Falling into the Abyss

Not so long ago I asked the “nothing-in-particular-of-the-general-universe” (God for some of you) to help me through the funk I’d fallen into and while browsing a bookstore my attention was drawn to a shelf where a book called out to me, The13th Disciple by Deepak Chopra. “Sounds a bit preachy and just alittle too Christian for my tastes,” I thought, but found myself buying it anyway. I waded into its pages when I got home and nothing jumped out but something told me to be patient that there was some gold hiding in the pages.

As I continued to readI came across a chapter that sparked a memory, a recollection of a time spent at a retreat when a grief was resurrected and sent me hurtling down an endlessly dark hole from which I wasn’t sure I could pull myself.

I shook off the memory and continued to read when another turn of phrase triggered another memory of a void I had tripped into shortly after hearing of my father’s death. Both instances of grief propelled me into a helpless emotional abyss from which I wasn’t sure I’d escape and appalling as it may seem I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.

In both instances within moments of my plunge, and with fear consuming every cell of my being, I calmed and faced the darkness before me wondering curiously what lay at the other end and finding that I was just a little captured by the thought that there might not even be an end. What would that be like, I wondered?

Why was I visiting these pains yet again after so many years? Was it possible that I hadn’t fully dealt with either and here was another chance to reconcile, to “zero out” or bring balance to these experiences? I’d always wondered where the tunnel would have taken me if I had not stopped the tumble. I mean what would have happened if Alice had stopped her fall down the rabbit hole by waking herself up?

Almost as soon as I had that thought the following came to me and I quickly grabbed a pen and in my haste, and not finding any other suitable writing surface, wrote it inside the dust jacket of the book.

“Seeking zero point where nothing holds you up and you plunge into the emptiness of your being.

Falling into the objectless void you’re on your own with no one to aid.

But keep your wits and you’ll pass right through hell, the tears will wash away the fear, and the abyss will become your grace.”

The words in my mind came to an abrupt end and I set down the pen and briefly pondered their meaning.

Suddenly a memory of light elbowed its way into consciousness and for a brief moment I was laying on the floor of a mediation room open on all four sides to a surrounding forest that until then had been cloaked in the deepening grays and shadows of an advancing night and marveling how every tree, every leaf, the sky, the ground, and the people around me seemed to have a glow.

What had been a somewhat hostile world became warm and friendly and I got up and walked into the night feeling for the first time in my life that I belonged, not to any organization or place, but to everything.

And then I was back. As I sat at home reading my musings it was as though something in the universe wanted to remind me of the journey I’ve been on all these many years and how far I’ve come and how I’ve changed over that time. It’s not in my essence that change took place but in my ability to see it and function from it and like Alice sometimes there’s a light just for us at the bottom of the dark holes we fall into and we just have to let go in to them.

Walking the Dark Night

 

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Three nightmares across nine fretful nights sleep. In one a character is shot several times as he runs down the road, the last shot bringing him down, I falling with him and reaching out to comfort. Another has me wearing a CPAP mask at a restaurant dining table, feeling shocked, vulnerable, humiliated and virtually emasculated.

The last dream has me being threatened and abused by three twenty-foot giants.

What to make of it all?

In the first dream the character being shot is an expression of myself suffering what Bill Shakespeare called “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” i.e. attacks against the psyche in this case. The fear may be that there will be one too many that I may not be able to soothe and get up from. This dream may have been triggered by watching a friend take several psychic blows that would have left me emotionally bleeding. There’s also a theme running through the “world psyche” at the moment where many people are taking the blows, with the collective-ego becoming increasingly more self-critical.

The current immoral insanity sweeping the nation and the White House is suffering profound psychic blows as well as we each watch the country we love being torn apart by fear, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred. Our shadow aspect that we’ve been hiding to both the world and ourselves is showing itself in all its repressed ugliness.

The second dream seems to echo the first and indeed came on the night following the first. This dream seemed to suggest humiliation and a feeling of emasculation. It continued a theme of feeling vulnerable and not being able to protect myself adequately. The mask itself also may have symbolized a fear of being found out, of not being able to successfully hide what I am feeling in my everyday life right now.

Seven days later the third nightmare intruded and interrupted my sleep. In this dream three imposing and quite frightening ‘giants’ attacked me and stood threateningly astride me as I fell. It felt that I wouldn’t be able to save myself from what was about to happen and then I awoke. Are my feelings overwhelming me? Is my negative inner dialog going to injure me? Who are these three antagonists I wonder? Then it hits me that they might represent my three biggest concerns as I grow older– 1) Body deterioration (not only reflecting all the aches and pains but the loss of attractiveness to the opposite sex); 2) Deteriorating usefulness; and 3) Contracting future.

There’s a lot to be learned from one’s darker dreams i.e. there’s light in our nightmares, though in this case there are few if any answers, but knowing in deeper detail what’s going on with me emotionally may give me an opening through which I can find the light.

 

Dealing with the emotional and psychological after-effects of violence

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On occasion I receive dreams from those who have had family members or boyfriends/girlfriends that have been murdered. Many share seeing them again in their dreams. In some cases the departed will morph into something else. In one case the visiting dead turned into a snake that when in an attempt to catch it the snake slithered away into a hole. In this case it may have been a metaphor for those who had perpetrated the murder having not been caught and the dreamer trying to deal with the betrayal of both the “perp” and the authorities.

Some dreamers experience great helplessness (feeling tied up or trapped) or overwhelm (tsunami waves and/or flooding) as part of the dream. Some escape the symbolic trauma by climbing stairs or mountains toward a higher perspective while others fly free across a meadow or run away from threatening people or monsters.

Others have wondered if the extreme grief they’ve suffered has in someway damaged the soul.

Mostly the dream material of such traumas is about the mind trying to make sense of the loss and to then deal with it i.e. to make peace with it.

I believe that our souls accept trauma long before our conscious minds are able to wrap themselves around it, though the pain can be experienced as being so deep and profound that it feels as though your very essence, your being, the soul of yourself has been irreparably damaged.

Though the mind is valiantly trying to grasp and deal with the trauma experienced by the violent death of a loved one it can rarely do this alone. What often happens is the mind enters a never-ending spiral with no escape or resolution. Some dreamers experience this never-ending spiral as a vortex in a storm-tossed sea with them or the ship they’re on being pulled down into the darkness below. Some see themselves at the edge of a bottomless abyss.

Such dreams may reflect the dreamer’s difficulty in trying to resolve a great inner conflict generated by loss. This can take the form of anxieties of losing themselves or in facing the hard emotional reality of their own death. These dreams are part of the healing process but sometimes one can get stuck in the process without moving to the next level of dealing with the grief.

The experience of losing someone through a violent death can be similar to the experience of someone with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) with the reliving of the event in dreams or flashbacks, repetitive nightmares, and anxiety symptoms. This can also happen with those who have been physically attacked, witnessed great violence, and/or have been raped. All of these experiences destroy the sense of safety and personal integrity of ones life. They are a violation of the soul.

If these dreams persist over time it might be useful to the dreamer to seek a helper, a guide in the healing process, someone trained in helping others deal with grief.

Organizations such as Goodtherapy.com * can sometimes be useful.

Learning to deal with ones grief in a productive way can be helpful as well and to that end this link to ActiveBeat * as well as the following article in Psychology Today: Grief-isnt-something-get-over* might also be useful.

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* I am not an advocate of these sites and only offer them as examples of resources without endorsing them. You will have to determine whether or not they are useful to you.

 

 

Dreams so real you swear you were there

 

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Found on Deviant Art

 

Some have dreams of an invisible creature sitting upon their chest, a presence in the room, dark, foreboding, and cloaked in fear. Sometimes there’s a sound but almost always a vision, there can be a feeling of floating, shadowy outlines and sometimes-demonic characters. There are times in these dreams where one feels like they are falling and jerk awake. Very real and quite vivid these are the dreams of the Hypnogogic.

 

“Sometimes I am in that state as I just start to go to sleep when I begin to have very strange visions, sort of pre-dream dreams. Typically my dreams are of regular situations with regular people inhabiting them, though these “regular” dreams are a bit disjointed in that they often jump around. Sometimes I find that people or objects are doing things that they can’t do in the waking world, such as fly, or hover.

 But sometimes, in this pre-dream state, what dream scientists call the hypnogogic state, my mind seems to manufacture some of my strangest creatures. People morph into odd-looking creatures—visions that I don’t ever recall having seen in the waking world. To top it all off while having these visions my body can feel paralyzed. On occasion I’ve recognized that the visions are about to turn nightmarish and I’ve forced myself to wake up only to find that for a few seconds I can’t move!”

RJ Cole –Hypnagogia and sleep transition states

 

As a boy I used to lie out on the grass in the evening and strange creatures and flying machines would swoop down from the sky. I would watch in fascination cartoon-like characters scroll across the stars. Sometimes in my darkened room I would watch small balls of light dance in the air and flit behind the dresser or in and out of the closet. I was never afraid of them for they seemed to be friendly and often kept a lonely boy company. They went away in my teens and I didn’t remember them again until I became interested in dreams in my early thirties. I have only had one experience since then. This was a dream of the hypnogogic and it was one that led me to write the tale of The Archipelago of Dreams.

In this vision I left my body and traveled to a place where souls go to recuperate after a life of stress and suffering. There they become revitalized and move on to their next level of adventure or return to the land of being to live it all over again. It was there that I discovered my true being and its destiny– hallucination, lucid dream, parapsychological experience, or just a little crazy or perhaps all four?

An occasional hypnogogic hallucination is an interesting phenomenon and most of us have had them at sometime in our lives. Several dreamers who have shared their dreams with me have shared a novel hypnogogic-like experience. However, when these experiences start showing up on a regular basis they can fall into the category of sleep disorders.

If they are frequent enough that they disturb your sleep there are a few things that you can do to lessen that frequency:

  1. Keep a regular sleep schedule and be careful to get enough sleep every night.
  2. Control your stress. Relaxation activities such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga and the like can be very helpful in controlling stress.
  3. Consult with your doctor as to whether your medications could be causing hallucinations.
  4. Consider consulting a sleep specialist and having a sleep study done.
  5. Understand that these hallucinations are common and not necessarily a sign of a more serious disorder, however that dos not mean they should be ignored if they become too frequent. Ultimately your physician and/or therapist can help to determine whether they fall into the category of disorder.
  6. Keep a sleep journal and track your symptoms to look for patterns.

 Death in Dreams

 

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 “Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.”

–C. Jung

Basically he’s saying that death is a condition for the meaning of life.

Death in Dreams (The symbolic meaning)

 Death often relates to the ending of something. But it can also suggest our relationship, or attitude towards death e.g. how do we feel about it?

As an archetype it can show up as a sunset, crossing a river, twilight, a skeleton, gravestones, a cemetery, blackness, the grim reaper, an old man, or woman, a fallen mirror, a stopped clock, or an empty abyss. Dead animals can also be metaphors for our own demise.

 

“These are the woods you love where the secret name of every death is life again”

    Mary Oliver (Skunk Cabbage)

      

Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. Such things as a cave, or an egg, Spring, dawn, the cross, a snake, a seed, a bird taking flight (though if it were to fly off into the sunset it might suggest death), a Phoenix, flame, a pearl, or the womb.

The body itself is in a constant birth, death and renewal cycle in that individual cells need to die in order to be replaced and renewed without constant injury to the body’s cells, fresh cells could not revitalize. This is the idea of creating by destroying. The Hindu god Shiva is the destroyer of the world (actually the ego—the false identification with form, and the letting go of habits and attachments). Brahma then recreates what has been destroyed. In short, all that has a beginning must also have an end. The only thing that dies according to this concept is the illusion of individuality and separateness. In this way Shiva is the great purifier.

 

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Shiva

 

The ancient Greeks believed that a person’s well-being depended on the opposing forces of dissolution and creation. The Caduceus with its entwined snakes and being the symbol of the healer can be symbolically linked with Psyche interacting with matter and transforming both. This idea of the snake representing both death and renewal sheds its old skin to reveal something new and revitalized, thus dying so as to be reborn.

 

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Caduceus

 

Dead people in Dreams:

In most cases this is about the dreamer trying to deal with the passing of someone close. It’s all a process of letting go and of resurrecting the one you interacted with on a physical level into the memory of that same person. For some the deceased becomes eternally living within the memory of those left behind.

To see a dead person in a dream:

This can represent some area in one’s life that has “died” such as a feeling, a relationship, or situation. Sometimes anger repressed in your waking life can kill ones vitality and satisfaction. It can also represent a part of yourself that you would like to leave behind (to see that part, look at what aspect the dead person may represent).

 

To see your own death in a dream:

This can suggest a transformation in the way you have been, in thought, in feeling, or in attitude. It can also suggest the transition of one phase of your life into a new one.

Fundamentally death in dreams is about change, impending, ongoing, future or past.

 

“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

–Mary Oliver (the Summer Day)

 

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For more on death and resurrection in dreams go to the Dreaming Wizard website.

http://thedreamingwizard.com/death-and-resurrection-in-dreams_295.html

Don’t cast out the demon: A case for following your dreams

 

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There is an uncontrolled and uncontrollable background world from which we are all born and out of which we motivate our lives. It is only through self-reflection, the art of transcending our conscious selves that we can discover a psychological resilience the likes of which the vast majority of people have never known or even knew was possible.

This is the art of reflecting on our experiences instead of being caught up in them. To do this one needs to gain some distance from them. For example, one can experience being depressed and become so wrapped up in the experience that it’s like being caught in a never-ending maze where you seem to wander aimlessly forever.

But transforming the experience from one of “being” depressed to the depression as being a signal that your approach to life has been outgrown and that a new approach needs to be developed can take you outside the experience and allow for a new perspective and change.

In short, by being your symptoms you can become lost, but by using the symptoms as signals of the psyche’s attempt to heal itself you can transcend, step out of, the maze. As with everything else the symptoms aren’t what’s causing the imbalance e.g. depression, they are only indicators that an imbalance exists. Too often we get caught up in our ego needs and forget that we are actually creatures of a much greater background world.

When we act as though we are our symptoms (fear, anxiety, depression, anger, powerlessness, etc.) we automatically try to avoid or cast out the demon. In other words, we try to reject rather than go into relationship with the symptom.

When we reject our feelings, our thoughts, or our unwanted memories we send the pains they cause into the dark cellars of our unconscious mind where they can fester and source all kinds of mischief. The art of reflection is the first step into dealing with our imbalances directly and one of the best ways of reflecting on our inner self is through the analysis of dreams. It is through our dreams that we can connect with that background world from which we all come.

In the dream it is the soul that reflects on itself while the ego sleeps rather than the daytime reflections of the ego upon itself that rarely produce any useful insight. Learning to see reality through your dreams can be a transforming experience.

The Darkling Wood

 

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Into the wood where the Darkling play

Follow the path, I’ll show you the way.

Look carefully now for all crawly and slither

They’ll make you all creepy, scaredy and shiver.

The night falls here with a cackle and thump

A crack of a twig, a murmur, and bump.

For it’s these dark woods where the nightmares play

The nightwoods where darkmares have say.

Beware, beware the darkling soul

He cannot be bested by fairy nor troll.

For he rules the forests of your mind

Your lighter and darker forever entwined.

Look close dear one for there is a charm

That can tame before there’s too much harm.

Face the demon to make you wise

Embrace his fire and don’t despise.

Give only what he is due 

Accepting that he is part of you.

He will bow his head and give you true

For his master is really you.

So harness him up and together take flight

Across the deep lake and into the night.

–R.J. Cole

Imbalance, dissociation, polarization, discontinuity and fear: What I learned in the archipelago of my dreams.

 

At one level this article may look like a political statement, but it is not in that vein that I present it. All social animals e.g. Wolves, Apes, bees, ants, porpoise, human beings, etc. have some kind of cohesive principle, some kind of leadership, or coordinating system. In large social systems anarchy just doesn’t work. Scientists have even found this principle at the molecular level–most of us would not be able to survive for very long if our internal systems didn’t have a coordinating system and/or if the system were to become polarized and its parts weren’t willing to cooperate with each other.

From the very beginning of recorded western thought philosophers like Heraclitus and Hippocrates believed that there was “one common flow, a common breathing. Everything is in sympathy. The whole organism and each one of its parts are working together for the same purpose.” The Roman scholar, Agrippa spoke of an essence beyond the four known in his day as water, earth, air and fire and that it held existence together. He called it the World Soul. A more modern thinker, Carl Jung, called it the Anima Mundi. It was the glue that kept existence together, the balancing effect that kept everything on an even keel and in balance.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert discovers that the balance that keeps the world functioning has been dangerously tipped and that he has been conscripted to help in bringing the world back to equilibrium. But his own fears and the fears of others muster powerful physical and psychological forces to prevent him in achieving his mission. These same forces are acting on all of us on a daily basis both in our waking lives and sleeping lives because fear images also show up in our dreams especially when we are suppressing or ignoring these fears and they show up at an intensity that endangers the fabric of all human life.

I’ve said this before; fear affects decision-making, what I haven’t said is that it kills as well. It not only kills innovation, but the body also. When there is a threat to the body the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) kicks in and all systems are diverted from growth and development to reaction defense mode–fight or flight. Adrenalin pours into the system and mobilizes the body for action. The immune system is repressed because right now the external world poses a greater threat than the inner and the forebrain, the center for reasoning and logic, is slowed–no time for thinking, gotta act. Vascular flow is limited to the limbs, for running or fighting and conscious volitional action is curtailed, better to let the instincts take over.

Now under normal circumstances this state of affairs only lasts for a few minutes at best, just enough to survive an attack. And thank goodness, because the body begins to deteriorate after awhile when on high alert. The HPA is an excellent system for responding to immediate threat, but it was not designed to be activated continuously. Hyper vigilance eventually dissociates the body from the mind and the community from its leadership.

This kind of hyper-vigilance eventually wreaks havoc on the health of the body. When the immune system is suppressed all kinds of viral and bacterial bad guys can attack and take over–while focusing too much on external safety a fifth column of micro-nasties compromise your health. When the body is reflecting on the external too much it neglects the internal and is thrown precariously off-balance.

In our society fear, or its smaller cousin, anxiety, has at some level become de rigor, the emotion trend du jour and we find ourselves constantly on alert. Since 9/11 we have entered a continuous state of protection and our quality of life has become impaired. A constant background state of fear (exploited politically) keeps the HPA system activated and our lives become more reactionary than thoughtful–you can’t think straight when emotionally involved. After a while the body habituates and it sees fear, or something to fear, everywhere. One of the first things to happen under these conditions is that we lose tolerance for anything that is different, because “different” often translates to something threatening.

Lack of tolerance leads to an impaired ability to cooperate for it might be ‘every man for himself.’ We see this intolerance and lack of cooperation in many social contexts, but most notably within our political systems that really only reflect ourselves. In an environment of fear reactionary opinion trumps reality and the rational takes a back seat to self-protective beliefs­­–clear thinking becomes a victim and the society begins to dissociate which is a fancy psychologists word for separating from one another–to disunite. Nothing can be more debilitating for a community whether it be a community of biological cells, animals, insects, a business corporation, or people in general.
Continuous fear consumes our energy toward getting our needs met as well. We seem to live in a constant state of being out of control of our destiny and as we throw up more walls and fences to keep out what threatens us we begin to lose independence, autonomy and ultimately our ability to enact free will. On an individual level we become sick and vulnerable to diseases or just a lack of focused attention that can affect us creatively. On a national level we see our ability to innovatively compete globally impaired as well as our ability to cooperate with each other, and on a global level the reaction to our inability to get our needs met can be seen in the Arab Spring, and the protests in Greece, Russia and the United States. The “Decade of the Protest” may very well be a correction toward the extremes perpetrated by those in power. Would that these powers could see that it is in their best interest as well to let this correction take its course. In the short run things may look scary, but healing isn’t always pretty–sometimes you have to scrape the scab to let what is underneath it “breathe.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt said after the last great attack against our country that, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself!” Truer words have never been spoken, fear can kill us–it can destroy the genius of the country and sicken its society. The very essence of the World Soul is in jeopardy because it has become every man for himself as we belittle the efforts of our leaders and refuse to listen to each other. The scale that keeps the world in equilibrium is way off center. It is imperative that we rediscover our balance–a center of being from which we can manifest our broader, deeper, truer nature!

In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert learns what needs to be healed in order to bring humanity into equilibrium and in the process learns how to heal himself as well.

Mystery: Being in the I-know-not-where

 

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Forever striving to know everything

Forever frustrated and afraid.

Ah, to embrace ignorance if only

As an entry to the holy.

I love it when I admit that

I don’t know what I’m doing.

For me the holy mystery seems to reside

in those spaces between knowing and not knowing.

Always trying to know leaves me empty

No matter how much I think I know.

Mystery on the other hand seems to fill

Every nook and cranny of my soul.

My desperate need for knowing leaves me angry,

Frustrated, anxious, defensive, and frightened.

Not knowing seems to cool the mind like

A splash of cold water on a sweaty summers day.

This effort to know everything sometimes heats up the mind and soul

And agitates the very essence of my being.

I’m left exhausted depressed and lost and I ache for the release

Of the mysterious, its softness, awe, and wonder.

It’s there somewhere behind and beneath that pile of knowing

And I think it’s time to invite it out to play.

The constant striving and worrying about knowing what,

where, and why is so tiring, so meaningless.

Being in the I-know-not-where can be so peaceful,

so joyful.

 

Possession in dreams

 

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The following is a draft section of a new book to be published later this year, Morpheus speaks: The Book of Dreams” (RJ Cole, 2018).

 

Insight: Being possessed is an archetype itself (symbolic meaning that is found across all cultures). Many years ago people would employ priests or even lay mediums to exorcise an individual’s devil that has “possessed” them. But even now the old version of the primitive possessor demon lives within an unexplored psychic phenomena and acts out behaviors that are contrary to a person’s best interest. One only needs to look at how many so-called fearful “conservatives” will vote for the very issues and people who only mean them harm, directly or indirectly, to see the truth of that statement. All too often when we deny our complexes, our demons so to speak, we become possessed by them, we allow another force and energy to take over our lives.

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