Awakening: A Creative Response

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Art Exhibited at the Arts and Consciousness Gallery, Berkeley, CA November 25-December 1, 2001

Creation vs. Destruction

What suffering do we see when shadow is not owned but projected? If war is hell, then we are in the midst of a traveling hell. In times of destruction, we need to keep creating for the sake of sanity and to maintain balance in the world.

Dreams and art share a common ground since both are about creation of new realities. Dreams by their nature are creative and the incubation of dreams to bring forth healing and peace is a powerful community intention. How can art and dreams help to bring new realities, a new vision to the world?

The idea of the Awakening Project was born to create such new realities. This project began a few hours after the 9.11 attacks when I received the first dream from a dream studies student, Catherine Hasley, at John F. Kennedy University.

"I was looking in a mirror and noticed a lot of alien growths coming out of my chest and one great big one on my left-hand shoulder raising right up to my ear. I had my mom call the doctor and then went outside to get some air. I looked up and noticed a fire totally engulf the top of a hill or mountain with a house on top. I remember being amazed that as I was watching it, stuff started streaming down and I said out loud "I didn't think Livermore had any volcanoes". I went back to get the others to see but when I got back the fire was out. I asked the witnesses how the fire had been put out and they said that they had cut out the fire. I asked them what they meant and they said that the firefighters had cut off the house that had been on fire from the rest of the mountain, and that it then burned itself out."

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Community Installation

Her precognitive dream was followed by other letters from students who wanted to share their concerns. One particular letter was from an art student who, out of despair, felt paralyzed and couldn’t do anything. How would I console students in this situation? I recalled back to twenty two years ago when I was a student and lost my homeland to senseless war. How did I survive such hardship? It became very clear to me that it was through creation and faith in the mystery of dreams that I was kept alive.

As the world continues going through the cycle of war and peace so does our psyche move from nightmares to healing dreams. When helplessness and hopelessness engulf us, the spirit of creation brings balance to this seemingly insane world. Creation has to continue and as a community of dreamers, we need to create a New Dream.


Within two days of the attack, four of my students and I came together to create an art ceremony for the community. Emily Anderson, Jennie Braman, Catherine Halsey, Monika Del Bosque and I gathered our intentions and dreams for this community creation. It is ironic that at the time of the attack, the Brooklyn Museum in New York had an exhibition called Vital Form which examined the art created around the atomic age! I believe the Awakening exhibition at the Arts and Consciousness Gallery in Berkeley was among the first art shows in the country responding to the situation.

The Awakening Project began by group incubation about our intention for this exhibition. The following intentions became the basis for the art installations: Dreams, Home, Prayer, Hope/Despair and Community Co-creation. Other artists from JFKU community were invited to create a collaborative installation of their individual art works coming together to create a unified whole. We wanted to create an atmosphere of understanding, interaction and healing rather than expressing horror and anger.


We asked our community to send us their dreams related to 9.11 attack. The first set of dreams we received were often precognitive dreams about the attack. Then we received dreams which had elements of nightmare and anxiety in them. A month later the same dreamers sent us dreams related to healing. These dreams were collected and became the base for the installation "Dream Tree." We also collected our own dreams related to the event, below are two examples of these dreams.

"I am walking in the forest and suddenly I drop into a vortex and find myself dangling inside a large hole, hanging for my life on a branch. The hole is surrounded by poison oak. As I fall, my body is scratched by the poison oak leaves and branches. While I am holding onto a branch I look down at my body and I see the scratches are becoming swollen and burning. I know I am holding onto a poisonous branch but I donÕt have any choice. I look up at my hands, they are blistering and burning and I can see they are soon going to burn and melt down." September 14, 2001

The dreamer responds "I was very clear that the dream was related to the World Trade Center and perhaps there were still people alive underneath the ruin ‘hanging on for their lives.’ Since I live in nature, the image of nature and the danger in nature appeared, rather than a threat in a city or collapse of buildings. The burning sensation kept resurfacing in my body throughout the day. I kept lighting candles for those who died, those who were dying and those who were going to die because of retaliation. The following night I had a healing dream.”

"I am in a room with a Tibetan teacher and a friend (who was at the time at a Tibetan retreat). They are transmitting some knowledge to me. I am lying on the floor in a yoga posture with my back curved. My friend is chanting and the teacher is moving something up and down my spine. I feel a rush of energy going up and down my body." September 15, 2001

In the Dream Tree installation, we hung old branches of manzanita to create an altar of Dreams. The dreams we collected were printed on cards and hung from the branches. The audience was invited to contribute their own dreams to the tree. An example of a dream on the tree was from Dream Studies student Steve Smith, which he calls The Healing of Afghanistan, November 15th, 2001:

"I am in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. An Afghan man stands before me in traditional garb. He strikes me as aged beyond his years. I am unaware of any other physical attributes. Despite all the difficulties of the past years, there is a sense of happiness that now exudes from him. I too find comfort in this because I feel that I am guardian to him. The dream shifts and I am in another Afghan city perhaps Kandahar. The same sense of peace is also becoming prevalent. On this night, for what seems many hours, I seem to drift throughout Afghanistan checking in on its people and witnessing the unfolding changes."

He commented, "On one level, this dream certainly speaks to the unfolding changes happening in Afghanistan. At another level, I believe it speaks to the healing occurring at a more collective level since the events of September 11th. And more importantly, this dream comes on November 15th, the day of the New Moon heralding the commencement of Ramadan. As a non- Muslim, this carries added significance for me."


Around the 9.11 attack, the sense of being home was shaken for many. Monika Del Bosque gathered people’s "memories of home" and created an art piece recreating a very enigmatic construction of home made of transparent sheets of cloth with these collected memories written on them. The Audience was invited to add their own memories of home to the cloth.

"Home is fleeting, transitory, and fragile. Home is a feeling, a concept, a collection of memories. In the process of collecting memories for this installation, I found that memories create home more than walls or possessions. We grow up in different cities, states, and even countries-yet we all share memories of home. Even as our memories of home are distinctly our own, they are simultaneously collective and unify us across time and place." (Del Bosque, 2002)

Hope and Despair

This chilling audio installation brought multi-dimensional realities where life and death were hanging on a fine invisible line. The piece called Tripwire, installed by Jennie Braman, was a waking dream experience:

"Tripwire honors the challenges of the human spirit and the creative and destructive impulses that sculpt daily events in our external environment and simultaneously compel our internal dialogue onward into the unknown. The audio piece is listened to from within a black cloth cylinder that enclosed the viewer and separated her from the rest of the gallery. As the viewer entered the enclosure one at a time, she was taken out of real time and physical space and catapulted into a kind of sped-up journey through human life. Here the innocence of new beginnings crashes up against the marked moments of crisis and severity that happen all the time, in the midst of mundane activities. Both the fetal and adult heartbeats set the tone for the piece while 'sound events' such as clipped conversations and sirens overlap and eventually overwhelm the singular life rhythms. The question is, can we experience the immensity of individual and collective life in this instantaneous moment?" (Braman, 2002)

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Two large stones, weighing hundreds of pounds each, were brought into the gallery space to create an alter of prayers. The piece called Prayer in Creation held the intention of peace. Emily Anderson who installed it writes:

"Prayer in Creation was born from incubating the wish to offer a piece that could serve as a vehicle for prayer for each unique individual during such a time of unrest and differing emotions. Two stones, resting in a tray of sand, stood side by side, representing the Masculine and the Feminine. Each stone, slates of black granite, stood about five feet high. A rope was tied around them both, as in the Shinto tradition, creating a gateway to the sacred. A granite trough filled with pebbles immersed in water lay in front of the piece. People were invited to place a cleansed pebble on the altar and send their prayers. The prayers were delivered through the open space between the two stones. As the piece began to fill with pebbles, it became marked with the act of prayer. A silent internal heart gesture made manifest in matter and in union." (Anderson, 2002)

Dreamtime Ceremony: Community in Creation

In the closing ceremony of the Awakening Project, over a hundred and twenty people of diverse cultures participated in entering into dreamtime. Here, people of different religions and race came together to evoke the intention of peace, understanding and healing. Each person was encouraged to participate by using instruments from various parts of the world.

I initially developed The Dreamtime Ceremony (or Fire Medicine Circle) in 1990 for community co creation to enter multidimensional spaces through sounds. This ceremony became the major community event in the Awakening event to bring the art, dreams and intentions together with those who participated. The Fire Medicine Circle is a symphony of sound, rhythm, and dance for the purpose of healing, harmony, and restoring balance in the world.

The ceremony brought much healing to the community. After the ceremony, many people came up to us and said, "this was exactly what I needed at this point in time." As war takes our heart apart, ceremonies bring us together. Some other remarks people wrote after the ceremony were: "It gave me clarity as to the healing power of art and community." " I felt a shift in my experience of other people-more connected, more loving, more compassion." " I was very much in anger and resentment mode. I could not see much beauty and hope in the world, the way things were. But during the ceremony, I felt much more grounded and harmonious."

The beast of war continues, therefore we need to keep the incubation of beauty and harmony alive. Peace is a beautiful word but to obtain it requires a major shift of consciousness and behavior so that 'peace' can become not just a word, but a way of being. This shift happens, I believe, by taking small steps of Awakening. One of those small steps is to look within-to pay attention to our dreams, to see our shadows and begin to work with them. Another essential step is creation and co-creation. Not only can we seek peace within, peace is a co-creation of the community intention for the good of all beings. May we who value dreams and creation be able to incubate Big dreams and manifest them for the sake of understanding, peace and ultimately, the Great Awakening.