise figure inside a dream: CONFIDENCE IS KEY.The other was a familiar phrase that came into clarity in a dreamer’s mind as the central lesson from a dream she related to a difficult divorce and her need to stop being a team player for a while: IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.
Neither tag is meant to stay on the key ring forever, or even for more than a few days. New dreams will come, with new messages that also need to be honored, But as long as the dream message is on the key ring, it will be visible to the dreamer many times a day, as she opens doors. And it will remind that dreams themselves are keys to the doors of life.

When you need a glow-in-the-dark zombie finger puppet

posted by Robert Moss

archie mcphee.jpgWhere can you find an inflatable cat-in-a-can, absinthe lip balm, zombie finger puppets and Last Supper mints in the same store? Archie McPhee’s (now in Wallingford) is a don’t-miss stop for me whenever I am in the Seattle area. I went there recently on an outing with a group of student-teachers from my training for teachers of Active Dreaming.

This just in from Marta, who was part of the expedition: “The day after I got home from our training, my sister shared a dream about zombies. We did some great work with it, and then I ran into my room and gave her a silly little zombie finger puppet that I had gotten at the magic shop. What a coincidence! The gruesome (and comical) little puppet reminds her of her dream message not to be a zombie, and to make a very important change in her work situation.”

The world around us will speak to us in the manner of a dream if we are willing to pay attention.
This doesn’t just happen when you go to a cabinet of curiosities as weird and wonderful as Archie McPhee’s. It can happen on any road, any day.

The zombie theme reminds me of a message from the world that could have saved me a bundle had I had the sense to act on it right away. Days before the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank – the event that ushered in what became known as the Great Crash of 2008 – I was driving to a local dream circle that I lead once a month. I’m not an active investor, but I have a few pennies in my pension fund, so I decided to listen to the latest financial news on NPR’s “Marketplace” report.

Halfway through the show, they announced they were going to run the numbers on the day’s stock market activity, a standard feature of the show.
Instead of giving the closing prices, the narrative switched to a mock news report about an entrepreneur who had been secretly producing an army of zombies in the bayous of Louisiana in order to create a market for a new product called Zombie-Gone, that would soon be in supermarkets and convenience stores everywhere. The skit was quite funny. But it began and ended without any explanation, which was quite startling – and I never got those market numbers.

When I opened my dream circle, I reported this curious dreamlike episode and speculated, “What would the message be, if you dreamed that you were waiting for stock market information and instead got a weird report about an army of zombies?” We kicked this around for a bit. Might it indicate that Wall Street and government types were behaving – or were about to behave – like zombies? Might it be an alert that it was time to “be gone” from the market?

I very nearly resolved to call my broker the next morning, with instructions to sell all stocks in my portfolio. But in the cold light of day some residual part of my psyche kicked in – a part that still second-guesses the spontaneous productions of the world-behind-the-world that show us what the daily calculating mind doesn’t see. Are you going to risk the financial security of your family by taking radical action because you heard a radio skit about zombies? lectured Mr Conventional Wisdom. Puh-lease. Be responsible.You’re invested in safe funds on the advice of expert planners. At least take the time to check things out.
zombie finger puppet.jpg

So I stayed in the market, and got whacked by the zombies. The famous brokerage house that employed those “expert planners” is now the property of a bank. The “safe funds” they pushed me to buy are the only significant parts of my portfolio that have not recovered from the crash. The stocks that have notably outperformed the market are ones that I picked for myself – to the dismay of my then broker and Mr Conventional Wisdom – because of dreams.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to go back to Archie McPhee’s and get myself one of those glow-in-the-dark zombie finger puppets, and use it to give the finger to Mr Conventional Wisdom next time he tries to make me ignore a secret handshake from the universe.

The lesson of the Big O

posted by Robert Moss

missing piece.jpg
Do you remember The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, Shel Silverstein’s delightful parable for kids of all ages? My youngest daughter (now 20) told me the other day that it was the best story we read together when she was very young. I woke from an evening nap just now in which a sidekick to some Mr Big told me that I needed to “get” the missing piece.

I could hardly ignore the double prompt so I went to my daughter’s room and borrowed her copy of the Shel Silverstein story (with her permission, of course).

With the aid of wickedly simple line drawings, we follow the adventures and travails of what looks like a slice of pie. It’s trying to find a hole it can fit, and tries varies orifices that turn up, in characters it encounters.

Eventually it finds what seems to be Mr Right. He looks like a pie missing a wedge, and the missing piece slips into the hole and the fit seems perfect. But then the missing piece starts to grow, and grow, until its host complains, “I didn’t know you were going to grow.” The missing piece is ejected, and the one with the hole lumbers away, caterwauling, “I’m looking for my missin’ piece, one that won’t increase.”

We come to the denouement of the story. A character comes along who is different from the rest. He is not one of the hungry ones, or the shy ones, and there is no hole in him at all. He is the Big O. The missing piece would love to join him, but there is no place where she could fit. Can’t she at least travel on his back as he rolls along? Nope, The Big O is not going to carry her. “But perhaps you can roll by yourself,” he tells her. She is incredulous. How can she roll on her sharp corners? Corners wear off, says the Big O, and shapes change.

The missing piece just sits for a long time, despondent, when the Big O rolls away. Then very slowly she hauls herself up, and flops over. And does it again. And her edges start to wear off, and she is bumping instead of flopping, then bouncing instead of bumping, until at last, she is rolling.

There is a terrific teaching in this simple tale, and for me it’s all about soul, and soul-making. All those creatures with holes in them evoke the soul-loss any one of us is likely to suffer in the course of a life, through pain or shame or disappointment. The hunger this creates can’t be filled authentically by something that is not our own.

Nor can we find our way in life by trying to fill a gap in another person, or a niche in a social or work environment, or by just sitting around waiting for something to happen. We need to pick ourselves up and – unaccustomed though this may be – start moving according to our own inner lights. And let the road smooth out our sharp edges and put curves in our linear thinking.

Instead of trying to fit a hole, we want to become whole. To be pals with the Big O, you have to become your own Big O.

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