Things Get Strange

Sansaku: Things Get Strange


Because words are question beggars, I need to expand on my word choice. I probably shouldn’t have used the word soul. Jung tried to warn me. I know why he used a more technical language.

Jung joked that while everyone seems to know we have complexes, very few realize it’s the complex that has us. And since we resist turning around and facing them, they usually have us by the ass or some other tender part in the psyche.

What I called soul choices are not only those complexes we carry into the world when we’re born, but the ones we inherit from our family, our culture, our times. They show up as personality traits and reaction patterns. It’s like karma or existential conflict, and comes at us like fate. What we choose to do with fate is the soul’s destiny.

With the re-discovery of the lucid dream, the concept of what it means to be awake or asleep resurfaced. How do we know if we’re dreaming or awake? And if we don’t know we’re sleeping, why would we try to wake up? We don’t know what we don’t know.

Many of the same criteria that apply to lucidity in dreams apply to consciousness in general. It’s about the ability to discern the subjective inner reality from the objective outer one, and not to mistake what’s me for you. Good luck with that.

Betrand Russell wrote, “If modern physics is to be believed, these dreams we call waking perceptions have as little resemblance to objective reality as the fantastic dreams of sleep.”

Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly and then he woke up. He had to ask himself, “How do I know I’m not a butterfly dreaming I’m a man?”

It’s a good question. Surely there must be a difference.

In Sanskrit, the root to the word buddha is “budh,” and denotes the state of being awake. It also suggests we realize and know this. But how do we really know if we’re awake? Ask a lover after the fall.

I remember doing a counseling session with my girlfriend. We were having all kinds of trouble and the therapist asked her a very simple question. “Does he feel like your mother?” I just about fell over. I’d been thinking the very same thing myself. Talk about a wake-up.

If that were true, who in the hell did I think she was? The answer to that question was sobering. It also woke me up.

Freud, of course, pioneered this level of insight and it makes up one of the many levels of awakening. He watched, again and again, how people chose others for unconscious reasons and never woke up to the fact. When they did, it helped to repair their relationship with reality.

Jung took that insight and ran with it. He could see we had the family drama alive and well in the unconscious, but there was something else in there and it pointed in a different direction. If we could wake up in the outer reality, why couldn’t we make the inner one more conscious?

One of the ways he related to this reality was through active imagination. He related to the inner world as if it were real and when he did, the inner world responded. He discovered his complexes were autonomous and had personalities all of their own. He began to journal his dialogues and journeys.

But then something else happened. There was a synchronistic link between the inner and the outer.   What he did on the inside had consequences in the outer world. Things got very strange.


The Perennial Philosophy

Sansaku: The Perennial Philosophy


Mirroring is one of the most important skills a counselor can have. A well-ground mirror can accurately reflect the surface, up close or at a distance, and with the help of a second mirror, can even reveal our back sides. Relationships are mirrors and they show us how we are.

When the wild swans landed on the barnyard pond, they were soul mirrors for the ugly duckling. Not only did he love them, he was them. It’s how Dow was feeling about Em and Dahl.

He did fear Dahl might die before he learned all he wanted. It was a slightly selfish thought. Dahl would have said there was some truth to it, but not to worry. He’d been dying for a long time, knew how to do it, and would be sure to give him fair warning.

Dahl was also a very good mirror. Most of the mirrors we encounter in life are shadowy dark and reliably distorted.   They project more than reflect. It’s why Twain said, “Don’t argue with fools. They’ll drag you down to their level and beat you up with their experience.”

No wonder Rumi, the lovers, and ecstatically mystical poets didn’t care if people thought them fools. They would have been fools to argue.

The world out there, could we mirror it as Dahl does, is beautiful beyond description. This morning the mountains are bathed in mist and the rain-darkened color of the apple blossoms and black wood belongs in a temple. “Exactly,” says Dahl.

When I write about perfection in the world out there, I’m seeing it through the mirror-lens of myth. I suppose I’ve always had a feel for this, which is why I was so slow in school. It was hard for me to swallow lies. The info they fed us was mostly junk and full of empty calories.

When the spirit decides to enter the body, the soul is standing at the door and shouts, “Don’t forget me.” But because she’s wise, she also says, “Don’t worry. I’ll be waiting.”

Jung thought modern man had lost his soul and was searching in all the wrong places. The Sufis had a joke. We’re like a man looking for his house key under a street lamp. When someone stops to help, they ask him where he lost it. He thinks it’s in his house. They ask a second question, “Then why are you looking for it out here?” He says, “Because there’s more light out here.”

Dow had a dream during one of his first nights at the buttes. At the time, he had no doubts about it. Now he wasn’t sure. In the dream he had seen a woman sitting by a pool. He called her his soul and looked her in the eyes.   She smiled and knew more than he did.

She did not look like Em, which confused him. She was also moving around and didn’t stay in the same place for long. He had a shift in his feeling. He wasn’t looking at her, she was looking at him.

Dow wanted Dahl to tell him what the dream meant. Dahl said, “You already know. She exists in that field space between you and everything else. Do you remember the way wild swans were soul mirrors?   Would they have worked for any of the other animals?”

Dow had been studying the perennial philosophy without really knowing. Dahl explained that these teachings are full of soul choices and it’s never too late to change. We can’t control what happens, that’s for sure, but we can learn to accept and respond.

Dahl said, “It’s not about death or the apocalypse. The earth is in good hands, much better than ours. We come here to learn about love, and the earth loves to be loved.”
















Soul Choices

Sansaku: Soul Choices


The fire was at that perfect point of glowing-coals. It stopped the conversation, which was already slow. Dahl had mentioned soul choices and suggested Dow could infer them from his life story. He wondered about Em’s core choices. That’s when his dream returned.

He didn’t get a chance to speak before a feather drifted down from the high cottonwood trees, in a most deliberate way, straight into the pool of the fire.   It couldn’t have presented a more graceful or angelic form.

The three were transfixed with the beauty and synchrony of the moment. It was clearly numinous and they knew what that meant. The mystery was present.

The feather had come from a flicker. Woodpeckers weren’t often killed on the highway and Em hadn’t known why this one had died. The bird chose a memorable spot. She remembered the day she had found it.

The cars had been cruel on animals that day and she’d made a number of trips to the highway. She was angry at the insensitivity of the traffic and disliked the smell of asphalt, burnt fuel and oil. She intended to craft her roadkill art in way that flipped them off. That’s when she saw the woodpecker. It was where she’s sitting right now.

Dahl told stories about flickers and called them the healers. He said they were shamans and knew how to drum. They cared for the trees and lived in the dead ones. He said, “They have much to teach you.”

The flicker feather in the fire grew brighter. The ivory shaft glowed luminous and the orange flame flared. The black tip looked light and then in a puff of smoke, the feather was gone.

Dow had almost come to expect things like this and forgot about his question and dream. Em had something to say, but Dahl spoke first. “What did you see in the smoke? What did you smell and feel?”

Em knew she’d discovered the contents of the third bottle. One of the them had resembled an owl feather or maybe a tuft of fur. Of all the bottles, it was the one that looked the most like her art. She knew the smell and wouldn’t forget.

Dow had a buffer against the violent and numbing insensitivity of modern life. He didn’t feel the carnage on the roads in the same way Em or Motley did. And while his sense of smell was not as acute as Em’s, he knew he wouldn’t forget.

Em said, “Once you learn to sing the song of praise for life on earth, there’s a deep and painful hurt for those who don’t care or can’t feel. It makes me so sad I get angry.”

I’ve often thought true praise is gold and, because of that, the counterfeiters have taken advantage of the lack. Shadow side praise flirts, flatters, charms and seduces. It gets us to buy shit we don’t need and praises us for servility. Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Attuned to Em, the feeling reminded Dow of his dream. He said, “I was being led by a guide. We climbed into and entered an inner-most place. I think it looked like the buttes and the pools.   I was naked and muddy. The guide sat me down and I was told to look out.”

Dahl asked him, “What did you see?” Dow couldn’t remember and Dahl suggested he return to that moment when he woke. “What were you feeling?”

Dow closed his eyes and listened. He heard the guide say, “Can you see the perfection?” And then he heard Dahl, “This is why you came here.” He was thinking about soul choices and how to infer them.













What We Talk About

Sansaku: What We Talk About


Jung said, “What we choose to talk about is more important than whether we are for or against.” On the same day I discovered this shady quote, a friend of mine said of a client, “She can talk about anything. In fact, she rarely talks about anything else.”

I suppose Dahl could be accused of the same thing. Of course, what he talked about was very different from someone who skimmed the surface and avoided the deep.

Dow had asked about the unconscious and Dahl opened his eyes a little wider. It’s a big question. Leave it to Dahl, he asked another. “What have you learned about consciousness?” It made a better beginning.

When Jung studied consciousness, he found it rested upon a massive consciousness that was also above and all around.   He would have called it Soul, but the scientific bias of his time constrained him to use a word purged of any religious connotation.

In his reading of ancient texts and the Bible, he realized the unconscious consciousness was slowly being humanized and evolving a human heartedness. He had the remarkable insight that god and the unconscious needed us to help them develop and grow.

In lucid dreams, the secret is not to control the dream and what others might say or do, but to control yourself. If it’s dehumanizing to control others, learning to control oneself is the essence of being human.

Dahl explained to Dow that the point of power or control was found in the present moment. It’s what the story’s about and what’s being told.   Since Em was writing in her journal, he pointed toward her.

“The goal is now,” he said. “It’s the way she’s experiencing and remembering that matters. The pen is on the paper and the story is being written.” Em continued to write and Dahl asked her, “What do you want to remember?”

She looked up at both of them and sang a Sufi chant, “Ishq Allah Mahabud Lilah.” Dow, who had no idea of what that meant, turned to Dahl.   He said, “She wants you to remember her as loving you.”

Last night, Chyako gave a seminar she’d entitled “The Right Kind of Question.” Jung would have said, “That’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to talk about.”

When we were talking about the seminar, I brought up a specific question that the sleeping prophet, Edgar Cayce, had been asked in trance. Everything he talked about changed after that. I’m going to paraphrase the way it happened.

When he came out of hypnosis, the look on their faces told him a box like Pandora’s had opened. What he called the Source had been waiting to talk about this.

“The usual human question of whether earthly consciousness survives death is backwards. The important question for a soul is how much of its normal awareness and creativity, and contact with the divine, will survive its birth into a body.”

In the quantum domain of consciousness, the inner life or soul is less like a thought and more like a story. At any moment, the story could turn on a pin, it hangs on a thread.

Dahl asked Dow a most meaningful question, “Do you have any sense of the soul choices that were made?” Dow didn’t respond.   The old man said, “You’ll have to infer them from the story you’re living.”




Process Questions

Sansaku: Process Questions


Dow watched a jet slice through the gentle sky above the buttes and leave a straight-line cloud behind it. Down in the canyon he thought he had never seen so many jets. At times, the sky looked like a bingo card. Without any prompting, Em said, “They’re headed to Vegas.”

Although they hadn’t mentioned the con-trail clouds, Dahl asked the two of them, “What does the image bring to mind?” His own psyche had asked a similar process question.

Dow thought back to his time in the canyon.   His conversation with the jets had changed during the time he was there. There were so many planes he wondered if this spot wasn’t a focal point for flight patterns. There were so many planes, period. Maybe he’d never paid attention.

During his trials and tests, he envied those people in the sky and imagined all of the fine places they were headed and the fine things they would do. They were flying at five-hundred and he wasn’t even going fifty. He wasn’t going anywhere.

I remember when I lived in the canyons and watched the loud parade of jets overhead. I could easily fall into a funk. Mom had unfortunately planted a suggestion in my brain the week before I left. It might have seemed innocent, but it wasn’t.

She said, “Don’t you feel as if life will be passing you by out there?”

At the time, I didn’t. I thought I was headed for the promised land and I thought I knew what that meant.   Then one afternoon, hot and bothered by gnats, I watched wave after wave of jet clouds pass. I imagined a cold glass of beer up there, looking out the window. He could hear them say, “That’s not a place to crash.”

The image had a problem potential and came with suggestions that picked at the scab, “What are you doing with your life? What’s wrong with you?”   Those questions take you down a different path.

Years later I was in one of those jets and flying back from Japan. Looking down with great interest and attention, we flew directly over one of my favorite camping sites. Do you know what it looked like from thirty-thousand feet and five-hundred miles an hour? Not the same.

About ten minutes later we were flying over Durango, still on our way to the airport in Dallas. It’s not the shortest route to Japan. I could almost see our house. Now I was passing over my life and realized my cruising speed was slow. I liked to walk and sit.

Dahl asked the two of them, “Up there, what do you think they see?” If Em thought the cars passed too quickly, you’d think the jets didn’t have a chance. But there’s always a few who are looking and can feel what they see. Even from the sky, the place attracted attention.

It was down in the canyon when I developed this extended dialogue with myself. I could question, then listen. The other side almost always had something to say. It became a fascination.

The inner one had clear preferences and ideas that were more thought- out than mine. It’s similar to the relationship Dow has with Dahl. His reality is a no-fault model and he perceives the part each of us play in the big picture and how the parts play out in us.

He might have said that there are no individuals in the world, we are made of fragments from the whole. And while we study these fragments in great detail, most of the vital information never reaches consciousness. We tend to run unaware.

But there are process questions we can ask.








Surrealistic Confession

Sansaku: Surrealistic Confession


Story might be one of the first complex words we learned as a species. I think that sentence took me a hundred pages to write. Story is one of the first words I learned, and now that I think about it, it’s almost my word for the ego.

Say the word, story. Tell me what happened, how did we get here? That’s just a story, you’re lying. What isn’t a story? It’s who we are.

Our wild and wicked father told the best stories and I lacked appreciation until I was older. When he sat me down with a beer in the early afternoon, I knew I was in for a ride in the sky. He would have liked sansaku and had an instinctual understanding of surrealism.

According to Google, the word has peaked in usage and has even begun to decline. When I read Anais Nin’s Novel of the Future, I had a name for the way I experienced conscious reality. It also justified the way I liked to write.

I think surrealism has gotten a bad rap for the wrong reason. It was shrunk into the absurd and ridiculous. Of course, there’s that deep bias against psychological reality. We don’t like to study what we don’t understand. If you think about it, that sentence is totally surreal. The siren sings a surrealistic song.

The first concert I ever attended was the Jefferson Airplane at the Field House in Boulder. They’d just come out with “Surrealistic Pillow,” and I knew the album by heart. I was a senior in high school and that night I was introduced to the mystical magic of marijuana. I was a senior in high school. Even the few cops were smoking.   It was surreal and the story of my life changed over the course of the next few hours.

The story I’ve been writing about Em, Dow and Dahl, is far from ended. Sometimes I think it’s just beginning. There are so many stories behind the stories. I can’t help but jump into them.

The two dream paper drafts that Dow wrote and I’ve woven into the narrative actually happened to me in the outer world. It wasn’t a dream psychology class and I don’t know how they persuaded me to take “Capital, Risk and Uncertainty.” It was based on mathematical models and I had no business or interest in being there.

I convinced the professor to let me write a history of thought paper about the subject and not take the tests, which I would have flunked because I wouldn’t have studied for them. I was like that then.

I was supposed to present my paper on the last day of classes, and the one I had written sucked. It was mostly an academic smoke screen to hide my lack of concern or effort.   I’d thumbed through a half dozen books and the paper was a cut and paste collage of bullshit.

That’s when I had the first dream. It means something very different to me now than it did back then. The story is so much stranger than I realized. I hadn’t believed in the living psyche until that moment.

I was a lot like the fish who kept asking the same question, “What do they mean by water?” Like Dow, I was dropped in and got burned.

Since I was exceedingly conscious during the dream, I learned something about the nature of reality. It’s where I got that sentence I had Dow say to Em. “I have never been that awake before.”

The final draft of the paper began with an epigram. I took it from the pre-Surrealistic poet, Rimbaud. “I have just swallowed a large dose of poison.” For the most part, it was how I felt about my education. I was about to die and be reborn.








The Eye of Expectation

Sansaku: The Eye of Expectation


Expectations are powerful determinants of perception. This holds for outer life and definitely for dreams. And when our expectations prove not to be true, it’s fascinating to watch what happens. Unfortunately, we spend most of our time trying to prove and maintain them, and we rarely test their limits.

In Norse mythology, Odin gives up an eye to acquire inner wisdom, but the sages are notoriously silent about the nature of this vision. I have the feeling it blew away his expectations and opened up reality.

Unlike Odin, Dow wasn’t given the choice of an eye for an eye. And he wasn’t like Jumping Mouse, who gave an eye to Buffalo and another to Wolf. Like his dream shadow in the canyon, Dow was slowly developing a third eye.

When I wrote that, the fluorescent tube above my desk made a loud pop. The light was off, but something was going on. Synchronicities are like that, they turn on an inner light.

Jung coined the term, synchronicity, and made a great study of the way consciousness can influence matter. It’s the fundamental problem in quantum physics.   It turns out, matter is conscious.   Surprise.

Dow was swimming in a sea of synchronicity and wasn’t looking for the shore. He told Em, “I have never been that awake before.” She knew exactly what he meant.

Lucid dreams have been around since dreams were first recorded. They didn’t gain scientific respectability until the dream lab at Stanford was able to document and prove them. It was all about expectations.

Dow’s set of expectations had just gone fractal.