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“The Everything Guide to Sleep” . . . Isn’t

13 Jun

New York magazine’s website has a set of articles collectively titled “The Everything Guide to Sleep,” which includes an infographic showing the sleep habits of a number of well-known artists, inventors, and so on. (As a commenter there pointed out, the group is short on women.)

There’s also a short interview titled “In Conversation With a Lucid Dreamer,” which is interesting but a woefully skimpy treatment of dreaming. Go on over and let New York know it’s missing so much! And that a good place to find it is the International Association for the Study of Dreams website, ASDreams.org. (I’m just back this week from IASD’s fabulous 2014 annual conference in Berkeley, so rich with everything from lucid dreaming to neuroscience to collage and poetry to church-based dream groups to Kabbalah. Endless dreaming and ways to work with dreams!)

The Creative Power of Dreams: conference report

31 May

With abject apologies to Ira Barouch, from whom I solicited this guest post, at long last I’m posting his report on the New England Regional Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)—which took place one long year (and a few days) ago. Two main reasons for my delay: The article happened to come to me just a few days after I had to move out of the apartment I had lived in for 26 years because my landlord needed to sell it (and I was still deep in trying to find a new place), so life was rather chaotic for quite a while. Also, a synchronistic typo occurred as I was doing a light edit of the piece. It occurred in the paragraph after the one on Kabbalah and dreams. Intending to type an em dash (Alt-0-1-5-1 on the number keypad when using Windows), I accidentally typed something I never have before or since: ק, a character I recognized as a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Because I’d heard of the Kabbalistic use of a numerology system called gematria, I emailed the friend who had told me about it for help in deciphering a potential gematria meaning of this little synchronicity. He was on his way out of the country, and at that point, I’m embarrassed to say, procrastination set in on both following up with him later and getting Ira’s post posted.

A small saving grace for me: Ira’s report has timeless relevance because of the subject matter. It also has timely relevance, because several of the people who presented at the New England conference will be presenting at IASD’s annual conference next week (June 3–8) in Berkeley, California: Linda Yael Schiller, Tzivia Gover, Curtiss Hoffman, and Deirdre Barrett. So Ira’s report can serve as a bit of a preview of the upcoming conference. Continue reading

Howard Lerner: Myth and Metaphor (through July 7, 2012)

1 Jul

With having been away and previously getting ready to be away, I’m unfortunately rather late with this post. But there’s still a week left to see the incredible paintings and sculptures of New York artist  Howard Lerner at Synchronicity Fine Arts, 106 West 13th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues).

I previously wrote a post about “The Mystical Meaning of Jacob’s Ladder,” so at the opening for Howard’s current show, I was especially interested in a painting I hadn’t seen before, Jacob Dreaming, already so evocative in its own right.

"Jacob Dreaming," by Howard Lerner

“Jacob Dreaming,” by Howard Lerner

Continue reading

Tikkun olam TV

24 May

It’s Thursday night, which has been a great TV-viewing night for me this season. First at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Missing on ABC (channel 7 in NYC), with Ashley Judd as a middle-aged ex-CIA operative kicking butt all over Europe to find her kidnapped teenage son, without (implausibly) having lost any of her dexterity, quickness, or endurance. Then at 9 p.m., Touch, Fox’s (channel 5’s) new Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, in which he’s the rather morose and insecure (i.e., anti–Jack Bauer) father of an autistic 12-year-old, Jake. And finally, at 10 p.m. on NBC (channel 4), Awake, a superbly imaginative cop show starring Jason Isaacs.

Missing aired its season finale last week. It has neither New York nor dream content, so enough said here about that series. Awake takes place in L.A., but hey, the LAPD detectives put an ex–New York couple into witness protection in one episode, and anyway, Awake is all about dreams.

Awake, or not?

"Awake," on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

“Awake,” on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

His shrinks say not, he says always. Detective Britten has been in an accident that has killed either his wife or his teenage son. Carrying on with life, he wakes up with his wife, goes to sleep, wakes up having his son alive. Always alternating. The psychiatrist in his wife-survived reality tell him, “I assure you, this isn’t a dream,” and he replies, “That’s exactly what the other shrink says”—the psychiatrist in the son-survived reality. Both shrinks keep urging him to accept that his other “existence” is just a dream, a way of denying the loss. “I have no interest in getting better,” he tells them; as it is now, he still has his wife and he still has his son—just not at the same time Continue reading

In the wake of my Hollis hip-hop post

24 Apr

Except where noted, all of this happened on April 18, the day of my most recent post, about a dream that led me to watch a DVD about the Queens neighorhood of Hollis, birthplace of hip-hop (“What my German great-aunt and Run-DMC have in common“).

Sketch of a plate on a desk in my November 11, 2010, dream

Sketch of a plate on a desk in my November 11, 2010, dream, which reminded me of a radio studio turntable

"2 Turntables and a Microphone: The Life and Death of Jam Master Jay"

(image from Amazon.com)

What happened between the time I started writing that post earlier in the day and the time I published it is an example of the small coincidences that can add up to a complex web of synchronicity:

"Free Stylin': How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry," by Elena Romero

(image from Amazon.com)

  • I turned on the TV while I worked out and came in on the middle of a movie (Tell Seconds to Hell) about German soldiers in Berlin at the end of World War II forming a bomb disposal squad to rid the city of unexploded bombsContinue reading

Montague Ullman’s influence lingers at publication parties

11 Mar

On what’s probably the last day of vaguely winter weather of 2011–2012’s vaguely winter season, I’m getting back to work here by writing about a holiday party I attended at the other end of the season, in December.  More to the point, about the books I received from the party host, Cosimo.

Appreciating Dreams, by Montague Ullman

Cosimo, a specialty publisher in New York City (whose owner is a Dutch expat),  does “publishing on demand” in several categories. In 2006, Cosimo republished Appreciating Dreams,

in connection with a seminal 2005 talk by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Montague Ullman (1916–2008). The Ullman Method of group dreamwork has widely influenced how people work together to understand their dreams. Appreciating Dreams is the “manual” for the Ullman Method.

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola

Montague Ullman, on his site maintained by Markku Siivola's

Understanding Dreams, by Markku SiivolaCosimo gave out gift bags at the party, and some of the bags included a just-published book by Finnish psychologist Markku Siivola, a friend and student of Monte Ullman’s. That book is a restatement and introduction of the Ullman Method, titled Understanding Dreams: The Gateway to Dreams Without Dream Interpretation. Markku and I met at one of the weekend-long dream group dream leadership trainings that Monte used to conduct in his home in Ardsley, New York. That weekend afforded a convincing demonstration of the Ullman Method’s ability to be just as insight-inducing and satisfying for group members as for the person whose dream they’re working on: at some point in using the Ullman Method on a dream I’d brought, both Markku and I were deeply affected, each for our own reasons. So I’m particularly looking forward to reading his take on the method. Continue reading

The mystical meaning of Jacob’s ladder

12 Dec

"El sueño de Jacob," by José de Ribera [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“El sueño de Jacob,” by José de Ribera [Public domain]

Dr. Eitan Fishbane is a prolific professor (three books published in the past month or so) at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His specialty is the history of mysticism, including medieval Kabbalah.

In recent months I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about JTS, which is how I became aware of Dr. Fishbane’s December 8 article in The Huffington Post,From Darkness to Light: Entering Holy Time.” It’s a powerful and lovely commentary on “Divinity as Light . . . an idea that has been developed extensively in the history of religion and in the history of mysticism in particular. Mystics of many different religions (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism) have described God as a radiant Being, a force that shines and illuminates all of reality.” Thus the fall and winter festivals of light—such as Hannukah, Christmas, and Diwali—have implications of our inner struggle against darkness as much as our primal, physical fear of daylight’s disappearance.

This concept played a pivotal part in my own opening to other dimensions of consciousness many years ago, before such topics had their own huge sections in the  average bookstore—an openness that allowed me eventually to accept the possibility of psi dreaming, and later to experience dreams of seemingly paranormal origin extensively. I was taking an undergraduate, rocks-for-jocks–level undergraduate course on the theory of relativity, and I wrote my final paper on the theory’s epistemological implications—a process that shook up my understanding of reality so drastically that I was physically shaking the whole weekend I worked on it. What I realized was that if two points in time can coexist, as suggested by Einstein’s thought experiment of two clocks showing valid but different times, then all points in time can coexist. It was true only at the speed of light—and according to the mystics, God is Light. Or (And?), some say: Consciousness. Continue reading

200,000 descendents of Nieuw Amsterdam’s miller

25 Jul

This past week I finished reading the novel City of Dreams, by Beverly Swerling, which traces several generations of surgeons and apothecaries from the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam through the English takeover (making it New York) to the American Revolution. (Vivid and fascinating. It was frequently my bedtime reading, and to my surprise, few or no nightmares resulted: the era’s surgery, medicine, and public punishments were all gruesome, and all vividly and copiously described.)

After six months of that, I’m highly alert to anything Nieuw Amsterdam…such as a June 22 article on The New York Times website: “The Van Dusens of Nieuw Amsterdam.” The Van Dusens in question are the numerous descendents—now spread across the country—of “one of Manhattan’s first few hundred settlers, the operator of a windmill where the Dutch ground grain….

It all began with Abraham, whose forebears were from the town of Duersen in northern Brabant. Known in official documents as “Abraham the miller,” or “Abraham Pieterszen,” as in son of Peter”….Two of Abraham’s progeny — Martin Van Buren, a great-great-great-grandson; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (add four more greats) — served as presidents of the United States. A third, Eliza Kortright (Generation 7), married one, James Monroe.

Another is the current mayor of Astoria, Oregon. (Lots of multimedia with the article—including recipes from a 19th-century cookbook, Civil War diaries, and a bucolic 1814 view from 110th Street.)

I wanted to blog about the article, but I had to come up with my own excuse, because there’s no mention in it of dreams. So naturally I Googled: “‘Van Dusen’ and dream.” I was handed plenty of news hooks. From just the first page of search results: Continue reading

Perchance to dream

24 Jul
Movie poster - Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet"

Movie poster - Ethan Hawke in "Hamlet"

The indie movie on last night’s Reel 13 (on Channel Thirteen): Ethan Hawke as Hamlet (2000), set in modern NYC.

I loved it. Glad I hadn’t read the reviews on IMDB first, although I’m gaining more discernment from them. That’s the prelude to a second watching.

Because of my very limited experience of European travel, Denmark has a special place in my heart: I was there for the 2004 annual conference, in Copenhagen, of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

Elsinor Castle in Denmark

Elsinor Castle in Denmark

Given that this version of Hamlet is set in New York City, the state of Denmark becomes the Denmark Corporation. Much of the action takes place in the Hotel Elsinor. The post-conference event in 2004 was a trip up the coast for the summer solstice / Sankt Hans celebration . We stopped for a few moments at the real Elsinor Castle, which we could see only from the outside. (Shakespeare, reportedly had never been there, or to Denmark). Continue reading

Remembering Nicole Carstens

26 Jun
Nicole Carstens, 1958–2001

Nicole Carstens, 1958–2001

Over in Kerkrade, Netherlands, the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) will have completed its second day of annual conference workshops and symposia today.

And here in New York, the Blue Note Jazz Festival is going on throughout June, mainly at venues such as the Blue Note and B. B. King’s.

So it’s a fitting day for me to continue my dream-related appreciation of Dutch New York by writing about my late friend Nicole Carstens. I met Nicole, who was from the Netherlands, in an eight-session dream “class” / dream-sharing group here in New York in 1996. She died in the spring of 2001, while in her early 40s.

Looking back at several letters we exchanged and some notes from various conversations, I realize just how few actual contacts we had in those four and a half years. It seems otherwise, because Nicole and I quickly noticed that the dreams we shared in the class each week had surprisingly—spookily—similar imagery. This gave us the opportunity to delve into some difficult issues we had in common, despite their differing waking-life manifestations in our personal histories.

Nicole was an artist; she supported her art by working as a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight attendant (so was frequently out of town), and as a translator. Exposure to her art, in juxtaposition to doing dreamwork together, gave me another opportunity: a rather large leap forward in my level of art appreciation, given my relatively scanty art education. Continue reading