The Dreamer and the Artist

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|By Steven Martyn|

The night before last, I felt a little sick when I went to bed. That night I had an incredible dream. It was one of those long dreams that you wake up with a feeling of great loss, as a vital vivid world fades and you awaken into a dreamy blurred reality. In my sleep that night I was involved in doing a simple task over and over until, I “got it”!

After we have the moment we ‘see’ then we start to learn to do it ourselves. This is how my dream was. It was so satisfying to finally learn this simple but complicated thing that I was being shown over and over. Satisfying not just because I “got it”, but because when I was able to do this thing, it would change the outcome of the dream. On the physical plane, I’m sure the dream cured my illness.

I awoke feeling healed from my flu, but the dream was too big to come back with me through the narrow door of my consciousness into “waking reality”. The dream, like a wild animal suddenly realized it was being coaxed through a gate, and at the threshold ran back to the wild dreamland it came from. I knew She was gone.

A mentor of mine, Sean Kane, passed on to me a Haida teaching, that when we sleep we are travellers moving through many different lands. In the dreamworld we are like a hunter or fisherman. Skill is good, but ultimately its up to the fates to bring us into contact with live animals or with spiritual food, with visionary and healing dreams. These dreams have their own existence beyond us; they live in and come from their own ecology and atmosphere. From this understanding it should follow that when we bring something back from another realm it creates a hole there. Our taking has costs and consequences. When we drag up a precious thing, found in the deepest sea, to the above water dimension and atmosphere it most often explodes or immediately decays. This loss also happens like this with our dream treasure when we shift to our waking rational consciousness.IMG_4860

Many of the most precious, visionary dreams come from the most sensitive ecosystems and atmospheres. These dreams can heal us, or gift us, but they cannot live in this world, they are not meant to. Even if you manage to pull them from the dreamtime realm, to catch a shimmering glimpse of them in the morning light, they fade during the day and by the evening they are gone completely. By then, you only remember the glimpse. The dream itself has swam back to the deep sea.

Our loss and inability to remember such dream realities is well told by Martin Prechtel in the Mayan story “The Toe-bone and the Tooth”. The story is multi-layered and long, with many parts, but toward the end we are returning from our dream-like, inner-world journey, where we’d met a Goddess, whom we had a loving and full life with. We are almost back from the underworld with our pregnant bride, when she must stop to give birth (just before the threshold of wakefulness). The babies are born (representing the fruit of this union with the inter-dimensional reality) but she is too exhausted to move, and her vengeful parents have caught up. In the story we must leave Her behind to save our children, and so we run for the village (the waking dimension). Once we cross the threshold and are in the village we forget all about Her. We forget, because we are over whelmed with social reality, both egotistical distractions and the mundane. Then, someday, a smell or sight suddenly reminds us of Her, and we can’t believe we could have ever forgotten Her. In a panic we run to the spot we left Her but so much time has passed, there are only a couple of Her bleached bones left (a toe and tooth). In our wailing grief and prayers we call the Old Ones, who appear to guide us. We vow we will do anything to bring Her back. We must petition all the spirits of nature for Her missing bones and create magic songs and ritual (art) to re-make Her.

She never comes back in the form we knew Her, but some glorious part of Her is reborn in this physical world, to always remind us of Her and the gift, (children) She gave us.

When we have lost our “dream” reality, when it’s blown into oblivion and only fragments remain, we can only weep, and make ceremonial art for the ones who hold the seeds and shards of that dream. This re-membering, (putting the “bones” back together) of that which has been lost, is the basis of art.

The grief filled artist smells for a trace of the dream, and from a lingering feeling, scent or colour we channel the sacred knowledge into abstract physical forms, like pictures, songs or dances. The art is from and for the goddess of that other realm from which we all came. The art contains the information of the dream or vision, without trying to pin it down, replicate it, or explain it from the rational/physical dimension.

The day of the dream, I made a basket from thick black willow (a container). I didn’t really even think about ‘capturing’ the spirit of the dream or anything like that. But the ‘making’ somehow helped work the information through. Because, the next day, twenty-four hours after losing the dream, I woke up with the message of the sacred dream intact, and could even remember a few images from the night before.

My central experience of the dream wasn’t physical. It was slower and bigger. But, I was shown things and taught in the physical world, to bring the message to me experientially. The Helpers in these other realms show us things in this way because then even if our head forgets the information it will still be in our body, to be used or remembered when the time is right.

In the dream it felt like I was learning to tip a stone up and hold in it a vertical position. But, to manipulate the stone, I had to live out certain patterns in physical reality. These situations involved people, animals and many other “set-ups”.

It might seem funny, I woke up this morning knowing for the first time in my life, the importance of confinement. I think the dream situations that involved tipping the rock to a vertical position all involved creating a distinct structure (a definitive action at a point in time, a vertical masculine act). The act had to come out of the horizontal positions (the live situation, from the ‘oceanic’, plural, feminine time).

In my life I’d understood the need for structure and organization mentally, but I never really ‘got it’ on a deeper level, because I had a prejudice towards it. I was born and grew up in a time of “freedom”, in the mid 1960’s and 70’s. “Freedom” was where it was at, in everyway. The baby boomers were breaking away from conservative 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s post WW’s industrialized, locked down, “Leave it to Beaver”, middle class, bourgeois lifestyle. Feminism, racial freedom, cultural freedom and individual freedom came to the western world in a big way. Our idols of the day moved from being actors and politicians’ (from highly restricted realities) to wild rockstars that embodied free flowing creative energy. Appropriately, this time was deemed by those within the movement to be the “Age of Aquarius” the sign of the ocean – the boundless flowing unity of creation.

But, as in music, so as in life. When music is too free flowing it can become impossible to follow, and sounds like nonsense. The Age of Aquarius hit the larger culture like a ocean wave. While breaking down some rigid social structures, the wave was unable to form new structures. The no-boundries, free-flow, easygoing approach of the boomers, was not just an agent of social change then, but later, enabled the culture to slide back to an even more materialistic conservative ideal. When the boomer’s dreams failed, as at some point dreams do, their ambition swung to power, security and commerce during the Reagan/Thatcher years in the 80’s.

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Ripe Loquat in the Greenhouse!

Anyway… that is why I, and many of us idealize freedom in the extreme. But the day after the dream I awoke with the new realization that everything in life must be a lovely balance between metre and flow, form and inspiration, expansiveness and containment. All of creation flows between these two states, from the universe to our molecular and cellular structure.

We are born of expansive, ecstatic union. From this timeless moment of conception we move into our first containers, of DNA and cells. We grow and flow through childhood, we flower, we form a union, and we set seed through our actions. Then, as adults our existence can become confined and structured, in order to be productive, to safely raise children. Then, in our old age our productivity and structures fades. Our life is but a wave of this larger flow between confinement and freedom.

In the natural world we see everything living has this perfect balance. For our life to be joyous and fruitful we must embody this balance of flow and structure. In gardening and healing, in art and music, in our daily life and relationships, too much freedom or too much structure, will result in a time of fundamental counter balance (counter culture).

So the teaching here is to look through this lens at anything in our life that doesn’t feel right. Ask the questions and apply the knowledge. Is it balanced? Does it have the right aspects of both free-flow and confining structure? We sense the answers and truth of these questions intuitively, when we use phrases like “in the flow” or “it’s not grounded” to describe what’s good or not good about something. But, by making it more conscious we step toward actually shifting things in our life to bring us to balance, before Life Herself drags us there, before we get a wakeup call. If we can’t change a particular part of our life, then perhaps we can thoughtfully counter balance it with another part of our life?

I have struggled against form and confinement for half a century (maybe longer). And for the first time I see and feel the true purpose for containment and structure. There is a wild part of myself that will always fight against confinement, but now for the first time I have perspective, love, appreciation and understanding, for that which holds us in, for that which holds us back.