The Hum

Sansaku: The Hum


If Hollywood wrote the script, Dow would have panicked and looked like a blind and naked fool running in circles. He’d probably stub a toe or fall in a cactus before he came to his senses. It’s not what Dow did.

He was sitting in the very center of a beautiful living cathedral. Maybe because of his distorted eyes which saw in shades instead of detail, it looked all the more magnificent in the way the empty space of a Chinese landscape painting expands to include imagination.

If Moses heard, “Take your shoes off, you’re on holy ground.” Dow didn’t need to be told.   His were already off. He could swear his feet were talking. “Finally, free.” They seemed to have a consciousness all of their own. He remembered how he felt as a young child.

Dow would be learning a lot from them in the days to come. He’d be learning a lot from a number of things he had once thought impossible.

He wasn’t in a hurry because he had nowhere to go. You could also say he had finally arrived and didn’t want to leave. Dow set up a fire ring not far from the plunge pool and slowly began to explore.

He had found a slight overhang to protect him from the weather and a perfect spot to sleep. No monk had ever been granted a better cell. It had the feeling of a time machine.

Because of the towering walls and the narrowness of the canyon floor, the place was mostly bathed in shadow, although a liquid light flowed golden through the canyon.   Dow thought he could see into this slowly moving light and accidentally hypnotized himself.

There was that damn dream-being and it was smiling in a way Dow didn’t like. That’s when everything shifted. Dow said, “Who are you?”

He held the question in his mind and the image seemed to notice. It was very weird and Dow knew it. But he chose to relate and said, “What do you want with me?” And then he heard it speak, “You’re the one who called. What do you want with me?”

The Moai are the massive stone sculptures on Easter Island and the canyon was full of gigantic ones. Just downstream from where he was camped, the wash turned a curve and kept on curving. It almost formed a circle before it curved away in the opposite direction.

Right in the center of the circle was a Moai. Dow couldn’t focus clearly, but studied it from a number of angles and found his favorite spot. Normal vision puts everything into human scale and acts as the glue to hold normal reality together. It’s why things can happen at night that can’t happen during the day. Dow was using those other senses.

Dahl had taken Em to this very spot and they were camped where Dow now camped. They spent hours and days in the presence of the magnificent monument. Em had found a piece of alabaster and carefully carved a totem. When she finished, she planted it deep in the sand like a seed. She took comfort in knowing it was there.

That’s when she had the dream. She found herself holding the totem and remembered she had buried it. This brought her to lucidity and she looked up to see the sacred stone temple. The rock was vibrating with a very low frequency and she could feel it in her bones.

It made a low humming sound and when she woke she could still feel and hear it. Slightly tipping her head and being very quiet on the inside, she could tune her body to amplify the mysterious hum. But it went away when the sun touched the rimrock.

Later that day she heard it again and when she tilted her head to tune into the sound, Dahl noticed and said, “You’ve heard it, haven’t you?”












A Slight Screw-Up

Sansaku: A Slight Screw-Up


Everyone knows the feel of slickrock and here the sandstone was water-polished and slippery smooth. Dow knew that once he started sliding he couldn’t stop. What he didn’t know was how far he’d fall at the end of his joy ride.

He sat on the edge for most of the day watching the cloudy red water enter the curved and sculpted rock. The beauty seduced him and he took off his clothes.

With his clothes and everything else now secured in his pack, Dow pushed his survival gear into the water and watched it disappear. He listened, barely breathing, long after it vanished.

The water wasn’t as warm as expected and he sat in the fast-moving flow watching his white skin turn pink. Vulnerable, exposed and soft, he looked around to make sure no one was looking. That’s when the afternoon shadow descended.

There wasn’t time to waste and his pack had probably sunk to the bottom of the pool. He let go.

Mark Twain said we should work like we don’t need money, dance like no one is watching, and love like we’ve never been hurt. And Jung said the only reasonable thing to do when you find yourself falling is to dive.

Dow was in the moment and it stretched into a timeless one. The slide was long and sensuous, and then he plunged. He didn’t dive and he didn’t dance, but he sang like a fool as he entered. The pool was very deep and surprisingly dark. It took some time to surface.

When he did, he was in for a shock. It’s not that his pack had disappeared, he could see it on the far shore, he’d lost something else.

Dow was extremely near-sighted and depended on his glasses more than anyone with good vision could imagine. He had another pair and wondered why he hadn’t thought to bring them.

He dove back into the water, but had a troubling intuition that came in the form of a fantasy. He could see the dream-being with the third eye smiling. He knew he wouldn’t find them. This was going to be interesting.

There’s a saying about dreams, “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.”

Em thought she had a tendency to over-analyze relationships and when Dahl heard this, he said, “That’s not the problem, you need to analyze more. What’s going on? Try to see it in a new way.”

She had almost no defenses or resistances when it came to telling Dahl her troubles. He was on her side and she trusted in his understanding.   It was her dad she didn’t get. Boyfriends weren’t half as much trouble.

James and John Milton had squared up at dinner and half-ruined the meal for the rest of them. This happened far too often and she asked Dahl what she should do about it. He said, “That’s easy, analyze it.”

She thought of something John Milton had said before dinner. “If the old man just had a sense of humor, his righteousness might be his best feature.” She didn’t understand.

“Think about it,” he said. “If he could just own those pain-in-the-ass comments he makes, he might actually be quite funny. He doesn’t realize our screw-ups make the best stories. Hell, if he could do that, I might even share some of mine.”

If Dow had heard the conversation, he would have agreed.  He was hoping this screw-up would be a good story and not a sad one.















Sansaku: Tokonoma


Dahl knew many ways to enter the canyon and some of them were far from obvious. Stone steps followed hard-to-see contours in the steep walls and descended to the wash in the same way the wash descended to the river. He pointed out the little altars made to mark the way.

Dow had come without a guide and he took what looked like a well-worn trail to the canyon floor. He was still meditating on the terrifying dream-being he’d woke to that morning. It felt like a warning.

After seeing the dream-being with the third eye open and staring, Dow had a second awakening. The little gargoyle still wasn’t gone, but slowly vanished into shadow. “What in the hell was that?”

He’d always talked to himself, but now the talking was out loud and uninhibited. He listened for some answer in his soul but got none. The superstitious side, however, had plenty to say.   “Don’t go there, turn back, you’ve already gone too far.” The voice was a nag.

The side canyon he followed took a labyrinthine course and he was thoroughly disoriented by the time he reached the water, which was flowing dark and red from the recent storm. It looked treacherous.

Just downstream, the way he intended to go, the swollen stream vanished between two smooth pillars of great beauty and size. He could hear the crash from the pour-off, but couldn’t see over the lip.

He spent all day trying to get around this narrow slit in the canyon. He couldn’t even find a view place to see what waited for him down below. A voice not his own told him what to do. He heard it quite clearly and said, “Say that again.” This time, only silence and the sound of water.

When Dahl brought Em to the canyon for the first time, they came to the same spot where Dow was stuck. It looked different for her. Dahl had told her all about it and she was ready to jump. She could hardly wait. She knew where she was headed.

Dahl had explained how the great dream was courted. “The closer we come to our deep inner nature, the closer it comes to us. Do you remember the Wind?” She not only remembered, she could feel where he touched her.

She had started her moon flow soon after that, and her mother had noticed the change. “Now that you’re a woman, I’ll tell you some stories you don’t know.”

Christina said, “I met Dahl when I was your age and we became good friends. He was my teacher and I can see he’s going to be yours.”

Em wanted to know why her mother hadn’t told her and she said, “I promised your dad. He thought Dahl would turn you against him. You know how he is.” It wasn’t just a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When Jung visited India, he was pleasantly surprised to find the East was just as he had dreamed it. Instead of a bleeding Christ nailed to a wooden cross for an altar piece, he found the gods in blissed-out erotic union. Shiva with Shakti, Krishna with Radha.

Joseph Campbell tells the story of a western philosopher asking a Shinto priest about his ideology, he said, “I don’t get your theology.” The Japanese paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. “We don’t have ideology, we don’t have theology. We dance.”

Every Japanese house has a tokonoma. It’s a special place for artistic beauty, which is sacred in Japan.   Once Em saw the one in Dahl’s house, she knew why her dad didn’t like him.









Dream Temples

Sansaku: Dream Temples


After the airplane crashed into his house and the pilot emerged with a smile, Dow gazed into the third eye of the dream being. He’d never seen anything like it. It looked more like a wound than an eye, and it was rudimentary and undeveloped. It freaked him out.

Dow had probably murdered others in his dreams, but this was something else. He grabbed the still smiling face and tried to pound his head into the concrete. The sound was a painful cracking, but the expression stayed the same. He looked like an adoring puppy.   This freaked him out even more.

Dow said something he couldn’t quite believe. “What are you doing? Get back inside me.” That’s when he woke to the dark of the canyon and saw it. He was sitting there, close to the fire, and looking at Dow with a consciousness all his own. Every hair on Dow’s body was ready to get up and run.

The first-time Dahl took Em to the canyon, he spent two weeks in getting there. They had plenty time to talk around the fire. He didn’t call the place Best Forgotten, he called it Best Remembered. The place was used for centuries as a sacred place to sleep, a dream temple.

Em knew nothing of vision quests and Dahl didn’t explain it like that. Instead, he said, “There was always a guide at the dream temple.   When a pilgrim arrived, the guide decided who could enter. But the trick was to get there and find it. That wasn’t always easy.”

Dahl knew about these places and said the guides taught the art of dream incubation. Most people came to the place for a dream to heal or help them. They hoped the problem would resolve or go away so they could get back to life as usual. But there were always a few who came for different reasons. They were meant to be guides themselves.

The instructions the guides gave were few and intended to be used as a process. It’s like giving a person a compass and saying, stay to the southwest for as long as you can. Keep walking.

The first direction was to formulate your question. This would reveal your intention. For many it was simple, “What is wrong and what must I do?” With sufficient introspection and self-honesty, the lightning snake would strike.

Dahl said, “As we believe, so shall we dream. Since most believe dreams are of no value and useless, so their dreams appear. But those who believe dreams give access to what is older, wiser, and more loving in them, experience something else.”

In fact, that was the second directive. They were taught how to visualize the greater one and to know it took many forms. This would be their inner teacher and healer.

This art of visualization is central. The image would carry over and into dreams, and there would come a moment when the image made a gesture and you knew for a fact the deity was present. This was the moment the dream became lucid and crossed over into consciousness.

If you had meditated sufficiently on your dream inquiry or question, now would be the time to ask it. It’s like the genii in the lamp that says, “You can have three wishes and I’ll grant them. But only three, no more. Don’t try to trick me or you won’t get any.” The pilgrim’s intention must be pure.

Archeologists have discovered many of these dream sites and excavated more than a few. But the water that’s living moves on and sacred trees can keep a dignified silence.







The Third Eye

Sansaku: The Third Eye


The dream labs discovered that external sensations made their way into dreams. Most labs used a phone to wake the patient after a REM period so they could record the dream. Often, the ringing of the phone was incorporated into the dream in humorous and creative ways.

After that, they decided to try squirting the dreamer with water to see how that played into the dream.   Their thinking progressed: Maybe inner sensations, like the brain trying to make sense of itself, was responsible for the generation of dream images?

One of Dow’s professors speculated that the brain could also be an organ of sensation built to perceive what the outer organs could not. He reasoned that the psyche was sensitive to the influence of relationship, and went looking for that in dreams.

Dow was be-set by dreams when he descended into the canyon.   It wasn’t like a phone call or squirt-gun, and it wasn’t just the mind talking to itself. If relationships were the stuff of dreams, and if the Earth itself is alive and conscious, and if the brain has the means to perceive, what then? What then?

Em and Dow had a similar theme to their dreams that night. Em sketched hers in the journal before she told it to Dahl. Dow had no one to tell but himself. He had taken to talking out loud.

Em dreamed that Dahl had a daughter and she was looking into Em’s eyes and beyond.   There was a profound silence to the stare, but Em did not feel uneasy or uncomfortable. She could feel something open, and that’s when the dream woman said, “You’re beginning to fill with light. Your third eye has opened.”

When she woke, she thought about death and wondered if the dream hadn’t come to prepare her. But the woman reminded her of someone, maybe even herself, only much older. It was one of her better dream drawings. She showed it to Dahl.

He had a lot to say. He called the third eye her wound and her well.   “The wound has to open so the water of the well can flow. It’s the water of life and it satisfies our spiritual thirst.” Listening very closely and not saying a word, she tried to attune to his level of understanding.

He asked her, “How do others see that beautiful place where we live?” She didn’t have to think, she knew and said, “Not exactly a dump, but close.” She saw it in the eyes of the cars as they traveled that via negativa just as fast as their wheels would spin.

But even the people who lived there. They saw dead trees standing in stagnant water. And all of those dogs that hung around the old man’s shabby house. Never mind the dangerous pools down below. The place was a waste of good land. But the buttes were kind of pretty.

Dahl said, “The place troubles their conscience. It’s become a wound in the earth for them. But wounds have a voice and know how to speak. You and I,” he said, “have learned how to listen.   Your third eye sees what they cannot, the place is a paradise and the water is living.”

Dow’s dream was not so gentle. He watched a plane appear on the far horizon. He was back in Boulder and looking to the northeast. Something wasn’t quite right. The plane was struggling but steering straight at him. He knew it would crash.

In the next scene, he was looking at the damage the plane had caused and he saw the pilot walking out of the wreckage unhurt and unconcerned. Dow was furious and confronted him. That’s when he saw the third eye open. Something about it wasn’t quite right.







Sansaku: Lightning


It’s not the paranormal that makes dreams profound and worth investigation, their value lies in what they have to say about our ordinary life and everyday relationships. The mundane turns out to be quite mystical when seen through our dream animal’s eyes. Reality is not what you would think.

Dahl looked like any other old man, maybe, except for his eyes and voice should you hear it. His clothes were almost as old as he was and James had to comment every time he saw him. “Just look, he’s wearing the same damn clothes. Doesn’t he care what people think?”

When Christina overheard this, she wanted to talk back and her eyes flashed. James saw it. “It’s nothing,” she said. For a moment, she looked like a wild hawk. He wanted it gone. The hawk flew to a tree.

In order to track the magic in dreams, you have to keep a journal. A “dreamscope” focuses on the outer in an inner way. Practical people see the outer in an outer way, and day dreamers see the inner in an inner way. But when you see yourself and what’s about you in an inner way, it’s not what you would think. That’s a recurring motif.

And there’s a distinctly religious nature to dreams. It’s not one that’s talked about or taught. Dahl said, “Most people don’t even believe in the soul until they’re very old and have no one else to talk to. We’re lucky dreams don’t give up on us like we do on them.”

Jung said that it’s not the unconscious we try to influence and change, and it’s not the outer world either. Good luck trying to do that.   Instead he showed the way of the Rainmaker and said, “Work on changing your attitude and consciousness; then see what happens.”

It’s what Dahl was teaching Em.

They were watching the storm cloud looming to the west and Dahl said, “Is it any wonder lightning was such a sign and symbol back then?” The rock art in the canyon had lightning designs on almost every panel. He casually asked her, “Have you ever heard of the Thunderbird?”

Dow was dealing with the lightning in his own way. He wasn’t quite at the epicenter, but he was close. There was no way he was going to sleep. The energy out there was getting into him. It felt like an intoxicating drink and the drunk was wild freedom.

The van rocked in waves of wind and sounded like a drum. The rain pounded a steady, driving rhythm. Dow jumped out naked into the night and began to dance and chant. He had to laugh at the first words that emerged. He sang, “Fuck the via negativa, that’s not the way to walk.” And he walked like he’d never walked before.

Em asked Dahl about the way he walked. “So, what have you noticed?” He was aware she followed and tried to step in exactly the same spots he did. She had always been a very good student.

His walking reminded her of the way a deer will carefully place each hoof and she remembered her mother calling his walk poetic, like the sprung rhythm in Hopkins. “O let them be left, wildness and wet; long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

She finally said, “You never walk faster than you can do so gracefully, and when you seem to go the slowest, we go the farthest. Like today.” And when he didn’t respond she said, “I’ll tell you what it’s like. You drift like a cloud.” Dahl called it sansaku.

Dow wasn’t drifting, he was dancing, and the spirits of the place took notice. They were curious and wanted to see what the craziness was all about. He’d be having visitors in his dreams.


The Covenant

Sansaku: The Covenant


A symbol is an image that tells a story, but not just any story. It’s much more mysterious than that.   Meaning evolves and the first time you hear a symbolic story and think you know what it means, you’re in for a big surprise.

For instance, the gods of the old religion become the devils of the new. The image of the Great God Pan, with his horns and hooves and the root of his name meaning “All,” became the Devil in the new. Instead of worshipping nature, people began to make sacrifices to that old bugaboo, Money. The Beast preached a Gospel of Wealth. Pan headed west and back into the wilderness.

Mother North had almost died during the flu epidemic and was deathly sick all winter and into the spring. Christina was still just a child but did all the work she could to keep the ranch going and her mother alive. The thought of losing her mother was more than she could stand.

At night, she fed the fire and spent the evenings remembering the stories her mother had chanted.   She began to chant just like her. Her chants turned into prayers and focusing on the flame patterns, she remembered how her mother said god was love. She prayed to Love.

She’d heard about the covenants the Old Testament god had made with Abraham and Noah, and she knew those prophets had to hold good on their end of the bargain. It was serious business.

She made her covenant with Love and fully intended to keep it. When she did, the fire sealed the deal. Christina didn’t need to believe, she knew. She experienced the moment. While she vowed to serve Love, she had no idea of all that Love would ask of her.

Before this, she had worked for a reason – to help save her mother. She had a goal and a purpose, but Love transformed that. Christina began to work with love and love did the work. Now the food she cooked and served had the medicine that was needed.

The winter turned to spring. She watched the gradual progress.

One of the newborn calves looked completely different from the rest. Christina wished she could show her mother and when she went to the house to tell her, saw her mother standing and staring out the window.

It wasn’t a rainbow she saw, it was a cloud. And when Christina turned around to look, she could see the newborn calf and mother cow were looking in the same direction. The nimbus, the cloud, was an epiphany.

In classical mythology and comparative religion, a nimbus or cloud surrounds the deity who appears on earth. The nimbus is also the halo or aura of light that circles a holy person or being. In Asian art, the nimbus is not just a circle of light, but often a ring of flames.

The nimbus is also a very dense rain cloud, and sometimes these clouds can glow in such a way they’re called a glory.

This cloud was glorious. In fact, it looked like the cloud Dow was following into the desert. Being a massive cumulonimbus, he knew to expect a flood. His van wasn’t an ark, so he parked on a rocky high point and forgot about the lightning.

Dahl knew that Em would be watching the big cloud gather. The cloud had parked over the area where he’d taken Em on their first trip to the desert. He didn’t need to go looking for her, she found him.

Still holding the owl and riding on Motley, Dahl said, “It’s time we took another trip to the canyon.” He knew a symbolic cloud when he saw one. It’s one of those images that tells a story. He wanted to hear it.