dreaming ritual
journal entries


This notion of dreaming rituals began during an afternoon interview (for a Boulder, Colorado newspaper) with Australian aborigine elder Guboo Ted Thomas in 1986. We sat, we sang, we prayed; I also listened to him play his didjeridoo. Guboo didn’t really tell me anything specific about dreams per se nor did he disclose anything specific about dreaming techniques. What he did impart, and what I received, was a tangible spirit of mystery surrounding alternative uses of "mind" and the unfathomable powers innate to dreams themselves.

"When the mind cannot see beyond itself, the mind is trapped by the mind;
not everything is mind."

There is also the dreaming and according to Guboo, the dreaming and this planet are one and the same; know one and you know the other. At the time, my own mind was fortunately open enough to permit this paradox: something as "ephemeral" as dreams could be synonymous with something as "solid" as the planet. What really blew my mind open, however, was Guboo’s question:

Do you know what trees really are ?

No, Guboo, I don’t. What are trees, really ? Guboo told me, trees are like your telephones and in my land, my people use them to speak with each other over thousands of miles. I walked away from that meeting altered. I felt that if I did not rearrange and adjust my beliefs and ideas to better serve the confounding new truths experienced in this Aboriginal elder’s presence, I would lose the use of my mind.

How to integrate this. Over the next sixteen years I devised, tested and developed a dreaming ritual as a non-interpretive form of kinetic dreamwork. During this period, the dreaming ritual was executed four times with four different groups in four different locales: indoors at a dance sudio in Boulder (CO), outdoors in the Veedavoo wilderness (WY), outdoors on Orcas Island (Pacific Northwest) and outdoors on the Olympic peninsula (WA). The fifth (Winter 2000) paratheatrical dreaming ritual occured indoors at a dance studio in Berkeley CA. The following LAB NOTES & AFTERTHOUGHTS express my personal responses to that experience.


Personal Impressions (under the influence)
Everytime I check in with dreambody in these ritual lab nights, each experience impresses me so differently it is impossible to form any fixed idea or image about what dreambody is. This has the effect of consistently confounding my attempts at categorization; whatever dreambody is, it presents itself as a reality greater than my mind. Dreambody teases my mind with its autonomy and power; existing beyond my mind, dreambody laughs outloud seeing through everything.

Humbled by dreambody, I pray to its emanation. My devotion summons subtle forces from my body, enlivening resonances in me that I give expression to in odd sonorous chants. It seems that my voice (and song itself?) acts as a conduit for the dreaming, as if the throat were some kind of chamber or vortex the dreaming uses to make itself known; wonderous feeling, to sing the dreaming into being.

One time, dreambody shows itself as a dark prison with me as prisoner. I pace the cell gasping,wondering why and where is the dreambody I know and love. Why this desolate, utterly despairing impression?! No answers; nowhere! I am done with this torment and step outside the circle. Returning to NO-FORM, a sudden laughter erupts out of nowhere. Dreambody just made an idiot out of me, a big fat dreaming idiot! Turns out, I over-identified with dreambody and lost all perspective; the space to interact with the emanation. By becoming dreambody, I turned into a prisoner of dreams... Another NO-FORM alert. My being is free only when I am not being anything...

Insights at Dream Council (for idiots only)
The most recent Wednesday night dream council (11/8), we all observed a predominant spirit of resistance within the group (not unanimous but dominant) around dream recall and with remembering movements in particular. On closer examination of my own resistance, it soon grew clear that my approach to dreams -- going to sleep with the intention of remembering movements -- was, perhaps, too direct; maybe even arrogant. Like some midnight stalker of dreams. Who was I fooling ? Who am I to determine when and where the dream m ovement avails itself ?

This insight left me in a stupor; a pseudo-scientific idiot with his all-important thesis and experiments. This baggage of excess certainty weighed heavy and rang false to me . Then, it rang hilarious. I laughed outloud and shared my embarrassment with the group. I told everybody that my dreambody acted on me like a BIG TEASE. The dreambody wants romance, not clinical research and development; the dreambody as dream lover. A revelation. I had to change my behavior to appeal to this dream lover. As if I was on a hot date, not some ritual experiment. My previous approach has reached a dead end. This is not an experiment; it's a courtship. A romance with a dream lover called ANIMA.

For Anima
Standing outside. Your circle, I imagine you
All eyes. Inside unfathomable textures of, is it, light ?
Teasing. No, inflaming, all dreams of what you can be
I step inside your temple and nothing happens
And then, I collapse. Crushed, slamdunked by a hairy chimera
My images. My expectations, my burning house
Where am I now ? Inside these flames. I am laughing
As my house burns down. Tthe surrounding landscape expands
A mindless infinity blows everything to bits and pieces
I stand alone. Like some charred crucifix, a shadow
Of past sacrifices. You demanded this and I gave you that.

Now, midnight visions!? Beached crabs, foaming mouthes
Crabwalking. Over fields of broken shells, clamoring up & down
There are tunnels here and tombs, too. Do they die also?
Or is this some kind of sleep that grows its own shelter over time ?
There are no metaphors for this love of yours, only death and surrender.
This love of yours. It has destroyed everything familiar to me.
Have I passed the test ? Am I still attractive ? Do you still want me ?
My sudden shyness ? A mask to diminish your magnificence
The only thing I can call my own.
The only thing
I can call
My own.

Dream Council (11/15; dream contexts revealed)
Nine of ten dreamers present; Julian absent. Tonight, everyone shared the dream circumstances around each of their three movements (selected for their dreaming ritual movement cycle). It turns out that everybody’s movements originated in separate dreams. As a result, we all listened to remnants of twenty-seven dreams. I admit to suffering bouts of boredom when having to listen to the dreams of others but this was different. I was transfixed. Each movement, and its accompanying dream context, expressed qualities that were poignantly germane to each person. The group as a whole also showed degrees of genuine interest: intrigue, fascination, awe, amusement, horror. No analysis or search for meaning was expressed or encouraged. Disclosure of the dream circulmstances around each movement seemed enough, in and of itself.

As the night progressed, another common awareness surfaced. We all expressed recognition of at least two levels of dreaming: 1) dreams that seemed chiefly self-referential and 2) dreams of visitation from or communication with a presence of Other, ie., not self. The first dreaming contained obvious projections of one’s personal psychology, family gestalts, and/or psychic regurgitations of the day’s stresses, frustrations and fantasies. These dreams seemed to serve the processing of familiar impressions. The second dreaming engaged encounters and confrontations with genuinely unfamiliar, alien and/or autonomous entities, beings and realms, or dimensions. That we all are aware of this distinction, these two dreamings, truly excites me. I express similarities between this second level dreaming with my personal encounter with ayahuasca, an Amazonian vision brew. Both act on my consciousness as vivid initiations with Other. Both impress me deeply with a sense of real communication, ie., no mere mental chatter or projection often confused with, what to me is, real communication. In the calm of the moment, I hear Guboo’s words:

“Not everything is the mind; there is also the dreaming.

Dreaming Ritual Activated (end of a cycle)
11/19. Tonight, the group executed the charged, fluid dreaming ritual for the first time together. Save for a single lit candle in the center of the space, our physical warm-up commenced in darkness but it was not a silent darkness. This warm-up cycle conjured up its own cacophony of howls, screeches, yelps & cries. A chorus of chaos, a jungle night swarming with hungry ghosts and dreaming spirits. Was the group animal afraid ? If so, no fear was spared in giving ourselves over to expressing it vocally. Then again, maybe I was the only one afraid. I was tired, exhausted and a bit intimidated by memories of past dreaming rituals and their sudden, penetrating effects. I let go of these memories. I had only enough energy to surrender and I was not going to piss my power away on mind games.

After the warm-up, while the others jogged ‘round the setting’s periphery, I went to each of the four corners and lit a candle. Now there were five lights; the outer four illuminating the periphery and a single light marking center: the dreaming zone. We stood in No-Form outside this designated “zone of the dreaming” with the intention of entering it open, ie., letting the dreaming have its way with us. Under the influence of the dreaming, we begin our 3-part movement cycles to establish and maintain a reference in this dreaming zone. I encourage the group to exit the dreaming zone and reconnect with No-Form whenever necessary; we all move in and out of the dreaming zone for about an hour.

I enter the dreaming. Everything slows down, turning malleable, plastic. Before losing myself to the dreaming, I initiate my first movement. The moth; I inhabit the moth. The posture forms tightly and fills with the dreaming, my voice now a conduit for the buzzing of my new blue-dusted wings. I hover suspended in this buzzing when the second movement emerges, as if from the buzzing itself, and now I am standing playing this musical instrument only I can play, its strange music plucking my vocal cords, notes warbling out not quite right as the third movement emerges, an angry reaction to this warping music. I stand there and grunt; the sound of this grunting holds me, or my perception of me, together. This 3-part movement cycle continues its permutations and breakdowns. I could do this all night long. Something in me collapses, I fall to the floor and crawl out of the dreaming zone, back to No-Form. Standing in No-Form. I walk zombie-like around the dreaming zone before slipping back inside, surrendering to the ongoing permutations of this ritual as it is bent and broken by the dreaming until they are one and the same and then, everything is easy; the movement, the sounds, the transitions. Everything is very easy, so easy it scares me and this fear I am now feeling is a signal. Something important is happening. This fear is a signal. It is time to leave the dreaming, return to No-Form and end the ritual. I do.

Two Types of Attention (11/27 - 12/2; the flu zone)
Under the weather with fluwhatever I notice two different types of attention. In my foghead state, my attention (attention #1) is heavily anchored in the most mundane concerns; drinking fluids, blowing the nose, eating and many other bodily secretions unfit for print. No dream recall whatsoever; fluwhatever needs more sleep than dreams. But what’s odd is how this attention #1 seems aware of the existence of another attention yet without cognizance of its contents. What I CAN discern is that attention #2 is firmly anchored in non-mundane stratas of experience and meaning and, that this includes the realm of dreams. It also feels as if this second attention functions autonomously, on its own time and with its own agendas. Before now, I was convinced my ability to pay attention was entirely volitional and made up of one process expressing various degrees of will, effort and concentration. Not anymore. There are two distinct attentions, a mirroring, like twins in the womb with simultaneous feeding cycles nurturing separate but related growths. Though I don’t understand the importance or meaning of this, it exists nevertheless.

Second Dreaming Ritual (a mansion of spirits)
12/3. This group took four weeks to complete the first dreaming ritual cycle. This second ritual cycle comes together in half that time; after two weeks, everyone has three new movements from new dreams. The setting: a single lantern anchors the center of this dark temple, throwing cavernous shadows onto the walls and ceiling. We enter the prayer circle (yes, we have been praying to the dreaming for several weeks) with a question or a need. Soon, a cacophony of sounds and chants erupts from this circle of prostrating dreamers. We rise and roam as shadows and at some point, gather together in a small No-Form circle, a formless sanctuary, standing there with our backs to the lantern, we face the outer shadow regions that are now dedicated to the dreaming. (My only instruction to the group is to take more time by allowing the dreaming to extend and stretch each of the three movements one at a time, before you stitch them together in a tight cycle; let the dreaming have its way with you first).

All three of my movements are from the same dream and this dream takes place in a mansion inhabited by powerful yet benevolent spirits All three movements I recall from this dream also happen to be movements I perform everyday in my mundane life: 1) walking 2) opening a door and walking through the doorway 3) punching in a phone number on a touchtone telephone. From No-Form, we all step forth into the dreaming zone. I fall forward and the shadows dancing on the walls suddenly remind me of something and then, I’m there. Walking the floors of this mansion. The other dreamers appear as shadows passing me by in these massive corridors under cathedral ceilings, chandeliers, wallpaper designs I’ve never seen before because they are designing themselves. Gentle winds gust and I am in a hurry to hide somewhere, not knowing why or if someone is after me or not. A door appears to my right and I open it. One of the mansion spirits lives inside this chamber. I am unafraid but respectful, you know that respect for unknowable powers. I turn around , look across the hall and see an armed guard staring me down while punching a number into his cellphone. In a flash, I become this guard. I’m punching this number into my cellphone while talking to myself across the hall, “I know where you are now.”

My three dream movements continue in various permutations, each one turning into a living symbol that the dreaming is using to send me a highly personal message. I can decipher this message whenever I am walking, passing through a doorway or punching in a phone number. I just have to exercise enough dream recall to notice and remember myself when I’m doing these things, whether that’s in the dreamtime or in my daily mundane world; memory is everything.

Closure; the end ? (a surprising truth or two)
Within the timeframe of this group lab, we underwent three separate dreaming ritual cycles (of 3 movements each) with each one differing from the rest. In retrospect, I admit to being surprised that we actually pulled it off and now, a little saddened. This crew of dreamers created an oasis, a sanctuary, amidst the workaday world and its hypermedia nonculture. We found refuge together in our active prayers to the dreaming and in rituals built from movements originating in our dreams. The richness and complexity of this experience was such that nobody expressed any need or desire to impose meanings or cosmic philosophical rants; to be moved by the dreaming was enough. The dreaming is enough. Our receptivity was rewarded by the highly personalized, secret messages the dreaming sent each of us through the mediums of those gestures and movements faithfully enacted. And to our credit these personalized messages remained (mostly) secret, thanks to mercifully little psychotherapeutic show & tell. Most of the words we did express came as stories, the telling of what happened in the experience of the dreaming and, in other instances, the personal night dreams of our source material.

There were personal reasons I initiated this dreaming lab, some of which remain private to accumuate more value. What I can say is this. What began in my mind as a strictly asocial and chiefly vertically-oriented ritual intent, was subverted by the wilder blossoming of an unexpectedly novel social event. Splendoir! Delight! Wednesday Night Dream Council began with the delectable grope of a blind date, nobody knowing what to say or the right way to say it. Between tremors and silences, a language erupted. A way of speaking rooted in the sensibilities now aroused by whatever we were experiencing in the Sunday Night labs as the dreaming and the dreambody. These two psychic references sparked the telling of related stories about ghosts, the human aura, scary archetypes, personal violation, the differences between men and women, control vs. power, and the occassional reference to childhood traumas to be expected with any sincere pursuit of truth (again, I am grateful we did not cave into psychotherapy). Dream Council also provided what I had hoped for, an anchor. This anchor gave us the space and time to integrate our Sunday Night rituals. This anchor also infused in the group mind a deepening sense of safety that helped build the trust and the faith so critical to maintaining receptivity to the dreaming, an archetypal force responsible for shaping some of the more genuinely strange, unfathomably weird and truly miraculous states I could imagine.

And, then some.