What it really means to be “woke”

There’s no mistake how much most of us enjoy our stories. Streaming our favorite films and shows is a national pastime that many of us can’t resist. The thrills, the romance, the suspense — all of this adventure, we experience from a safe distance. We know it’s “not real” so even when it’s dramatically tragic, we aren’t too concerned about how the death of our favorite character is going to impact our actual lives.

woke-up-v1-1312At night, similarly, we enter the theater of dreams, seeing stories unfold that terrify, delight, and amaze us. When we wake, we may remember them and wonder about them, but mostly, we shake them off because they aren’t “the real world.”

Then again, lots of what goes on in the real world, what we believe to be true and act on, is nothing but projection, too — just a great drama invented in our minds, a story we made up to give meaning and purpose to the world. It’s amazing how when we decide that something is true how the entirety of reality shapes itself to support that belief.

This condition of our minds is exactly why magic is so effective in producing the results we want. Like films, dreams, and our waking projections, magic creates meaning of the things in our world, attributing significance to them and acting accordingly.

Embracing magic has been a process of waking up within the dream of my life. The more awake I become the more I am aware that there’s no real difference between “reality” and “magic,” except that in “reality,” I am accepting the conditions of my life as somehow less mutable and more imprisoning than those of my imagination. In “magic,” instead of being at the mercy of an external world, I see that I get to choose what I’d like my world to look like. I get to create it intentionally, just like a writer and director would do for a film, except that the movie is my life.

Lots of people stay asleep within their dream. Mostly, I think this is because they don’t realize that they are dreaming. When most people say they are “woke” what they mean is that they are aware of some underlying social or political system at work in our culture. But this what is called in sleeping dreams “false awakening.” They’re just dreaming that they have woken.

To really be woke is to understand how much power we have, that we are the dreamer and that we can change the dream. That is we can actively change the projection that we generally and passively accept as “reality.”

dribbble_-_owlOf course, this takes lots of work. It takes work at things people will often dismiss as frivolous and impractical. Working with the subtle forces of deities (which is to say “archetypes”) and of our desires and aversions is the stuff of magic that wakes us up inside the dreams of our lives so that we are lucid and empowered, and we recognize the significance of everything.

This is what I focus on in the Genius workshop of the Practical Magic for Writers series. We work with the mind’s powers — of imagining, of creating story, of dreaming and believing and knowing — as we write.  I have found writing to be the strongest magical tool I know of to shape and create reality. It’s allowed me to wake within the dream and to dream wide awake.

 

Advertisements

Writing inspiration that sticks!

We writers will take inspiration in whatever form we can get it: Broken hearts, strangers on a bus, some gum stuck to our shoes. The big stuff like a break-up has an urgency in the intensity of emotion that needs to be expressed. It’s hard to miss, and we are propelled to the page to get it down.

The other, little stuff? It’s easy to miss. But sometimes there’s a flash of recognition that something important exists in what on the surface seems trivial or mundane. Then we can get a great poem or essay about brushing our teeth or watching an employee refill the drink dispensers (Listen to Ballad of Orange and Grape read by Muriel Rukeyeser on the subject. It is one of my favorites!)

But often we are so busy, we don’t see the significance in the little things. Our awareness is turned outward and we see only the literal meaning and the practical application of the experiences we have.

But, that’s okay. Because while we sleep, our brain takes our experiences, finds the significance, and translates them into metaphors in our dreams. That’s why dreams can be so bizarre and  so haunting. The metaphors are powerful stuff that can bypass the objections of the rational and habitual mind. The political and philosophical message of “Ballad of Orange and Grape,” for instance, cannot be argued against because its argument is presented as a metaphoric narrative.

A story can’t be wrong. It just is. It’s the same with dreams. We get powerful motivating statements in our dreams expressed to us in narrative form.

I frequently have recurring or similar dreams — either the same theme or the same images or same feeling-state — until I am able to understand the message of my dream and integrate it into my waking life.

For me, this is pretty easy. All those years in school studying literature so that I could be a better writer not only led to a job as an English professor, they also made me fluent in metaphors. I can recognize and understand them easily.

But when I started to use my dreams as writing prompts, using the plots and images to inspire journal writing while I downed a couple mugfuls of black coffee, I began to wake up inside the dream. In some ways, this is tantamount to lucid dreaming while awake. It has the dreamy quality of twilight sleep but I’m aware and can make choices, such deciding to pursue the analogous connections that unlock the metaphors.

My most recent example was a dream I had about B, a woman who was presumed to be eaten by alligators. When I woke and began to write, alligators seemed weird. They seemed to be the metaphor, so I kept writing. B had faced “alligators” before as in “up to your ass in alligators” when she had been a student teacher. So I wrote that into my narrative and the story’s image opened in a new way. I understood B in a new and deeper way, too. (Important because I’ve known her my whole life and I love her though we have a remote, strained relationship.)

And that gum you stepped in? Well, on a literal level it’s nothing but a hassle. But don’t be surprised if, after you’ve scraped off the gunk and gone on with your day, at night your dreams find deeper meaning than just the fruity, pink, disgusting hassle.

I’m happy to share my process with you. I am leading a FREE Dream Writing Workshop (an hour long, give or take). Once you register, you can attend it live (Saturday, February 27 at 11 am PST) or watch it in replay when you have time. Or both.

I’ll give you tips to remember your dreams, discuss the best way to write “into” them (rather than about them), and we’ll do some writing together so that you leave the workshop with some new work.

 

 

 

Be the star of your very own solar system

While the stars were out last night, I was dreaming crazy dreams. I mean C-R-A-Z-Y.

When the sun rose, and I awoke, I began writing.

Magic was afoot, and it was evident because something was out of balance. Someone had imposed his or her will on the land, and the result was a frenzy of wings. Every sort of bird took to the sea and sky and found space among the four-legged animals that crowded the land. It felt scary, an omen of some kind…

…a villainess and her entourage want your home, which has no doors only elaborate passages between rooms, but more — she seems to want YOU. There is some power you hold that you are unaware of. She tries to control you by taking away what you love — Ashley and Oliver, your daughter and your cat. You know who you are when you are with them — because you serve each other and give each other reasons to live, to go out, to go on, and to come home. These are the attachments that fortify you. When they disappear, you are as concerned for them as you are for yourself. You ask about the chaos of animals outside. She says, “A creativity spell.”dream

You know what you must do, but do not know how.

You begin to cast a spell you can barely recall that you saw once in a book. You spell R-E-G-I-N-A out, tracing each letter with a finger in the air. Then shave the first letter off, E-G-I-N-A. Then G-I-N-A. Each letter is supposed to represent something, hold some power. “S” you remember stands for “Sin” but there is no “S” in “Regina” and you think maybe you’ve remembered the spell wrong, but you go on. Because now that you are powerless, faith is all you have. Faith, and this magically enhanced land, and this doorless house, and though you are uncertain of your power, you know it’s valuable because other people have come for it. You need to learn about your own abilities, understand your own resources. You have to become your own teacher.

Writing down snippets of imagery and story from my dreams has helped me glean their messages. I do more than merely recording the events, which is often boring and time-consuming because I dream so much. But as I write into, rather than about, the dream images and feelings while I am still waking up, I awaken to the depth of the messages.

From this dream, I realized I’d been resisting financial success and material gain because it made me feel vulnerable on many levels — spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I also realized I don’t entirely trust creativity or understand my own power. Still, I rule (Regina means queen) and can create change with words and writing … even in thin air.

WOW! Huge messages that I would have missed if I simply woke up and said, “Dude, I had some crazy-ass dreams last night.”

Some mornings I wake up and write into the dream just to record characters, images or plot.

Like this recent entry:

No one was certain but they speculated she’d been eaten by alligators, having spent so much time among them. She was once queen of the forest, connoisseur of the bramble and buzz, cheerleader for the chaos of nature. She appreciated its logic. She knew the alligators and did not fear them. She watched them float at the surface, creep from the black Florida muck, and slide into the darkly steeped rivers. Every river was alligator soup, teaming with decay, which was nourishment, more that she’d ever received on either side of the desk in a classroom. She thought, “It won’t pay much, but at least I’ll make a difference.” But teaching was full of its own kinds of gators — bureaucratic administrators and entitled parents would drag a teacher under and let a child’s education rot there with her. So to save the only one she could, she retreated to the bureaucracy of the forest. And then she quit the forest to farm the land. So when the young boy went missing near the banks of the Loxahatchee where she’d also gone to hike that day, folks pretty much assumed instinct overcame the logic, and she’d tried to wrestle a gator to save the boy. Or at least that’s how people were telling it from the cracked vinyl seats of Curley’s over their coffees and pancakes. 

Every time I write a dream down, it becomes real. Solid. Like a planet, the story orbits me during the day. Often, I am aware of several of them orbiting at the same time. Each dream is its own world, and I am its sun. I may not be the center of the universe, but I am the star of my very own solar system.

Not everyone dreams as vividly and frequently as I do, obviously. Some may recall their dreams only infrequently. Still, even these occasional recollections can provide some fantastic source material for writers, artists and other creative thinkers. The trick is tapping in…

#whatsyourstory #whollycreative

Sign-up for my free online Dream Writing workshop: Discover Inner Wisdom & Creative Gold. Wake up and dream on! Attend the live webinar Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 11 am PST. Or watch in replay.