Are You Ready for the Darkest Time of Year?

Forest Park

Transformation occurs when we lose our way and find a new way to return.

– Shaun McNiff

Billy here: The winter solstice is around the bend, just a few turns of the Earth away. We have been slowing down a bit, sleeping in and caring for our colds that popped up a week ago. The nights get longer and it seems like I spend longer in the dream world too. Winter solstice is always a time of deep inward turning for me and thoughtfulness about the collective shadow. Last winter I started digging deeper into my dreams because all my life I have had vivid and intense dreams, some prophetic and some nothing short of a kind of rite of passage. I feel that our dreams are the veins and arteries into the bigger organism of which we are a part. I began compiling various dream recall techniques and practicing them as much as I could. I received instructions such as, “If you can heal water, you can heal all.” But I also received terrible reminders of unfinished business with darkness of the past, so delving into dream recall and lucidity practice was a kind of therapy for me. I could face difficulties of the past in the dreamworld directly and transform them with this practice. I am a beginner, but I’m making some progress! Here are some things I picked up:

 Dream Recall/Lucidity Practice

  • Reflection – ask yourself throughout the day if you are dreaming or awake, this is a form of mindfulness
  • Symbols – recognize odd occurrences that would point to a dreamlike state rather than waking
  • Remind yourself to remember your dreams before bed each night
  • Keep a dream journal
  • Hold the position you wake up in and wake slowly, as your body remembers the dream
  • Plant an intent before bed – ask for a dream answer for something that needs working out – sometimes this is profound, sometimes it backfires into a hilarious trickster comedy!
  • Dreamtime awareness – remember that all reality is a lucid dream
  • Supplements, herbs and foods can support vivid dreams and healthy sleep – B6s, tryptophan, 5-HTP, choline, beta carotene, mugwort, chamomile, lavender, rosehips, passionflower, anise, peppermint and of course, limiting alcohol and stress

Tree on Dogwood Trail

I just finished reading an amazing book, my top pick for the year in fact, called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer. She is a botanist and also a member of the Potawatomi Nation. This book of nature essays describes exactly what I’ve always felt since I was a kid and had no words to describe: that all of nature is alive and sentient, that it is possible, in fact necessary, to blend spirituality with science, that modern “progress” is actually destructive, that capitalism’s triumph over the gift exchange is the root of this destruction and that talking to trees and spirits isn’t a symptom of a mental disorder and in fact is a healthier way to relate than the modern split between rationality and spirit. It has been slowly dawning through the years that the real problem lies in thinking that we are separate from nature.

We are what nature is still imagining.

– David Richo

With the tar sands being exploited, the worst drought in California since Charlemagne tore through Europe, harsh winters and blistering summers, it seems that change is in the air whether we are ready for it or not. Every culture has myths that point to people destroying their own world out of their own greed and excess. In Northern Europe there is an old story carved into several runestones about Sigurd or Siegfried, who learns the speech of birds from the blood of the dragon’s heart and learns from the birds the plot of his mentor and swordsmith to kill him. Sigurd slays  his mentor and the dragon who hoards the wealth, but because he himself hoards the wealth instead of sharing it with the people, he is also slain. This is the part of the story that we tend to forget. Collectively, homogenized European immigrants to Turtle Island seem to only remember the part about slaying the dragon and winning the gold, forgetting the ending and the moral of the story, that more violence and greed doesn’t put an end to violence and greed. It is also interesting to note that even though Sigurd gained wisdom and the ability to understand the speech of birds, his actions outweighed his gifts’ potential. The possession of intelligence and power doesn’t mean we are not doomed if we cannot escape the inertia of the easy path. Happy holidays!!

2014-12-15 15.09.52

Spence here: A passel of preschoolers dressed up in colorful winter rain gear isn’t as hard to wrangle as two goats on leashes…this parade just happened in our funny neighborhood. I am looking out the window, past the new wood stove our friends installed this week–ours has yet to be installed! The film noir phase of winter in Portland has definitely set in. The trees are bare and skinny and I feel the same. No matter how many striped shirts I put on, I still feel the 80% humidity in my bones. But,”Ey, it could be worse” so say the fishermen! Do they? This one does.

I promised you some thoughts about Bruce Chatwin’s book, The Songlines. Part travel story, part philosophical meandering, part human interest–well, a lot human interest. The most fascinating is not the overall story of the Australian Aboriginals and how they use song to interpret where they live and how they travel in the outback, but the lack of understanding the non-natives have of the concept. Using songs, inherited from one’s clan ancestry and using various “Dreaming-tracks” (stories of sacred sites/physical land forms) to find one’s way, seems a natural compassing. Of all Chatwin’s characters he describes, the Russian guide, who has his own tale about how he came to live in the Australian desert, gives structure and insight to the book. Chatwin basically rides along with this liaison, as he tries to map out which sites over a 300 mile stretch of land are sacred to the “traditional landowners”, the Aboriginals. The not-so-funny part of course is that all the land is sacred to them and thus begins the ridiculous job of trying to find a stretch where railroad could be laid across the continent, without disturbing sacred sites. Chatwin writes about the people he meets in such comic detail, contrasted with a serious transcendence about Man and Nature. I am both cerebrally stimulated and annoyed that I have to re-read some sections, as Chatwin’s thoughts instigate my own waning and waxing, thus distracting me. I am excited to read another of his books called Anatomy of Restlessness.

Fern and Tree

This week, Billy and I decided to go for a long walk in Forest Park, on Portland’s west side. I took a lot of pictures while I was driving us there–which was really fun and broke up the traffic jams–but I’m pretty sure that’s dangerous and illegal. I jumped through a lot of hoops this week–getting my Oregon driver’s license, changing over the Jeep registration, applying for health care…basically two days of bureaucracy. I was glad to get outside into reality! (I kept thinking of the hilarious episode of Portlandia, where the characters are all about “getting the gear” to go to Forest Park.) Walking through the woods helps me unravel my tensions, and as I have been pondering for a profession lately, a trip to the park was exactly what I needed. Increasingly, I have already begun thinking about 2015. I feel a good year of growth coming on, with a twinge of trickery and mayhem. This is good if one is ready to simultaneously bend and hold onto the reigns. I approach January with one eyebrow raised and one hand behind my back with hidden crossed fingers.

Winter Meadow

In observance of old Yule tradition, Billy is taking 12 days off between Winter Solstice and New Year’s. I, too, would like to take those two weeks to reflect and reconnect with our family and friends–and our deep selves! I want to try to envision what “Dreaming-tracks” are out there in our landscape and therefore within ourselves, as they are one and the same. We shall post in January of 2015, where we will begin again… Merriment to you and yours!

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And to know the place for the first time.

– T. S. Eliot

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