Magicians

I am staying at Rh’s house. Or not in the house proper, but in a kind of separate guest house / basement suite that she uses, leaving the main house empty.

A man comes in. He wears a balaclava over his face and chases me around, trying to rape me. I am terrified, I do NOT want this to happen. Rh chuckles, watching the action. She has planned this.

There is a pause, and the man pulls off the ski mask. He is, in fact, a kind of goofy guy, and a magician. There is no threat after all.

* * *

This dream stayed with me for a while – as the frightening part was heart-stoppingly terrifying, and the idea of a goofy magician underneath the mask totally piqued my curiosity.

A few days later I found myself at a workshop in Owen Sound with the Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña –

We learned a “manifesting technique” that, in its series of movements, reminded me for all the world of the Magician card in the tarot deck – reaching up to the sky above, and down below to the earth in the process of creation…

What a way to begin the summer…

We stayed just outside of Owen Sound on my friends’ farm where they had some new horses, and Sauble beach is just a hop skip and jump away –

And there is a sense of buoyant optimism in the sensation of creation from this practice… It’s a technique that is done for a number of days in a row, the repetition reinforcing the sense of creative magician… even my dream world has been increasingly busy (and occasionally magical) with this practice.

* * *

On Facebook I belong to various dream groups, and recently someone posted some collages she was doing from her dreams.

They had the structure of a series of comic book frames, allowing for the shifts in the narrative from scene to scene – a technique she said she learned from a workshop with Jeremy Taylor.

We got into a bit of a conversation about working from a dream, and how sometimes later, when you look back at the original entry in your dream journal, the details can appear to be quite different from what you’ve been accentuating or extrapolating as you make art, or even have conversations about the dream.

For example, from the dream above at Rh’s house, I’d been remembering the most vivid bits of the fear and of the unexpected revelation of a magician.

Yet when I looked back to my dream journal I found that I’d had several other forgotten magician dreams before this, and within the original entry on this dream, there was a detail that “this is a game or a challenge Rh and I have”. So the chuckling Rh seems less evil in this context, and my character is then also not so much a victim as a co-creator.

Interesting.

* * *

There was a dream I had maybe 2 years ago of 6 dead bulls in a parking lot.

It was a terrible dream, with the stench of death in it, and the sense of tragedy of these 6 massive powerful creatures dying a lonely unceremonious death in a parking lot at night.

At the time I had no place to talk about dreams, but I can always make art, so I did painting after painting of bulls, dead or dying, wondering what the heck the dream was about.

At some point I happened on a free webinar given by some people in Vermont, and I told them the dream of the 6 bulls. They were so lovely, they listened so well, and at some point Sue said, “how do you know they were dead?”.

The possibility of seeing the dream story as a more fluid entity, of not taking the narrative as a finished, absolute, unchangeable reality ROCKED my world.

Since then there has been a large painting in the works of some very alive bulls, and even a small sculpture is in the works.

And you, Dear Reader…?

Have you found your relationship or understanding of certain dreams changes over time?

Awakenings

I’m always engaged in some kind of awakening process…

Except when I’m not.
Except when I’m hiding, hibernating, buried down in the numbing comforts of familiarity, habits, denial, avoidance and layers and layers of shadowy elusive fear…

* * *


The jaguar’s breath is warm on my face.
Whiskers twitch.
The pink wet of it’s mouth shows behind the enormous teeth.
There is a nibble at my neck.
But its proximity becomes a merge and we are two as one, fused together as we tumble down down through epic layers of earth and rock hurtling towards the very center of the earth…

The jaguar is considered the sun of the underworld, is the one in charge of destroying all our negative unconscious patterns… it gets rid of fear and obstacles.

~ Sergio Magaña

* * *
Sergio is one of the teachers I started following, hoping to develop my capacity for lucid dreaming, for awakening while dreaming.
Once in a while I manage it, once in a while there’s a glimmering of consciousness while sleeping, but mostly I am unawake, unaware, and remain utterly convinced by the nightly procession of illusions.

* * *

Recently we’ve had workmen in and out with drills and hammers and sanders and plaster and paint. We’ve had to prep the apartments and then evacuate while they do some work, then we come back in and clean and reassemble, live for a few days before they announce they’re coming back for the next step of unfinished business, the cycle beginning all over again.

They are not masters of efficiency, it is annoying, and yet it has put me into a deep clean, a radical de-cluttering of the space – there have been days and days of moving furniture and vacuuming, emptying out boxes and wiping down the dust covered contents, filling up the recycling bin with reams of irrelevant papers.

Sifting through one file folder I discover print outs of the massive communication I had over many years with my friend Mike who passed a month ago. Sometimes I think I started this blog really to replace our correspondence when it dwindled some years ago after thousands and thousands of words back and forth between me in Toronto and he in St John’s.

But in this recent excavation, there was one letter in particular that jumped out, demanding attention – it was the description I gave him of a first visit to a woman – a seer, a clairvoyant, a psychic in Montreal, recommended to me by Brenda, beloved friend of several decades now.

This woman shook me to my foundations that first time I went to see her, such was her insight.

Every few years or so I go back, and while each time is bouleversant, a profound reckoning with myself, over the years the shock of her capacity to see so keenly has lessened a tiny bit, even though I am cautious to prepare myself each time for what may turn out to be a life-changing session.

In that letter to Mike, many years ago, I described this woman, my most searingly awakening catalyst person –

She sat me at a table in front of a large window that looked out across St Laurent and the mountain beyond.
She explained her way of working – that she functioned essentially as a mirror, reflecting back what she saw inside one’s self.
She said she essentially entered a kind of trance state and would likely not recognize me in the street afterwards.
She handed me a stone with an animal carving on it, asked me to hold it a moment, then hand it back to her.

After having the stone back in her hand for just a moment, she got very animated, pulled her paper and pens toward her with excitement and began to draw and speak…
Her eyes were essentially closed, but her eyelids flickered as she spoke, as if she was seeing images inside her eyelids, not looking at me.
She said:

You have spent so much energy trying to hide your vibrancy.
It is like an inner pressure, all the fire energy you have inside of you.
If you don’t let it out, it will begin to effect your health.
You have treated yourself very harshly.
Now you must learn to cultivate tenderness and gentleness towards your self.
Now there must be no more violence.
It is finished.

The way she spoke was so clear and direct and definitive and her images so frighteningly insightful, the tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I made note of her words –

This woman inside of you is like a lion.
She takes her time.
She belongs to herself as a matter of course.

I continued scribbling my notes on a page, watching her flickering face with a kind of awed fear.
Clearly, she was a witch. 400 years ago she would have been burnt at the stake.

You do not see yet fully where you are going.
But this is not based on effort, it is based on COURAGE.
You must practice taking risks, you must practice pushing the boundaries.
Train yourself not to hide, not to contract.
DO NOT HIDE BEHIND ANYTHING.
When fear comes, look at it, look into the heart of it…

The hour was up.
She helped me into my coat and kissed me on each cheek.
I found my way back down in the elevator and came outside into the beginnings of a snowstorm.
The blowing snow stung my face as I walked for several hours, unseeing, caught up in my own thoughts.
I didn’t sleep for days.

* * *

Of the many splendid teachers and resources I’ve discovered on the path in the years since, two of my favourite “awakening” people, are in fact the “awakening couple” – Chameli & Arjuna Ardagh are both teachers in their own spheres. He does something called Awakening Coaching, while she is the epicenter of Awakening Women, a yogini circle.
Arjuna says of the experience of awakening –

…I find that what is really meeting this moment, hearing sounds, seeing movement, and feeling currents of sensation is formless empty space, pregnant with infinite possibility. There is a mysterious presence, indefinable, with the capacity to embrace everything, just exactly as it is, but which in itself is nothing, just pure context, with no content. This presence contains the body but still exists, with or without the body. In this recognition, just here, just now, there are no problems and never have been. Disorienting and confusing as it may be, this realization brings a sense of peace, wonder, tremendous energy, and a feeling of love with no specific object…
~ Arjuna Ardagh

Here is Chameli –

* * *

And you, Gentle Reader?
Do you have favourite awakening agents in your life?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Awakening

Summer Textures

Summertime lake.
The endless blue of the sky.

Approaching the island across the lake, I think of the book I’ve been reading: The Zen of Creativity : Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori.
He has a series of exercises on “Direct Experience” or “Experiencing without Identifying” – exercises closely related to the practice of mindful meditation, with the intention of quieting the mind and seeking to simply feel or experience things before the thoughts come in.

Most of us – seasoned meditators included – will find that it is very difficult simply to listen. We hear sounds and immediately name them, or we associate them with something else, we compare them, analyze them, or try to find their source. It soon gets boring just to listen and our minds wander. It’s not easy to let things simply be and let go of our running commentary.

As we approached the island I practiced with these trees –

Trying to just feel the trees without thinking about what KIND of trees, or about their size or colour or all the things one could think about trees.
Even so, even as I sensed them as a group, as a collective presence, an alive beingness in front of us, I found myself searching for the words to describe the sensations.

And again, trying to just allow the experience of the pebbles… much subtler, so small and ubiquitous, almost imperceptible yet hinting at eternity…
And from this place one might take a photograph.

One way that our spiritual power begins to manifest is through the emergence of the intuitive aspect of our consciousness. This is one of the reasons why Zen and creativity are so intimately linked. Creativity is also an expression of our intuitive aspect. Getting in touch with our intuition helps us to enter the flow of life, of a universe that is in a constant state of becoming. When we tap into our intuition, whether in our art or simply in the day-to-day activities of our lives, we feel a part of this creative continuum.

How can any of us gain entry into this unique way of perceiving the universe, where every breath is the first breath, every sight and sound is fresh penetrating the universe, reaching everywhere? 

At one time or another, each of us has experienced this way of perceiving. It comes upon us unexpectedly. Suddenly the music moves into our being and our body responds. There is no thought, judgment, or conscious effort. The music freely passes through us. We pick up a brush and the painting flows from its tip. the poem creates itself, almost without effort

A photo here and there, I also pick up strange things from the ground and bring them inside.
I’m teaching myself to draw on the iPad – it does not yet feel very Zen at all, it is still a lot about thinking through how the mechanics work, but there is a certain amount of non-thinking possible in the presence of strange things, just looking at them and trying to sense and feel the way into a drawing rather than think.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Texture

March wishes

Oh I wish, how I wish I were a flying fish.

Oh I wish I wish I were the spray from an ocean wave
the wind in the trees
the stretch of a cat
the sparkle of a star in the night sky
a floating colourful anemone in the warm Caribbean sea
a coasting bird, soaring, casual as I move through the clouds…

* * *

We are in my dad’s house in Philadelphia – he has recently inherited it from his parents.
It still has old lady wall paper and old fashioned furniture and such, but some areas, by the staircase for example, there are some bare brick walls and boards.
I know I’m going to inherit this house soon, very soon, and so I look around with eyes to renovation – imagine it with the old lady wallpaper gone, and clean modern lines…Oh, it is exciting, the possibilities ahead!
And I start to pull away more of the old boards at the bottom of the staircase thinking of opening up more space, but I discover curled under the stairs in the crawl space the corpse of a fox terrier.
This is rather disturbing.
Creepy, and there’s going to be a smell problem.
It’ll have to be cleaned up.
But suddenly it gets up, now it’s glowing a rich blue colour, and is a real fox fox, a wild fox.
Away it trots, glowing blue.
I am relieved that this corner of the house is now clean and clear, blessed by this magic glowing ghost-fox.
Outside I am driving, and I realize this is going to be whole new phase of my life – I will move back to the States, to this house in Philly, and I will finally be driving again!
My sister and I are by a kind of river, streaming over rocks, with many many people. But there is a bad man who is a problem.
We drown him, the two of us, holding him down in the river in the midst of the rush of people – visceral, his red throat, bulging veins and tongue – and then finally, the bad man is dead.

* * *

Last night I sat down in the studio for a wee break from painting the latest fox – lots of foxes these days – and the angle from the chair to the patiently waiting half-finished or half-started crow on the wall with the Dollarama flowers on the table in front made it look as though the wing of the crow was decorated, almost tattooed with a gorgeous string of pink flowers…

And I wished, how I wished I was THAT kind of artist.
An artist who makes pretty pink decorative things or beautiful tattoos or things you might want to use as wallpaper in your kid’s room…

Moments, just fleeting moments where the desire to be other, to be more, to be different, to be something else, to be someone else bubbles up.

It’s not so terrible in a way, as it’s all clustered into what has become a fairly conscious process of change I’ve been working on for some time now, deep thinking about the things that are not working, the things that need to be better, the places I need to step up, become a better human being…
But here’s the thing… change is HARD!!!!

Maybe you already knew that.

So one thing I always find myself doing in these moments, is reading.

Have a seat by the fireside and enjoy some Joseph Campbell:

The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization…
If the call is heeded…the individual is invoked to engage in a dangerous adventure. It’s always a dangerous adventure because you’re moving out of the familiar sphere of your community. In myths, this is represented as moving out of the known sphere altogether into the great beyond. I call this crossing the threshold. This is the crossing from the conscious into the unconscious world, but the unconscious world is represented in many many many different images, depending on the cultural surrounds of the mythos. It may be a getting lost in a dark forest, it may be finding yourself in a strange city. It maybe be depicted as an ascent or as a descent or a going beyond the horizon, but this is the adventure – it’s always the path into the unknown, through the gateway or the cave or the clashing rocks…

Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish

Call of The Fox

She turned to me, her blue eyes faintly distant, mysterious and said:
I had a dream of a fox.
But when I asked the fox what he wanted, he said:

I am here for Kat.
I have a message for Kat.

We were sitting at the breakfast table, the three of us.
A few days together and we’d taken up the habit of sharing dreams while we figured out coffee and food, it feeling a natural, rich way to begin the day.
But this was different – this was A Message.
And the thing was – I hadn’t even told them the story about the fox.

car in barrie

There’d been too much going on – there was that crazy night in Barrie with the lousy car, being saved by our angel Hedy, then appeasing the Goddesses of crossroads out by the car rental joint on the highway and the drive to our place, and days with the urgency to get outside, get hot and get in the water and swim, have a real summer, make great food, drink wine and sit in the dark on the porch looking at stars and watching the bats dive for bugs.

trees blur
So I hadn’t told them the story of the fox.
I mean I’d told them about the place I’d been the weekend before – about the little cabins in the woods, the amazing locally-sourced food, the moon rising over the lake, and singing in the dark of the sauna and diving in the cold night lake, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, camp songs and show songs and snippets of Tragically Hip songs, all of us trying to remember the words cause it was the night of their final concert and all of Canada was said to be tuning in.

lake wide

Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, your word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time

The people were wonderful and strange: the core co-facilitators of the shamanic circle, a bunch of us newbies from various Ontario towns, and a young, fascinating First Nations fellow who, despite his youth, brought what felt like lifetimes of ceremonial experience.
It was the Saturday morning when I overheard him talking to my cabin-mate about a fox. Apparently on her drive up she’d gotten lost and ended up wandering on some back road where she saw a dead fox. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she stopped the car and gathered up the fox and brought it with her.
“I mean I don’t make a habit of picking up roadkill”, she said, still mystified.
That afternoon, the First Nations fellow led us in a ceremony to reactivate a labyrinth on the land, using a massive quartz crystal, tobacco leaves, water from lake Atitlan, and fur from the tip of the dead fox’s tail.
Most of the group circled into the center of the labyrinth, but 4 of us stood menhir-like in the 4 directions.
I stood in the West, my eyes closed while we sang as they danced their way to the middle point of the labyrinth to plant tobacco, quartz, water and fox. As I stood, I felt, saw, experienced the entire event as a spinning, galactic vortex of energy churning up and out into the sky – it felt so powerful, so forceful, I felt I might fall over.

vortex fern

The weekend was full of these kind of Experiences – this one with the fox’s tail at the labyrinth particularly intense.
But I hadn’t told my friends all these particulars before that morning at the breakfast table, before my blue-eyed friend said:
“I dreamt of a fox and he said he’d come for you”.
It all seemed too personal in a way.
Or maybe it was that such a powerful internal experience will never really translate into words, words will always seem dry and inadequate.
Or maybe I thought even to talk about it would dissipate the power in some way, cause it’ll all just sound hokey.
But as the impact of the whole thing began to sink in – that a fox had come to her in a dream to say: “I have a message for Kat” – the three of us looked at each other and wondered…
What message?
What did the fox want?
Why like this?
Why not just come to me directly?

fox drawing bluish

While I can’t speak for the fox, while I wonder if there was more to the message I should be able to fathom somehow, I’ve begun to think that the simplicity of his apparition to her was a message in itself.
It was a way to really REALLY get my attention.
Because it would be so easy for me to say to myself, “Oh, the things I felt that weekend were just my imagination”.
Or, “This whole idea of spirits is all very well, but…”
Repeatedly I’ve heard various teachers on my path say they’d spent months, even years on the path of shamanism, of ceremony and journeying and so on, but STILL they doubted this whole business of “spirits”…
Until something happens that hits them over the head and makes it all so very plain.

On the trail

Dusk.
A brisk pace.
Down the hill to the stores, but more than that to move, to stretch the legs, to shake out the electromagnetic buildup of days in front of the computer, head inside six different baffling software programs.
bullrushes ice sun setting
The long slope past the ravine.
To my right a flicker of movement on the trail in the ravine running parallel to my sidewalk.
An animal. Black in the fading light. Feline.
Keeping pace with me exactly, trotting on little legs – he on his path, me on mine.
For a moment, spooked, I wonder if he is my shadow.
I scope out his tail, his size – just a regular house cat. What is he doing out here in the cold of a blustery evening? So purposeful heading into the ravine.
I remember the “journey” I did the other night – in an online course with shaman Sandra Ingerman, where she drums us through journeys into the upper and lower worlds from her home in Santa Fe, sound travelling to us through the interwebs.
stripey tree
My new entry point into the lower worlds is this ravine – sometimes down the roots of a tree by the big pond, but recently just slipping into the stream will take me down down down to underground caverns and caves and walks with animal spirits.
stream
The other night I had slipped into the stream and almost immediately underneath found myself in a kind of feline tunnel – a long cavern in the lower world filled with the spirits of all manner and colour and size and sundry of cat.
Terrifying, beautiful, exhilarating.
And familiar.
black panther collage green
black panther collage orange
At the stairs leading down into the ravine I stand and look, breathing in.
The black cat pauses with one paw in the air, sits, and looks up at me.
Is this a moment? I wonder.
Is this a sign? Is there an insight I should have at this moment?
It calls out to me in all its strangeness, its obviousness.
But I am caught up in my busy-ness, in the demands of my outside life.
And I walk on.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Time

Beneath

The city had been disgusting with the heat – waves of it coming up like an open oven from the pavement at intersections, the apartment sticky and muggy and confining and gross.
The only thing I could think about was getting up north, getting into some water and swimming.
Swimming swimming swimming in the coolness of a lake.
Packing a few things into a bag, I came across this little pamphlet kind of thing that’s been kicking around for a while – it’s written by my mom, but I’m not sure when I got it or why, and when exactly it emerged from the archives and started floating around my reading pile, but there it was blinking up at me, and since all I could think about was swimming, I threw it in.
underwater experience
My mom used to be a prof, so she would do things like write books, and I remember one time when I was a kid asking her what the title of her book was, and she said, “Equivocal Predications”.
Oh. Ummm, right. Whatever.
So I wasn’t sure how far I’d get into this mysterious little pamphlet, but although it’s dense, it’s actually quite lovely, and I thought about the ideas in it as I went swimming each day in the cool deliciousness of a little bay.
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In her opening, she says,

After positing that water has a body, a soul, and a voice, Gaston Bachelard argues in Water and Dreams, “Possibly more than any other element, water is the complete poetic reality”…

Floating, savouring, weightless and happy, chasing ducks and minnows, I remember what a passionate scuba diver my mom was – she couldn’t get enough of it and was always off on some trip to go diving.
underwater
She writes,

Until only recently, literature of the sea and its inherent poetry has been predicated on a superficial relationship between man and the sea: man on the edge of the sea or man on the surface of the sea. To go under, to go down in the sea, was to go the way of Plebase in “Death by Water,” losing the power of perception…

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Now, with special equipment, men can experience the profundity of the sea: he can go down and still live to hear the poetic language of the deep of the sea. The action of going down is the gesture of knowing: the deep holds within it the secret of all that is unknown, the metaphorically profound, and the mystery of all that is “under” – including psychology’s unconscious and the mythic underworld.

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Within the profound abyss, within the metaphor and experience of depth itself rests an expression, according to Merleau-Ponty, of divine Being – amazing us who might have expected and seen taught that God is transcendent and “above”: “Claudel,” he comments, “goes so far as to say that God is not above but beneath us – meaning that we do not find Him as a suprasensible idea, but as another ourself which dwells in and authenticates our darkness…

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Beneath Your Feet
…with a special shout-out to my mom ❤

Intricate worlds

The sun is already well above the horizon, but I go on down anyway.
It’s a tiny paradise of riotous sound down here, a cacophony of birds – funny to think we associate being in nature with quiet, when it can be so very noisy.
A red-winged blackbird flies straight at me as if to say, Hello! Where have you been? It’s been a few days, and you’ve missed all kinds of things – the buds are all over the trees, the geese have taken over the duck ponds, and they fight with the muskrat who’s always after their eggs, and the turtles are back, and so much is going on… what happened to you?red-winged blackbird speaksThe push-pull – some days I think, really I don’t need any more half-assed nature photos, so I skip it, stay home and do yoga.
Other days I head out, starting with a kind of fast walk exercise intention, and then inevitably there’s an image – a flicker of light in the trees, the grasses, the movement of a bird, an animal, and I pull my camera out of my bag and I’m in, disappearing for hours into this world.willow treeBut although I love taking pictures, I know that for me the camera is really more of a pretext to hang out here.
A raccoon lumbers up a tree and I watch his slow lazy movements, camera idle over my shoulder.
A hawk circles above, a spiral climbing higher and higher on unseen currents.
Yellow finches dot the tops of trees, the red-winged blackbirds chase each other through shrubs and grasses, the ducks appear suddenly from the sky in a chaos of clumsy squawking and crashing down into the water.
I watch. I listen.tiny bird atop old treeA tiny bird sits atop an old dead tree. Minutes pass. The bird looks around, curious, assessing, no hurry.
There’s a quiet shifting sound as another turtle comes onto the rock and the first turtle makes room for him.
3 turtles on rocksI think about this lack of urgency. The rhythm of birds and animals at rest and their freedom without the pressures of money and traffic and jobs and social mores and the feeling that all us humans have been sucked into some grinding soulless machinery that is modern society. I remember that amazing, devastating article by George Monbiot

In a society bombarded by advertising and driven by the growth imperative, pleasure is reduced to hedonism and hedonism is reduced to consumption. We use consumption as a cure for boredom, to fill the void that an affectless, grasping, atomised culture creates, to brighten the grey world we have created…
Working hours rise, wages stagnate or fall, tasks become duller, more stressful and harder to fulfill, emails and texts and endless demands clatter inside our heads, shutting down the ability to think, corners are cut, services deteriorate, housing becomes almost impossible to afford, there’s ever less money for essential public services. What and whom is this growth for?

Yes, exactly.
Why do we feel the need to live our lives as if at war with our very selves?
When was it decided that joy was something we have to quash as children so we can be obedient enough to work at a job we hate and subscribe to some ThankGodItsFriday existence and care about celebrities we’ll never meet?
For whom, exactly, are we doing this?
The sun is getting higher.
Here and there I take a photo – a tree, a duck, a nesting goose.goose nestingThe ducks and geese meander about the pond, delighting in sensation, joy palpable as they douse themselves, ducking under again and again, bathing, covering themselves in water.goose face abstract waterThe light dances in the bubbling creek, but in the viewfinder I feel like I’m looking at pixels, looking at 1’s and 0’s and it separates me from this place, and I go back to just watching and listening… creek through tree trunksAnd then I feel it begin, the moment when the light, the air, some magic comes over me like a lover’s gust from behind and I suddenly feel it – lift off.
Lift off is my word for it, but it’s a sensation that comes like a rain shower – not so much over my body as some inner spirit thing where I feel like the “I”, the “me” disappears, my brain finally shuts up and I am no longer a person per se, I am just alive, breathing, experiencing this world.
It is bliss.
I wonder if it’s why some people meditate.
I wonder if it’s what runners feel during runners high.
It is a feeling of such freedom – so far far away from Monbiot’s grasping atomised culture, it is the place where time disappears.
It’s the reason I come here.
pathway turnsWeekly Photo Challenge – Intricate

Turtle textures

r gentry sea turtleImage: Raina Gentry

The most delicious underwater dream of the clearest, cleanest water, following a turtle as she swam ahead of me.
The light glowed underneath the water, glimmering on rocks and mosses and the legs and shell of the swimming turtle. A dream of such peace and pleasure, suspended weightless in the water.

tamara philips red turtleImage: Tamara Phillips

On my way home this morning, I stopped in at the local turtle hangout, just to savour the dream, even though the water is cloudy and murky, still it glints and ripples and hints at deliciousness for all the critters living in, on, and around it. Turtles sunbathing on rocks. Ducks by the dozens. A lone blue heron perched atop a tall dead tree. Sparrows and robins and cardinals and yellow finches belting out their morning song so loud I can barely hear whatever is crashing around in the bushes on the other side of the pond.turtles sunbathingI’d spent the night on a friend’s couch. We’d been talking into the wee hours about how much of the hokey woo we could each handle. You know, we’d gotten onto the whole Abraham Hicks / Law of Attraction thing, and of course the idea of “channeling” makes my friend recoil, AND, she protested, “the magical thinking”. She’s a rational, educated, hard working woman whose father is a scientist. I totally understand her reaction – if I actually try to think about channeling, it doesn’t speak to anything I understand, really – like what is that exactly?water abstractionBut I’m trying to stay open-minded. Cause I’ve been finding with some of these things, that if the message is beautiful and can move ideas around in interesting ways, does it matter how it arrives?

Most days I find the Abraham Hicks quotes I get in my inbox engage my mind and attitude in novel ways, however there are some days when it feels like the message of “abundance” is a kind of facile, “Yes, we can all have as many SUV’s as we want, you just need to raise your vibration to get your SUV too”, to which I have a rather negative reaction. You know, just thinking about the planet and turtles and clean water and things.turtle swimsBut I think of my late father-in-law, a highly educated doctor with an anthropological philosphical bent, a Marxist refugee from Papa Doc’s Haiti. He would say of all teachers and teachings, “take what you like and leave the rest”.

To me it feels like that. So last night I was telling my friend about an interview I heard between Wayne Dyer and Abraham Hicks, where Wayne Dyer talks about how for years and years he’d been angry at his father for abandoning him, cause he’d ended up in a series of foster homes and carried his anger with him until the day he went to visit his father’s grave. Abraham Hicks interrupts him and says, “but you chose all of that – you wanted the independence, you didn’t want some father figure around all the time, meddling in your affairs”.

Now of course, the problem is that you’d have to accept not only channeling, but also reincarnation and a kind of immortal soul that makes choices as it comes into a new lifetimes and a whole cluster of beliefs that may or may not be your thing.water abstraction 2And yet…even though I don’t really know if I believe in reincarnation and immortal souls, still I’m drawn to the mindset, because the idea that we choose our experiences is so totally liberating. All notions of victimhood are immediately eradicated, as one becomes the prime director of one’s experience in this lifetime. It is a sensation of freedom and agency perhaps not so different from the feeling in Nietzsche’s phrase, “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how“. There is a kind of purposeful light that is bestowed by this thought pattern, regardless of the origin or scientific provability of the thought pattern.turtle and duckLately my most favourite “channeled messages” are the Mayan Messages. Again, it’s a “take what you like and leave the rest” kind of relationship – there’s a bunch of things in there I can’t deal with, like UFO’s and stuff that I’m just not ready to think about. But what I love in them is the sense of the planet and the serious political and environmental challenges we face in our time, the need to think about living life simply, consciously, sharing the skills and resources we each have.

In Native American teachings, Turtle is the oldest symbol for planet Earth. It is the personification of goddess energy, and the eternal Mother from which our lives evolve. We are born of the womb of Earth, and to her soil our bodies will return. In honoring the Earth, we are asked by Turtle to be mindful of the cycle of give and take, to give back to the Mother as she has given to us. ~Jamie Sams

turtle collageWeekly Photo Challenge – Texture

Dream paraphernalia

dreamcatcherLast night I was telling my son about the dream of the house where nothing was what it seemed, everything shifting, slippery, treacherous and untenable.
We stood under the overhead lights in the kitchen, he towering above me as I said I thought it was about the job I quit on Tuesday.
“Oh, but you don’t know that”, he snapped with annoyance – one of mom’s hare-brained, hippie inclinations at work again.
He is a computer science student with a rare flare for mathematics. He is an excellent student, top of his class. I see the pages of his homework, a language of ciphers and glyphs that I will never ever in my life understand even a spec of.
Dreams, however, I know a little bit about – I’ve spent some time with them.dream shelf“It’s not like math, it’s an interpretive art”, I said to my too-cool-for-school, skeptical son. My son who insists it’s not that he doesn’t remember his dreams, it’s just that he doesn’t have them.
On a similar note, a number of the new visitors and commenters here on followyournose have mentioned they rarely remember their dreams.
So I’d like to share a few of the authors and influences I’ve come across, in case any of it might be helpful to someone.
I was telling Poshpedlar and Agniva how I keep a dream journal, THE single most important tool, I think, if you want to start remembering dreams.dream journalIt sits open beside my bed with a blank page ready in case I want to scribble in the dark in the middle of the night, and also for the blurry morning fragments, captured first thing, before turning over or getting up, any fleeting whispy images.
A good source for some of these fundamental things to try is dream-master, shaman-teacher Robert Moss – he’s got a Tools & Techniques page, very helpful.
Although the dream journal is one key tool, personally I use kind of a bunch…like kind of a lot….like I’m so heavy into the dream thing, it’s kinda way out in woo-woo land. In an exchange with jethag at Jet Lag, I allowed as how there may be “dream paraphernalia”…
For example, the dream catcher at the top of the post. Of course.
For example, this silver bowl – silver dream bowlIt sits on the bedside table with water in it – I refresh the water regularly.
This practice came from Ohki Simine Forest, a fascinating shaman-woman who lives in Chiapas, Mexico, though she’s originally Canadian (Québécoise / Mohawk). I got the silver dream bowl practice from her book, Dreaming the Council Ways, a book I loaned out to someone and along the way have forgotten the particulars of the why’s of this practice, but I still feel some magic quality, some mystery in the aquatic reflecting vessel by my bedside for facilitating, channelling dreams.
Also beside the bed is this buffalo fetish –
buffalo fetishHe reminds me of a dream I had some years ago, a dream of a buffalo in a zocalo, a town square, and of how I followed the dream to a place, traveled to try and find and understand the dream, and along the way found him in a shop just off the zocalo of a town that looked an awful lot like the dream.
He reminds me that I’m willing to travel for my dreams, to follow them to the places they show me, to think about what they are trying to tell me.dream crystalsThese crystals are quite tiny and special in a way that is so far out in the land of woo I can’t even describe it, I’ll let you explore for yourself here.
But I love putting one under my pillow each night, as a kind of promise to myself to try and pay attention to any dreams that come.
This little ritual emerged from a fellow student in an online dream workshop, Dreamwork with Toko-pa, a lovely experience. Toko-pa also has some tips for dream recall in a video on youtube – a nice way to get some ideas and introduce you to her fabulously exotic west-coast self.lion biting - brighterAnother favourite thing to do with really strong, vivid dreams when they come, is to draw them or paint them – it’s a great way to spend more time with them in a visual, visceral, sensual kind of way.
The lion above was from one striking dream I had, and the panthers below another strong onepanther collage - brighterEach of these practices is essentially about one thing – I am telling my dreams and myself that I’m listening. That I want to hear from them. That I respect and value what they have to tell me.
Some years ago I took a series of dreams I’d had to an elder, Joanne Longboat, a woman Robert Moss writes about in Dreamways of the Iroquois, referring to her as “Turtle Woman”.
She said to me, “They say the Spirits will come talking to those who listen.”
So I’m listening…

New Year Beginning

new year fireThere was a new moon on the first day of a new year.
We lit a fire.new year flame 1We set intentions, scrawling them secretly, folding them carefully into small squares of paper in the middle of an elaborate arrangement of flowers and candies and grains and seeds and sugar and wine.new year flame 2The bundle burned slowly, the temperature low, the wood still faintly damp.
We chatted and waited and watched. Shifted away from the smoke and watched some more.new year flame 3A log fell suddenly, burnt through by now, and with the moving heat the flame rose fierce around the bundle, encompassing it quickly now, then fluttered small until there was almost nothing but the coals glowing hot still. new year flame 4Weekly Photo Challenge – Beginning

Unexpected Angels

Last weekend I saw a Medicine Woman / healer.
A friend in Owen Sound had called me up and insisted I needed to come see this super-talented, up-and-coming, currently bargain-basement healer from the local reserve, quick, while the getting was good, before she becomes famous and unaffordable.
She was indeed magnificent – fun and funny and the most radiant, loving human being.
At the end of a long and powerful session, back upstairs in the kitchen, she asked me to pick a card from a divination deck. The one I chose said something about the protection of angels – a soft pale image, yellows and pinks, an image of light, illumination and feathers. As gentle and delicate and full of light and love as the image was, I felt resistance – I’m just not into angels. They have never appealed to my sensibility – they feel to me like princesses and unicorns and other girly fantasy-land entities. My own inexplicable prejudices – I try to hide it, but there it is.
So the Medicine Woman wrestled with me a bit over just accepting the concept, the idea of the angel image, as protective gentleness, as divine serendipitous light, synchronistic interventions, then had me do a 9-card spread from Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards deck – all animal cards, much more my speed.
Of course I got a whack of cats – no surprise there, I am KAT, after all…
3 cat cardsThe next day I took the bus back to Toronto and, loaded down with many heavy bags, grabbed a cab at the corner. I had this idea of killing 2 taxi birds with one stone, and before going home, asked the driver to take me out to the art supplies store, the really big one with lots of cheap deals on paints and the big sizes of watercolour paper, cause when I go there I always have to take a cab home anyway.
When I explained to him, First I want to go here and then I want to go there, he pressed down hard on the gas, and called out, Whatever you want to do, we will do it! I laughed and glanced at his eyes in the mirror – they were small with the years, not a young man. Accent African, English not first language. As his face turned slightly with a right turn, I could see several thin scars on his cheek, as if he’d been slashed across the face by a very large cat.
Huh.
He was a chatty fellow, and we talked about this and that on the way to the art supplies store – Why did I only have one child, for example? Why did I not move close to my husband to get more? As we pulled into the small parking lot, he wanted to know, What is this place?
An art supplies store! Well, he was very excited by this news, but I was out the door of the cab and up the stairs and moving fast through the aisles and my list of paints and round the back to where they keep the big pads of paper. Coming back out to the front again, thinking I should have a quick look at the mediums, a man opened up his arms and waved at me. Here I am! he said with his grin.
It was the taxi driver. Looking a bit like actor Robert Wisdom –
r wisdomBut now I could see the long tribal scars patterned on both cheeks, kind of like a cat’s whiskers –
black_panther_spainI’ve never been in an art store before!
He was thrilled, delighted, in love with this newfound world.
I was so surprised to see him there, the moment was so disorienting, in my confusion I forgot about looking for mediums and simply lined up to pay for what I had in my arms. My driver was now in deep serious discussion with one of the store clerks.
Standing, waiting for the cashier I wondered, What was it that felt so disorienting, so unusual? That he seemed so open, so free, so un-servile? That in spite of being for hire he didn’t feel obliged to sit waiting in the car if his curiosity was strong?
We went back out to the car together, and driving away his delight with this world of wonder turned to concern – They have all those things out on the shelves where anyone can just grab them and put them in their bag or under their clothes!
This upset him quite a bit, the enormous quantities of goods lying out on open shelves, and he went on about it for a while, driving slowly up the street, now nearing my house, inching along at about 10km/hr, waving his hands, both of them frequently lifting off the steering wheel altogether. But soon this worry, this loose tooth troubling him was put to rest with the summing up, This would never work in the third world – in the third world, you would go up to the counter and ask for what you want, and they go back and get it for you.
This little exchange caught my attention somehow – that he had been so troubled by something I didn’t think twice about, and had had to settle himself down quite deliberately, reminding himself that the context was different. Some lesson about the importance of the need for adaptation felt nestled in the moment.
In front of my house, he practically clucked with dismay at the disarray, the strewn collection of chairs, old bicycles, unraked leaves and crumbling porch. God will help you settle down eventually, was his last fix-it pronouncement on my life.
We said our goodbyes and I trundled into the house, arms full of stuff, head full of the uniqueness of this man.
Somewhere in all of the twists and turns of the encounter I felt the hint of magic, the reminder to remain open to the possible variations on what angelic presences might look like…

Strange Teachers

For several nights now I’ve dreamt of a temple of death.
Apropos for the Halloween / Day of the Dead season I suppose – the skulls and skeletons are everywhere, sticking up out of the ground, in and around a kind of pyramid rising up into a darkened sky with segmented sections, the lower levels somewhat gorier and grisly, the staircase up to the upper level flanked with lithe dancing young people.
The dreams seem sort of natural for the season, or like maybe they’re a by-product of the new moon / eclipse action happening in the sky, but I also suspect they’ve been brought on by this breathing exercise thingy I’ve been doing.
The exercise is an extended 5-month project, 40 minutes a day of combined breathing and visualizations, taught or guided by Sergio Magaña of Mexico City. He has a school in Mexico for teaching spiritual mastery and healing techniques of the ancient Toltec and Mexicas, or Aztec as we would call them.
Here’s some music to set the tone (the video has Maya imagery, but gives that ancient Mexico feeling) –

This guy Sergio has a book out, and someone on the book jacket blurb calls him “the new Carlos Castaneda”, really a most unfortunate and misleading reference because for one, his writing is not the lush fiction of Castaneda, but a more impenetrably cryptic mathematical and culturally localized explanation of things that made no sense to me until I went to a workshop he gave a couple of months ago in Owen Sound.
Secondly, there is no sign of a creepy Castaneda cult around him – he is a funny, laid back, lovely, helpful guy, and works with the UNESCO Heritage Club to preserve the Nahuatl culture.
Nonetheless, at the workshop in Owen Sound I found I was having some serious resistance – doubts or hesitations or reservations about being open to a teacher, a healer from outside my own cultural tradition. Maybe it was because I hadn’t dreamt about him before he appeared – something that has happened to me more than once, where I’ve dreamt of a wise person, then met them later, a phenomena which made me trust the wisdom, the prescience of the dream to have led me to them.
With Sergio there was also a question for me of cultural appropriateness – I worry over the kind of mix & match version of spiritual grab-baggery that seems to plague New Age type ventures. Even though I am fascinated by all things Mexican, have spent a lot of time there, still I hesitated.
I kind of wanted to ask him directly about these questions, about why we Anglo-Saxon types should feel free to saunter into the study of ancient Mexican culture, but I felt awkward and maybe like an insensitive brute, cause in the back of my mind was also the thought that it seemed a bit bizarre to be learning spirituality from the tradition of the Aztecs? I mean heck, those guys were INTENSE!
jawbone ex1 again
But I waited, didn’t raise any questions, just learned what I could, and then back at home one night reading, I stumbled on these words:

…if you go back far enough you can probably find that all our ancestors practiced human sacrifice. It was part of the religion in the old days and seems like it was practiced all around the world…” ~J.M. White

Right. Of course. Abraham and Isaac. Not quite the same scale but yes, the idea being that human moral codes are constantly shifting.
And the joke I always remember of how they say the Aztecs and the Spaniards deserved each other in terms of their mutual capacities for cruelty.

So being charmed by his lovely personality and the remarkable amount of success he’s had with his practices, and because it’s free and I find myself totally unable to stick with traditional meditation, I committed myself to the 5-month project of Sergio’s breathing exercises. And things are definitely starting to shift internally – some seismic cracks that have left me without much impulse to write.
The fundamental point of this breathing exercise is to “cleanse the shadow”, or in Western psychological terms, clear the unconscious.
It’s a technique that proposes to bypass all talking cures and do away entirely with the “story” of the self.
The idea is to let go of all the elements of what we tell ourselves about who we are.

The challenge lies in understanding and accepting that human beings are simply an idea, an illusion in motion, and that the only truth is the energy of the essence, which is pure potential. As long as we are aware that this is the case, then our idea of ourselves can easily be replaced by a better idea. ~ Sergio Magaña

The more weeks and now months that pass of doing this exercise for 40 minutes a day, the more I seem to be dreaming of death.
But later, as I get towards the end of it, I wonder what new imagery might wait for me there?

What do you dream of, dear reader?

Good morning

My morning ritual has gotten more and more elaborate over the years.
It begins hors champ, out of frame, in my bed with scribbles in a dream journal à la Robert Moss – you can’t move too much or the dreams get lost, as if it is the body that holds them, not the mind, so this must be done while still in bed, searching inside the positions of the body for the secrets of the night.
Then journal and pen get dragged groggily downstairs to the kitchen table where writing continues, a kind of morning pages thing à la Julia Cameron, but with candles, I’m not sure why, just for fun.
candles, journalIdeally this is all happening before first light, cause next up is the Sunrise Ceremony à la Diane Longboat, with a little more fire to make a smudge of dried lavender and sage – it’s supposed to be tobacco, but tobacco is kind of pricey around here and doesn’t burn so easily and I’m not so fond of the smell, and seems like the main idea is prayer and gratitude for the day, giving thanks for being alive and being able to see the sun rise yet again, the smoke rising to wherever prayers are heard.
smudgeThis is done facing east, of course, though as a Canadian the changing arc of the sun becomes quite evident if you are doing this daily, and right now the sun is a little further south each morning.
If the day is not too wet, and sometimes even when it is, I stand barefoot out in the dewy grass and damp soil of the back yard, out where the morning glories and other plants reside.
sun in artichoke stalks 2And somewhere in this greeting of the sun a glass of water will be consumed, the first drink of the day blessed by the light of the sun, re-hydrating the body after sleep.glass of waterBut I must confess, each morning is a struggle between the timing of the glass of water with the sunrise, and the feeling that I want, I crave, I shouldn’t, but I just can’t hold off on my one deep intractable addiction, my true love, the one I lie in bed the night before fantasizing about…
coffee groundCOFFEE…..
Oh how I love my coffee, can’t wait for some coffee, am sad each time my allotted 2 cups are done and I’m not allowed anymore.
But I’m not the only one. As I move through my morning routines, often as not sneaking one coffee in before the glass of water, or even before the morning pages and the first lighting of the smudge, I have to be careful not to set my cup down. Someone else here, bizarre little thing that she is, will lick my coffee cup if I’m not looking –
kitty sniffsWe call her the Italian cat cause she likes coffee and pizza, will steal a piece of pizza from your plate if you’re not careful. As a kitten she was found in the alleyway here in Little Italy – seems it might be genetic…
For a good morning bonus, here’s a nice little article on creativity and morning habits.
(Weekly Photo Challenge – good morning!)