THE FOLLOWING IS COPYWRITTEN MATERIAL
NO PART OF IT MAY BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR
This is Part 9 of a 9-Part Series
from a previously unpublished article
Previous posts in this series include:
The Dream as a Catalyst to Awakening
When I wrote the original article on which this blog series is based, I had not yet taken my trip to Norway, but now I have. The following is an addendum to the original article, sharing a bit about that trip.
To be honest, I did not have the grand mythopoetic adventure on this trip that I anticipated. I never did have that “aha” moment of coming home to the perfect spot in which to root Yggdrasil, the mystery school/retreat center. Norway was absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking beauty at nearly every turn. It also felt somehow inaccessible and foreboding. There are many indigenous tales of unwary travelers being lured into the mountains by a seductive Nordic creature called a Huldra, never to return. The place had that feel about it, not to mention a few practical considerations also foreboding – long, cold, and dark winters; the expense of living there (highest in the world); and a relatively arduous path to immigration, especially for non-Europeans.
Having said all that, one of the most powerful days I spent on my trip was in Trondheim – the city that appeared in my dreams. Before I got to Trondheim, I was struggling with some congestion in my lungs, brought on perhaps by a late pollen season, or maybe the cold, damp weather, or maybe the smog in Bergen – a city bound by mountains, which like Denver tends to collect exhaust from cars in a kind of bowl that surrounds the city. In any case, I was feeling sick – I had a slight fever, was coughing a lot, and had no energy. In my feverish state, I was also in an altered state of consciousness.
So on my first morning in Trondheim, I went first to an indoor water park, where I spent some time in the sauna, which helped a bit. Then I went next door to an interactive rock and roll museum called Rockheim, where I spent 4 hours listening to a fascinating parallel history of popular music, which included some artists I was familiar with, but many that I was not. In particular, I discovered a Norwegian group called Bel Canto, and listened to a beautiful song by them called “Birds of Paradise,” which seemed to speak to the passing of a relationship I was recently compelled to let go of. Since I had the whole place pretty much to myself, I was able to cry my eyes out, and feel some release.
At the end of the day, I wound up going to Nidarosdomen – a gothic cathedral in the classic European tradition, built about 1300, and a major Mecca for European pilgrims. I arrived just in time for a beautiful service facilitated by a woman priest, accompanied by a grand and majestic pipe organ. It was here that my tears turned into prayers.
After that, I started feeling better – both physically and emotionally. The rest of my trip, I feel, was about moving more deeply into my solitude, and being OK with that, while at the same time, connecting will all kinds of people from all around the world; taking photos; posting on Facebook; and immersing myself in the experience of unfamiliar territory.
In this sense, the entire trip was rather dream-like. As I allowed myself to enter into the dream, and just be with its strangeness, a healing occurred. Did I need to travel 5,000+ miles just to experience this healing? I don’t know. I do know that the experience of traveling – and entering more deeply into the dreamscape of a truly foreign country – was valuable.
In the end, the art of dreaming as a traveler – and traveling as a dreamer – is an opportunity to entertain the magical dimensions of this world, in the sense that David Abram talks about them[i]:
Magic doesn’t sweep you away, it gathers you up into the body of the present moment so thoroughly that all your explanations fall away: the ordinary, in all its plain and simple outrageousness, begins to shine – to become luminously, impossibly so. Every facet of the world is awake, and you within it.
Paradoxically then, dreams can become a powerful catalyst to awakening. Whether dreaming or awake, those who entertain the luminescent dreamscape as travelers through it rather than interpreters of it inevitably come to the place encountered by the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi in the 3rd Century B.C.E., who famously wondered, “Am I a man who dreamt I was a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly dreaming I am a man?”
Although this question is a Zen-like koan with no ultimate answer, asking it opens a portal to the possibility of awakening within the dream – which regardless of which side of the line we are on, is the task before any soul on a spiritual journey back to its Source. To frequently ask the question, “Is this a dream?” in random moments throughout the day, and with practice even while dreaming, can be a profound spiritual practice. Entering more deeply into any dream – especially an inconjunct dream – the very strangeness of it all, the impossibility of the identity we discover, and the impossible task that stretches our sense of the doable, all become catalysts to a reawakening of the magic sleeping beneath the appearance of things.
[i] David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, New York, NY: Random House, 2010, p. 224.