A short review of a Carlos Castaneda book

In Carlos Castaneda’s book The Art of Dreaming (Harper Collins, 1993) Don Juan (a shamanic character in the book) shares a few secrets to drawing meaning from dreams. One of those secrets as I see it was to focus on the elements of the dreams aka the images. The second secret was simply ‘persistence’ because the mind can’t cope with persistence and eventually the barriers to dreaming and remembering begin to fall. The third secret is that one needs to take “short glances” at these images i.e. to stop and look at them too closely during the process of having them actually creates a barrier to one’s attention to them. The fourth secret seems to be that dreams often reflect what it is you don’t know. The fifth secret points out how dreams are affected by our insistence on self-importance. Dreams reflect our presentation of ourselves as in what we are doing to maintain the illusion of separateness that causes our difficulties in seeing the world as it really is.

These concepts seem to reflect my own experiences with respect to dream work and though coming from a fictional Shamanic character from the imaginal recesses of Castaneda’s psyche they appear to hold true within the art and science of dreamwork, at least from my own perspective.

Though he uses some terminology that may be alien to some dream workers such as “energy bodies”, the “realness” of dreams, dream images as energy, the “out of this world reality” of dreams, and “gates of dreaming” these ideas are easily translatable into current dream work practices and understanding.

I believe that Castaneda has found an entry into his Psyche and the collective Psyche of us all that helps him see a larger picture of reality than most of us.

Human beings live in two different worlds simultaneously. What are the things that keep us bound up into one?

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale” (still in editing stage) where the young neophyte learns of “The Mother” the most powerful of the human archetypes.

Human beings live in two different worlds simultaneously, the conscious and the unconscious.

There may also be a conscious part of the unconscious. An organizing paradigm similar to that of the ego of the conscious mind.

When we sleep the conscious mind is disengaged and yet something stimulates the brain into creating a symbolic world much like that of the conscious world yet many orders of different that speaks to hidden material that the conscious mind doesn’t notice and does this just as the conscious mind brings up thoughts and feelings associated with the world it finds itself in.

To be whole and thus powerful in magic one needs to be able to access and understand both worlds. One needs to integrate all the parts of oneself. But how to do this? 

There are archetypes living in both worlds that can help us to navigate the whole. The Mother is one of these.”

Seek not answers from outside the Mother. She is the powerful aspect of the feminine and is the key to opening the door to the magic of the world. Your masculine form is what you use to act and assert upon your decision to walk through the door, but it is your feminine aspect that provides you the opening. It is the marriage between the two that will make it possible for you to wield the magic that is life. But as with the general human psyche the masculine and feminine aspects are also of two worlds i.e., two minds, the dark and the light.

Seek your answers from both your mothers she of the bright light and she of the dark and deadly. They are both illusion and of the deeper self and both inform your being. You must confront them both and recognize them for who they really are. In this you will be the Way.

Intuitively we know that the Mother is a Spirit Guide into the unfamiliar territory that will lead us into a new way of being and will give us the power to survive the world we live in. But we also know that we would have to untie the knot that binds us to our own mother, the knot that keeps us tied to her memory and all the decisions we have made regarding our lack of trust in her for our well-being or our overdependence on her for the same.  The knot is illusory but keeps us from freely being who we are. Love the being not the knot. It is time to let go and open to a new spirit.

Creating the world around us: It’s our world and we’re responsible for it, warts and all.

Seeing the world through our dreams. Dreams are about us, what is going on within us in our minds and in our bodies. Dreams are a projection from the unconscious psyche and a statement about what is going on in there, especially with regard to what is happening around us. Given that most of what we perceive is going on around us is a projection i.e. a personal construct of what is going on inside us, it might behoove us to look at who is really responsible for what we experience.

The world seems full of shadow people, monsters, demons, and bullies. But if we look closely at some of their behaviors we would see that to a varying degree these behaviors reflect some of our own. We cheat (though not as much as some others), we betray, sometimes lie, are occasionally selfish, cruel (though we may not intend to be), rationalize our misdeeds, make ourselves look more important, more talented, smarter, more attractive than we are, sometimes we’re insensitive to others, we develop addictions, participate in hurtful gossip, dehumanize those who are different from us, and/or treat others badly. Yes, mixed in with all our good qualities there are negative qualities. In short, we are human. And it is these human frailties that we reject and keep hidden inside us that color the world we see around us. The truth is that those behaviors that we condemn in others are to some degree our own shadows– what doesn’t work in us we project onto the world around us.

But as humans we don’t really want to be responsible for what isn’t working in the world around us, who would want to? It’s too much of a burden and besides what can one person do? But what if I were to tell you that we are responsible for it all? I didn’t say that we are to blame, or that you and I have to take on the whole world, what I said is that we are responsible. Not as a burden but as a simple fact. Simply put, it’s our world, our nation, our community, and our family. What kind of revolution would it be if we were to acknowledge that it’s our world and that we are responsible for it all?

Yet we act as though something outside of us is responsible i.e. God, the President, Bankers, corporate CEOs, politicians, Mom, Dad and the ubiquitous “They.” But nothing outside of ourself can really save our butts, just as nothing outside the dream is the cause of the dream, or its focus. Both inside and out of the sleeping dream we use our images, our constructs, of people, events, and things to establish meaning, our meaning.

There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world most people only think of changing humanity, getting rid of the “they” and getting a new “them” to change it all and very few think of changing themself. Often this comes from thinking that we are too small to make these changes in ourselves, that something is broken and making it too hard to make the changes needed. Besides what can one person do?

In the book The Archipelago of Dreams, Airmeith the Dream Healer realizes that it only takes the awakened awareness of one ‘Being’ to transform the human universe–that to bring light to one Dark Lord can have a balancing force on everyone else. You see she knew that at a fundamental level we are all connected and part of the One, in the book it is called “The Is” (for ‘what is’), and what is done to one is done to all of us. What she needed to do was to heal the rift between a man’s mind and his soul so that the illusory separation caused by the ego, the individual personality, would disappear and leave behind the true nature of mankind. 

As Robert wanders deeper into the region of the Otherworld, that often-dark world within the mysterious realm of our dreams, he discovers a healing, a truth and honesty the likes of which most of us have never seen. In our waking lives there seems to always be a battle brewing between what we are and what the smallness of the world wants us to believe we are. 

Deeper still Robert becomes aware that the Dark Lords aren’t the enemy outside ourselves but the enemy within us. It is our own Dark Lord that we need to come to grips with and to transform our experience of.

“There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man.
How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.”

–Leo Tolstoy–”Three Methods Of Reform” in Pamphlets

In the Archipelago there is also a battle that reflects this struggle to become whole. It’s a battle that if not won, human kind will face eternal loss and damn them selves to a hell of their own construct. Ahh, but aren’t we already doing that? We’ve created the hell we experience in the world and with a shift in the way we hold responsibility I wonder if we could also create the heaven? 

In the Archipelago of Dreams, Robert needs to find it in his self the power to become big enough to turn his life around. Though he is accompanied by a small band of ancient magi it is really up to him, for there’s not really any one to turn to for the kind of help he needs. In short, there is no “they” out there.

You want the world to change? Be what you want the world to be and it will change.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” 
― August Wilson

Past present future, such an odd way to look at time

Time keeps showing up in my dreams but frequently not in the same linear order one is used to in the waking world. I explained this in an earlier blog posting Aug 13,2020.

In playing around with time I realized that there were two points of view worth mentioning that of time being relative and not absolute and depending on the motion of an observer to what is observed a la Albert Einstein and the second is the concept that if there is only the Now and it never moves on there would never be time but only eternity as per St. Augustine.

Time can be a trickster as well. I can look at a group of stars in the present moment but what they are to me in the now only existed in their distant past given the limitation of the speed of light so I’m never seeing the present moment when I observe a star. Heck, the star may not even exist in it’s present having burned out eons ago, yet here it is in my present.

Actually we see nothing in the present moment of now given that there is a neurological lapse in time between something sensed and that something being “seen” by the brain. In that case we are always looking at the past but calling it the present aren’t we,?

Then there’s the whole issue of space and time in that according to the physicist Hermann Minkowski space and time cannot exist alone but as a union that when viewed in this way makes the existence of each possible i.e., they create each other. This is probably a little like left needs right in order for there to be a line between two points, or up needing down, happy needing sad, good needing evil, etc.

In dreams this relationship to time and space might also show up in a concept like happiness being symbolic of its opposite, sadness, so that being happy in a dream may be speaking to ones sadness or need for happiness.

In any event as my mind is want to do it wandered into the enigma of time (labeled as such because no one as yet knows what it is) when I started to write a story about magic (whatever that is). The following is an excerpt from that story when the teacher is working with his student regarding the realization of magic.

“To be attached to your beliefs, biases, and expectations leaves you closed to the here and now and it is only in the here and now that you have access to magic. Anything that takes you out of the now such as an expectation built from decisions from your past or a fear of some nonexistent future reality will take away your access to magic. The truth is the past and future do not exist, do they?”  

“Well the past is no longer here, and the future hasn’t happened yet so you’re right they don’t exist. At least not now.”

“Precisely! ‘Not now’. So, what is left is the now, and if there is only the now where is that ubiquitous thing that there is never enough of? I mean time. Without the bookends of past and future all you have is the eternal now. It is there that you will find the magic. It is from this magical place that you can journey through the eternal. It is only in the now that you can experience love and it is only through love that magic can happen. 

Humans have a funny relationship with time in that they believe that it moves and that it only moves in one direction, past to present, present to future. But to twist a phrase given to me by an old friend, “It is a poor sense of time that only moves forward.” Time does not actually move at all for there is only the present moment… Yes, and if time and space are as my friend and fellow wizard Albert suggested are two sides of the same coin what happens to the coin if we get rid of one side?”

“It, it doesn’t exist?”

“Precisely, yet again! You are both old and young, wise and foolish. The experience of time and space that you have been conditioned to is not a hindrance to your journey through it.”

“But that means that you’ve also gotten rid of reality.”

“But only the reality you thought you knew.” Finished the magus feeling triumphant… When you look at your dreams what do you see? Do you not see people flying or walking through walls, shifting scenes across great distances with no means of transportation, or swimming some great sea while breathing underwater? It seems like magic does it not?

When you sleep that ego-self part of you is shut down and its highly rational and linear perspective and point of view on reality is put on hold and what happens?”

“Magic?” proclaimed the boy tentatively.

The perennial question from the perennial philosophy. Who are we?

Image by @james_r_eads

As I pen a new story the protagonist, Adam a wizarding neophyte asks his mentor what is it he is referring to when he speaks of a person’s essence and why would his expectations affect his experience of it. The old magus answers him in a most unusual manner.

“In our insistence on maintaining the illusion of being separate individuals we are not able to see the wholeness of who we are. In our preferred illusion that everything is separate from everything else, human from human, human from animals or the flora of the forest, or being not of Heaven or the Earth we have limited our power.

All beings possess the potential to access the infinite wisdom of the Spirit and that the individual has the ability to know the whole by becoming like the whole.

I can tell you the secret of who we are, but it will mean nothing to you until you have become it. We are not the body it is only a tool to do a certain job while in this level of existence. We are not the body’s mind, senses, feelings, pains, griefs and joys, thoughts, desires, scars, or memories those are just aspects of the tool that the essence of what we are uses to experience and work in the current manifestation of existence.

But without knowing who and what we are we become vulnerable to the adversities of life and become bound and restricted by our limited knowledge of Self and thus cannot be magic.

These expectations of yours actually affect what you see and do not see. Some folks call them cognitive biases. They will determine your reality.  They actually affect your interpretation of reality. I bet that you think that you have no role in reality that there is reality and then there is what you make of it. Not so! You are making it with every observance, every interpretation, decision, and every action.

“I don’t have the experience that I’m creating reality. Things happen and then I have to deal with them.”

“That is part of the illusion, but ask yourself to what degree do you create the reality that you see? To what degree do you create the reality of pain and grief and separation? Better yet, to what degree will you take responsibility for reality? And responsibility is not just for the darker aspects of reality. Are you not responsible for creating a reality of inclusiveness, communion, wholeness, and happiness as well?

At the moment of communion is not the illusion of the reality of separation banished? And in that moment what is it that you feel?”

Adam stood silent trying to recall a time when he felt deeply connected with someone and he remembered Jenny, beautiful redhaired Jenny and his heart leaped.

“Love!” he declared. This was what he felt, as though he had found himself in her and she in him. But with that connection there was also profound grief when he lost her, when the connection was broken. Communion and loss always seemed to come hand in hand. It was as though connection and separation lived within each other.

“Exactly! Love, the machina mentis what we are essentially at our core” responded the old wizard. “It is what ties everything together and raises everything on high. When only connected to yourself you are inclined to be responsible only for yourself and family but when connected to everything, when you see that in essence you are everything what then?”

Sensing that the magus was waiting for an answer he blurted, “Then I’m responsible for everything?”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,”: Deciphering the nonlinear

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,
the queen remarked”–Illustration by John Tenniel

The following four questions come up a lot in the comment sections of my blog sites and because they also get at the root of the realm of dreams I thought I’d take a stab at addressing them.

Q1: why are dreams so curiously hard to decipher?

Q2: Why do they come in symbolic form?

Q3: Why are they so enigmatic (mysterious)?

Q4: Why do you rely so much on your intuitive sense to analyze dreams?

A: The unconscious is non-language, non-linear, non-rational, and the place where dreams come from.

Because the conscious mind is virtually shut off during sleep thus throwing open the doors to the unconscious mind the down-loading of material from the day comes to us without any conscious context or restrictions i.e. without a rational architecture to hang the images on. So the images float without pattern until an objective or organizing force rearranges the images into some kind of recognizable impression. This is done through the organizing principles of our conscious mind after we awaken.

The unconscious is nonlinear so it’s acausal and atemporal in nature meaning that cause and effect rules and rules of time e.g., past–present–future aren’t relevant. This affects the directionality of certain symbols so that a positive symbol can also be a negative symbol. Grammatical tense is also affected thus the concept of past leading to present and then leading to future is also irrelevant. Thus, loss of love can mean the desire for love and being chased can equate to chasing after and the presence of a characteristic can actually be a statement about its absence. Past difficulties can be in the present in the form of characters and events of the past or from future events occurring in the present or past but all speaking through the nonlinear unconscious of the here and now.

Dreams are also non language based which is why you can see that there is writing on a sign but you can’t read it and you know someone is talking but you can’t make out the words though you do understand what they are talking about. It’s because the area of the brain involved with language comprehension, what brain scientist’s call Wernicke’s area, is shut off during sleep.

An intuition also doesn’t come to us as a language-based thought but more as an image-based experience. Intuition seems to come from someplace other than our conscious mind as though from the unconscious.

Both dreams and intuition come to us as symbolic abstractions and even though these symbols share meaning with the conscious mind they don’t make sense until processed through the conscious mind in some organized fashion. Normally our conscious mind is not organized around the concept of the nonlinear. However, it is capable of using logic to discover answers to mysteries, but as with all logic it requires training and practice in order to master. 

I suspect, though I don’t know for sure, nonlinear people who are somewhat more complex in their thinking and more able to think outside the lines may have an advantage when it comes to deciphering the nonlinear realm than those who think mostly within the lines.

Outside the lines nonlinear thinkers also tend to be emotional thinkers and given that much of the symbolic nature of dreams has something to do with ones emotions I think they have an advantage over their more linear cousins. However, one can draw too far outside the lines and end up with gibberish and a loss of form, thus missing the simple meanings of some dream elements. Sometimes they see more complexity where there isn’t any. This is where a more linear approach can add meaning to the narrative. In short, dreams are more complex than just one approach can decipher.

‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘
‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’
‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’
‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.”

–Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

 

When the fool and trickster come to visit both our sleeping and waking dreams

In this time of chaos and instability part of which has been caused by the machinations of certain less than stable players I thought I would talk about the Trickster in our dreams, our mythology and our everyday lives.

The Trickster in dreams* is an archetype of the unconscious mind meaning that it is a symbolic image that shows up across all cultures in some form or another and has roughly the same meaning whereas most symbols in dreams are very personal. He or she can visit our dreams as a clown, an animal e.g., coyote, raven, someone acting silly, or a fun-loving uncle or grandfather. In Lewis Carroll’s “Adventures of Alice in Wonderland” the White Rabbit played the role of trickster and in Uncle Remus Brer Rabbit tricked Brer Fox. Essentially these tricksters are those dream figures that break or stretch the rules or entice one to follow but with positive effect.

He/she come essentially in two forms the “loving positive” and the “malignant negative”.

But regardless of form both can be said to be wake-up calls to take action for good. Both can direct us toward the need for goodness, caring and love or to where the absence of goodness, caring and love lies both individually and corporately.

In our dreams as in our waking life the trickster makes us look foolish either by pointing out our errors or inappropriate actions or beliefs. Foolishness is often perceived as a wrong and the ego hates to be wrong. Even when it admits to being wrong it is being right about that.

The trickster image can also be about breaking the rules but with ultimate positive effects being at the center of the rule-breaking thus representing a self-lessness versus a self-centeredness. They can be reminding us to look before we leap, to lighten up, or to be playful as well as point out where we are acting like a fool or are being foolhardy. Often they are pointing out the need for change, a change in our way of being or a change in perspective.

In the mythos of the world such people as Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad played the role of the positive, self-less trickster whereas there are negative factions in present day politics that go out of their way to denigrate and demean people and do so for self-serving purposes.

In the Tarot, the fool or trickster is an alpha card representing the concept of all-potential, the beginning from which nothing proceeds into everything. He or she also represents bright flashes of insights. For the Buddhists the fool is likened to the beginner. But beware the fool or trickster can reflect our own shallowness and narrowness and doesn’t rise above its basal needs i.e., it can be self-centered, unfeeling, and cynical.

The trickster fool can also teach us detachment and simplicity so that we are not being run or influenced by having to look good.

Mathematically the fool or trickster is represented by zero the space between the positive and negative and in physics it can represent potentia– that place between idea and reality.

In short, the trickster can represent both our best and our worst our winning potential or potential for havoc and deception. It is both creator and destroyer but to shun its negative is to make us blind to failure making us less authentic. He or she shows up in our dreams to point out where we are failing ourselves and failing to grow into wholeness.

_________

*Much of the material on the Trickster and Fool presented here come from the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

10 mystical things about Magical mirrors

In one of my videos* I used a mirror as a prop and symbol for the unconscious mind.

In myth Narcissus loved his reflection so much that he lost his will to live and admired himself to death. Modern day Narcissus’ such as our president also love their reflection to the exclusion of good governance.

In our dreams mirrors can represent vanity, self-consciousness, a reflection of our self-image, an entry into the soul, or the need to reflect on our lives.

Whether in our waking world or in our dreams mirrors have always been seen as mystical, magical, metaphors for what lies within us. 

For thousands of years mirrors and reflective surfaces have been used for divination and magic. They have been used for Scrying, developing clairvoyance, to repel evil, and in fact, mirrors have an ancient tradition of being associated with superstition, fear and evil.

1) Prior to the thirteenth century and as far back as the 3rd century BCE, mirrors were predominantly polished pieces of metal e.g. gold, silver and brass. These pretty much disappeared when the Christian church banned them during the middle ages because it was thought that the devil was watching from the other side of the mirror. This idea was probably reinforced because witches were said to use them for all kinds of dark spell casting. Glass mirrors showed up again in Venice in the 1200s. 

2) Those ancient black Scrying (from descry–to see or perceive) mirrors used for divination by witches and sorcerers were once made black by using asphaltum painted on the glass three times. These were used for foretelling the future, or being able to “see” what is happening from distances, but is this real?

I imagine the staring at crystal balls, or Scrying mirrors to be similar to a focused meditation. Try closing your eyes in a meditation and focus on an individual, place, or event and “see” what you get. 

Some studies have suggested the possibility that at least some individuals can see from distances beyond the physical abilities of the natural eye. Though these studies are not conclusive, they do provide tantalizing evidence for the technique of “remote viewing.” 

Dreams too are like projections onto a darkened mirror some of which defy an explanation of anything other than what might be called precognition, or a shared viewing with someone else. 

In short, meditation can often quiet the chattering mind just enough for us to see what the unconscious has picked up, but the conscious was too busy to notice. Thus too the Scrying mirror may act as a focusing instrument to still the mind and lay open the secrets of the inner psyche.

3) Today some tribal societies believe that to expose your self to a mirror is to render the soul vulnerable to misfortune, or even death. There used to be a widespread custom, and in some areas there still is, to remove all the mirrors from the house when a person is sick so as to prevent the mirror from stealing their soul. 

When someone has died there was a tradition of turning the mirrors to face the wall because to see your reflection in a mirror after someone’s death will cause that person’s death as well. There was also a legend in the southern United States that suggested that an uncovered mirror in the house of a person who had just died would capture the soul of that person.

4) In the case of necromancy (communication with the deceased), the mirror represents absorption of the soul and then reflection, or its return, Could this reflect the concept of death and resurrection?

5) There is a myth concerning years of ill fortune surrounding the breaking of a mirror, but did you know that there is also a superstition that says if a mirror falls on its own accord and breaks, it is also a death omen? On the other hand a girl who sees the reflection of the moon in a mirror will learn the date of her wedding (given that women generally determine the day and then tell the man when it’s to be, this is no surprise).

6) There is also an old superstition that if you were to stare into the reflection of yourself at night, one would see the devil. Though I don’t believe this, I also have an aversion to staring at my reflection in a darkened room for too long–something creepy always seems to hover close by.

7) However, I have heard it said and have tried this myself, that if you are feeling blue, or anxious with no one around to talk to, try staring into your eyes reflected in a mirror. After awhile the negative mood will disappear.

8) Some Buddhists believe that if you hang a mirror on the wall directly facing the front door, evil spirits will be reflected out of the house. 

9) In Tarot reading the Mirror Spread is used to work with existing relationships, e.g. the cards are placed with the 1st, or querent card, placed at the top and then 3 cards in descending order to the left of it and 3 cards in descending order to the right and the result card placed at the bottom between these two rows. In this way the reader and querent can see the relationships in opposition i.e. The way you see the other person in the relationship; The way they see themselves;
 What the person represents to you;
 What you represent to them;
 Obstacles within the relationship;
 Strengths within the relationship.
 

I spell all this out because I think this isn’t a bad way of looking at relationship symbols in a dream, or in a person’s waking life as well.

10) In Corinthians 13:12 is the line, “For now we see through a glass, darkly.” Which some have taken to mean that to see something reflected in a mirror is less of the reality of that thing than to gaze upon it directly. This can happen when one looks back upon their childhood, or try to see what the child saw of the world, or to assign meaning to past events, or to look at God’s works through ones biases. To look through a window, or gaze at a mirror that has been darkened by your judgments and self-criticisms makes it difficult to see your true nature or what lies beyond your projected biases. This also reminds me of the saying involving “rose colored glasses.” To look through either does not give a true picture of the world.

As Rumi, the 13th century Muslim poet was purported to have said,

 “Maybe you should glimpse your most beautiful face…Maybe you are the bearer of hidden treasure. Maybe you always have been.”

*See facebook.com/darcharithinn and click on the Video section then click on the 4th video on the top row. This is “Beginning Shadow Work #6”. Or watch below.

Beginning Shadow Work “The Mask we wear”

There be Dragons out there: Sailing into the imaginal

Children have a special relationship with the imaginal and learn early on to edit their sharing of it with adults. You see, adults draw a hard distinction between what they think is real and the imaginal world of the child. The child plays with and explores the boundaries of real, keeping it flexible, while most adults have hardened those boundaries thus keeping what is contained within trapped and limited. But reality doesn’t care what you and I think of it and doesn’t conform to the ego boundaries that we set for it. 

Those who have decided what something is one way or the other have essentially killed any possible alternatives (note that the root for decide is “cide” i.e. to kill). This of course limits ones perspective and thus their options and resources. If we place too many conditions upon reality we eventually build a box of sorts around ourselves– a box born of many killings, many deaths.

When I reflect upon my dreams over the years one particular theme keeps showing up, nightmares of being trapped, contained, boxed in, held back, imprisoned and/or trying to escape. I’ve been trapped in ever constricting tunnels, struggled mightily to fly and stay air born, held down, kept from climbing a mountain, cornered, and lost within caves or endless hallways with no way out.

Something within me desperately wants to be expressed and keeps showing up in my dreams. But what is it? I honor the imaginal, some say to the extreme, but I too have a limit on this, artificially created so as to not look too crazy, or too over the top. After all I have a reputation to keep up and want to maintain the freedom to explore (the world tends to reign you in if you get too far out there).

But nothing new can be found if you remain within the safety of the box. To use another metaphor, no new worlds can be discovered if you’re not willing to sail off the “edge” of the world you’re on, just ask Columbus, Magellan, and Steve Jobs.

I’ve been inside many boxes in my life and what usually keeps me there is the fear of what is outside, I mean, there are Dragons out there! Many an ancient mariner wouldn’t stray too far from shore because of the unknown creatures that lurked many an uncharted sea. 

I also don’t like to let go of what I have until I know what’s out there to grab hold of. Using yet another metaphor that resonates for me, it would be like letting go of the trapeze while blindfolded and hoping there’s someone to catch me at the other end of the flight. But risk taking is…well, risky.

Growth and the discovery of new worlds is often like that in that you don’t know what’s out there, you just know that you can no longer stay cooped up in the box any more. Though there may be dragons lurking on the journey, they must be willingly faced for the glory and the wonder of new discoveries. Just think of the fabulous stories that would have been lost if Jason, Odysseus, or Neil Armstrong hadn’t ventured out beyond the safety of land.

For me it’s the imaginal world of my dreams that offers clues that there is something beyond my self and the culturally imposed boundaries and that I need to cast off into its unknowns so as to really see what’s possible.

It is a lonely journey, one because it is very personal and two because there’s little agreement from the rest of the world that the journey is worth it and there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive it. But remaining locked up in this damnable box, or tied to the safe harbored dock, is not what I want my life to be about i.e. there’s no journey if you’re tied to the dock.

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,

when our dreams have come true

because we dreamed too little,

when we arrived safely

because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess

we have lost our thirst

for the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

we have ceased to dream of eternity

and in our efforts to build a new earth,

we have allowed our vision

of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wilder seas

where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push backthe horizons of our hopes;And to push back the futureIn strength, courage, hope, and love.”

–Sir Francis Drake

The Waking Dream: “United we stand, divided we fall”

Why the sudden increase in virus cases? Other than the particulars of opening too soon and the lack of agreement on safety measures I believe there are much more fundamental issues here as to why the U.S. hasn’t been able to get control over the virus spread. One of these issues may very well be our understanding of what independence means. For many it seems to be about “You can’t tell me what to do, it’s a free country”. This attitude can and perhaps does affect the country’s ability to control the virus’ spread.

Mass denial which comes about when there is a large discrepancy between what people want something to be and what is the reality of it is often a human default when the going gets tough even though this is not in our best interests. It’s is part of the fight or flight response with the denial of facts being a flight response even though the flight might have us running into the jaws of a pack of saber-toothed tigers. Overriding our default responses and using the tools at hand to help us mount a sensible ‘fight’ response might be a better approach to fighting this war.

In order for any society to sustain itself there has to be a certain willingness to give up some of our independence for the betterment of the whole, but Americans seem to be less and less inclined to do this and right now that is costing lives and livelihoods. 

Many of our leaders seem to care more about themselves and their Party than they do about the people they are supposed to serve. Beliefs seem to hold more cache than facts and that will eventually catch up with us in some rather nasty outcomes yet to be revealed.

Certain political players have done just about everything they can do to separate us politically and socially and have created and fanned divisions which makes it much harder if not impossible for us to unite in a common goal or to mount an effective war on this virus. If we had acted like this at the beginning of our involvement in World War-II we might be speaking a different language and be ruled by a different country i.e., we would have lost the war just as we are doing now with the so-called virus war.

If we want to continue as one nation under God, if we think that the country is stronger and greater when we unite, we need to ignore the words and actions at the top that are trying to divide us and start thinking of ourselves as a society worth protecting as a whole and doing what promotes inclusiveness and wholeness.

The quote, “United we stand, divided we fall” is a truism that we need more than ever to get behind, learn to compromise, and get back to the hard job of learning to live together.