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Don Henley, Black-Out Poems, and the Dream that Changed My Life

I'll tell you how it came to be and what it means. It started with a dream and ended with Don Henley and the magic of black-out poetry.


I don't know why, but Don Henley's been on my mind lately. I woke up thinking about "The Boys of Summer."


But I can see you

Your brown skin shining in the sun

You got your hair combed back

And your sunglasses on, baby

I can tell you my love for you will still be strong

After the boys of summer have gone).


It's early August, but I'm already feeling nostalgic for summer, as if it's already passed.


But it wasn't this summer longing that I wanted to write about this morning. Well, maybe the longing feeling had set up something. A sort of attention to the ineffable. A deep appreciation for life and light.


But I had a specific intention.


I was trying to find a way to communicate a feeling tone, a thought-form, a code, something downloaded into me months ago during a dream, and which has changed my business and my life ever since. But which, nonetheless, I have had trouble putting into words.



Here's the dream.


I am gathering a group of young people, college-age people, for a class, a seminar, a teaching. (I think they are that age in my dream because it's the symbolic time of self-chosen learning.) Anyway, I know my desire is to teach them all how to find their purpose and live it.


I go up to one, a cool-looking young woman with light brown skin and one long earring. I start walking beside her as we all make our way to an off-site location (symbolic much?) and decide it's as good a time as any to get started figuring out how to teach this. I'm feeling out of my depth.


I start to ask her questions about her life. I'm asking her about her past, her interests. I'm using my mind, I can feel it. It's a mode that I use when I want to get things right.


She stops and says, not with a little annoyance, "What makes you think you can teach me anything about my life?"


Well, class ended for that day, in the dream at least.


I realized she was right. In dreamtime, I went into a sort of anti-chamber to process this sense of failure and shame. It wasn't that I couldn't teach her or help her. I knew it was what I was being called to do.


It was that I couldn't teach her or help her by using the systems I already knew. Those systems of rational thought, of triangulation, of math.


The mind wants to take over when you're scared, when you're unsure. It's a backup system. But it's not actually a backup system that works. Not really. It doesn't perform the fundamental function you are trying to get it to perform.


How did I know? I'd been on the other side of that a hundred times. Every book by Martha Beck, every speech from Wayne Dyer, every course and workshop and lecture and podcast I'd listened to giving me advice on how to Be who I am. On how to live my passion. There was always something compelling me (looking back, it was the resonance of the teacher's spirit), but it was never their how-to steps that actually got me anywhere. I've done all the steps again and again and still have felt my purpose as an artist (writer) and healer (creativity coach) just outside of reach.


I'd tried to work out the narrative of my life for so long using all these rational steps, and I was still lost.


In the dream, in that anti-room, I felt a warm, intelligent light shine over me.


It was showing me where I wanted to be as a teacher, it was showing me how to feel. It was very clear about what Truth was, and it was singular and uncompromising. When I tried to understand it intellectually, I moved outside of it. When I let myself stay in its glow, it guided me by speaking to my heart, and singing through my whole field of resonance.


The next day (still in the dream) I returned to the class. I figured my disaffected student would have spread the word of my humiliation and the class would be cancelled.


Instead many more students than yesterday were now milling around. Even the one I'd pissed off was there, and she, like the others, seemed hopeful and expectant.


Feeling led by something warm and firmly true, something that wanted me to finally understand for real, I stood in front of the class, who had seated themselves in a circle.


Instead of teaching them steps or ideas on a chalkboard, I called up a volunteer.


A young woman got up. She had long, light brown hair. (None of this matters, just creating the scene.)


That intelligent light I could access in me, I could now guide her toward. I couldn't create it for her or keep her there, but I could stand in my own resonance, and it could help me help her find it for herself.


She glowed in front of the room of her peers. It was a sight to behold.


I could sense them wanting step-by-step instructions. Or maybe she did. Or maybe it was my own teacher's mind trying to get back in control. Instead I said, "Stay here in this place" and I gently held her there.


The students watched.


Again my mind wanted to break it down into steps. To operationalize all of it. To prove that I knew how to do this and could teach it to them.


But I knew that as I soon as I did that, she would leave the light, and the whole point would be lost. Her transmission, what she was transmitting to herself and to those watching her—the REAL TEACHING—would be dissolved.


I wanted the other students to understand intellectually what was happening, but again, I knew that breaking it down would be missing the point.


I started to worry how I was going to activate this in everyone, not just one student.


Then the voice reminded me that the teaching WAS being transmitted as long as the one student was glowing.


The others were seeing her be activated by spirit. And by seeing her be activated by spirit, they themselves would learn, bodily, how to be activated by spirit.



When I woke up from this dream, I knew what Wayfinding for Writers really was. And I knew that the most important thing I was going to do was to hold in an energetic space, and to help others find and hold in their energetic space of spirited creation. There are many names you can give it. It is, of course, beyond the bounds of language to encapsulate.


My heart calls it Birthright.


But that's just me.




I didn't know how to express all this when I first sat down this morning. Because even though I've explained the dream here, it's not where I could have started.


But for the past week, I've been using blackout poetry (reintroduced to my life in a truly delightful online workshop through the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic). It's been surprising what fruits this seemingly unrigorous act of crossing out words has brought. I've used it to get to the heart of my novel, to the heart of a some complex ideas and feelings around love and aging, and I thought, what if I used it to try to get to the heart of this energetic message I received in my dream?


Blackout poetry is a good thing to do when you are facing writer's block.


Or when you have to sum something up you can't find the words for. Maybe you're too close to it, it's too big, complex, or hairy. Maybe the conventions of modern speech just don't have enough wiggle and flow for it.


So, when I decided to try, once again, to write about my coaching ethos, I thought, why not try something non-rational? Something completely off the beaten path? Maybe write a black-out poem about the heart of my coaching?


Don Henley popped into my mind again, but this time it was "The End of the Innocence."


It helps to use your intuition when choosing a song to pull from. First thought, best thought.


I cut and pasted the lyrics (easily found online) into a Google doc and had at it.


Here is my blackout of "The End of the Innocence" changed to "The Long and Rolled Blue."


(click on the image of the docs for full view)






Google Docs is Your Friend

Want to know how I created this blackout poem?


It's easy.


  1. Open up a new google doc.

  2. Paste in the lyrics to your chosen song.

  3. Click File - Page Setup

  4. Where it says Page Color, choose black


Then to black out words, simply select them, click on Highlight Color on your toolbar, and choose black.


(click on the image of the doc for full view)



If this inspires you to try a blackout poem, I'd love to see it. You can join our community and upload to your member profile (it's free to join). And members get books and exclusive content and discounts from Dream Your Book and Cosmographia Books.


Or share in the comments below!


What are you working on these days? Struggling with?


What puts you in that warm light of spirit I call Birthright?


Do you have a name or designator for it?


What keeps you there? What pulls you out?

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