new worlds

I usually avoid writing up dreams where my recall of the central thrust of the dream is poor. Here, I thought I’d give it a little shot.

The order of events is hazy. I often wonder if this is because time is a more fluid medium in a dream state. Conversely, I often wonder whether our waking sense of time is a highly constructed phenomenon, far removed from something more fundamental. In light of my experience with non-ordinary states, some of which have twisted the notion of time beyond recognition – or obliterated it altogether – I also wonder if the constraints of our waking sense of time are there to protect us from something far, far too large to experience directly.

I remember being in a four-wheel drive with three other people, at night. I am sat in the back. The driver is an older man, perhaps around 60, and resembles two men I know, a personal friend and a youtube personality.

We are moving slowly down a dirt road at a steep angle. The road appears to skirt what looks like a medieval village. Earthen buildings, turrets, lanterns burning.

Our vehicle jerks suddenly and begins to roll over itself. The felt sensation of this is very distinct and intense. I feel my body spinning in space. I hear the crunching of metal, and the shattering of glass. I consciously wonder how I can feel this so clearly and why my affect is so calm. 

The details that follow are incredibly emotionally complex and existentially strange, and I am working from both limited recall and a lack of appropriate language to express what I experienced.

We, apparently the passengers from the car, are sat in a small semi-circle of chairs. A group counsellor sits in front of us. We are inside a large hall with a high-ceiling, furnished with various tables, bookcases and the like, akin to a large reading hall in a library. I recognise one good friend in the group, but there is a strong sense that we all know each other and have a deep history.

There is a peculiar quality about the context for our meeting that I cannot duly articulate now. There’s a palpable sense that each of us, by virtue of some shared process – perhaps the crash – have undergone fundamental changes in our nature, each of us different from the other. More than just our own nature, it’s as if the very paradigms within which we each now separately exist have deviated from what you might call “regular” reality – our laws of physics, our biology, our social paradigm, our logic, and somehow the purpose of our lives. We seem to have taken on dramatically shifted states of awareness and existence that have imbued us simultaneously with special powers and very particular problems that require that we be treated with special care and attention.

Despite our shared history, our divergent dynamics create a tension in the group. Each of us is effectively coming to terms with his own new outlook, which is not only at odds with consensus reality but also with our fellow group members. Before long the group becomes unstable.

On top of the typical distortion of time that we can encounter in the dream state, this dream makes brief explicit reference to abnormalities in time. In planning an event with one of the group, I realise I need to factor in that we are literally operating to different clocks.

Our situation appears to be acknowledged by other people in this unusual new world. Indeed, it appears that we are of special interest and that there is a team of people working to help us adjust. They feel benevolent, but not in a soft, angelic way – they are professional and focused, as if they belong to a government or security agency. At one point I am pulled aside by two of these men. They are very professionally dressed. They advise me of an opportunity available to me, perhaps related to a romantic relationship.

(In attempting to recall this dream afterwards, at this point I jumped to the end to try and work backwards.)

I remember being with another person, perhaps one of the group, wandering through the hallways of a luxurious building. Something like I imagine the Ritz would look. There are many doorways, some of which feel instinctively unsafe. It’s as if each leads to its own separate reality with all the unusual shifts in physics, time, and meaning, some so altered as to be incompatible with our own survival.

At the end of the corridor we find a very narrow, tall doorway. A door is hung from each side, the two opening out in the middle. Each is barely 30cm wide, and rises around 5 metres to the ceiling. We enter into an equally narrow entry hallway which is playing host to a very glamorous, sophisticated party. It has the air of a 1950s gangster soiree, dark, sultry, theatrical… long cigarettes, garters, fedoras.

Somehow nobody notices our arrival. Not far behind us come a number of officials, some sort of police. As they enter, the organisers of the party rush through a doorway at the end of the hallway. The authorities question whether everybody at the party is “the way they’re supposed to be”. The organisers respond “There’s nobody too (something), or (something)”, running off a list of unwelcome characteristics. The strong sense is that each room may only be visited by people of a particular orientation of consciousness.

Meanwhile we duck unnoticed through the door at the far end of the hallway and immediately up a narrow stairwell that dog legs to the left. At the top is a door to the organisers’ private office. I notice a plaque on the door displaying curious words, but, as is typical, the written word rarely makes it out of the dream state.

We enter the office. There is a sense of danger – what if the organisers return? The room is oddly shaped, somewhat triangular with an elevated arrangement of large leather chairs along the diagonal, akin to the front of a courtroom. The fit-out is surprisingly plain and worn.

In one corner, positioned rather awkwardly, is a small door in the wall. It is fitted with numerous locks, however when I pull the handle the door opens. It is, in fact, a safe. Initially there appears little of interest inside. However, on closer inspection I notice wads of cheques printed with images similar to British currency. I also notice a stack of standard British currency. As I begin shoving these into my backpack, the person with me enquiries “Is that money? We could take it with us, couldn’t we?”, to which I think to myself Well yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Regrettably, the central thrust of the dream is too slippery to grasp. It revolved around this therapy group and our interactions with each other. There was something very jarring, on the one hand feeling so distinct from each other, and on the other feeling so related as if we could be multiple facets of the one person. 

But the overall other-worldliness of the dream is what is so vexing. The sense of being somehow superhuman, and this bringing with it both special qualities and painful sensitivities, both a sense of power and a sense of alienation and loneliness.

Interestingly, this reflects a notion I’ve been wanting to write about at some point, namely the mixed blessing of my dream life. I’ll come to that topic another day.

Pardon My French! (Cryptic #3, 11×11)

Trigger warning: This crossword is decidedly offensive! If you have an issue with vulgar language, you’re best to avoid this one.


I decided to go with a smaller 11×11 grid for this one. For one, I wanted to make all across clues themed, and this wouldn’t be possible with a larger grid as I had a restricted set of possible theme answers to work with. I also wanted to experiment with a puzzle that would be quicker to build.

I’ve been a little apprehensive about publishing a crossword based on offensive language – I think some might consider it a faux pas – but I liked the concept, and, in my typical style, by the time I really considered the bigger picture I’d thrown so much energy into it that I didn’t want to abandon it! I do hope the solver will, indeed, pardon my French! And that some of the neater clues justify the awkward price of entry 🙂


Being a themer, this puzzle is automatically a little tricky for beginner solvers, but is easier than my previous puzzles for a few reasons. The smaller size means a) there are fewer clues to solve, and b) answers are shorter than usual. Additionally, although the theme influences solving, it is clearly explained, there’s no confusion over which clues it applies to, and the theme idea itself narrows the space of possible solutions.

Also, to provide a friendlier experience to the solver, I made a deliberate effort at using less convoluted clueing techniques. Which also gave me a bit of an easier time!

Dive in!

Complete or print “Pardon My French” at


I am driving at night along Dandenong Road in Melbourne’s south east, on my way to meet an Asian woman, an online date. I arrive at the address, number 750, to find a commercial building. An Asian man is being escorted from the front door by a glamorously dressed Asian woman. This is apparently a brothel. Fearing I have been lured into something untoward, I keep driving.

The physical environment now undergoes some unusual shifts. The material world becomes somewhat translucent. The road and the buildings become more fluid. It feels as if I’m inside a computer game. My car, too, becomes less tangible, as if I’m almost floating through space unassisted. My surroundings begin to glow and flash, both subtle and garish. Many Asian women begin to emerge by the roadside. The scene slowly develops until the nature of this place becomes clear – an Asian prostitution ring has turned an entire suburb into a sex-themed amusement park.

The road narrows ahead. Women flank my way, some young, some matriarchs. They are angry with me, as if they feel I came for their services and am now renegging. They are attempting to banish me from their site, yet simultaneously seem to want to seduce me into staying. I sense danger, that they might be just as happy to run me off the road and injure or kill me.

In order to leave, I am required to collect various non-material objects from the grounds. Large nets are strung up in complex arrangements, perhaps 10m high, loose and fluid. I need to avoid running into these as I scoot around collecting these objects.

A group of around ten men emerge, very strong and robust. They have an air of authority, as if they are a police or firefighting force. They are there in support of me. They are embroiled in an argument with the management of this place, over a rug that I am taking with me. There is a dispute over who owns it.

Next I see a large, slick grey big cat lying on a patch of ground, perhaps on this rug. I crouch fearfully very close in front of it. The men encourage me, explaining that it has been trained not to hurt me, that I need only to be bold and show it what I want. I tentatively adopt such an affect and the experience softens and the cat allows me to retrieve the rug from under it. I pat its head. The men offer affirming comments.

I am by now fully lucid. And at this point the dream shifts into very dramatic territory.

I lie on my stomach. A rotund female figure appears. She is not there physically, but I can see her and sense her presence. She has a supernatural aura about her, extending far out into the space above my head. There is an unambiguous sense that she is some kind of oracle. A guide.

My consciousness is entering a complex non-ordinary state. The typical sensations of acceleration within the body, stirring movement, vibration, rumbling noises.

The guide shows me a black and white globe of the world. She points out Jordan, the country, and tells me it is empty. Despite this being my own name, I take her to be discussing the country. I am confused why she would refer to the country if she simply means me. She moves on to make mention of Budapest and Germany, too, but the details now elude me.

Soon after this, the guide starts to work with my body. She says something to the effect that I need to trust some kind of mysterious element. She elevates me to a 45 degree angle, my toes touching the ground/bed and my head pointing upwards. The non-ordinary sensations become stronger and stronger. My body increases dramatically in size, so that I am now millions of kilometres long, my feet down on earth and my body extending far out into space. The setting is black, like space. My body is a translucent energetic mesh.

Now an energy starts to pass through my body, apparently directed by the guide. It begins at the top of my head, progressing eventually to my feet. My body is quite limp and seems to be divided into 7-10 horizontal sections. The first extends from the top of my head to about my chin. The energy moves downwards from the top of my head, a combination of complex vibrations and hummings noises, tightening and strengthening my body as it goes. As it reaches my chin and the join with the next section, there is a clicking sound and the top section snaps into a state of solidness. This process proceeds through each section of the body, until my entire body has been fully “reinforced”.

The overall sensation of this experience was immensely positive. The guide seemed to be conducting a healing process on me. As she did so, she offered me gentle reminders to go with the process. Interestingly, at a certain moment there was a very clear sense that she was a little surprised how well this was working, as if she had been unsure if I was quite ready to be receptive to this.

Recall of this dream was not quite as detailed as some previous big dreams, but the deeply non-ordinary and transcendent felt sensations definitely place it amongst my all time most powerful dreams. The very literal spiritual material of this dream is also interesting and quite uncommon – the presence of a spirit guide, the statement about being empty, the similarity between my body “sections” and the notion of chakras. The earlier content, too, is full of symbolism – angry, capricious women; strong, supportive men; a wild yet submissive animal.


everything is hidden.

as you open your eyes
dreams, holy places, the world as it is,
dissolve into a mist
that leaks silently, with each breath,
through the skin
to slough away
like saw dust
as you move against the oppressive grain
of a lonely, numb, insistent kind of belonging.

Gridlock (Cryptic #2)

This was my first serious attempt at compiling a cryptic crossword. It was exciting to manage to cobble together the themed answers. I hope you enjoy it too!

Looking at the clues now, a year on, I see a number that I’d probably like to rework, but I think everything’s fair. I do wish I’d been more conscious of avoiding double unches! I’ve tweaked a few clues in light of that oversight.

Difficulty: I’d say about average. A few easy ones, a few tough ones, and the rest somewhere in the middle. For international solvers, as I’m from Melbourne, there are one or two Australia-based references. Only in 27(c)-across is solving affected, but it should still be within reach to the knowledgeable solver, or solvable from the rest of the clue and cross letters.

Enjoy! And please, I’d love to hear your feedback!

Complete or print “Gridlock” at

book review – Erewhon, by Samuel Butler

I’ve just finished reading Erewhon, a particularly fascinating and nourishing read. The opening phase of the book is a little arduous, being focused as it is on establishing the scene. But once underway the story evolves into a very deep and formal philosophical discussion on matters of consciousness, the human condition, social norms, animal welfare, evolution, instinct vs reason, and the blurry distinction between organic and inorganic life – namely animals/plants vs machines – surprisingly prescient (being published in 1872) and pertinent to contemporary discussion around the rise of machine learning, AI, ideas of the hive mind and the like. The writing style is especially charming and precise.

I was pleasantly surprised, having expected a stronger focus on the political, to find such focus on the sociological, ethical and existential. Though my relative historical illiteracy means I can’t really comment on the subtleties of his commentary on Victorian England. In any case, I found the content perfectly ripe with ideas applicable to our modern context.

Given its depth and detail it’s one I look forward to re-reading, particularly because, nearing the end, when the philosophical discussion gives way to the final details of his adventure, it began to dawn on me that the protagonist’s physical journey into this peculiar society, and his eventual escape with one of its inhabitants with whom he had fallen in love, might be intended as a metaphor for a human’s inevitable inner journeys into states of intellectual and emotional maelstroms, delusions, self-destruction, and nature’s seeming proclivity to eventually steer one back to (at least seemingly) firmer ground and new-found clarity.


this is where I stand.
where else could I be?
this signal has traveled
since the beginning of time.

November, 2017

let’s not gloss over the difficult realities of mental health

Warning: This is a post about mental health. The message is not an uplifting one. If you are struggling right now, caution is advised.

For all the mental health community’s efforts at raising awareness of mental illness, and all their positive impact, I find that many of the more challenging realities of mental illness are rarely addressed. Worse, I feel that the reductive and uncritical simplicity of many awareness-raising articles, memes, personal disclosures and so on often risk leading a lay audience to a false sense of awareness and comfort around mental illness, often to the detriment of their ability to come to a rounded awareness of the issue and support those who suffer.

I could write a thousand pages around this topic, if I could only stomach it. For now, I want to share a personal anecdote in an attempt to paint an often ignored part of the picture.

Around Christmas, social media was buzzing with mental health awareness-raising efforts. We were reminded that major events like these can be triggering for people with mental illness. Attending large social gatherings, being forced to engage in difficult family relationships, having to pretend you’re OK, our friends and family not providing an environment where it’s OK to struggle. Or, on the other end of the scale, the pain of being alone at Christmas.

This message exists for good reason. These are certainly some of the problems a person might face. It is, however, an incomplete message. It is an extension of a more general line of reasoning on mental illness:
The mentally ill would be so much better off if only they had supportive, compassionate people around them; if only they weren’t forced to engage in uncomfortable activities; if only they didn’t have to pretend; in short, if only their illness was properly supported and not stigmatised.

I think it goes without saying that Yes, a world like this would be very much welcomed. The risk in this message, however, at least in the way I see it presented, is that a lay audience might come to an invalid conclusion. Namely, that stigma and lack of support are effectively The problem of mental illness, and that in their absence the effects of mental illness would naturally be greatly diminished. Specifically in the case of Christmas, they might reason that if only a person were not subjected to these uncomfortable expectations, and were provided with a loving and supportive environment, their symptoms would naturally abate.

I want to explain my Christmas, in the hope of illustrating the error in this thinking. I am not looking for sympathy. And I do not claim that my story is applicable to everyone. I am simply seeking to add some balance to a discussion that I feel is dangerously one-sided.

I spent my Christmas day at my closest friend’s house. Her and her husband are two of my very closest and most trusted friends. They have experienced significant mental illness in their lives, traveled complex journeys, and are deeply aware and compassionate.

We were joined by five of their friends, all of whom I have met previously on many occasions and been comfortable with. Everyone in attendance has experienced mental illness. Everyone is very aware and supportive.

This was a small, casual gathering. There were no family dynamics to contend with. I knew and was friendly with everyone there. I did not have to disguise challenging feelings. I was very compassionately supported. I was not alone. The weather was pleasant.

I could not have spent Christmas in a more ideal environment. And yet, I was in debilitating emotional pain throughout. The whole day, around six hours, I probably uttered no more than fifty words. My mind and body shut down. Eventually I sat alone as the men and women split into two conversation groups. My aloneness was respected. Beware of assuming that my friends were unsupportive by leaving me be – they were aware enough to see this was the best of unfortunate options.

Yes, things would have been worse had I had to endure all of the typically cited issues. Yes, things would probably have been worse had I spent the day alone. But no, my day was in no way made good by the presence of the perfect environment. It was an irredeemably terrible, painful day. I hated every second of it. Every second was a reminder of how disabled I am at feeling calm and experiencing pleasure.

This is one of the painful truths I and many people have to live with. In the best possible surroundings, I was locked in my straight jacket, paralysed and slowly dying inside. We have to live with the truth that we have no known, reliable safe place, and the suspicion that none exists. We are in greater need than anyone of a little safety, comfort, and pleasure, yet we are less capable than anyone of experiencing those things.

Mental illness is vicious. Be mindful not to forget this in amongst all the poetic messages of hope and optimism. Solutions can be far more elusive than we are often led to believe.

extreme flight experience

As occurs so often in my dreams, I find myself once again sat in an aeroplane in trouble. It has not long taken off, and is struggling to maintain thrust in its ascent. It dips and rises in spurts. I wonder how we are still airborne. I see the terrain ahead of us. A mountain bluff approaches. We are coasting towards it. At the last moment, the plane thrusts and we just clear the bluff.

These dreams typically end in an unlikely landing, or a crash, or waking before I find out. In this case, this final thrust over the mountaintop initiates a lucid crescendo to the dream, and an uncommonly triumphant one.

Power starts to surge through the engines and I become instantly lucid. I experience in my body a visceral sense of exponentially increasing acceleration, that internal heaviness of g-forces compressing my muscles, organs and skeleton. Faster, faster, faster. The plane’s trajectory through the air more and more inclined to the vertical. All the while, an ear-piercing, high-pitched, gravelly sound builds inside my skull. Growing in pitch and intensity as the plane accelerates. It feels as real as regular sound, hyper-real in fact, except for having a special quality that tells me it’s coming from inside my head – or perhaps that’s just the lucid state allowing me to rationalise the experience. It is the auditory phenomenon classically associated with the ingestion of DMT, or what some speculate are spontaneous DMT dumps within the brain. Like a distorted radio frequency ratcheting up and up. Almost inconceivably loud, all the more so knowing that it has no external physical source. There is a jarring contradiction in it. It feels as if the sound should hurt me, damage my ears, and I almost brace for the coming agony. Yet it never comes. The louder it gets, the greater that sense, and the greater the incongruence of the lack of pain.

Almost as soon as these phenomena had begun I was in an effectively waking state of awareness, fully conscious that I was dreaming, objectively watching and wondering about what I was experiencing. I began very quickly to worry, as can often occur in such states, that I would inadvertently wake from the dream due to excessive conscious processing. I find it’s necessary to very deliberately moderate one’s energy and thought processes to stay lucid – too active and you wake, too relaxed and you fall into a non-lucid dream state.

The worry increases and snowballs throughout the experience. Remarkably, this seems to have no effect on the dream or my lucidity. The ascent continues. The acceleration, the noise. A sublime experience, until finally I drift awake…

One can speculate about what’s going on with dreams. Their meaning, their source, their physiology and so on. I usually avoid this, at least in any detailed sense, as I feel there’s a mystery in dreams that is far deeper than the feeble reductions of our pre-frontal cortex and our popular cultures can handle. Instead, I would say I find interest in dreams on two main fronts:

1) Rather than seeking to explain what a dream means, I instead seek to explore as closely as possible what occurs and what it Feels like. The most interesting dreams tend to be those with the most depth of feeling – particularly complex emotional states, but also physical sensations. (The dream above, as powerful as it is, still pales against my more emotionally complex outings.) This depth can occur even in dreams that are otherwise bereft of interesting narrative detail. I think that these feeling states have much to offer us in becoming subtly attuned to the complex, non-linear realities and potentialities of our spirits, our bodies, of the systems of nature, of community and society. Not clairvoyance. Not physics. Not politics. Not religion. Just tiny yet complex motifs hinting at the deep nature of the Cosmos.

Beyond personal enquiry, I share my dreams in the hope that they might inspire a diffuse and dreamlike sense of reflection in the interested reader. That here and there, one or two facets of my dreams might offer the reader a sense of hope, or curiosity, or a creative inspiration. I would much prefer they take away a sense of unknowing awe in the mysteries of nature than a superstitious or unreasoned dogma with which to reduce the world to certainties.

2) Dreams and their impact can be intensely personal. I feel that many people rush to interpret their dreams in the context of the material world around them. A google search for dream-based blogs, vlogs etc renders almost exclusively either literalist/fairytale-like/quasi-religious interpretation, or “how to” guides on gaining lucidity. I’m wary of this.

The greatest conscious emotional benefit my dreams have for me is that they remind me that my mind and body are still capable of feeling intense sensation and emotion. Due to long-term, incessant mental illness, my waking life is starved of deep feeling, or what you might call deep presence, physically and mentally, and the intense feeling I do experience is typically at the negative end of the spectrum. My dreams rescue me. They show me the profound possibilities for feeling that still exist within me.

I do not know how this will ever translate into my waking life. I log and write about my dreams in the hope that this will help bridge the two worlds. Whatever the case, while I search for those bridges, the dream realm is my connection to the deep self I somehow lost touch with or never knew.* Like a nurse tending to a patient who is yet too ill to care for themselves, the dreams are keeping me alive. I feel they’re the strongest evidence I have of the psyche’s profound instinct towards preserving and expanding its own vitality, and more broadly the vitality of the social and ecological meshes we all belong to and help to sustain.

*Perhaps I’m even witnessing the building of a new, more integrated, more expansive inner identification. Considering the fundamentally novel, hyper-dimensional objects and sensations I experience, many that seem to have no possible analogue in the world of regular consciousness, geometry and physics, it’s easy to suspect that deep new neural pathways must be being forged.


This is another dream with an unusual sequence of events. Frustratingly my recall is somewhat limited, for both the details and the complexity of the felt state, so this account is just what I can piece together. But hopefully I can paint some kind of picture. It was a very strong dream.

I find myself in a pool hall, which I will later discover is situated within a large house. Everyone except me is dark-skinned, apparently of African descent.

I am being introduced to a new game by two men. The table is enormous, perhaps three times the size of a full size snooker table. The ends are semicircular rather than square, such that the table is shaped like a running track. The baize is normal at either end, but the bulk of the table, the middle section, is overlaid by four or five rectangular sections of material, some kind of string or rope, each section in a different pattern.

I am bewildered by the size of the table and the impediment of ropes lying across the table. But I want to impress the men. I casually line up a shot, the cue ball perhaps five metres from the object ball. Despite hitting the cue ball with as much force as I can muster, it soon dies and fails to reach its target.

For a while I stand at one end of the table watching the two men discuss the game. In recalling the dream now, it is hard to pin down the feeling I had about these men. One in particular seems to be a strange mix of friend, enemy, idol and, strangely, romantic partner. I remember him as a tall, very thin man, with sparse facial hair, and a decidedly suspicious air about him. At the same time, I hold him in some kind of esteem.

Turning towards the table, I see two scenes overlaid one on the other. The base scene of the pool hall is still there. But on top of this is a street scene. To the right of the table I see a woman walking near the gutter, shops behind her. She seems middle aged, perhaps 50. She stops, spreads her legs apart, and a fully grown child of around 8 years emerges from under her dress. My primary impression is that she had him tucked under her dress, yet the way he drops limply to the ground, face first, suggests a birth. Her affect suggests this event is unremarkable to her.

The middle of the street itself is overlaid on the table. Another woman is on her hands and knees here, stretched out almost stomach to ground, groping her way forward. The sense is that she is pregnant, and that the way she is moving risks damaging the foetus. Her expression is pained. The mood of the dream shifts to danger. In the distance behind her, like a mirage, looms an oncoming hoard of angry, dark-skinned men.

Someone, perhaps one of the two men at the table, tells me that I need to leave urgently. I suggest returning to my room in another part of the house. They explain that this will not do. The gangs are coming and will search the whole area and violently pursue anyone they find. The danger is extreme. If I stay, I will die.

I leave the pool hall and find my way in the dark to my room to collect my keys and wallet. I contemplate hiding in a bathroom, but remember the man’s warning. To leave the house, I need to navigate a series of obstables as if in a game of Mario brothers. I make it out, and drive off in my car.

This is the most interesting point of the dream, yet the one I remember with least detail. As I drive, I can viscerally feel a foetus moving inside my abdomen. I sense that I am two or three months pregnant. I can feel that the foetus is struggling, probably dying. I reflect to myself that this feeling, this sense of knowing, must be akin to the feeling states mothers describe around pregnancy and their children’s wellbeing.

My larger worry seems to be my own health. The loss of the baby seems inevitable, and I worry about what will happen to my own body in the process.

I am angry. I think of the tall African man, who I now perceive as the father of this child, and ask myself how he could have let this happen if he knew about the impending danger. And how he could now have abandoned me.

There is now a sense that the setting for the dream is an Eastern European country. I overhear a dialogue between elderly women, lamenting the loss of their traditional culture.

10 January, 2019