They look at me funny
when I tell them
I’m a cosmic stunt man,
like I have a condition
because I can’t stop
coming to Jesus about
the elaborate nature
of this phenomenal ruse.
is a rational response
to having undergone
such a prompt step into existence,
to having donned that
stretchy, knowledge-retardant suit
and climbed down the business end
of a circus artillery piece,
only to fall asleep just prior
to the moment of detonation,
to then be flung
like a starry-eyed embryo
into a teeming field of
what’s not even happening.
is an adequate remedy
to that sudden unmasking
into hurtling nakedness.
Like they were immunized once
against the side effects
of becoming a being with needs.
They look at me funny,
as if all those things are true,
and cosmic stunt men
are just a myth.
you’re looking right at one.
What would you call it?
You put on the old
and a bus drops you off
at the edge of a wilderness
that fills in behind you
when the bus pulls away.
Then you gradually awaken
to the fact that you’re standing
in a non-stop field of collisions
with shot peen, asinine thoughts–
like you’re whole world
suddenly became a hot air popper.
That’s when the stunts begin in earnest.
Dashing, dodging, leaping, blocking,
spending many long years
in search of one magic piece of shot.
At night when the moon glows
and you’re walking through the forest,
you start to wonder if a jailhouse line-up
of striped dream characters
isn’t following you around–
loose ends from your other life,
people who shook your hand
before you climbed down a cannon barrel,
nice enough beings you keep straining to remember,
but all you can see are glassy reflections
because the wrong set of lights is on in this world.
Meaninglessness holds out a coat
full of sparkly gold watches
right before you get clobbered on the head.
it’s grappling along the edge of a cliff
with eight-legged beasts of longing,
rolling-barrel sword-play with non-existence,
and taming the lions of your anger.
When you finally submit
to the possibility of revelation
and your eyes meet another’s
in just the right way:
existential barrel rolls,
fake fight scenes
that spill over the rim of time,
triumphs that end with quiet tears
your bones have been holding
safe all this time
until you needed them.
You hold your heart out
like an empty tin can
to everyone you meet.
It’s full of flowers.
You’ve become the type of being
whose presence puts suffering on notice.
For the last trick,
we vanish together.
The sky twinkles with our laughter,
sparkles with our whispered secrets.
I guess I like to call that a cosmic stunt,
but I’m open to suggestions.
I have a question Michael, if you would feel comfortable answering it; and although it may seem an ironic tilt at poetry generally, it is not:
Do you sometimes dream by means of an overtly metaphorical visual and verbal imagery?
Amanda will perhaps confirm to us that dreams are necessarily allegorical in some degree (this subject is not within my limited sphere of knowledge), though perhaps that is something other than a more abstracted use of metaphor, such as your poetry makes such extensive use of.
So, I was wondering whether your particular skill in poetic construction and imagery leads your mind into a more habituated usage of this means of conceptual formation, such that it may operate in that way whilst you are asleep, or perhaps also if and when you indulge in daydreams.
I have to confess my dreaming life is a bit of a mystery, though I would say that on occasion I have dreams that are clearly metaphorical and meaningful. The occasions when I am both aware of the dream and possess a clear understanding of its metaphorical structure are actually few and far between, and in general my relative lack of facility with this and other related domains did at one time seem a sort of psychic deficiency to me, believe it or not. When I began “seeking”, it seemed as though others were having dreams and visions with ease, by comparison. If I keep a journal near the bed I can catch snippets, but the act of focusing enough to write them down often pulls me through the veil such that I end up with nothing but figments and whisps.
My over-active imagination is undoubtedly the result of performing engineering calculations all day long, and over-compensating in the evenings. There was a period of time in my life when I was doing a sacred retreat each summer that involved considerable preparation and engagement with inner/spiritual aspects of my being, if you will, and I did have some very powerful dreams during that period, but maybe just a couple of times in a year, if that often.
My dreaming claim to fame is one morning when I had a particularly metaphorical/meaningful dream, awoke, rolled over in bed and described the entire dream to my wife, then awoke from that dream to discover I was alone in bed, and had awoken twice in a row, each time with the full sensation of recovering lucidity. I went for a long walk that morning…
But generally I would say I am a dreaming under-achiever. Daydreams I’ve had my share of, often as experiences that felt like the heart is wandering through fields of possibility. Lately, perhaps less so. A great thing about writing periodically is that it maintains an open channel with inspiration in the present moment.
Thanks for your frankness here Michael; it was a slightly impertinent question, though one that was interesting to me. Your experience sounds very similar to my own, and perhaps also like myself, you tend for the most part to a retrospective disinterest in whatever chattering scenes came to mind during the slumbering hours – a disinterest that’s perhaps largely echoed when chattering to ourselves in our waking hours? Oh dear, mindfulness please! Then again, so much of it, for myself at least, is no more than what you refer to above: ‘asinine thoughts’. I do a sort of ‘low-level monitoring’ as to the content and direction of travel, but that’s about it. As the monitoring is equally uninspiring, I tend fairly swiftly to volitionally prompt a return to presence. Ah, the delicious beauty of true mindlessness!
As to why there are certain times when something strikingly oblique, or seemingly portentous occurs, perhaps Amanda would be able to advise. I have a feeling it may be something to do with memory function (dare I say, on a cosmic scale?), though will wait to see if our expert friend the dreamerly (a.k.a. ‘dreamrly’) one picks up on this. It seems to me that for the most part, when we are asleep, the mind carries on generating symbolic imagery in verbal and visual form, though memory is not then functioning, and so traces are not laid down for later recall when we are awake. Here then, there may perhaps have been something revealing as to how your particular mind works, so to speak, ‘intuitively’ e.g. with metaphor, or with more mundane and typical symbols.
Much love to you too my noble friend.
Hariod, I think you have surmised my position pretty well, though I should qualify it a bit. I think dreams and visions both can be quite powerful, and can at times (or maybe at all times if the receivers are willing and attentive) be gifts arising within us of necessity, meaning, revelation and purpose. It is like receiving inspiration during the waking hours, recognizing the subtle importance of a thought I did not think, one that distinguished itself from the asinine crowd because of its clarity and voice, and accompanying heart sensations. Precious few of the thoughts and impressions are attended by such grace. Likewise, many of the dreams I do recall seem like snippets of madness, but at times… they are deeply touching.
Having said that, dreams, visions and mystical experiences, as wonderful as they are, do not obviate the need for cultivating presence, do not preclude the need for my continued willingness to look my doubts, angers, resentments, and delusions in the eye, or when I fail, to eventually step back into those arenas. In those high noon showdowns with falsehood, I find it is presence that carries the day. Presence, and the love that abides within it.
So, my dreaming vocabulary being somewhat limited, and my hands being full with the day-to-day navigation of what is arising in my awareness, I guess the dreams don’t get top billing. It takes a considerable effort for me to track that part of my being down, and efforts to do so can sometimes draw me out of contentment with what is, draw me out into a searching that pulls me away from the center. But when they do come with meaning and power, it is a wonderful experience. I guess what I am saying, and what I think echoes what you said in your first paragraph, is that regardless of whatever phenomenal experiences arise, presence is the common denominator and essential ingredient.
I’m trying to say this carefully, because as I said I do have great respect for the wisdom that arises in us mysteriously, beyond our control and often outside of our bidding. I think it is real, and beautiful. Some of my heroes are fantastic dreamers and visionaries. Attempts on my part to insist this natural centripetal dynamic of revelation arrive in a particular form, whether through dreaming, as opposed to writing, or driving my car, can seem to interfere with the natural unfolding. So, I take it as it comes, where I can, and presence seems to be the most reliable and essential parameter.
After all of this I will probably have amazing dreams tonight…! But please, let’s discuss (Sure, why not Amanda!?), for I only have one limited vantage point very much open to the fruits of dialogue and discovery.
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I cannot wait to dive right into this this weekend, after some rest and a “sure, why not” from you!
Aha, here comes a talented young lady who ‘believes in faery tales and serendipitous encounters’:
Hariod and Michael, Thank you for the invitation and the blessing. And what a delightful song! May I proclaim that as my theme song, Hariod????
The more I work with dreams the more I am amazed. It takes commitment, but it as been nothing short of a divine, mysterious, and mystical experience for me.
I enjoy what you said about Presence though, Michael and I think it is dead on. There is a balance to be had in engaging the Unconscious, the Mystery, the Ether – as I like to say, I dance in the Ether but I don’t live there. When I have things that need healing, or things that I need to face, or parts of myself I need to love, this is when I ask the Mystery for dreams. I dream a lot because I set the intention to dream, and because it is one of my personal paths to wholeness and happiness, much like I presume your poetry is for you, Michael. Which I love and enjoy greatly, so I am so glad you share it with us here!
It is also worth nothing that my perception and experience is firmly rooted in the idea that dreams are always helpful. A great Jungian Analysis once said, “Dreams show you the face you show them.” Monsters are only monsters because we don’t face them. So, I show dreams a happy, courageous and loving face, and try not to project meaning onto them at all, simply letting meaning unfold. I ask for the dream, I have the dream, I paint it, sometimes re-enter dreamtime, and then I let it go. Healthy detachment is key, I think. This goes back to your idea of Presence, Michael.
Now that I have developed and nurtured this dreaming relationship, dreams are prophetic, they are symbolic, they are warnings, they are feeling tones, they are affects, they are invitations to re-enter dreamtime, they are messages, they are compensations, they are archetypal plays, they are intuitive, they are revelations, they push me to be creative, they are collective, they are healing, they are exciting, they are everything all at once.
Carl Jung once said, ““[We] should in every case be ready to construct a totally new theory of dreams.”
So, my absolute favorite way of working with dreams is to paint them, and open myself to the intuitive wisdom they so lovingly provide. It might not come right away, some of my dreams I do not fully grasp until months later, when I suddenly stand in amazement as the mystery reveals the dream to my intuitive nature. Dreams have transformed my consciousness, but only from meeting them with courage, excitement, patience and reverence, and above all..Love. So I dream the dream and let it go. I give it a warm hug and I say: “Dream, I am ready when you are. I love you.”
LoL I hoped any of that was helpful at all – it felt kinda like a spontaneous dream manifesto! 🙂
Thank you for this glorious exposition, Amanda. I really ‘felt’ in reading these words the sensation of painting a dream, and I think it is a very similar sensation to my experience of writing poetry. It always starts with a feeling, a movement in consciousness, and when I explore it, with lots of starts and stops, it sort of reveals itself in fullness. And I think it would be the same with dreams. Keeping them present, engaging in an activity that allows them to speak to us gives them space to ripen and reveal their sweetness.
It is interesting and not altogether unexpected, but I had one or two particularly intense dreams this weekend that clearly correlate to movements in my life that fell into my lap this week– deeply challenging opportunities that had sort of been brewing on the horizon for some time. I agree wholeheartedly that dream work requires intention, and I kind of felt when I did the short bit of writing about dreams that I did last week, that I was opening that door just a sliver. I had one dream that clearly signaled a sort of stagnation in a field of fear. I was inside a square tower, and climbing, and there was a recessed ladder in one wall. I was really high up, and at the top there was a kind of plywood access to something beyond, like you climb up and then access “through”, but it was blocked, and I was kind of stuck, suspending from these rungs, growing tired and acutely aware of my fear of heights. It was like going on a rock climb, and having that moment when fear overwhelms and you are paralyzed.
The next night I had a dream that was much more “breaking through”, but I can’t remember it. I just know I heard music and I don’t always dream with sound, and I awoke with a much more “potentiated” feeling. Anyway, amazing how a little intention-attention opens things up.
Thanks to you and Hariod for stirring this delightful pot, releasing it’s flavors into the night air.
Yes dear Amanda, I think that is quite an apt theme song for one who believes in faery tales and dreamerly serendipitous encounters – go for it girl!
It’s interesting that you say you set the intention to dream; so I take it there’s a volitional aspect to their manifestation in your case, and wonder whether this can also in part determine the subject matter. I see no reason as to why their arising should not be conditioned, as volition operates not just as a momentary conditioning, but as a future causal determinant. e.g. if I resolve to awaken at 5.45 a.m., then I pretty much do. Perhaps, as you suggest is the case, we can also volitionally select the content and flavour too – again, why not? Consciousness doesn’t become mysteriously of a different order simply because we are asleep; if we resolve to think about something in advance then why should sleep affect the efficacy of that resolve? I can see no reason why that should be so.
As I have aged, my dreaming has diminished markedly; or at least my memory of dreams has. Whether this is strictly a function of age, or is perhaps something to do with my relationship with thought generally, I’m not sure. Twenty or more years ago I had many extraordinary dreams, some of which seemed impossible upon reflection. An example: I was for a period in my life very interested in Buddhist cosmology, and being a music lover, had heard of a realm where the ‘Gandharva’ devas dwelt – these are the master musicians of the Cāturmahārājikakāyika realm of existence. Anyway, one night in dream I heard music of a beauty completely and utterly unlike anything I was aware of in daily life; and its quality far surpassed all I had ever heard before or since. I have no rational explanation for this, and yet this occurred in what seemed like ‘my’ consciousness.
I wonder Amanda, is it crazy to suggest that in dreams we may gain access to realms of existence other than that which we take to be our consensus reality?
Lots of love.
Hariod, the question wasn’t addressed to me, but I’m going with absolutely yes.
My experience with the musical dream, amongst other (weirder still) experiences, suggest to me that these ‘other realms of existence’ are not determined by time and space Michael. In other words, they need not be awaited in a teleological sense i.e. thinking as if we’ll get there when our work and purpose is complete and this body dies. What say you?
I agree, Hariod. Though our physical senses are tuned to a particular channel, I think there are other ‘realms of existence’ whose location is not readily understood in terms of our working understanding of time and space, and that are accessible now. They need not be awaited. An important element of A Course of Love is Jesus’ discussion of our accepting the eternal nature of being, prior to the death of the body– not postponing needlessly those moments when thoughts and inspirations outside of time and space alight within our awareness. It is not to say there are no limits imposed by the physical experience, but awareness of and relationship to the fuller picture of ‘Being’ need not be arbitrarily delayed. We can have some healthy back and forth in the here and now…
knowledge-retardant suits 🙂
(I especially loved those in my life from the late 80’s to early 90’s with the massive shoulder pads, the ones with the deep pockets of thinking I knew things that now smell faintly of Fahrenheit gone off…reality like having big hair, looks good on paper but does not hold up well over time.)
flung like a starry-eyed embryo
into a teeming field of
what’s not even happening
(stillness in motion brother, stillness in motion 🙂 “this is happening, but how real is it” is a leading awareness with most things recently )
because the wrong set of lights is on in this world
(just got new glasses…have been working so hard and for so long to correct for astigmatism on my own without them that when I walked outside with my new prescription, it felt as if my body was walking crooked compared to what was been seen! Those lights that are on in the world are actually perceived inside first and when we start to really begin remembering this, my oh my what fun we can start to have in perceiving and interacting with “this world” like the perpetual drunken sailors on shore leave that we actually are.
I think I also could call it going on a beautiful Earth bender without the need for hangovers once you get the filters aligned.
What lovely connections, Maren. I love the way new glasses made the world look skewed and through off your sense of visceral awareness, because it speaks to how different things can be experienced with just a subtle shift in viewpoint. You’re right the lights come on within us first, and then shine upon the world, revealing more and more of its duplicity… That’s a good duplicity by the way… 🙂 Like, that’s not just a tree like I thought it was, but a relationship of sun to earth that I occasionally enter into when I’m not caught up in meaningless thought parades.
Drunken cosmic sailors on earthen shore leave. That’s it! That’s the drunken state Rumi writes of, not the belligerent, toxic sort. I remember the shoulder pads vaguely– being on a family reunion once in the 80’s with two older cousins in high school. Anti-gravity bangs, shoulder pads, black and white polka dots… Madness…
Luckily these knowledge retardant suits are stitched of living threads, and they constantly point to what they are not… 🙂
I wonder if part of the fun of this avatar game (like the joy lucid dreamers and out of body journeyers feel) is not only waking to the show and playing but also finding others whose stunt suits are spiffy, whose card tricks are trippy, whose hearts beat through their chests in loving open vulnerability, who pass the secret wink and hand shake from miles and miles across the wrinkle tesseract, pulling more and more funny money coins of the matrix from each others’ ears, TA DA! Your exacting, outrageous words inflate hot air balloons of remembering in my sky! 🙂 m
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I don’t even have to wonder about that one, Marga. You are describing for me the joyous experience of this WP wonderland, where heart musings are a call that is somehow answered from points across the tesseract. Time and space kind of dissolve it seems. What’s left is connection in being, gossamer threads that pass in and through the Mystery between those various points, somehow illuminating the vastness. It is pointless to imagine being a one-being circus. Meaning without relationship, without response, without discovery… does not exist I think. The sky is filling with these balloons. I like to think it is not just a pleasant show, but the sublimation of the world.
Ohhhh yeahhhh 🙂
Do Cosmic Stunt Men Drink the Cosmic Kool-Aid? Yes, why yes, I am quite sure they do. ❤
Thanks for the smiles, Michael.
Cosmic Stunt Men drink “Bang” actually, a drink produced by mixing spring water with the crystalline powder that results from packing discarded didgeridoos with Tang, sealing the ends with beeswax, and securing them tightly to the fuselages of small aircraft where they reside for a world circum-navigating flight on either the vernal or autumnal equinox. Then, add a pinch of meteorite dust, chug it, and climb down the cannon barrel.
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That’s what that stuff is! Thanks so much for the recipe…headed to nature’s cosmic grocery now….